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Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

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Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Mon Mar 08, 2021 10:43 am

Hello all!

When my live band starts performing again, I'm planning to run Cubase on a laptop onstage containing additional audio tracks and basic MIDI commands (tempo click, effects unit programme changes etc) which will augment the live instruments. The idea is that I'll be able to use the Arranger Track to move from one song to another (and also sections of individual songs) as described in this very journal some years ago, so that we are not locked in to having to play in a particular order.

My natural instinct would be to create each song as an individual project and then somehow glue them all together in one large, 2 hour, project, which I could run on stage with minimal fuss via the Arranger Track method above. Having never done this before, is there anything I should consider before I start? The first thing that comes to mind is tempo changes from song to song, which I imagine would be best handled at the end of the job with one big tempo track, but if anyone has any dos and donts for me before I start it would be much appreciated. Thanks!
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby RichardT » Mon Mar 08, 2021 11:03 am

Ronnie Wibbley wrote:Hello all!

When my live band starts performing again, I'm planning to run Cubase on a laptop onstage containing additional audio tracks and basic MIDI commands (tempo click, effects unit programme changes etc) which will augment the live instruments. The idea is that I'll be able to use the Arranger Track to move from one song to another (and also sections of individual songs) as described in this very journal some years ago, so that we are not locked in to having to play in a particular order.

My natural instinct would be to create each song as an individual project and then somehow glue them all together in one large, 2 hour, project, which I could run on stage with minimal fuss via the Arranger Track method above. Having never done this before, is there anything I should consider before I start? The first thing that comes to mind is tempo changes from song to song, which I imagine would be best handled at the end of the job with one big tempo track, but if anyone has any dos and donts for me before I start it would be much appreciated. Thanks!

You could do that, and use the ‘import tracks from project’ command to bring each track together into a ‘set list project’.

You also need a fallback in case it stops working in the middle of a gig!
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby The Elf » Mon Mar 08, 2021 2:11 pm

Much as I love Cubase, I really wouldn't undertake to use it on stage. You can do so much more with the likes of a proper piece of performance software, such as Cantabile, and all completely automated - one button, new song with everything loaded and ready to go.
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Mon Mar 08, 2021 2:38 pm

Thanks for that - that software looks very interesting, but I wonder if it's a bit OTT for what I need.

To explain a little more, I'm planning to add bits and pieces to augment the live instruments - things like backing vocals, hand percussion and a few synth bloops and bleeps, but for the sake of simplicity and stability, all rendered to audio files and then mixed down to a couple of stems. These would then be output on one track to the PA, with another track of click going to the drummer.

That's the basic requirement, but the icing on the cake would be midi programme and CC info to a guitar/vocal floor unit to eliminate my normal tap-dancing performance, and also (in theory at least) to set up simple lighting scene changes in the same way.

I wasn't planning to run VSTs or send midi to external synths just because I want to keep things as simple (and crashproof) as possible.
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Watchmaker » Mon Mar 08, 2021 2:56 pm

I have no advice from a software perspective, there are a million ways to go about this. I use Studio One for similar purposes but not so ambitiously. I'm sure you're way ahead of me here, but I highly encourage you to do a full dress rehearsal with whatever solution you devise. i.e. take the gear and the band out of your studio, set it up somewhere you aren't familiar with to see what breaks and what additional gear and spares you might want to bring along...and expect challenges the first few times out.
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby blinddrew » Mon Mar 08, 2021 3:06 pm

Hmm. Using the dedicated software like Cantabile is probably sensible, but second to that would be to pick the DAW you know best and use that. The last thing you want to be doing mid-set is trying to trouble-shoot an unfamiliar bit of complex software.
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Luke W » Mon Mar 08, 2021 3:18 pm

I agree with the idea of looking into dedicated software, personally I think that a general DAW is the wrong tool for the job when it comes to live performance. It can be made to work of course, but it'll always be more of a compromise than something that's designed for the task.
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby The Elf » Mon Mar 08, 2021 3:49 pm

Ronnie Wibbley wrote:Thanks for that - that software looks very interesting, but I wonder if it's a bit OTT for what I need.
No it's not. It exists specifically to do what you're otherwise trying to achieve with a piece of software that really is not suited to the task. You make of it what you need.

I frequently run multiple backing tracks in sync in Cantabile, such that I can choose which parts are on backing and which parts we are going to perform live - the line-up and equipment list is not always the same.

One button-push and each song loads up, with *everything* in place - and I'm including lighting cues, crib sheets, mix, effects settings, sequencers, clocks, backing tracks, patches, internal/external instrument routing, key splits, pedal/controller assignments... My rig does this for everyone on stage, even un-muting/re-muting the stage mic between tunes and giving countdown cue lights and metronomes for each performer. And it records the gig, including audience mic on top of all this!

All I do is hit the 'Next Song' and 'Play' buttons on my controller keyboard - and then hope I play the right notes!

It seems you wouldn't need any of this complexity, but now you know what it can do you should see that it would match your needs without even breaking sweat!

Sure, it needs some learning, but it would be time well spent. There's a good community to help out when you get stuck - and you *will* get stuck at first, so be realistic. Cantabile's flexibility and power runs very, very deep, so start simple if you do decide to give it a go. And you know where I am...
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Music Wolf » Tue Mar 09, 2021 9:55 pm

I’ve spent the evening loading up a trial version of Cantabile on my gigging laptop (the one that I use to run my XR18 mixer and to make live recordings). Now that I’ve finally got it up and running, having eventually remembered to set the aux channel input to usb on the XR18, I’m going to put it away for the evening. By this time tomorrow I’m hoping that I will be able to select a song from my set list by hitting the pre-set button on my Helix and that this will select the corresponding patches on my VoiceLive vocal processor and SY-300 guitar synth, the scene on the XR18 and, last in the chain, the practice backing track ( wav) in Cantabile. If I’m really lucky / clever the backing wav will begin playback automatically.
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby The Elf » Wed Mar 10, 2021 1:34 am

It's a pretty tough piece of software to get into at first, but I can honestly tell you that if you persevere the rewards will come.

And yes, set up properly you will achieve all that list above - and the second time you come to do it it will be laughably easy. The first time will have you head-scratching a bit! :lol:
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Wed Mar 10, 2021 2:14 am

I'm still trying to get my head round the software from the various Youtube walkthroughs and help files. It's difficult to get away from thinking of it in DAW terms.

If I've understood this right, it would seem easiest to prepare the various audio and midi tracks in my usual DAW and export each instrument one song at a time, to load into Cantabile on individual media player "tracks"; is this correct? Then things like patch and control changes for my Voicelive (yes, I'm another one), lighting cues and so on could be written directly in Cantabile?

Or have I got this completely back to front?
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby The Elf » Wed Mar 10, 2021 9:46 am

I'd say it's better to prep your audio/MIDI data in your DAW, then use the Media Players in Cantabile to simply play them back as is. You *can* lots of clever stuff in Cantabile, but it's not the way I would choose.

Personally I would just record a mixed backing, rather than have every instument separate - that seems a heck of a faff. Maybe separate a couple of key parts as necessary.

For stuff like program changes, these can be triggered by a playback time, so look at bindings to timeline positions.

One thing that may help (or completely confuse you!) is a mixer rack I created and shared with the community. That allows you to have a consistent way of mixing into an 8-stereo-input mixer with FX sends - and also allows MCU control. If you want it I can let you have a copy.

It might be better to take this over to the Cantabile forum - there are some very knowledgeable and friendly people there who can talk you through it much better than I can. The bottom line is that everyone finds their own way of working with Cantabile - and you can save yourself a lot of pain by starting off on the right foot, especially with stuff like controller abstraction, for example. And get your head around the Background Rack as soon as possible - it's the secret of a happy life!
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Sat Mar 13, 2021 11:46 am

Thanks for all your help - a lot to think about!

Just to toss something else into the discussion, any thoughts on Gig Performer 3 for a situation like this?
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby Music Wolf » Sat Mar 13, 2021 11:05 pm

The Elf wrote:It's a pretty tough piece of software to get into at first, but I can honestly tell you that if you persevere the rewards will come.

And yes, set up properly you will achieve all that list above - and the second time you come to do it it will be laughably easy. The first time will have you head-scratching a bit! :lol:

OK, so it took me a day or two longer than I thought but I’m now in a position whereby I select a song (patch) from my Helix and the corresponding backing track loads in Cantabile. When I get back out playing live the backing track will just be a count in at the appropriate tempo, routed to the monitors / IEMs, but for home practice it’s a stereo backing track. If I press the Helix foot switch a second time then playback starts.

The same patch selection pulls up the corresponding patch selections on the VoiceLive vocal processor, the Boss SY-300 guitar synth pedal and the scene on the XR18 mixer.

The hold up was due to the fact that the XR18 doesn’t have a MIDI thru and no way to configure the out as a thru. Fortunately the Helix can transmit MIDI on DIN and usb simultaneously.

Next step will be to get the record to start alongside playback so that I can capture live performance. I think that this can be done as a general setting rather than a binding.
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Re: Cubase - best way to prepare entire sets of songs?

Postby The Elf » Sat Mar 13, 2021 11:22 pm

Sounds like you grasped a lot of the fundamentals quicker than I did!

Stick with it! :thumbup:
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