Monday, September 17, 2012

Sonar X1 : The "0" Bar and Markers Problem

I've been using Sonar recording software since version 6 in 2007. I really enjoy it and in fact find it to be a largely underrated platform for music creation. I tend not to be evangelical or obsessive about software or platforms (mac or pc). To me, these are all just tools and one should use the tools that best get the job done and aid in productivity and inspiration.

One of my pet peeves with Sonar is that projects start on the "1" bar, so any song that requires a soft lead in before the down beat of the first note is truncated. The obvious solution would be to just start on bar number "2" but this brings with it the awkwardness of having to constantly compensate for bar counts. For example, instead of 16 measures ending at bar 17, I'd have to remind myself that the first 16 measures actually end on bar 18. And, if I want to add four bars to that, instead of landing on bar 24 as would be normal, I now am ending on bar 25. Although this is not the end of the world, it is also a hassle I don't want to have to do throughout an entire project.

The second pet peeve in Sonar is the lack of song markers that are common in other programs to help quickly and easily see the different sections of a song, such as verse and chorus. By having these clear and easy to see markers the song writing processes is a lot more fluid by having a visual reference to the song parts.
Well, lucky day. In a couple of quick steps it's more/less easy to visually solve both of these problems.

1) Record just a second of audio, in any track. 
2) Insert a Midi Track as Track "One" in your project.
3) Drag the audio clip to the midi track.
4) Using the trim tool extend the audio track.
5) Using the trim tool now truncate or trim the head of the audio track so no audio waveform is visible. 
You now have a basic marker from which you can copy/past for each part of your song and then colot code using the clip info in the tab.

In this first screen cap you can see the colored song parts start on bar #2 and represent the 8-16 measure parts of the song. Clicking on any of the "maker blocks" allows for quick and easy looping of that section.

In this second screen cap you can see a close up of the project starting on bar 1, however the markers start on bar 2. Because the markers are in sections that can be easily looped and are also in standard counts of 8-16 measures they make navigating the non-standard count of the project starting on bar 2 simple.

I hope that if you are Sonar user you find this tip helpful on your own projects. I find the use of markers in this way to be a more elegant solution than Sonar's stock marker tool.

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