Useless Cubase manuals

This is more of a statement than a question - with hopes that someone at Steinberg might come across it and think about it (given that they will not accept any direct contact with their customers!!)
THE CUBASE USER MANUALS ARE HOPELESS! Whoever produced them clearly did not think at all about who might need to read them i.e. new users trying to learn how to use their products. The manuals fall into the same trap that many poorly produced technical manuals fall in to - they totally omit the vital intermediate information. That is - they offer a brief, formal definition of any component of Cubase and then immediately leap into the detailed fine points; the vital information in between these two levels is missing.
Take for example the description of instrument tracks, it begins:
“You can use instrument tracks for dedicated vst instruments. Each instrument track has a corresponding channel in the mix console. An instrument track can have any number of automation tracks.”
Then it leaps to brief technical definitions of the details of the various controls of instrument tracks.
Any information re. why to use an instrument track? NO
Any info as to how to use an instrument track? NO
Any info as to what an instrument track produces? NO
Does this description help me (a new user) at all as to when, where why, and how to use an instrument track? NO, NO, NO, and NO.
This is not a manual produced FOR new users trying to learn Cubase, it is a manual produced BY experienced users of Cubase who probably regard having to write the manual as a very boring chore and have not botheted at all to think about the people who are going to be reading it. It has a glaring lack of communication skill and professionalism.

I think, as far as Instrument Tracks go, the idea is that you would load one have a look.
Many of the features are self explanatory.

The authors of the manual might assume that the user already has at least some information about digital music software, but I will grant you that it’s is more of a reference manual than a comprehensive training for newcomers to the field.

I suggest using the pdf version of the manual rather the the web version, as it is easier to search for individual words, and to browse.

Steinberg supplies tutorial videos, Visit the Steinberg page on Youtube to see. and Greg Ondo (search Youtube) has provided a vast archive of help topics and other tips.

Also, if you post a question here you will likely get a fast and accurate response. Your first post, new user, specific technical question, got a useful answer less than 2.5 hours after you posted.

Hopefully you will avail yourself of these resources and realize how usable they are. Good luck!

Think the rack vs. instrument track part is due to the fact that the manual is very old, but has been revised so many times. Your specific Instrument Track vs. Rack instruments have been addressed many times. Have you Googled “Cubase track instrument vs. rack instruments?” What did you discover? You will find quite a bit of information however keep in mind that the differences since C7 have diminished. I think this is the non-stop struggle of keeping things up to date for a manual. And a lot of features are integrated with other features, so it’s not always a simple task but can involve many updates in many areas of the manual. You could ask for a total re-write from the ground up, but personally I would rather they spend resources on bugs and unfinished functions.

The last comprehensive free user-written manual I know of was written by Bas, and that was abandoned in the SX series.

In a nutshell, there isn’t much difference today between Rack and Track instruments. Save Selected/Load Selected does not work with track instruments. A lot of film composers use one track instrument for one instance of Kontakt instead of using rack instruments for Kontakt. Therefore perhaps a hundred instances of Kontakt! The differences are well documented, but not in the Cubase manual.

I agree, the manual often doesn’t explain the differences, and practical applications such as when to choose which etc. That could take another thousand pages and probably is best left to users sharing ideas, procedures in forums.

Keep in mind Cubase is the most feature-rich DAW that I know of on the market. The manual today is changing more than ever. They stopped printing it with C5. So for example compare it with Studio 1, which is relatively new, I can understand how that manual is better. But Studio 1 doesn’t include near as many features. Or compare it with ProTools. ProTools is still playing catch up in the midi world compared to Cubase.

A great way to learn is simply lurking in forums and then using the manual when the forum doesn’t help. But as someone new, always attempt to find the answer in the manual first as to not appear lazy.

Good luck!

PS As Steve said use the PDF…NOT the web version.

Some of us have been discussing the manual here

Thank you both for your replies - the points you make are undoubtedly valid. However I will still maintain that the Cubase ‘manual’ is all but useless, and it makes Steinberg look really bad that they take the money from their customers and then effectively ditch them. Cubase is a brilliant product but it will only maintain its position in the market if people can learn to use it without a massive amount of misery, hair-tearing, and hassle. In the last couple of years I have spoken with two musicians (both intelligent, computer literate people who tried Cubase and gave up on it because they could not find their way and both said the manual was a joke.
The time really has come for Steinberg to commission the production of a professionally produced instruction manual which takes new users step by step through the use of the program.
I am sure that if they do not do this the user base for Cubase will dwindle - it may be a brilliant, feature packed program but if the people who might want to use it give up because it is so damned hard and the producers of the program don’t even want to talk to them, and the manual has all the empathy and communication skill of a robot, but itis USELESS IF NORMAL INTELLIGENT HUMAN BEINGS CAN’T LEARN HOW TO USE IT.
I will strongly suggest that the developers of Cubase now stop focusing on more and more features and start focusing on ACCESSIBILITY, and the first step in that is production of a proper comprehensive practical manual/user guide. Stop writing code, start writing a proper manual; stop thinking about ’ features’, start thinking about users.

Well, if the points are valid, but it doesn’t change your opinion what could that mean?

Anyway, this statement is false: “they take the money from their customers and then effectively ditch them.”

There are ongoing efforts that were mentioned in the posts above.

The thing is, people who started to use these programs a long time ago saw the technologies evolve and the new features pile up, learning how to use them along the way. For someone starting out, it’s a big mountain of features and technologies that can be intimidating.

But, now you have YT. Reading the manual to get the concept and parameters of something and then watching YT videos of that something is the best of both worlds. One thing to be sure is that you don’t learn all that in a week and a lot of people nowadays don’t have the patience to learn and practice. Everything has to be RIGHT NOW. Learning to use a DAW is like learning a musical instrument. If you want to be good at it, it will take time. No way around it!!


Yes this is true, especially the the it takes time part. But there are two different types of info that folks need, each with a different audience (although there is a huge amount of overlap and also shifting back and forth depending on the topic).

New and new-ish users need documentation that provides a big overview of how the different elements of Cubase fit together & then drill down a bit into each element to see what it does. This documentation does not exist and it really should.

More experienced folks need documentation that describes in detail how each individual item in Cubase operates. This reference documentation does exist in the Operations Manual - which could be improved, but this is the job it is doing. And mostly it does this job OK.

I agree. There is a big gap between the “getting started” manual and the big manual. Of course if you really want to know, I suppose you will resort to YouTube, or pay for 3rd party tutorials (which you really should not have to do) or rely on forums and learn over time. In the above example, the OP could have easily Googled that information. But the problem is since Track vs. Rack has seen on-going changes, the older information might not be totally correct.

Maybe the question is how much should be devoted to the application (when to use, how to apply, and why to use) verses a detailed manual that only explains each function? IMO it’s a very gray area as to where to stop.

I’m guessing that when budget cuts happen, manual writers are the first to be cut?

As an avid user of NI Kore, I feel this is a huge reason why NI abandoned Kore and it failed. The first manual only described each parameter, it’s function, and very vague concepts of what Kore could achieve. And like Cubase, Kore had many different types of users…ie live users, sound designers, etc. Had NI included applicable examples, with real life scenarios etc people would have understood better what Kore was really all about.

I think that there should be the option of a paper manual (cue flames).
The user base for Cubase is huge - everything from bedroom producers to full on studios. Writing a manual for that scope is a big task.
I think that manuals should have an interactive, audio/visual component to them. YouTube can fill some of the gaps at this time, as well as the Steinberg videos.
Some of the questions people ask are so individual that it wouldn’t be expected that the answer would be in a manual. Take a look at the monthly Google Hangout sessions with Greg Ondo for examples.

It would be cool if the manual had active links to instructional videos about whatever topic you were checking.

Regards. :sunglasses:


This is very common in technical documentation

At best, it’s a memory aid to remind an experienced user of what they already knew, but maybe forgot some details. It’s nowhere near a tutorial to effectively teach how to use the software. I’m not just talking about beginners. I’ve been using Cubase since the beginning and the docs still confuse me…and I’m a software engineer

Writing good documentation is expensive. Most companies view it as a cost to be minimized

It could be worse. I work in embedded system programming. The processor datasheets I struggle with are way worse than the Cubase docs

I’ve found only one manual on Cubase 9.5. It is called “The complete Guide to Music Technology using Cubase 9.5.” It is available thru

While it is not equal to the excellent manuals that Scott Garrigus wrote for Sonar, it is head and shoulders above the Cubase Manual that is in reality NOT a how to book.

At 604 Pages, Darren Jones (the Author) has succeeded in getting me, a former Sonar user, up and running immediately. If anyone knows of any other manuals available, please let me know. I come from the old school of reading manuals in bed and then practicing the next day.
In case you need it, the book’s ISBN number is:978-0-244-05314-7.
I’m just a new user coming over from Sonar. I don’t have any connection to the author.
Jack,the Quiet Bear

Personal view is that it COULD do with a bit of an overhaul as it IS a bit cobbled together after so many revisions, that aside as others have stated it’s a reasonable document for the more experienced user and provides most answers.
I do think there could be a better manual for the newer and novice users though which could include some basics on digital audio, links to videos as someone suggested could work nicely too… other companies are taking this approach, iZotope are pretty good in this respect and some of their manuals are bordering on entertaining!!! :astonished: :open_mouth: :confused:
I think this might also help to temper and manage many new users expectations too so they realise even elements takes a significant investment in time and effort to become familiar with to create something worth listening to. *

  • of course that’s entirely subjective :wink:

For novice/beginner who never saw that:


This is a great idea. There’ve been many times when I’ve wondered how to do something in Cubase, so I search the manual for how to do what I’m looking for, but the instructions I find don’t really click for me, and maybe I’m not even sure if I’m reading the right section for what I want to do.

Yes, I can consult Google and YouTube, but there are so many webpages and videos out there, some old and obsolete, that I don’t know which has the right information for the newest version of Cubase.

Cubase has tons of YouTube videos on their channel, and those videos are indeed helpful. But again there are just so many and they’re just organized by release date. And at least some of the titles and descriptions don’t lend themselves to being easily found in a search for a solution to a problem. They often are more like “How to use a specific feature” and not so much “How to make a specific thing happen,” which is usually what I’m searching for when trying to figure out how to do something but don’t know which feature does that thing.

In my years of using Cubase, I would classify myself as one that really needs a step by step spoon feeding of how to… as a guitar player my only real wants in Cubase was to record myself and my friends as we sat around and diddled around. A gigantic tape recorder would almost have been as good but in 2004, tech was really changing so Cubase showed some amazing possibilities. It took me several years to get the hang of it since as a hobby, my primary requirements were to pay bills,etc etc…2 kids, wife, vacation every 7-8 years( I know. I know). Now that I have reach a point in time where I am close to retirement, I devote much time to adding tracks and building songs and TRYING TO FIGURE OUT the same startup problems using my updated RME UFX + interface.

When you look at someone who can easily accomplish the use of these new products when they learn how, but stifle the learning curve … I can sympathize with the OP. Here’s a better one, I try to tune in to Club Cubase monthly and sit and listen to Greg go through some incredible options using his own tracks, but I have only a 50-60% understanding of what is going on despite the logic and end result of his actions that I clearly see. Can’t say it’s a learning disability as I managed to get to this age unscathed and fairly well prepared for future life. I think it’s just learning differently than what might be standard operating procedure for some… I think Raino’s Point 1, makes the most sense…

I still use and love Cubase and Cubasis a few times a week as time permits. Slowly climbing the ladder of how-to but if there were another manual on beginner startup , I know I’d go back and start over

Hello, after reading all that was said in this case, I have to say that I agree 100% with all those who claim that it is impossible to buy a Program like Cubase Pro and be ready to accomplish everything in a few hours. This program is very complex and needs to be studied as seriously as if you were learning any musical instrument. You absolutely need to study this program in depth otherwise frustration will steam you up. However, i will say that unless you are in the process of creating a symphony or a movie soundtrack for Hollywood, you could be up and running quite fast with the basics that are quite well explained in the (around 10,000 pages) user manuals. One, someone who has no experience whatsoever in home studio recordings, will have to learn the terminology to begin with, two, someone who knows about home studio recording must keep up-to-date with the new technology and improvements, and finally three, someone who wants to achieve something needs to keep experimenting with the DAW. There is a lot of good information around and it’s like going to college, you can pass with the minimum notes, or you can be in the average, or you can reach for excellence. IT’s all a matter of choice.

This material is used by musical engineers so what do you expect? There are some easier programs that you can try for a start. There is only one book that I can think of that’s worth the dollars paid for and it was done by Scott R. Garrigus many years ago for Cakewalk Home Studio it was called Cakewalk Power in 2000 or something. I experimented many invoiced tutorials and they are just the going through the basics from the owner’s manual and the same goes for the available books

The user manual along with all the great videos supplied free of charge by the Steinberg team are really the best options for you to get to understand and
and maneuver this huge machine. Greg Ondo and Andres Schravemade videos are very well made and very clear. Best of luck and don’t quit.

Beginthebegin, this is exactly what I wished I’d written. :clap:

I’ve also written about this in the past and I think the bottom line is: Steinberg delivers ‘technical’ manuals, as most software companies do today. These cover an enumeration of all the options that are available in the menu’s and elsewhere in the program. However they do not explain what every item can do and how each item interacts and relates to the various other items in the program. So it’s clear that Steinberg is not in the business of writing ‘how to’ manuals.

Cubase Pro is a very complex program that has many options that can be used in so many ways that probably no one knows how everything interacts and is related to one and other? (Let this forum be the judge of that!) So it’s no surprise that Steinberg lets 3rd parties figure out the ‘how to’s’? It’s also a marketing decision that benefits most. Steinberg saves money on developing ‘how to’ manuals and training. Third parties can make money on developing documentation, video’s, training and manuals and pay Steinberg a fee for the courtesy of using their software.

So if you want to know where that particular preference settings is or where a certain option might be? Open the Steinberg manual and search!

If you want ‘how to’ explanations? Go to Groove3, Lynda, Youtube or other companies that do this! Or this forum of course. :slight_smile: