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Cool Tip of the Month


Tracking with Plug-Ins

You need to lay down a bass part, and you would like to use a plug-in to compress the track. Do you realize that when you record a track in most digital audio workstation software, the plug-in inserts are post — hard disk? For example, if you create a track in MOTU Digital Performer 3 (DP3) and insert a compressor, you are not compressing to hard disk when you record. When you listen back, the unaffected bass part streams from the hard drive and through the plug-in on its way to your audio interface.

If you're familiar with analog mixing consoles, it's like inserting a compressor in the monitor section versus the input section. The advantage is that you can edit the plug-in parameters later. A work-around is available, however, and with a sufficiently powerful computer and the right settings, latency isn't an issue.

  1. First, in order to minimize monitor latency, adjust the Samples Per Buffer in DP3's Configure Hardware Drivers window from the default of 1,024 to 256 (or lower if possible). The lowest value that you can set will depend on what your hardware configuration is.

  2. Next, open the Mixing Board from the Windows menu (Shift + M). Add an aux track (Control + Command + A), an audio track (Shift + Command + A), and a master track (Control + Command + M) from the Mixing Board's mini-menu.

  3. Insert a compressor plug-in on the aux track. Configure its input to the hardware input that your bass is plugged into, and set the output to bus 1.

  4. On the audio track, set the input to bus 1 and the output to out 1-2, and then arm the track.

  5. Adjust the compressor to your taste and record a bass part.

In this configuration, the bass part is first being compressed and then routed to the mono track and recorded. Some lesser systems may experience latency, but with newer, faster computers, that will be less of an issue.
Steve Albanese

Customizing the Sonar Interface

Creating custom Window Layouts is a great way to configure Sonar's user interface for specific tasks. For example, perhaps you prefer to see certain windows while recording but different windows while editing and arranging. Simply configure any views the way you want them, then go to View and choose Layouts, click on Add, and provide a descriptive name for the Layout. You can now access any saved Layout from the Window Layouts dialog. For even quicker access, you can assign Window Layouts to Key Bindings, which allows you to instantly launch a Window Layout with the press of a key. Go to Options and select Key Bindings, select a key combination, and then bind it to any of the saved Window Layouts.

You can also create a custom toolbar to select Window Layouts or any other command in Sonar. Begin by creating a new blank StudioWare panel, and then insert a button for each toolbar command you desire. To configure the buttons, enable Design mode and double-click on a button. Make sure Spring-loaded is checked. Next, set the Primary Action to None and set the Return Action to Binding. You can then choose from any of Sonar's available Key Bindings. If you want your custom toolbar always displayed on top of other windows, click on the upper left corner of the StudioWare view and select Enable Floating.
Morton Saether Cakewalk

Son of PRAM

Veteran Macintosh users have long been accustomed to occasionally resetting their computer's parameter RAM, otherwise known as zapping the PRAM. This is accomplished in Mac OS X just as it was in previous versions: by starting your Mac and then immediately holding down the Command, Option, P, and R keys until you hear the computer start a second time.

Resetting the PRAM is a first line of defense when your Mac exhibits unusual or eccentric behavior. PRAM (or, in recent PowerBooks, NVRAM) is similar to a PC's CMOS memory. It contains various system settings that your computer accesses during boot-up and are held in nonvolatile memory by battery backup. The stored data includes settings for your startup disk, time zone, speaker volume, DVD region, and so on. Zapping the PRAM returns those settings to their default values. Afterward, you may want to open your System Preferences to ensure that everything is copacetic. If you're having trouble with your network or monitor settings, however, zapping the PRAM no longer has any effect in OS X.
Geary Yelton

Nonstandard MIDI Files

Standard MIDI Files (SMFs) are supposed to be universally readable, but in fact, they're not always 100 percent cross-platform compatible. Most of the MIDI files floating around the Internet were created on and formatted for PCs (typically with an MID extension) rather than Macs.

If you're using an earlier version of MOTU Digital Performer, you should be able to open an SMF by choosing Show All Readable Files from Performer's Open File dialog box. (The latest version automatically looks for all readable files.) If your target file doesn't show up, however, don't despair. MOTU provides a handy little utility called MIDIfile Converter. You'll find it in the Extras folder inside the main Performer folder.

Just double-click on the program icon and point MIDIfile Converter to the file of your choice. The program quickly and easily converts SMFs from PC to Mac format by changing the Type and Creator data so that Digital Performer (or other Mac programs) can properly recognize the file as an SMF. It should then show up as expected in the Open File dialog box.
David Rubin

Hang On to Your Canvas

I have never sold my Roland SC-55 Sound Canvas, despite owning several other synthesizers with General MIDI (GM) sounds, superior samples, and greater polyphony. Because most commercial Standard MIDI Files use 24-note polyphony as a yardstick for the maximum polyphony of a GM sequence, the Sound Canvas is a useful tool when I need to deliver sequences in the GM format. If I start hearing notes drop out, I know that I've exceeded my polyphonic allowance.

I have also developed GM sound sets for manufacturers of other synths, and the SC-55 came in handy for comparisons. Because the instrument was probably the first to define the GM standard, it is useful for balancing relative patch volumes and replicating the original envelope generator settings when developing a GM sound set. Sadly, the SC-55 is no longer in production, but you can easily find one at your favorite Web auctioneer for a song.
Marty Cutler

Drivers Education

If you are a Windows XP user with a Digidesign interface and you want to use the interface with software that requires ASIO drivers (such as Ableton Live or Propellerhead Reason), now you can with Digidesign ASIO Driver (Beta 5.3.3b2) ( The company notes that if you plan to also use Pro Tools with your Digidesign interface, you must load it on your computer before loading Digidesign ASIO Driver.

Mac users who want to use a Digi 001 interface with programs requiring an ASIO driver can get one from the Steinberg Web site (
Gino Robair

Be sure to check out the streaming movie tutorial of this procedure. Log on to to take part in this online adventure. Also, if you dare, take the quiz to review what you've learned!

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