Steinberg Cubase 5 review | TechRadar.
Previous article Next article. In the same way a Drum Map can be assigned to a MIDI or Instrument track to tell Cubase what drums are assigned to what notes, VST Expression enables an Expression Map to be assigned so that Cubase knows about the various articulations that can be played by the instrument to which the track is routed. Prices include VAT. In addition to showing existing Articulation events, you can also add Articulations to the score, as all of the available Articulations show up as symbols in a new VST Expression Section of the Score editor’s Inspector.
– Steinberg Cubase 5
The best place for the Tempo and Time Signature tracks is obviously at the top of the Track List, and so Cubase’s Divide Track List feature is essential here to ensure that these tracks stay next to the ruler, even if you scroll the Track List. This is obviously pretty powerful, but what’s even more useful is that Articulations aren’t just there to provide access to key switches.
Cubase 5 | Steinberg.
That said, it’s still among the best sequencers around, and it can do pretty much whatever you want, even if it takes a while to get there. Most importantly, Cubase 5 makes great music, producing a rich, lush sound that’s utterly professional.
North America. Home Reviews. Cubase 5 makes great music but we cant help feeling the window management could be improved some. TechRadar Verdict. Cons – A bit on the expensive side – Too many windows. And though you can’t duplicate Segments, you can always duplicate the audio event being edited onto another track in the Project window and edit the Segments in the duplicate to create a harmony line, for example.
One particularly nice touch when rewriting the pitches of notes in this way is a MIDI step input mode, which works similarly to MIDI step input in the Key editor, letting you adjust each successive Segment’s pitch simply by playing it on your MIDI keyboard. These features are great for creative editing, but VariAudio can be used for corrective editing as well, enabling you to easily fix the tuning of notes, or even iron out pitch deviations within a note, such as a singer’s vibrato.
You don’t necessarily have to adjust each Segment manually, thanks to two useful functions that proportionally adjust the currently selected Segments closer to an absolute state. Very handy indeed. You can freely drag Segments up and down to adjust the pitch, but not from side to side.
This causes Warp Tabs to be created, meaning that adjusting the start and end points of a Segment can affect any Segments that might be either side of the one in question. This limits the type of timing edits that can be performed using VariAudio, but it’s not dissimilar to the way this type of editing is handled in the current version of Melodyne. As well as manipulating audio, VariAudio has another neat trick up its sleeve: converting the detected Segments in an audio event to a MIDI part.
Overall, VariAudio is a pretty impressive feature, both in terms of what it lets you do and the quality of the results, although I found that pitch adjustments sounded more natural than time adjustments, especially when performing a more drastic edit. However, for the most part, the method for how we use sequencers to program these sampled instruments has remained largely the same, and the sequencer is mostly dumb about the context of the music being programmed.
One example of this is the way many sampled instruments use key switches notes on a MIDI keyboard that trigger an action in a sampled instrument to select different articulations. For instance, you might have a violin instrument where the key switches allow you to select different playing styles, such as legato, staccato, pizzicato, and so on. This is fine, but it can make editing the resulting MIDI data quite difficult, since you have to remember what the various key switches trigger — and, rather annoyingly, since they are merely notes, key switches don’t chase, so if you jump around to different parts of the Project, most sequencers won’t know to go back and find the last key switch to ensure your pizzicato section really does play pizzicato.
Steinberg have solved this problem in a rather neat way in Cubase 5 by introducing a feature called VST Expression that’s conceptually similar to Drum Maps.
In the same way a Drum Map can be assigned to a MIDI or Instrument track to tell Cubase what drums are assigned to what notes, VST Expression enables an Expression Map to be assigned so that Cubase knows about the various articulations that can be played by the instrument to which the track is routed. An Expression Map defines Articulations, and there are two different types of Articulation provided: Directions and Attributes.
A Direction is a general change in playing style for a duration in a given part, such as when a violinist switches from bowed notes arco to pizzicato, whereas an Attribute is an articulation that’s just applied to a single note. For example, if our imaginary violinist is playing an arco passage but the occasional note should be played staccato, the Direction will be arco, and the staccato notes will be assigned the staccato Attribute.
This is obviously pretty powerful, but what’s even more useful is that Articulations aren’t just there to provide access to key switches. This is important because it means that when you perform key switches on your MIDI keyboard, Cubase now knows about these key switches and will record them as Articulation events instead of MIDI notes. Unless, that is, you’re using the Retrospective Record feature, since this mode still seems to capture the key switches as notes — an issue which, according to Steinberg, should be fixed very soon.
While the input and output mapping options are quite comprehensive, there are a couple of extra options that would make Expression Maps even more useful. Firstly, it would be great to have the option of sending MIDI Controllers in addition to notes and program changes in the output mapping section, and Steinberg will apparently include this in a 5. It would be equally useful to have more input mapping options; for instance, you might want to trigger Articulations from a different type of controller, and there are situations where it’s useful not to have notes triggering Articulations, such as when you want to select the same Articulation on multiple instruments that have different pitch ranges simultaneously from a single MIDI message.
Working with Expression Maps is pretty simple. Creating your own Expression Maps is not particularly hard, but does require reading the appropriate chapter in the manual. A new Articulations controller lane in the Key editor makes it easy to edit Articulations. While the Articulations controller lane enables you to see all Articulations, from an editing perspective it’s most convenient for working with Directions. For assigning Attributes to individual notes, there’s a new Articulations option in the Event Info Line.
Although assigned Attributes do show up in the Articulations controller lane, this isn’t always the best way to see what Attributes are assigned to what notes, because it’s obviously possible to have a chord where the top note might have a different Attribute from the other notes in the chord, an accent, maybe.
The ability to colour notes by Attribute would be very helpful. Meanwhile, the List editor is actually one of the clearest places to see all of the Articulation data, since Directions show up as Text events and Attributes are listed in the Comment field of a given MIDI note event. While the notes aren’t interesting, this example shows a direct interpretation of the same data displayed in the Key editor illustration.
One of the most useful editors for interpreting Articulation events is the Score editor, and this is where things could get really interesting for composers who work with notation and would like to have a more precise score to pass onto an orchestrator via MusicXML , or even directly to a musician.
Because Articulations that are defined in an Expression Map can either have a musical symbol or an item of text associated with them, Articulation events automatically appear on the score in the Score editor in a mostly musically correct fashion, which is just fantastic. And although they appear light blue by default, you can easily change the colour of their appearance, if you like, in the Preferences window. There are a couple of areas where the layout of Articulations could be improved.
Firstly, Direction Articulations often end up on the staff, and especially for text events, it would be great to set a default staff offset so they would mostly stay clear, either above or below.
Secondly, it would be helpful if there was a default Articulations Text Attribute Set, so that you could globally change the font used for Articulation text. In addition to showing existing Articulation events, you can also add Articulations to the score, as all of the available Articulations show up as symbols in a new VST Expression Section of the Score editor’s Inspector.
But I think Steinberg deserve credit for being the first to address this need, and for incorporating it meaningfully into so many areas of the program, and especially into the Score editor.
You can even save the listed events in a text file for further study. To help prevent the list from becoming cluttered with events that you don’t want to see, various filters are provided for different types of MIDI events, and you can even filter out events played back from MIDI parts or live MIDI input. Each pattern consists of a number of lanes, and each lane can be set to trigger a specific MIDI pitch.
One would hope this would at least be possible with those made by Steinberg. Adding steps is a simple matter of clicking in the step display for a given lane, and you can remove a step by clicking it again. You can also set the velocity for a step by clicking and dragging, where the colour of the step will change to reflect the velocity, which is a nice touch; and Beat Designer also makes it easy to add flams to individual steps. You can set between and one and three flams for a step to play by clicking in the bottom part of a step, and the number of flams will be indicated by one, two, or three dots.
At the bottom of the Beat Designer interface are global controls for how the flams are performed, and you can adjust the timing and velocity of the flams. Being able to vary the timing is actually very neat, because this makes it possible to have the flams play before or after the beat. Staying with timing, you can also set each lane to one of two swing settings, in addition to setting a slide value to independently move a lane forwards or backwards in time.
A pattern can be between one and 64 steps, and you can set the resolution of these steps between a half note and a th note, with various triplet options along the way. Because the triggered length is global across all lanes, I can’t help but think it would be useful to have a gate control on each lane, so you could add to or subtract from the global note length. Not enabling Jump mode lets you still trigger sounds on the MIDI Track rather than changing patterns, which is also quite useful.
As you would expect, there are 16 virtual pads onto which you can drag audio events from your Project or audio files from the Media Bay, and then trigger the assigned sound by clicking the pad or by setting a MIDI note that will trigger it remotely. It’s possible to drag multiple sounds to a single pad, thereby creating different layers that are triggered via velocity; and if 16 pads aren’t quite enough, Groove Agent ONE actually offers eight Groups of 16 pads similar to an MPC’s pad banks , accessible via the Group buttons.
These conveniently show a red outline if they contain assigned pads. There are 16 stereo outputs available from Groove Agent ONE, and it’s possible to assign individual pads to any of these outputs. One slightly curious omission in terms of editable parameters is that it doesn’t seem to be possible to adjust the sample start and end points, which is a shame, since a waveform overview is available from the LCD.
A particularly neat trick Groove Agent ONE has up its virtual sleeve is that it’s also possible to use it for playing back sliced loops. The slices will be added to consecutive pads so that you can now trigger elements of the loop from a MIDI keyboard. This is a pretty nice feature, and my only complaint is that the MIDI file you import is always added to a new track — you can’t drag the MIDI file onto a track that’s already created and has its output set. Overall, Cubase 5 is a really fantastic update, and, compared to version 4, actually has musically useful new features that cater to many different groups of musicians.
Like any piece of software, it would seem, Cubase 5 isn’t perfect. There are a few quirks here and there, such as an instability that can manifest itself when you have multiple controller lanes open in the Key editor, or the fact that certain ‘on top’ windows like the transport panel don’t always minimise correctly with the parent window on Windows Vista.
But at least Steinberg will be addressing many of these issues in the forthcoming 5. One particular area of the application I wish Steinberg would look at in a future version, though, is the Preferences window. With so many preferences, it’s becoming really hard to remember where to find certain options, especially when they get moved around from version to version or disappear altogether.
Mac OS X Tiger’s System Preferences window showed one possible approach to locating certain settings, allowing you to search for items and having the window disclose where suitable matches might be found.
We really need something like this in Cubase. Ultimately, though, I actually do like the direction of Cubase 5. Rather than simply focus on redoing the user interface, or adding only ‘me too’ features from competing products, Steinberg seem to have really thought about functionality that will help users get more from the application.