Cubase doesn’t include an envelope follower — but with a little creative routing you can achieve much the same thing.
If you like to get creative with your effects, an ‘envelope follower’ opens up some interesting possibilities. This allows you to use the volume of an incoming audio signal to modulate one or more parameters of an effect. One fairly straightforward (but potentially very useful) application might be to add more overdrive/distortion to louder sections of a bass guitar part than to quieter ones, an effect which can add that extra bit of excitement to a bass without overcooking the levels. The same approach could be used to add an aggressive edge to a lead vocal at certain times.
I’d love to see Steinberg add just such an envelope follower function to the FX Modulator plug‑in. But while we don’t have that yet, a little creative audio routing can help you achieve a similar result — and that’s what I’ll be exploring in this month’s workshop. On the SOS website (sosm.ag/cubase-0423) you can find a few audio examples of the effects described below.
Let’s start with the electric bass ‘more overdrive when the bass is louder’ example. There are actually a number of ways this might be implemented, including simply configuring the required overdrive/distortion effect as an FX Channel, routing a send from your bass source track, and then manually automating the blend between the clean and overdriven signals to add more overdrive at the required spots along the timeline. But if a more automatic solution in the style of an envelope follower is wanted, the audio routing setup you can see in the first screenshot provides another option (Screen 1).
I’ve used four channels to do this, but hopefully the routing involved is still pretty easy to follow. On the left, the Bass Org audio track contains the original clean bass guitar recording. Next to this is an FX Channel named Bass Overdrive FX, with an instance of DaTube inserted. We then have two Group Channels: Bass Bus Clean and Bass Bus Blend. The output of Bass Org is routed to Bass Bus Clean, but also has a Send routed to Bass Overdrive FX. The outputs of both Bass Bus Clean and Bass Overdrive FX are then routed to Bass Bus Blend, where the clean and overdriven parts of the sound are recombined before being passed on to the project’s stereo master bus.
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