Help with managing GrooveAgent/Halion tracks

WIN 10 Pro, i7 2600k 3.4 GHz, 16 GB RAM, 8.5 Pro v8.5.20 Build 169

I have tried to RTFM but what I need is a tutorial. This is going to be long.

When I want to create a piano part. I click Add Track–> Instrument, then the Halion browser pops up. I choose a piano sound, and then record my part. For the next instrument I repeat the process. Same for drums - I use a kik from one kit, a snare from another etc. This has been a mistake, I think.

I had a crash and contacted support, who asked me for the project file. Here’s the response I got

"This is probably crashing due to the number of virtual instruments loaded. The Halion Sonic SE each instance can load up 16 sounds and then you create MIDI channels to route to each MIDI channel in it. This will reduce the CPU load.

For the Groove Agent SE you have a couple instances where the same kit is loaded on 2 instances this you could land one instance and then route 2 MIDI tracks to it as well".

I’m not a MIDI or DAW guy at all - total noob. This was hard for me to follow. I asked if these was a series of step by step instructions for setting up my Halion and GrooveAgent tracks in the way they were suggesting. I got this response.

If you want to load a kick and snare that share a kit load the Groove Agent on an instrument track. Then record the kick lets say. Then create a MIDI track and change its output to that same Groove Agent the kick is on.
Same goes for Halion Sonic SE but each slot in Halion Sonic is a MIDI channel so load a sound in each of the 16 spots and then you can have 16 MIDI channels going to each slot [there followed a link to this video]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx6M4KJP5js
.

I watched the video and one thing that caught my ear was “You don’t have to create separate instances of HalionSonic SE for every voice” Then it showed the MIDI page in the Halion SE2 browser. But ‘voice’ means voices for the same patch, not different patches right?

I then tried a search for ‘Cubase Basic MIDI routing’ and found this video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdxNY0poRPc

Here I saw that I can create a MIDI track, load patterns from the Beat Designer into it, then ask that track to output to GrooveAgent. I did that, then created a new instrument track and played another part. I dragged and dropped that into the MIDI track and glued them. Yep, that worked. Wouldn’t help for a part that was made up of different kits for each drum though right?

I tried the same thing for a Halion track. Created a MIDI track and named it Halion, then routed the output to the Halion synth. Created an instrument track and chose and played and flute sound. Dragged that part into the MIDI track. I then tried to change the sound to a bass, create a part and drag that into the MIDI track. Strangely, even though the Halion synth was now set at a different sound (bass, not flute) and even though both parts were showing up in the piano roll, the sound that I heard was the flute sound.

I think the answer for the Halion side lies in the Multi Program Rack. I have loaded several sounds into the rack but don’t know how this will help me eliminate the problem that support mentioned.

As an aside, I need to be able to export my tracks as individual audio files to a collaborator.

This is way simpler than it seems, I know. Folks, can someone help me figure out how to manage my tracks like support wants me to? I looked in the GrooveAgent manual but couldn’t find anything specifically talking about this. If I missed it, flame away. Or if the answers are given in a Youtube video, please link me.

About how many instances are we talking about here? I am just curious because i have a PC pretty similar to yours and i can load alot of instances without crashing.

I am not really understand the way you work. You create a new instrument track for every part on the same track? or every instrument you will have in your arrangement?
For Halion you created a Miditrack that you routed to the instrument track that actually is linked to Halion? You than started to load a patch, played a part and dragged this midipart on the miditrack? Than you changed the patch but the old patch you loaded previously was played back instead? that doesn’t make sence.

I think you should make screenshot of all your setup with all the midi and audio routing inside your project. Its hard to follow what you actually did and might did wrong

Its not entirely true that working with just one instance but 16 patches is less cpu consuming than 16 instances with just one patch each. Expecially with AsioGuard in place its better to have your patches spread to many instances then having all patches in just one.

If you head over to Groove3 you will find a lot of high quality video tutorials on Cubase including tutorials on Groove Agent. There is a cost, but if you join for a month then you get access to all their stuff 1200 hours of it.
Learning Cubase can be a frustrating experience, especially if you try to bury your head in the manual which is dry and does not make any music - the manual is good for reference though.

Z

As a fellow noob, I sympathise. My recomendation is to be patient in your approach and realise Cubase is professional software and as such is designed to offer maximum flexibility in workflow options for different music production projects and also maximise speed and efficiency of workflow since if you are a pro time is money and deadlines are fact of life. Unfortunately this makes it difficult for a noob to understand what is going on and why.

But by being patient and attempting to gradually understand the underlying architrecture and priciples behind Cubase you will eventually be rewarded with the ability to do more or less anything within your imagination.

To the matter at hand, specifically halionsonic, I would do this:

  1. If you look at your instance of Halionsonic and select the MIDI tab you will see a list of the currently selected voices each with a MIDI channel, from 1-16, shown in the first column in a drop down which you can change.

  2. If you create an Instrument track there is really no differnce between it and a MIDI track other than Cubase automatically assigned an instance of (say) Halionsonic to it as well as creating the track.

  3. If you look at the first top tab in the track inspector for the Instrument track you created it will show you four pieces of information crucial to understanding how to do what you want to do. You have to hover the mouse over them to get a tooltip explaining what they are:

  4. Input routing: this will normally default to “All MIDI inputs” and probably represents you keyboard.

  5. Instrument: this will be HALion Sonic in your example (far as I can tell)

  6. Channel: this will default to 1

  7. Programs: this will show you the name of the currently assigned voice (or pre-set) of the assigned instrument to the selected channel. It appears to show nothing if you assign more than one voice to that channel.

So when you created your fiorst instrument track and specified HALion Sonic you should see:

All Midi Inputs
HALion Sonic
1

So to set up a second track to record a different part using a different preset from the same instance of HALion Sonic you do this (in the top tab of the track inspector):

  1. Create a new MIDI track
  2. Click on the Instrument field and select HALion Sonic from the drop down (this will appear becasue you created an instance of it within the project when you created thhe first instrument track)
  3. Change thee channel to 2

Then open HALion Sonic (via clicking Edit Instrument icon just to the right of “channel” for example) and select you desired preset for this second track in slot 2 which by default is assinged to MIDI channel 2.

At this point when you select your first instrument track and play on your keyboard your the preset assigned to MIDI channel 1 in slot 1 will play and if you select the second MIDI track and play your keyboard then the preset assigned to MIDI channel 2 in slot 2 will play. If you record some MIDI on both tracks, then that MIDI will play back the correct voice for each track at the same time.

There I thinkk two important things to grasp about this:

  1. The channel and instrument voice settings set up by default during this process are just a convenience, there is nothing magical about them. There is no particular reason why you shouldn’t set the MIDI channel on your second MIDI track channel to ,say, 8 and select the 16th slot in HALion Sonic for your desired voice for this track setting it’s MIDI channel also to 8. This will have exactly the same effect. The only purpose of these MIDI channels is so that the right MIDI instructions are executed by the right voices in HALion Sonic (or any other VST instrument you are using).

  2. It is the MIDI track (or Instrument track) that is telling HALion Sonic what to do, not the other way round. The MIDI instructions output by a MIDI track (whether pre-recorded or routed direct from you playing your keyboard) is analagous to you pressing a key on a piano and the piano sounding the note, the MIDI track is pressing the notes and HALion Sonic is playing them as instructed.

Grasping this leads to the first dim glimmer of insight into what professionals call a “signal chain”. Professionals route these signal chains all over the place in bewilderingly complex ways for a myriad of sound design and mixing purposes. Cubase is therefore designed specifically to make doing this as flexible and efficient, but not necessarily as easy from a noob’s point of view, as possible.

But this first glimmer into what a signal chain is, and that Cubase is essentially a machine that processes sound via signal chains, is a huge first step in making sense of it.

Thanks so much to everyone for taking the time to make those detailed replies. I have to run right now but will be reading them carefully after 9 pm EST. I will post then.

I know it must be hard to follow what’s going on with my setup by reading my descriptions. I’ll get some screenshots posted tonight for sure.

With regard to the idea of paying for the tutorials, I have no objection to paying for good information but I think a better use of my money might be to hire someone locally for a 2 hour tutorial so that I can get a bunch of questions together, meet with them and get a bunch of things straight. I’ll check out the resource that ZeroZero mentioned for sure.

Greg, I will get to your reply tonight but I wanted to clear this up. For every part I want in my song (piano, organ, synth pad, etc). this is what I do

Project–>Add Track–>Instrument

In the narrow box that pops up I click the instrument drop down and choose Halion. I click Add Track.

I record my part and then for the next instrument I want to record, I repeat the procedure. Hope this makes sense.
I now understand that I am creating a new instance of Halion each time using this procedure. What Greg and support are telling me is that each instance of Halion will generate 16 sounds simultaneously, and support says that’s better (?).

For your second question, I must be making an error but yes, what you described is what I did (I think!). Created a MIDI track, routed the output to Halion, then used the procedure I outlined above in this post to create an instrument track. played a part, dragged that part into the MIDI track. The instrument track is now blank. Then, in the instrument track, I changed the patch and recorded a new part (bass). There are only still two tracks in this project - MIDI track and one instrument track.

Then I tried to drag the second newly created part (with a different patch) onto the MIDI track. It went in (using Glue tool), and the instrument track again became blank. However, when I tried to solo the MIDI track which now contains the two parts I just dragged in, I heard only the first flute part. Make sense? Probably not… but this clearly isn’t what support meant for me to do. Greg’s response above is a big clue. Let me look that over tonight and post again before responding.

You can work this way, its fine as long as you don’t hit the CPU or RAM walls. Many instruments and sample players are what is called Multitimbral meaning they can transmit on many channels. So, you can use one instance of the instrument/sampler, and load say a group of individual violins. This way there is less load. You can then have several tracks and point them to different instruments in the same ‘instrument’ (e.g) . In Halion for example ytou could load say each piece of an eight piece brass section, into ‘slots’ then piont slot one at MIDI channel 1, slot 2 at channel 2 etc. In Cubase you would write the notes for the parts on different tracks.
Ancient History: At one time Cubase Instrument tracks could NOT host multitimbral instuments. That’s changed instrument tracks are now also multitibral. The second history lesson is that ‘back in the days of 32 - bit’ us old timers knew there was a wall after you got to about 3.5 gig of RAM use - the system crashed - it was a Windows hard limit. Since 64 bit has arrived, most mobos can take 64 gig of RAM, which is enough room for several orchestras. RAM and processers are also faster.
For these reasons its getting less and less likely that a decentish system will fall over, even laptops can do well. Also, as I explained, the boundary between a MIDI track and a Instrument track is more blurred. It’s pretty esoteric

However, its good housekeeping to use as little system resources per track as you can.People have preferences and styles of working, they also have different needs. A four piece rock bands ought not to worry too much

Z

See, the thing is this. I was using Elements for the past few months, on my old rig. I was getting that ‘serious crash’ message - the one that says a serious problem has occurred and I should try to save my work under a different name. I haven’t lost anything yet and I’m pretty consistent about backing up at all times, but I thought ‘Maybe I’d better buy a new rig and run Cubase exclusively on it’. So I did, and it’s come as a bit of an unpleasant surprise that this crash on the new rig was due to a system resource issue. To be honest I’m still not so sure about that. The project file I sent in had maybe 15 or 20 MIDI tracks on it but they were all made in the way I described - one at a time. Task Manager shows about 1.2GB of resources being used by Cubase but as a non-techie I don’t know if working this way could be taxing my system in other ways.

In any case I am off to try to follow Greg’s instructions for MIDI routing and getting one instance of Halion generating several sounds as you described. Will post back in a while.

Well… success, sort of. Greg and others, if you can take a look at this and tell me what you think I would really appreciate it.

  1. Created a fresh project. Added a new Instrument track and invoked the Halion synth, chose a piano sound. Hovered over the 4 fields you mentioned and yes, they’re all named as you said they’d be.
    ----> First problem is that in the slot called ‘Program’, there is nothing. The name of the preset is not appearing there. Decided to carry on anyway

  2. Created a MIDI track and named it MIDI Accordion
    ----> Second problem is that what was the ‘Instrument Field’ in the first track is now called ‘Output’ so I cannot carry out your instructions to “Click on the Instrument field and select HALion Sonic from the drop down”. What appears in the Output field is this - 01. piano - MIDI. Also, the channel defaulted to ‘2’. Nothing in the Program Field either.

  3. Decided to just carry on. I opened the Halion synth by clicking ‘Edit Instrument’ in the MIDI track Inspector. I then put ‘Accordion’ in slot two.

And voila, Acccordion plays when I arm Track 2 (the MIDI track I created). I recorded a few parts on each track and they play back correctly.

  1. I created a second MIDI track and named it MIDI Bass. Again opened Halion synth via Edit Instrument icon and put a bass sound in slot 3.

Voila! I record a bass sound on that track.

So… it seems to me that I have manage to record 3 parts, with all 3 being ‘voiced’ by the same instance of Halion. Correct? So this is how I should proceed? If I want 8 Halion tracks in a project, start by creating an Instrument track and then create 7 MIDI tracks and name them appropriately, put the patches I want in the corresponding slots and make sure each MIDI track has the right channel number - that is, the slot in which I put the sound I want for that track?

  1. So I’m trying to figure out why there’s nothing in that ‘Program field’. I notice that above the ‘Input Routing’ field which says ‘All MIDI Instruments’, there’s a field which says ‘Load Track Presets’. I figure ‘what the heck’ and click in there. I get a dialog box that pops up, I choose the Grand Piano sound I chose for the first Instrument track and voila! The name of the patch appears in the 'Program filed!
    —> However… that name has now appeared in the Program field for all 3 tracks, even though the sounds are still playing back correctly and even though the two other tracks )MIDI Tracks) are set to MIDI channels 2 & 3! So this is really weird. Why would I even need to go through this procedure of clicking in the ‘Track Preset’ field and choosing the instrument I have already chosen when I created the track? I know there’s a reason!

Questions:

a) What’s up with this Track Preset thing?

b) On the MIDI track, is the field that says ‘Instrument’ in the Instrument track I created supposed to say ‘Output’ now? I know that for Audio tracks, it says this an I understand what that’s about.

Thanks again. This is so beginner but again, I can’t find a step by step explanation (maybe there’s one at Groove3 but I’m going to hire a pro here for a session before getting into that).

Wait… i think I figured a part of this out…

Okay, things are still not working as I expected, but I did figure out why, when I created the first MIDI track and hovered over what should be the Instrument field (it’s not, it’s called ‘Output’) it said 01-Piano- MIDI.

This is because I named the first instrument track that.

I wiped everything clean and just created an Instrument track but didn’t name it. Now when I create the MIDI track it says Halion Sonic SE in that field. So MIDI data from this track will output to the Halion synth. Understood.

Still nothing in that Program field and another very weird thing. When I click in the Load Track Presets field in the MIDI track I just created, it is no longer giving me a full set of options for patches to choose (remember, this is how I got the Program field to say ‘Grand Piano’ before. It just gives me the ‘Synth Lead’ Category! This has to be wrong - these are presets to alter sounds, not sounds.

My appologies, mset, I mis-remembered how I had done something and some of the details were wrong, plus it appears there is a bug of some sort relating to the “peogram” field - bascially it doesn’t work unless you are using instrument track on a one instrument-to-one-track basis from what I can now see.

Probably the most reliable and logical way to use a single instance of HALion Sonic on more than one track is like this:

Open the VST instrument rack window (if it isn’t already, you can toggle it on or off from the “Set up windows” icon top left of top toolbar) and there select rack instrument then HALion Sonic (or w/e)

It will ask you if you want to create a MIDI track for it. I say no. When you create a rack instrument Cubase assumes you want to use it as a folder in the track list window and organised your MIDI tracks using it under that folder. I don’t so I say no.

Then create a MIDI track and assign HALion Sonic to it. It will defintely now be available for selection as a rack instrument.

Then obviously select your voices, create your MIDI tracks and assign their channels to the right voices in HALion Sonic.

Unless you want to use the HALion Sonic rack instrument folder in the track window, you can get rid of it by selecting the visibility tab in the track inspector window and toggling it off. Then just your MIDI tracks will appear.

No problem, I really appreciate the responses. After reading your posts and playing around a bit, I’ve implemented a system that allows me to use one instance of Halion for several instrument tracks.

Tomorrow I am going to see if the same thing works for using one instance of GrooveAgent but I don’t think it’s quite the same thing. It may be easier of I’m using sounds that all belong to one kit or bank in GA, but I generally use sounds that belong to different kits.

If you have any guidance for me in terms of the possibility of using one instance of GrooveAgent for multiple drum tracks, I would appreciate it. Your step-by-step instructions are invaluable.