PETELIN.RUКниги → Cubase SX 2: Virtual MIDI and Audio Studio

Petelin, Roman, and Yury Petelin.

Cubase SX 2: Virtual MIDI and Audio Studio

Wayne: A-LIST, 2004.- 532 p.
ISBN 1931769192

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A Guide To Mastering The Complete Professional Music Recording And Production Software System

Covering the newest version of the popular software for working with music and sound, Cubase SX 2, this book is the professional's guide to recording melodies and accompaniments, arranging, recording vocals and musical instruments, processing MIDI and audio effects, using virtual synthesizers, and mixing. For beginners, a primer gives the forms for representing musical information in Cubase SX 2, including Score Editor, Key Editor, List Editor, and Drum Editor. Other techniques include the order of executing basic operations, such as loading and saving project files, playing back and recording MIDI compositions, recording the audio track, and connecting plug-ins. The book contains concrete recommendations on configuring a studio computer network, creating a project with the multichannel 5.1 format, and mixing a musical composition in the stereo or surround formats.

Designed to equip readers with an understanding of Cubase SX to turn a PC into a virtual audio studio, this book provides musicians with useful tips and techniques for producing the results they want. More experienced computer musicians are presented with a detailed description of the interface and with methods for effectively working in all the program's windows.

CD-ROM includes the authors' compositions in the Cubase SX format, examples from the book, and a demo version of MIDI plug-ins.

Table of Contents



We devote this book to Anna,
our beloved daughter and granddaughter.

Modern computer musical editors are universal. They allow users to work with music and sound at all stages of creating a composition. If you have a sufficiently powerful computer with a sound card, a MIDI keyboard, and a microphone at your disposal, you can save the drafts of a melody, harmonize and arrange your composition, find the best sounds for it, and record singers and "live" instruments. Then, you can process the obtained tracks with various effects, mix the composition, obtain the necessary volume and frequency balance, and achieve the most impressive sound distribution over the stereo panorama (or even the surround panorama). Finally, you can master and prepare your album for recording on various media.

In a word, technology and software can do a lot - if you know how to use them. Knowledge can be obtained from books - in particular, from the book you're holding in your hands. It gives a detailed description of the methods of working with an appli-cation that can help you gain control over all components and stages of creating a musical composition. We're referring to the Cubase SX 2 application and the tech-nologies for work with music and sound that it presents both novice and advanced computer musicians.

Cubase SX 2 is one of the most powerful professional musical editors. Many peo-ple working in audio recording studios believe that only Cubase is a tool of a real pro-fessional. However, this opinion is arguable. There are several applications with approximately equal features, and the reasons for which a person chooses one of these applications are as difficult to explain as love at first sight.

The versions of Cubase SX can be considered successors of a series of applica-tions whose names include the word "Cubase." You also may notice that both the ide-ology and the interface of Cubase SX 2 are under the influence of a less widely known but interesting application: Nuendo. Most of the best features of these applications were inherited by Cubase SX 2, and new, effective tools for creating music and proc-essing sound have appeared here.
Cubase SX 2 actually exceeded the level that corresponds to the notion of a "musi-cal editor" to become a full-value virtual studio. Because of the appearance of ad-vanced virtual synthesizers, effects, and processings, Cubase SX 2 has less need for actual studio equipment. However, when such equipment is available, Cubase SX 2 plays the role of a software environment, integrating virtual and hardware components in an entity that operates effectively. Of great importance is the VST System Link technology embedded in Cubase SX 2, which makes it possible to distribute resource-consuming tasks over several computers linked in a network.

The main Cubase SX 2 features are:

  • The possibility of recording and editing MIDI compositions
  • The MIDI effects
  • The possibility of recording, editing, and playing back digital audio with a sample rate of up to 96 kHz and a resolution of up to 32 bits
  • The full support for several surround audio formats, including the 6.0 format (not only buses but also tracks can be multichannel)
  • The possibility of working with Virtual Studio Technology (VST) and DirectX (DX) plug-ins (real-time audio effects)
  • The possibility of full compensation for delays caused by VST plug-ins
  • The automation of any parameter for sound playback, processing, and synthesis
  • The possibility of connecting virtual synthesizers and samplers (VST instruments, or VSTi)
  • The availability of the Freeze function for VSTi, which allows you to save proces-sor resources
  • The support for SoundFont banks
  • The ability to import and export digital audio in different formats
  • The playback of digital video
  • The ability to display music as notes, piano keyprints, and event lists
  • The graphical control capabilities of the sound synthesis parameters
  • The ability to mix signals and control the studio equipment
  • The practically unlimited number of undo levels for editing operations
  • The convenient tools for work with loops
  • The possibility for loading projects created in another Steinberg product - Nuendo

Cubase SX 2 comes with several VSTi. Like actual synthesizers or samplers, they can be controlled both with traditional MIDI commands and with automation data written on MIDI tracks as envelopes (interactive charts of some parameters).

Cubase SX 2 also comes with many VST audio plug-ins. These can be controlled with automation and have a great number of interesting presets. In them, you can find virtual devices for dynamic processing, frequency filters, and various audio effects (from trivial reverberation to an exotic modulator that makes it sound as if the vocal-ist's vocal chords are made of metal).

There are tools for supporting external control devices. You can edit the table that assigns percussion instruments to the keys of the MIDI keyboard. A special editor is available for creating drum parts. A notator incorporated in Cubase SX 2 is compara-ble in features with the best applications designed for publishing scores. A MIDI key editor allows users that don't know notation to write music. An event list editor makes it possible to precisely set up the synthesis parameters, the lengths of the sounds, and the moments at which notes are struck. In the Cubase tradition, the application has an advanced system of functions that transform MIDI events according to specified algo-rithms. In this area, a group of functions makes it possible both to eliminate flaws in a performance and to process the recorded part in accordance with an exemplary style. An interesting sound of MIDI parts can be obtained using MIDI effects built into the application. The automation of MIDI data transformations, as complicated as you need, is done with a logical editor. All the merits of Cubase SX 2 cannot be counted! Nevertheless, the most important ones are that the application is very convenient to use, is reliable, and is equipped with all features necessary for effectively editing MIDI and audio compositions.

A user's manual is available that contains the procedures for performing various operations in Cubase SX 2. Its volume is twice that of this book. On the one hand, this book can be seen as a supplement to the documentation that accompanies the applica-tion; on the other hand, it is an alternative manual written by users of the application, based on experience and impressions. We tried to stick to our five principles:

  • To present and explain the theoretical basics of operating all the significant com-ponents of the application. This is why the book begins with a rather lengthy chap-ter called "Cubase SX Basics."
  • To thoroughly describe the most important and difficult operations and interface components. This is why you'll find a detailed description of work in the project window; explanations of the relationships among such objects as tracks, parts, au-dio events, and regions; a description of the structure and purpose of the virtual mixer components, and more.
  • To explain the essence of application features that, in spite of their importance, aren't described in the user manual or are described perfunctorily. This is the rea-son the book thoroughly covers technical (and sometimes natural) prototypes of audio effects and processings, and this is why the idea of spectral analysis and fil-tration is explained.
  • To carry out various experiments with the program, analyze the obtained results, and share our impressions with you. One example of such an approach is the comparison of the spectral analyzers of Cubase SX 2 and Cool Edit Pro 2, given in Chapter 1.
  • To focus on features that, in our opinion, distinguish the application among similar applications, are up-to-date, or are even ahead of the times. This is why many chapters contain material concerning the mixing of sound in multichannel formats (e.g., surround, 5.1). This is the reason that some chapters discuss the issues of work-ing in Cubase SX 2 with applications that support the ReWire protocol and of orga-nizing audio-data processing in a studio computer network using VST System Link.

You may have used the earlier versions of this application (Cubase 1.x). If so, you might be interested in the following new features of Cubase SX 2:

  • A new VST engine that makes it possible to work with many audio tracks, virtual instruments, and effects
  • Better support for multichannel signals (up to six channels)
  • More than 100 new functions
  • A new method for organizing physical inputs and outputs
  • More freedom when configuring the mixer
  • The ability to open multiple parts from different tracks in one editor window
  • An interface in which more adjustable parameters and graphic skins can be used

In addition, a new function, Freeze, has been added for VSTi. Their MIDI tracks are substituted with audio files, in which audio data are stored as if they had been generated by a VSTi, but not in the real-time mode. You can "unfreeze" the VSTi at any moment to continue editing it. This would allow you to save computer resources and use more VSTi.

A new recording mode also has been added. It allows you to record multiple takes of MIDI and audio data on the same track, edit them, and convert them to one take.

New features have been added to the transport panel, too. These are an option to choose which controls must be displayed, direct access to the markers, computer load indication, input and output level indication, and adjustment of the output level.

It is impossible to count all the new features!

Now, look at the structure of the book. It consists of 15 chapters, this introduction, an appendix, and a references section. The book is accompanied by a compact disc in the CD Extra format.

Chapter 1 contains theoretical and practical information necessary for deliberate and effective work with the application. In this chapter, we explain:

  • The essence of the MIDI interface, the types of MIDI events in Cubase SX 2, and the MIDI sequencer and its discrete time scale
  • The processes of analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions
  • The methods of sound synthesis and the operating principles of synthesizers and samples
  • The structure of the mixer and the purpose of its main components
  • The representational forms of musical information implemented in Cubase SX 2
  • The essence of audio effects
  • The essence of the most important processings, such as frequency, filtration, and dynamic processing
  • The level measurement and the spectrum analysis of the audio signal in Cubase SX 2

We gave much attention to surround audio, peculiarities of studio equipment in the 5.1 format, and mixing to surround panorama.

In this chapter, you also can find recommendations on connecting the MIDI key-board and the microphone to the sound card. Without going into depth, you'll be able to perform operations in Cubase SX 2 such as:

  • Loading, creating, and saving the project file
  • Playing and recording a MIDI file
  • Recording an audio track

In all, you'll find everything necessary to start working with the application and do the job deliberately while understanding your actions.

In Chapter 2, we discuss an important problem: Preparing Cubase SX 2 for effec-tive professional work. The quality of the results you'll obtain will depend on how cor-rectly you make all necessary preparations.

We describe the dialog boxes you'll have to use when preparing Cubase SX 2 for work. We look at such points as:

  • Setting up the MIDI ports
  • Setting up the digital audio channel
  • Selecting and setting up the MIDI devices
  • Loading and editing instruments
  • Loading SoundFont banks
  • Providing the surround panorama
  • Organizing the monitoring
  • Setting up the metronome
  • Synchronizing Cubase SX 2 with external devices
  • Creating a project and setting up its parameters

We recommend that you return to Chapter 2 from time to time as you master new techniques of practical work. This will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of preparations and their relation to the end result.

In Chapter 3, we look at the transport panel, which you'll use permanently. We describe the purpose of the groups of controls available on the panel; the main ones are as follows:

  • Main Transport - the buttons for controlling record, playback, rewind, and fast-forward, as well as the controls for editing the cursor position and for selecting the time representation format
  • Locators - the controls for editing the positions of the left and right locators and the buttons for switching on automatic quantization, for switching automatically to the record mode and back to the playback mode, and for switching on the cycle mode
  • Record Mode Pre/Postroll - the controls for switching on a convenient algorithm that turns the record mode on/off
  • Master + Sync - the controls for switching on the metronome and various modes related to synchronization, plus the text boxes for editing the tempo and time sig-nature of the project

It is necessary that your manipulations with the controls of the transport panel eventually become mechanical.

In Chapter 4, we look at the structure of the Cubase SX Project window and dis-cuss the purpose of its tools. The project window contains not only the controls for se-lecting various track attributes (such as a patch bank, a MIDI instrument, and input/output ports), but also graphical tools for mixing and automation, as well as elements designed to connect MIDI and audio effects and to control their parameters. We thoroughly describe:

  • The attributes of various types of tracks
  • The controls of the track inspector field for different types of tracks
  • The methods of connecting and using MIDI effects, audio effects, and VSTi
  • The purpose of FX Channel tracks and group tracks, as well as their attributes
  • The operations on parts and audio events
  • The regions of audio events and cycle recording
  • The amplitude envelopes of audio events
  • The techniques for processing overlapped audio events, Auto Fades, and Auto Crossfades
  • The resizing of parts and audio events, as well as the Time Stretch algorithm
  • The operations on tracks, the folder tracks, and the marker track
  • The operations of writing automation and shaping and editing envelopes
  • The automation of tracks, VSTi, and audio effects

You'll continually return to the Cubase SX Project window. It is impossible to ef-fectively work with Cubase SX 2 without understanding the purpose of the controls in this window.

Chapter 5 covers work with the Cubase SX 2 mixer. We discuss the display modes of the Mixer window, the operations on the mixer strips, routing audio streams, the common panel, and the strips section of the mixer. We describe the methods of connecting VST plug-ins to different track channels and of finding information on VST plug-ins.

We also analyze the peculiarities of surround panning and using parallel effects in multichannel projects.

Chapter 6 contains a detailed description of techniques for recording and editing MIDI events. At the beginning of the chapter, we look at the final operations for pre-paring to work with MIDI data.

We then describe work with the List Editor, which displays the musical composi-tion as a list of events. We explain the purpose of the sections of the List Editor win-dow. We also present the procedure of editing the event list.

Using concrete examples, we describe the procedures of controlling the synthesis parameters with non-registered parameters (NRPN), of editing notes from the MIDI keyboard, and of using the step-note input.

The deeper features of sound card synthesizers can be used only through system exclusive events (SysEx). We explain their structure and discuss the MIDI SysEx Editor window, which allows you to load, edit, and save SysEx and to enter them into the list.

We describe the techniques of working with the Key Editor window. In this window, music is graphically displayed as keyprints. The Key Editor allows people that are talented but unaware of musical notation to write and edit musical composi-tions. We describe the tools of the window and methods of using them.

We discuss techniques for creating the parts of percussion instruments with the Drum Editor. We explain the principles of using the Logical Editor. We give a de-tailed presentation of the issues of using quantization, including the essence of various quantization algorithms and the selection of quantization parameters.

We describe the commands of the MIDI menu: transposing MIDI notes, re-recording MIDI events from different tracks to one track, using MIDI plug-ins, dis-tributing MIDI events from one track to multiple tracks, transforming note numbers in accordance with the Drum Map, and more.

We also explain the functions available in the MIDI > Functions submenu.

In Chapter 7, we look at two windows: Browse Project and Tempo Track.

The Browse Project window is the only concentrated location in Cubase SX 2 of all the information concerning the objects used in a project. In the right part of the window, the structure of the project is represented as a tree. The tree contains the folders of all the tracks available in the project. If you open a track folder, you can access folders corresponding to low-level objects such as parts, audio events, and automation subtracks. In this chapter, we give several recommendations about how to use the Browse Project window when working with the project.

A special track (Tempo Track) in Cubase SX 2 is designed to allow convenient and clear control over the tempo. It is even a separate editor window. We describe the methods of editing the tempo chart and the events that change the time signature.

In Chapter 8, we briefly discuss working with the Score Editor. This notator provides traditional notation and bidirectional transcription - from notes to MIDI events, and vice versa. This specialized graphics and text editor makes it possi-ble to prepare the scores of compositions for printing on paper. However, the resolu-tion of the notator is less than that of a MIDI sequencer. (This is typical for the nota-tors of all MIDI editors.) Besides that, Score Editor doesn't allow you to edit any events other than those that tell about switching MIDI notes on and off.

In this chapter, we also describe the procedures of performing such basic opera-tions as writing and editing the notes of a composition.

Chapter 9 covers MIDI effects. There are 14 real-time MIDI plug-ins implemented in the Cubase SX version being discussed:

  • Arpache 5 - an arpeggiator, which generates sequences of short notes based on a long note or a chord
  • AutoPan - a generator for sequences of events that tell about changing the speci-fied controller (by default, Cubase SX 2 is set to the AutoPan mode)
  • Chorder - a generator of chords of a specified type
  • Compress - a compressor of the Velocity parameter values
  • Density - a control of the note "density" on the track that can perform note reduc-tion or, conversely, generate additional notes
  • Micro Tuner - a fine tuner of the note pitches that makes it possible to individu-ally tune each note in the octave
  • MidiControl - a generator of the Control Change events (which provide informa-tion about changes to the values of MIDI controllers)
  • MidiEcho - a simulator for echoes with the multiple repetition of notes
  • Note 2 CC - a converter of MIDI events of the Note type to events of the Control Change type
  • Quantizer - a real-time quantizer
  • Step Designer - a pattern sequencer
  • Track Control - a control panel for controlling the main parameters of the syn-thesizers complying with the GS and XG standards
  • Track FX - a set of effects, including time shift and transposition
  • Transformer - a real-time effect whose features are similar to those of the Logical Editor

We also comprehensively describe the dialog boxes used for editing the parame-ters of the most complicated effects.

Chapter 10 explains how to use VSTi. Cubase SX 2 comes with a lot of virtual in-struments. Even more VSTi can be bought separately and connected to the application as plug-ins. A description of only a small number of the virtual instruments available today would take several books. This book considers general principles of using VSTi and de-scribes just three virtual instruments (shipped for the first time with Cubase SX):

  • A1 - a pseudo-analog synthesizer
  • Vb-1 - a one-timbre, polyphonic synthesizer of physical modeling that simulates the sound of the bass guitar
  • Lm-7 - a 12-voice drum machine with 24-bit samples

We give recommendations on how to use these VSTi with VST effect plug-ins.

We also describe the purpose of all elements available in the windows of these VSTi.

Chapter 11 discusses the issues of using Cubase SX 2 with applications that sup-port the ReWire technology, designed to exchange audio data between different appli-cations.

The possibilities of ReWire are illustrated with an example of connecting Propel-lerhead's Reason virtual studio (described in detail in our previous book [1]) to a Cubase SX project and using it as a VSTi.

We describe the procedure of starting and exiting ReWire applications. We look at the techniques for controlling the Reason devices directly from Cubase SX 2. Finally, we give some important advice concerning the principles of organizing joint work of the two applications.

In Chapter 12, we give a detailed description of how to use the audio-data proc-essing tools available in Cubase SX 2. We describe the following techniques:

  • Using the Audio Part Editor window to edit audio events within a part
  • Editing audio events with the Sample Editor window
  • Editing regions and using them in the cycle recording mode to create takes
  • Editing audio files at the audio sample level
  • Working with loops and editing the hitpoint markers
  • Generating patterns for Groove Quantize using the hitpoint markers

We describe the Pool window and explain how to use the information available in it.

We explain the purpose of commands that allow you to process audio data using the built-in tools available in the Audio > Process submenu.

We thoroughly describe the procedures of using the following commands:

  • Noise Gate - selects the fragments in which the audio data doesn't exceed the specified level and replaces them with perfect silence
  • Pitch Shift - shifts the pitch of the selected audio data without changing its length
  • Stereo Flip - combines the signals from the left and right stereo channels recorded on the audio track
  • Time Stretch - changes the length and tempo of the selected audio-data fragment without affecting its pitch

In addition, we described the tools for detecting the audio-data fragments in which the amplitude of audio oscillations is below a specified level. We explain the proce-dure of looking through and adjusting the history of destructive editing, the ways of obtaining the statistics about the selected audio event, and the command for re-recording the results of all processings from temporarily files to persistent ones.

Chapter 13 analyzes the audio effects shipped with the application, classified by their functional purpose:

  • Cubase 5 Plug-ins - the plug-ins inherited from Cubase VST (you can abandon them during installation)
  • Delay - the variants of the "delay" effect
  • DirectX - the effects and plug-ins connected using DirectX
  • Distortion - the variants of the "distortion" effect
  • Dynamics - the dynamic processing
  • Filter - the filter with dynamic control of the cutoff frequency and resonance level
  • Modulation - the effects related to modulation (periodically changing) of the sound parameters
  • Other - the other effects that don't fall into any group of the adopted classification
  • Reverb - the variants of the "reverberation" effect
  • Surround - the multichannel plug-ins

We thoroughly look at the following audio effects:

  • DoubleDelay and ModDelay - the delays that differ in the interfaces and sets of adjustable parameters
  • DaTube, Overdrive, and QuadraFuzz - the variants of the "distortion" effect
  • DeEsser, Dynamics, and VSTDynamics - the variants of the dynamic processing
  • Magneto - a simulator of distortions that happen in an analog tape recorder
  • MIDI Gate - a gate controlled with MIDI events
  • MultibandCompressor - a virtual spectral device for dynamic signal processing
  • Q - a parametric equalizer
  • StepFilter - a filter with dynamic control of the cutoff frequency and the gain in the processed band
  • Chorus, Flanger, Symphonic, Metalizer, Phaser, RingModulator, Rotary, and Tranceformer - the effects that use modulation of one or another parameter
  • BitCrusher - the simulator of audio signal processing by analog-to-digital con-verters of various quality
  • Chopper - the amplitude vibrato
  • Grungelizer - the simulator of various distortions and interference typical of an old phonograph
  • Apogee UV22 and Apogee UV22HR - the plug-ins for correctly decreasing the resolution of the digital audio
  • Vocoder - the virtual vocoder
  • Reverb A and Reverb B - the reverberation variants that differ in the sets of adjustable parameters and the window interfaces
  • SurroundDither - a plug-in for decreasing the resolution of digital audio samples in surround projects

We give recommendations on using these effects in the real-time mode and on re-computing the data.

Chapter 14 discusses mixing the composition to the stereo and 5.1 formats.

We analyze the peculiarities of mixing when an external synthesizer and VSTi are used. We consider the tasks of mixing: processing, panning, adjusting the track vol-umes, and using effects. We present the general principles of mixing to the 5.1 format. We describe how to use the Mix6to2 VST plug-in to mix the channels from the 5.1 format down to stereo. We discuss the issues of working with video and the tech-niques for exporting the mixed composition to the files of various types.

Chapter 15 covers organizing the work of studio computers in a network based on VST System Link. We analyze the merits and demerits of computers linked in a net-work with VST System Link. We describe the techniques for connecting the com-puters and for configuring the combined audio system. We look at the peculiarities of the project synchronization. We suggest variants of the load distribution between the computers in the network as well as variants of monitoring and mixing the distrib-uted projects.

Appendix describes the contents of the compact disc that accompanies the book.

A distinguishing feature of the disc is that it has the CD Extra format; thus, it is both a disc that can be played with a CD player and a disc whose information can be read from a computer's CD-ROM drive. It is "two discs in one," so the disc consists of two partitions: CD-ROM and CD Digital Audio.

The CD-ROM partition contains:

  • The demo versions of several plug-ins
  • The files in the Cubase Project File format (the CPR extension) that contain tracks with demo compositions created by the authors of this book
  • The offline version of our Web site

The CD Digital Audio partition contains the compositions on the CD-ROM parti-tion, but they are in another format, processed with effects, mixed, and mastered.

Because this book supplements our previous works, References lists other books published in the United States and devoted to using the computer to create music.