For all you experienced Expression map users....

How do you like it? Likes? Dislikes?

This is the reason I’m coming over from Pro Tools so I’d like to know what you all think.

How does the notation editor work with Expression maps, clean, dirty inaccurate, accurate?

I have Hollywood Strings, and Hollywood Brass, as well as other libraries. My template is very large.

Do you put all string articulations on 1 track or separate them into 2 tracks (i.e. 1 for long articulations and 1 for short)?

They work great for straight keyswitched patches, helps sort out the mess and get right to the programming of the part. I use one keyswitched patch per MIDI track with an expression map. Not sure why you’d do it any other way.

They are perhaps more powerful than I am indicating here, but that’s how I use 'em.

Learning to create an expression map is a little counter-intuitive and not that well-documented…or I’m just not that smart (you pick), but once you get the hang of it, not hard at all.


I’m very satisfied with Expression maps. This is main reason, why I switch to the Cubase from the Logic. I’m using it in the same track, I work. There is no reason to take Articulation to the different track. These information are not exported to the MIDI file, if you need to export. It’s both sometimes pros and sometimes cons too for me.

I’m using VSL library very often, which pre-programmed very powerfull KeySwitching for Cubase.


For me the thing that worked the best was creating a universal expression map with 16 articulations that I use for everything, with names that are generic enough that it doesn’t get annoying when a “wrong” articulation is in that slot. I have different versions of it, one uses MIDI channels (hence the 16), another CC messages to change the articulation, depending on the target software, but always the same map.

The expression map editor is pretty terrible, and changing maps on the fly is a great way to screw up the articulations already on the track, so that’s one big reason to settle on a map early on. Also, I only use attributes. Started doing so due to the initial bugs with directions, but it’s also nice to have for copying partial regions to other tracks – never plays the wrong articulation. Clearly though going all attributes will make the score look ridiculous with a symbol or piece of text over every note, so for those wanting a clean score it’s not a good idea. But if you’re exporting MusicXML to Sibelius or Finale, then it really doesn’t matter. Most of the symbols vanish in the export anyway.

I break it down a bit more than that–I have a ‘strings’ expression map, and a ‘winds’ expression map, etc. because within each of the families you have pretty much the same articulations available. Certain instruments get their own, e.g. vibraphone which has ‘motor on/off’ and ‘motor speed’ “articulations” that no other instrument has. I’m using VSL, which has an enormous number of articulations, so I created an Excel spreadsheet that gives me a consistent map of where in the VSL articulation matrix each articulation should go.

Thankfully, both Hollywood Strings and Hollywood Brass have consistent articulation naming schemes, so you can get away with a single map for all the instruments found on each. On the other hand, a library like Symphonic Orchestra is not as consistent and thus may require creating separate maps for each instrument. It all depends on how you want to organize your maps though, which is the cool thing about it. Expression Maps give you a lot of flexibility, so there’s a bunch of ways you can use them as you can see from the responses in this thread.

As far as how they work with the Score Editor, I find that (for the way I use them) Expression Maps don’t always give you the desired results because there’s simply so many articulations in the libraries that we use that it can become a mess in the score pretty quick. I think the best deal is to use Expression Maps as a fast way to input articulations in a piece of music and use the regular notation symbols in the score instead. You can always hide Expression Map symbols from your score in order to make it look clean. That way you get the best results in both the Key and Score editors.

The thing I love most about Expression Maps, besides its flexibility with programing keyswitches from different libraries, is that you can create your own custom keyswitches. That in itself is a HUGE plus for us EWQL users that don’t have that capability in the PLAY engine. You have up to 16 MIDI channel slots per map, but there are ways around that so that you can get even more articulations happening per map. For example, I can create a map with an EWQL master keyswitch on channel 1 and use the remaining 15 MIDI channel slots to add articulations that are not found in the keyswitch patch. You also have the ability to designate which keys on your MIDI controller will trigger the different articulations, which makes it easy to record them live.

I don’t separate instruments by short or long articulations. Instead, I simply use one instance of PLAY per orchestral instrument and put these inside folders based on their corresponding family. This way I can lay out the instruments the same way you would see them in a score. I use Instrument Tracks instead of the one-MIDI-track-per-articulation method because it makes the template a lot smaller and easier to navigate without having to hide tracks/channels. When you’re done composing, simply freeze the tracks. This automatically unloads the PLAY instances from your project (if you selected this option), freeing processing power. Now you can start mixing from the same project without adding clutter to it.

Alright, hopefully this answers your questions. Good luck with the transition from Logic. I came from Sonar not long ago and it took a bit to make the complete transfer into Cubase. What took the most time was porting my projects into Cubase. Learning how to use Cubase, on the other hand, was a piece of pie. It’s a very intuitive program, so I don’t think you’ll have problems with that either.

Good luck!

Using multiple instances of Play is a good idea in general anyway, because it either doesn’t multithread at all, or does so very poorly compared to Kontakt. Due to this, counterintuitively, a single Play instance with 16 patches will produce a higher overall CPU load than two Play instances with 8 patches each, for example, where the host is able to distribute the two plugins to different cores.

More instances might consume a little more RAM, but I didn’t get consistent results one way or the other when testing it. The change CPU-wise, though, is quite noticeable. One Play instance per instrument gives a pretty good performance overall, that’s what I use as a rule of thumb as well.

The notation editor (in conjunction with expression maps) work pretty well . . . As long as you have legit markings for what you have. In the case of a lot of the EWQL libraries, some things are just “artistic” and don’t have a corresponding musical annotation.

For HS and HB I use expression maps where I can. Not everything gets covered in a keyswitch.

I have also started at looking to take the expression maps and send them to other midi channels. I read some topic not too long ago about this. If I can get this to work successfully, I will probably setup group folders, put in 4 or 5 HS or HB articulations, and save it out as a template.

Hi to everyone,

I have just done a search of the forum, in relation to constructing expression maps in Cubase 6 [I have Cubase 5 but I’m planning to go to 6], and, I’m getting the impression from what I read on this thread, that you can construct your own expression maps for Hollywood Strings [Gold version I have], using midi channels instead of keyswitch instruments. Am I correct here?

Thanks if you can guide me.



Hi Steve

Probably the simplest VST expression to create. Create a map using ‘expression setup’ . Name your map in the far left pane. In the center pane create a new slot (with the ‘+’ ), give it a name, select a preset symbol or a customized one. Then on the right hand pane on the lower half, select your MIDI channel for the articulation/expression. The upper pane is for keyswitches, CC and Program Change assignment, so in your situation you don’t need to touch that part. Repeat the procedure for every articulation you want for the instrument or family of instruments. Save the expression map once done.

You now need to assign the map to the particular instrument/MIDI track in the project window, which is done in the track inspector via a drop down list. All the expressions you created should now be visible in the ‘expressions’ panel to the left of your stave. Just drag your articulation to the position (a little before the note)in the score where you want the MIDI channel change. Done!

I am also waiting for Hollywood Strings to arrive shortly, so I will be having to do the same thing in situations where keyswitches are not an option. Though, from partially reading the manual, it seems CC’s are used for many articulation changes, which can work just as conveniently as keyswitches in VST Expression.

I’m sorry I can’t provide any screen caps ATM as I’m writing this on my non Cubase PC and solely from memory. I’m sorry if there are any slight inaccuracies, but the gist of the process should be correct.


Hi Tom,

Just wanted to point out that Steve’s post was written almost a year ago, in case you didn’t notice :wink: .

…yeah I noticed after I had already started writing. Thought I might complete it and add it for anyone else who might be interested…gives the thread a little more closure. You never know, Steve may still be spending sleepless nights pondering anxiously over the question! :unamused: :mrgreen:

Hahaha! I hope not. Poor fellow, lol.