Dancing Dots
Where Music Meets Technology for the blind
imagecorner
Dancing Dots serves blind musicians and their educators through technology and training

CakeTalking FAQ

Many of the answers to the frequently asked questions about SONAR and CakeTalking which appear below were originally responses sent to our DDots-l user listserv either written by a member of Dancing Dots or sometimes written by expert customers. If you cannot find the answer you are looking for after reviewing this page, please send a note to our DDots-l online listserv or use our contact form.


SONAR/CakeTalking features and how to's

Q: How can I record more than one instrument at a time with SONAR?

A: The number of instruments/microphones or discrete sound sources that you can record at one time are limited by the number of input connectors that are provided by your audio interface. While entry level audio interfaces provide 2 or 4 inputs, high-end audio interfaces can provide 8, 16, or more audio inputs. If you need to record many sound sources at once, please contact Dancing Dots for assistance with selecting the best audio interface to meet your needs.

Q: Does SONAR have its own effects processing?

A: Yes. SONAR comes with many high quality effects, including a lexicon reverb and a suite of high quality effects from Sonitus, including compressor, e q, chorus/delay, Waahwaah, and more.

Q: Is the audio produced with SONAR comparable to other programs like Logic?

A: Yes. The audio engine in SONAR is very stable. Combined with all of the available effects and productivity features of SONAR with CakeTalking, you can produce final mixes of the highest quality. Think of SONAR as an excellent grand piano. As well made as that piano may be, the quality of the music it produces depends on the skill of the player.

Q: Does the sequencer in SONAR come with different drum loops?

A: Yes, you do get a library of drum loops with SONAR. SONAR Producer Edition ships with an excellent feature called Session Drummer which allows you to add natural-sounding drum loops in a wide variety of styles to your projects. Additionally, SONAR can use loops in the popular ACID and REX formats.

Q: In SONAR are there any sound libraries with orchestral sounds?

A: SONAR includes a sampler software instrument (softsynth) called Dimension Pro that features many orchestral instruments. Dimension Pro can be expanded with instrument libraries, such as the Studio Orchestra library from Digital Sound Factory. Also, it is now possible to easily use other software instruments, such as Garritan Personal Orchestra,. through the CakeTalking Sweet Spot feature added with CakeTalking 8.8.

Q: How do I create a stereo audio file of my SONAR project?

A: In the export dialog, make sure that you've selected the "What You Hear" preset. There are a lot of settings in here, and, for most people, the way to avoid guessing incorrectly for most of them is to simply select a preset. The "What You Hear" preset will produce an audio file that sounds just like what you hear from the Master bus when playing your project in SONAR. It creates a 16-bit file at a 44.1Khz sample rate. This bit depth and sample rate is exactly what you should use as a source for creating compressed files like MP3 or OGG. If you plan to burn the raw audio files to CD, you might want to select this preset and then change the sample rate to 48Khz. If you don't, though, it won't make a significant difference.

Q: How do I turn the metronome on in CT?

A: To turn on metronome which is also called the "click":
  • Press CONTROL+K once to turn on metronome while recording.
  • Press CONTROL+K twice to turn on metronome during playback.
  • Press CONTROL+K 3 times to toggle the metronome sound between a MIDI synth and an audio wave.

For details on setting the click and checking its status, press INSERT+H to access CakeTalking's Quick Hotkey Help, press the letter P to focus on the entry for "Playback, Record, and Rewind", and press ENTER. Review the list of CT's hotkeys including those for toggling the click.

Here are instructions for reviewing and changing other parameters of the metronomic click using SONAR's menus. To turn on metronome:

  • In the Options menu, select Project Options, then the Metronome tab.
  • Find the output combo box. This combo box sets the place where the audio metronome sound will be produced. More than likely, it is set to a physical output (one of the outputs on your audio interface). However, you can change it to output to any of the buses in your project. All of the AAA templates for CT are preconfigured with a Master bus, and, if you are using them, you should be able to select the Master bus as the output for the metronome.
  • Now, when you save your project, the metronome click will be part of the mix.

Be careful when working this way. You might run into some situations where you won't be able to hear the count-in if you don't already have audio tracks in the project, for example.

Q: How do I change default metronome options?

A: Metronome options are in the Options menu, in Project Options, on the Metronome tab. Change these to match however you'd like the metronome to work. Any changes you make are only valid for the current project. If you want them to be the defaults, then you need to make the changes to the metronome options in the template that you use to start your projects.

Q: How do I save my current project as the default template?

A: To save current project as default template:
    Under SONAR's file menu choose the "Save AS" entry. Press ALT+G to move to the "goto" combo box, and select "project templates". Press ALT+T to select the type combo box, and select "template". Tab to the list of templates, arrow to the one called "normal", and press enter. SONAR will ask if you want to replace the file. Answer yes.

Q: What key allows you to access the preset browsers in any synths where CakeTalking is capable of selecting presets?

A: F4 is the key that will allow you to do this. However, you must be in the softsynth's properties window when you press F4, or else you might bring up a completely unrelated menu (such as track view options). Typically, a softsynth's properties window will appear when you first add it to a project. If you want to get back to that window, arrow to a track in the track pane that is using a softsynth and press CONTROL+y. Remember that all softsynths are not supported by CakeTalking. For a list of supported synths, press Insert+h in SONAR to open the CakeTalking help, select the first choice in the menu to open the tutorial documents, and you'll be presented with a menu that, among other information, includes a document that lists the supported softsynths.

Q: Can you have your very own channel strip plug-in in SONAR 8.5?

A: Should you wish, you can have your very own channel strip plug-in in SONAR 8.5.

To make your own strip plug-in

  • Make a new project from the AAA 0 Blank template.
  • Add an audio track.
  • Go to the effects bin, and insert the VC64.
  • Select the track created in step 2.
  • From the track menu, select Clone. In the Clone dialog, enter the number of audio tracks desired, less the one that you already have. For example, if you'd like 16 tracks total, enter 15. You'll now have a project full of tracks with channel strips.
  • To be able to quickly recall this setup later, in the File menu, select Save As. In the Save As dialog, tab to the Go To combo box, and select templates.
  • Next, go to the Type combo box, and select template. In the name box, enter something like "16 audio track with channel strip plugs", or what-ever you like. Press OK.

Now, in the future, when you select New from the File menu, you can select your template from the list when making a new project, instead of one of the AAA templates, and you'll start out with a project full of tracks, each with a channel strip plug-in.

If you don't like having projects already populated with tracks, preferring to add them one at a time, then simply select one of the tracks that you created above, press JAWS Key+- to route the JAWS cursor to the left end of the track strip, and right click. This will open the track strip's context menu. Arrow down to Save as Template, and press enter. In the dialog that appears, type a name, like "audio track with channel strip". In the future, when you want to add one of your audio tracks with a channel strip pre-configured in to a project, instead of opening the Insert menu and selecting Audio track, open the Insert menu, select Track Templates, then select the name of the track template that you created.

The X series of SONAR includes some useful features, but the channel strip is a real gimmick. Cakewalk isn't to blame, as all of the DAW manufacturers have been doing this, and Cakewalk is probably one of the last to go this route. It is very similar to the per-track EQ feature that was announced several versions back. Perhaps you remember this new feature? It was the one that automatically gives you a 4 band EQ built in to each track, saving you the need to constantly patch EQ effects in to your effects chains. This is the EQ that you see in the Track Inspector. However, if you've ever gone beyond the simple settings in the inspector and pressed enter on the EQ graphic to open the full interface, you'll discover that the EQ is actually the Sonitus EQ that has been in SONAR for a long time. SONAR simply adds it to each new audio track for you with some default settings. Of course, you could have accomplished this at any time with a track template.

Again, don't be too upset with Cakewalk. They aren't as bad as Avid, after all. Avid sells an expensive plug-in for Pro Tools called Heat that will add power/punch and analog warmth to your mixes. HEAT stands for Harmonic Enhanced Analog Technology, because the marketing people told the programmers "HEAT sounds hardcore, and the promotional materials have already been printed up, so think up something that works for that." You know it will be totally authentic and subtle because it has a retro looking interface with a big knob that you can use to turn up the heat (registered trademark). The poor people paying big bucks don't seem to get that it is a compressor that is setup to mimic the saturation curve of analog tape, and that they could already do all that with the Tape Sim plug-ins that they already have. In fact, you can do it in SONAR. Follow the steps above, but insert the Cakewalk Tape Sim plug-in instead of the VC64. Now SONAR has HEAT (registered trademark). I won't even charge you for the upgrade. Hahaha. Tell all your friends that now SONAR, too, can sound like an authentic hissy, crunchy, junky old tape machine. Just be sure to record in 24-bit at 192Khz, so you can capture every last subtle crackle and hiss of that old magic golden junk.

Q: How do you set SONAR to use the QuadCapture for audio?

A: To set SONAR to use the QuadCapture for audio, assuming that you've already connected it to the computer and installed the drivers:
  1. Go to SONAR's Options menu, and select Audio. In this dialog box, switch to the Advanced tab. Press your tab key until you reach the "driver mode" combo box. Set it to "ASIO". Tab to the OK button, and press it. SONAR may show messages about missing audio outputs. You should ignore these messages, and cancel out of the warnings. Before continuing, close SONAR, and re-open it.
  2. Back in SONAR, open the Options menu, and select Audio once more. You should start on the General tab. Make sure that the combo boxes for "playback timing master" and "record timing master" both show the QuadCapture. If they do, then you should be ready to go, and can skip ahead to my testing notes. If not, continue to step 3.
  3. Switch to the Advanced tab again, and press the tab key until you reach the "device" combo box. Use your arrows to change the setting to the Roland QuadCapture. If you didn't see the QuadCapture selected as the playback or record timing master in step 2, and you don't see it in the "device" combo box now, then SONAR can't find it on your system. SONAR can only find/use the QuadCapture if it is connected, and the drivers are correctly installed.

Testing SONAR Once your settings are correct, you can test SONAR a few ways.

  • If you selected the default template during CakeTalking installation, SONAR will open to a blank project with 16 MIDI tracks, and a number of audio tracks. If all is well with your keyboard and QuadCapture, you should be able to play notes on the keyboard and hear a piano sound.
  • If you don't hear the piano sound, it is possible that the audio is working correctly, but the keyboard is not. To test that, you can play one of the demo projects that are shipped with SONAR. You can install the demo projects by running the DVD titled "Additional Content" that was in your SONAR package. The demo projects will be saved on your C drive in the Cakewalk Projects folder, under SONAR Sample Content. You need to open one of the files ending in CWP. Those are Cakewalk Projects.

For help with setting up your system, or getting started with CakeTalking, start SONAR, and press Insert+h. When you do, a menu will appear that lists all of the available CakeTalking help. Most options on this menu open handy lists of hotkeys, but the first choice leads to a second menu that will give you access to all of the CakeTalking reference and tutorial documents. These documents are also in your Documents folder, in a folder called CakeTalking.

Q: How do I control the volume setting of each row in SONAR's Matrix View?

A: It is possible to control the volume of the rows, but not easy. Each row has a setting that controls the track where its sound is sent. Therefore, you really want to control the volume of the track where a particular row is sent. The easiest way to control track volumes is with a control surface. The inexpensive Behringer BCF2000 can easily give you access to track levels in real time. It is also possible to control track levels with a MIDI controller, but the setup is more difficult than with a control surface. You'll need to set the controller up to work with SONAR's ACT feature, then use ACT Learn to assign the volumes of the tracks that you'd like to control to your controller's sliders. Both of these steps require a lot of work, even if you know the procedure.

Q: Can you give me a few pointers on which plugins to use to master some mix-downs?

A: If your music is going to be released commercially, my advice would be to get someone who specializes in mastering to create your mixes.

Usually mastering looks at the song as a whole. What processing gets applied, depends entirely on the material involved. Maybe one track sounds a little brighter than another, so needs some corrective EQ. Maybe one track has too much energy to the sides. Maybe all the tracks need a little multi-band compression to control the lows. Maybe the intro of track 4 needs to come up a dB or so to match the tracks around it on the album. Maybe you want track one's fade out to last ten seconds, but track four's to last fifteen, or maybe crossfade into the next track. It all depends on the material.

Usually mastering engineers use linear-phaze plug-ins. You have two of those in SONAR Producer, the LP64 EQ and LP64 multiband compressor. You'll want a good limiter as well, something that doesn't produce audible artifacts at moderate levels. Sony's Oxford Limiter, Ozone 5's limiter, Slate Digital FG-X, are a few really good ones. A popular one from a few years ago was Waves L1 or L2, but that one does have a particular sound to it that it imparts to the material.

Other advice:

  • Use full-range monitors, not cheaper nearfields.
  • Work in a room that has been acoustically treated, otherwise you may be trying to correct problems caused by resonances in your room that aren't present in the actual material.
  • Compare your results to commercial product of the same kind of music and with similar instrumentation. Comparing to a commercial reference is probably the best approach if you've never done this before.-From customer Chris

Q: What is a good way to harmonize vocals in SONAR?

A: To harmonize vocals, or anything that you want, I use the "VielKlang" harmonizer plugin. From experience, I can say that it is most accessible. I prefer to assign it on a send, bus track. Note: It is the kind of plugin, which you need to download the wave to the VielKlang. However, don't change the source wave. I made a HSC set to press the load button. That's all you need because through the inspector you can access great and necessary controls like Pan, Volume, etc. The voices appear as colors names. Red. Orange. Green. Blue. -from our customer Rui Vilarinho

Q:With CT is there an easy way to insert sends into an audio track?

A: To insert sends to an audio track
  • Route JAWS to pc, which will put the mouse cursor on the left side of the track.
  • Then use the JAWS right click button, which will bring up a context menu that includes "insert send."

Q: How do I set different volumes at different times on a single track?

A: The best way to do this would be to use snapshots of the volume control on the track.

Q: How do I change time signature on a part of a song?

A: Set your now time to where you want to make the time signature change, and go to the insert menu and select the "insert meter/key" dialog. There you can specify the time signature and key signature. Just insert another one where you want to change it back.

Q: How can I receive upgrades for SONAR and CakeTalking from the Dancing Dots website?

A: See this page to find links for downloading 8.5.3 and 8.5.2 updates. See the CakeTalking support page for some important tips on using CakeTalking including how to disable User Account Control.

Q: Can you receive the 400 page CakeTalking tutorial before you buy CakeTalking?

A: No, we do not sell the tutorial separately. There is a sample available on our site though.

Q: What is the update sequence from SONAR 8.3 to SONAR 8.53?

A: You should have at least JAWS 11. You can load it before or after SONAR.

You should upgrade SONAR to 8.5. This involves installing the SONAR program disk and the new Dimension Pro disk. Finally, load the SONAR Content disk. You do not need to load the BeatScape disk.

Next, install the patches to update SONAR: the 8.52 patch, and the 8.53 patch.

Once SONAR is updated to 8.53, you should install CakeTalking 8.8. The CakeTalking installer modifies SONAR settings and installs JAWS scripts, so it is important that CakeTalking be installed last (after JAWS 11 and SONAR are ready to go).

Q: I want to know more about SONAR. Can you do the same things with it that people do with Pro Tools?

A: When you use SONAR with the superior accessibility provided by CakeTalking, it is possible to exchange projects with users of Pro Tools. Using the OMF file format, both SONAR and Pro Tools can save and load projects that were created with either system.

A person using SONAR and CakeTalking can record audio and MIDI, edit their recordings, shape their recorded sound with effects, and mix their recorded tracks together to create a stereo recording that is appropriate for distribution online or via CD, just as they could with Pro Tools. While recent versions of Pro Tools have begun to improve its long-standing accessibility problems, several important areas of Pro Tools, such as MIDI event editing, real-time pitch and time manipulation, some important configuration dialogs, and many effects, are still inaccessible. In fact, the most recent version of Pro Tools, version 11, has actually taken a step backward with regard to accessibility. Using Pro Tools at all currently requires that the blind user install an older version of Pro Tools that is only compatible with older versions of the Mac operating system. But some older versions of the Mac Operating System are not fully compatible with newer Mac computer hardware. This problem cascades into others, as well. As one example, several new audio interfaces lack drivers that work with older Mac operating systems, and you must therefore be careful about the hardware accessories that you select for use with an older version of Pro Tools. At this time, it certainly is not clear how the future of Pro Tools accessibility will progress.

CakeTalking, on the other hand, provides access to all major SONAR functions, including complete audio and MIDI editing, real-time pitch and time adjustment through AudioSnap and V-Vocal, as well as several dozen software instruments and effects. Additionally, CakeTalking includes a 400 page tutorial that explains how to operate SONAR from the perspective of a blind person that is using a computer keyboard and scripts, while no such information currently exists for Pro Tools.

Q: Why should I choose CakeTalking? Aren't there other accessible alternatives?

A: In early April, 2013, Bryan Smart of Dancing Dots technical support composed the following response to a customer asking about Pro Tools access and other alternatives. Here it is with some slight revisions to make it more appropriate for this FAQ format:

As blind people that record and mix music, we are certainly living in "interesting times" as the Chinese proverb would say. Less than 10 years ago, there were really only two ways to get any sort of serious recording and mixing work accomplished on a computer if you were blind. First, you could use an early version of SONAR, together with an early version of CakeTalking. SONAR was the newest available at that time, and CakeTalking had over 8 years of work behind it. The only other option was to use a Mac from the mid 1990's, using an old, even for that time, version of the Mac OS, a screen reader called OutSpoken that was no longer being sold, and one of the very early versions of Pro Tools. SONAR was a great choice for getting work accomplished, but wasn't compatible with what other people were using. Most blind musicians that recorded independently opted for SONAR, while people with strong needs for collaboration suffered through using an out-of-date Pro Tools.

Today, the situation is the other way around. We have lots of semi-accessible choices for recording. Unfortunately, most of them are only accessible to a point, and then are limited in important ways.

GarageBand on the Mac is an incredible introduction to recording, but is slow to use with a screen reader, and is purposefully designed to frustrate you with its limitations once you spend any serious time recording. You're meant to become frustrated with GarageBand, and then upgrade to Logic. While GarageBand, for its limitations, is reasonably accessible, Logic is not. Apple has said to have been working on a new version of Logic for the last 2 years, but no one knows when it will be released, or how many accessibility problems will be addressed.

Pro Tools accessibility improved greatly after version 8, but only on the Mac. After Pro Tools 10, many of those gains were lost. Blind Pro Tools users have been advocating for fixes, but, for now, a blind Pro Tools user must run an old Pro Tools version, and that also means that they must run an older version of the Mac operating system. This problem cascades into others, as well. As one example, several new audio interfaces lack drivers that work with older Mac operating systems, and you must therefore be careful about the gear that you select for use with an older version of Pro Tools.

On Windows, several blind people experimented with using a great inexpensive DAW called Reaper. An independent developer wrote a plug-in for it that speech-enabled many of its functions. Unfortunately, the author of that plug-in stopped development, and disappeared. Blind people using Reaper have been stuck on the old version of Reaper for more than two years now, and are having to improvise around the compatibility complications.

I even know of some people using Cubase to a very limited extent, through some macros that were created for it. They can only work basic functions of the program. For those using it, though, their collaboration partners are also using Cubase, and so it was more important for them to be able to record in the same program than it was for them to be able to independently record and mix on their own.

As for SONAR, after nearly 15 years with essentially the same interface, the developers of SONAR decided that it was time for a total redesign. Versions of SONAR after 8.5.3 have a completely new look, and this visual redesign is completely incompatible with the CakeTalking 8.5 scripts. Fortunately, many of the changes to the newer SONAR versions have been mostly cosmetic, and SONAR 8.5, the version that CakeTalking currently supports, works with Windows 7, the latest versions of JAWS, and new recording gear. There is already somewhat limited support for Windows8. See more details under the question "Q: Will CakeTalking work with SONAR's X series?"

As you can tell by this point, we currently have more choices for recording and mixing than ever before, but none of them provide full access to the most current version of any DAW software.

For the last several years, Dancing Dots has strongly promoted the combination of SONAR and CakeTalking for the reason that they are the only recording environment where a blind user can independently access a majority of recording tasks. The other major benefit is that CakeTalking includes an extensive tutorial that takes the blind recording neophyte from a basic overview of SONAR, all of the way to automation and surround mixing, all from the perspective of the scripts and keyboard, rather than the mouse. Our purpose is to help you find a combination that best helps you accomplish your recording goals, while helping you to avoid spending your time attempting to work through lots of technological problems.

As always, contact Dancing Dots for a consultation on the best options for hardware, software and training that will help you to meet your audio production goals.

Compatibility

Q: Will CakeTalking work with SONAR's X series?

A: Late Summer, 2014 Statement on CakeTalking for X3

In mid- 2013, David Pinto, CakeTalkingís independent developer, committed to initiating the work to update CakeTalking to work with SONAR version X3. However, after a thorough technical review of SONAR X3 with respect to enhancing his CakeTalking scripts to work with the radically changed user X3 interface, Mr. Pinto has ultimately decided not to attempt to revise his excellent scripts and tutorials for SONAR 8. 5 To work with version X3. We share the disappointment of CakeTalking users all over the world.

Fortunately, under a special arrangement with Cakewalk Music Software, Dancing Dots continues to sell and support SONAR 8. 5 as well as Davidís CakeTalking for SONAR version 8.8. This combination continues to offer a comprehensive and accessible set of excellent tools for recording, editing, mixing and mastering your audio projects. The 2014 release of Donít Hesitate . by Raul Midůn , an extraordinary singer and guitarist who is blind, is perhaps the most high profile example yet of the numerous excellent results obtained by our CakeTalking customers. Raul produced this album entirely by himself using nothing but SONAR 8. 5 with CakeTalking.

Meantime, Dancing Dots is actively seeking partnerships with other developers who may want to create access to more recent versions of SONAR X3. If and when we have some news, we will certainly get the word out to our user community.

See our CakeTalking ordering page to order upgrades or new units of SONAR and CakeTalking from Dancing Dots.

N. B. With release of SONAR X2A, the people from Cakewalk Music Software report: "SONAR X2's accessibility features, including Microsoft UI Automation, expose rich information about its UI elements, such as type, state, name, and value. With reliable access to this information, vision impaired users can use UI Automation-capable screen reader programs such as Microsoft Narrator, JAWS, NVDA and Window-Eyes to access, identify, and manipulate SONAR's UI elements. " Because one man's definition of accessibility can greatly differ from another's, we advise you that, despite the important foundation built by SONAR's developers, running SONAR X2 or X3 without CakeTalking is not what we would call an accessible experience.

WARNING: A number of disappointed users have purchased SONAR X2 and then contacted Dancing Dots to acquire a copy of SONAR 8.5 with CakeTalking. If you have purchased X2 and found that it does not meet your definition of being accessible, contact your dealer to request a refund. Dancing Dots purchased all remaining stock of SONAR 8.5 from Cakewalk and cannot supply customers who have purchased later versions with a no-cost downgrade.

Q: Are there different versions of the CakeTalking installer for 32 and 64 bit versions of SONAR?

A: There is only one installation program for CakeTalking. It is able to work with either the 32 or 64 bit versions of SONAR.

Before attempting to run the CakeTalking installation program, be sure that User Account Control is disabled. To disable UAC: 1. Press the Start button. Type "user" or "user account" in to the search box. In the search results, you should see "Change User Account Control settings". Select it. 2. In the window that appears, set the Notification Level slider to 0% and click OK. You may be asked to reboot the computer. If so, reboot before attempting to install CakeTalking.

If your computer is part of a corporate or educational network (Windows domain), you may have insufficient privileges to install CakeTalking. Your user account must be part of the Local Administrators group. If your computer is part of a Windows domain, contact Dancing Dots technical support and we will send additional information. You should also be sure that you're using the latest version of the CakeTalking installer from this link, rather than running the installer from a DVD.

When you run the CakeTalking installer, after agreeing to the license, the installer might present you with a screen where you can select to install the 32 or 64 bit version of the scripts. This screen will only appear if you've installed both the 32 and 64 bit versions of SONAR. If you've installed only the 32 bit or the 64 bit version of SONAR, then the CakeTalking installer will automatically install the appropriate version of the scripts.

Q: Can CakeTalking run on the Macintosh computer?

A: CakeTalking makes SONAR from Cakewalk Music Software accessible. There is no version of SONAR for the Macintosh. Accordingly, you cannot run CakeTalking on your Mac under the standard Mac Operating System such as OSX.

If you want to run JAWS, SONAR and CakeTalking on your Mac hardware, we recommend that you use BootCamp, a free feature of the Mac OS. BootCamp makes it possible to configure a Mac in what is called a dual boot setup. Once BootCamp has been configured, each time a Mac starts, you can select if the Mac will start in the Mac OS or Windows. When it is started in the Windows mode, your Mac will behave like a typical Windows-based PC, and is fully compatible with all Windows software.

But what about Vmware? While VMware can be used to run any Windows software, there are some situations when VMware isn't appropriate. VMware isn't compatible with devices that connect to your computer over a Firewire connection. VMware is also not compatible with programs like SONAR that require extremely low level access to peripherals. Therefore, we recommend that you use BootCamp.

Q: How do I get going with boot camp on my new MacBook Pro? Precise details on setting up my MAC for Windows?

A: You use Boot Camp Assistant, which is a utility already built into Mac OS. I got there through Launchpad/Other. When you first run it, there's an option to print set-up instructions, which are mostly fairly self-explanatory, and it's a Wizard-like series of steps. The only thing I found not very intuitive was the point at which you have to choose which volume Windows should install to. At this point you have to highlight the volume called Boot Camp, and choose "Advanced" and format that volume, after which it's a standard Windows install. Also, one of the first steps in the assistant is to make a memory-stick with the Apple Windows drivers, and as soon as Windows is installed, you need to run Setup to install those drivers. Mine will only accept Win 7 64-bit or later, and I needed to get a valid copy of Windows. -Peter Bosher

Q: Is it possible to register SONAR on Windows XP after registering on Windows 7?

A: Yes, this should not cause a problem

Q: I'm considering purchasing the upgrade to CakeTalking, version 8.8. Since I already have CT installed for version 11, is there anything special I need to do when installing the upgrade?

A: Yes you can have 2 versions of HSC in 2 different versions of JAWS. To install the 2nd version, use the zip archive option and paste/then extract into your enu folder. You can download a batch file and the sounds folder from the hotspot clicker site, so you can have the full package so to speak. Just put the sounds folder and the batch file in the menu folder as well, and run the batch file when you have that version of JAWS running, this will compile everything for you. If you go this route, I'd recommend looking at one of the new features in HSC, which is the ability to use a shared folder for both versions of HSC. So, you can have 1 HSC folder with all your sets in and both HSC versions will use that folder, rather than folders in their respective locations.

Telling Windows about your Low-end Card

  • Press the Windows Key to go to the Start Menu.
  • Press S until you hear Settings.
  • Press c for Control Panel or just press ENTER.
  • Press the letter S until you hear Sounds and Multimedia.
  • Press ENTER.
  • Press CONTROL+TAB until you reach the Audio tab.
  • Make sure that your low-end soundcard is selected as the preferred play back and recording device.
  • You probably also want to choose your low-end card for MIDI play back too, at least for now.
  • Tab to "Use only preferred devices" and be sure that it is checked.
  • Tab to the Apply button and press ENTER.
  • Tab to the OK button and press ENTER. At this point, Windows is set properly.
  • Reboot your PC.

Setting Cakewalk SONAR to Know about Your High-end audio interface such as the Roland Quad-Capture

  • Run SONAR.
  • Press ALT+O for Options, then arrow down to "Audio". You will probably come right up into the "General Tab" dialog but, if not, press CONTROL+TAB until you move there.
  • Make sure your high-end audio interface drivers are selected for both the Playback Timing Master and the Record Timing Master.
  • Press CONTROL+TAB to move to the Drivers page. Again, make sure that your high-end drivers are checked for both input and output. In this dialog you will use the space bar to check only those drivers which you want SONAR to use. You should check all high-end drivers shown for input and output and make sure that the drivers listed for your low-end soundcard are not checked.
  • If you see an option to allow you to use the ASIO drivers under the Advanced tab, you should definitely check it.
  • Find the OK button in any of the Audio pages and press the space bar to select it. SONAR may tell you that the changes you have made will not take effect until the next time you start SONAR. Press ENTER and close SONAR with ALT+F4. Re-boot your system. Restart SONAR and try playing the SONAR Audio and MIDI DEMO2.cwb file (see below) or any other SONAR project that uses both audio and MIDI tracks.
  • Before booting up, if you intend to use SONAR, always have your high-end audio interface connected and powered on. Note: with certain soundcards, you may need to unload and restart JAWS on booting up your system. Otherwise, you may hear JAWS speech coming through your high-end audio interface despite setting up your Windows audio options properly in the Windows Control Panel as shown above. This un-loading and reloading may even be necessary on systems that have had the JAWS.ini file revised to list the low-end soundcard as synthesizer 1. Under more recent versions of JAWS, you can explicitly specify that JAWS must always use a particular soundcard. See the "Soundcard" entry under the Utilities menu of JAWS.

Do you have some speakers connected to your high-end audio interface? If not, you can try using a pair of headphones. You must have some way of listening to the audio signal from the audio interface's output. If you do, try opening the SONAR Audio and MIDI DEMO2.cwb file which you will find in the SONAR Sample Content folder. All of the instruments in this project file are recorded on audio tracks which you should hear through your high-end interface once you have followed the instructions above. Only Track 4 is assigned to MIDI percussion which you should hear through the low-end soundcard's MIDI output unless your low-end card has no MIDI output facility. If you do not hear a wood block and other percussion on Track 4, you will need to set your MIDI options with ALT+O and the letter M. But do not worry about that until you have corrected your audio set up.

By the way, you will find excellent information on setting up your MIDI and audio hardware in certain Lessons of the main CakeTalking tutorial. You will find shortcuts to the "Tutorial" folder on the submenu of the CakeTalking Start Menu entry. Review the Table of Contents for the Lesson you wish to read. Ideally, you should eventually read this tutorial document in its entirety. Starting with CakeTalking 8.5, CT includes an excellent article entitled "How to Set up Your Workstation" that is well worth the time it takes to read it.

Q: Is it fine for me to use a non-English version of Windows, and to use a version of JAWS that includes support for a language other than English?

A: Yes, it is fine for you to use a non-English version of Windows, and even to use a version of JAWS that includes support for a language other than English. However, when you run SONAR, you must switch your JAWS language to English, use the English version of SONAR, and use the English keyboard layout for Windows. Hopefully, the following will help explain the technical concerns regarding localization. With regard to the English keyboard layout, CakeTalking needs to trap and process keystrokes on a deeper level than most script packages. CT makes use of extended function keys, multi-press keys, and so on. Further, CT has key commands that perform different functions depending on the area of SONAR that is active when they are pressed. Since CT handles the keyboard in this way, matters become confused when the layout isn't English. At one point, we had considered coding special cases for other layouts, but there are so many that they would be difficult to test, as well as re-test when we made changes. With regard to English SONAR, CakeTalking depends on locating on-screen text, finding graphics at specific locations, and other factors that change with different locales. For example, a text label in the French version of SONAR might be shorter than the English label, and so might slightly adjust the positioning of graphics in that window. Again, we could code exceptions for different languages, but the complexity of SONAR makes it difficult to even stay current while only supporting English.

Now, some things to try.... When you press INSERT+q, does JAWS report it is only using standard settings? If CT were installed and working correctly, you'd hear an announcement that told you the version of CakeTalking that was installed. Here are reasons why you wouldn't hear the CT announcement. 1. If you aren't using an English keyboard layout, JAWS and CT might mistakenly think that you are pressing another key than INSERT+q. Be sure, at least for testing, that you are set to a US English layout. 2. The JAWS keymap might be missing or damaged. The keymap tells JAWS what scripts to run when a specific key is pressed. 2A. In the Start menu, expand JAWS 12, then Explore, and finally Explore My Settings. 2B. In the Explorer window that opens, look for files that start with "sonar". The keymap file will end in ".jkm". 2C. If you don't see any "sonar" files here, then the scripts didn't install correctly. If you don't see the JKM file, then the keymap is missing. If either is true, then you need to run the CakeTalking installer again. 3. To re-install, you shouldn't uninstall CT first. Simply run the installer again, and it will replace anything that is missing. Be sure to keep the following in mind: Run as administrator: You must install CT using the Windows account that will be used to run SONAR, and that account must be in the Local Admins group. User Account Control: UAC must be disabled. If it isn't disabled, CT will be unable to use its control surface DLL to connect to SONAR. Web installer: Use the installer on our web site to install CT. In some cases, we've experienced some strange issues with the installer when run from CD. You can get the most recent CT 8.5 installer from a link in the E-mail message sent to you when you ordered CakeTalking. Contact Dancing Dots if you have misplaced that information.

Once you have checked all of the above and you have re-installed CakeTalking, start SONAR while paying attention to the following: 1. When you start SONAR, you may hear two messages. One will welcome you to CakeTalking 8.5. The other message will say "JAWS control surface ready". Do you hear either of these messages when you start SONAR? 2. If not, check the JAWS Shared Settings folder again to see if the scripts are present (files starting with "sonar"). If you hear the first message, but not the second, then you need to configure the CT control surface plug-in. To do that, inside SONAR, press CONTROL+F12, and select the first option.

Once CT is installed, you should operate it as follows: Keyboard layout set to US English JAWS language set to English In SONAR, you must make one additional tweak the first time that CT is installed. Press CONTROL+u to open CT's User Options. If you arrow down to the bottom of the list, you'll see an option that says "I'm using English Windows". Highlight it and press space until it is set to non-English Windows. To save that change, arrow to the last item in the list, press space until you've selected to save all options, then press enter. From then on, CT will be configured to work with a non-English version of Windows.

Q: Can CakeTalking run simultaneously with Hotspot Clicker? Is it possible to use Frame Viewer instead of Hotspot Clicker?

A: Hot Spot Clicker (HSC) is supported only in the sense that the CakeTalking scripts and HSC can coexist peacefully. Dancing Dots does not provide technical support for any HSC sets.

We don't have experience with Frame Viewer. If you mean the JAWS built-in Frame Viewer, that isn't an appropriate tool.

Q: Which works better with CT: 64 or 32 bit SONAR?

A: I still tell most people not to bother with 64-bit SONAR unless they find that they're running out of memory when using 32-bit SONAR. Cutting off access to a lot of the older 32-bit DirectX stuff is a bad loss, and just not worth it unless you really need to load mega-sized sample libraries. The 64-bit versions of Dimension Pro and Rapture do not always want to load samples. Even 32-bit VSTs wrapped through Bit Bridge occasionally have issues that I don't have time to write about in detail here. For most people, 32-bit SONAR is just all-around better: more plug-ins are accessible, older plug-ins still work, plug-ins are more stable than 64-bit, and CT works better.

Q: Do you have to run CakeTalking 8.5 with SONAR 8.5.3?

A: Yes

Q: Does CakeTalking support Dongle version of JAWS?

A: Yes

Q: Do I need to have Hotspot Clicker to use CakeTalking?

A: No, you definitely do not need to have Hotspot Clicker to use CakeTalking. However, if you choose to use HSC, CakeTalking will not conflict with it.

CakeTalking has built-in support for most SONAR effects and softsynth plug-ins. The built-in support works more like using a typical Windows application. We try to make the accessibility as transparent as possible.

Using Hot Spot Clicker will help with accessing other plug-ins that aren't directly supported by CakeTalking. The support for some of those is comprehensive, while others support only a few functions (such as selecting presets). We don't make Hot Spot Clicker, or the hot spot sets, so we can't help with their use, but you can check hotspotclicker.org to get in touch with other HSC users that can help.

Q: I have CakeTalking 8.5 installed on a Windows 7 64-bit system with SONAR 8.5 Studio. Now I want upgrade to SONAR 8.5 Producer- Do I need to uninstall CakeTalking to upgrade?

A: To switch to SONAR 8.5 Producer, perform the following steps in order.

  1. Uninstall SONAR Studio.
  2. Install SONAR Producer.
  3. Install first the SONAR 8.52 update from cakewalk.com, then install the 8.53 update.
  4. Install CakeTalking.

To clarify, it is not necessary to uninstall CakeTalking, but you must run its installer after re-installing SONAR. Your SONAR settings will be reset as part of re-installing SONAR, and running the CakeTalking installer again will permit it to adjust SONAR settings that are critical to the proper functioning of CakeTalking.

You can use either the 32-bit or the 64-bit version of SONAR with CakeTalking. However, unless you have a specific need for the features in the 64-bit version, such as being able to use more than 4GB of samples in a single project, we suggest that you use the 32-bit SONAR. The 32-bit version is compatible with more effects and synths than the 64-bit version. This is a SONAR limitation, not a limitation of CakeTalking.

Q: I have made the Guitar Rig plugin reasonably accessible in stand-alone mode using simple scripts. Is there a way I could write some simple clicking scripts within the plugin that won't clash with CT?

A:It isn't possible for JAWS to use two sets of scripts at once. When you create your own SONAR scripts, they replace our CakeTalking scripts for SONAR. However, simple click at point actions don't require scripts. You should investigate a tool called Hot Spot Clicker on this site: hotspotclicker.org. It is an add on for JAWS that makes it possible to create hotkeys that, when pressed, click locations on the screen. We do not make or support HSC, but it is compatible with CakeTalking. I'm not certain if HSC currently supports Guitar Rig, but, if not, you could create some basic support on your own with it.

MIDI/hardware

Q: Can I have some background on the latest CakeTalking releases?

A: I hope that the following information will help to clarify the background on our latest release of CakeTalking 8.8. Notice that all versions of CakeTalking for SONAR referenced below run only with SONAR version 8.5. If you run SONAR 8.5 with CakeTalking and you have not paid for an upgrade since April 1, 2013, then you are not entitled to a free upgrade to version 8.8 of CakeTalking.

History of CakeTalking Releases for SONAR 8.5 CakeTalking 8.5 for SONAR 8.5 was released in October, 2009. For customers who owned a previous version of CakeTalking, CakeTalking 8.5 was a paid upgrade. CakeTalking 8.8, version 8.8.1, for SONAR 8.5 was released on April 1, 2013. For customers who owned a previous version of CakeTalking, including CakeTalking 8.5, CakeTalking 8.8 was a paid upgrade. The latest upgrade to CakeTalking 8.8, version 8.8.4, for SONAR 8.5 was released on May 10, 2013. For customers who already own CakeTalking 8.8, CakeTalking 8.8.4 is a no-cost update. For customers who own any other previous version of CakeTalking including CakeTalking 8.5, CakeTalking 8.8 is a paid upgrade. Conclusions If you already own CakeTalking 8.8, you may now use the CTWebUpdate feature to check for any free updates to 8.8 that may be available. WARNING: If you have never upgraded to CakeTalking 8.8, you are not entitled to download that version. Even if a well-meaning friend shares the link for 8.8 with you, do not download and install it. Without the new authorization code for CakeTalking 8.8, you will be unable to run it. That is, you will not be able to run SONAR 8.5 at all until you uninstall CakeTalking 8.8 and reinstall CakeTalking 8.5. Again, I hope the summary above clarifies the situation. If you have read this far and you are still confused, please carefully read this FAQ entry again. If you are still not sure after re-reading, please send an E-mail directly to our online contact form and we will tell you how to obtain this latest version of CakeTalking 8.8. If you are now ready to order your upgrade to CakeTalking 8.8 for SONAR 8.5, please go to our CakeTalking ordering page.

Q: What are the differences between a Dancing Dots accessible Digital Audio PC and a typical office computer?

A: Our audio workstations are computers that are custom-built to be more suited to recording tasks than typical office desktop computers. The key differences are:

1. Our workstations are built to be significantly quieter than a typical computer.

2. We install and configure all of your software, including Windows, JAWS, SONAR, CakeTalking, drivers for your equipment, and so on.

3. We create restore DVDs for the computer. If your audio workstation becomes infected with a virus, if the hard drive fails, or if you should need to reset the computer for any other reason, you can use these disks to restore the computer back to the way that it was setup when it shipped from us. Use links below to get a general idea of the costs. When you decide what specific equipment that you'd like to obtain, our sales office can prepare you an itemized price quotation. Prices depend on the specifications of the workstation PC. Typically, though, entry level systems, capable of easily working with a dozen software instruments and several additional audio tracks start at around $2,000. Higher-end computers that include solid-state hard drives and faster processors will cost approximately $3,200.

In addition to the computer, you will need the following:

1. At least version 11 of the JAWS screen reader. This is required. We can sell you a new license, or an upgrade if you have an earlier version.

2. Recording software: Both of these are also required. Cakewalk SONAR recording software and our CakeTalking solution that connects SONAR to JAWS.

3. An audio interface: This is also required. This is a professional sound device that is used to connect microphones to your computer, as well as to play back the sound that you've previously recorded into SONAR. There are many different models. The decision of which to buy mainly depends on how many instruments or microphones you'll need to be able to record in a single pass. If you plan to primarily overdub (record parts 1 at a time), we suggest either the Roland Quad-Capture, or the Mackie Onyx 820I.

4. MIDI controller: If you plan to use the computer to reproduce instrument sounds (piano, guitar, bass, drums, etc.), then you will need a MIDI controller (musical keyboard), to play. We have many models that offer different combinations of keyboard size and feel. For example, a popular model is the Roland A-Pro 800, a model that provides 5 octaves of keys with a light-weight synth/organ style action. Other models provide up to 88 keys with a fully weighted feel (similar to a piano).

We can also provide other optional accessories, including a control surface, microphones, headphones, reference monitors, and so on. We will be glad to consult with you to build the accessible PC workstation that's right for you.

Q: Can I use the Cakewalk V-20 Studio as a 3 in 1 audio controller/mixer/ control surface?

A: The V-Studio 20 might work for you, but there are important limitations for you to consider.

As an audio interface, you have only a single mic input and a single instrument input. I'm also fairly sure that the XLR mic input doesn't provide 48V power for condenser microphones.

As a control surface, the V-Studio 20 provides sliders to use as track volumes (not motorized and not touch-sensitive), 8 buttons to use as mute/solo controls, and transport keys (play/stop/forward/back/record). This barely even qualifies as a control surface. What is missing, compared with even a basic control surface like the BCF2000? No assignable knobs. You, therefore, do not get control of track pan position, EQ, or plug-in parameters. No assignable function keys. No support for control pedals.

Q: What are the differences between the Mackie Onyx 1640 and 1620?

A: The Mackie Onyx 1620I. and the Mackie Onyx 1640I. take up just about the same amount of desk space.

It might be easiest to explain the differences between these similar models by telling you first what the 1640 has, and then what the 1620 lacks.

The 1640 has 16 input channels. Each channel can be used as a mic input, as a line-level input, or as an output channel for SONAR (more about this in a moment). Additionally, the 1640 has 6 auxiliary effect sends, 4 stereo effect returns, 2 main output buses (stereo), an alternate output bus (also stereo), and can be connected to additional 1640 units to expand the number of channels that are available. This boils down to lots of connectivity choices, and, you can use any of the 16 input channels for any sort of device (microphone, guitar, keyboard, etc).

Each of the channels can be used as an output for SONAR. This means that, in SONAR, the Onyx shows up as an audio interface, and, just as there are 16 inputs on that interface that match with the 16 input channels on the mixer, there are 16 outputs that can also feed back into those channels. This means that you can press a button on one of the channels on the mixer, like channel 4, and have that channel play what-ever you send to output 4 in SONAR. This can be useful if you wish to make sub-mixes for use by your performers. A common situation is that someone playing bass might wish to hear primarily drums and rhythm guitar, while someone singing might wish to hear the full mix with themselves turned up (and lots of reverb). You can create separate sub-mixes on SONAR buses, and set those buses to output to channels on your mixer. While your main mix will still play through your monitors, these sub-mixes can show up on channels of the 1640, and can be sent to headphones. This is a useful feature, but you might not need it. You will have to decide how important this feature is to you.

Now, if you order a Mackie Onyx 1620I. instead of a Mackie Onyx 1640I, this is what you lose. Instead of 16 all-purpose channels, you get 8 all-purpose channels, and 4 stereo line-level channels. Only the last stereo channel can be used as an output from SONAR, so this totally rules out the creation of any sub-mixes. There are fewer aux sends/returns. You also are not able to chain the 1620 to additional units in order to add channels.

Q: How do I set up a midi keyboard in SONAR?

A: Your keyboard must be connected to your computer with either a USB or MIDI cable. If you are connecting with a USB cable, your keyboard probably needs device driver software that will need to be installed before you physically connect your PC to it. Consult the manufacturer's website or documentation that came with your MIDI musical keyboard. Once your keyboard is connected, and the drivers have been installed, you may need to enable it in SONAR. To do that, Go to SONAR's Options menu, and select MIDI devices. There are two list boxes on the screen that will appear. The first list shows all of the available MIDI input devices that are recognized by your computer. Arrow to the one for your MIDI keyboard, and use the space bar to check the check box next to it. If you do not see your MIDI keyboard listed here, then it is not connected to your computer, it is connected but not powered on, or the software device drivers are not installed.

Q: Which is better to use with the MIDISPORT, the V-Studio 20 or the Quad-Capture?

A: The MIDISport MIDI interfaces connect your MIDI keyboard to your PC if your keyboard does not have a built-in USB port. They work just fine on Windows versions after XP, including Vista and Windows 7. The V-Studio 20 and Quad-Capture are about the same price. They're both portable, and both work well with JAWS and SONAR. They're targeted at different types of musicians, and so offer slightly different features. The Roland QuadCapture is an audio interface that does have an integrated MIDI-in and MIDI-out connector. You have two analog and two digital inputs. The analog inputs can be used for line level sources, high-Z sources (guitar), or microphones. You can also use all inputs at once. You can, for example, plug in a microphone, a guitar, and send in a stereo signal over the digital inputs. The V-Studio 20 has fewer input options. It has a single microphone connector, a single instrument connector, and a line level connector. It also can only send one of those to the computer at once. This means that you aren't able to record with stereo microphones, or record more than one instrument in a single pass. However, the V-Studio 20 has several features that aren't on the Quad-Capture. It has a built-in stereo microphone. If you use the built-in microphone, there is no need to carry an additional microphone around if you use the V-Studio 20 with a laptop. The V-Studio 20 has an effects processor that can be used as a compressor for the microphone, to add distortion for a guitar, etc. Finally, the V-Studio 20 includes some simple controls (including 8 sliders and 8 buttons) that can be used to control some SONAR functions. For the money, it is up to you to decide what is more important. The Quad-Capture is more versatile than the V-Studio 20, but the V-Studio 20 could mean less stuff to haul around for someone that primarily records audio with a laptop.

Q: Do the Mackie Onyx devices function as a sound mixer or as an audio interface for SONAR?

A: Each Mackie Onyx line device functions as both a sound mixer and as an audio interface for SONAR, but none have control surface functions. However, the Behringer BCF2000 does have control surface functions, is accessible, and we supply a good many of them to our customers.

Q: What kind of audio interface would I need to make it work?

A: One of the most significant differences between the many audio interfaces that are available is the number of input and output connections that they provide. While SONAR will permit you to record as many tracks as your computer's resources will support, the number of inputs on your audio interface limits the number of tracks that you can record in a single pass. For example, an audio interface with two inputs would be sufficient to record a vocal microphone and a guitar to separate tracks, permitting a musician to both play and sing, while keeping the recordings of their voice and instrument separate. A larger audio interface with 8 inputs would be sufficient to individually record the many microphones that are commonly used to record drums, or to individually record several musicians that are playing at the same time.

Q: Which Mixing Desk to buy? Should I use a Firewire or a USB audio interface?

A: SONAR will use any control surface that supports the Mackie Control protocol, and that is pretty much everything. Which one to buy depends on your budget. The Korg NanoKontrol is only $50, but is all plastic, has un-motorized faders, and only a few buttons. Moving up from there is just adding features until you run out of money. The Behringer BCF2000 you'll find for around $250. It has full-throw motorized faders, and quite a few more dedicated buttons than a toy like the NanoKontrol. Unfortunately, the next jump is a big one, up to about $1,500-$2,000. The Mackie Control Universal and Roland V-Studio 700C are in this range. Contact Dancing Dots for current pricing Their faders are touch-sensitive. This means that you can overwrite automation by simply putting your fingers on the fader, whereas, with inexpensive units like the Behringer, you cannot overdub automation moves at all. These models also include a jog/shuttle wheel, which is useful when scrubbing and performing detailed edits. The main advantage of the larger models ($3,000 and up) are control of more than 8 channels at a time. The smaller units can control more than 8 channels, but you must switch the faders to different channel groups: 1 through 8, 9 through 16, 17 through 24, etc. USB or Firewire doesn't matter, unless the control surface also includes an audio interface. For example, the Yamaha models include audio inputs, and an audio interface to digitize them. In these cases, the Firewire interface provides better performance for the audio portion of the device's function. For models that are strictly control surfaces, though, the interface type doesn't matter.

Q: Why might you use both a pre-amp and an audio mixer?

A: If you are using a mixer that has a separate set of auxiliary outputs in addition to the main outputs, such as the Mackie 1202 vlz or some of the higher end boards by other manufacturers, then a separate mic preamp won't be necessary, although good stand-alone mic preamps will give you better quality than those found on most mixers. If, on the other hand, you are using one of the lower end Behringer mixers, for example, then you would want to use a separate mic preamp to plug your vocal mic into and feed the input of your sound card with it, while using the mixer to take input from the sound card's outputs and any of your midi gear.

Q: Recommendations for accessible DJ equipment?

A: The only accessible DJ software that we know about at the moment is on the Mac. One popular program is called, rather obviously, DJ. Of course, to use it well, you'll need a controller, so that you can put your hands on tables, faders, and have buttons for jumping to cues and so on. I have a totally blind friend that uses the Investext VCI 400 DJ controller, and he is able to access all of the functions. I don't have any personal experience with the software or controller, though.

Q: Which features of the Cake Walk mixer does CakeTalking not support?

A: AudioSnap is only supported for quantizing audio and time stretching. CakeTalking users cannot independently move transient markers (mouse required). In True Pianos you can select presets, and can edit some of the synth's parameters from the Synth Rack view, but the full interface is invisible to JAWS, and cannot be scripted. In Z3TA+ -Waveshaping synthesizer, Analog synth modeling, Pentagon, and SYN II -Subtractive synthesizer you can select presets, but cannot edit them. Beatscape, Cyclone, and DreamStation DXi are completely inaccessible.

Q: Is there a website for help using Behringer BCF2000 without sight?

A: This site explains how to use the Behringer BCF2000 without sight.

Q: What are some options for control surfaces in SONAR?

A: The control surface aspect of recording had many options in the past, but, currently, there are few companies making control surfaces for the semi-pro or enthusiast. We can basically offer you the bronze, silver, or gold options.

The Behringer BCF2000 is the bronze solution. It provides simple control for 8 tracks of a mix at once. It has buttons that can switch (bank) the 8 groups of track controls so that they can work additional groups of 8 tracks in the software. That is, you first work tracks 1 through 8, then 9 through 16, etc. For each track, you have a motorized fader for volume, a knob for stereo pan, and buttons to control mute/solo/record arm. Additionally, the BCF2000 has buttons for controlling SONAR's transport functions (play, stop, forward/back, and record). The Behringer BCF2000 is a great deal at around $250.

Some other functions, like controlling effects plug-ins, are possible from the Behringer, but they are not easy to operate, and are next to impossible to operate without a program that runs on your computer called SurfaceReader. This program is a little complicated to setup, but can provide speech feedback about what is shown on the display of Mackie Display compatible control surfaces like the Behringer BCF2000. Dancing Dots doesn't make or sell this program.

The silver approach is to use the Mackie Control Universal Pro (call Dancing Dots for current pricing). It is a well-supported device that has been around for years. It has a much higher quality construction than the BCF2000. Its volume faders are touch-sensitive, a feature that is helpful if you plan to record lots of mix automation. The Mackie Control Universal also has many more dedicated function buttons than the BCF2000. Finally, it has a jog/shuttle wheel, which is useful for scrubbing audio (when making edits to tiny segments of audio). Like the Behringer BCF2000, the Mackie Control Universal will work with the SurfaceReader. The cost is a bit higher, though, normally going for about $1,500.

The gold approach is the Roland V-Studio 700C console. This control surface is made specifically for SONAR. It has all of the features of the Mackie Control Universal, but includes several extra dedicated buttons that directly trigger SONAR functions, it is able to more easily control effect and softsynth plug-ins than the Mackie Control Universal, and it has a surround panner (so that you can mix for surround sound, if needed). This control surface is not compatible with the SurfaceReader referenced above. It costs about $2,000. Contact Dancing Dots for current pricing.

There is also a platinum class of solutions that include large fader banks (24 tracks at a time or more), plus lots of dedicated controls, but most of those start at $5,000.

Q: How do I remap the keyboard when using a screen reader on Boot-Camp?

A: When using a screen reader on BootCamp, I've found it very useful to remap the keyboard to follow a more Windows-like layout. There is actually a clean/stable way to remap keys. Google for a free program called Sharp Keys. It has a very simple interface that lets you select the key to remap, and the key that it should signal. In BootCamp, the Option key sends ALT, and the Command key sends the Windows key. In terms of their positioning, they're placed in reverse order as compared to a regular PC keyboard. I swap them always. Sharp Keys recognizes the difference between left-hand and right-hand modifiers, also. My left Option key has been remapped as the Windows key (as you'd expect, given its position), but my right-option key has been remapped as an application key. Sharp Keys performs the remapping by actually editing the keyboard layout that is stored in the Windows registry. This means that, once you make your changes, they work everywhere (even for different Windows user accounts, on the screens that appear before you log in, and so on). It also means no annoying program running in the task tray. You only run Sharp Keys to edit the info that is saved in the registry. Sharp Keys isn't a Mac tool. I just use it with BootCamp, as it is a clean solution. You can use it for any situation where a laptop is missing a particular key, or places keys in atypical positions.

Q: Which is the better audio interface for SONAR- the Mackie Onyx line or an M-Audio 26-26

A: On the audio interfaces with lots of I/O, say 8 ins and 8 outs, a popular feature is to give the control panel some mixer capabilities. For example, you can route the audio from some of the inputs to the headphone or speaker outputs for monitoring purposes. Most higher quality audio interfaces can do this, but most use programs that look like mixers, and are inaccessible. Some are accessible though. The ProjectMix had a semi-accessible mixer app. I think that the Focusrite interfaces are also semi-accessible in this way with hot spots. The Onyx doesn't need such software, as it is a hardware mixer, not an audio interface simulating mixer capabilities with software. To have 8 mic inputs, you will need the Onyx 1620 at the minimum. The drawback is that it is fairly large, and therefore not the best from a portability perspective. Nonetheless, we would generally favor the Mackie Onyx line for reasons stated above.

Q: Which control surface does Bryan Smart use in his CakeTalking 8.5 audio presentation?

A: He used the Behringer BCF2000. It is fairly inexpensive. It has 8 motorized faders and basic controls for each channel. There are higher-end models. The Mackie Control Universal (call Dancing Dots for current pricing) has touch-sensitive faders, a jog/shuttle wheel, and more dedicated buttons for SONAR functions. It costs about 5 times as much as the Behringer, though BCF2000. Both of the units above work with 8 tracks at a time. Larger units work with 16 or 24 tracks at once, but are considerably more expensive than either the Behringer or the Mackie.

Q: I am using a Presonus firebox interface, and frequently but at random intervals, mostly during playback but less often during recording, the audio will sound as though it has been slowed down and put through some kind of distortion affect. What could be causing this issue?

A: If using Windows7 you might need to use the Firewire legacy drivers. Make sure you're using a Texas Instrument chipset card, or a good Via one (which sometimes work). Also, is your Firewire card onboard (built-in) or is it added by a PCI or PCIE card? If so, make sure there are no IRQ conflicts. Finally, have you run a DPC Latency Checker to see the latency on your system? What CPU do you have? Older ones like the Pentium-d CPU use the netburst platform, which is a bit slower when compared to today's chips, a dual-core or preferably quad would do better for something like Firewire interfaces. What chipset does your computer use, do you know? It could be an incompatibility issue there as well. Just some basic things to look at/consider.

Q: Are there any accessible Karaoke machines?

A: Sorry, but I've never heard of an accessible karaoke machine. Surprisingly, most Karaoke systems (for venues, not for home use), are still CD-based. That is, they're a lot like a CD player with the addition of a screen. They're useless without a music library. The library is purchased separately, and includes dozens to hundreds of CDs, depending on the size and cost of the library. The MC/DJ, as well as the performers, look up their song in a catalog book. The book directs the MC/DJ to load a particular disk and track in order to play the requested song. The contents of the library are too large to memorize. Perhaps the catalog could be Brailled or converted to etext, and the CDs labeled in Braille? I know some completely computer-based systems exist, but I don't know about the accessibility of any of them.

Q: I am a producer/recording engineer and I'm also totally blind. What are some good options for a MIDI controller?

A: The Novation ReMote series of MIDI controllers have extremely high quality key action. They have the nicest unweighted keys of any MIDI controller that I've encountered, and are almost as good as what would be found on a professional keyboard workstation like Yamaha, Korg, etc. However, their editor/controller software is inaccessible. If you primarily want good quality keys to play, then I'd suggest one of the Novation controllers. If programming a controller's knobs and sliders is an important feature, then I suggest one of the A-Pro series from Roland, instead. Their keys are good quality, though not as good as the Novation, but they have accessible editor software.

Q: How does Firewire stack up to USB?

A: FireWire vs. USB Audio Interfaces Most audio interfaces connect to a computer using one of two popular connection technologies: FireWire or USB. Audio interfaces that connect using FireWire (also called IEEE1394, 1394, or I-Link), provide superior performance to interfaces that connect using USB. Interfaces that connect using FireWire operate at lower latency. This means that audio signals pass through them in an extremely short amount of time, making it possible to, for example, sing in to a microphone while listening to the sound echo back through headphones. A computer with a FireWire audio interface will be able to work with a slightly higher number of tracks than the same computer with a USB audio interface. FireWire audio interfaces are extremely picky when it comes to compatibility, though. Only a few computer motherboard and chipset combinations will work flawlessly with FireWire audio interfaces. For this reason, we suggest that you not consider using a FireWire audio interface unless you've ordered a specialized Digital Audio Workstation that has been approved for use with them, or unless you have previously checked with Dancing Dots to be sure that your computer will be compatible. Please be aware that most desktop and laptop computers that include FireWire ports are not sufficiently compatible with FireWire audio interfaces. Audio interfaces that connect using USB (Universal Serial Bus), are compatible with most all modern computers. If you're not using a specialized >Digital Audio Workstation, a USB audio interface is your best option. While USB audio interfaces don't provide as low a level of latency as a FireWire audio interface, and are not able to handle as many tracks of audio, their compatibility with a wide variety of computers makes them a great option for people with moderate recording needs or small budgets. In general, if you plan to purchase a custom made audio workstation to use for recording, we suggest the use of a FireWire audio interface. If you plan to use an existing desktop or laptop computer for recording, then we suggest a USB audio interface.

For FireWire interfaces, we suggest the Mackie Onyx line. They all have similar features, so list the 820I, and perhaps remark that the larger 1220I, 1620I, and 1640I models provide similar features with larger combinations of inputs and mixer features.

For USB, we suggest the V-Studio 20, the Roland QuadCapture and the Roland Octa-Capture.

Q: How do I setup the Evolution UC33 with SONAR and CakeTalking?

A: It is a preset in the act controller list.

Q: Can I have some details about differences between SONAR audio monitors

A: You know, the one thing I have always done is to take sample material with me when trying out monitors. If you take a record that you have worked on and know inside and out, you'll be surprised how much difference you will/ can hear with each monitor... Mostly one isn't better than another, just different. I got used to the M Audio BX8A monitors, and still like them though I have owned monitors which were 5 times the price. The question you must ask about monitors is, what is "true"? Everyone says they make "true and balanced" monitors, but they all sound different. The best thing a person can do is to buy a pair which will last, that you like the sound of right out of the box, and learn to mix on them. Every room and every set will be different. Getting a set which sounds good out of the box to you, and doing some mixes on them is the only way to go. Some monitors I have worked on tend to over extend the highs, and when you take a mix to hear it on other systems, you won't hear the highs you thought you had. So you learn to compensate. That's what the audio production business is all about, how good you can compensate, and how good you know your setup.- Shawn Brock

Technical Solutions

Q: While using CakeTalking for SONAR with SONAR Studio or Producer, Why do triple presses of the S key and M keys fail to un-solo and un-mute all as they should?

A: It may be that you have your display settings incorrectly configured. Make certain that your Themes and Appearance settings are set to "Windows classic". See the multi-page dialog under Windows Start Menu | Settings | Control Panel | Display. It is a good practice to have your video display connected and powered on when making changes to video display settings even if you are a JAWS user who usually keeps the video monitor turned off. These commands work by clicking graphics on SONAR toolbars. Changes to the position or size of the SONAR toolbars will prevent these commands from operating. If you are using CakeTalking 8.8 or later, you can reset the position of your SONAR toolbars by opening the Start menu, selecting CakeTalking, and then selecting ResetSONARToolbars. If you are using a version of CakeTalking prior to 8.8, you can reset your SONAR toolbars by re-running the CakeTalking installation program.

Q: How do you control the audio routing settings for Windows

A: To control audio routing settings for Windows:
  • When you press the Start button, the Start Menu will pop up. In the search box, type "sound".
  • As you arrow through the results, there will be a section near the top called "Control Panel", and an item under it called simply "Sound". Press enter on "Sound".
  • The dialog box that opens has several tabs, but the only one that we care about at the moment is the first one called "Playback". This tab contains a list box. In that list are all of the audio devices that are known on your computer. These aren't devices as a whole, but are the individual ports of each device. You'll see an entry for each of the input channels on your high-end audio interface such as the Onyx, as well as several for the built-in sound device. One of the items should be called "Speakers", or something similar, and should represent the internal laptop speakers, plus anything that you plug in to the headphone jack on the laptop (one of the 3 holes).
  • If you arrow to one of the items in this list, and then tab over through the buttons, you'll find one called "Set default". If you press that one, then the currently selected device in the list box will become the default device from now on.
  • If you don't see that button, then the item that you have selected in the list box is already the default device.
  • Make any changes as required, then tab to, and press, OK.

Changing the settings above determines where Windows sounds are sent, as well as the sounds of any programs that you haven't specifically directed to a particular device.

Q: SONAR with CakeTalking is quite slow even though my PC has ample RAM and processing speed. What can I do to improve performance?

A: Visit this link for tips to improve performance of CakeTalking and SONAR.

Q: If I try to toggle a record or playback click on using the SHIFT+M or CONTROL+M hotkeys, SONAR tells me that I do not have a usable MIDI device. How do I setup an audio click via my PC's soundcard?

A: If you don't have a MIDI keyboard or a MIDI sound module to use with SONAR, you can still set up an audio click via your PC's soundcard. Try the following:
  • Run SONAR and load your project or create a new one.
  • Press ALT+O, P or click on Options | Projects
  • Press CONTROL+TAB until you reach the "Metronome Page"
  • Tab to the field that says: "use MIDI Note" and press the up arrow key until it says "Use Audio Metronome". Tab to OK and press ENTER.
  • If the resulting metronome click is unsteady and erratic, you most likely need a higher-end soundcard known as an audio interface. Dancing Dots carries top quality audio interfaces at competitive prices which we know will work well with SONAR and JAWS.

Q: When SONAR loads, I'm getting a message stating that no project is loaded and to press control plus N to load default template. How do I get my existing template to load at startup?

A: To get your existing template to load at startup:
  • First, go to options>global in SONAR, and go to the audio data tab.
  • In there, check the box that says load normal template at startup.
  • Then, close SONAR, go to your Cakewalk sample content folder, usually in your documents folder. In there, press n a few times to see if you find an existing "normal.cwt" file. If you do, rename it to normal2.cwt or something similar.
  • Then, find the triple-A template that you'd like to use, it'll be a cwt file in that same folder. Rename that file to Normal.cwt. Alternatively, if you don't want to mess something up, just make a copy of the triple a template file, in Windows Vista/7, you can just copy then paste right there, Windows will name it with a 1 after or something to that effect.
  • Take that file, and rename it to Normal.cwt. That way your original triple-A templates are still intact.

Q: Should I have the wave form preview on?

A: No, you don't want it turned on. It causes the audio waveform to constantly be drawn on the screen, which certainly takes up CPU resources and does nothing for us.

Q: I am having a lot of issues with keyboard shortcuts in CT. For, instance I am not able to use the control and enter keys to select tracks, but I can select them with the comma key. How do I fix this problem?

A: The comma key is a built-in SONAR command for selecting tracks. It sounds like none of the CakeTalking-specific commands are working. The most common cause for this problem is that CakeTalking is not fully installed. Try running the CakeTalking installation program again. It is also possible that CakeTalking is installed, but is installed into a different version of SONAR than the one that you are using. For example, if you have installed both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of SONAR, you might only have CakeTalking installed in one of them. If you have both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of SONAR installed on your computer, the CakeTalking installation program will ask you to specify the version of SONAR where you'd like it to install CakeTalking. Please be sure that you have selected the version in the CakeTalking installer that you are attempting to use.

Q: What is the procedure to follow when SONAR crashes when I open Dimension Pro while using Octa-Capture?

A: Sometimes, in situations with strangely inexplicable errors, the cause ends up being some very small thing that has been overlooked or misunderstood. Be certain you know what edition of Windows you are using and how many bits it has. Also, be certain that you have the latest driver from the Roland site. The driver is at the following link: Roland Support for Downloads for details. Believe it or not, the fact that SONAR is crashing in Dimension Pro is good with regard to solving your problem. The audio driver is not reset when working in the Dimension Pro window, which leads me to think that the problem might have more to do with SONAR, a corrupted file, or incorrect settings, than a bad driver. When SONAR crashes, you probably lose speech. However, there should be a window open on the screen that announces that SONAR has crashed. Please make SONAR crash, and have someone sighted look at the window. There is a lot of technical info in there that won't necessarily make much sense to you. Two important items that will hopefully be listed, though, is the name of the module that was active when SONAR crashed, as well as the type of crash. The type of crash will probably be called either an "illegal operation" or an "access violation". If SONAR was able to handle the crash itself, then it will show an item in the window called "module", and there will be a name of a file next to it. The file will typically be an EXE or a DLL file, such as program.dll or program.exe. If the error report comes from Windows, then you might need to scroll through a lot of cryptic info but you still should find the name of the DLL or EXE that was active when the crash happened. HOPEFULLY, the crash happened in a specific module, and not just SONARpdr.exe, which is the main SONAR program. If we know what code had control when the crash happened, that will give us a better idea of what sort of function isn't working. If the crash is very bad, then you won't get an error window, but, instead, the entire computer will reboot. This happens when things break/crash so badly that Windows can't even keep things going long enough to report the error to you. If this happens, then the problem is most certainly in a driver or other low-level code. There are some other settings that you should check. Have you tried using the WDM driver mode? The ASIO mode will probably work better for you in the long run, but knowing if you have the same problems in WDM mode might provide some clues that could help us.

Next, you should check the settings for the Octa-Capture itself. First, you need to get into the control panel software for the Octa-Capture. There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is from SONAR's Audio Options dialog. If you are set to use the ASIO driver mode in SONAR, then when you open SONAR's Options menu and select Audio Options, the window will have a button on the General tab called "ASIO panel". If you press this button, the Octa-Capture's control panel software will open. There aren't too many settings in the Octa-Capture's control panel, but the ones that are there must be set correctly. 1. The sample rate should be set to 44Khz. The control panel might list this as 44.1Khz, which will also work fine. Other sample rates are possible, but you'd need to change settings in SONAR for them to work correctly. We should make sure that 44Khz works before trying others. 2. I believe that the Octa-Capture has a configurable clock source. You should see a setting that will be called "clock" or "clock source". Make sure that it is set to "internal". 3. There should be a slider that will be either called "buffer" or "latency". When set to small values, SONAR will work to render audio as quickly as possible. This results in great responsive performance when using software instruments, but places a very high processing load on the computer. If the computer can't keep up, crashes can occasionally result, and some SONAR projects won't play. With large values, SONAR uses little processing power, but there are long delays for audio processing. In your case, set this slider to the middle until we've tracked down the source of the problem. Note that most Roland control panel software uses a slider to set the buffer/latency, but a few use a combo box that specifies the size of the processing buffer numerically. If your Octa-Capture shows the buffer size numerically, set it to 512.

Q: When I press Control F12 to get the CakeTalking Control Surface running, CakeTalking keeps saying "you cannot initialize the JAWS control surface yet. you must open a project in the track pain". However, I have opened a new project and it still says this. I have checked the window settings, and everything seems correct. What can I do?

A: If you have changed your screen resolution, color depth, theme, etc. after installing CakeTalking, then SONAR has probably reset the windows and toolbar positions to their default locations, which are not suitable for working with CakeTalking.

To fix this problem in versions of CakeTalking earlier than version 8.8, you must reinstall CakeTalking. No need to enter your CT authorization code or to request new authorization. For CakeTalking 8.8:

  1. Be certain that SONAR is closed.
  2. In your Start Menu, find All Programs, then CakeTalking 8.8. In the CakeTalking 8.8 program group, there will be an item called ResetSONARToolbars. Select this item.
  3. Now, start SONAR again.
  4. Press CTRL+n to be certain that a new project is open.
  5. Finally, press CONTROL+F12 to open the CakeTalking setup menu, and select the first option, to install the CakeTalking control surface plug in.

Q: What causes the screen to go completely blue in SONAR?

A: When the computer blue screens, or reboots at a seemingly random time, the cause must be a particularly low level problem. Only a few areas of the system can cause these sorts of problems. In these situations, either the core files needed to run Windows itself are corrupted, or else a driver crashed. If the crash happens when you start SONAR, then it may be caused by SONAR attempting to connect to devices that are experiencing problems with their drivers. For example, if your audio interface had a corrupted driver, starting SONAR could crash the computer (blue screen or reboot). In that case, the problem isn't SONAR, but something that happens indirectly due to SONAR starting up. There are ways to track these problems down specifically, but they require lots of time. A faster way to find the cause would be to try starting SONAR with equipment disconnected to see if you still experience the problem. If you have MIDI keyboards connected over USB, MIDI interfaces, control surfaces, etc., try starting SONAR with those disconnected. If SONAR starts normally, close it, reconnect one device, and try starting SONAR again. Eventually, SONAR won't start, and you'll know that the cause was the last device that you connected. Unfortunately, these problems are sometimes caused by odd issues like problems with video or network card drivers. If that is happening in your case, then it will be quite difficult to track down.

Q: What do I do if I lose JAWS speech after attaching my audio interface such as the Quad-Capture?

A: You will need to change a JAWS setting to resolve this problem. As soon as Windows finds your high-end Quad-Capture or other audio interface attached to your laptop, it decides that it knows what's best for you and sends JAWS speech through that device.

To fix:

  • Boot up without the Quad-Capture being attached. JAWS should work as usual.
  • Press INSERT+J to move focus to JAWS.
  • ALT+U to open Utilities
  • Type the letter o to select the Soundcard entry or arrow down to Soundcard and press ENTER
  • You will find a list of all devices on your system that JAWS can talk through. It is probably now set to something like Default Windows Soundcard. Change it to explicitly go to your integrated soundcard. Description of that driver may use the word "Speakers" or something like that. A popular one is by Real Tech.
  • Press ENTER to select that driver.
  • Now, shut down your PC and attach your Quad-Capture or other audio interface.
  • Restart your PC.
  • Q: In SONAR what should I do when I get an error screen displaying "The file 'C:\Program Files (x86)\DancingDots\CakeTalking 8.5 for SONAR 8.5\UNWISE.EXE' could not be opened..."?

    A: This error occasionally appears when installing from CD, or if UAC is enabled. If you were installing from CD, use the web installer instead. You can get the most recent CT 8.5 installer from a link in the E-mail message sent to you when you ordered CakeTalking. Contact Dancing Dots if you have misplaced that information.

    If that does not help, be sure that UAC (User Account Control) is disabled. To disable it, press the Start button, type "user", arrow down to "Change User Account Control settings," and press enter. In the dialog that appears, set the slider to 0%, then click OK and restart your computer.

    Q: I unfortunately am experiencing a rather annoying high-pitched hum when recording into my audio interface. What could be causing this background noise?

    A: Factors that can cause background noise:
    1. Bad/cheap Firewire cable picking up EMI from motherboard, card or another piece of equipment.
    2. Cheap power supply (low-end ones, or those that come with computers that were bought off the shelf as we say). These don't provide good cable insulation and sometimes don't include filters of any sort, leaving it up to your motherboard to disperse all that bad power all around and the wires transferring all the EMI. Some low-end power supplies don't have good (or sometimes none at all) grounding either, which leads to all kinds of troubles. I've even seen companies like EMachines, Compaq and HP use 20-pin main power leads on a 24-pin motherboard. While this is not industrially incorrect because the 4 extra pins provide extra power rails, it can lead to issues and make the mb perform abnormally; if the motherboard needs the extra power, say to run a graphics adapter, a PCI/PCIE card etc., the board can fry due to it being underpowered!
    3. Bad grounding from wires or bad ground on your wall outlets; it might not show up as a 60hz hum, but it can cause EMI to be picked up by items on your motherboard for various reasons.
    4. Other equipment such as synths or units that are connected to the computer via USB, Firewire or other way and have bad ground can transfer signals or noises to the motherboard (since they don't have a good ground/connection) and your audio interface maybe picking it up.
    5. A poorly made computer is a factor; I've seen some low-end (again, mostly on off the shelf systems) motherboards that are implemented horribly when it comes to power and distribution, and that use cheap or bad capacitors on the PWM zone (power/voltage regulators and controllers for the CPU and other items), causing EMI and other noises to be introduced to certain items like speakers and monitors (if using analog connections and sometimes even digital, depending on the type of connection and where the problem lies). In some newer i7 motherboards, there was even an issue where using them with c1e enabled caused noise issues that were even audible on the board itself, but those have since then been fixed for the most part.

    Q: What do I do when SONAR displays the prompt "Silent buses detected , the following tracks and buses are currently assigned to a silent a hardware output."?

    A: That message indicates that SONAR is not finding your audio interface. You will want to connect a dedicated audio interface to your PC for recording and playing back audio in SONAR. We recommend the Roland QuadCapture or something comparable. If you like, you can order from our Sound Cards page

    Q: What slows down CakeTalking? Where is the bottle neck in the system? Is it JAWS examining the screen? Is it CakeTalking looking for things?

    A: To some extent, certain parts of CT will just be slow, and there isn't anything to do about them at the moment. In this message, I want to talk a little about why CT is unavoidably slow in some cases. Jumping directly to columns requires a huge amount of work behind the scenes, even though it seems like it should be a simple process. SONAR doesn't include any sort of way to skip directly to a column. If CT wants to move you to a specific column, it can't ask SONAR to move you there. It also can't look at the screen with the JAWS cursor and know where to click, as many columns contain controls that don't place anything on the screen that JAWS can see.

    The way that CT moves to a column is by first placing the focus on a column that it can identify by looking at the screen, such as the name column, and then arrowing to the right across the track strip until it finds the column that you requested. Again, CT can't look at the contents of most of these columns on the screen, so it must depend on information that it receives from what is called the accessibility string. The accessibility string is a hack that Cakewalk put in a long time ago that lets SONAR send information to a screen reader about the last item to gain focus. So, as CT arrows across the track, it has to wait for information about each cell to come back in the accessibility string. Based on what comes back, it knows that it has found the right column, or else that it needs to keep going.

    Complicating this is that the accessibility string isn't always reliable. Sometimes it gives the wrong information. Sometimes it gives the right information, but only if CT first arrows away from a column and then arrows back. Sometimes CT must pause a bit, either the first time landing on a column, or else when arrowing back, before it receives the correct info from the accessibility string.

    In some older versions of CT, we tried to move focus to a column as quickly as possible, but, lots of the time, we'd run in to bad problems. Sometimes, we'd get bad info along the way, so the jump keys would occasionally fail, and you'd hear those "Please press F6 messages", in the hopes that refreshing the screen would help the accessibility string to work correctly. Other times, we'd reach the correct column, but the accessibility string would report incorrect info. The effects bin is notorious for these problems. You can arrow to it, and the access string will say that no effects are there, arrow away, arrow back, and now it will report that you have effects.

    All of these bugs are reported to Cakewalk. Blind people are well represented on the SONAR beta test group. For one reason or another, many of these problems go unresolved, so we have two options. First, we can make the jump keys work as quickly as possible to try to place you on the column that you requested, knowing that the jump might fail, or that, when you reach the column, you might hear incorrect information. That sometimes happens with the other SONAR scripts, and some power users just try to remain aware of the cases in which SONAR might report incorrect information. The other way is that we can program workarounds in to the column jump keys that work around the SONAR bugs, but, of course, all of the checks slow down the keys. There are advantages to both approaches, but we felt that it was more important for the keys to report correct info, rather than for them to be faster, and require that everyone learn when and how to work around the bugs.

    This is also part of why there is a custom CakeTalking controls tab in the track pane. The organization of the custom CT tab is designed to allow us to run checks for the bugs with as little overhead as possible.

    Unfortunately, there are lots of areas like this in SONAR, and beyond SONAR problems, there are quirks with how JAWS changes from version to version. For instance, a small bug might prevent JAWS from seeing a particular graphic on the screen that is needed to orient CT. We report such bugs to Freedom Scientific, but we can't wait for them to release the next version of JAWS, so we might come up with a slower workaround that can still accomplish the same thing. When the new version of JAWS is released, with the fix for the bug, we no longer need our workaround. However, when that particular part of CT runs, it must check to see which version of JAWS is being used. If the new version is being used, one method can be used, but, if not, CT will need to know to use the older workaround. That is why CT usually supports just the 1 or 2 previous versions of JAWS. For CT 8.5, if we had to create workarounds for little gotchas in JAWS 6, 5, etc. then we'd be working on it forever.

    When you press CONTROL+I, there is a delay while CT checks the contents of your project. Depending on the contents, the choices in the CONTROL+I menu are different. CT needs to know if you're in the track or buses pane, so it can offer choices for tracks or buses, respectively. If you're in the tracks pane, for example, are any tracks in the project? If so, then you need to see delete options, but, if not, those should be omitted. Are any tracks in the project at all? If so, then you should see options for adding tracks that let you create audio or MIDI tracks before the current track, but, if not, simple add audio or MIDI options will be fine.

    There really is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to help SONAR behave consistently, in spite of bugs and problems.

    Some people dislike the CT sounds, and turn them off. CT doesn't include sounds to be cute. As you've observed, some commands can't respond right away. For those, it isn't obvious that when you press a key the command is working. CT is supposed to play a sound, as soon as you press a key, so that you have some confirmation that the command was received. CT 8.5 doesn't do this with the column skip keys, but it should.

    Q: Can CT be made to work faster?

    A: CT can be adjusted to work a bit faster.

    First, the display settings are absolutely key. If they aren't perfectly set, then CT can still work in some situations, but additional workarounds must be used that slow down CT. Be sure that you're using the correct theme, color depth, and screen resolution for your version of Windows, or else CT will have lots of problems when it looks for controls at specific positions on the screen. Be sure that the optimize for performance choice in Advanced System settings is selected, or the animations will slow down CT.

    In SONAR itself, some appearance settings can confuse CT. These are much easier to fix. The CT installer is able to set all of the needed SONAR appearance settings. If you ever suspect that your toolbars are positioned or sized incorrectly, if X-ray becomes active, or if you're concerned about the SONAR appearance settings in any way, just run the CT installer again. It isn't necessary to uninstall CT first. Also, running the installer doesn't change any SONAR settings that aren't related to appearance, such as your audio or MIDI interface configuration, your instrument definitions, and so on.

    Finally, there are a few options in CT that you can set to speed it up a bit. These are all in User Options (press CONTROL+u). The most important one is the setting for multi-press hotkeys. Change it to user presses quickly. This affects any hotkey that can be pressed more than once. The obvious examples are s, m, and a, but the column skip keys fall in to that category, also.

    You can also gain a little speed by turning off some of the tutor and informational messages, but you shouldn't simply turn off all of them. If you are familiar with the track pane controls, then you can change the verbosity setting for navigating in the track pane so that CT announces neither the type of control, nor how to use it. You can also disable the check that tells you if the current control is armed for automation.

    Unless you're an extremely experienced user, I don't suggest that you turn off any of the tutor messages for the effects and synths dialogs. Many of them require different tricks to work. For example, in some of the Sonitus plug ins, simply tabbing to a parameter and using the value change keys is enough. For some parameters, though, you must left click before using the value change keys. In other synths, like Dimension Pro, you must first lock the left mouse button before using the value change keys. I've been using CT for a long time, and even I forget the specific little workarounds that are required for particular screens. This is why we let you disable different types of tutorial messages. Fairly experienced users can disable the general messages, or make CT speak with less verbosity, but can still leave on some of the tutor messages for tricky parts of SONAR.

    Finally, you can gain just a bit of speed by turning off the sounds. I hope that this info helps. Particularly in 8.5, we tried as hard as we could to make CT run as fast as possible while still working around the accessibility string gotchas. Without fixes to the accessibility string bugs, this is as fast as CT can be.

    Q: What are some techniques that allow you to record quickly in SONAR?

    A: CakeTalking has some support for working with multiple clips on a track. To work with those, you must be in the clips pane (CONTROL+DOWN ARROW). You should review the chapters in the CakeTalking tutorial regarding the Clips Pane and Enhanced Clips Editing mode.

    In general, though, you won't want to work with clips. There is support for editing them, but the scripts must perform the edits by manually driving the mouse, and the keyboard commands are consequently slow. The support exists because some SONAR functions, such as V-Vocal require a minimum amount of access to individual clips, and you might need to have control of specific clips when working with SONAR projects that were created by sighted users.

    If you'd like to work quickly, then you're much better off working as if SONAR is a multi-track recorder, rather than trying to edit on the clip level. Don't worry that this will place you at a heavy disadvantage. There are some techniques that can help you out that you may have not considered When recording, you should mostly ignore the fact that SONAR supports clips. Make a new track for each take. If you've made a track for take 1, and need another for take 2, 3, etc., use the Clone command in the Tracks menu to create a new track with the same settings, effects, and so on, as the track you used for take 1.

    To create a composite take, create a new track, and copy segments from the individual takes to this comp track. It is like working with a multitrack recorder, where you'd create a comp track by bouncing different takes to a destination track. Using copy/paste to comp a vocal is much faster than trying to mute/unmute, adjust start/end times, and other tweaking of clip layers on a single track.

    For punching, you can set the record mode to auto-punch, and SONAR will automatically punch in and out at times that you set. For a quicker way to punch, though, you can connect a pedal to most control surfaces that will go in to punch record as long as you hold it down. Using a pedal to punch is how most people will fix vocal or instrument parts. It is quick: move before the area to fix, press play, play along with your track, press the pedal to jump in, and let go to jump back out.

    There are certain situations when you will need to access individual clips, and so you should review the sections in the tutorial. Besides V-Vocal, I access individual clips for a few big reasons. Opening a clip's properties allows you to set the clip's time base and lock its position, which is important when working with audio in projects that aren't primarily focused on music. A clip's properties gives you access to the real-time time and pitch stretching features (Groove Clips and AudioSnap). These are needed if you're trying to use pre-made loops in your project, create your own loops, force clips to always start or end at specific times (auto-stretch to fit), and others. I don't, however, access clips for editing. You can give it a go, but, after you spend a little time with the editing commands, you'll quickly see how slow they are. Unfortunately, that's just how it is. The only way to manipulate clip layers and boundaries is via the mouse, and scripts that manipulate the mouse aren't able to operate quickly for technical reasons.

    When working with a client, you'll need to get setup quickly to record lots of takes. The key to working quickly is templates. With project templates, you can call up an empty project full of pre-configured tracks, ready to record. With track templates, you can add groups of pre-configured templates to an existing project. For example, if you normally use specific inputs on your interface for drum mics, guitars, vocal mics, etc., you can build a project template with the I/O already set. When a group comes in, you only need to make sure that the mics are setup and plugged in to the correct inputs. You can then call up your template and press record. If you normally record 5 takes for a vocal, you can make a track template with 5 take tracks and a comp track. When someone is ready to record their vocal, you can load this track template, and those 6 pre-configured tracks will be dropped in to your current project, ready to record.

    Q: How do you avoid accidentally recording over tracks in SONAR?

    A: You can avoid accidentally recording over tracks by making use of the keys that unarm all tracks (either triple A, or SHIFT+z). It is a good idea to clear all track arm switches before arming any new tracks.

    If you notice that you've accidentally recorded over something important, you can always use the un-do command. SONAR maintains an un-do history that can step back through hundreds of edit actions.

    Another way to guard against accidentally losing data is by using the Auto-save feature. With this feature, SONAR will automatically save a version of your project at regular intervals. If you really get things twisted up, you can go back to a version from 10 minutes ago, 2 hours ago, etc. This is also a good guard against crashes. Saving multiple versions doesn't eat up lots of hard drive space, by the way.

    Q: What causes dropouts in SONAR and what can I do to prevent them?

    A: Drop-outs are usually caused by either the hard drive being too slow, other running programs taking too many resources away from the CPU (processor), or the hard drive being too full of old files. Please try all of the following in order. It isn't necessary to do them all if one of them clears up the drop-outs.
    1. Defragment (defrag) all of the hard drives in the computer. Keep in mind that audio workstations usually have more than one hard drive, and you should defrag them all. A. Double-click My Computer, either on the desktop or start menu. B. Locate the main (C:) hard drive, right-click it, and select Properties from the pop-up menu that will appear. C. In the properties window, click the Tools tab, then click Defragment. The Defrag tool will open. D. Press the Analyze button. After the computer checks your drive, it may suggest you defrag it. Let it, it if it requests. E. After the computer finishes, repeat the process for any other hard drives.
    2. It is important that other programs not compete for resources on an audio workstation. Always close programs other than SONAR when recording. However, be aware of other programs that still draw resources when seemingly closed, such as Skype, instant messaging clients (MSN, Yahoo Messenger, etc.), and file sharing programs (DropBox, UTorrent). It is also important to not use real-time virus and spyware protection, as such software frequently conflicts with low-latency recording. Please go through the Programs, and uninstall anything like this. A. Click Start, then Control Panel. If you are using the classic theme, you may need to click the Start button, then Settings, and finally Control Panel. B. In the Control Panel, find Add/Remove Programs, and open it. C. When the list of programs appears, click a program to install, then click the Remove or the Change/Remove button.
    3. If all of the above fails, then try the steps below. Do not try these steps first, as, while they can fix drop-outs, they can create new, and difficult, problems to resolve if used unnecessarily.
    4. You can increase SONAR's disk buffers to help avoid drop-outs. However, increasing the size of the buffers will cause SONAR to respond slower when you press play, record, or when you move around in a project during playback. A. In SONAR, open the Options menu, then select Audio. B. In the Audio Options window, select the Advanced tab. C. Enter new values in to the read and write buffer settings, then click OK. It is important to use only powers of 2 as values for the read and write buffers for best performance. The default value for both is 256. Try increasing both to 384. If that doesn't help, increase both to 512. Values beyond 512 will make SONAR too sluggish to be worth it, and won't help performance.
    5. You can increase the audio interface's buffer size. Save this for absolute last. There are a lot of settings for the audio interface that are difficult to calibrate, and can make problems much worse if set incorrectly.

      The instructions are different depending on the audio interface that is being used.

      Be certain that SONAR is closed before trying the following.

      A. Return to the Control Panel, using the instructions above. Instead of opening Add/Remove Programs, open the M-Audio control panel.

      B. In the M-Audio window, switch to the Hardware tab.

      C. Locate the buffer size. It will probably be one of the following: 128, 256, 384, 512. Select the next highest number as the new value. For example, if 128 had been selected, select 256.

      D. Close the window.

    Again, be sure to try these solutions in order. If one fixes the problem, stop at that point without trying the others.

    Q: I changed from an m-audio interface to a Roland Quad-Capture and SONAR has stopped working. I keep getting a message saying "No master" from SONAR on my Windows PC. What do I need to do to get SONAR working?

    A: The error message about the Master bus appears if SONAR can't find your audio interface, or if the type of interface has changed since the last time you were using SONAR. Now, I know that your interface was connected, but there are reasons why SONAR still might not see it. Audio interfaces connect to programs like SONAR through a few different protocols, or what SONAR calls "driver modes". If you simply plug in the QuadCapture, Windows knows how to talk to it using a basic mode called MME. That basic mode isn't good enough for SONAR. SONAR needs WDM or ASIO. The only way that Windows can talk to your interface using those modes/protocols is for you to install the interface's drivers. There was probably a CD in the box with the QuadCapture. That disk should have drivers. You may have installed those, but they might be out of date, particularly if you're using Windows Vista or Windows 7.
    • To be safe, you should download and install the most recent drivers for the QuadCapture.
    • You can get them from the support area of RolandUS.com. The dealer that sold you the QuadCapture might also be able to help you find the new drivers.
    • Once you install the new drivers, SONAR should be able to see the QuadCapture. If it still doesn't, it may be that you will need to tell SONAR what driver mode to use.
    • To change the driver mode, in SONAR, go to the Options menu, select Audio, and switch to the Advanced tab.
    • There is a combo box called "Driver Mode". Change to the mode that you'd like to use, then click OK, then close and re-open SONAR. The Driver Mode combo box will only show entries for modes that are available at the moment. For example, if you don't have any devices connected that have ASIO drivers installed, then ASIO won't appear in the combo box. My guess is that your combo box is probably empty. Please make sure that you have the most recent drivers, and that the driver mode is set correctly in SONAR.

    Q: Why am I experiencing audio dropouts? Should I be using a Firewire audio interface?

    A: Unfortunately, I don't have a clear solution for you. As you may know, getting low latency audio interfaces to operate correctly is a tricky process, and that situation is even more complicated than usual when you're using Firewire audio interfaces. Using a dedicated Firewire card is no guaranty of success, but is a start. Hopefully, your Firewire card uses a Texas Instruments chipset, as most others rarely are compatible with audio interfaces. Even if the Firewire card uses a TI chipset, you still may be unable to use it. Many motherboard chipsets manipulate DPC latencies to do things like improve power efficiency or improve graphics performance. Since low latency audio interfaces use very small data buffers that must be constantly filled, any momentary inability of the computer to fill the buffer can result in a drop out or a crash. Additionally, processor power conservation techniques like Speed Step and others can cause fluctuations and delays in providing processing resources to SONAR or your Tascam's driver that can result in drop out and crashes. You may be able to tweak your BIOS to improve the way that your motherboard handles DPC/PCI latency, but I can't offer you any specific tips on how to do this, as the process is different for each motherboard. Also be aware that many BIOSes do not even provide access to these features: typical brand machines like Dell or Lenovo don't. You should also be able to disable Speed Step and other power management functions in your BIOS, and that should help. If you are unable to disable power management in your BIOS, you might try using the "Always On" power plan in XP's power options, but that plan will only prevent the computer from changing your processor's speed to save power, not disable other power saving functions that apply to PCI and USB devices in your system. As the problem happens when JAWS is loaded, it may be associated with either an audio or video issue. Old built-in audio using SigmaTel chipsets had an issue where all other audio devices would temporarily freeze while they're playing audio. The solution was to install an older version of the driver, but I have no idea where to find that driver for XP any longer. If you have a built-in Sigmatel-based audio device, perhaps you can Google for forum posts about this. In general, if you are going to use a system that you've built yourself, I'd never suggest that you use a Firewire based audio interface unless you're a highly technical person that doesn't mind lots of reading, experimentation, and possibly swapping out many components until you find a combination that works. USB audio interfaces don't provide as low of latency, and they drain computer processing resources away from your recording software, but they are highly compatible. If you're set on using a Firewire audio interface, you really should be purchasing a system from a PC builder that specializes in digital audio workstations, and will guarantee compatibility with your audio interface. We at Dancing Dots would be glad to build a custom made audio workstation and can save a lot of money and time that workstations built by dealers who do not understand accessibility would take away from you.

    Converting, creating and exporting files

    Q: I am interested in recording myself singing with mp3 or CD karaoke files, then saving the recording as an mp3 and burning it onto a CD. Would I be better off using SONAR or sound forge to accomplish this?

    A: You would be much better off using SONAR to do this. Sound Forge is really a stereo mastering program, you can't overdub on an existing track like you can in SONAR. In addition, since you can have nearly limitless tracks in SONAR, you will be able to sing multiple takes, saving each on a separate track so that you can then pick the best verses, choruses, bridges, etc. and cobble together that seamless perfect performance you are striving to get. Add to that the ability to include just the right effect on your voice, and you'll be well on your way. CakeTalking simplifies the process of performing with karaoke files. Several SONAR project templates are included that automatically configure many SONAR settings for various recording situations, including performing with karaoke recordings.

    Q: When exporting files and converting to MP3 format, I receive an error message that my MP3 encoder is locked. What do I need to do?

    A: The mp3 encoder unlock is an additional $19 and can be downloaded from the Cakewalk website.

    Q: How do I make a CD or audio file from my SONAR project files?

    A: To make a CD or audio file from my SONAR project files:
    • Once you have finished preparing all necessary tracks in SONAR, press ALT+F | E | A to open the Export Audio dialog.
    • Type the name of the audio file. Then tab once and choose the output format you desire.
    • Before you can create a CD or mp3 file from your audio projects, you will need to record any midi tracks that are using hardware synthesizers as audio tracks.
    • Make sure the midi hardware you want to record, e.g. keyboard, drum machine, etc. is connected to your sound card's inputs either directly or through your mixer.
    • Refer to all Lessons on setting up your audio and MIDI hardware to ascertain that your system is capable of successfully accomplishing the mix-down process. One option for converting MIDI to audio tracks is to solo the midi track, arm an empty audio track, and record it. When you are done, un-solo and then mute the midi track, and unarm the audio track. Repeat this process for all of your hardware midi tracks. Note that if you want to create an mp3 file you may have to license a third-party mp3 encoder application to do so.

    For important information on techniques for preparing your final mix for export, see the Lesson entitled "MIXING DOWN. DISTRIBUTING YOUR PROJECT" in the CakeTalking tutorial document. Also use the find command to read references to "Bounce To Tracks" for more information on converting MIDI tracks to audio tracks and applying audio effects before exporting your project. If you are looking for an easy-to-use and economical CD burning software program, you may want to consider winamp pro. You can purchase winamp pro by going to winamp.com and clicking on the "gopro" link. It costs only $20, and has a very straight-forward user interface When you install SONAR, you will have a trial version of cakewalk's mp3 encoder on your computer which will allow you to convert a limited number of projects to mp3 format. You can get the full version from Cakewalk.

    Q: How do I load mp4 files into SONAR?

    A: You need Quicktime for SONAR to load mp4 videos. Since it's only available in a 32 bit form, you need to run the SONAR 32 bit version, which will work even on the 64 bit versions of Windows. Then when you go to import the video, under the "Files of type" dropdown list, choose "All Files (*.*)" and your mp4 video will be visible. However, Avi files work so much better in SONAR than anything else. So it's better to convert MP4s to Avi. Avi's play beautifully in SONAR, while .wmvs and MP4s glitch out, come in upside down, make SONAR sluggish etc.

    Q: When I export files from sonar, there are three options for bit depth: 16, 24 and 32 bit depth. What are the differences between them?

    A: Other than 24-16 = 8 and that 32-24 = 8, it relates to the overall dynamic range of the musical content. However if you're going to burn a commercial CD you'll probably want to stick with 16-bit. The higher the bit depth, the more dynamic range is available, at least in theory. Audio intended for CD must be 16-bit, with a sampling rate of 44.1KHZ. DVD is usually 24-bit 48KHZ.

    Older versions

    Q: I've been getting these: "sorry this function failed to find sonar's status bar" error messages whenever I use the s 3 times to unsolo all tracks in SONAR 6.2. What should I do to correct it?

    A: Well, we are really trying to make it more and more possible for sighted and blind folks to work side by side while using CT, but if your task bar got moved it by a sighted person, it could be causing a problem. Also, make sure your display settings haven't changed, e.g. 32 bit color and 1024x768 resolution.

    Q: I've had to reinstall SONAR 3 and CakeTalking on a different pc and am experiencing a problem with the graphics labeler. When I try labeling the graphics I'm getting a message saying that the .cwt files in the sample content folder aren't installed, what should I do?

    A: I would strongly suggest that you upgrade your SONAR and CT if you can justify it. SONAR 3 is many years old now, and the whole architecture of the scripts and how they work under the hood has changed, making them much more stable and reliable. In addition, it would be very difficult to continue to provide support for the older software.

    Q: I am running SONAR 6 with CakeTalking. Whenever I insert an instance of Dimension Pro into my project, (and press enter to load a program bank) I receive the message that says: "External VST Window" and I am unable to use any of the Dimension Pro sounds. How can I correct this problem?

    A: Dancing Dots has learned that, at least on some systems, the Check Windows Settings utility available from CakeTalking's submenu on the Start Menu, reports that all Windows settings have been configured correctly even though the DPI setting is actually still incorrect. Refer to the document entitled "1SettingsXP.rtf" found in the Setup folder of the CakeTalking for SONAR 6 folder in your My Documents folder for all details of required Windows configuration for optimal use of CakeTalking. All of these settings should be manually reviewed and changed if necessary. Here's an excerpt from the current version of that document that refers to configuring the Display setting found in the Windows Control Panel:

    In the Display page, the screen resolution should be 1024 by 768. The color setting should be 32 bit. Press Enter on the Advanced button of the Display page. In the General page that pops up, the DPI setting should be Normal size (96 dpi). Control Tab to the Adapter page, and press the List all Modes button. In the list all modes page, the setting should be 1024 by 768, 32 bit, 60 Hertz.

    Note: It is a good practice to have your video display connected and powered on when making changes to video display settings even if you are a JAWS user who usually keeps the video monitor turned off.


    Q: Does CakeTalking 6 support the sfz player from rgcaudio.com? How can I map different keys in the rgc audio sfz player?

    A: The sfz player comes with SONAR. And yes, CT does support it. To map different keys you'll need to learn the syntax for the sfz format and edit it in a text editor.

    Q: With JAWS 7.0.135, CT 6.24 and SONAR 6.21, I have a problem in some dialogue boxes, particularly that the option / select midi devices the arrow keys do not speak the current highlighted item. How do I fix this?

    A: On some of these dialogs like the midi devices and control surfaces, as well as the audio drivers, I sometimes have to press the down arrow a couple of times to get it to drop down. Once I do that it behaves normally. I don't know if this would make a difference to you or not.

    Q: I've just installed the CT update from the dancing dots site. I believe, however, that the older 6.2 version of CT is still loading and not the 6.24 update. Is there a hot key to find out once I've opened SONAR?

    A: Press INSERT+Q should tell you what version you're running.

    Copyright 2002, 2005, 2014 Dancing Dots