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VST Score & VST/32

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques By Mark Wherry
Published July 2001

VST Score & VST/32

This month we focus on the score editor in Cubase VST Score and Cubase VST/32, and offer a handy tip for recovering corrupt Songs.

Producing musical notation is a precise art, and a large gap exists between the perfect MIDI recording and the perfect musical score. One significant difference is that the nuances of timing which make a MIDI recording sound like a real performance are not represented in a score, but left to the performer interpreting that score to add. Indeed, attempting to represent these nuances accurately is likely to lead to a hugely confusing score full of bizarre note lengths, rests, and timing. The first step in creating a score, therefore, is to quantise the music to be scored: although the mechanical feel imposed upon the music is not what you want to hear, from a notation point of view it's perfect for what you want to see. If you need to preserve the original for playback purposes, you should save a new copy of the song specifically for destructive score editing.

You can quantise a part in the Arrange window by selecting it and pressing the Q key, and you can also quantise the music currently displayed in the score editor, again by pressing the Q key. The quantise resolution can be set in either the score editor's or the Arrange window's toolbar, and should be set to the shortest note length used in the part (or parts).

Display Quantise

It's worth remembering that Cubase has two types of quantise: the standard quantise, as described above, which destructively changes the notes, and the Display Quantise, which applies quantise only to what we see in the score editor. The Display Quantise settings are found in the Staff Settings dialogue on the Score menu (note that the Score menu is greyed out when the score editor isn't open as the top window).

Once the music is quantised, the Display Quantise Notes value is responsible for setting the smallest note length that can appear on a stave. For this reason, you should always set it to the smallest note length used on the stave. This is important to know because even if your music contains demisemiquavers and you have quantised to a resolution of 32, Cubase will only display the score properly if you have also set the Notes value of Display Quantise to 32.

The Rests value of Display Quantise should be set to the smallest note length you would want on a single beat. This can seem slightly confusing at first, but is easily explained with a few examples. What the Rests value doesn't do is set is the smallest rest that will appear on a stave, which is what you might expect after thinking about the Notes value. In the uppermost example, right, Notes is set to 16 and Rests to 4, which are the default values. As you can see, there's no problem in displaying quaver or even semiquaver rests. I've then changed the Rests value to 16, given that 16 is the smallest rest length in the example; in the lower example, you can see what has happened to the crotchet on the third beat. By doing this, we're telling Cubase to use semiquavers as the smallest note length on a beat, which is why we suddenly have more rests in the music. You should always leave the Rests value as the default 4, and change this only if note lengths are appearing longer than you want.

There's also an option called Auto Quantise. You won't need Auto Quantise if your music contains only straight notes, or only triplets (in which case you should use a triplet 'T' value for Notes). If, however, your music contains a combination of straight and triplet rhythms, the Auto Quantise flag should be activated. If you've activated Auto Quantise, two more flags become available to you: Dev. (Deviation) and Adapt. Deviation tries to detect notes that are slightly on or off the beat and pulls them into time, but generally you don't need to turn this on because the music should have already been quantised. If there are triplets in your music that haven't been interpreted as triplets in the score editor then turn the Adapt flag on, otherwise leave it off. This feature works on the assumption that if one triplet rhythm is found, there may be others before or after.

Click OK when you're happy with the settings, and check through the score to see what's happened.

Fixing Note Lengths

After Display Quantise, there's another set of features to help you interpret a MIDI recording into correct notation; the so called Interpretation Flags you may have noticed under Display Quantise in the Staff Settings dialogue. Cubase's score editor is extremely sensitive, especially when it comes to rhythm, and while we can solve the problem of where the notes fall in the bar with either quantise or display quantise, the actual lengths of the notes pose another problem.

If we played four semiquaver notes on the four crotchet beats of a 4/4 bar, you'll notice that by default the score editor rounds the length of the note up so that it cleanly fills the gap to the next note. In this instance, our four semi‑quavers get rounded up to four crotchets. This behaviour is toggled by an Interpretation Flag called Clean Lengths, which is active by default, and which forces notes with an ambiguous length to be rounded up to last until either the next note, or the next Rests Display Quantise position.

If everything has been played into Cubase in real time, it's possible to have a single‑voice part containing overlapping notes. Because you would never see music written like this, and as it would actually be impossible to play on a monophonic instrument such as a flute, we need to clear up the display. One solution would be to go through your score and shorten all the overlapping notes manually, but fortunately you don't have to because Cubase provides a No Overlaps Interpretation Flag to deal with these problems.

Syncopation

In music, a rhythm that doesn't fall on the established accented beats of the time signature is known as a syncopated rhythm. If you try to enter the rhythm 'quaver crotchet crotchet crotchet quaver' in a bar of standard 4/4 time, the third note appears tied, which is to say that it's split into one or more notes and 'tied' together to indicate the notes should be played as one without a break. To the ear there's nothing wrong with this, but it's grammatically incorrect; the two tied quavers should appear as a crotchet. Fortunately, where syncopated rhythms are concerned there's an easy way around this by simply activating the Syncopation Interpretation Flag.

The purpose of a score isn't to give the musician a concrete set of rules to follow, it's more of a starting point for interpretation, and one example of this is in music that uses swing or shuffle time. When you want the swing rhythm as a global feel to the piece, instead of implicitly writing the swing time, you write the music straight and indicate that it's to be played with a swing.

If the piece isn't going to have a global swing feel, and there are just a couple of bars that need to be swung, then by all means go ahead and write them in. However, if you're worried about that jazz masterpiece you just spent all night playing into Cubase in swing time, all is not lost because again, our 'quick fix' interpretation flags can save the day. When the Shuffle Interpretation Flag is active, Cubase will search out swing rhythms and make them straight in appearance.

Anti‑Globalisation

All of the Display Quantise and Interpretation Flag functions always affect an entire musical stave, and there may be some occasions when you think, 'Wouldn't it be nice if I could just change these settings for this little section?' Well, you can! Select the notes you want to assign different settings to, and choose Do / Insert Quantise. The Insert Quantise dialogue appears, giving us some now‑familiar settings. Alter the settings required and click OK to apply these changes and close the dialogue.

This is very useful for changing a couple of notes or bars, but it's also possible to say 'from this point onwards I want to change the settings like this'. To do this, select the Display Quantise tool from the toolbox, and click at the precise point you want the change to occur. The vertical position doesn't matter but the horizontal position is displayed on the toolbar, just the same as when you add notes. The Insert Quantise dialogue opens, allowing you make any alterations. Click OK when you've finished.

If and when you want to return to the original settings again, as set up in the Staff Settings dialogue, just select the Display Quantise tool again, and click at the point you want to return to the original settings. In the Insert Quantise dialogue which opens, click the Restore to Staff button. This changes the settings to the originals, which saves you having to remember and enter them manually. Mark Wherry

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

Switching Modes

The score editor features two different modes, Edit and Page, which offer different ways of displaying and working with your score. Edit mode displays your score bar‑by‑bar, and is primarily intended for editing note‑related information, composing and entering music. Page mode, on the other hand, offers a page‑by‑page display of your score, showing you exactly what will get printed to the finished page. This is the mode where you can add extra graphic symbols for your score and fine‑tune the way it will look.

You'll probably find yourself switching between Edit and Page modes quite frequently and because it can become tedious to access the Score menu each time, the best thing is to assign a key command. To do this, choose Preferences / Key Commands from the Edit menu and click on the Score tab. The Edit Mode or Page Mode command appears at the top of the list. Click in the Key column for this command and press a key combination on your keyboard. I use Shift+1 for this, as no other key command uses this convenient combination by default. When you've chosen, click OK. Mark Wherry

Cubase Tips

Following April's tips about overcoming the difficulties involved in creating LM4 programs, reader Andrew Mockford writes to tell us of a PC‑only editor which, he says, is much more usable than the Wizoo one. Visit www.inet.hr/~nsiskov for more details. Sam Inglis

If you do most of your editing in the Score editor, it can be a good idea to make this the default editor that opens when a part is double‑clicked on the Arrange window. To do this, simply choose Preferences / General from the Edit menu, select the Editors page, set Editor to Score, and click OK. Mark Wherry

To display the kind of larger time signatures that are common on modern full scores, select Layout Settings from the Score menu, activate Modern Timesignature in the top right group, and click Exit. Mark Wherry

When entering notes on the score, the value of the note being entered can be selected using the number keys along the upper part of the keyboard; type [1] for a semibreve, [2] for a minim, and so on. This can be useful, but be aware that the shortcuts also change the snap value to the currently selected note value, which makes it impossible to enter a minim on the second crotchet beat of a bar without changing the snap value manually. Mark Wherry

Layouts

A Cubase score layout is the way in which one or more tracks appear on the printed page with all the extra visual information we specify in page mode, including the layout symbols and spacing adjustments to staves and bars. When producing written music for musicians to play, we generally need two things: a full score containing every detail of the music, and individual parts for the players. The full score and each individual part will require a separate layout.

To store all of the different layouts required, you might be thinking it would be necessary to create different versions of the song, or employ some other complicated management process that relies on the user keeping track of things. Fortunately this is not the case, as Cubase can take care of this for you. A list of layouts is managed internally and every time you open up a new combination of instruments, a new layout is automatically created. When the same combination is called up again, the layout profile will be recalled with all of your previous work intact. In this way, we can build up layouts for our parts and the full score. You can access this list of layouts in the Layout Settings dialogue from the Score menu, sometimes known as Page Mode Settings.

Viewing parts in the score editor is easy, and selecting a combination of tracks you've opened before will recall an existing layout. If you want to recall a specific layout but you can't remember what combination of tracks it contained, choose Score Layout from the Edit menu and select the layout required from the sub‑menu. The necessary parts will be selected so you can now open the Score editor in the usual way. If your score seems to be missing details you know have been added, the chances are that you're viewing the wrong layout. Mark Wherry

Insert At Record Position

As a result of every computer musician's nightmare — the loss of a song file before a backup had been made — I recently discovered a rather useful feature within Cubase VST (v4.1 or higher). This feature makes moving audio between different Cubase Songs a doddle. It's called Insert at Record Position, and is found under the Do menu within the Audio Pool.

This simple, elegant facility simply places audio on a selected track at exactly the temporal location at which it was originally recorded. This was particularly helpful to me as I was attempting to recreate a Cubase Song that had gone corrupt before backup. It was a job of mere minutes to restore even the smallest pieces of audio to exactly the locations they had occupied in the original Song, leaving me the job of recreating the lost MIDI data. Of course, this facility could also be used during remixing or when creating a new Song around existing audio: the Record Position data means that all audio will be completely in sync when imported to a new Song. Derek Johnson

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