Drum/synth software and general music production

Hi, apologies for the noob questions but this is taking hours to try and find answers and someone with experience can probably answer it pretty quickly here.

I bought cubase 6 with the intention of recording mainly rock music with actual drums, guitar, bass, etc. However, I have found recording drums with mediocre equipment to be not very good and I have also shifted my interest in what I’d like to record/produce.

While still producing some rock type music, I would like to mainly produce electro-house/pop music. So basically, my questions are:

  1. Are the included synths (embracer, halion sonic, etc) and included drums (groove agent one, etc) sufficient for producing this type of music to a satisfactory quality, or is it necessary to purchase other sample libraries/programs.

  2. If not, what sample libraries/programs would people recommend for these drums, synths, etc (nothing too expensive), for producing the type of music mentioned above. (due to original interest in rock music, I usually program all drums from scratch, rather than use pre-programmed beats).

  3. In terms of other cubase included plug-ins, such as VariAudio, would these be considered of reasonable quality or should I be looking at investing in a stand-alone program? If so, suggestions?

  4. Any other tips for someone getting started with music production of this type? :slight_smile:

Any help would be greatly appreciated, cheers.

Addictive Drums

Native Instruments Battery for E drums, Superior Drummer for Acoustic Drums, and Make SURE you get Ozone for mastering.

As you’ve found out, good live production comes at a price either in terms of money or experience. I would say Cubase’s tools are perfectly adequate but not if you haven’t a deep knowledge of what they are and how to apply them to instruments to get a larger sound palette.

Seeing as you don’t have the requisite money, unless you’re extremely lucky, you need the experience but looking at the post I think you’re in for a steep learning curve before you make any money or get artistic satisfaction.
If you feel you have the talent though, put in the time and you’ll find Cubase is an excellent tool.

For the odd live drums on the cheap get a Zoom H2, version 1 will do (even cheaper now), and as long as there are not too many washing crashes you can put them into Cubase and break them down to midi.

Recording anything with lousy equipment doesn’t work. I don’t envy those learning to record today…they seem to miss fundamental principles with so much “virtualized”…and with the expectation that the software gives them something more than it does.

I can’t answer for electronica…as I’ve never really gotten into that. The built in synths are not good for anything approaching realistic emulation.

Thanks for the tips. Looking at getting some native instruments sets. They have drums and synths as well as various other things so it seems like an alright option.

I’m not looking to make any money right now or make something sounding 100% professional but I’m looking to get as close to that sound as possible on a low budget. The music itself is no issue, but obviously production is a pretty huge area with a steep learning curve. Gotta start somewhere though.

I find the main problem for a beginner is having to research every little thing I’ve never encountered before as purely a musician (all the effects, EQing, mastering, etc) and find the ‘correct answers’.

  1. In terms of other cubase included plug-ins, such as VariAudio, would these be considered of reasonable quality or should I be looking at investing in a stand-alone program? If so, suggestions?

  2. Any other tips for someone getting started with music production of this type? > :slight_smile:

Variaudio is very good, I use it on commercial releases, and slightly more than I use AutoTune and Melodyne because it’s so easy to use. I mostly use UAD plugins but I always use many of the Cb built-in effects, and many freebie effects too. The bottom line for me is that if it sounds good then it is good. However I remember a time when I asked similar questions to you because I didn’t know what was good and what wasn’t. In those days I hung around a studio as much as possible and soaked in any knowledge that I could. I learned a lot and I bought the same plugins or instruments that they had, now I find I can make my own choices and it sounds good.

My top tip is to look at plenty of turorials and get familiar with the tools, then listen to lots of examples of what you’re trying to sound like and experiment to see how you can get the same sounds.

Oh, collaboration is also v. important, it helps broaden the creative spectrum.


To get general information I’d use the Sound on Sound forum and also any forums for other equipment like your soundcard make. The Microsoft one can give good info on the more mysterious messages, alerts and file behaviour.
But I’d also limit your information sources or you tend to get bogged down by overload sometimes so just find three or four you can trust and google anything they fail to clear up.
Above all, try to prepare what you are going to do and move around the controls fairly slowly to save yourself as many puzzling surprises as you can. More than once a week a user hits the wrong button and has to come here for help to find out what it was. Usually because they skate over the keyboard like master typists and one of the “shortcuts” naffs their day. It’s one thing looking super-efficient and another being so. :mrgreen: Like me, say. Usually my trick as well.

The built in synths are really good and I very much suggest you try them out for a good while. They can cover many of your electronic needs. The drums included in Halion Sonic and GAO are allright, but not the best. If you’re new to it, I suggest you don’t spend too much on new software just yet. Get used to Cubase, get a grip on how to use the built in sounds properly. Expensive libraries are also more complicated to use and require more work/have more settings. If you’re just starting out I think you can easily spend half a year learning cubase using just the supplied plugins and maybe some free plugins to try out new things.

You only need new plugins if you’ve reached the skill ceiling with the old ones :slight_smile:

Best possible advice.

I’m astonished at all of the “built in” stuff sucks posts. The built in plug-ins and EQs are actually perfectly capable of producing professional quality output. Especially, if by pro, you mean radio ready. Are there better tools that are specific to a particular task? Sure. But, if you can’t use the built in Dynamic processor in Cubase, you might as well not blow your money on anything else. The difference is going to be very minor and only attainable if you know what you are doing. If you learn the synths in conjunction with some of the effects, you can cover a LOT of ground.

Learn the tool first, then look to the more expensive “specific” plugs.

J.M. Cecil already seconded this but I think it is important so I want to “+1” it as well.
Think of a new golfer. So many people will go out and buy a $2000 set of clubs as a beginner because they think the reason their score is high is because they don’t have professional clubs (same with tennis, billiards, playing guitar, etc., etc., etc.,). The reason their score is high is because they need to practice. You have to be a pretty darn good golfer for the clubs to be the difference in your score. To relate it to music production… First, make a few songs. Try to incorporate some new features/tools in each one. For example, different effects, arpeggiator, automation, time signatures, MIDI controller stuff, Variaudio, etc., etc.,) to learn how to use these tools first. Sends, EQ, inserts, compression, delay, reverb, group channels, etc. are things you need to learn how to use. Cubase has everything you need to make a basic, decent sounding song. Make a few, post them here, and let people offer advice on how to make it sound better.
Save your money for now. Make some music. Then, when you REALLY feel like you are being limited by your VST instruments and plug-ins, decide what you want to buy.
Just my opinion of course!

In fact, the more pro/expensive items can be much harder to use than the off the rack alternatives. Indy cars are way faster than even fast production vehicles. But, it takes a large and experienced crew to keep them running.

In other words, you could spend a LOT of money on a big name item and actually get worse results.

Agree with the last 4 posts (especially the 4th one back :mrgreen: ). Actually seems to me like most of the problems come from people using VSTs that are supposed to be “better” than the built in instruments and FX. The more expensive they are the more serious the problems and incompatibilities seem to be too especially the 64bit ones.

I think they’re a perfectly acceptable bag of “clubs”. Some users need third party ears maybe rather than 3rd party VSTs. :mrgreen:

And half the drivers on the road think they can drive as good as F1 drivers but when you put them on a real race track they seize up good style.
The world is full of busted $200,000 sports cars.