Are Cubase audio effects possible for external instrument controlled via Midi track?

Hi all,
I use my external keyboard (Roland RD 2000) for my mix via Midi and would like to use Cubase audio effects (e.g. reverb) for the keyboard sounds. However, I can’t get this to work the way I want.
For my internal VSTis, Cubase creates an audio channel strip where you can add audio effects to the inserts. I would also need something like that for my external source.
Sure, I could just record an audio track of my midi track and edit it. But if I then change something in the midi data, I would have to repeat that every time - not so great.
How do you do that?

Hi zusammen,
ich steuere meine externe Klangerzeugung (Roland RD 2000) über Midi an und möchte nun Audio-Effekte (z.B. Hall) für den Track nutzen, bekomme das aber nicht so hin, wie ich es will.
Für meine internen VSTis wird ja ein Audio-Kanalzug angelegt, wo man die Inserts bestücken kann. So was bräuchte ich auch für meine externe Quelle.
Klar, ich könnte ich einfach eine Audiospur meines Miditracks aufnehmen, und die bearbeiten. Wenn ich aber dann was an den Mididaten ändere, müsste ich das ja jedesmal wiederholen - nicht so toll.
Wie macht ihr das?
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While adding the new External Instrument in the Audio Connections window, you can setup how many Audio Returns does your instrument have. If you setup multiple Audio Returns, you can then apply the Audio plug-ins to these Audio Return Channels.

Not sure about the little brother versions, but with Pro it works quite well if you:

  1. Tap F4 to bring up Studio/Audio Connections
  2. Click the External Instruments tab.
  3. Click Add External Instrument.
  4. Assign the type and number inputs desired from your audio interface (where the audio outputs of your outboard synth are connected).
  5. Optionally, you can also establish a link to specific MIDI ports here as well. Experiment. If your synth only uses one MIDI input, and you’ll only be using a single instrument profile, or no profile at all, then you might like establishing a link to a MIDI port here. Personally, I don’t do it since I like to be able to swap MIDI Instrument Profiles easily, rather than being locked into one. I.E. For my Roland Fantom XR I have different profiles for the XR, and various SRX cards in the unit and can easily swap among them (as opposed to spending a lot of time trying to merge it all into a single profile), so I do NOT assign any MIDI ports here (instead I do it manually on a track-by-track basis).

At this point, your external instrument should now be listed with instrument plugins in the rack (right tab/VSTi, or tap F11) under Steinberg/External Instruments

  1. Load it as a rack instrument, and from there you can point independent MIDI tracks at it to your heart’s content.

You should find gear set up with the method has a complete set of functions for the corresponding mixer channel(s), including slots for hosing VST effect plugins.

Thank you Martin and Brian.
Your description, Brian, was very helpful. Thank you very much.
Two small problems remains:

  1. I can’t control the volume completely with the fader of the instrument track, but the volume control on my external keyboard sets the minimum. With the fader I can then only increase the volume. Any idea how I can control the volume completely in Cubase?
  2. If I want to add a secound instrument track with the RD2000, but I don’t see it in the instrument field (external plugins) if the new track. Can I use the instrument only in one instrument track?

It would be great if I could find a midi device with presets for the RD2000 (for the Cubase midi device manager). If anyone has any ideas, that would be great.

Thank you very much for your help.

In this case I don’t recommend trying to use multiple instrument tracks. Most likely, you only want have ONE instrument track pointing to your synth, and then direct subsequent MIDI tracks into it from there.

So, you might have 1 instrument track, and maybe you’ve got the drum work on that.

Then you might have a MIDI track with guitar work, that connects to the MIDI input of your synth. The sound will pipe through that Instrument track, but your sequence will live in the MIDI track.

Later, you might ‘freeze’ all the tracks, and merge them together into that one initial Instrument Track if you like. Then you could ‘dissolve’ everything in that instrument track into ‘lanes’ by channel. (Totally optional…but can really come in handy if you want to export MIDI loops for the Media Bay (instant audition stuff).

OR, just skip instrument tracks all together. Put your synth in rack mode, and sequence exclusively with MIDI tracks.

Since you seem pretty new to this…I think you’ll get more flexibility if you treat outboard gear like a ‘rack instrument’, and play it through MIDI tracks.

When working with outboard gear that doesn’t come with some kind of custom plugin or something, I recommend loading the tone module as a ‘rack instrument’ rather than ‘track instrument’.

Why? MIDI tracks and Instrument tracks both offer some unique advantages, but personally, when working with outboard gear I find MIDI tracks a little more flexible. Mainly because MIDI tracks offer four AUX MIDI sends. Eventually, you might want to take advantage of those!

Also, track instruments set up true VST style faders on the mixing console instead of giving you MIDI faders (that send CC events for internally mixing inside the synth).

So for now…use MIDI tracks rather than instrument tracks. I’ll chime in a bit later on interesting uses for ‘instrument type tracks’.

You will use MIDI faders to mix. Those send CC7 events over the corresponding channels.

You’ll have a set of audio faders on the mixing console from which you can set the master volume for everything the synth plays.

I.E. If you have a single stereo connection into your audio card, then you get one Audio fader for the synth/tone module.

Now lets assume the synth is multi-timberal, and can receive up to 16 MIDI channels. Imagine you have a piano on channel 1, A Bass on channel 2, and a drum set on channel 10.

You’d use 3 separate MIDI tracks, each connected to your synth/tone module’s MIDI input (This is done via the track inspector in the left zone of the main project window).
Piano on MIDI channel 1
Bass on MIDI channel 2
Drums on MIDI channel 10

Each of these MIDI tracks should get faders on the Mixing console. These faders send CC7 events for channel volume, and CC10 events for panning. Using these controls on the Cubase Mixer for the MIDI tracks allow you to do an internal mix in your Synth/tone-module.

So, what if your synth offers more audio outputs than just a single stereo pair? Then you’d set those up in your External Instruments panel (F4). I.E. My Fantom XR can have 4 audio outputs, so I could set it up so I end up with two stereo audio faders on the Mixing console. Or, I could set it up as 4 mono outputs. Or 1 stereo and 2 mono, etc.

I’ll still need to ‘mix’ things internally in my XR using the MIDI faders (or through CC events in my MIDI tracks directly).

I will also need to tweak my XR instruments/patches to assign them to the output(s) I wish them to play over. One thing that is pretty common for me with my XR is to send everything but the drums to Outputs 1&2, and do drum kit work over outputs 3&4. This way I can run a different chain VST effects on the drums than I do everything else the XR is playing.

Unless your synth has a LOT of audio outputs (some models do have up to 8 or even 16 audio outputs), and your computer’s audio interface has lots of inputs, keep in mind that you won’t be able to process every single individual MIDI channel on your synth with the VST effects independently, in real time.

So, what if you do want to isolate and process some instrument from that mix? Then you’d need to ‘solo’ the channel and record a pass in real time to an audio track on his own. Then you could route that audio track through specialized VST effects.

With that in mind, it’s usually best to get a pretty good MIDI mix first if you can. Use the internal effects built into your synth first. From there, if you want to do more with individual instruments then you’d solo those out one by one and make pure audio track that you can further process in isolation with your VST plugin effects.

Instrument tracks offer some advantages for true VSTi plugins. Rather than depending upon MIDI CC events to get things done, plugins can register ‘VST Parameters’, and you typically get more choices in how the instrument can be ‘automated’.

For outboard gear that is fully MIDI driven, you’ll be bypassing the VST parameter advantages that instrument tracks can offer. Still, if you want to make MIDIloops that can be instantly auditioned in the Cubase Media Bay, instrument tracks might be of interest.

Personally…if I have no plans to library such loops, I don’t see any advantage to Instrument tracks when it comes to working with ‘general’ outboard gear (general, meaning that it didn’t ship with a special VST plugin interface).

Another difference from rack mode, is that instrument tracks get their own audio fader placed on the Mixing console. They do NOT get a MIDI fader on the Mixing Console. Of course you can still mix using CC lanes in your events/parts, but you’ll miss out on having those MIDI sliders on the Cubase Mixing Console.

One of the big pluses of instrument type tracks is that they can export to something called MIDIloop files. These store the plugins/instrument vstpresets in an embedded way so they can be auditioned directly in the Cubase Media Bay without having to set up instruments and all first. Just click a midi loop in Media Bay, and audition it right then and there! Cool stuff if you are musician who like to build lots of loops and textures and reuse them again and again in different projects.

You can also connect MIDI tracks to existing instrument tracks, and you can group MIDI and Instrument tracks together and export them as consolidated MIDIloop files.

Still, all these abilities still beg the question. Will it work with external gear?

It will…but if you intend to stash stuff in your Media Bay, be careful about always setting your external gear exactly the same (Exact same name) for ever more or you may well have to fix broken links and stuff to keep them working in the future.

I also think that in the short term, you’ll find it much easier to ‘mix’ on your outboard gear if you stick with ‘rack instrument’ mode, and use MIDI tracks with your outboard gear.

One exception to this rule might be if your outboard gear is quite new, and ships with a special VST plugin interface. If that’s the case, then you should probably be using that rather than the generic ‘external instruments’ (F4) option described earlier in this thread. You’ll also want to dig in your synth’s owner’s manual to see how it’s all supposed to integrate with a DAW.

Hallo Brian,

Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and experience with me. As you have clearly seen, I am still a beginner. For me this is a very good overview and orientation. I will definitely experiment with the instrument tracks. However, for my purposes, your advice to use midi tracks, mix them and then record them as audios seems to fit me best at the moment.
Again, thank you for your time and effort, that helps me a lot.

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