Workflow with Cubase

I’m trying out Dorico as a potential replacement for Sibelius. With Daniel’s help, I’ve figured out how to handle custom drum staves (e.g., custom hi-hat), and now I’ve seen how relatively easy it is to utilize Expression Maps with something like Hollywood Orchestra (very cool… including the add-on conditional stuff.) So it’s looking good so far.

My big question is around workflow with Cubase. My workflow for years has been to write everything in Sibelius, export those parts to be rendered via VSTi into MIDI files, and the parts to play or sing into individual part graphic files for reading. Import the MIDI files into Cubase, hook them up to VSTi, tweak as needed, then record the other parts.

Even though this approach has issues and is time consuming, it works. I can fine-tune tempo after-the-fact, and utilize the full features of Cubase for recording and mixing.

I’m just wondering how the workflow would be with Dorico - writing everything in Dorico and then ultimately recording and mixing in Cubase using both real audio and VSTi. For example:

  • Will there be an efficient way to use the MIDI files for the drum parts written on custom Dorico staves in Cubase?
  • How do I leverage the excellent Expression Map functionality in Cubase so I get exactly the same performance for the various VSTi? (I’ve read it isn’t possible to use Dorico maps in Cubase.)

I’m willing to put in the time to learn how to do this with Dorico - just looking for confirmation it can be done. I’ve read Cubase cannot import the Expression maps, but I’ve never used Music XML so I don’t know if that’s a solution. Not sure about the custom percussion staves either.

For now it would seem the process from Dorico to Cubase is similar to porting from Sibelius to Cubase.

You’d either use exported MIDI files, XML, or both.

You can save a bit of time by saving your Plugin states in Dorico (multi-state for the entire plugin), so that it’s quick and easy to duplicate them over in Cubase.

When you export MIDI from Dorico, it’ll have any keyswitches and whatnot from the expression maps, or anything you draw in the controller lanes of the play tab in the rendered results (as does Sibelius), so in theory, it’ll sound pretty much exactly like it did when you left Dorico (assuming you load all the same plugins and their presets, Dorico Mixer channel effect chains, etc.)

Expression maps can be taken from Cubase and loaded into Dorico, but I’m not sure about the other way around (seems like parts of it would be ignored in the least).

On percussion…again, if you load the same plugins, restore them to the same state they were in Dorico, and hook the MIDI tracks up to them properly, they should ‘sound’ just like they did back in Dorico. At least in theory…when imported some percussion stuff might be spread out over more tracks if plugin bouncing is involved. Not too hard to set up a drum map over on the Cubase side, and use logic editors to batch swap some channels around if you ‘really need’ plug in bouncing stuff to live in the same track.

Also you could import BOTH a MIDI rendering, and an XML rendering…mute out the XML tracks in terms of sound, touch it up cosmetically, and use it more or less purely for display purposes if there’s some reason you’d like to include a somewhat nice looking score and parts in the Cubase project.

Another option is to set Dorico to use the Dorico Elements playback template and then export MIDI. That’d give you a bare bones General MIDI sort of interpretation (no program changes unless you were to add them to the init portion of each end point’s expression map) with hair pins and stuff on CC7, and velocity based note dynamics. No key-switches or anything.

If you’re happy with the way everything in Dorico sounds…another option is to export audio file renderings from Dorico. You can export a master mix…or one flow at the time if you’d rather separate out individual instrument or groups of instruments to their own audio tracks. Pull that into Cubase, and start stacking things you’d like to ‘record with mics or import from other apps’, and mix it down.

If you happen to have LTC to MTC hardware or software at hand (some of us old heads have stuff like that laying around from years gone by), there’s a kludgy way to get the Cubase transport to slave to SMPTE time code running in Dorico’s video player. For Windows people…using something like ASIO Link Pro (now free and working well in Windows, but no longer supported), or Jack2 (also free, an asio bridge that allows virtual cabling audio streams among apps), one could then patch the audio from Dorico into the Cubase mixer. I ‘think’ with Macs, core audio might also allow rerouting audio streams out of the box? Worth experimenting with if you have the components at hand, but probably not worth the effort to go hunting/buying stuff to make it happen.


Thanks for taking the time to share your expertise in such a substantive post. Much appreciated.

This is all very encouraging. Dorico’s ability to allow creation of custom expression maps (and in a pretty intuitive way) is really nudging me in this direction. And the custom percussion staves are easier - far easier - to set up than the Sibelius way (which uses an auxiliary program and is… a hassle.) Then there’s the hope of Dorico/Cubase direct integration one day. :slight_smile:

Thanks again.

Yes. It’s a fairly painless process to get very similar ‘performance from Dorico’ ported into any DAW you like for further mixing or tweaking the fine expressive details for nice instrument libraries.

My fingers are crossed that maybe Dorico 4 will bring one or more of the following:

Some sort of MTC sync. Or maybe support for Stienberg’s own VSTsync protocol.

Support for Cubase ‘midiloop’ files. If you’ve never used those over in Cubase, they’re pretty cool! Similar to a SMF, but they can include information on the end point instruments! I.E. Select an ‘instrument track’ (or a group of them) in Cubase. Export to midiloop. Next time you import that file into a project, the instruments/plugins come back in with it!

Midiloop files can also be auditioned instantly in any product that includes the Steinberg Media Browser (And maybe some other DAWs have midi loop compatible browsers too?). No need to load it into the project first…click the thing and it loads what it needs in the background, and starts auditioning it for you :slight_smile:

If Dorico could export/import those midiloop files, it’d be pretty much…an instant port back and forth, with the instruments and all ready to go! Even if we got midiloop ‘export’, but not ‘import’, it’d still be quite helpful.

These two things would seriously tide me over until that day when the two apps might have some UI integration and real time data sharing abilities.