Please help - I have no idea what I'm doing...

Hello. The last time I used any software for my compositions was at school 20yrs ago. I am looking to start writing music again but have absolutely no idea where to start! :open_mouth: I primarily write orchestral multi instrument pieces. I have a Yamaha CVP-20 which has 5 pin midi in/out/through sockets. I am thinking of buying Cubase Elements 9 but my dad mentioned I may need a sound card to get the different instrumental sounds? I am literally not technical at all so please could you advise me on what I would need to be able to start writing symphonies again? Hardware wise.

Many thanks in advance as I literally have no idea what I need :confused: Jemma x

Hi, I would recommend the UR22mkII Recording Pack which come with a free copy of Cubase AI which you could upgrade to a another Cubase version later. You will also get a mic and headphones for when you need to record vocals or live instruments. I would also recommend a new USB midi controller, plug and play instead of your current midi keyboard because Cubase doesn’t play nice with old midi keyboards.

Finally I would also recommend using a Mac instead of PC if you want to keep thing simple and if you don’t want headaches.

Basically all you need is a decent ASIO compatble soundcard and a MIDI interface (Which most interfaces have onboard), like for example the one mentioned above.

Yes, headaches like beginner have with a Mac -
a) should I use core audio or ASIO?
b) should I use VST plugins or AU-plugins?

With PC you use ASIO and VST - end of story.

Cubase have amazing getting started videos on youtube.

I’d suggest using which ever system you’re already most familiar with.

Then an ASIO soundcard or interface ideally with MIDI (like the Steinberg UR22 already mentioned). There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to use the old MIDI keyboard. I still use some very old MIDI controllers with no issues.

What you can do on a computer today is so much greater than it was 20 years ago that it would have been unimaginable back then. It is something a musician can be really excited about. The activity you have mentioned is composing symphonic material. I’m wondering whether you might be happier in the long term with Dorico rather than Cubase. Speaking only for myself, I think of Cubase as recording software, and Dorico as composing software.

If you are primarily interested in composing using notation and producing scores and printed music, I would suggest looking at Dorico, instead of Cubase. Yes, Cubase has (limited) scoring functionality, BUT it is quite primitive in comparison to Dorico. I doubt you would find Cubase conducive to this type of workflow.

You WILL need a hardware interface in any event, and buying a Steinberg interface seems like a good starting point, as it would include a free version of Cubase. If you go this path, be sure to get an interface with MIDI I/O so that you can use your MIDI keyboard. This would give you a quick picture of what Cubase is, though in doing anything approaching a symphonic composition you would find yourself quickly exceeding the available track count in the free version.

Dorico does provide a trial version, so you can try it out and see which approach would better suit your working style. There is a quite substantial learning curve for both of theses titles, so give yourself some time to make a fair comparison.

AU Pluings in Cubase??? Asio vs Core audio??? You have no idea how a Modern Mac OS works…

These days, tons of orchestral music is composed directly in DAWs. Composing doesn’t have to be done in music notation.

Cubase is a mature product while Dorico pretty much is in “early access”, so I would be wary of recommending it to a beginner to start out with.

Exactly what i am talking about - I would be a beginner on Mac just as OP…

For example: A Mac with 3 DAWs Logic Pro X, Protools and Cubase. AU for logic, RTAS for pro tools and VST for Cubase. When you install a plugin like native instrument…
Those 3 plugins formats will go to their separate folders on installation.

When you use logic Mac OS will use AU
When you use protools Mac OS will use RTAS
When you use Cubase Mac OS will use VST
It’s the operating system’s job

As for audio interfaces you have 2 basic choices, built in / core audio or your audio interface. A smart 10 year old could install and use 3 different DAWs / plugin formats and audio interface without issues.

You’re confusing the OP by writing about a situation / issue that would never happen.
Like open a studio one, protools or logic project in Cubase :nerd:

Or somebody Mac-fan confusing OP stating untrue things like Mac are no problems ever - but suggest PC is. :wink:

I was just emphasizing one thing that makes life easier on PC.
Bigger supply of applications and less different interfaces to think about.

Mac/PC-war - I’ll go and fetch my popcorn now…

[Note from Moderator: there is no Mac/PC war here except the one you apparently want, and no one’s taking the bait. Moderator warning sent. -Steve]

You will not need a “sound card” (actually the term is Audio Interface nowadays) to access the sounds that come with Cubase, or any other VST Instrument plugin. You could actually get started using the built in audio device in your computer.

If you use it that way for a while you’ll gain an understanding of a variety of elements. One of those will have to do with an inconvenient delay in producing sound between the time you hit a piano key and when the sound is produced. Audio Interfaces reduce that to almost nothing.

The interface AP recommended is a good place to start, it’s inexpensive, and whether you buy the package deal with mic and headphones, or you buy the UR22 by itself, it includes a copy of Cubase AI, the intro-level version of Cubase to play with.