Cakewalk's SONAR X1, a digital audio workstation with music creation tools, is a comprehensive piece of software—just ask Scott Garrigus. Since 2000, he’s written a string of popular books on Cakewalk’s software, the latest being SONAR X1 Power!: The Comprehensive Guide, available in paperback and Kindle formats. We sat down with the busy author to find out how the books came to be, what some of his favorite tips for SONAR X1 are and more.
How'd you come to write SONAR X1 Power?
I started my writing career back in 1995 when my first article appeared in the August issue of Electronic Musician that same year. I then spent a few years writing for a number of different publications and finally decided to try my hand at writing books. It was a heck of a lot more work, of course, but in 2000, my first book was published. It was called Cakewalk Power and covered Cakewalk Pro Audio (SONAR's predecessor). So, actually, I've written ten Cakewalk books to date. As long as the books continue to sell well, I'll continue to write them. I try to make each edition better than the last and the reviews up on Amazon say that I'm doing a good job. The latest edition, SONAR X1 Power!, took quite a bit more work because of the many changes to SONAR's interface and workflow.
What sorts of topics can people expect to find covered? Is the book aimed at beginners or advanced users?
It's actually written for both beginning and advanced users. New users will start at the beginning and learn everything they need to know to use Sonar X1 for recording, editing, producing, mixing, and bringing their music to the masses. Upgraders will learn about all the new features in Sonar X1 as well as enhancements to existing features that may affect their current production workflow. In addition, features that were added in SONAR 8.5 are included in this new edition because I didn't do an 8.5 book. People can go to http://www.garrigus.com/powerbooks.asp for additional information, as well as a table of contents.
The table of contents is pretty comprehensive—so what's one of your favorite tips in the book?
Hmm. That's a tough one because there are so many good ones. I'd have to say the section that covers working with the new Edit Filter. Each track in SONAR X1 now has an Edit Filter control. It allows you to work on a specific type of data without affecting other data accidentally.
For example, if you want to edit the clips in a track, you would set the Edit Filter to Clips. There are three features that allow users to streamline the Edit Filter workflow. First, instead of having to move your mouse outside the Clips pane to access the Edit Filter control, you can simply press T on your PC keyboard to access the control via the Tools HUD. Second, you can quickly switch from one data type to another, by Shift+Left-Clicking on the data in a track. Third, you can easily switch back and forth between the last two data types by Shift+Right-Clicking in a track. Those three features really speed up the editing workflow in SONAR.
By the way, users who are interested in learning some more SONAR tips can go to http://www.digifreq.com/digifreq/download.asp?ID=131 to download my free SONAR X1 Power! Tips and Techniques PDF. Not only does it provide some great information, it will also give a peek at the kind of information you'll find in the SONAR X1 Power! book.
Are there any overlooked/under-utilized aspects of SONAR X1 that people should explore?
Yes, I would have to say the ScreenSets feature is not only overlooked and under-utilized but also misunderstood at times. Its name implies that it allows you to create/save your own window layouts in SONAR, which it does. But there's more to it than that. The ScreenSets feature not only lets you save the position of windows in the SONAR workspace, but also the visibility and position of controls (and tracks) inside the windows, as well as zoom levels and more. And because ScreenSets are automatically saved (unless you specifically lock them) when you switch from one to another, they can be helpful with a variety of other tasks, such as editing.
For example, let's say I'm using ScreenSet 1 (there are 10 available per project) and I have it set up to display a group of tracks at the normal zoom level. Then I press 2 to switch to ScreenSet 2 and set things up so that all the tracks are hidden except for one, which is also zoomed in so I can see more detail in the audio waveform. While still in ScreenSet 2, I open some plug-ins and change the Edit Filter to Automation. When I press 1 to go back to ScreenSet 1, SONAR automatically displays the original group of tracks, closes the plug-in windows, and changes the Edit Filter back to its original setting. So now I can quickly switch back and forth to see the track I'm working on in detail as well as in context with the rest of the project. It's a very powerful feature that users should definitely explore.
You’ve been writing Cakewalk books since 2000—have you heard much from your readers?
I think the most surprising comments I've heard over the years were when readers would contact me just to thank me for writing the book and saying that it has actually changed their life because it renewed their interest in making music. It's not that they couldn't use the software at all before reading the book, but they weren't using the software to its full potential and the book really helped them with that. It's definitely nice to hear that about my work!
SONAR X1 Power!: The Comprehensive Guide on Amazon