Music Production



The arrange window is the main area in which you work when using a software DAW. The screenshot above is the arrange window from Cakewalk Sonar 8 Producer Edition. All of the digital audio and MIDI information is displayed here and can bee arranged (hence the name) and edited.

As the event meter (which can be seen as the vertical line on the left side of the pictured arrange window) passes over the audio and MIDI information; that information is translated into sound through the sound output via the speakers/monitors.


There are various different tools available to you when working within a software DAW. The main tool used within any program is the simple mouse pointer. This functions as always allowing you to select and move the audio and MIDI information as well as work the various controls in the program.

When working specifically in the arrange window, there are various different tools available to you other than the mouse pointer. Some tools featured often include: Cut, Glue, Free Edit, Envelope, Draw and Fade/Cross-fade amongst others. Pro Tools and Sonar amongst others have a multi-tool function tool programmed in and most things can be achieved with the one toll by clicking at the right point on the audio clip i.e.. top half, bottom half (usually for select or highlight), top left corner or right left corner (for fades usually). Logic has a good selection of tools with the option of setting a secondary tool and toggling it by holding down alt on the keyboard, however this often applies Sonar and Pro Tools in a slightly different way.

Each of the programmes nowadays have multi-tool functionality as each new version from each manufacturer is packed with good idea of their own combigned with that of its rivals.


Shortcuts are often assigned to certain functions within the program(s) to allow for quick working, editing and navigation throughout the recording process. This can be as simple as the Spacebar operating Play/Stop to cutting, copying, pasting, selecting and the heavy majority of functions throughout the program(s).

Some of the DAWs if not all have the option of assigning preferred shortcuts to specific functions. The shortcuts can often be found from the menu bar or by searching the help section in the relevant program.


When working to a click (ensuring the project has been set to the right tempo & time signature) it is important to capture as rhythmically tight and accurate as possible. This is to capture the best sounding performance overall and to make the editing process easier and more accurate. The tighter the audio recorded to the click, the easier the editing. It is therefore harder to edit live recordings in terms of copying and pasting parts (for example), as the recorded audio will vary slightly throughout due to human feel and inconsistency. When working with competent musicians and performers this becomes less of an issue.


Particularly when quantizing audio or just trying to adjust the overall groove of parts/cuts; nudge is a good method.

By using the relevant shortcuts, audio/MIDI parts can be nudged left or right by a small (set) amount such as 1 millisecond to adjust where they sit in conjunction to the grid and or click. So when quantizing audio certain parts can be nudged into the right place if there are inconsistencies in the resulting quantize.


Featured above is the transport bar from Sonar 8 Producer Edition. Most of (if not all) the software DAWs available have a transport bar.

The function of the transport bar is to allow the user to quickly and easily navigate the project throughout the recording editing and mixing process .It also often features some key project defining settings such as tempo, time signature, jump to or set markers and set and toggle loop features. On the right of the Sonar 8 transport bar above you can also see the CPU and Hard disk usage to monitor how demanding the project is on the computer you are working.


Some songs can and have been constructed and arranged entirely through the process of copying and pasting repeated sections. It is a good way therefore to use a good first chorus acoustic guitar track for every chorus throughout the song. It is important to be aware when copying and pasting heavily of the repetitive nature the song will have; this may be a technique you would use carefully, ensuring all the cuts are appropriately faded in and out where appropriate (as to not make it to obvious to the listener).

In a recording situation, given enough time you should always aim to get the best takes of each part of the song rather than copying and pasting, however it is a good technique to save time and can deliver good results.

Each part was only played once, nobody played any of the songs all the way through during the recording process and the arrangement was decided after all the recording had taken place. All the recording took place in


There are various features within each of the software DAWs available integrated for the purpose of analyzing audio, mapping the transients of files and either cutting them up, quantizing them or adjusting each of the transients by stretching them all accordingly. This includes the Audio-Snap Palette in Sonar, Beat Detective in Pro Tools and Flex Time in Logic.

When using sonar's audio snap palette to replace drums you would do the following: Select the audio file, enable the audio snap feature (this will map the transients at the default setting), adjust threshold to reduce unwanted transients as best possible (usually about 70% is good), then select all enabled transients, Add them to the pool, copy as MIDI notes, Insert a MIDI channel, and paste the notes onto the new channel. The MIDI notes can then be adjusted accordingly or used to trigger a drum plug in or a sample.

The pasted MIDI notes should always be checked for inconsistencies and compared to the audio track the information was copied from and to make sure they are rhythmically correct.


When using sonar's audio snap palette to Quantize you would do the following: Select the audio file, enable the audio snap feature (this will map the transients at the default setting), adjust threshold to reduce unwanted transients as best possible (usually about 70% is good), then select all enabled transients, cut audio at transient markers, quantize to the relevant note value and cross fade between clips at about 2 millisecond intervals.

When quantizing multiple files such as multiple drum microphones it is common practice to first select the Bass drum and Snare drum audio (as they are the most predominant hits and often this technique works well when adjusting inconsistencies) and enable the audio snap feature. Then adjust the threshold, select the enabled transients and add them to the pool. Once this has been done, the you can simply highlight all of the drum microphones and cut them based on the transients you have just added to the pool. The cuts can then be quantized to the desired note value and cross faded at 2 milliseconds.


Particularly when Comping audio it is often good practice to commit to editing work and bounce separate cuts into on new edited audio file. This is often to keep the project as simple as possible in terms of separate takes of audio and also to ensure a confident progression of work. It is important therefore when using this technique to make sure all cuts and transitions are good before bouncing files (so you don't have to do it all over again if something is not right).


Normalizing something increases the overall gain of it to the 0dB (based on the loudest bit). It is a good method of boosting the initial signal if it is weak. Some producers tend to stay away from normalizing as they feel it can be destructive to the audio. It is therefore important to ensure good signal levels when initially recording to avoid the need to use this feature.


It is always important when cutting and editing audio to ensure all clips are faded in or out and cross faded accordingly. This is to prevent any clips, peaks and to assure the audio progresses smoothly and consistently.

When fading clips it is always best to fade to the nearest 0° crossing point or the beginning of a sound cycle; to furthermore assure a consistently smooth and flowing progression from one audio file/take to the next.

Above: The various curves that can be used to fade audio clips in and out at the desired speed and duration.

Above: The various cross fades that can be used to achieve the desired transition.


There are a wide range of third party plug ins available; for example: East West Symphonic Orchestra is a good multi-channel plug in that features high quality orchestral samples and can be trigger via the MIDI information configured on a MIDI track accordingly. It is often a good tool among the wide range of varying third party plug ins; to help define a greater depth in overall tonality and harmony.