How to record midi tracks to audio tracks so that
you can mix and apply effects in the Audio Mixer
First- the really easy one. If it's a midi
track allocated to a VST Instrument, it's essentially an audio track already.
Probably you can leave it as it is. You can apply effects and automation
to it like any other audio track. Why does it need to become a wav file?
Leave it alone until the final mixdown. But if you're short of resources,
or have other reasons for wanting to render it as a wav, solo the track
and use Export Audio ('Audio Mixdown' in SX).
But maybe it's a midi track controling
an external midi module or the midi synth on your soundcard. You record
your midi tracks to audio one at a time, if you want them as seperate
audio files. If they're using a midi synth built into your soundcard you
probably have a Record Source selector in the soundcard control panel
allowing you to loop this source directly into Cubase. If it's using an
external keyboard or sound module you need to connect the audio output
to your soundcard's input.
Whichever way, you route that audio
into your soundcard. Mute everything except the midi track you want to
record. Select an audio track to record on. Play the song. Open the Cubase
Audio Mixer. Click the little In button at the top of the appropriate
Channel fader. You should see the signal on the meter. Now all you have
to do is set the L locator and press Record. Repeat for each midi track.
Now all your midi tracks are in Cubase as separate audio
tracks. You can use the full mixing and effects facilities of the Cubase
There is a more simple method. If you have built up a
song and are quite happy with how it sounds you can record the whole lot
to audio in one go. Depending on the complexity of your setup this may
require some external mixing, or it may be as simple as selecting 'What
You Hear' (SoundBlaster cards) or Audio Input 2 (Yamaha SWG1000) as the
record source. But if you want to use the Cubase effects on your tracks,
you'll need to keep them separate.
About Latency - When it matters and when you can
work round it
When Cubase, or any other audio recorder, plays audio, it uses buffering.
The data is read from disk. It goes into a holding area of memory. When
a suitable size chunk of data has arrived, it is fed to the part of the
program that manipulates it - adds effects, fades it in and out, mixes
it with other audio - all the things that we bought Cubase in order to
be able to do. This takes time. Also, the data may not come off the disk
absolutely smoothly, or Windows (or any os) may need to break off for
an instant to do some other necessary function. We need buffering. A dedicated
computer (i.e. an external effects box) may be able to get away with minimal
buffering and work in near enough real time. But a program running on
a multitasking computer (with all the advantages that brings) will need
more. Fast computers, better-designed soundcards and drivers, better interface
with the operating system (WDM drivers can be more efficient) - all these
can reduce latency. But it isn't going to completely go away. Not yet,
When Cubase plays back, latency doesn't matter. The program
knows how long audio takes to pass through the system and can pre-fetch
it from disk just in time to be output correctly, aligned with midi data
which is essentially real-time. The problem arises when you want to monitor
the audio being actually recorded alongside previously-recorded material.
There's no way to pre-fetch live input. So, if you monitor through Cubase's
audio engine, it's going to be heard late.
Fortunately, that's a big if. The basic answer to latency
while monitoring an input is - Don't monitor through Cubase. Turn Monitoring
in Cubase to Global Off (Cubase 5) or in Preferences/VST select Manual
monitoring and don't click the monitor icon in the relevent channel(s)
(Cubase SX). Route the audio input back to your ears some other way. Your
sound card almost certainly has a mixer applet sitting in the System tray.
This will have routing options. If you have a card with ASIO2 drivers,
you can do this switching conveniently from within Cubase (apart from
this, ASIO Direct Monitoring is no big deal - you had the facility already).
Small problem. Effects. You can't record effects. Cubase
applies them on playback. An audio input is recorded dry. It would be
nice if you could use a plugin compressor to prevent digital overload
while recording. But, until we achieve time travel, you can't. The audio's
inside Cubase. If it was going to overload, it's already done it. You
need an outboard compressor. But singers like to hear a bit of reverb
in their cans. Sorry, if you're on a high-latency system, Cubase isn't
going to provide it. Dig out that old MidiVerb box and patch it through
some external mixing.
Big Problem. VST Instruments. These are in fact Insert
Effects in an audio channel. If you want to play a VSTi live, you're going
to hear it delayed by the latency.
What can I do about Latency?
First, what you CAN'T do. Adjusting (in Windows) MaxFileCache,
Virtual Memory or any other system setting won't do anything. A faster
processor or more installed memory won't directly change it either. In
Cubase, Memory Per Channel (or anything else at the L. side of Cubase's
Audio Setup page) won't help. All that will change latency is the size
of buffer used by your sound card.
If your card has ASIO drivers, use them. Today's quality
cards can achieve single-figure (sub 10ms) latency. It will probably
adjustable in the ASIO Control panel in Cubase Audio Setup (Cubase 5)
or Devices/Device Setup/VST Multitrack (Cubase SX), or via the card's
own supplied software. This is practically as near to
very little difference. Use VST instruments in real time. Turn Monitoring
back on and hear your vocals through all of Cubase's effects. Rejoice!
Can't get quite that low? Just because the card offers a 2ms setting doesn't
guarantee that your system will support it. Or that there's anything wrong
if it doesn't. There's always a trade-off involving the power of your
computer and the number of effects you want to use. (More memory gives
more audio tracks, more processor power gives more effects.) You don't
need to stick to one latency setting throughout a project. Tweak it low
to record your VSTi. You get audio glitches or you have to turn off some
plugins? So what? Once the VSTi is laid down turn latency up to a comfortably
high figure and use your available power for something more sensible than
Stuck with a card without ASIO or WDM drivers? Tough,
really. You're not going to get latency low enough. If you want to play
VSTi, spend some money on a better card. Sorry.
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C6 Won't work? (Cubase 5)
You've somehow turned the Remote function
on. Go to Preferences/Key Commands. Untick Remote Active.
Export Audio doesn't include everything I want
This function (In SX it's called Audio Mixdown and
lives in Files/Export) acts on material which is:
Windows XP and ACPI
These problems have largely gone away now. But for users with older systems I'll leave the topic up.
Also see Topic 15 Clicks and Pops
I'm going to suggest things here that usually
work, and have worked for me. But there are possibilities for messing
up your system. Particularly if it's a branded computer, using its own
shortcuts in hardware, drivers, etc. Back up any irreplaceable data
first, just as you would before an operating system upgrade, a re-partitioning
with Partition Magic, doing anything clever in the Registry etc.
XP (and Windows 2000) does a nasty thing to audio users.
It piles a lot of PCI devices onto a single IRQ. There is argument as
to exactly how this works, and whether it SHOULD make a difference to
audio performance. But many people have practical experience that getting
the audio card onto a unique IRQ is highly desirable.
How to kill ACPI.
Go to Menu/Programs/Accessories/System
Look at Hardware Resources/IRQ. Are a lot of things, including your
sound card, sharing an IRQ, probably IRQ9? While ACPI is installed you're
going to be able to change this. So it's time to
If you'd known this while installing XP,
you could have caught the (brief) opportunity to "Install third-party
SCSI drivers". You're invited to press F6. Press F7 instead, and
choose to install a Standard Computer. Too late now. Never
mind. There's another way. In Device Manager, you can change the "driver" for
Device: Computer from ACPI Computer to Standard Computer. Next boot,
all the hardware in your computer will
You'll end up with a non-ACPI box. (Auto power-off will stop working
when you shut down. A small price to pay - live with it.)
Once you're free of ACPI, you've got a
bit of room to manoeuvre with IRQ allocation. You probably won't be
change the IRQ of specific devices in Device Manager, as was sometimes
possible in Windows 9.x. You'll have to open the box and physically
what goes in each slot. (The PCI slot next to the AGP one is
often hard-wired to share an IRQ with it. NOT a good idea..) Maybe you
can do some IRQ allocations in BIOS. These settings have an effect, but,
in my experience, rarely a predictable one. Big point - you won't get
things onto their own IRQ if there isn't one available. Are you actually
using COM1 and COM2 (the serial ports on the back of your computer)?
not, disable them in BIOS. There's a couple of free IRQs already. Cubase
SX has a USB dongle -Maybe you can disable the parallel
(printer) port too. If you're crammed full of devices - network card,
scsi card, whatever; you may be in trouble. Have you got a motherboard
with an extra pair of IDE ports, maybe for a form of RAID? They won't
actually work perceptibly better than the standard IDE ports for audio
work. And they tend to share with a PCI slot. Why not lose them in BIOS
There are links to useful resources on this
subject on my Links page.
Particularly the pcaudiolabs
Cubase works very well on dual-monitor systems using
e.g. a Matrox dual-head AGP card. You just drag the main Cubase window
over both screens. Note that the window won't drag onto screen 2 if it
Comments from a user:
- Radeon Dual Head cards work well.
- Several dual-head
cards have software which must be configured to
actually 'activate' the second monitor. For example, on my Radeon,
installed it, I mistakenly thought it wasn't working, simply because
not go into 'Properties' and activate the second monitor.
Emulated midi ports in SX
N.B. Latest releases of SX3 claim to have removed this issue. Steinberg say:
"Concerning MIDI - We recommend to move the "ignoreportfilter " file back into the "MIDI Port Enabler" folder (as already recommended since the release of version 3.0.1). The reason is that the MIDI port filtering has been optimized towards a more practical approach for the majority of users since that version making this file obsolete for most cases."
This is what Steinberg said before:
"MIDI port filter - Important note regarding MIDI Interfaces
Cubase SX / SL version 1.02 or higher has a function to filter out redundant
MIDI ports provided by the MIDI interface driver. For instance if the
MIDI interface driver installs both Windows MIDI ports and DirectMusic
ports, these ports used to both show up in former Cubase SX / SL versions.
Since DirectMusic mirrors the Windows MIDI ports as "emulated"
DirectMusic ports by itself, it was possible that the MIDI ports showed
up even 3 times in the MIDI device list in Cubase SX / SL. These multiple
appearances of the MIDI ports were actually "multiple versions"
of the same physical MIDI port.
To avoid this, Cubase SX / SL 1.02 and higher provides an option to remove
these redundant entries utilizing the MIDI port filter. However, in some
cases the non-filtered, left over MIDI ports that will show up in the
MIDI device list of Cubase SX / SL can be the ones that actually do not
work as the MIDI interface driver doesn't support the DirectMusic architecture
as Cubase SX / SL would expect.
These cases were for example found with the following MIDI Interfaces:
- MIDIMAN MIDIsport 8x8
- MOTU MIDITimepieceAV
In this case, you can re-enable the filtered MIDI ports by proceeding
- Browse to the Cubase SX / SL application folder (usually C:\programs\steinberg\cubasesx)
and locate the folder "MIDI Port Enabler"
- Open this folder
- Pick the file "ignoreportfilter" and move it into the Cubase
SL application folder (one directory up)
- Start Cubase SX / SL
Now all available MIDI ports provided by the MIDI interface driver will
appear in the MIDI device list of Cubase SX / SL. Please be aware that
the MIDI ports now can show up 2 or 3 times in the list.
If you're used to manage your MIDI IN by setting "All MIDI Inputs"
in the MIDI IN selector, you should go to the Device Setup/All MIDI
Inputs and disable the unwanted ports. Otherwise you will record MIDI
from multiple ports which results in double MIDI notes."
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Corrupt fonts in Score Edit
If the note symbols in Score Edit appear as a load of 'Chinese squiggles'
do this. Go to Control Panel/Fonts. Press CTRL-A to select all. Close
the window. That's it!
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Can I use Cubase as an "Effects box"?
Certainly. First, turn off Direct Monitoring. This is what you DON'T want. It
bypasses Cubase's mixer, allowing zero-latency monitoring of an
input. You want
to monitor through the mixer, effects, latency and all.
to do it in SX.
- In Preferences/VST
set Monitoring to Manual.
- In Devices/Device Setup/VST Multitrack untick Direct Monitoring.
- Set up the required effects on the appropriate channel in the
Audio Mixer. Click the Monitor icon (the little loudspeaker.)
- In Cubase VST you'll find the monitoring settings on the Audio/System
page. Untick 'ASIO Direct Monitoring'. Tick 'Tape Type'.
CubaseSX2 offers a new possibility - there's an Effect
rack on each Input Channel in the mixer.
Punch In & Punch Out
On tape systems, we developed techniques of accurate
punch in and punch out. We were recording over the top of existing material,
destroying it as we went.
In Cubase, and similar programs, recording is non-destructive. New material
is recorded alongside the old (even if it is displayed on top, the old
audio is still there underneath). Punch in early, punch out late. You
can do your trimming afterwards.Don't care if you hear the old take or not? Just record
into the same track.. Would hearing the last version put you off? Or
you want to monitor the old take in whole or in part? Snip (or split
and mute) the old track so you hear just what you want to hear.
(You can always change or reverse
this.) Record into a temporary new track. Move the new take onto the
main track when you're happy with it.
My timeline shows Bars/Minutes and Seconds, and I want the other one.
In Cubase 5, click in the position box, between
Marker and Part Colours at the top of the Arrange window.
In SX, there's a pull-down menu just to the left of "CLICK" on
the Transport Bar.
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The problem with SoundBlasters.
Creative make good consumer/gamer soundcards. The top-range
Audigy cards have excellent features, a good on-board midi synth, SoundFont
support, pretty good audio quality from the Line in and out (Mic in is still
not suitable for use with quality mics). But there's one big problem. Though
they offer a selection of sample rates, the card works internally at 48KHz
and everything entering or leaving at a different rate is resampled on-the-fly.
When this happens, audio tracks lose synch with other audio tracks, and with
midi. Unless you are happy to run your projects at 48KHz, this counts out
Creative Labs cards for multitrack audio use. It should say this on the box,
but it doesn't. If you want to work with multitrack audio at 44.1KHz (which
is still how most imported samples start, and how the final mix is likely
to end up), a SoundBlaster or Audigy isn't for you.
List of topics
There are two main uses for compression. One is in-line with a live input,
before it reaches the computer. Set it as a soft limiter, preventing any
unexpected peaks that would otherwise overload the input of your soundcard.
(Also make sure you don't overload the input stage of your mixer/preamp, the channel, mix bus or output bus on your mixer, or any other stage in the audio chain.) You hope the compressor will never kick in, but it's there if needed to rescue
that special take from otherwise fatal overload. This compression must be done with
an outboard unit - once the sound is digitised and inside your computer,
it's too late!
Cubase SX2 (and later versions) has an Effects rack on each input channel.
So the old advice: "Effects are applied on playback, the recorded wav
is always clean" no longer applies. But remember, this is still a digital
effect, applied inside the computer to the digital signal. It can't do anything
about an overload at the soundcard's input. You still need that outboard
compressor, if 24 bits of dynamic range aren't enough for you.
If you're working with a very peaky source, maybe a singer with bad microphone
technique, you could drive the compressor harder, using it to level out the
volume. But note that this will reduce dynamic range, and cannot be undone.
With 24-bit recording, we have a BIG dynamic range without an unacceptable
noise level. In fact, it's highly unlikely any of us own equipment capable of presenting even 16 bits of dynamic range to the input of our soundcard. What's the point of 24-bit recording then? Nothing, IF your levels are perfectly set up. But that's a big IF. 24 bits allow a bigger window in which to place our achievable 12-bits-or-so of dynamic range without fear of falling into the noise floor or climbing into digital overload. Very useful for all us less-than-perfect engineers.
Compression is also an artistic tool. You know about normalisation.
This adjusts the overall volume of a track until the highest peak is at a
given level, usually the highest practical level. Fine - but you could do
the same by turning up the volume knob on playback. You get loud, but you
don't get the "punch" heard on commercial recordings. (Some styles today, in a quest for ultimate "loudness" compress the sound to an extreme degree, and even seem to tolerate a degree of digital clipping.) A compressor
can give this punch to individual tracks and to the overall mix. Some compressors
are multi-band, acting individually on two or more frequency bands. You can
do clever things. Google "audio compression" and start reading.
Articles from the Archives section of http://www.prorec.com/ are a good place
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Track 1 gets recorded onto track 2
You record an audio track. While listening to it, you record a second track. But this track ends up including what was on track 1 as well as the new stuff. What's happening here?
The first assumption is that track 1 is "leaking" onto track 2, maybe through badly isolated headphones or the monitor speakers. If you're recording by microphone and monitoring by speakers this is of course a possibility. But usually track 1 is coming through loud and clear, not just spilling over. A favourite culprit is the "What you hear" Record Source selection offered by Soundblaster/Audigy cards. (Other cards have a similar function, but the SBs seem to set it as default). This is a setting in the soundcard's Control Panel, not in Cubase. Choose Line In, Mic In, or watever is appropriate instead.
The problem may also occur in an external mixer. Many Cubase users buy a small outboard mixer (typically a Mackie or Behringer) to make easier, more flexible connections to inputs and monitoring. Microphone and instrument go to a couple of input channels. The output from the computer to a couple more. But when recording a second track, YOU need to hear the first one AND the new input, the computer only needs to hear the new input. Mixers designed for home recording generally have routing options to arrange this. Very simple mixers may not.
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Clicks and pops
Now that motherboards with APIC are mainstream, Topic 5 is becoming redundant. But many users still get clicks and pops. Here's a few ideas.
- Easy things first. Go to Device Manager. Is DMA turned on for all your IDE hard drives? In XP, this is done under Properties for the Primary and Secondary IDE controllers. "DMA If Available" is the setting you want.
- Now go to Control Panel/System/Advanced/Performance. Turn off all pretty display effects by selecting "Maximum Performance". Now go to the Advanced tab and select Scheduling: Background Processes and Memory: Programs. The one that really matters is Scheduling. Your soundcard drivers are a Background Process. This can make a lot of difference.
- Is old hardware still installed? Stuff you used to have, but long gone? Go to Control Panel/System. Under the Advanced tab go to Environment Variables. You need to create a new one. Enter "devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices" (no inverted commas) and give it a value of 1. Restart. Now, in Device Manager, if you select Show Hidden Devices in the View menu, entries for "ghost" devices will show up. Be selective. Some of these will be external devices that aren't plugged in at present but will be in the future - cameras, USB memory sticks etc. Leave those settings alone. Don't mess in the System Devices folder unless you're sure what you're doing. But you can remove that old soundcard, the CD drive you replaced with a DVD burner ....
- Some graphics cards guarantee their own performance by grabbing a very high PCI latency setting. If you suspect this may be an issue, get PCI Latency Tool from http://www.audiotrak.net/support_faq.htm Run it to see if graphics have a disproportionally high PCI latency. If so, reduce it to match other devices. The program is free, the process is harmless and completely reversible. It's worth a try.
When I build a music computer it gets a dual-head Matrox video card. No 3D features, but not a resource-hog and completely solid.
- Disable unused motherboard devices. See the final section of Topic 5.
- Disable your network card. It's getting difficult to run a computer without Internet access, and there's no real need to do so. But you don't want a program "phoning home" during an audio session. Just go to Control Panel/Network Connections, R-click the network card and Disable. Go back and Enable when you need to.
- Turn off anti-virus programs. We hope they are clever enough not to see a newly-recorded audio file as something that needs to be immediately scanned, but you never know! If you use a heavyweight program (Norton, Macafee) consider dumping it in favour of one with a smaller footprint. AVG free works well for me.
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Where are my User Templates?
(Later versions of Cubase SX, Windows)
Open any normal window. My Computer will do.
Go to Tools/Folder Options/View.
Turn on "Show Hidden Files and Folders".
(While you're there, turn OFF "Hide extensions for known file types". A stupid default and an open invitation to malicious programs. If you're going to click on an exe file, be sure you KNOW it's an exe file.)
You will probably find the templates in C:\Documents and Settings\<your user-name>\Application Data\Steinberg
If they aren't there, do a little detective work. I n Cubase, save a template called Frogspawn (or any other distinctive name that won't otherwise appear on your computer). Use the Search function in the Start Menu to find this name. You will need to turn on "Search Hidden files & Folders" and "Search System Folders". And to set "Look In" to "All Hard Drives".
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Computer freezes while running Cubase
Though it may sound odd, a frozen computer is often caused by overheating.
Most applications spend a lot of time idling, waiting for input. This allows your cpu to slip into "software cooling" mode. Even though you are not using audio tracks, Cubase's audio engine is active, constantly streaming data to your soundcard. No let-up, no software cooling. If your computer is on the edge of overheating, Cubase is a program that is gong to make it happen.
If you feel this is a possibility, open the case. Find the CPU - the chip with a large heatsink and fan attached. Is the fan turning? Is the heatsink clogged with fluff? Leave the case off and direct a table fan at the computer's innards. Does the problem go away?
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Erratic MIDI Track Record activation
After working on a MIDI track in the various editor windows, Cubase can get confused about which track is enabled for recording. After a recording a seemingly random selection of tracks will be selected. There is some evidence that if allowed to escalate this can lead to a crash. There are two solutions. One is to only work in one MIDI editor window at a time. Before editing a different track (or using a different editor on the same track) close the original editor. Another fix is to close all edit windows, activate a track for recording and open a MIDI editor. De-select recording on that track. A random selection of tracks will now flash up as record-enabled. De-select all of them. The problem will go away for a bit, but it will return :-(
This really should have been fixed by now. It's been an issue in several Cubase versions
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Hanging notes in Halion One
The Halion One VST Instrument bundled with current Cubase versions has many useful sounds. But there's one big problem. There are many reports that playing it using Controller 64 (sustain) causes hanging notes. All I can currently offer is confirmation of this issue. It's carried on through all the updates of Cubase. Soon now we'll know if it's fixed in Cubase 5. Update May 2009 And it isn't. But at least Steinberg have (finally) admitted the problem exists.
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