RiffWorks Version 2

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Sonoma Wire Works releases the second version of their "jam-along" software, RiffWorks.

Sonoma Wire Works has recently released version 2 of its software package, RiffWorks. RiffWorks is labeled as a package which guitarists can use to write and record songs as well collaborate with other musicians. It has a load of drum tracks to jam along and compose with, a decent effect package to process and produce with, tools to collaborate in real time online and even create instant Podcasts.

The overall concept of RiffWorks is pretty simple. It's a basic software interface that allows a guitarist to easily record songs at a moment of inspiration. Sonoma Wire Works has added to that rather simple concept other useful features such as providing the option to select tempo-adjustable drum tracks to the song and apply effects to the song.

Beyond that there is also the RiffLink interface built in to RiffWorks. New to version 2, RiffLink is an internet powered collaboration environment which allows the user to work with other musicians anywhere in the world in real time and even chat in a built in chat interface. RiffLink does come with an extra subscription charge, but, every version on RiffWorks does come with a free 60 day trial of RiffLink.

Last, but not least to Podcast enthusiasts. Also new to version2, RiffCaster allows the user to instantly publish Podcasts to the internet and even embeds the Creative Commons licensing. All this is done with a simple click of the mouse.

OK, it all reads really well, so I took RiffWorks for a test drive. Let's look under the hood and get the real story.

The Test Drive

Immediately upon opening the app, as I usually do when opening any app for the first time, I went to look for audio setup options. The first place I look is across the top for the File, Menu, Options, Help, etc menubar. Well, the interface didn't have one. While the interface is attractive and pretty cool looking from an audio gear type standard, I personally dislike applications that leave the basic operating system component structure too much. The audio setup was a small button in the lower right hand corner. I also found that not having the menu bar available the help menu took a little bit of interface scanning to find. Just to not be misunderstood, all the necessary tools are there in plain view, just not where one would expect to find them based on common user interface design convention developed by decades of computer use.

It seems a shame to start off on a bad note, because RiffWorks isn't a bad application. Beyond the standard OS component based interface, RiffWorks is actually a pretty simple application to get around in. The frame of the interface stays consistent throughout all sections of the application. This frame contains level meters for the different signal paths, tempo settings, transport controls song layers and buttons for the actions you would normally find in the menu bar.

In the center of that frame is a window that has four functions for the different uses of RiffWorks. This window toggles between layers, backing drum track management with effects for the backing tracks, effects processing for the guitar and the RiffLink interface.


Sonoma Wire Works has various collections of drum loops available for purchase to use within the InstantDrummer application in RiffWorks. The loops are very cool, not just one beat continuously looped, but it can be controlled to set a mood from mellow to heavy and to define how "evolving" the beat should be with the "variation" knob. I know, the "variation" sounds like a "too good to be true" type of thing, but it's actually really neat, the higher your set the variation, the more fills and backbeats there are thrown into the loop.

The recordings are done very well, and supplied by different manufacturers of great drum loops and recordings including Submersible Music (Makers of DrumCore), Drums on Demand, Discrete Drums and Drummerheads.

The one tool I see missing from this picture, is a construction kit to build your own InstantDrummer sessions. I can see the difficulty this may bring given the variable nature of the InstantDrummer app, but I just picture in the head the community of users that could come from something like a shared session application within RiffWorks version3, should they choose to go that route.


The standard edition of RiffWorks does include IK Multimedia's AmpliTube guitar amp and effects modeling plugin. AmpliTube is a great software-based modeling option, and is a topic choice of plugs to bundle with a wide range of applications.

While the Help docs are not in the usual location, when you do get into it they are pretty thorough and quite good. An excellent, quick access resource for help using the application.

My Opinion

I haven't spent as much time as I would have liked with RiffWorks yet, but from the time I have used it, it is a very easy to use, feature filled, great sounding application for quick, moment-on-inspiration type work. Sometimes when you just stumble across a good idea and don't feel like firing up your whole DAW to get a quick take, RiffWorks is easy to start and lay down a quick track of two. A digital scratch pad, if you will.

Obviously, RiffWorks will never replace the ProTools and Cubases of the world, but that isn't its goal. For the purpose it serves, it's a great tool to have.

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