Tag Archives: Cubase

Free music packages for your studio DAW.

For anyone just getting into making music the is an often bewildering choice of sequencers out there offering an astounding array of features that a few decades ago would have been unimaginable to anyone but those working in the largest pro studios.

The problem now is that even for the more experienced musician making the choice of which DAW you want to focus on is often tough, so for the beginner just wanting to start out and who perhaps doesn’t yet understand what they need it becomes even more difficult.

The most popular options always seem to be the most expensive, and to some extent that shouldn’t be a surprise. Pro studios require great support and those costly packages have levels of support that some of the cheaper options might not have the resources to match. Of course anyone starting out and who has their heart set on going into a pro studio situation might find themselves wanting to learn with the more popular packages, but the fact is that the are a wide selection of extremely cheap alternative and even many that are free, which have a strong user base able to help you learn and are often just as well featured as many of the commercial alternatives.

The alternatives below are all free. Some are cut down editions of larger more costly packages and others are free and fully maintained packages built and looked after by a dedicated user base. Either way if your not quite ready to spend a large amount of money on your sequencer but still want to experiment, then you could certainly do far worse than checking out one of these packages.

ProTools First

ProTool First : http://www.avid.com/pro-tools-first

Starting with the well known names and ProTools first is a fairly recent entry from one of the longest standing DAW software teams. The was a time where ProTools was almost ubiquitous in studios around the world, although those days are now long behind us as market has fractured over the years largely due to the rise of home recording.

So firstly the key restrictions:

16 Audio Tracks
16 Instrument Tracks
4 Hardware Inputs
Restricted to Plugins Purchased from the Protools Shop
Saves restricted to the cloud with a 3 project limit.

As a self contained studio package for those wishing to get to grips with Protools before perhaps diving head first into buying the full package this works well; although given the inability to freely use third party plugins (at least not easily due to the “shop only” restrictions) this isn’t really suited for those wishing to experiment with sound design or working fully in the box. This base package however does make quite a bit of sense for the small band style projects as with 16 channels of audio you have enough here to multitrack your guitars, drums and vocals and wide enough selection of native effects to get the job done.

Of course the focus here is on bringing you into the world of Protools, with the ability to carry your home projects over to the full version when the time to upgrade comes. In doing so they look to have picked a rounded set of features that could well do the job for anyone wanting to record their band for the first time.

Compare the ProTools range features here.

Studio One Prime

Studio One Prime : http://www.presonus.com/press/press-releases/Studio-One-3-Prime

Having only been on the market since the late 00’s Studio One is still a relatively new comer to the DAW-wars but one that gained a lot of interest from the very first announcement. With a number of developers coming from the Steinberg camp the pedigree of the team behind Studio One is without dispute. Whilst still viewed as bit of an upstart Studio One has found favor with long established professionals and eager new comers alike. The free version referred too as Studio One Prime sets out to be an introduction to the world of Studio One in much the same fashion as ProTools First is for ProTools.

The restrictions here are far more subtle in nature, but the are certainly a few notable ones. Track count is unlimited but once again external VST’s are walled off and inaccessible in the base package. It includes 9 native effects and a virtual instrument in the shape of the Presence XT sampler which makes for a good jumping off point, but once again like ProTools First a lot of users may find this quite restrictive and anyone wishing to leverage third party tools for sound design will be disappointed.

Other restrictions may not prove all that noticeable for new users finding their feet. Features like video importing and additional audio exporting functions will be low on the list for new users, although might become more relevant later on. The same goes for more advanced features like additional channel editor functions and macro controls or the extended FX chains on offer in the more fully featured editions.

Once again the VST restrictions here might be a little off putting for a lot of people and again perhaps mean that Studio One Prime might prove more suitable for those recording small band projects rather than in the box sound designers.

Compare the Studio One versions here.

Tracktion 5

Tracktion 5 : https://www.tracktion.com/products/t5-daw

Tracktion whilst perhaps not as widely known as some of the other more established sequencers, its fast approaching its 15th birthday. and over that time it’s gone through a number of revisions with Tracktion 7 being the current commercial release. 

In order to continue to attract new users Tracktion maintains an older free version of its flagship client which is free to all of which the current version is Tracktion 5.

With unlimited audio and instrument tracks, the support for all VST’s without having to access their marketplace the are few key drawbacks here. Notable missing features include various warp modes when working with audio, and various grouping and extended functionality options, most if not all are missing from other basic and even payable options from many sequencer brands so really this is pretty fully featured and certainly worth checking out.

Compare the Tracktion Versions here.LMMS

LMMS : https://lmms.io/

The fully open source LMMS is well featured, comes with all the functionality you would expect from a studio ready DAW but built and maintained by an enthusiastic community.

Offering a channel count only limited by you CPU, full VST support with an included bridge to allow the use of older plugins, as well as a healthy collection of freeware synths and effects included with it.

The one downside of LMMS is it’s lack of recording capability inside the software. It’s great for those working fully in the box, but in order to bring audio in you’d need to record it into an audio editor first (like the excellent freeware Audacity) and then export it over to LMMS for use in your project.

Whilst that is going to be off putting to anyone working with capturing large amounts of audio, making all your music in the system and importing the odd snippet here and there isn’t going to prove all that troublesome, especially given all the other functionally on offer here it could potentially make it a strong fit for anyone not convinced of the other offerings here.

Honorable mention

Reaper DAW

Reaper : www.reaper.fm

Often a common inclusion in these types of lists, Reaper itself isn’t quite free, so it gets a special mention down here for its features to price ratio.

You should however consider taking advantage of the fully featured trail and if you like it the $60 full cost of the software (for home users) it is an absolute steal for a package this well featured. The audio engine alone is amongst the best performers out there, giving great low latency audio handling with extremely efficient code capable of eak’ing out one of the highest trackcounts we’ve seen when placed head to head with even the most expensive of DAW packages.

Sharing more in design and concept with sequencers like Cubase and ProTools, rather than the newer generation Ableton and Bitwig this might seem to have a steep learning curve when compared with some of its contemporaries, its ability to skin and configure it will let you fine tune it to your workflow if your able to take the time to learn it fully.

Fully featured from the outset with no notable restrictions in place, the are a lot of budget editions of all the key sequencers, but we don’t think you’ll find a more comprehensive package anywhere else at anywhere close to this price point.

If however you feel like your ready to step up to one of the larger packages?

See our selection @ Scan.

Steinberg Releases Cubase 9.0.10 Update

So it’s been a few months since Steinberg released Cubase 9. A maintenance update has since been released which includes many bug fixes and improvements. The 143MB update (510MB for Mac users) is available for free to all existing Cubase 9 users.

Here’s a list of what’s included in the update:

Chord Track:

  • Fixed an issue where dragging Chord Event across a Divided Track List resulted in a misaligned event.
  • Fixed an issue where “Follow Chord Track” was not working correctly.
  • Fixed an issue regarding wrong note colors when using “Chord Track” for event colors.

Editing:

  • Fixed an issue where the Quantize Panel did not correctly display the Crossfade section for multi-track usage (via Folder Group Editing).

Input Transformer:

  • Fixed an issue where certain setups of the Input Transformer could crash the application.

Inspector:

  • Fixed an issue where pinned Inspector sections were all closed after loading a project.

Logical Editor:

  • Fixed a potential crash issue.
  • Fixed an issue where Filter Target “Note is equal to” was stuck on “C”.

MediaBay:

  • Fixed an issue where using the Search field on the MediaBay could crash the application.

MIDI Editors:

  • Fixed an issue where Show/Hide Controller Lanes did not work when Lanes were removed manually beforehand.
  • Fixed an issue where resizing the Controller Lane area within the Inplace Editor could crash the application.
  • Fixed an issue where note names where displayed with inconsistent enharmonics (e.g. Bb instead of A#).

MIDI Plug-ins:

  • Fixed an issue where MicroTuner settings were not applied after reloading a project.

MusicXML Export:

  • Improved the compatibility of the number attribute for slurs (for import into Dorico).
  • Improved the compatibility in regard to the encoding of tuplets (for import into Dorico).

Performance:

  • Fixed a performance issue when “Auto Select under Cursor” options was activated.

Plug-ins:

  • Fixed an issue where VST 3 plug-ins with special characters could not be used.
  • Fixed an issue where StudioEQ presets were missing in Cubase Elements.
  • Fixed an issue where panning could be wrong with REVerence.
  • Fixed an issue where side split LP/HP bands did not properly change type in Frequency.
  • Fixed an issue where the Maximizer output level was not consistent with the readings from the MixConsole metering.

Project Window:

  • Fixed an issue where “Open in separate Window” in MIDI Editors was not possible after working in the Controller Lane area.
  • Fixed an issue where the Overview Line was missing in Cubase LE, AI and Elements.
  • Fixed an issue where new recorded MIDI Parts were not displayed in open Editor tab in the Lower Zone.

Remotes:

  • Fixed an issue where remote control devices (e.g. NI Komplete Kontrol) could not follow the parameter mapping correctly while navigating through the track list.

Sampler Track:

  • Fixed an issue where Sample Start/End markers were not correctly set after dragging a resized audio event into the Sampler Control tab.
  • Fixed an issue where re-opening the Sampler Control tab showed no content.
  • Fixed an issue where the root key color indication on the keyboard display was incorrect.
  • Fixed an issue where “Remove unused Media” in the Pool was not working correctly for audio files referenced by the Sampler Track.
  • Fixed and issue where no content was displayed in a Sampler Control tab after re-opening the Lower Zone.
  • Fixed an issue where creating a sampler track from an MP3 file in the MediaBay crashed the application.

Steinberg Hardware:

  • Fixed an issue where closing the Audio Hardware Setup window (e.g. for UR hardware) could lead to an application which could be no longer operated.

Steinberg Help:

  • Fixed an issue where the F1 key did not open the Cubase Help referring to steinberg.help.

System Link:

  • Fixed an issue where the cursor position was not synchronized while scrubbing with the mouse.
  • Fixed an synchronization issue using a jog wheel followed by Fast Rewind / Fast Forward commands.

TrackVersions:

  • Fixed an issue where TrackVersions on Signature Tracks could crash the application.

Transport:

  • Fixed an issue that stops the recording when changing the Metronome volume.
  • Fixed an issue where no values for all sorts of Transport control related items could be entered by key command if both Transport Panel and Transport Zone were closed.

The Cubase 9 Pro update is available here. Updates are available across the entire Cubase 9 range so download sizes may vary slightly from what’s mentioned above.

Steinberg products @ Scan

Steinberg Release Cubase 9

So the rumours were true…. Steinberg bring us the latest edition of their flagship production suite – Cubase 9. Following the same trend as previous revisions it comes in 3 forms – Pro, Artist and Elements.

Steinberg conducted a survey earlier on in the year to see what new features we’d like to see in the next version. It seems the people spoke and Steinberg listened as many of the features we asked for have been implemented. Here’s a quick glance at some of those key features:

The Lower Zone

Intended to enhance workflow, the Lower Zone incorporates the mix window into the main project window and it can be dynamically resized. The MIDI and audio editors are also accessible from here. This will prove to be extremely beneficial for anyone working on a single screen!

Mix Console History

This will surely be massively useful! Gives you undo/redo functions and allows you to recall different stages of a mix.

Multiple Marker Tracks

The ability to structure your projects neatly and efficiently with up to 10 marker tracks.

Audio-Ins

You now have the option of being able to side-chain into VST3 Instruments that support it.

Sample Track

A basic sampler was on this list of requests. Well now we’ve got one! It allows you to drag audio straight out of a project and play it back chromatically on your MIDI keyboard. It also lets you transfer samples into other Steinberg instruments.

8-Band Frequency EQ

Offers M/S and Linear Phase support, Auto Listen, Spectrum Display and a musical keyboard to assist in finding the right tone. It also allows you to completely customize the look of the EQ spectrum.

Other features include better plugin management, updated plugin interfaces, revamped Production Grooves as well as improved services for cloud collaboration.

Here’s a breakdown of the key features of each version:

Cubase Pro 9

  • Award-winning 32-bit floating-point Steinberg audio engine with up to 192 kHz, 5.1 surround, flexible routing and full automatic delay compensation
  • Unlimited audio, instrument and MIDI tracks and up to 256 physical inputs and outputs
  • MixConsole for pro mixing desk experience and integrated high-end channel strip, VCA faders, Loudness Meter, Wave Meters
  • Complete suite of over 90 high-end audio and MIDI VST effect processors, including Quadrafuzz v2, VST Amp Rack and VST Bass Amp guitar and bass tone suites, REVerence convolution reverb, Frequency four-band EQ and many more
  • VariAudio for MIDI-style note editing of monophonic audio tracks, automatic voicing harmonization and auto-tuning effects
  • Intelligent compositional tools like Chord Track, Chord Pads and the advanced Chord Assistant for creative and playful composing of harmonic progressions and advanced voicings
  • Comprehensive set of 8 outstanding instruments with over 3,400 sounds, including HALion Sonic SE 2, Groove Agent SE 4, Padshop, Retrologue 2 and LoopMash 2
  • Full VST Expression 2 with Note Expression, VST Dynamics and Expression Maps for fully integrated workflows with musical articulations, dynamics and controller values
  • Perfect integration of external hardware effect devices and instruments, such as synthesizers or signal processors, into the sequencer signal flow.
  • VST Connect SE and VST Transit cloud collaboration services

Cubase Artist 9

  • Award-winning 32-bit floating-point Steinberg audio engine with up to 192 kHz, flexible routing and full automatic delay compensation
  • Simultaneous playback of 64 audio tracks, 128 MIDI tracks and up to 32 physical inputs and outputs
  • MixConsole for pro mixing desk experience and integrated high-end channel strip with dynamics and EQ
  • Comprehensive set of 8 outstanding instruments with over 3,000 sounds, including HALion Sonic SE 2, Groove Agent SE 4, Padshop, Retrologue 2 and LoopMash 2
  • Suite of over 70 high-end audio and MIDI VST effect processors, including Pitch Correct for vocal editing, VST Amp Rack and VST Bass Amp guitar and bass tone suites, Quadrafuzz v2 and many more!
  • Intelligent compositional tools like Chord Track and Chord Pads for creative and playful composing of harmonic progressions and advanced voicings
  • Thousands of MIDI construction kits, audio loops and samples as building blocks to create sketches, play-alongs or even full songs with just a few clicks
  • Lightning-fast multi-take comping with the dedicated lane tracks and the click-and-drag comp tool for conjuring the perfect recording
  • Track Versions for playlists-like editing and render-in-place for easily bouncing MIDI and audio parts
  • Streamlined music notation and score editing feature set

Cubase Elements 9

  • Award-winning 32-bit floating-point Steinberg audio engine, flexible routing and full automatic delay compensation
  • Simultaneous playback of 48 audio tracks, 64 MIDI tracks and up to 24 physical inputs and outputs
  • MixConsole for pro mixing desk experience and integrated high-end channel strip with dynamics and EQ
  • Three outstanding virtual instruments comprising the HALion Sonic SE workstation, Groove Agent SE drum machine and Prologue synthesizer
  • Over 40 audio effect processors, including high-end VST Dynamics, Pitch Correct for vocal intonation correction and the VST Amp Rack guitar tone suite
  • Powerful sample editor covering all common editing tasks and providing creative freedom while editing audio
  • Chord Track and Chord Pads for playfully and creatively composing with chords
  • Comprehensive content library with thousands of instrument sounds, MIDI construction loops and audio samples
  • Basic score editing features for music notation and composition
  • Full upward compatibility with Cubase Pro and Cubase Artist for

There’s certainly some interesting features in there and I expect many users will justify the upgrade based on what we’ve seen. For a more in-depth look at what Cubase 9 offers, head on over to the Cubase YouTube channel. There’s plenty of videos on there demonstrating all these new features.

Steinberg Cubase @ Scan

Cubase 7: Voxengo Curve EQ

 

Voxengo Curve EQ:

Within Cubase 7 is a plug-in with a feature, which in essence has been around a while, but Voxengo really do make it easy to use…

 

I’m talking ‘Spectrum matching function’ and it’s very cool.

 

Most of us have a favourite album where the production is just perfect, and we’d give anything to emulate it (mine happens to be Jellyfish’s  “Spilt Milk”, but there you go…)

 

Whatever genre or style, the Voxengo Curve EQ can analyse it and apply it to the current mix you’re working on, and once you’ve learnt how to do it, it can be invaluable as a tool for mastering in different genres (Country and Western advert ?  I’ll just strap Dolly’s EQ across it!!!)

 

Spectrum matching function is accessible via the “Static Spectrum Editor” window

(which is opened by the “Static & Match” button on the user interface).

 

Here’s the skinny from the manual…..

 

When you perform spectrum matching it is suggested to switch spectrum type in the

“Spectrum Mode Editor” to “Avg” so that average spectrum is used for matching

instead of a default real-time spectrum which may give inconsistent matching results.

You also need to run the averaging for several seconds until the visible spectrum

becomes smooth enough. After achieving the required spectrum shape on the screen

you can press the “Take” (or “Take 2nd”) button once in the static spectrum slot to

store this spectrum for matching purposes. Note that if there is no secondary

spectrum available (it was not configured in the “Spectrum Mode Editor”), the “Take

2nd” button will appear dimmed.

You need at least two spectrum snapshots in two slots for matching. The spectrum

you would like to equalize and the reference spectrum should be marked with the

“Apply To” and “Reference” switches, respectively. You can define more than one

“Apply to” or “Reference” spectrum – in that case the “average of two” spectrum will

be used.

 

You need at least two spectrum snapshots in two slots for matching. The spectrum

you would like to equalize and the reference spectrum should be marked with the

“Apply To” and “Reference” switches, respectively. You can define more than one

“Apply to” or “Reference” spectrum – in that case the “average of two” spectrum will

be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The point is that for any of you guys out there working in different styles, or producing ‘soundalikes’, this is a hell of a plug-in for helping you to achieve a believable end result.

 

Oh, and as I said earlier, Cubase 7 Rocks as well!!        LN48346.

CUBASE 7 is Here!!!!!

CUBASE 7: I’m very excited.

 

So, it’s here!!

Forget Christmas, it’s the release of Steinberg’s Cubase 7, and I for one can’t wait.

What’s so exciting?

Well pretty much everything…..

Starting with the overhaul of the mixing page (which can incidentally now be full screen), with its extremely flexible channel layout, 12 dB boost and dedicated processing power per channel, what they’re calling an ‘exceptional’ feel to the controls and comprehensive online and offline automation tools, MixConsole has been built to provide uncompromising audio quality and routing flexibility from the outset, with plenty of pristine headroom and a fundamentally transparent sonic signature.

It also looks cool! The Channel strip seems intuitive and has some built in usefulness from the start with the strip divided into sections including a Noise Gate, EQ, Compression, Saturation and Limiting, all movable  to wherever you want them, and with an Inserts effects track at the very top to show where the signals being sent.

 

Next up, Chord track.

This is either going to be brilliant, or the biggest waste of time ever.

It’s basically an extension of the VariAudio function, which analyses your track for harmonic content,  and then presumably makes suggestions as to Harmony or alternative Bass lines etc. based on what it see’s.

Whether or not this is going to be of any use to the more advanced musician (and I presume Cubase users at this level to have some musical knowledge) remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a handy function if your own level of musical competence isn’t able to suggest ideas for itself……

On the ‘up’ side, Steinberg are claiming that the ability to create lead sheets for other musicians has never been easier.

Intelligent composing assistance:

Again, this is either going to be a superb aide to writers or, it’s going to result in thousands of homogenised chord sheets, all sounding like a Gershwin Rhapsody whilst travelling from a I to a IV chord.

In essence, they are claiming that you could enter a start chord and an end chord, and the composing assistant will offer you a myriad of chords for the middle. Whether this has any benefit to originality I have my doubts, but I look forward to a whole ruck of Harmonically sophisticated dub step tracks…….

 

 

 

 

Pure tuning:

Clever this.

Most composers know of the difficulty of pairing ‘fixed tuning’ instruments like guitars and pianos, with variable tuning instruments like trombones or violins.

‘Hermode’ tuning  allows you to….well, here’s what they say…

“Thanks to the Hermode tuning technology, the intonation of your synthesized notes are changed dynamically on the fly for utmost compatibility with well-tempered scales, while retaining a high degree of purity for third and fifth intervals “

We await with baited breath…………

 

VARI AUDIO 2:

This seems to be a superb update to an already ‘must-have’ technology.

Basically the engine works with the aforementioned ‘Chord Track’ to ensure all your harmonies are at the correct pitch. It will allow you to take a lead vocal and wrap harmony parts around it all day long, with varying levels of sophistication.

It will also provide the well known ‘AutoTune effect’, for those who like that sort of thing……  and, you’ll be able to edit multiple VariAudio parts across multiple tracks within one editor only!

 

CUBASE HUB:

Cubase sports the new Steinberg Hub loaded with tons of helpful information.

Alongside the enhanced Project Assistant you now find a list of regularly updated video tutorials and RSS feeds to keep you informed about important Cubase updates, support news or product releases.

 

So these are just a few of the advances ‘right out of the box’.

All in all, it looks like a very substantial re-working, of perhaps the most famous DAW on the market.

Its smoother and easier on the eye, and I look forward to ‘discovering’ things along the way, as always.     LN48346.

 

Steinberg release the Cubase 6.5 upgrade.

Steinberg have today released a fairly major update for the ever popular Cubase 6 sequencer with a whole raft of new features to make it a worthy upgrade.

Key features of the Steinberg Cubase 6.5 upgrade:

2 New Synths:

Retrologue :

  • Classic virtual analog synthesizer with 300 quality presets
  • Two oscillators with up to eight detunable voices each plus a sub and noise oscillator
  • 12 different filter types
  • LFO and ADSR for filters and amp envelopes
  • 10 stage Modulation Matrix with Note Expression support
  • Mono and poly modes with legato and glide
  • FX section with modulation and delay

Padshop:

  • Advanced granular synthesis engine
  • Includes 400 carefully crafted presets
  • SoftGrain Wave ROM for custom sounds
  • 10 stage Modulation Matrix with Note Expression support
  • 12 different filter types, LFOs and ADSR for filters and amp
    envelopes
  • Step Modulator for rhythmic triggering of oscillators
  • FX section with modulation and delay

2 New Plugins:

DJ EQ:

  • Simple yet powerful 3-band equalizer
  • Kill switches for cutting breaks

Morphfilter:

  • Classic filter types of Steinberg’s HALion 4 sound creation system
  • Blend seamlessly between two filter curves
  • Great for creating sweeps and dynamic glides

New functionality:

New Comping Tools:

  • Comp tool with handy click-and-drag features
  • Cleanup-lanes command to resolve event overlaps
  • Create-tracks-from-lanes function to convert each lane into a new audio track
  • Seperated track and lane solo function
  • Developed in close collaboration with studio engineers for best results

New Audiowarp Quantizing Features:

  • Fusion of hitpoint and AudioWarp system
  • AudioWarp quantize integrated into Quantize panel
  • Create warp markers from hitpoints automatically
  • Warp Marker rules support transient priorities for multi-track quantizing of Edit Groups*
  • Non-destructively quantize single audio loops or the entire arrangement just like MIDI!

Other Features:

FLAC Support:

Steinberg Cubase 6.5 now allows you to import and export FLAC files effortlessly, and save up to 60% disk space when recording audio tracks in real time.

Soundcloud Upload Features:

Upload sounds and mixes directly from Cubase to your SoundCloud account, and share your songs and sounds with the world. The dedicated Upload Manager takes care of everything, all you’ve got to do is enter your log-in details.

64 bit Rewire support:

Hook up to your favorite ReWire software and flip the switch to 64 bits. Steinberg Cubase 6.5 now connects ReWire client applications in a pure 64-bit environment.

The upgrade to 6.5 itself is free to anyone who’s purchased Steinberg Cubase 6 after the 1/1/12 and around £40 (exchange rate dependent) to anyone else working on a copy registered prior to this point. This means that all boxed copies purchased from this date forward will also include the update as well as part of the package.

The update for existing customers is an online only deal so please contact Steinberg for more infomation on upgrading your current install of Cubase 6.

Steinberg Cubase 6.5 New Synths Video:

Steinberg Cubase 6.5 New Effects Video:

Steinberg Cubase 6.5 New Editing Features Video:

Steinberg Cubase 6.5 New Intercommunication Features Video:

Cubase 6 at Scan Computers – This version qualifies for the free upgrade to Cubase 6.5.

For more info on the Steinberg Cubase 6.5 upgrade.

Steinberg Cubase 6.5 upgrade site.

An Introduction to Music Sequencers

One of the key choices faced by eveyone when starting out making music is which sequencer software to learn in order to be able to produce your own recordings. As the heart of any modern studio the sequencer will allow you to record, edit and even master your music in your own preferred recording space and with the power and features available in even the most humble of software studios these days you can get astounding results, that even just a couple of decades ago were unthinkable by anyone working outside of a large studio environment. The problem with having to make the choice at this stage is that your most probably at your most unprepared for what is essentially a choice that will shape your work flow dynamic for years to come, so in this situation just how do you decide when its likely your not even sure what you need?

To keep things simple for this article we’ll break them down into a couple of groups and we’ll start with the traditional sequencers Cubase & Sonar. Both of these solutions have long heritages with Steinberg’s Cubase first appearing on the Atari ST in the late 80’s and Calkwalk’s Sonar appeared a few years prior to that under it’s original brand name of Cakewalk, meaning that both of these solutions are regarded as long established industry standards with Cubase being the popular choice in Europe and Sonar the leader in the USA market.

 

A Cubase arrangement page. A Cubase arrangement screen.

Designed initially as midi sequencing tools used to record and edit playback data controlling synths and other external hardware, it was with the advent of the Steinberg introducing the V.S.T (Virtual Studio Technology) standard in the mid 90’s which over time has become the dominate format over Cakewalks own DXi plugin standard (Sonar also supports VST) that we’ve seen sequencers grow from their humble beginnings to the all encompassing studio in box solutions we see now. When choosing between these two software packages you’ll see that most of the features found in either one will tend to be available in the other sooner or later. The has over the years been a history of them pushing each other on when developing new features and improvements which has resulted in great feature rich solutions being developers for users working with either client.

Over time we’ve seen these sequencers also introduce timeline based real time audio editing and manipulation which was previously was the greatest strength of the other classic recording software ProTools. Once again originally developed in the late 90’s but this time as a replacement for the classic multitrack tape recorders found in every recording studio up until this point Pro Tools was developed as a medium to allow loss less digital recording in an environment where the audio could be manipulated and processed without degradation associated with working analogue or even digital tape formats. ProTools was regarded as a game changer as it could speed up the mixing and mastering process and allow all sorts of editing tricks to be applied that were previously only be dreamed of by the average razorblade wielding tape based editors of old.

Cubase Audio Editing On The Timeline.

ProTools however in the early days by design was developed to only work with dedicated hardware solutions (audio interfaces) which whilst ensured a high quality audio recording environment also put this far outside the price range of the average home studio recordist. Over time however the platform has opened up with ProTools HD remaining at the highend we saw the introduction of the LE revision and with a wider range of features such as full VST support although still required special hardware (the MBox range) to support and run it. Recently we’ve seen this evolve into the ProTools 9 release which like its counterparts Cubase & Sonar will now run on any sound card and hardware configuration it joins them as a fully featured elder statesman of sequencers.

So that’s the old guard covered what about the newer solutions?

Over the last decade or so we’ve seen any number of newer software packages appear and whilst some are designed in the same fashion as the older sequencers with midi being a primary concern with the most notable being the superb Reaper client, we’ve seen a number of software houses approach the process with new ideas and tailor their software more towards those of us who work fully inside the box rather than make music with external hardware.

The one package that can probably lay claim to making the most impact on how we think about arranging and working with sequenced music in recent times is Ableton. Originally developed as a live performance tool that would give the ability to remix and edit loops and audio on the fly in the early days we saw ground breaking DJ sets where the artist would load up all of their self written tracks as component parts and perform by mixing and matching components of their music blended together allowing for a unique performance each and every time. As artists got use to doing this live and discovered just how quick and easy it was to work with they started to use it more and more as a studio tool rather than just a live performance instrument and the Ableton development team have picked up on this and continued to develop it into the one stop solution no matter if your working in the studio or performing out on the road.

 

Ableton Session ViewAbleton’s session view is a great alternative to the more traditional arrangement window setup.

Other notable packages include Sony Acid, FL Studio and Reason which all continue to go from strength to strength. Both FL Studio and Sony Acid started out as a loop based sequencers and have evolved to play host to a lot of the features of the larger more established packages and offer support for the popular plugin standards.  Reason on the other hand is a popular all in one package which restricts it’s users by not supporting VST/DXi and other none native formats but rather maintains its own synth and sampler selection as part of the package. Whilst this can be seen as a negative by users wishing to dip into the wider waters of plug ins, it does have the notable advantage of focusing the user and by keeping those choices more limited which can actually help speed up workflow as anyone who’s ever faced a screen full of synths wondering which would be most suitable tor the idea in their head will tell you. Perhaps because of this a number of artists have mentioned that they prefer to write within this environment as they find themselves being at their most productive working this way, although they may still find themselves having to transfer projects over to other software solutions to complete the tracks at mixdown stage if they want to take advantage of tools not available inside of Reason to mix or master the project.

Hopefully this brief rundown has given you a few ideas of where you wish to look and our only other advice would be to get hands on. All sequencers initially require a bit of time to get to grips with, but as you pick up the concepts your ability to get your ideas down as you want them will get quicker and quicker as you learn more and more. Obviously with so many options some of these will prove better for you than others so we highly recommend you trail each package that appeals to how you wish to work.

Thankfully the majority of software firms offer trails of their sequencers giving you a few weeks to spend time with each one before you decide upon that initial outlay, so you should take advantage of this and give each one that stands out a try in order to make sure you make the right choice along the road to making music for yourself.

64 Bit Computing for Windows Musicians



This is an important decision that you need to make when choosing your new pc, not only for your operating system, but also for your DAW software.

32 bit systems are limited to 4gb of memory in theory (in reality its between 3-3.5gb that windows can actually use). While this might sound a lot, every time you open up a plugin or virtual instrument, it uses memory.

When you start looking at sample based instruments, such as orchestral libraries these can easily load gigs of sounds into memory.

64 Bit systems can run 32 bit programs, but each application can only use 4gb of memory.
This is currently a popular choice, as most DAW’s come with 32 and 64 bit versions that can be installed at the same time.

64 Bit issues (and how to get round them)
64 Bit Sequencers cannot use 32 bit plugins or instruments.
Whilst many manufacturers are now producing 64bit versions of thier plugins and instruments, if you do switch to a 64 bit DAW, you will probably be left with plugins that you cannot use.
Many DAW’s, such as Steinberg Cubase 6 have built in “bridges” that try to make them work, but they only seem to work for some plugins.
Cubase’s bridge mode also limits you to 4gb of memory for all of the bridged plugins.

J Bridge working with Kontakt 3
J Bridge working with Kontakt 3

J-Bridge

The best soulution to this that we have found is a piece of software called Jbridge ( €14.99)

Jbridge is about 95% compatible, and has a number of options to get problems plugins to work.  Jbridge lets you use 4gb of memory per plugin.

 

 

REWIRE

The second issue  is that rewire will not work in 64 bit daw’s.
“Rewire” channels are  virtual midi and audio connections to and from your daw to (predominantly) Propellerhead Reason or Ableton Live programs.

A work-around to this issue is a plugin called Rewire VST (€19.00)

This provides one stereo and six mono audio channels into your DAW (plus midi control).
Whilst this is no way near the 64 possible connections that rewire normally offers, it does mean that you can run a handful of reason or ableton instruments alongside your 64bit DAW.