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Pattern-based Sound Design In Cubase

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques
By John Walden

Screen 1: The StepFilter can easily add a cool rhythmic element to even the most basic sounds.Screen 1: The StepFilter can easily add a cool rhythmic element to even the most basic sounds.

Cubase's stock tools offer plenty of creative potential for pattern-based sound design.

Creative use of effects is a great way to inject some sonic interest into many modern music styles, and it can be particularly effective when effect changes are applied in sync with the project tempo. Some brilliant third-party effects plug-ins are designed for just this task (Sugar Bytes' Turnado and Effectrix, for example), but Cubase Pro and Artist users should find that the stock toolset can also be put to very good use.

Filter Lane

The humble filter is always a good bet for this kind of task. The old favourite Tonic plug-in (see SOS November 2004) is sadly now long gone, but Pro and Artist users do have access to the StepFilter plug-in, which can achieve similar things. Considered purely as a filter, StepFilter is perhaps better described as 'minimal' than 'cutting edge'. At its core, you get three simple filter types (high-, low- and band-pass) plus two 'modes' (classic and modern), and controls for the filter cutoff frequency and resonance. But its two step-based pattern grids allow you to sequence changes in the cutoff and resonance, and combining this with some of the other controls allows you to conjure up some very interesting rhythmic filter effects.

Let's consider an easy example to illustrate the possibilities: using StepFilter to liven up an otherwise static synth pad. In the first screenshot, I've selected HALion Sonic SE's Humble Analog pad sound, which is a perfectly useable but somewhat undramatic pad. Insert an instance of StepFilter on the channel, though, and things can be made much more interesting. For example, the Synced Step preset is shown in Screen 1 (above). This uses...

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Published March 2019