Does Cubase have a Pattern Mode?

Hey Gang,
Can Cubase be setup for a more “Pattern-Based” way of working, like a drum machine? Coming from an MPC, I struggle to get that same flow working linearly. Constantly setting markers and loop points slows me down.
Any suggestions?
Thanks, Mike

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Yes, it can.
Have a look in the manual regarding the Arranger Track.
They won’t mention the word pattern but it lets you define sections (patterns) that you can jump to in a non-linear fashion.

I will add to what @John said this. The arranger track is interesting in the sense that not only does it allow you to create as many sections as you want (and sections within sections) and the number of measures per section is of little importance, it’s up to you who decides, but you can if you wish extend all these sections and no longer use this track.

I find that this track has an interesting Live (Ableton) side, even if it is very different.

I don’t agree that the Arranger feature helps with pattern based composition. That’s if by pattern you’re referring to notes specifically. The closest thing it has is the MIDI insert “Beat Designer”.

If anything you could use a combination of Arranger which is literally for the purposes of arranging sections of musical events along with the Beat Designer which allows you to compose with a grid structure, which I consider more of a pattern.

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Some of the instruments have pattern grid writing functions where you can switch between them while writing. Think Halion SE has that with certain instruments. But it’s not the same as a formal grid input setup — like Studio One has, and those DAWs that cater to the EDM crowd.

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How do I activate that function?

I’m not looking at it right now, but from my experience you can find a kind of pattern grid editor in Halion; you can activate it, I think, or it may be linked to certain programmed sounds, which is where I think I stumbled across it.

But it’s not a genuine pattern editing tool for composing. It’s just within the sound design itself — like an arpeggiator.

It seems you focus on how notes are inserted while I focus on non-linear editing.
For me pattern based working means that your project doesnt just run from left to right. You have little sections that you can jump to it at any time and a playback area, where you can define in which order to play back the sections.

How you insert/edit notes is a different thing. You can use any of the four midi editors, e.g. the Drum Editor.

It’s not pattern based (I’m miss that too, but I’m using NI Maschine as iVST when composing) but you can try the Independent Track Loop. This is a loop per track that simply repeats. You can enable this for Midi and Audio tracks. When enabled, a blue loop section will appear in the time bar in the Key- or Sample editor. The editor windows must remain open for the loop to cycle.
I’m sure it is possible to define a macro that activates the mode and sets the start and end of the loop for the selected part, for example.

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Groove Agent

At first glance it appears to be a drum machine, but it can be more. Some creative routing, and you can have the pattern pads trigger ‘other things’ in your setup. I.E. In Cubase, GA provides a ‘MIDI OUTPUT’ that could be routed into other MIDI/Instrument tracks, and thusly diverted to play other plugins or outboard gear. It’s possible to have an instance of GA with ‘no kit loaded’ but forward the ouput of ‘pattern pads’ into a different instrument or MIDI track, thus playing patterns to whatever instrument plugins or outboard gear you like.

Cubase comes with Groove Agent SE.
(Screenshot of GA SE in stand alone mode, showing a loaded kit. A kick drum pad is selected to show an 8 layer kick drum instrument built by dragging wave files right onto the pad and selecting the velocity range for each sample. This is just a short kick drum pad, but you can indeed load longer waveforms onto pads, such as complete acoustical instrument loops and such if you like.)

Upgrade to the full deal and you get a built in diamond grid editor, 4 kits per instance. Each kit has 128 pads. Each instance of GA instance can have 128 ‘global patterns’.

Build your MIDI patterns on the 128 MPC ‘pattern’ pads (Eight banks of 16). You can build them by dragging MIDI files or MIDI events from MIDI/Instrument tracks straight from the Cubase project view, from the Media Bay, from your OS file selector, and/or from the built in GA browser and style manager.

(Full Groove Agent 5 showing a loaded pattern in the built in diamond editor)

Some of the kits also support ‘agent’ style/groove pattern builders.

Trigger patterns or instrument pads in real time with your controller, or via MIDI tracks in your DAW.

Pattern Pads can be set as one shot, endless looping, etc. Swing or quantize your grooves and more. You can have them in latch mode, or a ‘must keep the pad held down’ mode.

Instrument building pads…
Again you get 128 of these ‘instrument pads’ per ‘kit’. Drag samples right on the pad and get a swath of easy to use sample editing and mixing tools. If you need velocity layers a pad can have up to 8 I believe, and it’s possible work a little magic with the trigger note mapping to link multiple pads together and squeeze out more ‘velocity layers’ should you need more than 8 (or stack kits in full GA 5).

The SE version that comes with Cubase is worth having a look. It doesn’t have the diamond editor to build patterns with, but Cubase has its own diamond drum editor. Build/edit loops in whatever Cubase editor you like (including the diamond one)…drag the resulting event from the Cubase project view straight onto a GA pattern pad, and it’s off to the races.

That also works in reverse. You can drag patterns from inside GA onto Cubase tracks, export them as files, and so forth.

I believe it’s also possible to live record pattern pads in the full version of GA 5 in real time.

GA SE can’t record a pattern live/directly in real time, but it’s not a major problem. I’ve always just done live takes directly on a MIDI/Instrument track in Cubase itself, made minor edits in a beefy Cubase editor, then drug it onto a GA pattern pad later.

The SE version only supports one ‘kit’ per instance, but you can always load up as many instances as you need. 128 patterns not enough? Start another instance.

Groove Agent has a powerful mixing matrix built in. Each pad can be diverted to sub busses and isolated audio outputs if desired. Each pad can host effects of its own, plus whatever busses you’d like setup can also have effect chains.

In Cubase, with full GA5, the entire instance can ‘optionally’ be ‘expanded’ so every pad and bus shows up independently directly on the Mixing desk, thus making it easy to get super creative with external effects in mixer inserts.

If that MPC/pattern style of composing and playing suits you, grab a demo for full GA5 and take it for a drive. The big brother provides more horse power for things like channel isolation and diverting pattern output to other instruments/plugins if your DAW supports sidechaining instrument plugins in that way (No problem in Cubase).

It might be closer to what you’re looking for. It wouldn’t be limited to use in Cubase either. It can run stand alone (tho’ it’s better with some kind of sequencer at least), and will work in any VST3/AU/AAX host.

As for HALion 7. The full blown version of the HALion 7 instrument has arp engines, and also supports up to 8 trigger pads per instrument slot. In theory, you could store grooves and patterns to your heart’s content as ARP patterns. You can also zone out longer audio waveforms/drum loops/etc. to any key you like.

HALion is a very deep instrument though. It’s uber powerful, and pretty much anything you can do in Groove Agent, you can do BETTER in HALion 7. It comes with a steep learning curve though, and it’s not as ‘quick and easy’ to use as a pattern/groove engine as Groove Agent. Where Groove Agent is more about beats and bars, HALion is going to take you all the way down to the millisecond level of sound design. You can build it in HALion, but not in as ‘quick and easy, workflow friendly’ ways as Groove Agent when it comes to working with a library of MIDI patterns and/or audio loops.

Teaching Halion to forward output from something like an ARP engine to ultimately play ‘different plugins or outboard gear’ isn’t second nature either. Personally I have not tried to have HALion use internal ARP modules to trigger sounds in ‘other plugins’. I suspect that if it can do it at all…it would likely involve in the least a good bit of custom user ‘lua scripting’ to make it happen. In contrast, as long as you’d be triggering sounds native to a given HALion instance, you could definitely craft some very powerful, easy to play/trigger, and interesting ‘pattern triggering’ scenarios that’d make it easy to play one finger chord progressions, trigger loops and patterns, etc.

As for Sonic 7, that comes with Cubase…it does have the ability to make and store ARP patterns (far more than the old HALion SE). See and experiment with the Flexphraser module…

Again, you can build patterns/grooves/arps in Cubase and drag them right in.

I don’t think HALion or Sonic are as conductive to the sort of workflow you’ve described as Groove Agent, but it’s worth exploring.


Thanks. I’ll see if I can find it.

Hey Gang,
Thanks-a-bunch for the suggestions! And while I will certainly be incorporating them, they are not pattern-based in the way I need (although I must say, I will explore Groove Agent, thanks Brain). But as Johnny_Moneto pointed out, “pattern” can hold a different meaning for some. I was looking for a more "note input/editing’ sort of way. When I’m in my inspirational moments, nothing gets the notes down quicker then true pattern-based for me. I think me and estevancarlos are at the same point on that. I may have to use a 2-system approach like MarcoE, use my MPC for foundational composition then import into Cubase, but I would love to be able to work in Cubase for the whole process.

The drum editor works most similiar to that style. You basically switch notes on or off on the grid. What Brian called the diamond editor in Groove Agent is actually exactly the drum editor in Cubase.
But, yeah, also try the midi plugin BeatDesigner. It might work nice for you.
Good luck finding your way to inspiration.

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We need Ableton Session View plugin inside Cubase. Kind of Pro Tools Sketch.

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As Pro Tools Sketch has been mentioned I just had a look to this Pro Toold Add on.
Wow! Great, I am really impressed!

Isn’t Pro Tools sometimes considered as a “conservative” DAW?
I would say then that if even Pro Tools finally includes something like Sketch, Steinberg could really add something similar to Cubase :wink:

Now I am always wondering why Steinberg and (according to some threads) a lot of Steinberg users are so negative and reluctant toward such a feature.

I have often read people argumenting that if you need Session View and Clip Launcher then use Ableton Live for this - period.

Well, sure, at first it seems to be a great solution.
But I woul like to mention this:
I am using Cubase since the eighty years of the last century as my main music production tool .
At some point I had the need for this kind of specific functionality and I did bought Ableton Live.
I tried to work with it and I found Session View and Clip Launcher really really great to work with but … as a very long time Cubase user I must confess that I had difficulties (or let say a kind of unwillingness) to learn and get used to all the necessary thousand other parts of the programm that I know so well in Cubase but that are so different in Ableton Live.
After all working with something like Session View, Clip Launcher or Sketch ist only one aspect of producing music with a daw and one has to know all the other things in order to work deeply.
After some months I then stopped using Ableton Live because I was not willing to learn a whole Daw again and even more because I do prefer Cubase for everything that is not Session View or Clip Launcher.

So if a Cubase user would like such functionality, using Ableton Live, Pro Tools Sketch or any other daw with these features is not necessary the best solution.
This is why I still would really love to see such a functionality in Cubase.
And to connect this to the OP first post: this would make a pattern-based way of working easy :slight_smile:

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I love Ableton Live and I am very reluctant to the idea of Steinberg implementing this feature. I will be blunt and describe why:

Steinberg is a lot like early 2000s Microsoft: Innovative but awful designers of experiences.

  • Microsoft created some of the early tablets of the early 2000s before Apple. No one used them because their user experience was poorly implemented.
  • Microsoft (during that period) invented very interesting technologies that were not necessarily easy to use.
  • Steinberg is pretty similar at least when it comes to the constraints of Cubase. They seem to be engineers first. Everything else second.

I’m not confident they could create a “Sketch” feature in Cubase that isn’t sorely lacking when compared to the original. Additionally, Cubase is immensely feature-rich already. It’s just not a good idea to continue adding things if they are not working efficiently and well.

I say this from experience working at companies that had software bloat. At a certain point you have to say “Stop. Let’s fix and improve what we already have”.


Agreed. The only thing I could think of is using groove agent.
You can edit each individual pad as if it’s a beat agent. Not a big fan of S1 but that scratchpad is a crazy good idea

Cause they old lol (not physically, but when it comes to ideas*)

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Do you think what needs fixing tho is so immense that there is no hope of ever implementing a sketch style ability?

I don’t think that’s how they’re making a decision. They have to make a decision partly based on sales. Their sales are influenced by marketable features. So, according to their current model, they feel compelled to add “features” that attract new users.

What I’m saying is that I think this is an increasingly bad approach: adding new features to an already long list of flawed features in order to draw new users.