Workflow for Managing song sections?

For some types of music, I like to build up songs a section at a time (e.g. a verse section and a chorus section). When I’m working on one section, I’d like a clean project window - only working on that one section. But I’d also like to be able to rapidly switch between sections.

The new version of Tracktion has a feature called “multiple edits”, which looks ideal for this kind of workflow:

What workflow do you folks use in Cubase for this type of composition?


You can use the marker track for this purpose. Read the manual for instructions.

Good luck.

Ok - thank you. I dug into the manual and looked at markers, and I think that a marker-based workflow would work something like this:

  1. start working on a section (e.g. verse)
  2. set the start and end of the verse with cycle markers
  3. skip ahead a few bars to some empty part of the project
  4. start working on another section (e.g. chorus)
  5. set the start and end of the chorus with cycle markers
  6. use the arranger track to stitch the sections together like a playlist

This method could work. It has the advantage of keeping everything in one project window, and there’s no rendering required for each section. However, it does have a few disadvantages:

  • no “blank slate” for each song section
  • tempo and time signature changes at the end of one section will affect the beginning of the next section
  • the whole project takes up a lot of horizontal space; navigating parts requires going back and forth along the
  • I don’t think that the arranger allows you to have overlaps or crossfades between sections

Is this how most people manage this kind of composition?


Sorry I can’t help you much further since I’m not a songwriter and/or I have my own work flow. Neither have I ever used the Arranger feature which I should have mentioned in my first post. It could be a good idea to take look at the Arranger section of the manual as well. I understand what you mean in the “disadvantages” area.

It sounds to me like you are a new Cubase user, but I’m sure there are work arounds to what you’re looking for, albeit Cubase is different from Tracktion and you obviously can’t expect every DAW to have all the features of another. Perhaps other members can help you find how to use Cubase to make your own work flow as close as to what you wish for.


I prefer the marker track. (Never bothered with the arranger track. I think I looked into it one time but ran into some limitations with my particular work flow.)

  • I not only have my keyboard number pad set-up for markers, but some of my most used key commands are “previous marker” and “next marker” (B and N on my keyboard). I can’t imagine any control surface being nearly as efficient as a bunch of well-laid out (and memorized) computer key commands, BTW.

  • As I write I’ll not only put in markers for sections, but add in markers for notes, i.e. add lead over dub here, etc. (Might be nice to have a “notes” track, now that I think of it.)

  • I split the arrange window so the marker track is always at the top, and never scrolls out of view.

  • You can use the Tempo track to manage your tempo changes.

I guess I don’t worry too much about total section independence since, in the process of writing, the arrangement could get tweaked at any time. No biggie. You can copy-paste parts, insert or delete bars, etc. to “stitch” your sections as needed. You might want to play with the arrange track some more, though, and see what it has to offer. I’m just pretty well entrenched in my “marker track” work flow.

PS. Just checked out the Traktion video. Interesting take on incorporating “tab views” into a DAW. Personally, however, I will often click or jump from one section to another as I write (or mix) in order to reference the sections, song flow, etc… I can’t help but think taking command of the marker (or even arrange?) track is going to be a lot more efficient than managing multiple tabs in a window.

Thanks, guys.

Cubase is actually my main DAW, but most of the things I have recorded have been songs that I had already written.

Now I’m trying to use Cubase more as a writing tool - to write more complex and proggy pieces. I was hoping to write a bunch of sections and experiment with different ways of stitching them together. I saw the Tracktion promo and I thought “wow what a great idea!”. Now I’m trying to see if I can achieve something similar in Cubase.

People have used modular workflows since forever (e.g. Brian Wilson on Smile), but with tape, it was, of course very labour-intensive, because you’d have to make all these submixes before you could try splicing things together.

I’ll play around with markers and the arrangement track for now.

Sounds to me like what you are describing is working with the Arranger Track in Cubase. Check this out in the Op. Manual Pg. 152 (engl.)

I use the Arranger Track extensively for this - it works extremely well and you can try multiple arrangemets until it is right

Also don’t forget that nothing is stopping you from having multiple projects open at once. Each can be a totally blank slate. If you have a LOT of plugins open (with samples), there might be a delay when switching between them (i.e. activating different project windows)…but other than that, no reason to stress.

Fun fact: You can copy and paste parts from one project to another, and if the same instrument is not in the other project, it will automatically create an instance of that instrument WITH ITS INSERTS AND EQs ETC to accommodate the part in question :sunglasses: I do this all the time to re-use parts in other projects.

I wish that would more work like DP´s “Sequence Chunks”

They could share the same sample pool, VSTi instrument setup, video, etc.

Doesn´t switching project reload all samples and VSTis?

Actually it’s true, but it happens fast unless you’re using a lot of RAM-hungry VSTi’s or plugs. Then again, it’s a matter of the user’s preferred work flow. I very rarely take that route especially when it comes to working on big projects.

that is where the problem starts, there is just no smart handling of multiple projects open at the same time.

if I have one long video file which needs many music cues I am constantly opening and closing projects, unloading and reloading the same samples.

I´d just like to have my VST instruments setup loaded and multiple projects referencing to it at the same time so I can switch arrangements easily without delay. And put a nice interface to it. Pretty much what Sequence Chunks in DP does.

I hear you. That’s why I mentioned it would be useful if the project is not too RAM-hungry. I presume you and I both make music for picture, and this is not an ideal work flow for us. So I personally chose to add VE Pro to my arsenal. It really makes life easier because all your patches are there regardless of which project you open (assuming you have a general template for your orchestration). However, our friend here is a song writer and perhaps doesn’t need the number of tracks we use, so I don’t see why he can not open several projects at the same time. That is, of course, if he wishes to do so if it is helping his own work flow. So I’m not encouraging him to choose that route, but just considering it as an option.


Great tip!

If you’d like a blank slate, make marker locations for each section, something like 64 bars from each other. Center your screen on this location, save it as a screenset. Repeat this for each section. Then use the arranger track for playback.

X-fades would be tricky. You compromise absolute control over your arrangement in terms of automation and fading.

Can’t one use ones own head to do this sort of thing? I mean, are we the creative ones or is the software meant to do it for us? We managed for a couple of centuries BC (before Cubase).


Never tried VE Pro, but I might check it out. Although I´m getting rather tired of rebuilding templates and setups, have done this too often and it always took an enormous amount of time. Now mostly working with East West Play and Kontakt.
Do you run VE Pro on a separate machine? Or do you run in it parallel with Cubase? Does it act like a full featured VST host you load all your VSTis into?

I have a slave PC with 64GB of Ram, and yes, it acts like a full-featured VST host. Quite happy with it. All it needs is a LAN cable, providing you with lots of MIDI ports, busses for FX sends from your master, and much more. Even a 32 bit server for older plugs. Sometimes I also run another instance in parallel with Cubase. The possibilities are amazing. No additional audio and MIDI interfaces needed. A real life-saver with big projects. You can even do an offline Audio Export. Consider it seriously. :wink:


that sounds like a great setup.

Used to work with slave PCs in the times of Gigastudio ( 4 slaves), then the MIDI interfaces went away and I used MIDIover LAN, later FX Teleport. Since the 64 bit switch I have it all on one PC with 64 GIG RAM, but I really miss the ease of switching arrangement quick and painlessly. I will check out the VE Pro app and install it on my video PC, thankfully VE offers a trial license.

worst case, one more time rebuilding my templates… arghh :laughing:
But still better than waiting until SB streamlines working with multiple VSTi movie cue projects, I guess

Some good advice in this thread. Great idea to use screensets, MrSmith! Thank you, guys!