A Question to All the MIDI Gurus [SOLVED]

Hi everyone!

New guy here :slight_smile: So far I’m really loving Cubase and even find it much more inspirational to work with than my previous sequencer (Sonar). It’s truely an amazing DAW! However, there is one aspect of it that worries me. I’m trying to emulate my workflow from Sonar into Cubase, but I seem to have run into a dead end. Basically, I want to be able to load several articulations into an Instrument Track, using PLAY as my VSTi, and have certain notes trigger these articulations via MIDI channel commands. For example, Instrument Track 1 will have all my 1st Violin articulations loaded as follows:

Ch1 = Legato
Ch2 = Staccato
Ch3 = Sustain
Ch4 = Tremolo

I then assign the corresponding MIDI Channel, based on the above articulation matrix, to certain notes in the 1st Violin’s melodic part. The same goes for the rest of the Instruments of the Orchestra. This way each instrument in the Orchestra has a single MIDI track instead of 4 - 8 MIDI tracks. This makes the project more manageable in pretty much any perceivable way since you end up with a much smaller track count, and you could even print a score without having to merge parts. They’re all within a single MIDI track!

Now, the problem I’m running into is that Instrument Tracks are only responding to Ch1 commands and totally ignoring the articulations I’ve loaded and assinged to other Channels. This means that only the Legato patch (as per my articulation example above) is being triggered while the other articulations are not. So the question is, how can I get my Instrument Tracks to respond to all my MIDI Channels in order to have it play every single articualtion? Now, don’t get this confused with layering, 'cause that’s not what I’m trying to achieve here. I want to trigger specific articulations at specific times throughout the course of a melodic phrase.

I apologize for the long post, I could’ve made it much smaller but I wanted to convey as much information as possible in order to avoid confusion. Not many people use this type of workflow, from what I’ve noticed at least, so I needed to be thorough. Hopefully this is possible in Cubase. Otherwise, this would be the ONLY feature I will miss from Sonar.


I don’t use instrument tracks, but on a midi track there’s the midi channel in the inspector. In your case it should be set to Any rather than a number. Does this help?


Hi Mike,

Thanks for responding! I see what you mean but, for some reason, Instrument Tracks don’t display a MIDI Channel parameter inside the Inspector. That would’ve definitely solve my problem. But there’s gota be a way to achieve the same thing on Instrument Tracks. I refuse to believe that Cubase does not have this.

On second thought, I could just take your advice and use MIDI tracks instead. The only problem with that is that I would then lose the flexibility of being able to mix (insert audio FX, etc) if I use MIDI tracks. Like I said, there’s gotta be a way to switch Instrument Tracks to accept all MIDI channels just like you can with MIDI tracks. But at least you gave me a good option to fold back to, thanks Mike!

You should not loose anything as you mix (insert sends etc) in the VSTi channel.

Err, I recall people commenting on instrument tracks, like only one output, and maybe even only channel 1 then?

Sounds like midi tracks is the way to go, that’s certainly how I do it. I do orchestral programming occasionally but I don’t use different articulations that much, maybe I did what you’re doing but I can’t remember. But I use different midi tracks for different orchestral instruments within the same VSTi all the time and I use the inspector to set the channel numbers.

On the subject of mixing, it shouldn’t make any difference. Or, do you mean swapping over - in which case, use drag and drop between the channels.


Could you elaborate please? I don’t see a way to do this except for MIDI Inserts/Sends (Not Audio).

I never user instrument tracks so i could be mistaken but I think that is the way instrument tracks work. 1 track per instrument which = 1 midi channel. Instrument tracks are considerably less flexible than a midi track and audio channel combination. DBL check the manual.

I don’t think GargoyleStudio’s sollution will work because if you merge the parts and set the midi channel to any then all of the articulations will sound in all channels when you play a note. Unless your vsti has the different articulations mapped via some CC. IE if you use the Expression control to switch between the different articulations but the instruments i have used utilize that method when the articulations are layered in one patch/ program.

i just wrote this then noticed the above post this will clarify

As a tip - you probably figured this out but you can also give 1 vsti multiple audio output channels - which is nice for mixing.

Open the vst instrument panel and select the box with the arrow to the left of the instrument slot and you will get a pull down window (if the instrument supports it) you will have a number of output options. simply select each output pair that you want then in the instrument assign the patch to the corresponding output - cubase will autmatically create a mixer channel for each audio output you have chosen.


If Instrument Tracks are truly locked to one channel, the I guess I have no choice but to use MIDI Tracks. It’s not a bad solution, just not as flexible as Instrument Tracks as I understand them in Cubase (see below).

On the subject of mixing, it shouldn’t make any difference. Or, do you mean swapping over - in which case, use drag and drop between the channels.


By that I mean being able to mix wihout bouncing the tracks to audio (although sometimes that may be necessary in order ot free up RAM and CPU resources). With Instrument Tracks one is able to compose AND mix from the same project wihout needing to bounce the MIDI into audio as you would normally do it with MDI Tracks. This is why I prefer working with Instrument Tracks, cause then I’m able to go back at any time in the process to fix a note and then continue mixing. It’s a much more streamed workflow.

I tried it and his method definitely works. The articulations are being changed through MIDI channel commands, so only the articulation loaded into a particular channel will be triggered by the note with the same MIDI channel assigned to it. That’s basically how I used to do it in Sonar, but using Instrument Tracks instead of MIDI Tracks. But it seems Cubase locks Instrument Tracks to one channel, which is a bummer. I may have to Feature Request this.

As a tip - you probably figured this out but you can also give 1 vsti multiple audio output channels - which is nice for mixing.

Open the vst instrument panel and select the box with the arrow to the left of the instrument slot and you will get a pull down window (if the instrument supports it) you will have a number of output options. simply select each output pair that you want then in the instrument assign the patch to the corresponding output - cubase will autmatically create a mixer channel for each audio output you have chosen.


I have to try this, but from what I’m getting, it seems this would work if you have different instruments (patches) loaded into a single VSTi. This is not what I’m doing though. I have multiple articulations loaded into a single VSTi, and I want to mix them all in the same track, which is not what your solution would give me. Please correct me if I understood you wrong.

Can’t you assign the different articulations (within the one instance of the VSTi) to the same (stereo audio) output in the VSTi?

If not, and if you’re obliged to have a different mixer channel for each articulation, I suppose you could create a group channel in the mixer with all the articulations’ mixer channels routed to it; then the group fader would adjust the overall level.

Im not familiar with Play - so perhaps im misunderstanding the way its laid out. but in most sampler/ sample playback instruments you can have multiple patches loaded into one bank or one instance of the vsti. in Halion you can have ie violas, in slot 1 legato, slot 2 violas staccato, etc etc and that gives you the option to have them all on separate midi channels and it also gives you the option to have that 1 vsti have pairs of audio outputs for each slot/ patch and have them assigned to multiple audio channels. I am guessing that Play allows something similar.

My suggestion allows you alot of flexiblity with the audio output from the vsti. it means you can have differnent fx, eq, and levels for each of the instruments because each have their own mixer channel. you do not need to bounce them to audio at all unless you need to. the mixer channel is just an audio bus. glad you got the articulations working the way you desired. In your setup it would mean you would have 1 midi channel for:

Ch1 = Legato
Ch2 = Staccato
Ch3 = Sustain
Ch4 = Tremolo
etc. and if you desired 4 channels of audio 1 for each of those articulations. this is something you can change at any time so while your arranging you can keep it simple and have 1 audio channel for all 4 articulations then when you are ready to start mixing follow the instructions i mentioned and then you can polish the performances to taste.

FWIW you can hide the midi channel in the mixer to keep the visiblity clean. there is an button on the left hand side of the mixer window that allows you to hide various types of channels - if you hover your mouse over the items a tip pop up will show you which buttons are which.



Yes, this is how PLAY is setup by default, though I could set it up both ways if I wanted (i.e. an output pair for each articulation OR the same output pair for all of them). However, and this is what I think you guys are suggesting, I don’t know how to send the output of a VSTi to an Audio Track. Moreover, I don’t know if I want to do this since that will double my track count (one Audio Track per MIDI Track), which is precisely what I was avoiding in the first place with the use of Instrument Tracks. I guess I could live with having several VSTi’s outputting to a Group Channel (i.e. having all my Strings VSTis going to a STRINGS Bus/Group). That would be acceptable even though it would mean loosing control over mixing each and every instrument. The other way would be to simply bounce eveything to audio and work in that domain when I done. Not the flexibility I like but there doesn’t seem to be much of a choice I guess :frowning:

Thanks so much for your help everyone! Still hoping someone will come up with a solution to the 1 MIDI Channel per Instrument Track limitation Cubase has (if there is one that is).

Take care!

its easier to see if you try this

add on instance of any vsti in the vsti window and one midi track assigned to it. and now you have 1 midi track in the project window and two channels in the mixer window (not what you want) hide the midi channel in the mixer as i described above - now you have your arrangement page with just the midi info and the mixer with just the audio signal. If you need to commit the instrument to audio then you will need to create an audio track in the arrangement window and bounce - only necessary if you want an audio file or are running out of cpu resources etc.

its wordy to describe this but i find its much more flexible and once you get more familiar with cubase you may prefer it because it does offer more than the instrument channel track combo. I think this is closer to the way your envisioning your workflow. and it seems you need to do it this way because of your articulation needs and your arrangement style.



please check my previous post i made an error that would have confused my point.

The VSTi’s audio output(s) will automatically appear in the mixer - you don’t have to create an audio track and assign the VSTi to it. (Audio) inserts and sends will be available for the VSTi’s associated mixer track(s). And, if you want to, you can automate the mixer’s faders.

As phidelity said - try it; it’s not hard. It looks like you might be thinking it’s more complex than it really is to set up.

Hi Phil,

I see what you’re saying. So I guess there’s no other way around it :frowning:

I’ll need to experiment more with this type of workflow, but I really appreciate your help (and everyone who has chimed in so far). I will start by replicating my former template (from Sonar) using your suggestions. I had already done this using Instrument Tracks, and everything was going VERY well until I stumbled on the current issue. If only Cubase had the same Channel option as it does on MIDI tracks, all would be well. But anyway, thanks so much!

Have a great day :slight_smile:


I believe that the answer is very simple: use the Expression Map feature, just make a new Map yourself, add your articulations and point all them to whatever channel is loaded in Play. Then assign in your one and only midi channel (in which Play is loaded of course) the articulations you want to have in your playback.

There is really no need for a feature request, IMHO: it is the merit of Steinberg, that they have implemented this feature already. It is the only DAW with this brilliant idea.

BTW I have made several mockups, presented on www.slb-o.com, of pieces with more than one instrument, also in Play, just one instrument per channel with many many articulations (loaded in Play in the same many many different channels)


PS If necessary I can make a kind of small tutorial on this issue. Just let me know.

Hi Erik,

I thought about using Expression Maps, but I believed they only worked with Keyswitches. Play currently doesn’t allow building your own keyswitches (until Play Pro is out that is), so I gave up on that idea. On the other hand, I don’t know much about Expression Maps and perhaps I have misunderstood how they work. I need to research them further (yours or any existing tutorial videos on it that you can point me to would be greatly appreciated). If I may ask you a few questions:

1- My main template uses an instance of PLAY for each instrument of the orchestra, including a Choir, with a total of 31 Play iterations. Each one of them carries the articualtions I’ll need for that specific piece. IOW, the articualtions I use keep changing for every piece in order to avoid loading samples that won’t get used, and thus prevent running out of resources. Is it possible to have that kind of customization with Expression Maps without having to create a different one for each piece I work on? For example, is it possible to create a “master” Expression Map but only use the needed articulations without loading all of them? [Sorry, long question].

2- Do I have to create an Expression Map for EVERY single Play instance in my project?

I think the answer to these two questions would be enough for me to determine if Expression Maps are right for me. I still think that Steinberg should include the ability to use more than one MIDI channel on Instrument Tracks. You guys don’t understand how this simple thing, this one thing, would solve my current problem. If Cubase had it, I wouldn’t need to mess around with the VSTi window, which doesn’t allow changing the names of the synths or rearrange them (a PITA), and I wouldn’t have to hide anything nor create Expression Maps. The ability to use any MIDI channel on Instrument Tracks is the ONLY feature I miss from Sonar. Other than this, Cubase is waaaay better!! I don’t even understand how I’ve heard people say Sonar was better than Cubase, what were they drinking? lol. Anyway, I’ll await your answer in the hope that perhaps I’m understimating Expression Maps.


EDIT: I’ve watched a few Youtube videos on VST Expression Maps, but they seem to only work with MIDI Tracks and not Instrument Tracks (as far as using channel messages to switch between articulations goes), is this correct?


Just a quick reply.

Concerning the use of an Expression Map.
It is possible to define a channel within an articulation, just like other parameters like CC or Program Change. So not only keyswitches (which is a PITA omission of Play BTW)

Suppose you have loaded in Play:
1: legato
2: staccato
3: portamento
4: slur runs

Make a new Expression Map (I guess you know how to get there), give it a name (for instance Hollywood Strings Lite), create articulations with the same name, point them to the according channel you have used in Play.
Then load this just created Expression Map in your midi or instrument channel (actually I don’t see any problem here which to choose), open the key editor and choose Articulations as parameter in a controller lane (just like velocity). Add the articulation where and when you want to have them and hey presto…it works!

The setup of a new Expression Map shouldn’t take no more time than a few minutes really, for only 4 articulations.

Suppose that you have loaded these articulations for only violins 1, you can use this specific map for whatever other instruments (even Hollywood Brass instruments), so there is no need for creating maps over again.
Unless…you need another compilation of patches (for instance Hollywood Power User), but this one you can use when or where you want. Of course there should be always a correct correspondance between loaded instruments in Play and your Expression Map.

Furthermore I do agree with you as former Sonar user: Cubase is way better in handling typical Midi issues: escpecially with the Expression Map version2 (with again as main feature the possibility of combining CC values, channel settings etc.etc.)

Hope this helps, if not don’t hesitate to ask for a better explanation


PS Always back-up your Expression Map, just in case…

Instrument tracks are NOT flexible. They are the opposite of flexible. They were designed to be NOT flexible because too many people struggled with the truly flexible combination of using a three or more track system… MIDI(One or more)+VSTi+Audio(One or more).

There are only two advantages to instrument tracks.

  1. Hide the complexity of what is really happening (loss of flexibility).
  2. Instrument track presets.

We keep hoping that they will allow multi-track/multi-out configurations to be saved as presets instead of having to save them as templates like we do now.

I encourage people to just forget about instrument tracks. The only reason to use them as far as I’m concerned is for single ended VSTi output, such as bass or lead lines on synths. For any really expansive MIDI work, they are useless.