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Book Review: SONAR X1 Power!: The Comprehensive Guide by Scott R. Garrigus

SONAR X1 Power! – The Comprehensive Guide is the most recent edition of By Scott R. Garrigus’ SONAR Power book series which provides detailed training into Calkwalk’s SONAR X1. Since the author did not do an update for the SONAR 8.5 release, this book looks at the changes since SONAR 8.

The goal of SONAR X1 Power! is to get you up and running on the latest version of SONAR as quickly and painlessly as possible. Since this new version of SONAR has changed dramatically, even those who have use prior versions will have a bit to re-learn as well. SONAR X1 Power! is 528 pages and is divided into 17 chapters.

Chapter One, “Presenting SONAR X1,” begins with an overview of the way that SONAR works, its layout, the different versions that are available, what is new, and what you need to run the program. Chapter Two, “Customizing SONAR for Your Workflow,” takes on setting up SONAR in the best most efficient way to work. This includes where your files are located, working with screensets, window positioning, using customized MIDI settings, and more.

Chapter Three, “Working with SONAR Project Files,” shows you how to work with a body of music by way of a project file. You will see how to open, create, as well as work with projects in SONAR. This includes finding missing files as well as versioning files. Chapter Four, “Navigating Projects and the Workspace,” shows how to find your way through the data in your project. There are a number of tools that will help you including the Track, Piano Roll, Staff, and Event views.

Chapter Five, “Recording Music and Sound with SONAR,” makes your computer into a full-fledged recording studio. This chapter looks at several ways to record sound using SONAR including Loop — small segments, Punch — to fix audio voice, and Step — one note at a time, recording. Chapter Six, “Editing and Processing Basics,” will let you take what you have just recorded and fix problems with the recording. There are several different tools that you have at your disposal including the Smart, Select, Move, Edit, and Erase tools. You will work with tracks, clips, and notes to learn you’re editing skills.

Chapter Seven, “Advanced Editing Features,” looks at the more sophisticated tools that you have to work with in SONAR. These include the features for working with gain, normalization, fade, crossfade, and even playing music backward. Then there are features for working with MIDI data as well such as Deglitch, Quantize, and Transpose features. Chapter Eight, “Playing with Software Synthesizers,” examines how you can simulate a MIDI synthesizer through software synthesis. Through the use of technology from Cakewalk via DX instruments (DXi) and from Steinberg using VST instruments (VSTi) you now have plug-ins that makes your computer much more powerful.

Chapter Nine, “Composing with Loops and Making Beats,” explores the abilities that SONAR gives you with both using and creating loops. Loops are short audio recordings that can be hooked together to compose complete musical performances. Chapter 10, “Arranging the Mix Music,” describes what you do when you have recorded and edited your MIDI and audio data and are ready to mix them together into a single stereo audio track. Here you will see what features SONAR has to make this process as simple as possible.

Chapter 11, “Exploring Effects Plug-ins,” provides insight into the different effects that can be applied to your musical composition to give it a much more rich and appealing sound than if it were just left on its own. You will look at both audio as well as MIDI effects. Chapter 12, “Automation and Control Surfaces,”  allows you to both record parameter changes over time so as to let you add more depth to your mixes, as well as through the use of control surfaces — hardware interfaces that allow you to control SONAR using buttons, knobs, and faders.

Chapter 13, “Exporting and Putting your Project on CD,” takes you through the steps to convert all of your hardware synth MIDI tracks in a project to audio tracks and then export them to a WAV file for your recording software to write to CD. Chapter 14, “Surround Sound with SONAR,” will show you how, especially if you are working with sound for movie soundtracks, you can create a surround sound mix as well. To do this may take some additional investment in sound cards and monitors (speakers).

Chapter 15, “Standard Music Notation via the Staff View,” looks at how you can edit you MIDI data as standard music notation and guitar tablature. Through this interface you can even compose new music through the graphic interface. Here you will work with the staff view, notes, chords, and various symbols. You can also work with the fretboard and tablature, as well as printing out your score.

Chapter 16, “Studio Control with StudioWare and Sysx,” takes a look at how SONAR can help you control almost every piece of equipment in your studio provided it supports MIDI. Chapter 17, “The Cakewalk Application Language (CAL),” finishes up by looking at the programming language built into SONAR that will allow you to extend the functionality of your computer based studio by creating your own custom data editing commands.

SONAR X1 Power! – The Comprehensive Guide really lives up to its name in that it provides the most comprehensive and complete coverage of the SONAR product. It is extremely well written, concise, clear, and very personable in its style. It takes you through, step-by-step into real life situations so that you get real hands-on experience.

SONAR X1 Power! is a hefty book at 8 ½ x 11 ½ and a little over an inch thick, but lays well when you are working with it. This is a good thing since it will make for a good reference book for a long time. If you are new to SONAR X1 this is definitely a must have book and even if you are a seasoned veteran of past SONAR products, there are many things that you will learn from this version that I can very highly recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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