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MIDI Tracks & Keyboard Functions

Cubase Tips & Techniques
By Mark Wherry

We look at how to use the facilities available to Cubase's MIDI tracks to recreate certain master keyboard functions.

While trawling around the SOS forum this month, I came across a post asking about how to recreate certain master keyboard functions in Cubase, such as a keyboard split that would separate the keyboard into two zones, each controlling a different VST Instrument. Setting up this kind of behaviour in Cubase is fairly easy, and there are actually two slightly different ways of tackling the problem; so in this month's Cubase Notes we will, quite literally, be looking at...Here you can see a keyboard split created via the second method described in the main text, using one track and two sends. Notes received on this track between C-2 and B2 are sent to the Monologue VST Instrument, while notes between C3 and C8 are output to A1.Here you can see a keyboard split created via the second method described in the main text, using one track and two sends. Notes received on this track between C-2 and B2 are sent to the Monologue VST Instrument, while notes between C3 and C8 are output to A1.

Doing The Splits

For the sake of example, let's say we want to split our keyboard at C3 (which is the MIDI note for middle-C in Cubase) so that all notes below C3 are played by one VST Instrument, and all notes above and including C3 are played by another. To begin with, load the two VST Instruments of choice in the VST Instruments window.

The first method of setting up this keyboard split is to create two MIDI tracks in the Project window and assign the output of the first track to the first VST Instrument and the output of the second track to the other VST Instrument. The default behaviour in Cubase is that MIDI Thru is active on only the selected track, which is set by the 'Enable Record on Selected Track' preference in the Editing — Project & Mixer page of the Preferences window. (MIDI Thru itself is set by enabling MIDI Thru Active in the MIDI Preferences page, for those who are interested.) However, it's possible to play both MIDI tracks simultaneously by either record-enabling or monitor-enabling both tracks, so that both of them receive incoming MIDI data.

At this point, when you play your MIDI keyboard both VST Instruments are layered on top of each other. The next step is to limit their ranges so that each MIDI track only plays certain notes:

  • On the first MIDI track, open the Track Parameters Section of the Inspector. In the Range parameters, set the first pop-up menu to Note Filter (instead of 'Off').
  • Next to Note Filter, leave the Min value set to C-2 and set the Max value to B2 by simply double-clicking and typing in the new MIDI note value. This filters incoming notes so that only those that fall within (and including) the Min and Max values are output.
  • On the second track, do the same, but this time set the Range Note Filter Min and Max values to C3 and, say, C8, respectively. Now, making sure both tracks are still Record- or Monitor-enabled, playing notes below C3 triggers the first VST Instrument, while notes above and including C3 trigger the second.

As a side note, when you're setting the Min value it can't be higher than the currently set Max value. So if the Min value doesn't seem to be changing, you may need to adjust the Max value first.

Alternatively...

Setting up two tracks for the keyboard split is fine, but it's a little clunky having to make sure both tracks are enabled all the time and having duplicate data recorded on two tracks. Wouldn't be nicer to do the same thing with one track? OK then: to set up the same keyboard split with one track:

  • Create a MIDI track and make sure the output is set to 'Not Connected'.
  • Now open the Sends section in the Inspector and set the output of the first and second sends to the first and second VST Instruments.
  • Next, add a Track FX MIDI plug-in to each of the sends and, finally, activate the two sends. The Track FX plug-in is basically a duplicate of the Track Parameters section in the Inspector, so set up the Range Note Filter parameters as before for the first and second sends. It's possible to hide and show these settings by toggling the 'e' button for each send.

You now have the same keyboard split, but using only one track, and since there are four sends available per track, you could even have a keyboard split with up to four zones.

If you're wondering why we set the track to 'Not Connected' rather than a VST Instrument, and didn't use the Range in Track parameters to define the first zone, using just one send for the second zone, the reason is that setting the Range in Track parameters limits the notes sent to all the sends. So if you set a range for all notes below C3 in track parameters, the send would only ever receive the notes below C3, making it impossible to create the two zones.

Studio Case 2 & Cubase SE 3

Steinberg's original Studio Case bundle for Mac and Windows users proved to be one of the company's most successful products on its release in September 2003, combining a cut-down version of Cubase SX, known as Cubase SE, with 'junior' SE versions of popular virtual instruments such as Virtual Guitarist Electric Edition, Groove Agent, The Grand, D'cota and Halion for just $300. Now Steinberg have introduced the Studio Case 2 bundle, which picks up where the previous bundle left off, featuring Cubase SE 3, a cut-down version of Cubase SX 3, which shares the same VST 2.3 mix engine used in other Cubase products, and adds a new SE version of the recently released Virtual Bassist.

Published October 2005