Realtime, Automated VST Preset Changes?

I’d like to have:
-One VST instrument track
-During playback, a pre-programmed and fully automated (Event? ) will change the Voice/Preset of one loaded voice to another

That’s it. There’s features to do this with physical hardware via the List Editor, as well as the Key Editor in the bottom section; however, I’d like to know how to do this with any and all virtual plugins and VSTs, whether they’re from Steinbergs Padshop or some other 3rd party.

I’m personally not aware of a way to automate changing specific VSTpresets in Cubase by name, as there is no special lane for setting up when/where in a project it should happen.

Theoretically, it’s possible to launch macros and such by routing a MIDI track through a third party virtual port, and then into Cubase MIDI remote system. One problem there is that while there is enough remote hooks in place to call up dialogs to pick a preset with your mouse/keyboard on the screen, I’m not aware of a way to establish predetermined presets by name as part of such a macro.

Not exactly what you’re asking for, but one sure method to accomplish the same task, just with a different mind-set and workflow…is to simply use a fresh track for each preset. It’s pretty easy to make macros and such to hide/unhide tracks if your work-space gets too cluttered visually.

For simpler things like swapping out effects, you can usually use the VST Automation lanes to take advantage of A/B changes for specific effects, or to simply change the routing on the fly. If the effect change is pretty radical and needs to crossfade between a full chain of effects, then you’d take advantage of FX Tracks and Aux Sends. That sort of stuff can be automated via VST Lanes.

Then again, there’s nothing wrong with simply duplicating the entire instrument track, having different effect chains on them all, and simply moving your MIDI events around to the relevant tracks. Depending on the type of project and your end goals, this might be the best way to go. I.E. Orchestral Templates that you might reuse from project to project. Instead of constantly messing with endless key-switches, program changes, and ADSR CC adjustments, you might simply go ahead and load a huge slate of sounds as different ‘articulations’ and ‘phrase styles’. When you want to use them, simply put your notes on the relevant track.

If you need to make nice printed scores and parts, don’t worry too much about having so much spread out over many tracks, because with a little practice it’s not very hard to move/consolidate what you need on a ‘visual score’ to dedicated MIDI score tracks (they don’t even need to be connected to any instruments for playback…they can be perfectly quantized so it’s easy to get the printed outcome to behave without spending all sorts of time wading through confusing options for stuff like the display vs the playback interpretations of swing, tuplets, etc. In short, what might seem like a lot of extra steps in short run, can save a lot of time and trouble in the long run when it comes to getting a score to ‘look right’.

At first it might seem a little wild, but if you take advantage of folders, and group things up, it’s actually pretty nice to be able to simply have it all spread out in front of you on multiple tracks. Need the new synth patch all the sudden? Just move the notes to the track(s) that’s set up that way.

Some plugins can be taught to respond to things like MIDI program or CC changes to change internal presets/programs on the fly.

I.E. HALion SE can do it if you look in its options tab and enable General MIDI mode. By default HALion will call up the General MIDI set from the Basic Library, but you can alter this by giving any HALion program a Program Number and rating it with stars. I.E. If you have three piano sounds assigned MIDI PC 1, the one with the most stars in the rating column gets picked.

If you really need to mix and match many different plugins into a single ‘super instrument’ living in a single VSTi or VST slot, there are a number of third party apps out there that are very interesting. I.E. You could use something like Bidule to consolidate plugins from East West, HALion, Garritan, Native Instruments, Vienna Ensemble, and more, all into a ‘single converged plugin’. It’s pretty cool stuff if you really want to get fancy with your sound design and have every-thing about it be fairly portable across all your DAWs and Scoring Packages, and having it be fully remote controllable (VIA Assignable VST parameters, or MIDI events, or both). It fills a LOT of ‘missing feature gaps’ for pretty much every plugin and host/DAW and Scoring Package on the market.

One of many examples: I often read wher people are frustrated that there’s no quick and easy way to assign an LFO pattern to a VST parameter in Cubase. No problem…bidule could fill that gap with any of your third party plugins (sadly it can’t host the Steinberg only effect slot stuff that comes with Cubase, but for everything else, they sky is the limit). You simply host any sounds you need/want to manipulate that heavily in a bidule instance and work it from there to get your LFO effect applied.

It is technically possible for VST3 plugins to support preset changes via automation, but it has to be supported by the plugin, but even with Steinberg’s own instruments, only Halion seems to offer that.
And I suspect that no third party plugin will have implemented that feature. Some might respond to MIDI program change messages.
For sample based instruments it is a bit problematic anyway if the plugin has to load/preload many samples on each program change, that could lead to interruptions.
As @Brian_Roland wrote, the best solution would be to have one dedicated track for each preset you want to play or to look at third party solutions that can load many VSTi instances and switch between them (Maybe PluginGuru’s Unify can do that? Not sure…).

You can use Midi program change.
Try with the VST2 version and check the plugins manufacturer manual .
Trial and fail

I too have wished for years that on a track I could switch from one VST patch sound to another along the timeline within the same VST. And even more awesome, convenient, useful… have it automate a change to another VST. But I know this would not work well loading large plugins on the fly right after each other. (or maybe there is a way)

Regardless, this post and Brian Roland’s long reply finally confirms my hopes there was a way. There is not, I always thought there was, just could not sort it out in Cubase,

My method is to duplicate the track and make the VST program change.

Which leads to me requesting Steinberg to find a way, cause there is an obvious need.

I really fail to understand why it would be useful to switch a preset (or even a whole VST, which, as you already suspected, is not really technically feasible)? Personally, I would very much prefer to have different sounds on different tracks so thatI have the flexibility to route each track where I want to and treat it differently in the mix, should the need arise.
Anyway, switching presets is already possible if the plugin supports it. That’s nothing where Steinberg needs to do anything.

Thanks everyone for the responses! The reason as to why this has been something I’ve wanted is that some VST’s use different presets for Instruments to differentiate between playing styles. If I was playing a real violin, I could write “Pizzicato” And the player would (On the same instrument) change the sound of their instrument. Or make a sound more legato. But if I’m writing a piece and there’s a violin part, that plays normally and then plucks their strings for a few measures, I have to add a track, find where it is, and then fill in the gap on the other track for the one or two measures; and it is an impediment on the workflow. It’s as useful and almost as common as a piano player using a pedal to change their playing style, and it’s something I’d like to do in the future. Thanks again everyone. These were good ideas and I’ll keep looking into things

@TannerH.Wilson What are the instruments do you use?
What you’re describing sounds like articulations and they are most often included in the same patch. All orchestral instruments/sample libraries I use have articulations that you can switch between using key switches.

You can do this a number of ways.

  1. If the plugin/instrument itself supports Program, Key-switches, or some other internal method for changing articulations. I.E. HALion Sonic SE, that ships with Cubase, provides a General MIDI mode (in the options tab). You could send General MIDI Program Changes to bounce around between arco, pizzicato, and tremolo for ensemble strings.

  2. By channel bouncing from a single track provided the corresponding plugin is multi-channel.

To do this, you’d set your track MIDI Channel to ANY, and designate each note to the MIDI channel desired.

Example: In a multi-channel plugin like HALion Sonic 3 SE, load different articulations across the 16 instrument slots in an instance.

  1. Arco 1 (smooth/legato)
  2. Down Bow (Accented Attack 1)
  3. Up Bow (Accented Attack 2)
  4. Spiccato
  5. Pizzicato
  6. Tremolo

At this point, you’d simply change the MIDI channel for notes/passages to the corresponding instrument slot for the plugin.

  1. Again, by spreading your articulations out over multiple lanes or tracks. Personally, I find this to be the best way to do it if it’s a very complicated and expressive mock-up! Especially if you are mixing and matching sounds from a variety of plugins, or using plugins that are not multi-timberal/channel, or don’t have any sort of built in method for triggering different articulations.

Use folders to keep things more organized. The ability to open/close those folders can help clear up screen real estate when you require a more condensed project overview.

Also understand that with the Key Editor, you can work on multiple tracks at once (select several of them before opening the editor). With a little practice you should be able to master pulling the track you want to draw/edit notes in into the foreground as needed; thusly, having a somewhat seamless view of complete passages despite notes being contained in several different tracks.

  1. If you want to build a ‘super-instrument’ that combines sounds from many different plugins into a single ‘super plugin’ have a look at something like Bidule. I.E. Get one bow style from an East-West plugin, another bow style from a Garritan Plugin, another from HALion, and so forth. Bidule would allow you to host other plugins in a single instance and build methods to reroute events to plugins (Key switches, Program Changes, CC Events, etc).

If you have Cubase Pro, have a look at the Score and Key Editors. These can take advantage of Expression Maps, which allow you to provide ‘interpretive’ instructions to score markings that will do things like: Trigger a Key Switch, a Program Change, or a Channel Bounce.

With the score editor…personally, I just use very basic sounds and don’t try to do anything too fancy if I’m in the mood to throw in a quick ‘sketch’ using traditional notation. The expression map system is good enough to set up a quick and dirty compositional workflow. For many types of projects, where the bottom line is generating scores/parts and collaborating over them, this is good enough and I don’t have to worry too much about high quality playback!

Later, I’ll clone the staves/tracks and spread everything out over many tracks (give each articulation his own track) when it comes time to get out the ‘fancy orchestral plugins with a million and seven articulations and styles’. With everything spread out I’ll mute those initial ‘score’ tracks; then, go to work on the fine details of making the piece ‘sound’ good…get it mixed the way I want, etc.

No kidding! I often have sets of tracks for individual ‘phrases’ in a piece! I.E. A set of articulations for an ‘aggressive passage’, another set-up for a more lyrical passage, and something totally different after a key-change (might have more or less air in the bow throughout an entire passage) and so on! This can be exceptionally difficult to achieve if you’re trying to accomplish it with same ‘bog set-up’, from the same plugin instance, through a single effect chain, over a single track/channel.

Why spread it out over many tracks? Personally, I’ve learned over the years that it just works better than trying to bother with key-switches, program changes, and so forth! You’ll be doing a LOT with CC data to make the sounds expressive. You’ll also find situations where having a large pallet of pre-shaped articulations is much easier to work with than sending a key-switch and a fresh set of ADSR (and more) settings in real time!

In short, if you can just jump to a new track and only deal with 2 controller lanes, VS having to continuously send up to 8 CC events with almost every phrase (or even every note)…which would you rather deal with?

It’ll vary from project to project of course. It’ll depend on your libraries and how they work…but at the end of the day, I really do suggest spreading things out over lots of tracks as you get to know your plugins/libraries. It makes it a little easier to try different sounds from different plugins without having to do a lot of intensive ‘rework’! You can also get more precision over how it’s all MIXED DOWN.

Example: Maybe you’ve got a Marcato passage, and you find that the sound that you’ve chosen is ‘almost’ perfect, but has a bit too much air on the bow. If it’s on a separate track, you could easily throw an EQ or a Notch Filter in the VST effect lane and pull those frequencies down a bit, maybe boost some other frequencies, push it a little further back in the mix, or whatever you want!

Now, contrast that with using a key-switch, or a program change to the same plugin on the same track/channel. To do the same thing, you might end up having to send DOZENS of CC messages, or VST automation changes to get the same effect…then when you go back to a different articulation, send another dozen events to get it back like it was before, and so on!

I keep repeating it…
If you’re going to be attempting a high quality mock-up…

Don’t be afraid to use LOTS OF TRACKS, with lots of instrument plugins!

Spread stuff out!
You’ll thank yourself in the long run :wink:

It REALLY is much less work, and you’ll end up with higher quality mixes simply spreading things out over many tracks than you will trying to fight mess like automated preset changes (which also would need to be initialized or customized for your piece anyway to not sound blocky/band in a box/lame).

If you’re just trying to do a simple sketch of a piece…keep it Simple and throw the notes on staves in the Score Editor. Don’t worry too much about the ‘sound’ until you’re done composing the piece. Mute the sound on your original ‘score’ staves/track, clone it off to new ‘mock-up’ tracks, and use LOTS OF THEM to perfect your sound/mix :slight_smile:

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