Using Cubase Live - Advice needed

I’m in the process of getting ready to take my work out and see how it goes down in front of an audience. We’re a two-piece outfit - I mostly do the music, and my other half writes and sings (with a bit of backing vocal from me).

So - in the studio I have an Impulse 49 controller and a collection of hardware synths - keyboards and modules, a couple of drum machines, guitars, etc, and Cubase 8 on a desktop, with audio going in and out through a regular old-school mixing desk and a MOTU Ultralite Mk3 (for live use we’re switching out the chunky awkward desktop for a Macbook)

The plan is to take each complete song that we want to perform live and strip out the bits that we want to be completely live, and use a combination of a live and sequenced VST Instruments, Mininova noises, guitars and Cubased backing vocals with all lead vocals completely live.

The main thing I’m wondering is what different options do people use for putting together a set and running it like that - do you close each song as you’re done and open up the next one, or do you open them all up before you start and then just close them as you don’t need them any more? Or do you create a single massively long project that goes from each song to the next, with tempo and programme changes stuck in the middle of it?

Is it worth saving processor/RAM headroom by making an audio mixdown of any VST instruments that aren’t going to be tweaked and changed around and just including that as a single audio track?

(Last time I took technological music out live was maybe seventeen or eighteen years ago, and we used a huge rack of hardware synths and a mixing desk and a full-sized Windows PC running a very early version of Cubasis - we were young and foolish, and just about got away with it, but it’s not really very practical)

At the very least, I would freeze, bounce or render anything that doesn’t require live parameter tweaking.

I would not recommend two projects loaded at once, nor would I recommend closing and reopening a new project live on stage.

Cubase is not stable enough for this.

If it’s possible, I’d do it all in one large timeline within a single project. Use tempo maps, if needed.

I would give it an overnight test, where it has to loop the entire length of the set all night long.

If you wake up to a computer that hasn’t blue-screened, crashed or otherwise fallen over, that would be good.

Oh, that’s a good call on the overnight soak-test. :wink: Thanks!

And thanks for the advice - I was thinking that a single project with everything bounced to a single track would probably be the way to go, but it’s good to hear it from someone else. Damn - best book a day off the day-job to sort that little badger out then… :wink:

Ah - it looks like the “Render In Place” option isn’t available in Cubase Elements (Elements suits me for now - I might upgrade to Artist once I’m definitely convinced it’s not going to constantly mess me around though)…

Is my other option to Export an Audio Mixdown, and import that audio file as a track into the existing project?

Also, if I do string all of my set together into a single 45-minute-long project , with little gaps between each track where I can hit the pause button briefly to sort anything out on stage, what would be the best way to insert program changes for the two MIDI instruments I’ll be using (a Novation Mininova and a Roland SPD-SX)?

I guess a tempo track is going to be the way to chance the tempo of each song within the set…

I think you can “freeze” with Elements?

Yes, you can export via audio mixdown and either import, or there is an option in the mixdown panel to import directly from there after the mixdown.

As for the program changes, I would just look at the MIDI “chase” option to see if it works best with it off or on. I think probably off.

Btw, to be fair, Cubase should be stable if you’re not loading multiple projects, or quitting it and then relaunching it (without a reboot).

Just test it as much as possible before the show with all the plugins you’ll be using on stage. If it’s possible to use a built-in plugin, rather than 3rd party, I would strongly consider that, too. I’ve found this to be true with all DAWs.

Almost all my problems have been 3rd party plugin related.

Now I’m tempted towards a hybrid version - simplify each song by making an audio mixdown of all the stuff that won’t be played/tweaked live, and then just having one or two (at the most) VST instruments per song, but keep each project as a separate file…

For now, at least - when I’ve got more time to get properly deep into it, I might try a single looooong project which encompasses all the songs in a set, with automation built into it.

All my instruments and plugins are Steinberg. I do have Novation’s V Station and Bass Station 2, but I haven’t got around to playing with them yet.

I agree with the advice others have given. But will have to ask, how come you’re not using Ableton for this?

Whilst there is the additional cost, the software is definitely more geared towards what you want to do, and would be a lot easier to combine several songs into 1 project. The fear of ‘er, has anyone seen where the dongle went?’ wouldn’t be a potential problem either.

In my experience whilst there would be a bit of short term hassle of bouncing audio, warping, and saving any vst settings for synths you wanted to play live, I think the long term benefits and stability/latency in the live context would be worth it, as well as open up other approaches to working with the material you may not have considered before, such as live arranging or looping. It would be so much easier to setup your controller for anything you wanted it to do.

Apologies if you’re definitely going the Cubase route for it and if this is irrelevant , I just thought it worth saying, as I’m a lifelong Cubase user, and whilst I know a few friends that used Cubase in the days of taking CRT monitors and desktops to gigs, I really wouldn’t consider anything other than Ableton these days, even if it’s just for playing some backing tracks back.

edit just noticed the bit about steinberg synths, so this might make it even less appropriate, but I’m sure it could be approximated with others if you did decide to have a play with the demo or something. :slight_smile:

That’s also a good call…

And the mention of CRT Monitors was such a lovely trip down memory lane! We played at a rave in Bristol once, and essentially decamped the entire studio to the venue, including a huge A-Frame keyboard stand that had to be completely disassembled and reassembled at each end! Such fun… :wink:

But yeah - I have toyed with Ableton. As a production tool it really doesn’t suit the way I work. Initially I was excited by the format, but in practice with the trial version we just didn’t go together. It was defintely more calm and stable than Cubase, I’ll give it that. And I can see how powerful it is as a performance tool in the right hands - just not my hands…

I also played with the concept of turning a completed song into a series of loops and playing them through the SPD-SX, but although that was fun, it also wasn’t really my style of performance.

I might go back to Ableton in the future - there was a “Lite” version of it bundled with my Impulse controller, so if I do persuade myself that working with loops is the way to go… :wink:

This is the best example I’ve seen so far, complex but good. I have simple projects for my live sets with live mixes and a tempo track.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8bn56ov_kg

I thought I’d update this, on the back of our first live outing, just in case anybody’s interested. Thanks to all who posted above with advice – I tried a few things in the run-up to the gig, but decided to go with the following process:

For each song, I made a separate “live” version, which I wanted to make as simple and stripped-out as possible. Once I was happy with a mix, I created a version which had a few audio tracks imported from audio mixdowns, which incorporated a mixture of external instruments (to reduce the amount of kit I had to carry around and set up etc), VST instruments that I didn’t plan on tweaking or playing live etc. I had an audio track for basses/synths, one for leads/pads, one for drums/percussion, one for vocal bits (harmonies, backing effects etc) and one for any guitars I wouldn’t be playing live (not much). I then had regular VST Instrument tracks only for things I’d be playing/tweaking live, and for two songs an audio track set up to process live guitar.

This reduced the amount of plug-ins and stuff that I had running for each song, and it made each song much quicker to open. Once I’d created the live versions of the songs, I transferred them from the studio PC to the Macbook, and ran through the whole set plenty of times. Closing each song when it was finished and opening up the next one took seconds – I was really happy with it. I’ve played in bands where the guitarist has spent longer faffing about between each song, so the flow felt pretty smooth to me.

As a result, the only stuff I took on stage was the Mac and the audio interface, the Mininova and the Impulse controller, the SPD-SX, and a guitar. The lead vocals went straight to the main mixing desk,and everything else (including the guitar, because I got the perfect sound using the VST Amp Rack) went via a MOTU Ultralite Mk3 to a single stereo channel.

I noticed an interesting difference between Identical versions of Cubase running on the PC and the Macbook. When I’m working on a song, and when I was setting up the live versions and practicing the guitar parts using the PC in the studio, every time I hit “play”, Cubase would cancel the monitor setting on the channel and I’d have to re-select it every time. After I transferred the songs to the Mac, it remembered the monitor setting stayed selected when I pressed “play”, and would stay selected unless I disabled it. This was a good thing, because it meant I didn’t have to faff about with it, but it would still be helpful if I could get the PC version to do the same.

Overall I was pretty happy with the way it all worked out, but I’m still thinking that I might try boiling everything down to even fewer audio tracks, and then creating a single long project for the entire set with a tempo track to change the tempo, and automated control changes etc.

So – once again, thanks to everyone who posted with advice. I’m going to continue to experiment with it until I come up with what works best for me.