Sequencing Secrets from Cakewalk to CD

Last updated on 3/31/2016

From Electronic Musician

By Frank Basile

You've just created a masterpiece in Cakewalk Pro Audio, full of tracks- some that send MIDI out to your cool samplers and sound modules, some that play the SoundFont banks on your Sound Blaster card, and even some audio tracks complete with Volume, Pan, and real-time effects settings. All your hard work has paid off. There's one problem: it's going to be tough carrying around your whole setup so everyone can hear your masterful WRK file. So why not just record it to a cassette or, even better, a CD! Fact is, your CD recorder will only accept WAV files. That's no problem with Pro Audio; with a few simple steps, you can transform your WRK file into a WAV file that will be ready for your CD-R software.

Once your file sounds just the way you want it, you'll need to create audio tracks from your MIDI tracks. The first step is to record any MIDI tracks that use your internal synth sounds (FM, wavetable, or SoundFonts) with the sound card they are playing from. To do this, arm two open tracks for recording audio and assign the Source columns to your sound card's Left and Right inputs. If you have more than one sound card installed, make sure you select Left and Right for the sound card that is playing your internal MIDI sounds. Also, make sure that you don't have any tracks assigned to a MIDI Source in Pro Audio, or you could overwrite them by accident.

Next, open your sound card's mixer device. Make sure you are adjusting the Recording Control settings and not Playback controls, because you want to adjust the recording options, not the playback options. Drop the volumes of all faders on the mixer except the MIDI fader (or enable only the MIDI fader) to ensure that you only record the outputs of the internal synth. Hit Record in Pro Audio, and all the MIDI tracks assigned to the internal synth will be recorded as a stereo pair of audio tracks. Your new audio tracks will automatically be panned hard left (0) and hard right (127). To avoid confusion, you should mute the MIDI tracks that you just recorded, because you'll only want to listen to them as audio tracks from here on.

Next, record the MIDI tracks that use your external sound modules, if any. Connect the audio outputs of your sound modules to the line inputs of your sound card. If you have several modules, you may already be using an external mixer. If this is the case, connect the stereo output of your mixer to the line inputs of your card. In this case, all your modules should already be mixed the way you like. If they're not, then you can record your modules one at a time, creating stereo tracks in Pro Audio for each one. (Keep in mind that you may end up with a large number of audio tracks this way, which could bog down your system.)

Again, enable two open tracks for recording audio, just as you did to record internal synth sounds. But this time, select only the Line In fader of your mixer device's recording controls. This fader will adjust the input levels in Pro Audio. To make sure you're recording at a good level, keep an eye on Pro Audio's Audio Meters, which are found in the Console view. Then hit Record in Pro Audio, and all the MIDI tracks assigned to external sound modules will be recorded as a stereo pair of audio tracks. Again, you'll want to mute the MIDI tracks you just recorded. Now you should have two audio tracks representing your internal synth sounds, two audio tracks representing your external sound modules, and any additional audio tracks that you might have created previously.

Keep in mind that you could have recorded your internal synth sounds and your external modules at the same time by selecting both the MIDI and Line In faders on your sound card's mixer. However, by doing that you would be limiting yourself to one pair of stereo tracks, and you would not be able to adjust the relative volumes of the two sound sources. This could be your best bet if you are running low on audio tracks or are hitting the limits of your CPU processing.

Now that all of your tracks are audio, you can tweak them further with Cakewalk Audio Effects or other DirectX plug-ins loaded on your system. Then, you could create a WAV file using the Export Audio command, but this command does not recognize controller events (Volume, Pan, etc.) or any real-time effects that you may have applied. Therefore, you'll want to use Cakewalk's Mixdown Audio command, found in both Cakewalk Professional and Cakewalk Pro Audio versions 6.01 and higher.

Using Realtime/Mixdown Audio, you can create a stereo pair of tracks that will preserve all the dynamic changes in your tracks and will apply any effects placed in Pro Audio's Effects Loops or Track Inserts. First, rewind the song to the beginning; then, play your file to make sure it sounds just the way you like. Go to the Mixdown Audio command box, and pick a destination track that is empty and also has an empty track right below it. Click Start; then click Stop when you are finished. You should now see a new pair of audio tracks that represents all of the tracks contained in your file. These are the only tracks you'll need to create your final WAV file. (Check out the Pro Audio User's Guide for a more in-depth description of the Mixdown Audio feature, if needed).

The last step is to create the WAV file for your CD software. Highlight the stereo tracks you just created in the Mixdown Audio box, and then go to Tools/Export Audio. Choose the directory to save your file, name it, and click Save. You can also create a RealAudio file of your mix for Internet applications in this dialog box by selecting RealAudio (RA) under File Type.

One thing to keep in mind when creating your WAV file using the Export Audio to Wave command is that ProAudio, like some other programs, places at the start of the file summary, information that can't be recognized correctly by some CD-writing programs. Using a program like StripWav, which you can find via the links at www.cakewalk.com, you can easily remove this information. Then open your CD-R software, load the WAV file you just created, follow the instructions, and burn!

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