Inspector; Patch Name Scripting

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques

Published in SOS June 2002
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Technique : Cubase Notes


Script files are in simple text format, with one entry on each line, and each program name is preceded by its menu level, program change number, bank MSB, bank LSB, and name.
As convenience goes, it's hard to beat selecting synth patch names using Cubase's Inspector. Patch Name Scripting allows you to do just that.


Martin Walker

Anyone with more than a couple of MIDI synths will know how tricky it can be to keep track of which sounds are used in what song. If there's one fixed bank of sounds in a synth, all you need to do is send a suitable MIDI Program Change command from the Cubase Inspector's Prg box. However, most modern synths provide multiple banks of sounds, and this introduces the complication of the various implementations of Bank Select commands using the Inspector's Bank box.

However, it's always far easier to choose patches by name, especially when you can abandon tiny LCD synth displays and do it from the comfort of a large monitor. Cubase VST, like most other MIDI + Audio sequencers, provides suitable functions to do this, but they have changed radically over the years, from the somewhat complex Studio Manager to the Patch Scripting offered from version 5.0 onwards, and now in the forthcoming Cubase SX. Since there will be no Studio Module in the latter, the time is probably right to offer a basic guide on how to use Patch Scripting, as well as some hints and tips on creating your own script files.

Setting Up Patch Scripting

To use patch names, you first need to set up an Instrument — a unique combination of MIDI port and channel. Select the appropriate MIDI Track in your Song, and then click on its Instrument box in the Inspector. The final entry in the drop-down list will always be Setup Instruments, and if you select this a new dialogue appears where you can define a name, an extended name (handy for multitimbral synths that need a common overall name, but different names for each MIDI channel), and choose a suitable patch name source from options including the Studio Module, SoundFont, VST Instrument, and Patchname Script.

  Editing Instruments  
  There's little in Steinberg's otherwise excellent PDF manuals about editing Instruments, so here's what I've discovered by a process of elimination. You can change an Instrument definition at any time by selecting the appropriate MIDI track and selecting the Setup Instruments option again, so that you can modify its existing parameters. If like me you often download different SysEx banks into your synth's RAM, this makes it easy to point the Patchname Device to different script files to reflect the different sets of patch names.

You can also delete existing Instruments by blanking out their Name and then clicking on the OK button. Cubase makes this easy, since the cursor starts by default at the end of the highlighted name — a single backspace will do the job.

 
Once you've chosen the latter, you'll need to choose a suitable patch name script in the Patchname Device box. This script is a type of device driver, which contains a list of patch names along with associated MIDI Program Change numbers and Bank Select data. Script Files are in simple text format, with one entry on each line, and each program name is preceded by its menu level, program change number, bank MSB, bank LSB, and name (see screenshot).

Cubase VST 5.x installs a large default set of patch scripts (I found 94 on my PC) in its Scripts/Patchnames/inactive folder. To add any of these to your Patchname Device list you need to first select its Setup option. You will then see the message 'Parsing Files' as these are parsed into one comprehensive list in the Setup Patch Name Scripts window. Any already active options will be displayed at the top, while the remaining options appear beneath them in parentheses.

Once you've selected your desired synth from the list, you just tick the Active box and then on the OK button, and Cubase will then copy the file up a level into the Script/Patchnames folder, so that it appears as a Patchname Device option for your Instrument. You can then choose from whatever 'mode' options exist in the script — for example, the Roland JV1080 one contains Patches, Performances, and Drums. Active Patchname Devices can be removed from your list at any time by selecting their name and then unticking the Active box.

Quite a few script files created by both manufacturers and enthusiastic users are available on the Internet (see box), and these are easy to 'install': you just copy them into the Scripts/Patchnames/inactive folder, and then the next time the list is 'parsed' the new ones will appear as extra options.

Script File Organisation

Inside Cubase VST, patches can appear as a simple pop-up menu with a vertically scrolling list of up to 128 names. However, it's far quicker and easier to find the one you're after if names are grouped into more manageable chunks, and for this reason, the script format supports group-level submenus, with the currently selected group and name always displayed in bold text. You can define as many of these groups as you wish when writing a script, but 32 names at a time is probably a sensible maximum number to use in each submenu, since this normally avoids scrolling. A typical bank of 128 sounds will therefore need to be split into four chunks.

Although most script files organise the sounds by bank number, this isn't mandatory, and you can instead reorganise them into categories, to make finding particular types of sounds easier. This is particularly relevant with Yamaha's SW1000XG soundcard, whose 1,267 sounds are scattered throughout numerous banks so that variations of particular sounds always occupy the same program number, but in a different bank. The enterprising 'Reggie' has created a script that groups instruments into 16 categories such as Piano, Percussion, Organ, Guitar, and so on, all organised by original bank order, followed by a further set of 16 sorted alphabetically by patch name.

Creating New Script Files

If a script file doesn't already exist for your particular synth, Steinberg provide a file in the Scripts/patchnames folder named 'script documentation.txt' with full details of the format — all you need apart from this is a simple text editor to type in your data by hand. They have also posted a freeware utility called ScriptMaker on their web site for generating patch scripts: this is extremely comprehensive, and using it avoids the possibility of format errors, but I was disappointed that it didn't have the ability to grab the actual patch names from either text or SysEx files. Also, since it uses its own SPF (Scriptmaker Project Files) format files, you can't use it to import existing patch scripts for modification.


Steinberg's ScriptMaker lets you generate script files from scratch, for those with sufficient patience.
A few synth owners will find third-party software that speeds the process considerably. I came across several dedicated utilities during my Internet research, such as RS-Edit for Roland's RS5 and RS9 keyboards and 05WEdPro for the Korg O5W series, both from Sound Tower (www.soundtower.com), which apart from comprehensive sound creation and editing features can also generate Cubase script files automatically. Another gem for Korg MS2000 owners is the freeware MS2K Patch Script Buddy, an 80Kb download (www.btinternet.com/~daz.richards/MS2KPatchScriptBuddy.zip), which automatically generates script files from MS2000 SysEx files. Memo to Steinberg — can we please have a similar function implemented in a future version of ScriptMaker?

Modify An Existing Script

If you can't find a suitable script or utility for your synth, by far the easiest way to create one is actually to modify an existing script in a simple text editor. Most synth manufacturers tend to stick to similar organisations of bank and program changes from one product line to the next, so find an existing script for a model from the same manufacturer of similar vintage and start from there.

There are various formatting options available, many relating to different ways to send bank change commands, but in many cases all you'll have to do is to overwrite the existing patch names with those from your synth, and then resave the script with a different name into the inactive folder as described earlier. In many cases you won't have to type in all the names either, since you can find text lists of patch names on various web sites, which you can cut and paste into the script in the appropriate places.

One very useful feature for the experimenter (on the PC at any rate) is that you can leave both Cubase and your text editor running simultaneously, saving edits as you go, and your latest update will appear the next time you select a patch. Cubase also seems quite robust as far as script files go, and will ignore most syntax errors.

Even when default scripts are available, there are simple modifications that can make using them easier. For instance, many of Steinberg's bundled scripts have been designed with multiple groups to avoid scrolling, but haven't been given meaningful names — the 11 banks of the Wavestation SR script are organised into 22 groups of 25 sounds labelled Performances 1 to Performances 22, while the Roland JV1080 script has 20 groups of 32 sounds labelled Group 1 to Group 20. If, like me, you're already familiar with choosing sounds in particular banks from your synth's front panel, you'll save yourself a lot of time by renaming the groups with more meaningful names such as RAM1, ROM4, User, Card, Preset A, and so on.

  Cubase Tips  
  To compensate for Cubase 5's lack of multiple Undo, it's worth using the Save As command to save a new version of a Song before you embark on any major changes. When you do this, it's a good idea to choose a filename ending with two numeric digits — if for example you previously saved your song with the filename Song04.mid, then save it next time with the name Song05.mid, and so on. This allows you to quickly reload a previous version if you don't like your latest batch of changes, and also has the advantage that next time you load a song, each version will appear by default in chronological order in the File Open dialogue window.

It's worth defining your own set of Part Colours for different instrument types, and giving them meaningful names like Bass, Guitar, Synth, Drums, Woodwind, Voices, Brass, and so on. Then if you get in the habit of using this colour set in all of your songs you can tell exactly what parts are about to come in, even from the other side of the studio, as well as being able to visualise the arrangement much more clearly.

Cubase has an Autosave option to automatically save your song at predetermined intervals. However, automatic backups can cause problems if you are recording or playing back audio files simultaneously. For this reason it is better to make sure that any automatic save options are switched off when you are recording audio.

 

  Finding Patch Scripts On The Internet  
  Your first port of call when looking for patch scripts should always be the Cubase Script folder on your hard drive, which already has nearly 100 offerings. However, if your synth isn't featured here, a visit to the web site of the synth manufacturer is in order, since even if there isn't an official script available for download, you might well find a link to one submitted by an enthusiastic user. For instance, on Yamaha's www.xgfactory.com site, you can download patch lists for the SW1000XG (complete with all its extra banks), the PLG150AN and PLG100VL.

If this fails, then entering a suitable phrase into a search engine should soon give you lots of hits to explore. The main problem is trying to narrow down the results list to speed up the process. For instance, when I entered "cubase patch script download" into www.google.com, it found 1690 results. However, adding the name of your synth should considerably reduce the options.

 

  Current Versions  
  • Mac and PC: version 5.1 r1.  

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