Ok so confession first. I am new to GPO, though I have been using Cubase ten years. - thus I am creating this tutorial so that I can also learn. Feedback from others, especially superhero’s is appreciated.
Hopefully much of what we learn here about Cubase can be also used in other sequencers.
Presently, this work is divided into two tutorials:
First Tutorial: How to set up a basic template in Cubase, so that everything is just sweet, economical with CPU, and ready to run. I have been asked to do this by some forum members.
Second Tutorial: Controlling levels the ‘correct’ way – how to get to grips with your levels from a ‘musical’ point of view and a ‘sound engineering’ point of view. This is a work in progress, and I invite debate as to the ‘best’ way.
Tutorial 1: Building a basic template
Although there are some Cubasis templates on install disk 4, and you could import these, I feel it is important to build your own templates because this teaches you learn how to customise and control them for what you do.
The first step to creating numerous templates is to set up a ‘GarritanBasic’ template and then use this template to create other project-specific templates.
What we are going to do is create a template with an instance of GPO with all eight slots loaded and ready to run. We are going to set up the mixer and reverb in SX so that everything runs symbiotically.
Ok so here goes…
1. Open Cubase and open the most suitable existing template as a starting point – load the ‘empty’ template if you are not sure. If you are prompted for a save-directory, you might like to set up a directory called ‘Sketches’ where the template will default save to.
2. Go to File/Save as template, and save this template as ‘GarritanBasic’ template.
3. Remove all tracks from the project window.
4. Look around the template and make sure its generally set up the way you like it. I would check things like Preferences, Transport bar, Staff settings.
5. Go to Devices/Vst instruments and load an instance of Personal Orchestra VST. Close the VST instrument panel. Close down the Kontakt player for now, minimise the VST Instrument column in the track list.
6. Double click in the SX Track list (2nd blue column) to add a new midi channel. Highlight it, go to SX’s inspector and select Personal Orchestra VST as your ‘ out : ’. By simply double clicking under the existing track, in the track list, add seven further channels. You will notice that they all have ‘PersonalOrchestraVST’ loaded as there ‘out: ’ also. Make sure that each track’s ‘ chn: ’ setting is set appropriately – so, the first track is set to chn:1, the second to chn:2, and so forth. This should be the default.
7. Click the Edit VST Instrument icon in SX’s Inspector. This brings up our instance of GPO’s Kontakt player. Decide which eight instruments you are going to load into this instance. A useful option might be a group of strings. Load the instruments into Kontakt.
8. You might like to name your SX tracks after the GPO instruments. I find this a useful practice, if you accidentally loose the loaded instrument in Kontakt– you can remember which instrument it formerly was, by referring to the track list in SX.
9. Next, go along the horizontal strip in Kontakt highlighting each instrument in turn and making settings. The first instrument should be set to ‘midi 1’, ‘stereo out 1/2’; the second instrument should be set to ‘midi 2’ and stereo out 3/4; the third instrument to ‘midi 3’ and stereo 4/5 and so forth. Close Kontakt – job done its ready to run.
10. It’s important to realise that this arrangement midi1=track1=stereo out 1 / 2, midi2=track2=stereo out 3 / 4, etc… is a voluntary arrangement, set up by yourself for clarity. GPO and Cubase can relate to each other using other settings, but this is the least confusing way of working. Close the Kontakt Player, your Kontakt set up is complete.
11. Now bring up the mixer in SX (Devices/Mixer). Right click in a spare (blue) area of the mixer. You should see ‘Add Track’. Add an ‘FX channel’. A pop up box called ‘Add FX Channel’ is displayed. Select ‘Stereo’. For the ‘Plugin’, select ‘Garritan Ambience’. This gives you an instance of Gary’s reverb unit set up as a send – see below. Presently, you should see a new channel strip in the mixer – purplish in color, labelled by default ‘FX1-Garritan’.
12. Your mixer may not be revealing all its glories. We need to set the display. In the left bottom (ish) corner of the mixer, you should see an image which looks to me like three books on a shelf, or three rows of three rectangles. Click on these to get all the rectangles showing blue. The mixer view may enlarge to show the top of the strips.
13. Next make sure your channel strips are not in narrow view. Click the icon that looks like a tiny <> , the one with the tool-tip ‘All wide’ - on the left side fo the mixer.
14. Now we are going to conceal the midi channel’s in the mixer. Why? We are going to control Garritan using the channel strips for the stereo out pairs instead. We are NEVER going to use them. There are three important reasons for this. Firstly, using only audio strips to control levels is simpler – you don’t need the extra raft of complexity and confusion that using both audio and midi levels brings. Secondly, we are going to set up reverb so it can be controlled individually for each instrument – right in the same audio strips as we control the levels in – neat and handy. Thirdly, in addition, using audio tracks instead of midi tracks gives us access to all the lovely audio plugins. OK, so to conceal the midi tracks go to the left hand side of the mixer. You will see a dark blueseries of icons, the second one looking like a Xmas tree on its side. Go to the fifth one down the round one. Click to turn it orange. All midi channels are concealed in the mixer.
15. In the top half of the mixer on the left side, there is also row of icons – the first being similar to an exclamation mark ‘!’. Go down to the seventh (SX2), hovering over it should show a tool-tip ‘Show Sends 1 - 4’ . Select it. You can’t use ‘show all sends’ instead for these operations.
16. You should now see eleven channel strips – make sure you drag the mixer window to the right size. On my system the channels strip are, from left to right: ‘Stereo In’; KPIPO. 1/2 ; KPIPO. 3/4; KPIPO 4/5; KPIPO 5/6,; KPIPO6/7; KPIPO7/8; KPIPO8/9; KPIPO 11/12; KPIPO13/14; KPIPO 15/16; FX1-Garritan (ambience); and the ‘Stereo Out’ strip. The stereo in and stereo out strips are your DAW’s main system inputs and outputs. The KPIPO stereo pairs are the outputs of each of the instruments loaded into this instance of the Kontakt Player. Setting things up like this you have individual tweak control over every instrument.
17. By moving a KPIPO strip’s main faders in the mixer, you can now control the audio volume level of the individual instrument it is assigned to in the player. You can also control the wetness or dryness of any Plugin that you load into the channel strips. We are going to control Garritan Ambience reverb in this way.’
18. We have previously (step 11) set up Garritan Ambience reverb as a ‘send’ or FX channel. We are now going to send the outputs of the eight KPIPO channels to Garritan Ambience reverb Unit. This way we can control the amount of reverb delivered to each instrument, but we only use one instance of Garritan Ambience, significantly reducing CPU drain. (Reverb units are notorious for demanding CPU). There are several steps.
19. Go to the FX1-Garritan FX strip (purple). Go to the top of the strip and hit the lower case ‘e’ button to bring up the Garritan Ambience Reverb interface. Select the preset you want, or set up the reverb unit as you like it. I select preset ‘Church’. Close the interface.
20. Now for each of the eight strips do the following three things: First, Left click on the top black box. This should bring up the menu which says (on my system) ‘No bus’, ‘FX-1 Garritan Ambience’, and ‘Outputs’. Select ‘FX-1 Garritan Ambience’. This name appears in the box. Secondly, switch the channel reverb on by clicking the round icon that looks like a clock set to midday. This is to be found above the words FX. Highlight it blue. Thirdly, click on the ‘infinity’ symbol ‘-oo’ below the words ‘FX 1 Garritan’ in the strip. Write in a value of -3. This applies a little bit of reverb as a default. If you prefer to initially work with dry samples, then leave the setting as ‘oo-’.
21. Check all your settings and faders to make sure everything is the way you want it. You may want to rearrange your SX/Kontakt/ Mixer and other interfaces so they look neat in the project window. When you are happy with your settings save the template (File/Save as Template.
Be aware that if you change an instrument in any slot but the first, in the Kontakt Player, you have to reset the stereo out in Kontakt again, to the appropriate stereo channels. This is because, no matter which slot is used, Kontakt defaults to the stereo 1/2 pair. If you should forget to do this, you will find that the mixer displays the signal for the first slot and the other slot, in the first channel strip – the other slot appearing inactive. Its easy to forget this and become confuzzled.
Using this template:
You have set up this template so that each instrument shares the same instance of Garritan Ambience – thereby saving considerable CPU. However you can still control the wetness or dryness of the signal for each individual instrument using the mini faders in SX’s mixer channel strips. You cant have control over the settings in Garritan Ambience for each instrument. It's not really necessary to do this, but if say, you wanted to have your strings sounding like the preset 'Cathedral' and the horns like 'Jazz Club' preset (in Garriatan Ambience), then you would have to set up two fx channels.
You might like to consider using SX group channels for orchestral sections when you have absorbed the basics.
You can control the level of the volume using the main faders of these same strips.
You can add other plugins for each strip as desired - e.g. chorus plugins, tape saturation plug ins. You would not usually use exotic plugins as this would distorrt the sound.
Remember to keep the midi channels hidden in the mixer - don’t use them – it just adds another level of complexity not required when sampling orchestras.
Creating further templates:
The GarritanBasic template we have made can be used to create further templates. Load the basic template, perhaps add further instances of the Kontakt Player, name your instruments and load them. Set up the mixer according to the principles above. You might find it useful to have one for a brass band or quartet, its up to you.
OK so this set up will give you control over reverb and volume – but there are may ways to control volume – there is the mixer, the track, the velocity settings, the mod wheel and more than this. All this has to be controlled aurally. It a tall order, so in order to understand it myself I am presently creating tutorial 2.
I've been struggling as a newbie with Cubase SX (2) for almost a year now (with 3 or 4 books complete with CDs that seemed, unfortunately, to be for Cubase SX 1) and I finally got "the basics" down about 2 months into it (even with a "video" course from "CSi". It always seemed to me that I was coming in around Chapter 8 of a book that had been under way for quite a long time ("SX" is, after all, the culmination of all those other Cubase predecessors). At Cubase SX 2 there is pretty much everything there -- and with it, complexity that can give you a headache just thinking about it! Over the years, it seems, the product has gotten oddles of new bells and whistles and some of them are added on in some fairly arcane places. Tiny little icons open doors to powerful features and the total population of these features is big enough to fill a 828-page print-it-yourself "Operations Manual" (and that's with all the "Score" features in a separate 312-page manual and "Audio Effects and VSTi" in yet another 138-page tome).
I went through your "basic template" steps mainly as an exercise to see what might "pop out" and broaden my understanding of SX 2 and perhaps open doors that I'd previously missed. I confess that there were 3 or 4 fine points that really surprised me, among them:  getting rid of the (mostly unnecessary) MIDI stuff that had always been cluttering up the left side of my Mixer;  the notion of having an effects device and being able to separately control the amount of effect applied. (I'll be going over these pages a second time very soon.)
I strongly encourage anyone else using SX 2 (or, if you're really a bleeding edge kinda person, SX 3) to take 5 minutes and go through this. Truly edifying!
My answer is I don't know - I have only worked with Sx and Cubase VST. I expect you can go through this with any sequencer, compensating for the text here and there, especially cubase sequencers. I am not sure if the mixer views would be indentical.
Here is a link for feature comparison of various Cubase incarnations:
Ever thought of upgrading to SX3? I use SX2 and its really stable, intuitive and very comprehensive. A real leap from SX1. SX3 seems to be a relatively minor update from SX2 - though it does apparantly have a feature to arrange in (eg) eight bar chunks AABA etc... You can also time stretch like Acid - if that's any use to you. I have a friend who uses Cubase every day full time since it was on the Atari and he agrees that SX2 or 3 is where its at.
Thanks for the great tutorials. After your previous posts, I actually took an afternoon to really delve into Nuendo and my set up situation and "discovered" your method myself. It's a GREAT set up.
I'd add that if you're using a separate SUSTAIN copy of the GPO dll for piano only, you can also hide the seven extra VST channels it produces and only leave the first channel visible. That way the extras don't clutter up the mixer.
Nuendo/Cubase is just the greatest app, isn't it? Combine it with GPO and the world is yours.....
Here is what I answered to a fellow who contacted me about how I add expressiveness to my pieces (although he uses Sonar). Perhaps you concur with some of these techniques and can incorporate some of it into your second tutorial.
I primarily just use Cubase SX for my composing and sequencing. It is probably comparable to Sonar. If you write music notationally at first, you should use GPO Studio as the sound source for your instruments in Sibelius; just to get the tonal balance. Once the notes are nearly there, export your work to a Type 1 MIDI file and open that in Sonar and continue on. The key to expressiveness with GPO is in the Modulation value curves. One thing I would like to be able to do in Cubase that I haven't figure out how yet is to collectively draw a dynamic curve (like a swell/crescendo or a phrase or note envelope) for a whole section of instruments, like strings. right now, I have to draw it in one instrument track, such as 1st Violins, then copy the Mod values and paste them into the Mod value section of the other string tracks. Or, I simply do it all by hand by drawing the curves for each instrument, remembering basically what type of dynamics are needed. That's a lot of mouse clicking which quickly gets tiresome - so take plenty of breaks.
My wife is in awe of how much time I spend on barely audible details and the patience I must have. It's true, the final 5 percent of details in a piece of music, phrasing, dynamics and tempo, take the longest. I consider it time well spent. I think of it as a conductor rehearsing the piece with each instrumentalist, then concentrating on phrasing and tempo with the whole orchestra.
I guess the trick is to think about each part in terms of how a real player would be able to play it, then mimic that as closely as possible. I listen to a lot of orchestra music and there is much more dynamics, tempo changes, and phrasing than most mock-ups I hear. It is too easy to let the computer play the notes and settle for that; but you'll end up with something sounding computerized - less human.
To humanize a piece, I introduce subtle imperfections such as: I pick a range of repetitive notes and, using a logical preset that I programmed, all selected notes are randomly moved either forward or backward ten ticks (I then remove any mono overlaps). Perhaps Sonar has a similar function. In GPO/Kontakt player, use the Var1 and Var2 values (if available) to affect intonation or timbre, but do it subtly. For legato string passages, have the notes overlap slightly and maybe sneak in a solo instrument or player doubling the section part and use just a bit of portamento. Be sure to use sustain values for legato instrument phrasing, especially on wind instruments like the flute and clarinet. Cut the ends of phrases short to let the 'player' have time to breathe.
All of this takes quite a bit of time to make it effective, but the results will amaze even yourself. Perhaps the goal is to play your piece for a professional musician and have them ask, "Where did you get the orchestra to play this for you?"
"One thing I would like to be able to do in Cubase that I haven't figure out how yet is to collectively draw a dynamic curve (like a swell/crescendo or a phrase or note envelope)"
A work around: You can do this by using two tracks for each instrument - I understand a lot of people work this way. What you do is have your notes on track 1 and your modwheel and other CC data on a separate 'data' track with the same midi channel. Then if you want to copy the dynamics or keyswitches to another instrument you can just copy the data track.
OK this is a work around, This way you end up with an awful lot of tracks - if your writing for full strings then you might get forty or more tracks. You can use folder tracks to tidy up the screen.
A final point. Sometimes I go out of my way to NOT use a duplicate mod wheel curves, because each instrument in a real section would play subtly different dynamics anyways - the difference adds to the authenticity.
Bear in mind I am speaking as a new user trying to settle down to an effective way of getting around these two great and powerful programs. You have been around longer than me with GPO and probably know this stuff.
What I am struggling with now is the number of tracks it takes to build a section. I understand that you can use the section strings, but I dont want to compromise sound. I want to retain versatility. If you have 16-18 first violins, 14-16 second violins, ten to twelve viola's 10 -12 cellos and 8-10 basses - a la standard orchestra, all with two tracks each, maybe even more than one track for each player (according to articulations) .. then you have ONE HELL OF A CONFUZZLING MESS!
I know you can use folder tracks, but in my personal view, what we all need is a new sequencer - one designed for orchestra!
Hmmm….. (FINKS…..) maybe Gary's got one of them up his sleeve...!!!!!