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In-depth Feature:  Cakewalk SONAR 2.0
Rob G writes: .

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Drum Maps
One feature that has been sadly lacking in Sonar until now is their support for MIDI drum tracks - only allowing the renaming of notes to display the name of the appropriate sound. With version 2.0, Cakewalk have finally addressed this deficiency.

Firstly, support for a drum grid view and drum maps. The drum grid view provides a typical grid view for editing drum tracks. A velocity tail feature shows the velocity of notes as vertical bars overlying the note that can be dragged to alter the note’s velocity. This can be particularly useful when notes overlay each other in the controller pane. Unfortunately, the tail is only easily visible when the window’s vertical zoom is large

A more standard controller pane is provided at the bottom of the grid but suffers the limitation of being unable to select one of several notes falling on the same beat. This only really affects velocity as all other controller’s apply globally to the entire channel. It is also possible to alter an individual notes time, pitch, velocity and duration manually using the note inspector toolbar bypassing this limitation.

Drum maps support all the expected features - remapping an input note to an output note, and re-mapping a sound’s velocity and output bank and channel. As with many features, this is deceptively simple to use - many changes can be made directly in the drum grid with more detailed panels for finer tuning.

A new pattern brush tool used to paint notes in patterns proves particular useful with drum parts. This works similar to brush tools that paint notes at regular intervals, but allows more natural grooves to be used. A large library of predefined grooves in supplied and custom brushes can be created from MIDI files.

File Management
Sonar and Cakewalk have always come in for some criticism over file management. Prior to Sonar 2.0, all audio files were kept in a single folder, shared by all projects. Behind the scenes, the program performed file management tasks such as deleting duplicates and creating copies of shared audio files when changes are made in one project. However, each file was assigned a randomly-generated filename, and having all of these in one folder made it a nightmare locating files for re-use in other applications.

Sonar 2.0 now allows the user to enable per-project audio folders. With this option enabled, each project stores all it’s audio files in a single folder, but these are not shared between projects. When a file is saved, an option is provided to copy all audio files while saving. This approach simplifies backing-up projects, but also makes it much easier to share audio files with other applications.

When an audio clip is imported into Sonar, by default it copies the audio data either to the global audio folder or per-project folder. This can be overridden for a particular file as long as the imported audio matches the project’s sample and bit rates. If this option is used, it remains possible to consolidate the clips - moving them into a backup folder. Similarly, an option is provided to cleanup the audio folder (either global or per-project) - deleting all audio files that are not referenced by any project.

Template files have also been improved to capture more of a project’s preferences in the template. New settings which are now incorporated include drum maps, audio data and automation data.

Finally, an entire project and it’s associated audio files can be saved in a single bundle file containing everything the project contains. These are particularly useful for backing up and transferring projects. When the bundle is opened, all the associated files and folders are recreated.

Together these new facilities really make working with audio in projects considerably easier. It is welcome to see these shortcomings finally addressed - especially for users who regularly work with other music programs.

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