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Book Review – Alfred’s Teach Yourself SONAR By Dan Wothke

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Alfred’s Teach Yourself SONAR is a training system that combines a training DVD as well as a workbook to give you the ability, at the completion of the training, to record, edit, and mix your songs and then send them out for the world to hear on CD or to the Web.

The goals of Alfred’s Teach Yourself SONAR is to show you how to work with both analog and MIDI devices, optimize your PC to work with SONAR , work with loops and software synths, record and edit audio as well as use MIDI, and create stunning mixes. The workbook is 64 pages in length, and the DVD is 85 minutes.

Teach Yourself SONAR

The Workbook

Chapter 1, “Getting to Know Your PC,” begins by taking a look at your PC and what it will take to run the SONAR application. You begin by looking under the hood and see how to examine the devices in your device manager. Chapter 2, “MIDI Introduction,” takes a look at what MIDI is and what makes digital audio different than MIDI as well as how this will affect you when working in SONAR.

Chapter 3, “Audio and MIDI Devices,” shows that SONAR offers various options for getting audio in to the system. Here you will look at USB, Firewire, and other methods, as well as how to figure out whether you can see your device properly. Chapter 4, “Choosing and Using Microphones,” now takes a pretty detailed look at the major types of microphones and which ones you might want to use for your recordings.

Chapter 5, “Setting Up Your First Project in SONAR,” means that it is time to record. After everything is installed it is time to set up physical connections between your various interfaces. Next you will see how to set up your project, learn about latency and how it can affect you, how to name your device, and in general, have everything ready for you to make music. Chapter 6, “Working with Loops,” examines how to work with loops in your session. These are those small audio phrases that you can use to create portions of your tunes.

Teach Yourself SONAR

Chapter 7, “Recording and Editing Audio,” begins with looking at the transport bar in SONAR and how you will use it to navigate around the system. Next you will learn about recording audio, how to work with tracks, test recording, working with layers, and various editing tips. Chapter 8, “Recording and Editing MIDI,” examines how to work with MIDI devices and how that differs from recording audio. Here you will work with MIDI and Synth tracks, record and edit MIDI, clean up MIDI, and choose the right sound.

Chapter 9, “Mixing in SONAR,” is all about bringing it together. In this chapter you will learn how to set levels, create envelopes, apply equalization and effects, as well as combining all of these different elements to get a unified sound. Chapter 10, “Mastering in SONAR,” looks at creating the finished product. Here you will see how to take a stereo mix and optimize it to create the end result.

The DVD

Chapter 1, “Introduction – Beginning SONAR 8,” is a brief introduction to the DVD and to the person – Jessica, who will be working with the author to show how to use SONAR. Chapter 2, “System Requirements,” walks you through the requirements to run SONAR on your PC based computer. Here the author shows you how to determine if your system is ready to run the software and also explains how you should set up your system to be most efficient.

Teach Yourself SONAR

Chapter 3, “Hardware and Setup,” then looks at the physical hardware that the author uses to record using SONAR. This includes an Echo Mona digital studio, a Central Station, USB MIDI interface, a Mackie mixing console, and a set of monitors (speakers). Chapter 4, “Setting Up Your Project,” now shows you how to set up your project in SONAR. Here you will see how to interact with the interface as well as set things up so that your project is all ready to go. You will also learn about buffer size and latency issues that you need to be aware of.

Chapter 5, “Recording Audio,” now looks at the more technical aspects of your project – the first being setting up the tempo, working with loops, and recording. This Section examines the various aspects of recording from both a audio keyboard and audio vocal recording including various types of punch-in recording and looping.

Chapter 6, “Editing Audio,” examines the process of taking what you have recorded and putting it together into a quality take. This includes taking portions of multiple takes and combining them into a single track as well as other techniques to create a final file.

Chapter 7, “Recording MIDI,” takes you through the process of recording and editing MIDI data. Here you will see how to set up your MIDI track, setting up a software synth, and recording the piano via the MIDI interface. Then you will see how you can fix bad notes and quantize your notes to adjust the timing.

Chapter 8, “Mixing Your Project,” will show you how to set up and mix your project. You will see how to route your tracks to busses, how to set up and use envelopes, how to pan from one speaker to another, add reverb, set up equalization, as well as other techniques. Chapter 9, “Summary and Credits,” finishes up by reviewing what you have learned throughout your training. It also closes out with final credits as well.

Teach Yourself SONAR

One thing that I must point out is that Alfred’s Teach Yourself SONAR was written for SONAR 8 and while it also works just fine for version 8.5, the latest version SONAR X1 has a different interface setup. What this means is that when the author is explaining some of the menus and places within the interface, they may be a bit different in the newest version. That in no way diminishes the overall effectiveness of this training – it just may cause some confusion if you are trying to follow along.

That said, I found the training to be very well done and very informative and will be especially useful for the beginning or novice user to SONAR. The author does a very good job of taking you from the setup through the recording, editing, mixing, and creating a finished file – keep in mind that while it is just a short segment of song, he does touch all the basics that you would need to use SONAR. If you are just getting started with SONAR, if you have the SONAR product and are struggling with creating a solid workflow, then I can easily recommend Alfred’s Teach Yourself SONAR .

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.