New, Cool Music Tech

I just upgraded my workhorse music software to Cakewalk SONAR X2 and came across an iPad app that works with one of my favorite sites (IMSLP, International Music Score Library Project) to show musical scores.

Cakewalk SONAR X2

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The latest version of Cakewalk’s digital audio workstation software for Windows has many great new features, most of which were based on user suggestions.  According to Cakewalk:

SONAR X2 is undoubtedly the best version of SONAR to date. Not only does it introduce exciting new features, but much time and care went into refining almost every aspect of the program. With an ear to our customers and a keen eye on what today’s musicians need, we improved performance, workflow, aesthetics, and stability. Our goal? To craft a program that excels at every stage of music production and enables musicians to sound their very best.

Some of the more anticipated changes include: take lanes, automation lanes and smart tools that work the same in any type of lane/track context.  From my brief use of SONAR X2 Producer I’d say I’ve noticed better stability and much improved workflow with iron-clad audio performance.

piaScore iPad App.

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This is some Japanese tech which shows musical scores (PDF files) on an iPad and lets you change pages by gesturing over your iPhone ( or, I think it can use the front-facing camera on the iPad to detect head-tilting to trigger a page turn.).  One of the cooler features is a link to get free scores from the IMSLP online library of over 200,000 scores.  You can also add your own annotations to your score using up to 3 different colored pens. It’s a free app as is the remote-control for the iPhone.  Since I have neither an iPhone or an iPad I haven’t tried it, but I like the concept of making the free IMSLP library more available.

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Cakewalk SONAR X1 Gets Modern User Interface

On Dec 8, 2010 the newest version of Cakewalk SONAR will be available.  SONAR X1 is a digital audio workstation application, designed for making music including audio sources and MIDI instruments.  I’ve been using SONAR 8 Producer for a while and I have been amazed at what my computer can do with this software.  But using SONAR has always been a bit like studying advanced flight training.  There’s typically 3 or 4 ways to do what you want, if you can find them somewhere among the toolbars, buttons, keyboard shortcuts and menus.  Now with SONAR X1, that looks to be changing.   Cakewalk has abandoned their usual expansion of the complexity of the user interface and is starting from scratch with X1.  Now, windows and tools will work more like I’m accustomed to seeing in Microsoft Visual Studio, with docking, dropping to tabbed collections and spreading across multiple monitors.  That alone is a fantastic (and long wished for) change.  New “smart tools” change their function based on the context of the objects they hover over like they do in sophisticated graphics editors, and if you need to refine the context you can right-click where you are to do it in a small pop-up pane.   The main toolbar has been replaced with a sleek and customizable command bar.  Just about everything can be dragged-and-dropped.  Of course, there are many other improvements, that I’m not mentioning.  I think that this interface promises to bring some fun and “Wow” to home music production.

Update – Dec. 17: Now that I’ve tried it, I really like the new smart tool (usable across many windows) and the “screensets” that let you arrange and jump to different screen views (including screens across multiple monitors) — these are very useful.  FX chains can now be saved/loaded/named and each fx retains its own settings.  Fonts are bigger (good for me – my eyes aren’t what they used to be) so using “friendly names” to shorten port and instrument descriptions is recommended.  Overall, an unexpectedly great version of SONAR.