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Chapter 6. Recording and Playback > Audio Track Recording and Playback

Audio Track Recording and Playback

Recording audio tracks in SONAR is very similar to recording MIDI tracks, but because the nature of the data is different, you need to take a few additional steps. Here’s the step-by-step process for recording audio tracks:

  1. Create a new project or open an existing one. If you use a template to create a new project, you might be able to skip some of the following steps, but you should probably run through them anyway, just in case.

  2. Set the meter and key signature for the project. The default settings are 4/4 and the key of C Major.

  3. Set the metronome and tempo parameters. The default tempo for a new project is 100 beats per minute.

  4. Set the timebase for the project. The default setting is 960 PPQ (pulses per quarter note). More often than not, you won’t have to change this setting.

  5. Set the recording mode. Unless you plan to record data to a track that already contains data, you can skip this step. The default recording mode is Sound on Sound.

  6. Set the sampling rate and the file bit depth for the project.

  7. Add a new audio track to the Track view and adjust the track’s properties. For more information about these properties and how to set them, refer to Chapter 4.

  8. If you want to hear effects added to your performance while you’re recording, activate input monitoring for the audio track. Then add effects to your track by right-clicking on the Fx bin (located in the Track pane along with all the other track parameters) and choosing Audio Effects > Cakewalk > [the effect you would like to add]. I’ll talk more about effects in Chapter 11.

  9. Arm the track for recording to let SONAR know you want to record data on the track. Right after the name parameter in the Track view, you’ll see three buttons labeled M, S, and R. Click on the R button to arm the track for recording.

  10. After you arm the track, you’ll notice the meter (shown to the right of the Fx bin) light up (see Figure 6.11). This meter displays the level of the audio input for your sound card in decibels.

    Figure 6.11. Each audio track has a meter showing its input signal level in decibels.



    Decibel is a very complicated term to describe. The most basic explanation would be that a decibel is a unit of measurement used to determine the loudness of sound. In SONAR, the audio meters can range from -90 dB (soft) to 0 dB (loud). To change the display range of a meter, right-click on it and choose a new setting from the drop-down menu. For a more detailed explanation, see the following topic in the SONAR Help file: Editing Audio > Digital Audio Fundamentals > The Decibel Scale.

  11. Set the audio input level for your sound card so it’s not too loud but also not too soft. To do so, you have to use the software mixer that came with your sound card. On the Windows taskbar, you should see a small speaker icon. Double-click on the speaker icon to open your sound card mixer. Then select Options > Properties to open the sound card mixer’s Properties dialog box. In the Adjust Volume For section, select Recording, make sure all boxes below it are checked, and click on OK to display the recording controls for your sound card mixer (see Figure 6.12).

    Figure 6.12. You use your sound card mixer to adjust the input levels for your sound card.

  12. For the set of controls labeled Line-In, either activate the Select option or deactivate the Mute option (depending on your mixer configuration). This option tells your sound card that you want to record audio using its line-input connection. If you want to use a different connection (such as a microphone or internal CD player), you need to use the set of controls associated with that connection.



    These steps show you how to use a standard Windows sound card for recording. You might have a sound card that uses a different method for setting audio input levels. In that case, you need to read the documentation for your sound card to find out how to use it correctly.

  13. When you have access to the input level controls for your sound card, begin your performance, playing at the loudest level at which you plan to record. As you play, the meter for the track will light up, displaying the sound level of your performance. You should adjust the input level so that when you play the loudest part of your performance, the meter does not turn red. If it turns red, you have overloaded the input, and if you record at that level your audio signal will be distorted. When you play the loudest part of your performance, if the meter lights up anywhere between -6dB and -3dB, then you have a good input level setting.

  14. After you finish setting your input level, close the sound card mixer. Next, set the Now time to the point in the project where you would like the recording to begin. Most of the time, it will be the very beginning of the project, but SONAR provides flexibility to let you record data to a track starting at any measure, beat, or tick in a project.

  15. Select Transport > Record to start recording. (Alternatively, you can press the R key on your computer keyboard or click on the Record button on the Transport toolbar.) If you set a Count-In, the metronome will count the number of beats you entered, and then SONAR will begin recording.

  16. Perform the material you want to record.

  17. After you finish performing, select Transport > Stop to stop recording. (Alternatively, you can press the spacebar on your computer keyboard or click on the Stop button on the Transport toolbar.) SONAR will create a new clip in the track containing the audio data you just recorded (see Figure 6.13).

    Figure 6.13. After you’ve finished recording, SONAR will create a new clip in the track representing the audio data.

  18. Listen to your performance by setting the Now time back to its original position and selecting Transport > Play to start playback. (Alternatively, you can press the spacebar on your computer keyboard or click on the Play button on the Transport toolbar.) If you don’t like the performance, erase it by selecting Edit > Undo Recording. Then go back to Step 14 and try recording again.

  19. After you’ve recorded a performance you like, disarm the track by clicking on its R button again. By disarming the track, you won’t accidentally record over the data while you’re recording any additional tracks.

  20. Go back to Step 7 and record any additional tracks you want to add to the project. While you’re recording the new tracks, you will hear the previously recorded tracks playing back. Therefore, you might want to turn off the metronome and just follow the music of the previous tracks as you perform the material for the new ones.



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