How to connect an external synth to Cubase for audio and midi

Hi, I have Cubase 10 Elements, and I would like to use a Korg Monologue with it. As interface I have the UR22 MK2

I tried to connect the USB cable of the Monologue to the computer, and the audio output to the 1st audio input of the UR22; and I can hear the Monologue sound when I play it.
I started Cubase; and created an audio track, using as input “mono 1”; that seems to be working since I can see the audio meter moving on that audio track, when I play the monologue. I tried to record and I see the wave recorded, but when I play it back I hear nothing.

I would like to use the sounds of the Monologue, so when I play it, I can record the midi part AND the audio wave file; so if I decide to switch something in the midi part, or swap preset, I can get new audio in. So far I had no luck because the Monologue is not even in the midi devices list of Cubase 10; and I am just a beginner; so in the past I just used VST with a USB midi controller; and this is my first hardware synth.

Does anyone have any hints about how to get this to work with my setup?


If I understand your questions, well, you have many ‘options’, but here is what I would ‘suggest’.

First, lets keep it simple. Make a set of inputs that will live on your mixing console and stay there, while also giving you the full array of options for routing/placing effects/grouping/and more…to the audio inputs that you have your Korg plugged into. This is MUCH better than just making an audio input…as it also gives you FX sends, and so much more.

Tap F4…

This should bring up a dialog for building Audio Connections.

In the Audio connections Dialoge, click the “External Instruments” tab.

Click “Add External Instrument”, give it a name that suits you, and connect a set of inputs to it from your audio interface. In my case, I’m working with a Roland XR, so my stuff is named accordingly in the screenshots. Name it whatever you like :slight_smile:

For now, do NOT link any MIDI ports to this device. You ‘might’ want to do this in the future, if you also happen to install any MIDI modules/patch-lists/etc. that goes with your synth, and IF they work well while being linked in this fashion. More on that later…

In my example below, I currently have a Roland XR unit connected to inputs 5 and 6 on my Tascam US-1200 audio interface. You can see I have other inputs built as well, but since I am not using them right now, they are simply ‘not connected’ to anything at present.

While I’m not using them right now, my XR has more outputs than just the main stereo pair. It also has an SPDIF option. If your Monologue has that stuff as well, and you’d like to take advantage of it…add inputs in your favorite configuration as well. A single instrument CAN have more than 2 inputs…or you can do like I have with my XR, and divide it into stereo pairs so all I have to do is tap F4 and connect them when/if I wish to plug my XR in that way and use them.

Now that you have told Cubase about this ‘external instrument’, and where the audio inputs for it are, here is how to get it into your project, and thus, on the Mixing Console.

You’ll want to add it to your “Instrument Rack”. You might already have it visible in the right margin of your Master Project Window…then again, you might have chosen to hide that panel. Either way, you can:

Tap F11 to bring it up.

Click, “Rack”, then choose, “External Plug-Ins”, and then choose the Korg Monologe.

After doing this, Cubase will ask if you want to make a fresh track connected to the instrument. If you click yes, you can go ahead and create a fresh track that gets added to your project. If you choose No, then it just adds the instrument to the rack.

Now you should notice that you have a new VST Instrument showing up in your Project. You also get a standard audio fader on your Mixing console, with all the goodies that go with it.

If you wish to record the dry audio from this ‘instrument’, then you can create a fresh ‘audio track’, and choose this instrument as the ‘input’. Alternatively, you can also assign your Korg, and ‘other stuff’ to a group and record ‘that’ instead. Well, you have all sorts of options on how you ultimately route things from your mixer into a recording audio track.

From now on, in future projects, you can simply add this set of inputs using the VST Instrument Rack.

If you would like all of your future projects to open with your Korg already set to go, then you could store a ‘project template’ that has all of your favorite instruments laid out and ready to go.

Is this the ONLY way to do it? Not even close. Still, I highly recommend this method. We can get more into reasons WHY after you get ‘this far’. Ultimately, the benefits might be HUGE if we can ALSO track down special MIDI modules for Cubase designed to go with your Korg workstation. These can sometimes provide major conveniences such as detailed drop down patch-lists, special sysex based remote control panels, and more…

Let me know when you get this far, and how it’s working for you. From there I’ll see if I can help you track down a corresponding MIDI module for your Monologue.

Thanks a lot for the reply, Brian!

Got stuck immediately…I assume you have Cubase pro? Because when I push F4, the only tabs I see in the audio connections are Inputs and Outputs :frowning:

You can write your own MIDI Devices that would be in that list or take an existing one and MOD it. Most of them are quite primitive anyway and don’t give you full access. They’re mainly to view the names of the presets in Cubase inspector and browse them that way. I did some along time ago, very tedious typing out all the names of the rom sounds.

I don’t know how much of this is in ELEMENTS

What you need to do is press F4 and set up an External Instrument. In the External Instruments tab click Add Instrument. Name it, select how many connections it has. Here you will also see that part that would associate this with a MIDI device (What you’d of previously loaded form the list your device isn’t in), click Associate MIDI Device and click Create Instrument (through the sub menu), name it and click Ok. Now click the little + next to the name that’s appeared under the Buss Name column, the name you choose for your device (Monologue perhaps), pick the audio device it’s connected to under audio device, and the connections under device port.

Now the instrument will load as a VST. If it doesn’t show in your plugin list, check the plugin manager, if you have your own plugin list you’ll have to drag it across.

But you will have a problem, the instrument doesn’t know what midi port it’s connected too. Go back to the MIDI Device Manage (you can also get there by clicking the name you created that shows at the far right in External Instruments tab under MIDI device column). Your instrument should show as an installed device in the MIDI Device Manager, click it and select the MIDI port it’s connected to, where the words not connect appear.

See how far you get with that and report back. If Elements doesn’t have External Instruments feature you’ll have to do it the old, old fashioned way

I strongly recommend you watch all the official getting started Cubase videos on their youtube site.

Edit: Beat me to it and a much better explanation than mine… seems like you can’t do that in elements. if anything it was fun reminding myself how to do this, it’s been a while.

Yes, I have Pro. Sorry. If F4 doesn’t have a tab for creating ‘external instruments’ for the VST instrument rack, then I suppose you’ll need to configure it as a standard input. I think those might need to be run through an audio track, with either monitor or record active to ‘hear or record anything’.

Yep, I double checked the manual, and sadly that is a pro-feature only.

What is the other “way” (old-old-way) that you were referring to?

OK, I ran some quick tests, at least with Cubase Pro, here’s how it works if I set it up as a standard input.

  1. I tapped F4, and created an input bus I called “Korg M”. I connected inputs 5 and 6 from my audio interface.
    I do see an option to ‘listen’ to the Korg M input directly. But I think one gets more processing abilities if?

  2. I made an audio track, and named it Korg M. I connected the Korg M inputs to it.

At this point, rather than toggling the “L” (listen) icon for the inputs…I can instead click the little speaker icon on the Korg M track if I just want to ‘hear’ what is playing. I click the record Icon if I want to ‘record’ to it. Etc.

P.S. I could be wrong, but I think it’s pretty much standard practice to route it through audio tracks, and here is why…

  1. You can have as many of them as you like, all with the same ‘master input’, but with different effect chains and such. Mute out the ones you don’t want to ‘hear’ or ‘work with’ at the moment. When you get a bunch that are in your way visually, you can hide and unhide them…and thus eventually just delete whatever you don’t need anymore as the project grows and you feel the desire to get rid of ‘project clutter’.

  2. You can easily reroute those audio tracks to different output buses, depending on how you’d like to monitor, or ‘mix down’. You won’t have to keep going back into the F4 tabs and changing things up.

In short, let Audio Tracks be your routing guide. Don’t be afraid to use LOTS OF THEM (up to the limits that Elements might have?). Name them in ways that tell you how it’s routed, what effect chains you’ve got in play, and so on. That way it is only a couple of clicks to try out different ideas through different routings, or whatever.

In Cubase Pro we get TONS of options with all sorts of fancy presets and stuff, so our workflow isn’t as dependent on using ‘lots of tracks’. Since Elements might not have all those bells and whistles, let each ‘track’ be your ‘bells and whistles…your ‘presets’ per-se’. You can save and load individual ‘tracks’ into projects with your favorite settings as needed. Get the idea?

Thanks a lot! I think I have got the gist with the Elements version. I wish I had the pro; but I am still considering if I want to invest in Cubase pro, until I actually master the Elements version.

So, this is what I found out.

  1. you can’t use one track; I am bound to 2 tracks, because one is the one that record the midi part, the second record the actual output of the Monologue. there is no way around, unless I just record the Synth output from the audio plug, in Cubase as plain audio track. That works for some specific parts in my composition; but I can’t foresee using the synth for multiple parts and just record the audio, since If I want to change anything, I have to record EVERY part

  2. I can play the midi out to the synth; using the midi cable from the UR22 MK2 to the Midi in of the synth; that is pretty nice; since I can change presets on the fly and while I loop the midi part on Cubase, I can hear the different versions of the track. The downside is that I have to actually record the audio output as wave anyway; to actually hear the sounds

  3. Since there is no way to create an external instrument, I have to use the midi+audio tracks trick; which is better than nothing at this point.

  4. Korg supply a midi driver; which add options to Cubase Midi input and output. That was the discovery that actually allowed me to be able to use the 2 tracks trick to hear the sound and record it, and save the midi part.

I guess that I have to accept that at this point, I can record the synth as I do with my guitar; which means I have limited control compared to a VST; due to the lack of capabilities on the midi track (I think I saw a Novation synth that has an audio module; which works as mix between a midi controller and a pure synth…); but it is better than nothing, so I am really happy I can experiment now :slight_smile:

Thanks a lot for your info and help!

Yes, even with Cubase Pro, you’ll often deal with MIDI independently of Audio. With ‘rack’ instruments, the audio bus is always separate from the MIDI track on the mixing console.

We have a couple of options in adding things to the project as an ‘instrument’ track, or as a pure ‘MIDI’ track which connects to something in the ‘rack’, but utlimately, MIDI and audio are still two different things.

When using ‘rack’ style instruments, we always use a totally independent MIDI track, which gets its own fader on the mixing console (and subsequently sends CC7, CC10, etc…to the synth when using the controls).

When using ‘instrument tracks’, we just get one fader, which is ultimately an ‘audio’ controller, but instead of having a totally independent MIDI track, it’s merged in. The main benefit to ‘instrument tracks’ over ‘midi to rack’ setups, is that with the Instrument tracks, you can store ‘midiloops’ and such that can be instantly previewed in the ‘media browser’ without having to load up and connect a bunch of stuff to sample it (it keeps up with the plugins used, and the state they were in when you saved the midiloop). In short…pattern style song writers, EDM composers, etc…often prefer the newer ‘instrument tracks’, and lots of plugin instances. Those working with advanced multi-timberal instruments (such as advanced orchestra libraries) and 'through composed scores often prefer the old ‘midi track to rack instrument’ setup, with fewer instances of their plugins.

As for having to ‘record’ to hear what you play via MIDI into the Korg…I think you can elect to just ‘monitor’ an audio track without actually recording anything to it.

I.E. You could disable ‘local mode’ on your Korg, and set it up so it doesn’t play a sound when you hit a key, but instead just sends MIDI events into Cubase, which then echos it back into the Korg (if you have the Cubase Track routed back to the Korg), which then plays it. If the Korg can’t disable local mode, then you’d disable the “MIDI Thru” feature in Cubase, or just wait to connect the track back to the Korg until AFTER you have recorded it.

When you merely want to ‘hear’ these MIDI tracks, without ‘recording’ anything, then you’d click the ‘monitor’ icon for the Korg Audio Track you’d like to ‘hear’. If you want to ‘record it’, then you’d click the record icon as well. If you have an audio track that has wave information actually recorded into it, then you don’t need the “Monitor” active to hear that ‘recorded’ information.

In short, “Monitor” lets whatever is coming in through the inputs ‘pass through’ and be heard at any point…even if the transport is not playing.

In theory, you could have more than one Audio Track connected to the Korg in a given project. I.E. Routed different ways, or with different effect chains. Toggle Monitor and Record for whatever configuration you want to work with at the moment.

Connect your Korg M to a set of audio inputs.
Connect those inputs to an audio track.
Load up a general MIDI file into Cubase and direct all the tracks to your Korg with the track channels set to ANY.
Click “Monitor” on the Audio track that has your Korg routed into it.
Start the Cubase transport…

You should be able to ‘hear’ the MIDI file playing without recording it.

Do it again, but this time click the record icon on the audio track as well. If you start the transport using the record button there, you should be able to hear it, while it also records to the audio track.

Bump, sorry, I edited my last post a good bit…just a heads up to browse it again just in case…

The way I used to do it with lots of hardware was to only use midi and record the full track on another PC, anything that needed processing would be recorded in but we never really did.

When you finally get it set up, as you will have timing issues, another TIP is to put Volume Shaper VST (VS) on the Master/Stereo Bus, set this to 1/4, enlarge view. Draw some simple off beat MIDI, you should see the note drawn perfectly in the middle of VS, but you wont, now you can adjust Cubase Delay MS in the inspector to get the synth where it should be, without simply guessing. It will likely be a tiny bit behind, depending buffer settings (for some unknown reason bigger buffers (possibly tighter) seem to put things slightly ahead). I keep telling people about using VS on the Master/Stereo Buss as a visual tool and the secrets it will reveal but no one listens.

You will also likely notice drift unintended swing, which results in phasing if trying to layer, unify a sound. This is just the downside of MIDI, I think only the Virus TI is sample accurate when integrated. Some consider this a human effect, not so bad layering sounds as different instruments but ruins the illusion of oneness if the layers from different synths are meant to be one, keep the layers to the same synth.

Hi Brian,

Would you please elaborate on how to have/create special sysex based remote control panels?

I have also XR and Yamaha PSR.

Thank you for your time in advance.

That portion of Cubase has its own manual.

As for the XR, here is a copy of my personal setup. (185 KB)
Since I have it split up into more than one module (one for the XR Banks, one for the “Performance” banks, and then some for various SRX banks). I do NOT define the XR as a MIDI device when tapping F4 to add it to the rack. This way I can use the various profiles independently as needed.

To get these into your setup unzip the file above and import the XML into your MIDI Devices portion of Cubase.

The ‘mode’ Instrument allows you to pick a profile preset if the track it is assigned to is set to channel 10.

My GM maps have been modified to also send the bank changes.

Other than a simple module to enter/leave GM or GM2 modes, and jump between performance and patch modes, I don’t get very fancy with it trying to do Sysex since I’m on Windows and the native Roland X Editor App still works great for Windows (not sure about Macs…Apple is terrible with legacy support and this stuff was written back when Macs were still PPC). That Roland site also has Cubase Patch Scripts if you’d rather use those than my setup above (I started with these, but expanded it over time).

If you’re having trouble getting USB MIDI drivers going with your XR on Windows check out This thread at Roland Clan Forums

Getting the XR connected works like this for me:
Tap F4 and assign whatever audio device inputs you have the XR connected to as, “External Instruments”
Personally I like to set up each set of audio outputs as independent instruments, as I don’t always have them all connected. This way I can easily call up which ever ones I need for a given project. Notice that I do NOT establish a MIDI link here. The reason for this is because we want the flexibility to easily swap between different profiles (Mode/XR/SRX/etc)

Here’s what I end up with.

Notice how the XR is now in the Cubase “Instrument Rack”…kind of like VST plugins.

As for the PSR, I don’t know too much about it. If that thing is MIDI XG compatible I think there are some XG maps already included with Cubase.

Awesome, Brian. Thank you so much for your help with this and also the patch. Unfortunately, I am on Mac. I will let you know how it goes after I tried it.

Bump since I edited some things in the last post while you were responding.

Thank you for putting it back!

On the Fantom X Editor and Librarian software…
If you happen to have some old PC in the attic running XP or later…it’s worth it to get it out for working with the XR if you intend to make/edit patches or work with editing samples. It doesn’t have to be a robust PC at all…even an old single core pentium would do it…pretty much anything that can run XP or later…

If you happen to run windows in a virtual machine, or with bootcamp, or whatever…that should work too. Might even work with Wine.

I’ve been curious about setting up External MIDI Devices, but never really understood it. I have a rack of old synths I’d like to still use in my studio that are all connected to channels on my hardware console. I haven’t used any direct outputs on the console because I only have 8 analog inputs on the audio interface. For that reason, All my channels on the hardware console are going to the Main Out and then into an input pair on the interface.

Since you have to assign an input that your external MIDI device is connected to, how can I get audio control of each device since they all share the same physical input on the interface?

You’d have to do the mixing internally in each instrument via MIDI events.
Sending CC7 over a given channel changes the channel’s master volume.
Sending CC11 often controls expression volume (relative to the master CC7 volume).
Sending CC10 does panning.

MIDI tracks on the Cubase mixing console will actually send CC7 using the fader, and CC10 for pan. You get a dynamic resolution of 128.

Sometimes it’s easier to keep your automation on lanes in the Master Arrangement window. Sometimes it’s better to keep it in CC lanes using the key editor. Sometimes it’s better to use note-expression and attach your events directly to the notes themselves. There are options in the MIDI menu making it possible to bounce your automation/mixing events around among the various formats/lanes as needed…including the MIDI logical editors. What works best for you? For me it all depends on the type of arrangement. For long through composed arrangements…I like to keep it all in CC lanes in the key editor, which is great for batch processing things using ‘logical editors’. As the piece evolves I’ll often move things to note-expression containers.

In contrast, when I’m working with pattern style arrangements, I’ll often just do my mixing directly on the mixing console, using the track automation lanes.

Practice and try things…so many options at your fingertips :wink: