Pro Tools user looking to Cubase for orchestral work

Hi all!!

As a quick preface so I don’t waste anyone’s time, I think my ultimate question would be geared more to experienced Cubase users who do a lot of orchestral work and have created templates for Hollywood Orchestra…however anyone is more than welcome to offer advice to the predicament I find myself in.

I have been using Pro Tools for analog recording–mainly singer/song writer stuff w/ occasional light midi to compliment my work

Recently I have become more involved with orchestral work which I haven’t done in quite some time. I currently only use Hollywood Orchestra for my orchestral samples. The problem with that is the Play engine does not allow users to create their own custom keyswitches.

To make a long story short, the last project I was involved in was a fairly large orchestral piece which I did in Pro Tools. Because I was unable to use keyswitches (or program changes) with Play, I was forced to put all the articulations on separate tracks which resulted in a huge template of over 250 tracks. I know a lot of you, and even the pros, like to manage their project that way but for me it is a nightmare and seriously interferes with my work flow. I want to be able to put as many useful articulations as possible on one track per instrument.

Unlike most DAWS, Pro Tools does not allow script function so I am unable to use third party plugins to get around this limitation. So the predicament I find myself in is that I either spend a lot of money on another orchestral library that allows custom keyswitches/program changes (eg, Spitfire, berlin, etc) or I use another DAW for my midi orchestral work. (As a side note, my philosophy always was that before I spend additional money on another library I should probably master Hollywood orchestra first because I feel this library still sounds great and has so much potential. However I am not against investing the money in a new library if I have to)

With that said, I tried Logic X in the past and wasn’t ecstatic with it and the 2 alternative I was considering was either Digital Performer or Cubase. I have an older version of Cubase 4 which I have not fired up since 2005 so I forgot all the key commands, etc. Bottom line is, if I end up using a new DAW for midi orchestration I will have to go through the birthing pains of learning a new DAW.

Now I see there have been a lot of enhancements with Cubase since version 4 and the expression maps look very practical.

So I guess my question would be more directed to experienced Cubase users who do a lot of orchestral work and have created templates for Hollywood Orchestra - - Have you found a comfortable way to create custom keyswitches and/or program changes for the Hollywood Orchestra, and if yes, would you be kind to share your method?

This info would really benefit me in making the decision to purchase Cubase 9 and invest the necessary in time learning this DAW

Much appreciated for any help you can provide!!!

  • Steve


Take a look at Expression Maps. It’s quite powerful. It takes some time to program but once it’s done, you’re good to go. I suggest you read the manual or watch some Youtube vids on the subject.

Also, creating a template with the instruments + their Expression Maps already loaded with increase your workflow a lot.

Hi Mattieu

Have you created expression maps for the Hollywood instruments and if yes, does it work smoothly? Are you able to change the articulations all on one track in Cubase?

You’re probably familiar with this approach, but I don’t use custom expression maps, for the EastWest libraries I use the instruments titled Keyswitch Masters, these load all the articulations for an instrument or ensemble to one track. To select the articulation you want, enter a MIDI note in your score corresponding to that articulation just before the note you want to affect, these keyswitch notes are preset outside the range of the musical instrument. Or you can just hit that note on your keyboard, this makes it easy to try different articulations on the fly. This approach has one disadvantage, it uses a lot of memory to load all articulations. I’ve been using EW Symphonic Orchestra with Cubase for about 2 years, also Hollywood Strings and various other EW instruments, they work really well with Cubase. – Cal

You can download expression maps for the EastWest libraries…

+1 for Expression Maps.The ones in the download link above are a good start but it is easy enough to create your own. You can send both keyswitches for the KS patches and channel changes when you load HO articulations on different channels.

Here’s video showing creating expression maps for HO:

Thanks for the replies. I watched the video however I should have mentioned I use a Mac for my DAW and I use VePro6 on slave PC. So all Hollywood orchestra will be through VePro. This means that the VE pro plugin will be inserted on the Cubase instrument track and then each Hollywood instrument section will be on a midi track outputting to the respected VE pro Channel.

Will expression maps work in this set up?

I’m not a VE Pro user, but I do have a bunch of PLAY sample libraries that I trigger via VST Expression Maps. According to the thread below, Expression Maps work with VE Pro:

VST Expression Maps are the way to go if you want an uncluttered project window. They are really easy to set up once you get how they work, which may be confusing at first. But the video posted above shows you exactly how to create them, which helps a lot since the manual is not very good at that.

The only thing I do differently from the video is that I like using ‘Attributes’ rather than ‘Directions’ for short articulations. With ‘Attributes’ you can lasso select a range of notes if you need the articulation to be applied to several of them at once (rather than assigning it one at a time). Also, when using ‘Directions’, position the long blue bar (again, shown in the video) slightly ahead of the note to be affected. This will ensure that the correct articulation is being triggered (no need to worry about this when using ‘Attributes’ though, since they get attached to the MIDI notes as soon as you assign them).

Anyway, I hope this helps. Good luck!

I own Vepro but dont use it. IMO unless you use slaves (and a modern PC would handle huge templates without them) there is no need for it.
I use a large template, 1360 tracks with expression maps, routings, everything disabled (almost no impact on RAM) and then made invisible. This template loads in 9 seconds and footprint is about 5 gig of RAM. You can also import tracks easily if you need more.
Expression maps look a little awkward at first, but once you get the routine of creating custum ones they take about 5 minutes to set up and work fine. Put your default sound (usually legato) at the top. You can drag around afteryou finish creating one, and the lists in Key editor will change with them.

you load 1360 tracks in 9 seconds? You mean with no VI’ loaded? If you had decent sized VI’s loaded into those tracks, it certainly wouldn’t be 9 seconds and 5GB Ram.

Not sure what type of work you do, but for a film composer, VEPro is a valuable tool…even on a single machine. The main reason is, you can keep your template loaded between projects. So let’s say I’m working on a film with 50 cues; I load the template once, and it stays loaded when I switch between cues (ie: projects). You can’t do that without VEPro.

My work is cinematic with orchestral and synths - everything.

“The main reason is, you can keep your template loaded between projects. So let’s say I’m working on a film with 50 cues; I load the template once, and it stays loaded when I switch between cues (ie: projects). You can’t do that without VEPro.”

Why do you need this? Because of loading times? As I said, 9 seconds for loading my master template with 1300+ tracks. 5 gig of RAM all disabled.
I am also experimenting with a new way of working with projects. In this method, you have a master template and a virgin template. The Master Template contains all your tracks laid out, possibly folderized, all disabled. This Master Template is only ever loaded for auditioning.
The Virgin template has nothing at all in it. Say you want some strings. You briefly open the Master template - enable say the flutes, audition what you need, then, using file/import track from project, simply import the track into the Virgin project. You then shut down the Master Template. Because the master is disabled it loads and vanishes in seconds.

This method described above, uses no redundant overheads, no Vepro, has no loading time issues, and is better than using track presets as you get to see your potentional auditioned tracks in a project window, not some daft media bay set up. Infintely more preferable for many reasons.


Yes, it works. For example, in Play, I made a set of different short notes patches of cellos. Each patch has its own MIDI input channel. Then, with the Expression Map, I assign MIDI notes to change the MIDI output channel of the track, so the correct patch will play when I trigger the note assigned to it.

You can load patches that already have key switches programmed. East West provides maps for those. You just have to load it and you’re done.

Sorry man, that’s BS. Can you post a video of your template loading in 9 seconds? There is no SSD on earth that can transfer data that quick. I have a high end system, and I can’t even load a few Hollywood Strings patches that quick.

Woolfie it is not BS. The samples don’t load they just get registered in some list. Disabled tracks. I have a fairly fast system, it is true. But until recently my samples were on an old HD this did not matter to real time loading.

It is the disabling that is key.!Ai7g90pI7-tKgfNq8cn1Dm-t4LSp0A

I second the fact that a template will all tracks disabled is pretty quick to load. The advantage is that all the routing is done, you only have to activate the tracks you need when you need.

Here is the cpr.!Ai7g90pI7-tKgfNrd8Jrj6ycim4zqA

Obviously it will shout and scream you don’t have the libraries when you load it, but what it will show is 1360 tracks loaded and folderised, with routings.

There is an issue. As everything is folderized and hidden, if say, you wanted a flute in a sub sub folder. you would have to have two or three folder tracks visible in order to see it. That’s why I am experimenting with a two project approach.

If only you could invisibalise folders whilst leaving the track activated and exposed.


Ahhhhh, that makes more sense. I prefer to fully load my template (typically 150 tracks) and have all of the samples loaded as well, that way everything is ready to go and I don’t have to load every time I want to audition a certain instrument. Since I load it all inside VEPro (on a slave), it all stays loaded between projects. Takes about 5 minutes to load the template, and consists of EastWest Hollywood Orchestra, numerous Kontakt VI’s, Zebra, and Omnisphere.