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Cakewalk Tutorial

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Starting Cakewalk Pro Audio

Simply double-click the Cakewalk icon.  (Once the program is open, please do not change any of the MIDI Port Input/Output or Assign Instrument settings.  These parameters were set during installation.)

Menu Bar

Along the top line of the screen are the names of various drop-down menus.  Use these menus to choose commands.

  • [File]:  New, Open (Control+O), Save (^+S), Save As, Merge, Info, Utilities, Print Preview, Print, Print Setup, Exit. (p. 53ff)

  • [Edit]:  Undo Recording (^+Z), Redo Drag Copy (^+A), History, Select, Cut (^+X), Copy (^+C), Paste (^+V), Delete, Create Clips, Audio, Quantize, Groove Quantize, Interpolate, Length, Slide, Retrograde, Transpose, Scale Velocities, Fit, Fun CAL (^+F1). (p. 355ff)

  • [View]:  New, Options, Layouts, Tempo, Meter/Key, Markers, Play List, Sysx, Big Time, Audio Meters, CAL, MIDI Activity, Effects.

  • [Insert]:  Bank/Patch Change, Wave File, Tempo Change, Meter/Key Change, Marker (F11), Series of Controllers, Series of Tempos. (p. 395ff)

  • [Realtime]:  Play (Space Bar), Record (R), Rewind (W), Step Record (Shift+F3), Record Mode, Panic, Tempo Ratio. (p. 403ff)

  • [GoTo]:  Time (F5), From (F7), Thru (F8), Beginning (^+Home), End (^+End), Previous Measure (^+Page Up), Next Measure (^+Page Down), Search, Search Next (F3).

  • [Track]:  Property {Name, Status, Archive, Port, Channel, Key+, Vel+, Time+, Bank, Patch, Volume, Pan}, Solo (/), Un-Solo (\), Clone, Kill, Wipe, Sort. (p. 417ff)

  • [Tools]:  Virtual Piano (^+K), Virtual Jukebox. (p. 423ff)

  • (Virtual Piano is a program included with Cakewalk that enables translation of keypresses on the computer keyboard into presses of the keys of the virtual piano. Virtual Jukebox is a stand-alone media file playlist program, enabling you to play multiple songs or audio files in sequence . . . like a jukebox.)

  • [Settings]:  Metronome, Timebase, Clock, Time Format, Audio Hardware, Audio Options, MIDI Devices, Instruments, MIDI Output, MIDI Echo, Channel Filter, Type Filter, Channel Table, Auto Save, Key Bindings, Initialization File, Drag & Drop Options (p. 429ff)

  • [Window]:  Tile in Rows, Tile in Columns, Cascade, Arrange Icons, Close All, Minimize All, 1track.

  • [Help]:  Cakewalk Help Topics, Search for Help On, View README.RTF, Tip of the Day, Cakewalk Website, Register Online, About Cakewalk.

Three buttons at top right above menu bar

  • [-]:  Clicking the first button reduces the file to a title bar at the bottom of the screen.
  • [9]:  Clicking the middle button restores the file to full-screen view, or partial-screen view, depending upon the original status of the window.
  • [X]:  Close button (Closes Cakewalk).  If there is any unsaved information, a prompt will ask you if you want to save before closing.
  • (These same three buttons also appear with each open file window.)

Control Bar (p. 131 ff)

  • The Control Bar is the area below the Menu Bar and above the Track Bar.
  • [1:1:000...]:  The Now Marker is the current position in musical time (measure:beat:tick).  (Tick refers to the basic division of time, or pulse per quarter note.  The timebase which is set under Settings|Timebase tells Cakewalk how many ticks are in a quarter note.  The default timebase is 120 ticks, but this can be changed to 48-480 ticks.)
  • [30N]:  SMPTE/MTC format. SMPTE=Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.  MTC=MIDI Time Code.  SMPTE provides the means for coordinating musical sound with video images.  The default is 30N (30-frame Nondrop), or 30 video frames per second.
  • [00:00:03:00]:  SMPTE Time, which is beneath the Now Marker.  This specifies musical time by hour:minute:second:frame.
  • To the right of the Now Marker is the Now Marker Scrollbar.
  • Click the scroll arrows to move a beat at a time.
  • Click either side of the scroller thumb to move a measure at a time.
  • Drag the scrollbar thumb left or right to move to any position in a song.
  • (As the Now Marker changes, the window views update to reflect the new time. This happens both when you change the Now time and during playback.)
  • [==]:  Below the Now Marker Scrollbar is the (blue) Rewind button.  This is a shortcut for the Rewind command in the Realtime menu.  It stops playback or recording and takes you to the beginning (1:01:000).
  • [<]:  The (green) Play button is a shortcut for the Play command in the Realtime menu.  It starts and stops playback from the current position (Now Marker time).  The shortcut key is the Spacebar of the computer.  Pressing the [Spacebar] will also result in playback.
  • [!]:  The (red) Record button is a shortcut for the Record command in the Realtime menu.  It starts and stops recording.  Shortcut key = R.  The [Spacebar] also turns record off.  Recording starts at the current position (the Now time).  By default, there is a one-measure count-in.  You can change the count-in and other metronome options by using the Metronome command in the Settings menu.  (Selecting the track onto which you will record is done by clicking in any of the boxes horizontally in line with the track number.  A red rectangle "cursor" will appear, indicating the track being recorded.)

  • [Loop]:  To the immediate right of the Now Marker Scrollbar is the Loop button.  By depressing this button, loop recording and playback is engaged. (p. 124)
  • [Record Mode]:  Below the Loop button is the Record Mode button.  Clicking this button is a shortcut for choosing the Record Mode command from the Realtime menu.  Three record mode options are possible:  (1) Sound on Sound, (2) Overwrite, (3) Auto Punch.  The button is shown as depressed when the mode is Sound on Sound. Sound on Sound allows you to continue adding new material to the existing track.  Overwrite mode records over existing material on a track.  Auto Punch allows you to specify the times to start and stop recording.  Use this command when you want to be careful that you record new material only within a specified range, and when you want the new material to overwrite the existing material.  (For most situations, Sound on Sound will be the desired record mode.) (p. 135)
  • [Step Record]:  This is the button with the footprints, which is a shortcut button for choosing the Step Record command from the Realtime menu.  When this mode is enabled, you can use the MIDI keyboard to record notes one rhythmic step at a time.  It is helpful for recording complex rhythms.
  • [Clock]:  Below the Step Record button is the Clock button.  This button is a shortcut for choosing the Clock command from the Settings menu.  As you repeatedly click this button, it cycles through the four clock sources:  Internal, MIDI Sync, SMPTE/MTC, and Audio {INT}{MIDI}{MTC}{AUD}.
  • [From] and [Thru] time display:  From and Thru are like "block begin" and "block end" indicators:  they show the currently selected time region.  Clicking on the time displays opens the Select by Time dialog box.
  • [Tempo] and [Tempo Ratios]:  To the right of the From/Thru time display is the Tempo/Tempo Ratio display. The current tempo is on top (Now time display).  Clicking the arrow buttons changes the tempo.  Or, click the tempo itself and then type in a new value in the Tempo dialog box.  The Tempo dialog box allows a tempo change at a specified point. (p. 137ff)
  • (You cannot set tempos when the clock source is MIDI Sync.  You can set tempos when using a SMPTE/MTC clock.)
  • [Meter/Key]:  The music staff icon is the Meter/Key display.  It displays the key and time signature of the current song.  Clicking in this area lets you change both via the Meter/Key Signature dialog box. Click on the icon to bring up the box.
  • [Panic Button]:  This is the button with the "scream face."  Clicking this stops playback, sends note-off commands for each note on each MIDI channel of each port, and resets continuous controllers on each MIDI channel of each port.  Use this when you are experiencing "stuck notes," or MIDI feedback loops. (pp. 139, 449ff)

Track View (p. 141 ff)

The Track View is Cakewalk's main window, which displays automatically each time the program is started.  It is divided into two sections: the Track pane and the Clips pane.  These two panes are divided by a vertical border that can be dragged left or right.  (If you have more than one Cakewalk view open at a time--and you can have as many open as you need--you can jump from view to view with Control+Tab and Shift+Control+Tab to move forward and backward.  To jump from Cakewalk to another application running under Windows, use Alt+Tab.)

Description of Track Pane properties:

  • Track number appears in the far left column.
  • Name:  Name of the track.  Each track has a name which you may use for any purpose you wish.  On a blank track, simply select the Name column and begin typing.  (If you want to type a track name that starts with "R" or "W," press [Enter] first.  This is because R and W are the hotkeys for record and rewind.)
  • D = Playing status of the track.  The "check" means the track is playing.  An "m" means the track is muted.  An "a" means the track is archived.  Before or during playback you can toggle a track between play and mute modes:  

    While the song plays, double-click the checkmark of a particular track to mute it. The checkmark turns to an "m."  To unmute, double-click the "m."  If the checkmark column is highlighted, pressing [Enter] also toggles between play and mute.  (See p. 146 re Archive. You may not need this feature.)

    To Solo a track (mute all others), use one of the following three methods:

    Right-click on a track and choose the Solo command. To make all tracks active again, right-click on the soloed track and choose Un-solo.

    You can also click anywhere in a track, then choose Track|Solo and Track|Un-Solo from the Menu bar.

Make the desired track the current track by moving the highlight (w/mouse or arrows) anywhere on the row of the track.  Press the [/] key.  To un-solo, press the [\] key.

  • Source:  MIDI or digital audio input source assigned to the track.
  • Key+:  Realtime pitch transposition in half steps.  Each MIDI note event has a key number, or pitch.  This parameter transposes the key numbers of all notes on the track by the entered amount, from between -127 to +127.  The transposition is added to the real key number for each event.  Each increment of 1 represents a half step, so an octave higher is +12, a half-step higher is +1, a whole-step higher is +2, etc.
  • Vel+:  Velocity offset. Each MIDI note event has a velocity--represented by how hard you struck the key.  This parameter changes the velocities of all note events in a track by a constant amount.  (See p. 148 re storing changes.)
  • Time+:  Timing offset for the entire track. (See pp. 148-149 for possible uses.)
  • Port:  MIDI output port, or digital audio channel (left or right).
  • Channel:  MIDI output channel on the selected port.
  • Bank:  A group of 128 patches.
  • Patch:  Starting patch name or number assignment.
  • Vol:  Starting volume setting for that track. Parameter range is from 0 to 127.
  • Pan:  Degree of panning left (0-63) or right (65-127).  The pan represents a point in the stereo field from left to right.  A value of 0 is hard left; 64 is 12 o'clock in the center of the stereo field; 127 is hard right.  Typically, tracks are set to different pans to represent the physical positioning of live instrumentalists.
  • Size:  This column indicates the total number of events in each track.  This number cannot be edited directly.

Track Properties Menu

The Track Properties menu can be accessed by clicking on any of the following columns: Source, Port, Channel, Bank, Patch.  This menu allows the selection of a voice for each track, as well as various MIDI assignments.

Track Properties:  Source, Port, Channel, Bank Select Method, Bank, Patch, Key, Velocity, Pan, Volume. (Please do not change any settings accessed by the Assign Instrument button.  These settings were made during installation.)

The three settings you will normally make each time you select a sound are:  channel, bank and patch.  (See yellow arrows above.)

  • Channel:  When you click on the channel menu, you may select any channel (1-9 or 11-16) for timbres.  If you need percussion, channel 10 must be selected.
  • Bank:  When you click on the bank menu, you must choose from banks U, A, B, C, GM.
  • Patch:  When you click on the patch menu, you choose one of the timbres contained within the bank you selected.
  • After you have made the above three assignments, click OK, and you are ready to record.

NOTE:  There are 16 midi channelsChannel 10 is always assigned to percussion.  You may select any of the other 15 channels for any other instrument sound.  If, for example, you select Channel 1 and assign to it a flute voice, you may assign Channel 1 (flute, in this case) to as many "tracks" as you would like.  The " channels" can be thought of as timbre categories.  You have 16 different timbres with which to work.  But you may have almost as many multiples of each timbre as you care to have, assigned to various tracks.

TIP:  In terms of facilitating the editing of recorded sequences, it is best to have as much track separation as possible.  For example, if you are recording a trombone quartet, you "could" record all four trombones on a single track.  Editing would be a nightmare, however.  It would be best to record each trombone on a different track.  Each track would have the same "channel" number, however.

Clips Pane (p. 153 ff)

The vertical bar between the Track pane and Clips pane can be dragged to show more or less of either pane.  

  • Track Pane:  The Track Pane, above/below, is the white area to the left of the vertical gray line.
  • Clips Pane:  The Clips Pane, above/below, is the gray area to the right of the vertical gray line.  Each time something is recorded, a "clip" (colored horizontal bar) will appear, graphically representing the information recorded.

The Clips pane shows the contents of each track represented as one or more clips--a horizontal colored bar (shown above). A clip is a segment of music than can be longer than a single measure and shorter than an entire track. Each time you stop and record again, a new clip is created ... which is fine.  Clips include graphic representations of  the content contained therein, including starting times and durations.

Each clip can have a name, which appears as text within its rectangle. You can edit the name of each clip, if necessary.  If you don't see the names, right-click anywhere in the Clips pane and choose View Options from the Inspector menu.  Make sure that Display Clip Contents is checked.  (It is not necessary to name clips ... too much trouble!)

You can quickly select clips before using Edit menu commands, and see the effect of commands like Cut, Copy, and Paste on many clips at once. Also, you can directly copy or move selected clips using drag-and-drop techniques. (pp. 154ff)

  • To select only a portion of a clip, depress the Alt Key as you drag the mouse over the clip.

There is a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the Clips pane for rapid display of clips.

Buttons associated with the Clips Pane

[a]:  Snap to Grid button.  Clicking on this button turns Snap to Grid on/off.  When the button is on (depressed), events that you drag-copy or drag-move will be rounded off to the nearest Snap to Grid unit.  Right-clicking this button opens the Snap to Grid dialog box, which lets you specify the Snap to Grid time, ranging from thirty-second note triplets to entire measures. (p. 162)

[Zoom] buttons:  These are the two "magnifying glass" buttons to the right of the Snap to Grid button.  The larger magnifying glass zooms in (magnifies).  The small magnifying glass zooms out (decreases magnification).

Inspector Menus

From Track View you can open editing views by using the right mouse button.  Click the right mouse button in either the Track pane or Clips pane and an inspector menu appears:

  • Track pane Inspector menu:  Piano Roll, Event List, Staff, Lyrics, Audio, Panel, Insert Track, Delete Track, Solo, Un-solo, Track properties.
  • Clips pane Inspector menu:  Piano Roll, Event List, Staff, Lyrics, Audio, Panel, Split, Combine, Create Clips, Unlink, Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, View Options, Drag & Drop Options, Properties.

Saving a File (Song) (pp. 70, 343)

Always save your material to a floppy disk, rather than the computer's hard drive.  It's good to get in the habit of saving your work frequently during a work session in the case of a power failure or other disaster ... which can occur!

  • The first time you save a new file, choose Save As from the File menu.
  • Type in the name of your file, and add the suffix: .wrk For example:  mysong.wrk  (Normally, the suffix is added automatically.)
  • Once the file exists, you can simply choose Save from the File menu, or ^+S, to regularly save file updates.
  • (If the file has Audio, it probably won't fit on a floppy. More about that later.)

Opening a File (Song) (p. 342)

  • From the File menu, select Open (or ^+O).  Select the A drive, highlight the file and select Open, or simply double-click on the file name.

To Close Cakewalk and Shutdown

  • Click on the [X] button to close the current file, or choose Exit from the File menu; shortcut is Alt+F4.  You will be prompted to save your work.  Please do not save any work on the hard drive; save on floppies only.
  • Click on the [X] button to close the Cakewalk program.
  • Press the Windows [Start] key at the bottom of the screen.
  • Select Shut Down and follow the final steps.

The above covers only Cakewalk basics ...

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