Cakewalk’s Sonar DAW can hang with the best of them. As most producers choose to use other DAWs such as Pro Tools or Ableton, Sonar has a lot of great features.
When it comes to building loops, they have “Loop Construction” and “Audio Snap” tools that can help you. Even though those features are great, for this tutorial I am going to show you how to do it old school – with markers.
What Is A Marker?
It’s simple: a marker is a point of reference that you insert into a clip. The benefits are that you can skip to that marker instantly, instead of having to go through all your clips trying to find that certain spot on your track that you wanted to work on.
In the past I only used markers to distinguish between the intro, outro, and chorus. Other than that, I didn’t touch it. For looping, there’s the loop function where you just define that start and end points and Sonar will loop it. Basically, it uses marker points.
But markers can be used for more than just marking a spot and finding your way around your project.
Kickin’ It Old School
Before Sonar had loop construction built in, the way to do it was manually. I know it seems like a long process, but not if you use common sense.
First of all, you need to open up the marker view by going to Views > Markers. This brings up the marker view where you can manage them. There is a plus and minus sign, and an icon to edit the properties of a marker, plus the option to lock or unlock a marker.
In this example, I have a breakbeat loaded up and I want to just isolate the kick, snare, and hat. In the loop, it has two kicks, then the hat, then the snare, but the snare is first so I’m going to move it later.
To insert a marker, just click on the audio clip at the point where you want to set the marker. Make sure you disable the “snap” option, otherwise you won’t be able to click wherever you want. Once you know what spot you want, click on the plus sign in the marker view and give it a name. My first one is “Snare”. After that it’s “Kick 1”, “Kick 2”, and “Hat”.
Now I can click on whichever marker I want and it will go directly to that point, which as you can imagine could save you a lot of time trying to find something.
If you notice on the last marker I have, “Hat”, it highlights from that point but it ends at the end of my breakbeat. I don’t want that so I can just set a new marker point at the next drum hit, in this case it’s a snare but I labeled it “The Rest”. Now when I click on the “Hat” marker it highlights just that segment.
Since the snare is at the beginning before the first two kicks and hat, I need to move it. This is where markers really help. I clicked once on the “The Rest” marker and then moused over the top edge of the clip, then moved it over slightly. Now that clip has changed to a lighter grey, and I deleted it.
I clicked once on the “Snare” marker and then moused over the top edge of the clip. I moved the clip to the end of the “Hat” clip. You might think that it’s tough to line it up manually but it’s not. The great thing about doing it manually is that you have total control of where the clip goes.
Now I’m left with the loop that I wanted and I can combine them. To do that, I clicked the first clip (remember that the kicks and snares are not chopped, it’s just markers set), which has the kicks and hat together. Then I held down the shift key and clicked on the second clip. Now I can combine them by clicking on the “Clips” submenu and choosing “Bounce To Clips”.
Once that’s done, I moved the new clip to the start of the timeline.
Adding Other Sounds
Now that I have a new clip, I can delete the markers by highlighting them all and clicking on the minus sign. I can now set new markers with the loop I have, which will help me layer new sounds on top of this drum loop.
To do that, it’s as simple as doing what I just did when I moved the snare over, it’s the same situation. Whether it be piano, bass, or even vocals, it’s easy to just move the clip to the desired spot. Years ago, this was always my favorite way of making beats because I had complete control of exactly where I wanted to line up my clips. You may think that it would produce beats that sound too stiff, but it didn’t at all. It’s a great way to make beats.
This type of loop building is not the preferred method of doing things today, but it’s something I still like to do because it’s what I’m used to. If you find using the new tools are better for you, then by all means do so. But if you want to go old school and try how it was done years ago, then give this a shot.