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Creative Sound Design In Cubase: Part 2

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques By John Walden
Published January 2022

Any sample can be dragged and dropped into the Sampler Control panel to create a new Sampler Track.Any sample can be dragged and dropped into the Sampler Control panel to create a new Sampler Track.

From plucks to pads, Cubase’s Sampler Track makes it easy to design your own sounds.

In SOS December 2021’s workshop, we considered how you can combine some of Cubase’s stock plug‑ins to apply some creative sound design to a ‘live’ audio source. In this second instalment focused on designing your own sounds, we will take a different approach: building new ‘playable’ sounds from a single sample. To give our discussion a focus, I’ll take a couple of sound‑design classics — a short (non‑sustained) lead sound and a sustained pad‑style sound — and use the Sampler Track, which is available to all Pro, Artist and Elements users, to create them. You can audition the sounds in progress, courtesy of the audio examples available on the SOS website (or download the ZIP file below).

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While the Sampler Track may not be as powerful or sophisticated as, say, HALion or Kontakt, it certainly has enough options to make DIY sound design interesting. Importantly, it’s also very easy to use, because fundamental to the Sampler Track’s approach is that you work with a single sample. You can put almost any sample to good use for sound design but, for this demonstration, I recorded a single sustained note from an electric guitar into my project, and used this as the starting point. Having selected a sample such as this, a quick drag and drop into the Sampler Control panel (in the Project window’s Lower Zone) will add a Sampler Track to your project. Then you’re ready to get tweaking.

Short & Sweet

Starting with all settings at their default values (assume I’ve left them that way if I don’t mention a specific setting below), the sensible first step is to start in the Sampler Control’s waveform display, and define the portion of the sample you wish to use. This provides Set Sample Start and Set Sample End locators (both with fade options if required) that you can drag into position. A good starting point is to leave the Start locator at the beginning of the sample and adjust the End locator to get something close to the length of the sound you’re trying to create. Usefully, if you then hover the mouse between the two locators, a grey bar will appear that connects them, and you can then slide both along the timeline, preserving the selected length while auditioning other sections of the sample. In this case, I ended up with a selection just under a second long but avoiding the very start (where there was some unwanted pick noise), with no fade‑in and a short fade‑out.

The next sensible step involves making decisions about two settings: Loop Mode and Playback Mode. As the aim was a short sound here, I used the Toolbar to select the ‘No Loop’ Loop Mode,...

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