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Cubase: Creating Vocal Doubles & Harmonies

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques By John Walden
Published October 2022

It’s really easy to see the minor pitch differences between the lead and double vocal Segments: the red ones are those currently being edited.It’s really easy to see the minor pitch differences between the lead and double vocal Segments: the red ones are those currently being edited.

Want to generate vocal doubles or harmonies based on a lead vocal? Cubase 12 has all the tools you will need.

Doubles and harmonies can add considerable impact to your vocal parts. For the best results you should really be recording those parts, but that’s not always possible. Usefully, then, if all you have to work with is a main lead vocal, Cubase can come to the rescue. In fact, if you make use of several different elements in its feature set, including some that arrived with Cubase 12, it’s possible for Pro and Artist users to create some pretty convincing doubled or harmony vocal parts. And even for those who want to sing harmony parts in, generating them in this way can provide a useful guide track.

Doubling Up

The first step is to create a copy of the original lead vocal audio clip and convert this to a ‘real copy’ (Edit / Functions / Convert To Real Copy) — the idea is that you can make edits to this copy without impacting on the original. To fabricate a double‑tracked vocal from this copy, you need to make changes to its pitch and timing.

For a quick and easy method, two steps might be all that’s required. First, ensure that AudioWarp quantise is enabled, select the vocal double audio clip and simply apply a 1/16th or 1/32nd note quantise. Second, open the copied vocal clip in the Sample Editor and go to the VariAudio panel. After Cubase has analysed your audio, select all the pitch Segments and then apply some global pitch changes using the Correct Pitch and Straighten Curve sliders. The combination of these timing and pitch changes should be enough to simulate a fairly tight ‘second take’ of the same performance.

However, manual edits to the time and pitch of the double‑track vocal, with the powerful VariAudio Smart Controls I described in last month’s workshop, offer much more flexibility, particularly in terms of how ‘tight’ the double is(n’t) to the original. If you prefer to work this way, a few specific VariAudio panel features are worth exploring.

First, a few menu settings need checking. Within the VariAudio panel, select the Show All Clips mode in the Display Mode drop‑down menu; the Edit Active Clip option in the Clip Editing Mode drop‑down; and the Event setting in the VariAudio Segment Colors drop‑down. Also, make sure you’ve chosen different colours for the original (lead) vocal clip and the copied (double) vocal clip in the Project window. You’ll almost certainly want your pitch editing to be fairly subtle for a double‑track effect, so it’s also useful to set Pitch Snap Mode to ‘off’ and to disable Snap Pitch Editing (both settings are in the leftmost VariAudio panel).

Then, open both the lead and...

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