Get rid of instrument tracks!

Ever since this kind of track came around I’ve given it a go but never gotten used to it.
The need to gather plugins, plugin chains etc this way is so not flexible. Especially if u want to use more tracks pointing to the same vst.

There must be a smarter way. Ideally I would love to save midi data along with plugin presets and othe channels, eg a cool piano riff with loads of processing, so that I could bring this in into a new project. Some sort of track container like ableton or even Maschine should do the trick.

I too much prefer using MIDI tracks during the MIDI ‘composition’ stage, and having a separate audio bus for each plugin instance on the Mixer. For the final mixdown however, It’s often nice to freeze and merge it all down to a single track on an instrument track and set VCAs.

With the full versions of CuBase (Not sure about SE, AI, etc…), you have it as an ‘option’ to use ‘Instrument Tracks’ but are not forced to use them.

Load your plugins in ‘rack mode’. It’ll throw its audio outputs on the Track List and Mixing Desk and happily wait for MIDI or VST3 data to come pouring in from ‘MIDI Tracks’.

Also with the MIDI tracks, you get 'AUX MIDI sends" so a track can echo to more than one channel and/or plugin at once. Instrument Tracks are missing this tab :frowning:

As the VST3 protocol expands, and more instruments start using it…those instrument tracks will probably expand in their power and potential exponentially :slight_smile: Already, there are some cases where it makes sense to use them.

You can have as many midi tracks pointing to an individual VST interument track as you like.

You have described what Cubase calls midiloops. If you select a midi part on an instrument track, go to File>Export>Midi Loop…

The file you save there will then be available in the user content area of the mediabay rack.

You can also export/import entire ‘tracks’ individually or as groups…in which case it should preserve your track insert information.

File/export/selected tracks…

As for getting a better idea of how to maximize an Instrument track’s potential (Uses fully VST compliant plugins), take a look at some of the demo tracks included with CuBase.

Tap F5 to bring up Media Browser
Set the filter to projects only.

Load up some of them and see how they are built. CuBase will ask you create a new project directory when open them.

Made in Detroit
Tone Deaf

Thank u all guys. Yeah, I realize that there are ways around this. And I do use Pro version so I do have midi tracks.

My argument after using ableton, reason and Maschine for a while, is that

  • all VSTI’s should be treated the same (and not like instrument tracks)
  • u should be able to store midi, plugin information and all in one container, so when u browse your list of sounds, they should fire of that preview right away, the same way you can in Maschine when loading a kit.

U can route midi to an instrument track I suppose, but it does not follow the same logic as with midi plugs, eg, when duplicating an instrument track (that looks like a midi track to be honest) it also duplicate the plug etc. which seems wrong to me…

Case 1
If they removed Instrument Tracks, then you’d end up using MIDI Tracks & the Rack.

Case 2
If you simply pretended that Instrument Tracks didn’t exist, then you’d end up using MIDI Tracks & the Rack.

The difference between the two? In case 2, folks who generally prefer using Instrument Tracks can still do so.

It’s totally legit for you to prefer MIDI over Instrument Tracks. But it’s pretty presumptive to think that your personal preference should be imposed on others who don’t share them.

If you don’t like Instrument Tracks, don’t use 'em. Problem solved.

1 Like

In this case, just make a blank MIDI track and copy the ‘parts’ from the instrument track and paste them to the MIDI track.

In general I find it better to use the Rack Mode with MIDI tracks for multiple tracks on a Multi-voice VSTi (I.E. Halion).

For a single voice VSTi like Retrologue, Prologue, Myst, Sforzando, Twist, Hybrid, etc…where it’s typically only going to get a MIDI stream from a single channel, ‘Instrument Tacks’ can be nice. You can still add MIDI tracks that will talk to the Instrument Track’s VSTi, and you can merge the parts with the Instrument track later if you like. One way is to simply drag the part from the MID track on top of the Instrument track (both will play). Another is to freeze and merge using the MIDI tools.

It always asks me if I want to insert an instrument track. I wish I could make it stop asking me this. It’s annoying. Put a check box “never ask me this again.”

If you mean when you first add a new instrument to the VSTi rack in ‘rack mode’…
It will ask if you want to create a new track, but it will be of the MIDI type, already connected to the VSTi. If you don’t want a fresh empty MIDI track, then just click no.

You can then connect any MIDI track to the instruments in your Rack (output port in track inspector).

Notice in the VSTi rack, there are two tabs at the top. The left for adding a VSTi in ‘instrument mode’, and the right for just putting a VSTi in the rack to be used via MIDI tracks.

Don’t forget that you can also add tracks based on user presets…all set up ‘exactly’ as you like.
“MIDI”, “Instrument”, “Audio”, and “Multi” presets are all seperate things, and get stored in:
“%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Steinberg\Track Presets”

This is exactly what midiloop files do.

I am frequently clicking “no.” It’s not just one click because I add, delete and add instruments constantly. Put a box in there that says “never show this message again.” It’s so annoying!

You think it’s not annoying? Maybe not for you but you can not judge what is annoying for me. Only I can judge that!

I am sympathetic with this F/R for the simple reason that I cannot see a way to make Instrument Tracks work in a consistent, intuitive way with multi-out, multi-timbral VSTis such as Kontakt, Omnisphere and VB3.

It’s MADDENING to try to use a VSTi like VB3 where you have a single instrument which has multiple MIDI channels (upper, lower, pedal manuals) where there is one set of automation shared by all 3.

OR… Kontakt where essentially each channel is a separate ‘instrument’.

And instruments like these are the core of my work, so I/Ts have no use for me, despite the attractive bits.

There is such a box…
It’s in the “File/Preferences” menu:
In the tree on the left find the VST/Plugins node.
Change the little drop down box to “Do not”.
Click Apply, then OK.

Thanks for this information. It ought to be a box in the add new instrument window if you ask me.

I usually prefer to work with MIDI tracks connected to ‘rack mode’ Instruments.
Occasionally I’d like to make a “MIDI Loop” that can be instantly previewed in the Media Browser so it sounds exactly like I made it, with the same instrument, etc… Such loops can be brought into future project exactly as you made it, or they can be drug onto an existing instrument or MIDI track where it will play on whatever instrument is set up there.

To do this conversion from MIDI Tracks to an Instrument Track is pretty simple.

  1. In the instrument rack load up a new instance of the VSTi in ‘instrument’ mode.

  2. Right click your “Rack Mode” instance that was already loaded and choose to “Copy its settings”.

  3. Right click the new ‘instrument mode’ instance you just created and chose to 'Paste settings".

  4. Make sure the Punch in and out markers are set to include everything you want in your loop.

  5. Mute all the tracks that should NOT go in your loop (or solo the ones that belong).

  6. Select the new Instrument Track you just made (Rename it if you like).

  7. Put the cursor at the very beginning of the project.

  8. Select “MIDI\Merge in loop…” from the top menu.

  9. Un-tick all the boxes in the MIDI Merge dialog and click OK.
    This creates a frozen and merged part of all unmuted MIDI parts between punch in/out locators and places it on the cursor of the selected track.

At this point you should see that your new “Instrument Track” has a part on it.

  1. Solo that track to make sure it sounds right.

  2. With only your new working instrument track selected, right click and choose ‘select all events’.

  3. Go to “File/Export/MIDI Loop…” Name and tag your loop.

Now hit F5 to bring up Media Browser, and you should find that your loop is now in the database and can be previewed from there without having to ‘load it into a project’ to see what’s there.

If it’s all good just delete your merged instrument track and continue your work.

To bring a MIDI Loop into a project you have some choices…

  1. If you have a track selected and right click it in Media Browser to bring it into the project, it’ll insert it there and use whatever instrument the track is set up for.

  2. If you do not have any tracks selected in your project, it will create a brand new instrument all set up exactly as the loop was made.

If you want to dissolve it back to individual lanes or tracks, then use “MIDI/Dissolve Track” and expand it all back out by channel. If you want to keep it on your instrument track, just extract it to lanes on the same track. If you want separate tracks, copy or move the part to a regular MIDI track first (or you’ll end up with a new instance of your VSTi for every new track it makes).

Thanks for all the feedback and discussion. Awesome 12 “quick and easy” way to do somethings no that takes 2 clicks in ableton.

Seems to me from the discussion here that there is a massive upside on the user friendliness side of things here as well as consolidating functionality :slight_smile:

Look, I’m just trying to show you at least one way to shift from one workflow and rack setup to another, and get done what you want. There may well be quicker and easier ways that I’m not aware of. You’ve probably got many good ideas about work flow that you could and should suggest to Steinberg for upcoming releases (quite a few of them seem to me like they’d be simple to implement with minor UI changes, and simple scripts that change some XML files around).

I looked at Ableton demos and it was the most inflexible DAW I’ve ever tried. It’d be fine if I just wanted an EDM style DAW to poke around on an MPC and make lots of loops to string together…but I need 6 or 7 channel surround sound on most of my instruments, 90% of my work is through composed, and it needs to time and sync to Video, I need scoring capabilities, as well as the ability to drag and drop 6 to 8 channel soundscapes right from the DAW into my sampler (Halion 5). I need SMPTE and MMC support for syncing external hardware and machines. Ableton ‘forces’ me to use one work flow, doesn’t even try to provide external sync tools, only gives me 2 UI windows so my 3rd and 4th video monitors are essentially useless, is a nightmare if not impossible to make my own instrument and remote maps for, has very limited live MIDI stream transformers, even more limited scripting and macro abilities than CuBase, doesn’t have a control room bus, no score editor, no ‘instant render’, no VSTlink, no VSTcloud, and the list goes on. When I wanted to make new samples in a VSTi with Ableton, I had to route stuff into a specialized VSTi or go through a dozen menus to pull in a track (where in CuBase I just do it on DAW Tracks and drag all 7 channels of the take right into H5 or GA4…boom…a 7 channel soundscape in my Sampler all ready to make a few patch from…just that quick). So…I’m more than happy to sometimes have to find a work around given all the power of the DAW for the price.

If you want a thread comparing what one DAW can do that the other wont…CuBase makes Ableton look like a toy.

If you use the instrument tracks and lanes in CuBase, it takes only a few clicks in CuBase to make a MIDI Loop with the VSTi attached, and that’s the feature set you requested CuBase do away with.

In CuBase you get to choose between attaching the VSTi to the track, or keeping it separate. There are pros and cons to either method depending on the type of project you are doing.

I usually just keep Instrument tracks set to channel ‘any’ and change the channel on my MIDI controller when I want to do a take to a different patch on a multi voiced VSTi. I use the ‘lanes’ of the instrument track to keep each voice isolated for easy editing. That works for up to 16 channels over a single VSTi (so much for taking advantage of instruments that have several ports for more than 16 channels at once…but you can just open a new instance, and when you make the MIDI loop, select both tracks before exporting).

I do much agree that Instrument Tracks should allow us to change the channel and port on individual lanes. If this were the case, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion. It’d also be ideal if we could just select a bunch of MIDI tracks and ‘make a MIDI Loop’, but right now it won’t do that (that I know of). So the work around is to bounce stuff around between MIDI and Instrument tracks if you need the feature set of a different track type.

Really, it’s not hard to make a macro in CuBase that will do my 12 steps in two clicks as well. I’ll look into this later, but for now I’m off to work :slight_smile:

In short, if you want to treat CuBase like an EDM DAW, then ‘set it up to act like one’. Out of the box, it’s set up for a different workflow…but that doesn’t mean you cannot ‘retrain it’ to be more EDM like.



+1 – to Raino’s points above, -1 to "remove inst. tracks with exclamation point.) :sunglasses:

Right now, I’m using only Rack Instruments and I like the uniformity of it. It’s more like how I’ve always worked. You have a Synth, you send MIDI to it and the audio “comes back” on the Mixer channel it’s assigned to. I like that in Cubase, I have essentially two mixers, one with the MIDI Faders, MIDI inserts, etc and the other with all my VSTi Audio Mixer Channels together with their assigned effects, processing and automation. Two neat packages.

When I’m done with the music and the arranging tasks and I’m working on the mix, I remove the MIDI tracks from the mixer using the Visibility settings.

That said, I think it’s good CuBase has the Instrument Tracks and don’t want them removed. I can see where, over time, I might migrate to using them more. It confused me at first and I wasn’t sure if one was better than the other, but there’s no real difference to the final sound. I just decided to stick with putting everything into Racks because it was, as I said, more like how I’ve always worked. It was just easier for me, but Instrument Tracks are more consolidated and neat. I’d hate to see them taken away. If you don’t like them, don’t use them!

Conversations on in the forum helped me settle onto my current working style (h/t: Raino) and, well, all I can say is, it works for me. :slight_smile: YMMV ;-

Good luck to OP, but I don’t agree that Instrument Tracks should be taken away. If you don’t like them, don’t use them. Simple as that.