While Cubase has its own built-in tools for audio editing, it also offers comprehensive support for an alternative, third-party sound-slicing application: Propellerhead Software's hugely popular ReCycle.
Propellerhead's ReCycle has carved out an enviable niche in the crowded music software market by effortlessly automating one of the most fiddly and time-consuming tasks facing anyone who regularly works with sampled loops and phrases. Basically, it examines any audio file you load into it and, by sensing significant 'peaks' in the sound, automatically works out where the most useful edit points are likely to be. In practice this means that if you load a drum-loop sample into ReCycle, it can quickly work out where each individual hit begins and ends, and insert markers accordingly.
Assuming you're happy with the edit points it chooses (and it rarely makes duff guesses) you then have three choices: ReCycle can either automatically transmit the individual slices to your
Mac and PC: v5.1.
If you choose either of the first two options, ReCycle can also export a standard MIDI file, to tell your sequencer how and in what order to play each of the sample slices in order to recreate the phrasing of the original loop. Thiscan be invaluable if you need to change the tempo of a sampled loop or phrase without affecting its pitch. However, if you choose to save in one of ReCycle's own file formats, phrasing information and audio are conveniently saved together in same file.
ReCycle files come in three flavours: RCY and REX files are created by ReCycle versions up to 1.7, while RX2 files are unique to the new-and-improved ReCycle 2.0. You'll probably want to use either REX or RX2 files within Cubase. Opening a ReCycle file in Cubase is as simple as selecting an Audio Track, then choosing ReCycle File... from the Import sub-menu on the File menu. Pick the file you want to use, and a new Part will be created on the your chosen Track. Double-clicking the Part will open the Audio editor as normal, and you'll see that each of the slices generated by ReCycle now appears as its own Event, with its own Q point.
This is where the fun starts. The beauty of ReCycle files is that they allow you to forget about almost all of the restrictions you'd expect to come up against when working with sampled loops in the conventional way. The most obvious of these are related to tempo. Normally, using a sampled loop at anything other than its original tempo would require you either to tune the whole sample up or down in your sampler, or to apply some kind of timestretch effect. Either approach might achieve usable results, provided the required tempo change was not too great, but both would also unavoidably alter the sound in ways that might not be desirable.
With ReCycle files, you don't need to worry. Since each Event's Q point accurately preserves the relative position of each individual hit in the pattern, you can adjust Cubase's tempo just as freely as you would when working with a MIDI Part, and the original phrasing and 'feel' of the loop will be retained. Admittedly, if you reduce the tempo of a fast loop too drastically, you may reach a point where audible gaps between hits begin to be heard -- but you can usually compensate for this to a large extent by using ReCycle's Stretch function to artificially lengthen the decay portion of each slice.
All the quantising tricks you'd normally use with a programmed MIDI part can be equally effective with ReCycled audio Parts. So if your drum loop seems to lack the necessary swing, you can experiment with fine-tuning the phrasing in Cubase's Groove Control window. If, on the other hand, your drummer has strayed a little beyond the outer limits of laid-back funkiness and is simply playing out of time, you can apply varying degrees of quantise to straighten things out again.
You aren't limited to fine-tuning a phrase either: it's possible to completely rearrange and reprogram a ReCycled Part at will, in order to create fills and variations, or entirely new patterns. You can do this in a couple of different ways. If your first priority is to preserve the natural, unquantised phrasing of the original loop, you can Option+Command-click (on a Mac) or Ctrl+Alt-click (on a PC) on an Event, and a drop-down menu containing the names of all the other Segments in the File will appear. You can then choose to have the selected Event play a different Segment (ie. a different hit or note from within the loop or phrase) without changing its start point or relative position in the Part.
If you want to take a more direct approach, you can just wade in with your mouse, and start moving stuff around. Strategic use of different settings in the Snap menu makes it easy to program even quite complex patterns and phrases by simply dragging and dropping Events. For example, if you select 16 in the Snap menu, then when you drag and drop an Event, it will automatically shift its position to start at the nearest quantised 16th note. Easy. Selected Events can be duplicated by Option-draggin Folder Tracks can be a good way to keep your Arrange Window tidy when working on complex Songs. For example, if you start off building your track with either VST Instruments or external MIDI instruments, then bounce or record the Parts onto Audio Tracks, afterwards you may want to drag the no-longer-needed MIDI Tracks to a Folder Track, to make more room for working on the rest of the arrangement. Muting the Folder Track will mute all the Tracks inside it, to avoid confusion with the recorded Parts. If you receive an error message telling you that No More Mixer Channels are available when you try to select a VST Instrument, one possible culprit is Propellerhead Software's Reason -- even if you don't own the full version, just installing the demo can be enough to cause the problem. The reason for this is that Cubase automatically assigns an audio channel for every one of Reason's 64 ReWire channels on startup, thereby running the risk of using up all of its available channels. You can download a patch from the Propellerhead web site (www.propellerheads.se) to alleviate this problem by limiting Reason to just 16 channels.
Cubasis VST v3.0 r2
At the time of writing, Steinberg have just released a minor update for Cubase VST's little PC brother, Cubasis VST. Revision 2 is a free 7Mb download from http://service.steinberg.net/webdoc.nsf/show/updates_pc_e and includes a selection of improvements and bug-fixes. Most prominent of the former is the incorporation of the same optimisations for Pentium III, Pentium 4 and AMD Athlon processors found in the full Cubase v5, while a shorter load time and working MIDI Clock support are also promised. Sam InglisCubase TipsIf you need to keep track of where you are in a Song, but it isn't practical to be sitting right in front of your monitor, then the SMPTE Time Display window (Show Big Time on the Windows menu) is your friend. As its name suggests, it's a window which shows the current Song time in large, easy-to-read characters. By default, the display is formatted in hours, minutes, seconds and frames -- but if you Option-click (on a Mac) or Control-click (on a PC) in the window, the current Song position in bars and beats will be displayed instead.
Folder Tracks can be a good way to keep your Arrange Window tidy when working on complex Songs. For example, if you start off building your track with either VST Instruments or external MIDI instruments, then bounce or record the Parts onto Audio Tracks, afterwards you may want to drag the no-longer-needed MIDI Tracks to a Folder Track, to make more room for working on the rest of the arrangement. Muting the Folder Track will mute all the Tracks inside it, to avoid confusion with the recorded Parts.
If you receive an error message telling you that No More Mixer Channels are available when you try to select a VST Instrument, one possible culprit is Propellerhead Software's Reason -- even if you don't own the full version, just installing the demo can be enough to cause the problem. The reason for this is that Cubase automatically assigns an audio channel for every one of Reason's 64 ReWire channels on startup, thereby running the risk of using up all of its available channels. You can download a patch from the Propellerhead web site (www.propellerheads.se) to alleviate this problem by limiting Reason to just 16 channels.
You'll notice when you do so that each of the lanes is labelled with the same Channel number (in the case shown, number 1). Bear in mind that an ordinary, mono Audio Track doesn't allow simultaneous playback of more than one Event, so where two Events overlap, the end of one will be cut off by the beginning of the other. This won't usually be a problem when you're working with drum loops, but with some kinds of audio material, you may hear a slight click where two Events overlap. This is caused by a discontinuity between two different parts of the original waveform, a problem that can often be solved by activating the AutoXFade function for the Track in the Inspector, and increasing the sample value as necessary.
If you want to have two or more Events playing simultaneously in your ReCycled Part (and open up a whole range of other possibilities in the process), simply close the Audio Editor, return to the Arrange window and change the Channel setting of the relevant Track to Any. When you return to the Audio Editor, each lane will have its own unique Channel number, and your ReCycled Part will have become effectively 'polyphonic'.
The most obvious advantage of the polyphonic Parts is that where you have an Event with a long decay portion, such as a cymbal from a drum loop, the sound will play through its entire duration without being cut off by any other Events in the Part. Even more interestingly, assigning different Events from a ReCycled Part to different audio Channels (by simply dragging them to different lanes, as shown right) also allows you to experiment with selectively processing hits within a loop. So, for argument's sake, you might select a compressor plug-in as an Insert on Channel 1 of the VST mixer, a flanger on Channel 2 and the Grungelizer on Channel 3. Then, in the Audio Edit window, you could work through your ReCycled Part, moving all the kick drum Events to the Channel 1 lane, all the hi-hat Events to the Channel 2 lane and all the snare drum Events to the Channel 3 lane. Now when you play the Part back you'll hear... well, you'll hear a fairly weird, messed-up drum track. However, you get the general idea.
Of course, it may not always be convenient to have three different Channels used up by just your drum Track, and it may not be practical to have three different Insert effects taxing your CPU when there are other real-time tasks to be performed. This need not be a problem. Surround your ReCycled Part(s) with the Left and Right locators and choose Export Audio from the File menu as usual, and you can mix down your ReCycled and processed patterns to a normal Audio Part. You can then switch off the Insert effects, and make the unused Channels available for other Tracks.