By Ron Kuper, Principal Software Engineer
Making a Master Stereo Mix
An exciting audio feature in Cakewalk Pro Audio and Cakewalk Professional Versions 6.0 and higher is the Realtime | Mixdown Audio command. Using this command, you can create a stereo output file from audio tracks in your song. You would want to do this as the final step before exporting a .wav file to burn on a CD, or to free up audio tracks on slower PCs. Cakewalk will preserve all dynamic changes in volume and pan, and will apply any effects placed in Cakewalk Pro Audio’s Effects Loops or Track Inserts to produce a master stereo mix.
Before using the Mixdown Audio, you should make certain you have a good audio mix. Since "what you hear is what you get", be sure to mute or archive any tracks that you don’t want in the mix, and tweak the tracks you want until you get the sounds you are looking for. You can adjust the volume, pan and Vel+ for each track, or change individual audio event velocities in the Event list or Audio view. Listen carefully for distortion, or use Version 7’s Audio Output Meters in the Console View to monitor your output levels. If your mix is distorted, lower the volume or Vel+ of some tracks.
If you want to get really fancy and make a "flying faders" mix, you can use the StudioWare view in Version 6 or the Console View in Version 7. Select the audio tracks you want to mix and choose View | New | Panel (Version 6) or View | Console (version 7). As your song plays, adjust the track volume faders and pan knobs. You can record (automate) your fader moves by pressing the small red record button in these view before starting playback. Don’t forget to turn off the record button once you’re happy with your mix!
Once you’ve mixed until your ears are blown, you’re ready for the Mixdown Audio command:
Highlight an empty track in the Track view, preferably one with another empty track just below it. These two tracks will be the destination tracks for the mix.
Set the Now marker at the start of the section you’d like to mix.
Choose Realtime | Mixdown Audio; this opens the Mixdown Audio dialog box.
The Destination Track field should show the track you’ve chosen in the steps above. You can use the drop-down list to choose a different track. If you pick a track that already has data, the new audio events will be placed in the same track, but won’t overwrite the existing material.
If you have multiple audio devices (such as two sound cards) you can check the "Create a mix for each wave device" item. This will create a separate submix (on a separate set of tracks) for each device.
Click the Start button to begin the mixdown. Click Stop when you’re finished.
You will now see a pair of audio events starting at the track you chose in dialog box.
Producing a Submix from DirectX Plug-Ins
Cakewalk Pro Audio, Cakewalk Professional, and Cakewalk Home Studio Versions 6.0 and higher offer an expanded set of mixing options when using DirectX audio plug-ins. You can now apply plug-ins in-place, producing stereo or mono output. Or you can use the option we’ll discuss now, where you can "create a send submix" on a different track.
To understand why this option is so useful, consider the process of adding reverb to a vocal track in Cakewalk Pro Audio 7. You would select the track, choose Edit | Plug-in | Cakewalk FX | Reverb (Stereo), set up some parameters and preview the sound before committing to the effect. Especially when dealing with reverb, you’ve probably spent a bit of time tailoring the relative wet/dry levels of the effect.
The "Create a Send Submix" option gives you much more flexibility in choosing wet/dry levels. Using this option, you can create new tracks that contain fully wet signal. That allows you to vary the amount of wet level simply by adjusting the track volume of the new tracks. In other words, you can change your mind about how wet you’d like the reverb to be, or dynamically vary the amount of wet or dry reverb signal, simply by changing a track volume.
Let’s go through it step-by-step, using FX Reverb as an example.
In the Track view, select an audio clip you would like to add reverb to.
Choose Edit | Plug-in | Cakewalk | Reverb (Stereo).
Choose the Cosmos preset (my personal favorite). Since the goal of all this is to produce a wet-only track, set the wet mix level to 100% and the dry mix level to 0%.
Click on the "Mixing" tab, and select the "Create a Send Submix" option. The "Return Track" field will automatically activate, and should point to a blank track in your song.
Enable the "Keep Original Data" option. This will make sure your original unprocessed material stays put, so that you can add more or less wet signal to it later. Press [OK].
You will now see a new pair of audio tracks, containing the stereo output of the effect. The next time you play the song, try changing the volume of these tracks. As you do so, you’ll hear more or less amounts of wet signal.
Try this with other effects to open other creative possibilities. For example, apply FX Flanger to a guitar and then use volume controllers on the wet tracks to rhythmically bring the flange in and out of the mix.