Starting out with Cubase, looking for advice--composition

Hi all,

I got elements 6 recently and have been browsing the internet awhile to get oriented with it. I’m having a hard time finding exactly what I’m looking for, so I’m looking for insight from more experienced users :smiley:

I play strings instruments and have a reasonable understanding of music theory and composition, but I have never used any music software other than basic notation software (sibelius). I have no experience with piano/keyboards.

I’m looking to create music such as that of movies/games, nothing genre-specific. In my attempt to discover a workflow for Cubase, I’ve noticed all the tutorials I’ve found involve an individual using a midi-keyboard to play the various pieces of the composition using different VST instruments on different tracks. Which leads me to my questions:

  1. Is it reasonable to try to use Cubase to compose without using midi instruments such as a keyboard? I suppose you could add a midi track and then add notes manually using the key editor or the score editor. Are there any other techniques for developing a composition in Cubase?

  2. For someone with no keyboard skills, will a midi keyboard be at all useful?

  3. Does anyone have any tutorials they could recommend for composing in Cubase without using external midi devices?

I appreciate all advice.

Hey Blendertime,

i am not sure if it will be useful to you or not (because i have not subscribed to it yet) but there is a brilliant site called LYNDA.

It has about 6 x hours of Cubase tutorials but i only watched the free 10 x mins sample dvd. The picure and sound quality was excellent and i am definately going to use it this year. It costs about $20 p/m for unlimited access.

In fact they have dvds of every subject imaginable !!!

Hope that helps.



Speaking as a person with no “keyboard skills”, I would say yes. I have a small 25 key keyboard/MIDI controller that makes things much easier as far as just playing around with different sounds within a VSTi. I don’t do much as far as actually “playing” real keyboard parts, but for auditioning different sounds for further programming it’s great.

I bought a Korg MicroKEY37 to use with my laptop and it is really solid. I think you can get one for around USD$80.00.

Aloha B,

I am a MIDI guitartist and have been using Cubase since 1993.

Currently I am using a Roland GR 55
but there a number of alternatives.

I play strings instruments

If not guitar or other fretted strings, there are also
some violin/cello type MIDI controllers as well.

Check out ‘Zeta’ gear

HTH (hope this helps)

  1. Yes, I think it is very possible to click your musical thoughts directly into a midifile, it is how I started out. Just select an instrument, create a midifile and click.


(No promotion, just examples :mrgreen: )

2. I really cannot play keyboards but to me it is an extra tool to fiddle with when trying out new sounds and chord changes or to add new elements to a composition in progress.

Thanks for your responses everyone.

I’m getting a better idea of the hardware and techniques I might need.

Even though I had played the violin, I think the midi keyboard sounds useful as a general purpose tool (zeta midi violins are nice but out of my price range).

If anyone wants to share their general workflow and how many hours it takes to produce a finished piece, I would find that interesting also. The tutorials I have come across tend to show specific parts of the process, but don’t give a good insight into the overall process.

Thanks again

If you’re just dinking around and trying to figure out a workflow, be aware you can also use “the keyboard” as a “keyboard” (hit alt+K in Windows). Q thru P and Z thru < (or > ?) will be your “white keys”, with the black keys spaced as appropriate on the rows above them. This at least gives you 2 octaves or so of keys to mess around with (although you can change the octaves you’re working with too).

Granted, it ain’t awesome but it may be easier than clicking notes in the MIDI editor.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the daw :slight_smile:.

If you are looking to just use actual ‘hardware’ instruments like guitar that you can record using a mic you don’t need any midi at all. If you do want to use software instruments like sample libraries, synths or drumlibraries, you’ll need some sort of device to enter the data quickly. I personally really can’t work with just a mouse clicking in note by note, simply takes too long and it’s too fiddly. You can use anything that transmits midi and use it for input. I use a keyboard and an electronic drumkit, both generate midi that I can use to trigger software instruments. Midi guitars like the one Curteye posted are also available, but I do think that certain instruments do not lend themselves particularly well for being controlled by a guitar.

I would suggest you get a nice small midi keyboard (more octaves is better!), they can be had really cheap if you are inclined not to spend much. Setup is easy, and you say you’re literate with music theory so using them shouldn’t be difficult. Getting really spot on with the timing and quick runs/changes is of course something that takes practice like any other instrument, but it should allow you to get started and the rest comes with experience :slight_smile:.