Need help to establish workflow with Software Synths.

Hey there

After 13 years of using Cakewalk Sonar exclusively, I am forced by the circumstances to migrate to a new DAW and I chose Cubase for its famous MIDI capabilities. I am very excited to join this community and looking forward to explore new features of Cubase, while grieving the loss of familiar Sonar environment and functionality and being frightened that I will never find the substitute of the processes I am used to. I am looking for some help to establish workflow that would at least meet my basic production needs. I will have many questions until I figure out the basics, so, please, bare with me.

  1. Where can I find the manual for Cubase 9.5 Pro?

  2. How do I insert new software synth? Is there a way to insert it not as a SINGLE INSTRUMENT track, but as separate MIDI Track and AUDIO track?
    I need to be able to play or step record MIDI melody or chords and hear it playing let’s say through Omnisphere synth without Freezing it to Audio and be able to edit MIDI notes.

  3. I assume and hope that there is “Freeze” function on the Instrument track? I usually insert separate MIDI and Audio tracks for each Software Synth. In Sonar, there is Freeze button on each audio track, which creates Audio by playing MIDI notes through software synth, and when it done, I get Audio track with audio clip and software synth becomes inactive. As alternative to it, there is Record button on Audio track. I can press record, and play MIDI notes and they will be directly recorded on that Audio track and software synth does not become inactive. This is helpful when you like to change sounds on software synth and play different take lines with different sounds using same synth. Can I do it in Cubase?

Thank you for now.

This is what I found so far: I can create single Instrument track. I can create Extra MIDI tracks and assigns their out to Instrument track (Omnisphere in this case). There is Freeze channel button. It has 2 options: one is “Freeze Instrument Only”, other is "Freeze Instrument and channels’. So I used “Freeze instrument and channels.” I was expecting to see a WAV clip on the instrument track now that it supposedly converted to Audio- why do I still see MIDI notes? The notes that I recorded on Extra MIDI track that was assigned to Omnisphere Instrument did not get frozen. In Sonar, everything that I assign to that one Instrument will be converted to Audio.

So basically I need to SEE the AUDIO WAV clip, not the notes of MIDI after I freeze.

The Record button on MIDI track records MIDI. How would I record Audio? Thank you.

Use Render In Place instead of Freeze. It will convert your midi into an Audio Track. Depending on the settings selected you can have this include or exclude any signal processing.

On an Instrument or MIDI Track you will record midi data. On an Audio Track you will record (you guessed it) audio. So add a new Audio Track and record enable it.

You might want to take a look at some of the How To videos on the Cubase YouTube channel which can be accessed via the Hub in Cubase (or just search YouTube).

You should use a send slot of the instrument to route the audio to a group bus. This one can be used as input for an audio track you use for this aim. Sounds a little bit complicated but when you got used to it it gets second nature. OTOH: I am curious to know why you need the waveforms.
Ah, another thing is the freeze tracks are saved in a sub folder of your project as audio files.

The manuals are here:
You can bookmark the online version on your phone or tablet. This will allow you to use it like a physical manual.

Instrument freezing works slightly different in Cubase, and is used just to save RAM/CPU. If you need to see or edit the waveform, you should use render in place (Edit menu) which will create audio tracks right below the MIDI events you selected. You can then freeze the instruments manually afterwards if you need to save computer resources.

To record audio you’ll have to create an audio track. You can record audio and MIDI at the same time by just selecting both tracks, but it’s usually better to just record your MIDI performance first and then using render in place to generate an audio track once you’re done editing.

Right upfront- please, dont get irritated when the sentense starts with “In Sonar…”- I do realize- i am not in Sonar. Why would I need to see Audio wav? I dont know… to see how it came out, if it spiky, square, flat, briskwalled, is the level of it good enough? Some time i cant hear if it would be clipping when certain filters (cutoff) working and then it gets to certain part and clips- i can see it when I look at wav. I also like to slice wav clip on smaller parts and move them around. I am not understanding what you saying about the Send Slot- send is usually for plugins.

I created MIDI track, set it to Omnisphere In, and I can hear Omnisphere playing. How do I created Audio track, why is there no clear Input and Output settings? I want it to Output to Master Bus, and Input from Omnispphere instrument. It gives me option for Stereo In, Stereo Out- no options there to select. I should be able to select Master bus, Group for Out and any Software synth for Input- how do I route Omnisphere in to this Audio track? Thank you.

There are a bunch of different Track types that are used for different types of events or purposes. Consult the OPs Manual for a complete list.

If you try to replicate in Cubase how you used to do something in Sonar you’ll end up getting frustrated and often not successful. Same would be true going the other way too. This is why checking out some how to videos is beneficial - they’ll show you how stuff works in the Cubase world.

First, you generally won’t want to route Omnispphere to an Audio Track.

A few basics (but PLEASE save us all a bunch of typing and watch some videos which will be both clearer explanations & more complete). In the Project Window you have Tracks. In the MixConsole you have Channels just like a hardware mixer - Channels are only for audio. Some Track Types will have a corresponding Channel, but many don’t.

Most Tracks are used to place audio or data (midi, tempo, time sigs, chords, etc.) along the timeline. But some like Folder Tracks are used to organize stuff.

When you create an Audio Track a corresponding Channel is also created. The Track’s Inspector will let you assign audio Inputs & Outputs (assuming you have initially configured your I/O in VST Connections). Audio Tracks let you record & playback audio, but not midi - just like a hardware tape recorder.

Cubase has 2 different Track Types that handle midi. The older & more cumbersome are MIDI Tracks. On a MIDI Track you can’t set audio I/O, you can only set midi Inputs & Outputs. Typically you’d select your controller as input. You will also need to load a VSTi as a Rack Instrument - when you do this it will create Audio out Channel(s) in the MixConsole. At this point the MIDI Track and the Rack Instrument are entirely independent of each other. However once the Rack Instrument exists it shows up as a destination you can route a MIDI Track’s midi Output to.

Later Steinberg created Instrument Tracks which integrates the midi capabilities with a VSTi that is part of the Track & that VSTi’s audio outputs in the MixConsole. In general these are simpler & easier to use.

Until you get used to how Cubase functions I’d recommend using an Instrument Track that is only playing a single part. So instead of having a single instance of Omnispphere playing 5 parts you’ll have 5 instances each playing a single part. Cubase will let you do it either way, but using multiple instances is simpler & easier - especially when trying to understand a new workflow. And in case you are wondering, using multiple instances does not consume a bunch more resources.

Oh and did I mention the videos & maybe cracking the manual a bit. It’s a complex program & there is a learning curve. :wink:

Thank you for taking your time explaining the basics, I appreciate it very much. I am not a big fan of the Instrument track as I like my MIDI and my AUDIO visible on separate tracks. I am not trying to exactly replicate workflow of Sonar but trying to find similar functionality because certain operations are mandatory- such as ability to select Input and Output. Please, correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that to select Inputs and Outputs on Audio track, I press that “e” looking icon and it opens “Channel settings”. I just opened one, and there is NOTHING meaningful in it.

From left to right it has Stereo In <-. Track number, Stereo Out and arrow to expand. What in the world is this? I have 48 channels MOTU Thunderbolt system. I should be seeing 48 inputs, 48 outputs, Master, Busses and Software synths. What I see is “Stereo IN” and “Stereo Out”. Under Stereo In, I see “No Bus”, :Stereo In 1", “Mono In 1”, “Mono In 2” “FX-FX1 Roomworks SE”. Sorry, this makes no sense. I have 24 hardware instruments connected to each stereo input of MOTU. So let’s say I have Yamaha Motif on Audio input 3-4. I should be able to have option to select this for Audio Input and just play MIDI on MIDI channel, trigger Motif, and Motif’s audio Output will come to Audio Track to record, and MIDI OUT will come to MIDI track. The same applies to Omnisphere- software instrument. In Sonar, it used to be only Freeze that would convert MIDI to Audio. But later they made it possible to use Software synth just like Hardware- just like I would route Motif to audio track- the same way- I would route Omnisphere to Audio and record it just like hardware instrument.

So, ok- let’s say- Cubase is behind with this. But I should be able to trigger hardware instrument to play in to audio track- how come it does not give me a list of my inputs and outputs?
Thank you.

Did you configure you Inputs & Outputs in VST Connections, oh looks like they renamed it Audio Connections in 9.5? If you didn’t then they don’t exist.

Take a look at the graphic here

Where it says “Stereo In” & Stereo Out" those are drop-down menus that let you select which inputs and outputs to use. The items shown in those menus will be what you defined as Inputs & Outputs in Audio Connections. If you aren’t seeing items mapped to your physical hardware, then it is not configured correctly.

If you want to have a track with midi & another with audio next to each other it doesn’t make any difference if you use a MIDI Track or an Instrument Track.

If the audio source is an external synth create an Audio Track and either a MIDI Track or an Instrument Track. Connect the synth’s audio out to inputs on your audio interface. Select that input as the source on your Audio Track. Then you can simultaneously record audio to the Audio Track and midi to the Instrument or MIDI Track. FYI the video linked above shows doing this using a MIDI Track - but it would be exactly the same using an Instrument Track.

If the audio source is a VSTi, then record your midi on either an Instrument or MIDI Track. Once that is done do a Render In Place which will create a new Audio Track with your audio on it.

I don’t know Sonar myself, but based on threads here from folks coming from Sonar the relationship between midi & audio in Sonar is conceptually pretty different than in Cubase. I gather in Sonar when you see midi & audio of that midi they are somehow connected to each other. In Cubase they are two entirely independant things - even though you may have used the midi to generate the audio.

Again I’d recommend that initially you just use Instrument Tracks, but if you insist on making your migration to Cubase more complicated than it needs to be for no good reason - then go for it.

This video shows you how to configure Cubase to talk to your hardware audio I/O starting ~4:38.

Like Raino explains above, you need set-up your audio connections first (confusingly, Cubase often calls these “vst connections”, even they have nothing to do with virtual instruments and fx. In 9.5, this section is in a sub-menu called “studio”). The is that, in most instances, you’ll only have to this once (although you can change whatever whenever). While you’re setting up your inputs/outputs, check out the Control Room - it’s one of Cubase’s best features (read manual first, though).

This is frustrating. So I have to set up 24 stereo channels, which is ok, but then when I am in settings of Audio Track, it just says Stereo In 1, Stereo In 2, Stereo In 3- how do i suppose to remember what that track was? Do they expect me to remember that my Virus is on Stereo In 22? How come the name of what it assigned to is not visible? Can it be renamed? (Not the audio track but the audio input to say something other than Stereo In XX?).

The reason to be able to record Software synth in real time (and not to use Rander) is because many synths have XY pads or complicated Macros assignment that makes MIDI Learn difficult, in such cases, I use Mouse to move sliders, knobs, faders and/or XY pad and I record sound that comes out of software synth in real time. Is there a better way to just record mouse movement? Automation? Which is nice, but some time i am able to do crazy things to the synth in real time and I want it to be recorded in Audio, because it would not pick up in MIDI. So you saying- there is no ability to route Instrument track to Audio to be able to record audio in real time as if it was hardware synth? Thank you.

And no- the MIDI and AUDIO tracks are not connected in Sonar, it just anything can be routed to anything (with common sense).

Why it it only offers 48 inputs in Input template? is there input limit? Is there track limit? Thank you.

1.You can name inputs/tracks to whatever.
2.Yes, you can record synths in real time.
3. Study the manual.:grin:

I totally appreciate everybody’s time, thanks for all the replies. Also studying manual is very important, I have very strict time limits imposed, such as full time day job and being single mother of teenager who has piano lessons, chorus, robotics and everything else. By the time I make it home from work it is past 7 pm, and I have to get up at 6 am. I have several active projects in Sonar and my Sonar is still functional, so it is very tempting to just go on with it until it falls apart, but I am trying to divide my time between making music in Sonar and learning this Cubase thing so that I can start my next project in Cubase. I understand everybody has life. Also the manual has a lot of stuff I dont need to know right now. I am going through the pages from the Help page that was posted for me by Raino, it is helpful so far, but, for example I have few questions rigfht now that you can probably answer on the fly without me looking through hundreds of articles:

  1. Externally Clocked
    Activate this option if you use an external clock source.
    Do I use External clock or not? I believe- I had my Sonar run in Slave to Audio Interface Motu. My MOTU is set to Internal clock. Does it means- I should set Cubase to External or Internal clock? It shows Clock Source- Internal and it can not be changed but then there is checkbox for Externally Clocked, If I check it, the Internal for clock source does not change. ???

  2. When I press Play or record, it playing for let’s say 10 measures. When I press Stop, it stays on Measure 10. Is there a way to set it to jump to where it started? Thank you.

  3. And what are the setting under Studio Under Transport when it says Recording Length and it has Gray 20, Gray 30, Gray 40… Red… what are those colors? Where should it be set? Thanks.

If your time is limited, you should check YT for videos on specific things you need to know for now. And then read the manual for further explanations.

I think you should change your approach of Cubase. The worst thing to do when changing DAW is trying to work the same way in the new one as in the old one. Instead of finding the great stuff of the new DAW you’ll only find roadblocks of it not doing it the same way as your “old” app. They’ll do things differently so instead of seeing it as a inconvenience try to understand why it does something in such a way. Those devs are all brilliant people but they’ll approach a concept from a different way so that will generate different solutions.

I’m a long time Logic user who just started noodleing in Cubase. Once I mimicked my “workflow” shortcuts in Cubase, the rest needs to be looked at with a fresh look and I need to understand why function X is done that way in Cubase. It’s like starting a new relationship and wishing the new person was like the old one. You’ll only be disappointed. :slight_smile:


1- use internal unless you use outboard gear.
2- options under ‘Transport’
3- don’t know which area you are talking about be more specific

I understand the concerns of coming to new daw and that it’s important to start moving as quickly as possible…

Excellent set of posts.

In answer to the OP. When I migrated from Sonar to Cubase I decided to let go of Sonar and work with Cubase. It’s going on three years now and I’ve never had a better music making and sound creation experience. I still think of myself as a “new user,” many here have been with Cubase since its earliest versions.

There are some very good and some not so good videos on youtube. Cubase has worked more or less the same way for a long time, so techniques presented in some earlier versions of the program will still likely work is current version. Here are some of the channels I’d highlight.

This channel, MixdownOnline, is very good,
The host, Chris Selim, is a Cubase expert. I like Chris’ whole approach to using the program. Just looking at his setups has helped me tremendously.

For cut-to-the-chase basics on using Cubase, you might try – Mike Smith’s channel,
Mike’s videos cover basic Cubase functions quickly and efficiently. A good start for brand-new Cubase users.

Lastly, I’d suggest, Misc. Factory Studio,
Good for some the geeky and quirky parts of the program as well as general concepts.

The Cubase videos are good, However some are more about sales rather than training. There are, however, many helpful “how-to” videos as well. Greg Ondo’s Club Cubase, a google hangout, it one to follow as well.

Good luck.

Thank you for all the replies.

  1. You said- Internal. My MOTU set to Internal. If I have Cubase set to Internal, then what will be master and what will give clock? If I set Cubase to Internal, does it mean I need to set MOTU to External, and will Cubase send Clock to it? I have 3 MOTU Units- 2 of them Slave to 1st unit- It would not be desirable to set MOTU to External- I dont know if Cubase will be sending Clock to all 3 units.

  2. I looked under the Transport. I dont see this setting. There are settings for the keyboard shortcuts, locate cursor position, Start from… I need setting that “When Stop- return to where it started”. And how come there is no Pause button? I had Pause to stop where I want it to Stop and stay there, while actual Stop button- to return from where I started. When recording something over and over, I press Stop and I need it to jump right back to beginning of the clip or marker or what ever it started from. Is there such setting?

  3. Under Studio/ Studio Setup- there is Max. Record Time and it has Gray 30, Gray 40, Red, and so on… is it matter? Thank you.