Automation Timeline? Advanced Midi Articulations?

Hey all,

I have two passions: film and music, in that order. Since film has always come first, my knowledge of audio engineering is not as strong as my knowledge and skills in film. I do a lot of home studio recordings and I score my own films using Kontakt 3 for my orchestral instrument sounds. As I’ve grown as a composer I’ve found my ability with Midi and audio engineering unable to keep up with my composing skills. I’m still stuck in the dark ages of either notating in Sibelius and exporting to a .mid file or notating directly in Cubase. I prefer Sibelius for the notation and score display.

I’m now looking for ways to make my scores more realistic. The biggest thing I’m lacking that I want to do in my scores is dynamic volume and pitch changes. I’d love for a horn to play, say, 3 whole measures of the same note tied together, all the while getting louder and stronger. However, all I know how to do is grab a horn sample and plunk down 3 bars of the same note, it’s very dull. Is there a way in Cubase to draw in midi articulations? This is where the first part of my question comes in about timelines.

Being a film maker by heart, the idea of editing on a timeline is very natural to me. I like being able to create keyframes for things. For instance, the only way I know of to automate an effect is to turn on the read and write for the entire channel and move the sliders by hand over time. Is there a way to do this on a timeline like in a video editor? I’d love to be able to see, say, a reverb effect on the timeline and be able to easily draw in or add keyframes for the automation. This relates to the other question because I was wondering if it’s possible to draw in dynamics changes for Midi as well? Can I automate or create a Midi “note” that will change the volume and velocity of all other notes as long as it exists much like using midi notes for autotune?

I know some people will say “well, just get on the keyboard and play it in!” The problem is that a keyboard still isn’t always as intricate as I would like. It seems more intuitive for me to manually add articulations so I can get them EXACTLY how I want. Of course, the other issue is that I’m a guitar player by trade and a piano hobbyist, it would not be feasible for me to play my compositions in.

I hope all my ramblings make sense, and sorry for the novel of a first post! Thanks for taking the time to read this!

  • Tommy

Hello (and welcome :slight_smile: ),
You pose many questions there, the answers to some of which would also set you on the right road to answering the others :wink:.
First of all, let’s discuss “dynamics” a little…
You say you are using (Kontakt) sample libraries. Any sample is, as you are probably aware, the equivalent of a “still photo”, so, to get some “animation” out of it, we have to “cheat” a little…
Yes, we can simply automate the volume (or use a volume envelope in Kontakt), but, as you have noticed, when a real horn gets louder, it changes harmonically also. Samplers might achieve that by adding filters (making the sound less bright at low volumes), but it is much more difficult to add brightness to a sound that doesn’t have much to begin with.
A lot of sample libraries nowadays, offer instruments with multiple articulations (e.g. with the “swell” pre-recorded), and we bring a phrase of music to life by doing a montage of the different articulations. Most of these same libraries provide presets where you can change to a different articulation via MIDI keyswitches (usually, note-ons at the very bottom of the keyboard range).
In Cubase, you can record these “trigger notes” just the same as regular notes… and Cubase now has “VST Expression”, which is a more dedicated method of doing the same thing, using dedicated VST Expression maps.

As regards the “timeline”, all tracks in Cubase have Automation lanes (one lane for each available parameter), which is where your movements on the faders get recorded, but you can also enter automation points on them directly, with the pencil tool.

A lot of all this is explained rather well in Cubase’s Operation Manual.

Can I automate or create a Midi “note” that will change the volume and velocity of all other notes as long as it exists much like using midi notes for autotune?

I can’t think of any way of doing this in realtime, but MIDI Tracks have automation lanes also (that can be used for MIDI controllers, as well as all the parameters in the MIDI track’s Inspector “Modifiers” module), that work the same way as audio automation lanes, so you can insert points on them, to adjust, say, MIDI CC# 7 (volume). And there is a very useful MIDI lane available… “Velocity Shift”… that imposes a curve on the existing velocities.

Thanks so much for the very detailed response! It’s very helpful. I have a couple of questions. I drew in some automation for the velocity shift on a midi track assigned to Kontakt. The problem is that the instrument does not shifty velocities at all, it just stays constant the starting velocity. I can see the number changing in the automation, but it does not happen in realtime. Also, how do I add more than one automation to a midi track? As it stands I can only use one at a time :confused: Thanks!

The first thing to realize, is that not all instruments are set (in Kontakt, for example) to respond to velocity, or, at least, in varying degrees.
So, I’d suggest that you try doing exactly the same thing with a piano preset, or maybe even some percussion, to see if that was indeed the reason you were getting no velocity response.
As to the “more than one lane” problem, once you have opened a lane, you can hover over the left side of it, in the track list, and see appear either a “+” or a “-” sign. Clicking on the “+” sign will open another lane.
I really do recommend that, in addition to freely experimenting, by clicking everywhere (you can’t “blow anything up”!), you take some time to settle down with the Cubase documentaion .pdf files (including the Quick Start Guide… it will get you familiar with the basic concepts , and the “jargon” used, which will also help when discussing in these forums :wink: )

Thanks so much for the help! Useful on all accounts. It seems that Kontakt is indeed not meant to have dynamic velocity changes like that. It will only play the velocity that is set at the start of the note. Do you know of any good samplers with orchestral libraries that would work well for this? Thanks!

But that is exactly what velocity means! It is the force (or, more literally, the speed) with which a MIDI note (normally, a key on your keyboard) is hit…i.e. it is a “one off” parameter… once you’ve hit the note, there’s nothing more for velocity to do (e.g. once you’ve hit a note softly on a piano, there’s no way you can make that same note louder… you’d have to play it again. Same for drums, of course :wink: )
That is why a note’s velocity is an integral part of the MIDI note-on data… you play a note on your keyboard, and it transmits the note number, its velocity (i.e. how hard you hit that note), and the MIDI channel number.
Don’t confuse velocity with “volume”! Volume is more akin to turning a knob on your hi-fi :wink:. It is done in MIDI via MIDI Controllers (usually MIDI CC# 7)

and see appear either a “+” or a “-” sign

It always lets me do this only once, for some reason I can’t get more than 2 automation lanes active. Could be a limitation of Cubase 5 Essential though.

I can use more than 2 by switching the contents of the lanes though, just can’t view more than 2 at the same time.