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Cubase Score Editor

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques
Published August 2001

Figure 1. Overlapping notes can make a score very difficult to read.Figure 1. Overlapping notes can make a score very difficult to read.

More wise words on using Cubase's Score editor this month, as we explain how to create a musical score in which several voices share a single stave. There's also the usual assortment of handy editing tips...

Let's pretend we've recorded the right‑hand section of a simple piano piece into Cubase and tidied it up using the methods described last month. Even when the instrument we're writing for is capable of playing more than one note at a time, such as the piano, overlapping notes can make a score extremely hard to read (see Figure 1, right). There are two ways to deal with this problem: a quick fix, and a more grammatically correct solution. The simplest approach is to turn on the No Overlap Interpretation Flag, as shown in Figure 2. If the overlap is caused by the way the part was played, as opposed to being deliberately written that way, the No Overlap quick fix is fine. However, when one part (in Cubase‑speak) includes two different musical ideas (or voices) simultaneously, using No Overlap will create a grammatically incorrect score. For example, the part featured in the illustrations does indeed contain two musical ideas: a melody line (the upper note) and an accompaniment. Because we really do want that top note to sound over the chords for the whole bar, the correct way to present it would be as in the score shown in Figure 3, right.

Here we're using what are called 'polyphonic voices', a musical term and a feature implemented within Cubase. The idea is that it allows one stave to contain two independent voices, which are distinguished by the stems for the upper voice going up and the stems for the lower voice going down, to save us having to see a tangled mess of overlapping notes. Cubase lets you have up to four voices on a stave, though you will rarely need to go beyond two unless you're writing complex organ or guitar notation.

Setting Up

Figure 2. Cubase's No Overlap Interpretation Flag gets rid of overlapping notes, but it can't tell the difference between intentional and unintentional overlaps.Figure 2. Cubase's No Overlap Interpretation Flag gets rid of overlapping notes, but it can't tell the difference between intentional and unintentional overlaps.

Setting up a stave for polyphonic voices is a fairly straightforward process. You begin by opening the Staff Settings dialogue (on the Score menu) for the stave you want to make polyphonic. In the top group, set Staff Mode from Single to Polyphonic, and click the Edit button in the same group to open the Polyphonic Settings dialogue. By default, the settings will give you two voices on two separate staves. This could be ideal for piano or SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir arrangements, but useless for a single stave instrument, so for a single stave with two voices, disable the lower 5 and 6 voices by removing the ticks in the On column within Properties. The Show column in the Rests bracket allows you to show or hide rests globally for a particular voice on a stave. The note values stay the same, but the rests just get hidden. If you're writing two voices on the stave all the way through the music, you should show the rests for both voices, so use the default settings. (Incidentally, when entering new notes, the voice the notes are inserted into is set by the Insert buttons to the far left of the toolbar in the score edit window. If you want to enter notes to appear on a second voice, make sure that the 2 button is selected instead of 1.)

The Up/Down column in the Stems bracket allows you to specify what stem direction the notes in a particular voice take. You can choose between Up, Down and Auto, which is the normal behaviour that notes take when we're not using polyphonic voices. As a general rule of thumb, if you're writing two parts on the stave for the whole piece, the first voice should be set to Up and the second to Down, which is the default configuration.

By default, all the notes will be be assigned to the first voice unless you specify otherwise. To assign a note or a group of notes to a different voice, first select the note or notes you want to assign to that voice. Now press Alt (Option on the Mac) and the number of the voice you want to move the notes to. For example, in a two‑voice stave, pressing Alt + 2 will move the notes to the lower voice.

This method of selecting notes and then moving them manually is all well and good for short parts or the odd division, but if you want to move large quantities of notes to different voices it's soon going to get tedious. For this reason Cubase implements the useful (albeit overly dramatic‑sounding!) Explode feature to do it for you. To use this, open the Explode dialogue, which is found under the Staff Functions submenu of the Score menu. Make sure it is set as Notes to Polyphonic Voices, and then activate only the Bass to lowest Voice flag and click OK. The function of this setting should be self‑explanatory!

Although it is very useful, there are some issues to bear in mind when using the Explode feature because, as with any automatic do‑it‑for‑you feature, you always need to check through the score making sure it has done exactly what you wanted. If there's a break in one of the voices, the single line of notes that plays during the break is often incorrectly assigned to the wrong voice. Ambiguities of this type often trip up such automatic facilities: if only one voice is playing, Cubase won't necessarily know which voice to assign it to, so you need to check through carefully afterwards and make any necessary alterations.

Astute readers will notice that the Explode features are also available from the Polyphonic Settings dialogue when the Auto Move To Voices feature is enabled. However, I would generally recommend using the Explode feature after you've set up the polyphonic voices because in this case, if you want to undo the operation for some reason, the polyphonic settings won't get lost as well.

Only On Occasions

Figure 3. When you're dealing with two or more parts sharing a single stave, you'll need to use Cubase's 'polyphonic voices' feature.Figure 3. When you're dealing with two or more parts sharing a single stave, you'll need to use Cubase's 'polyphonic voices' feature.

The procedures we've been looking at are great for a stave where the polyphony occurs all the way through, but what if only a small section of a stave needs to be written using polyphonic voices? Cubase's Polyphonic Settings dialogue is clever enough to deal with this. When you are writing one voice with an occasional division, hide the rests on the second voice and activate the Center flag on the first voice. The Center flag ensures that the rests are displayed in the normal centre‑of‑the‑stave position. Set the first voice's stem direction to Auto and leave the second voice set to Down. The stave will now behave normally, except that when notes are assigned to the second voice, the polyphonic voices feature will take effect as required.

One Track Or Two?

With most instruments or voices, it's fairly clear how best to set up the tracks and staves in Cubase. Most instruments and voices should be presented on one track with one stave and polyphonic voices used where necessary, either for splits or for naturally polyphonic instruments such as the guitar. By keeping the lower voices active (or by setting the staff mode to split instead of single or polyphonic), it's possible to have two staves displaying the music contained on one track. This is ideal for SATB choir music, which has four choir parts divided between two staves; the soprano and alto lines are written on the upper stave, with the tenor and bass parts occupying the lower stave. However, when it comes to writing for the piano or the harp, do you use the SATB approach or put the upper and lower staves on separate tracks? If it wasn't for one factor, my advice would be to use the SATB approach. However, if you need to use cross‑stave beaming, it's only possible to achieve this if the upper and lower staves are on separate tracks.

Mark Wherry is the author of the forthcoming Wizoo Pro Guide To Cubase Scoring.

Slurs And Note Symbols, The Easy Way

The slur is one of the most common symbols used to illustrate how phrases should be articulated on a score, and it's possible to add a slur as you would add any other symbol by going to the Dynamics Symbol Palette, clicking the slur symbol and drawing it onto your score. However, because you'll probably be adding many slurs to your score, this process can soon become tedious. Happily, there's a better way!

To add a slur to a group of notes, select the notes you want to add a slur to and choose Do / Insert Slur. If this wasn't easy enough, you can make this process even more efficient by adding a Key Command for the Insert Slur function: select Edit/Preferences/Key Commands and click on the Score tab, and the Insert Slur command appears near to the bottom of the list.

If you're not entirely happy with the look of a slur that Cubase has added, it's very easy to adjust the shape to your liking: select the slur by clicking on either the start or end point. These control the start and end positions of the slur, while the middle point controls the shape of the slur. Keeping this roughly central will give the slur a balanced look.

The note articulation symbols are found in the Note Symbols Symbol Palette (Score/Symbol Palettes/

Note Symbols) and although they're added to notes individually, the Cubase programmers were aware how long this process could potentially take and how tedious it would be for the user.

  • To add a single note symbol, select the note symbol you want in the Note Sym Symbol Palette. Then, with the pencil tool, click the note you want to add the symbol to.
  • To add multiple note symbols, select the note symbol you want in the Note Sym Symbol Palette, and with the arrow tool, select all the notes to which you want to add the note symbol; then choose Do/Multi Insert.

The second procedure is a real time‑saver; to make it even more efficient, it's probably worth adding a Key Command for the Multi Insert command.

One thing you'll notice is that notes have to be selected with the arrow tool, yet the pencil tool gets selected automatically when you select a note symbol from the palette. Fortunately, it's possible to tweak this behaviour: Open the Score Preferences dialogue from Edit / Preferences, and choose the Edit Behaviour tab. Then activate the item Double Click Symbol To Get Pencil Tool (it's the second item in the list) and click OK. You can probably guess what this feature does already. You now have to double‑click a symbol to get the pencil tool, while a single click will now select the symbol without changing to the pencil tool — very useful for entering note symbols with Multi Insert. Note that if the pencil tool is already selected, even if Double Click Symbol to get Pencil Tool is activated, a single click will not change back to the arrow tool. Mark Wherry

Cubase Tips

If you have Snap turned off in the Arrange page or track pane editor, it can be difficult to move parts between tracks without accidentally moving them forward or backward a little. Holding down the Shift key while you do so should keep a part's horizontal position locked. Sam Inglis

Got a friend coming in to work on your computer who's used to another sequencer and its keyboard shortcuts? The Additional Files folder on the Cubase CD‑ROM contains keyboard setups for all the other major sequencers... Mike Senior

As every Cubase user must know, numbers 1 and 2 on the numeric keypad act as shortcuts to move the Song Position Pointer to the left and right locators respectively. If you haven't got any other marker points in the song, however, pressing 3 by default returns the pointer to the very start of the song, no matter where the locators are. Sam Inglis

When I'm editing, I quite often find myself wanting to cut up a part and move sections of it to another track. This can be fiddly to do in the Arrange window with its limited zoom resolution, but you can't open an empty track in the track pane editor. The track pane editor, moreover, won't always let you move audio unless you're dropping it onto an area of a track where there's already a part. However, you can use the pencil tool to create or extend a part in the Arrange page. If you have to do a lot of detailed cutting and moving between tracks, therefore, the easiest way is often to create a new part on an adjacent track, select this and the part you need to cut up, and double‑click to open the track pane editor. You'll now be able to freely move sections of audio from your existing part to the other track. Sam Inglis

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