Fundamental questions about expression maps in Cubase 11

I am a green horn in Cubase 11 and stuck with “Expression Maps”. Maybe someone could help me with some fundamental questions:
Can I use my own expression map or a downloaded one for any instrument in Cubase 11 or just for VST instruments?
Do I have to assign key switches or do expression maps work also without key switches if I use them not during recording but just later in the key editor?

I like to think that there are two types of “instruments” in Cubase:
→ internal (VSTi)
→ external (modular synths, hardware VST players, digital pianos, etc)

The expression map should be compatible with the instrument that you’re using (internal / external). For example, in order to use a pizzicato articulation on a note, the instrument (the violin VSTi) needs to have a pizzicato patch. If not, the result is difficult to predict.

Usually, you need to create your own expression maps and in the way you need them.

Building a cpr template that’s fully satisfying in terms of expression maps, etc, is tedious, yes, but it is very rewarding in the end.

No. You don’t need to assign Key Switches or Program Change messages, but it would be wise to name the articulations A1, A2, A3 … B1, B2, B3 … C1, C2, C3 … and memorize what the articulations do (maybe create a table on a piece of paper). If you use the score editor, using the same name structure allows you to copy notes from a staff to another without the articulation turning into text. As you can see in the following GIF capture, if the eMAP on the second staff doesn’t have the “pizz” articulation, a copied pizz note on that staff will show—as text—the name of the articulation .


One more reason to name the articulations A/B/C 1, A/B/C 2, etc, is because you can easily select them using the PC keyboard. You would just open the articulations menu, then type a14/b10/c3, then hit return. In a sentence, it allows you to have long lists of articulations without giving you headaches at the same time


Here’s how my articulation map (used in my cpr template) looks like:
A = first oboe/flute/etc
B = second oboe/flute/etc
C = unison I & II

A/B/C 1 = no vibrato
A/B/C 2 = vibrato
A/B/C 3 = tremolo/frullato
A/B/C 4 = very short staccato 1 (down bow/1st blow in a double)
A/B/C 5 = very short staccato 2 (up bow/2nd blow in a double)
A/B/C 6 = pizzicato (or empty for instruments on which you can’t do pizzicato)
A/B/C 7 = sfz
A/B/C 8 = staccato 1
A/B/C 9 = staccato 2
A/B/C 10–16 = different special articulations


Thank you very much!

Good luck!

Hmmm. I was obviously too fast with my “solution” hook. I still don’t hear the effects of my 1st expression map… How I proceed: I record a melody with my external keyboard and edit the MIDI file in the key editor. I use the HalionSE of Cubase11 and assign an instrument. I tried several ones, e.g. a piano, a flute. I created my expression map from scratch, no key switches, just with a staccato and a legato effect. I see these 2 effects below in the key editor window. I mark some notes with the staccato or I combine several notes with a legato. Whatever instrument I choose , I can’t hear any effect. Where is my mistake?

Preferably, the instrument program you’re using should have patches that are triggered via key switches, program change messages, or via some other message type. As far as I know, Halion Sonic SE doesn’t have programs that contain multiple “groups” (a note group for legato, a group for staccato, a group for pizzicato, etc).

Anyway, I’ve made an eMap for “Bright Flute NoteExp” (it should work for any program in Halion Sonic SE).
A1 = short notes (the played note length will be 20% of the actual one)
A2 = legato notes (notes will sound longer by 10%).

2 articulations - legato and (1.4 KB)

This is the cpr file:
eMap.cpr (306.2 KB)

1 Like

Thank you very much! Your eMap works with all Halion instruments I tried out. Now some light comes into my darkness of these expression maps. Maybe you could help me with some more of my stupid questions…
I added one more attribute, a triller, as a 3rd attribute to your emap. No instrument could recognize it.
I found the “Acoustic Bass VX” instrument in the Halion, coming with an own eMap. Can I extend such eMaps with additional attributes by my own?
If I download any emap from internet or create one by myself with the attributes that are offered by the expression map editor, e.g. a triller or a pizzicato: how can I find an instrument that can recognize these attributes?

Trill (screenshot)

That’s only a symbol for trill. You need to use the output mapping section (in Expression Map Setup) to tell the VST instrument that you want a trill. Unfortunately, not all instruments can do trills/tremolos.

Interesting. I didn’t know there are programs that have multiple sound groups (patches that can be triggered by key switches). So in order to create an expression map for “Acoustic Bass VX” do the following:

Since there are 4 key switches in the program (in “Acoustic Bass VX”), you will need to use 4 sound slots:
A1 = Open Soft (C 0)
A2 = Open Hard (C# 0)
A3 = Dead (D 0)
A4 = Harmonics (F# 0)

Acoustic Bass (1.6 KB)

You need to understand how the expression map works. Before playing a note, the expression map sends a message to the VST instrument. There’s no standard. Some libraries work with key swiches, some with program change messages, and some users prefer to create their own patches (their own VSTi instruments). You need to find a way that fits you best.
Buy Kontakt or Halion (preferably Halion since it supports vst 3 - note expression!). Both allow you to create your own patches.

1 Like