11 Cubase 5 tips you need to know
The recent version 5 update to Cubase has given Steinberg's famous music production software a nicely targeted kick up the backside, adding a variety of new plug-ins and other feature improvements.
The only downside to this, of course, is that it might take you a little while to work out how all these tweaks will affect your existing workflow.
However, we've been spending some time with Cubase 5 and have come with the following suggestions for anyone who wants to get on the fast-track to power user glory.
1. Onscreen keyboard
The new Virtual Keyboard is not to be overlooked – remember that pressing Tab toggles between one and two octaves. If you use this feature a lot, consider remapping the usual Alt+K key command to something more immediate. Scroll Lock is a good one, as you'll be able to see whether the virtual keyboard is enabled by glancing at the Scroll Lock light!
2. Patches of power
Remember that HALion One is equipped with 14 new high-quality patches that come with ready-to-go Track Presets featuring Expression Maps. Just search for the 'VX' suffix to get at them!
3. Consolidate yourself
The techy-sounding "rule-based consolidation" might sound like a new feature that you'd rather avoid, but it's actually a lot more straightforward than its name might suggest. Put simply, it's a way of telling Cubase what to do if a MIDI parameter is being controlled simultaneously via a controller lane in a MIDI part and an automation lane on the track. Go read up on it!
4. The new batch
The most obvious use of the new Channel Batch Export feature is for the easy creation of stems, but that's not all its good for. For instance, you can use it to render out the component tracks of multi-output instruments like Groove Agent One or LoopMash, perhaps to be mashed up further by the latter. And remember that you can export directly to the Pool and Audio Track – this can be used to manually bounce and freeze parts without messing about solo'ing tracks, as you had to do with older versions.
5. Mad about mashing
LoopMash can be picky about loop-slicing, and sometimes gets the tempo wrong, gives you an unusual number of slices, or even throws up an error. To get round this, first try tagging your loops with the correct BPM in MediaBay. If that doesn't help, use the Bounce Selection option to render a fresh WAV of the loops you are trying to use, particularly if they've been sliced or warped. And use the Batch Export to Audio Track function detailed above if you need the effects to be 'baked' into the audio.
6. Slice as nice
If you use Groove Agent One's slice-mapping features a lot, you might want to open up the Preferences, then head to the MIDI/MIDI File section and select Auto Dissolve Format 0. This will enable you to drag MIDI clips from GA One (using the double-ended arrow icon) directly onto any existing MIDI track, rather than having Cubase create a new MIDI track each time.
7. Life's a pitch
The MIDI features of Cubase 5's new pitch correction tools should not be underestimated. First off, once you've analysed and corrected an audio passage with VariAudio, you can use the Extract MIDI function to create a MIDI track that plays the exact same tune. If you've got a tune in your head that you're having trouble programming in, why not hum or sing it into Cubase, then convert it to MIDI? And on the flip side, the MIDI input mode offers Still and Step input via your MIDI controller, or indeed, the new Virtual Keyboard.
8. I feel your (T-)pain
As well as for instant, automatic tuning effects, you can also control PitchCorrect in a more direct manner, using MIDI. You have a choice of scale mode, where you hold down (or program) the notes you want to be included in the scale, or note mode, where you simply play the desired melody. Get creative by 'playing' vocal lines in real time!
9. MIDI Monitor
The new MIDI Monitor is ideal for troubleshooting MIDI woes – just insert it as a MIDI plug-in and peruse captured events at your leisure. It's something like a real-time Event List.
10. Automation Panel
Anyone who's heavily into automation should get used to the new Automation Panel, which allows one to suppress recording of certain automation types, show used automation, and a lot more – consider setting up a key command to bring it up in a flash.
11. Tempo tweaks
Unless your music is strictly in 4/4 and with no tempo changes, you should definitely be making use of the new Tempo and Signature Tracks as an alternative to the clunky old separate Tempo Track Editor.
For a complete guide to the new features in Cubase 5, check out the May issue of Computer Music(CM138), on sale now.
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