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Prepping Vocals In Cubase

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques By John Walden
Published September 2022

To reap the full benefits of VariAudio, make sure you enable Show All Smart Controls.To reap the full benefits of VariAudio, make sure you enable Show All Smart Controls.

The latest iteration of VariAudio includes all the tools you need to get vocals in shape for mixing.

Cubase may not be able to guarantee a world‑class vocal performance, but it does provide all the tools you need to present recorded vocals in their best possible light. Once you’ve laid down or comped your best take and dealt with any unwanted noises, if you then bounce everything into a new audio clip, Cubase’s VariAudio is a powerful one‑stop editing shop that can be used for all the obvious level, timing and pitch adjustments that might benefit the part. We looked at this topic back in the May and June 2019 Cubase workshops, but Cubase has evolved since then and, for Pro and Artist users at least, Cubase 12 includes some further options — so let’s explore the possibilities.

One For All

We’ll start with a VariAudio refresher. When you first open VariAudio from the Sample Editor’s Inspector panel, Cubase will analyse your audio clip — it might take a few seconds for a longer clip — and then superimpose pitch Segments (rectangular ‘blobs’) over the waveform. Each Segment represents a portion of the audio that Cubase has identified as containing pitch variations that lie (mostly) within a single note (semitone) range. A continuous pitch curve indicates the pitch variation within each Segment, as well as any pitch transitions that occur as the vocal flows legato‑style between them. Segments are only created for those parts of the performance that contain definable pitch components: adjacent Segments never overlap, but there will be gaps in the display between Segments where there are non‑tonal sounds, such as breaths, consonant‑only sounds or rests. (Despite the visual gaps, the underlying audio is still there and being played back!)

Before starting work, a few settings are worth checking. First, ensure the Edit VariAudio button is active, so you can actually start editing. Second, enable the All option in the Smart Controls drop‑down menu, so you see the full set of controls. Third, note that the VariAudio tab header includes a ‘bypass’ button, so you can easily A/B compare your VariAudio edits with the unedited original.

The second screenshot (below) provides a reminder of the functions provided by each of the Smart Controls available on a Segment and, while many of these are focussed on various ways to manipulate pitch, you also have options for adjusting both volume and timing — the addition of these make VariAudio a much more efficient environment, since you can now perform most core vocal editing tasks in one place. By the way, note that while Smart Controls can be used to edit individual Segments, if you select multiple Segments for editing, adjusting a Smart Control on any of the selected Segments will apply edits to all of them....

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