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Book Review: Cakewalk Synthesizers: From Presets to Power User by Simon Cann

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Cakewalk’s top-end synthesizers have become some of the most highly regarded synthesizers in the industry and Cakewalk Synthesizers: From Presets To Power User is the only book to focus strictly on these synthesizers. This second edition updates the prior version by adding new synthesizers to the classic older ones to help keep this current.

Cakewalk Synthesizers was written for the users of Cakewalk synthesizers as well for its potential users. It is for the beginner who wants to understand how a synthesizer works as well as anyone who wants to learn about synthesis and get a greater depth of understanding. Cakewalk Synthesizers is 447 pages and is divided into 13 chapters.

Chapter 1, “Introducing the Synthesizers,” begins with a brief introduction to the synthesizers that you will work with during the course of this book. Chapter 2, “Getting a Grip on Synthesis and Synthesizer Programming,” looks at what a synthesizer is, how you work with them, and what they can do. You also get a first look at the Triangle II synthesizer which you will learn in more detail later in the book.

Chapter 3, “Intermediate and Advanced Synthesis Techniques,” examines how to create useful and more pleasing sounds while still exploring the mechanics of making the synthesizer work. Chapter 4, “Triangle II,” now goes into more detail about this synthesizer. Here you will look at what features it has, why you would want to use it, and program building with it.

Chapter 5, “PSYN II Virtual Analog Synthesizer,” covers the virtual analog synthesizer and makes for a great subtractive synthesizer. Here you will learn how to work with the PSYN II and what it can do. Chapter 6, “Pentagon I Performance-Oriented Synthesizer,” may delve into the many similarities to the PSYN II, but there are also many differences. This is considered a performance synthesizer because it is fast and easy to use and here you will learn about its capabilities.

Chapter 7, “ZT3A+ Waveshaping Synthesizer,” was a flagship product from rgc:audio before Cakewalk acquired them, and it still makes for a powerful synthesizer. This has many advanced features and has won many awards, and, according to the author, may be the most powerful one in the book. Chapter 8, “Expression Engine Common Functionality,” looks at the core functionality of this type of synthesizer since it provides the basis for several synthesizers including Rapture, Dimension Pro, Beatscape, and Session Drummer.

Chapter 9, “Session Drummer 2 and Session Drummer 3,” examines both versions and breaks them down to their ‘kits’ and their ‘patterns.’ Here you will see why they are useful and how to work with these drum packages. Chapter 10, “Dimension LE and Dimension Pro Sampling Synthesizers,” discusses the four-element sampling synthesizers that come with a large content library and a wide variety of programs. Here you will learn how to work with the various elements and see how they all work.

Chapter 11, “Rapture LE and Rapture Wavetable Synthesizer,” is a flagship product from Cakewalk and while it has similarities to Dimension Pro, once you start to work with them, you will find that it is very different. Here you will see the overlap and also focus more on the key differences between the two.

Chapter 12, “Beatscape,” has a single purpose and that is to handle loops. It has 16 pads and they can load up a loop. Here you will learn how the loop is processed, edited, and mangled before passing through the dedicated FX units for that pad. Chapter 13, “The SFZ format,” finishes up with looking at the file format that underlies all of the Expression Engine synthesizers. Here you will explore everything you need to know about the SFZ file format.

Cakewalk Synthesizers really takes you through how the Cakewalk synthesizers work and will have you working with them very quickly. And while these are focused on Cakewalk product, they really apply to just about any synthesizer there.

Cakewalk Synthesizers is really a good book for just about any level from complete novice to someone who has worked with synthesizers before and especially great for those who want to know how the Cakewalk ones work. If you really want to learn how to work with synthesizers, then I very highly recommend Cakewalk Synthesizers: From Presets To Power User .

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About T. Michael Testi

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