What are the midi tracks in the cubase mixer used for?

When working with midi tracks I see two tracks pop up in my mix console. One is the output of the VST instrument and the other is the midi track. What is this midi track used for and why is it in the mixer?

The MIDI track is for the MIDI data. The other is for the actual audio of the VSTi.

You can generally just hide the MIDI tracks. Best not to mess with them as it could confuse you. For example if you pan or adjust faders on your MIDI Mixer tracks. It will send Ccs that you may not be aware of.

Btw. If you want to have a look at my previous stream about the mixer, here’s a link. It’s for Nuendo but pretty much the same for Cubase:

The MIDI faders on the Mixer will send CC7 (Channel Volume) and CC10 (Pan) MIDI events to the instrument for internal mixing, while the actual instrument output is a registered VST parameter.

If you’re working with a multi-timberal/multi-channel external MIDI instrument, or using a multi timberal/Multi-channel plugin, such as HALion Sonic SE over a single set of stereo outputs, you can use the MIDI channels to mix internally in the instruments.

I.E. Imagine an external MIDI synth with:
Channel 1: Piano
Channel 2: Bass
Channel 10: Drums

You might only have one master volume fader for the Synth on the mixer, but what if you want to adjust volume for those individual instruments?

Then you’d use MIDI tracks, and use their corresponding MIDI faders to independently adjust channel volume and panning for Piano, Bass, and Drums independently of the main master volume/panning for the instrument’s main inputs.

Meanwhile, that main fader for your synth is a master volume for the whole synth.

If you are not working with a multi-timberal plugin or instrument, then you might choose to mix/automate directly via VST lanes on the Instrument faders instead.

Should you mix using MIDI events in the MIDI tracks/parts themselves, or via recording fader movements in VST lanes?

Experiment, it may well depend on your project, and your personal preferences, but personally, I prefer keeping that data in MIDI form (CC lanes in the MIDI editor).

Why? Logical editors make it much easier to perform in batches, simple booleen script edits. The MIDI Key editor is way more powerful/flexible than the VST automation lanes. Plus, it’s not hard at all to ‘convert’ that data back and forth from VST lanes, Note Expression, etc.

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I have MIDI tracks permanently hidden in all my mix consoles. In my opinion, they are a relic of the past. Especially if you are not using multitimbral hardware synths.

For VSTi (virtual/software) synths, I use Track Instruments if the instrument is used with a single stereo output. Using Track Instruments, you only get the audio return channel(s) in the mix consoles, no MIDI tracks.
I do use Rack Instruments for ones where I need additional audio outputs beyond the default stereo one. But that’s for slightly different reasons.

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I often do this as well, but still do a lot of the mixing using MIDI CCs (CC lanes in Key MIDI editor). Though there are times when I use a generic layout for my MIDI controller that’s bound in track order and I like to record Mixing console fader movents directly.

But ‘the present’ is a ‘step backwards’ from the ‘relics of the past’ in quite a few ways. Much harder to edit as compared to CC or Note Expression events. Zero batch editing abilities (MIDI Logic Editor). Curve tools and such not as good. No MIDI Aux sends on Instrument tracks. Can’t keep multiple versions of MIDI controller movements as easily, can’t easily ‘average’ the results of multiple takes, can’t do cycle recording (with a new copy on each take), nor take advantage of the retrospective MIDI buffer. Can’t take advantage of track inserts (compression, Live Logic Editors, etc.) when using hardware faders on a MIDI controller.

Far too often ‘the new stuff’ gets rid of dozens of power user features and flexibility that save hours of time. While some types of ‘precision’ are improved, other types of precision (in this case the sheer power of easily editing/processing MIDI) get lost (but not forgotten).

Perhaps some instruments exist where the added resolution of VST parameters are detectable, but I personally don’t own any, nor do I own any hardware faders that do a resolution better than 128 steps.