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Tips For Mastering Your Song In Sonar X1 and X2

Updated on August 11, 2016
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James earned a BA degree in Music Performance-Keyboards from Concordia University and is a recording artist, composer and producer.

My Assignment

Mastering your new song can be a pleasant experience or can cause temporary mental madness depending on the mix you are given... I've prepared a few tips via video, pictures and from the benefit of 20+ years of making good (in most cases) music in recording studios of all shapes, sizes and styles.

I was commissioned to write music for a church in Houston, TX in 2003 for a musical play entitled "Jabez". One song in particular stood out as being the best and I came across that old CD about 2 weeks ago. After hearing the song again, I decided to put it on my next CD.

When I wrote and recorded 'Jabez', my 'studio' consisted of a keyboard, computer, a harware-based sound module and an amp... that's right-you read correctly; NOT studio monitor speakers, but a stand up Fender amp!

I'll spare you the details of how I mixed the song, but suffice it to say it turned out to be a fairly good mix. The song contained only a music bed and was originally produced to be a vocal duet. I imported the CD audio to Sonar X1 then added piano for the lead line and guitars for extra fills.

Adding the Parts

One would think recording a measely and easy 4 tracks to the pre-recorded music bed would be a walk in the park... this experience was more like a walk in the dark!

Imagine... no metronome or click track, intermittent tempo changes, and dynamics changing constantly and you can see the difficulties of laying down accurate, tasteful tracks: But I finally conquered the beast and was ready for mix.

I've been a faithful Cakewalk Sonar user, upgrading with every new edition. Staying true to form, I bought the recently-released Sonar X1 Producer and I used it for this session.

HOT TIP! The new Sonar X1 Producer DAW is incredible! If you are trying to decide between Pro Tools and X1, the decision is easy. In my opinion, the X1 blows Pro Tools out of the water if for no other reason, PRICE! Check it out.

Image of new Sonar X1 Producer's interface

The Mix

The mix was really simple. I found some plug-in effects for the piano and guitars that sweetened their sounds and that was that.

The old music bed gave me fits because I could isolate nothing for clarity. Fortunately, I was lucky when I performed the original mix in 2003. Still, this would have been a much
better-sounding recording if I could have mixed my usual way... that is, using isolated tracks for each instrument.

Hot Tip!

The new Cakewalk Sonar Platinum DAW is incredible! If you are trying to decide between Pro Tools and Sonar, the decision is easy. In my opinion, Sonar blows Pro Tools out of the water if for no other reason, PRICE! Check it out.

Unbeatable NEW software from Cakewalk

Additional Information on Mastering

The video did not mention the song I always use for a comparison model is a piece I wrote and recorded in 2005 - "Mystery of the 4 Winds". I use this song because it was mastered by Ernie Wells, owner of Eighth Note Productions in Houston, TX.

How good is Ernie Wells? Burt Bacharach called Ernie from Southern California two years ago to handle his "Greatest Hits" recording session. "Mystery of the 4 Winds" was impeccably mastered and I attempt to emulate the sound on everything I record and master.

Finally, technology has improved so much that Sonar's X1 Producer removes the transient spikes VERY well. They're barely noticeable in the main timeline. This quality dwells in their very professional, smooth-sounding compression found in Pro-Channel. Pro Channel is available to use on EVERY track... a huge leap forward! The ability to use Pro Channel with each and every track gives the big sound all of us seek as recording artists. Kudos to Cakewalk for a great new DAW.

The Finale

 For a full listen to the now-mastered "Jabez" click here.

Let me know what you think!

Sonar's X1 Producer's Pro Channel Strip - Incredible Sound!

© 2011 James Ranka


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    • copywriter31 profile image

      James Ranka 7 years ago from Port Neches

      Thanks... look forward to getting the info!

    • profile image

      piano chord progressions 7 years ago

      Record is a great applicatoin as well... I personally haven't had time to really dig into like I've wanted to (I got it free with my Reason 5 upgrade). If you'd like some tips on getting the drums to sound realistic with Reason 5 just let me know. There are some really good methods I've picked up on over the years same with guitars (involves alittle multisampling) but nothing that can't be done in 4-5 minutes of prep work.

      I'll get a email out to you before Tuesday!

    • copywriter31 profile image

      James Ranka 7 years ago from Port Neches

      Since I wrote this hub, I purchased Reason and Record and I totally agree with your comments with one exception... DRUMS. I've found that a basic repeating pattern works fine for me in Record. I will compose using Record and the repeating pattern, then bounce the audio Reason .wav files for use in X1. I will then use Toontracks Superior Drummer2 for the unbeatable live sound it gives for the final mix.

      I'll look forward to hearing your material!

      Email to:

      Good comments.

    • profile image

      piano chord progressions 7 years ago

      Reason - Is a beast (imo) when it comes to writing music (instrumentation). Me personally, I do everything in Reason * Sound Designing - Writing - Mixing * I use Sonar for recording vocals or I'll rewire as you mentioned if I want to experiment with some other sounds that I have via plugins.

      I'll also rewiring if I'm doing remixes. Now this can be done in Reason but I'm just use using a Daw for this (easier for editing vocals this way)

      Here and their I will use Sonar without Reason mostly when writing to video.

      I'll email you some stuff I've done. Right Now I have music placed with a few reality shows... did some sound desinging for native instruments, motu and I have some work that I'm working on for an up coming battlefield 3 expansion

    • copywriter31 profile image

      James Ranka 7 years ago from Port Neches

      I used Reason for many years and was quite happy with it. How do you use the two programs? Is X1 your rewired device while you are using Reason as the main sequencer or vice versa? Give me an address where I can hear your results because I am seriously considering going your route, that is - using these 2 programs in sequence. (No pun intended.)

    • profile image

      Piano Chord Progressions 7 years ago

      Been using Sonar X1 Along with Reason great combination