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Cubase 11 Sound Design

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques By John Walden
Published December 2021

StepFilter might not be the most powerful filter plug‑in ever created, but its step‑based pattern sequencer opens up some very interesting creative possibilities.StepFilter might not be the most powerful filter plug‑in ever created, but its step‑based pattern sequencer opens up some very interesting creative possibilities.

Want to create your own signature sounds? Cubase makes sound design easy.

There’s something very satisfying about making music with sounds you’ve designed yourself, and Cubase provides plenty of options to explore on this front. It’s a big topic, and I’ll consider two different angles in successive workshops: this time, I’ll transform a live audio input source into something more ‘synthetic’; and next month I’ll look at ways you can create playable instruments from a simple, single sample. In both cases, I’ll provide audio examples to illustrate the text, and you’ll find this month’s below or at with full captions.

Before we start, check your audio buffer size (in the Studio menu, select the Studio Setup panel and, via the Audio System section, open your audio interface’s Control Panel). This needs to be set low enough that real‑time monitoring through a plug‑in chain feels responsive, but not so low as to cause clicks and pops. Second, engage the Monitor button for the audio track you’ll use for your audio input. You may need to disable direct monitoring on your audio interface too, so that you are monitoring only the audio being processed in Cubase.


You can process any live audio input through a Cubase plug‑in chain, but let’s start with something simple: transforming some sustained DI electric guitar chords into something that sounds more like a rhythmic synth. Sonically, an unprocessed guitar DI signal can sound pretty uninspiring. One problem may be a lack of sustain, in which case a useful first processing stage might be compression. In my example, I used (or rather abused!) Cubase’s Tube Compressor. With a fast attack, slow release and high ratio, the compressor quickly reduces the initial transients in the audio input while the slow release makes the sustained portion of the sound appear louder. As our aim is something synth‑like, we can think of this compressed DI guitar as our synth’s ‘oscillator’.

StepFilter & MidiGate Rhythm

Some filtering might be a good next step and StepFilter is a good starting point. This plug‑in offers the usual cutoff and resonance options but the main attraction is its step‑based pattern control of these parameters — this makes it super‑easy to add filter movement in real‑time. As shown in the screenshot, I programmed a cutoff pattern that includes some steps with zero values, essentially closing the filter. This chops the sustained guitar chords to create a rhythmic feel and adjusting the Glide control determines the strength of that rhythmic effect.


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