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The 10 Fastest Ways To Learn Cubase

Brandon Drury —  August 13, 2011 — 4 Comments

Cubase 6
I often get emails that ask the best / fastest way to learn Cubase.

I’m not sure if it’s my technical nature or just luck, but I didn’t find Cubase to be nearly as complex as many people claim.  While I can’t say whether Cubase is right for you, I can give you a few pointers to save you some grief.

#1 – Watch Killing With Cubase series.

I’ve put together twenty or so videos that cover what I consider to be the crucial elements of Cubase.  They are highly informal. I screw up the names of various Cubase windows.  I ramble a bit.  However, I also give you my hardcore opinion on exactly what works in Cubase for me.

#2 – Use The Getting Started PDF Included With Cubase

Cubase comes with a PDF for getting started.  It’s going to knock out all your basic day-to-day stuff.  I’d say that 95% of the functionality you need for your next session is covered here.  The people that struggle for three months with Cubase seem all fall under the Ignored-Getting-Started-PDF category.

#3 – Outside Guides

When I jumped into Cubase SX3 back in 2005, I bought a set of instructional videos on Ebay.  They were long, boring, and hard to watch.  I forced myself to use them, but ultimately I don’t remember much from the videos.  Really, they were more of a demonstration of what is capable….kinda like Eddie Van Halen playing through a guitar emulator plugin.  Yeah, that’s one way of doing it.  I got a feeling I’m doing to end up with something different.

I would place the video instruction I purchased in the “Attempting To Be Thorough” Class.  It was trying to cover everything.  Learning the possibilities is great…..maybe even required.  Attempting total mastery of ALL functions is completely unnecessary, impractical, and inefficient.  That’s like test driving EVERY woman on Earth before you buy one.

The other style of video I’ve encountered is what I’m putting in the “Rehashed Basics” Class.  These are often much more personable ways of learning the same stuff covered in the included Cubase guide.  These videos are generally pleasant to watch.  They often have some personal anecdotes that are insanely helpful.  The “not comprehensive” nature of these videos makes them better as you actually get someone with an opinion.  A little bias is good if the person as a similar workflow to what you want to do.

A downside to these more personal videos is there are often details missing that the manual wouldn’t miss.  I personally use Cubase each and every day and make a living with it, but there are many little details that I don’t know.  I screw up all the time when teaching Cubase, but all these details are so miniscule that they don’t affect my results.

My advice is to save your money and use a blend of video tutorials and the Cubase Getting Started PDF that comes bundled with every copy of Cubase.

#4 – It IS Learning

Some people mistake learning recording software with something fun.  It’s not..  It’s much like on a lazy day when the remote is 6” away.  You’ve got to muster up the strength and find the will to actually get your butt off the couch.
I recommend setting your alarm clock, getting up a bit early, and just plan on a hard day of work.

If you approach this as a pain-in-the ass job that you have to simply bust through with effort, you’ll be surprised how quickly you get it done.   I don’t see an alternative.

#5 – Cubase Is Overbuilt

Cubase is kinda like a real army hummer.  It has a winch, a rocket launcher, multiple spare tires, bullet-proof glass, a flare gun, and two dozen other items that could be fun on a boring Saturday.  With that said, I drove 10 hours yesterday, saw probably 50 military hummers on the highway, and not one of them was shooting at insurgents.  They were using the same “features” as I was in my Civic.  For my task, I simply had to hold  down a gas pedal and use the steering wheel to get back on center after grazing the concrete side rails in between naps.  Simple enough….until I need my rocket launcher.  Cubase is the same.  If you don’t need the rocket launcher, don’t bother fiddling with it until you are ready.

#6 – Learn The Shortcuts

I know some people that complain that they mix up the hardcore features with the day-to-day stuff.  I don’t have this problem at all.  I think a major reason for this is I made a point to learn the shortcuts early.  In particular, I’m talking about the number key row above the letters.  When you get these down, you can work extremely fast in Cubase without an ounce of thought.  The helicopter tool throws people off.  You can see my Killing With Cubase video tutorial on this one.  You won’t figure that one out by just tinkering, most likely.

#7 – Use Custom Shortcuts

Setting up custom shortcuts in Cubase takes 2 seconds once you understand it…which takes 2 minutes, maybe.  Note:  For this sort of thing, see your real-deal manual.  When you find that you use something constantly, go ahead and assign it an unused keystroke or just override something you don’t use.  It’s rather impressive what you can call up via shortcuts.

This is where things get interesting.  Steinberg makes Cubase to be a dangerous weapon for everyone doing hip hop remixing to death metal to folk music.  Your way of working will be different than mine.  If you find you are being slowed down somewhere, speed it up.  Create a shortcut for it.

#8 – You Can’t “Try” Cubase

Quite a few people are using X and decide they want to “try” Cubase.  That’s impossible.  You either use it or you don’t.  Breaking off a little piece of Cubase and taking a bite is kinda like flying with just a rudder and a landing gear.  Dive in all the way and DO IT or don’t.

#9 – Why Switch?

This is the big one. If you are already using X (Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Reaper, Digital Performer, etc….stuff I consider to be “Real Deal Software”) and decide you want to USE Cubase (not “try” it), you should probably make a quick list of how you are limited.  I have a hard time believing that any of these programs are remotely limiting.  Cheaper stuff may be.  Not sure.

I knew back in the day when I was using Sonic Foundry Vegas (back before Sony bought it and before it had any real video capabilities) I realized that there were many things I was missing out just on just by talking to people.  The big one for me was an advanced MIDI Sequencer.  The other was the dramatically faster editing within Cubase.

Use The Cubase Forum

Even though I’m pretty freakin’ handy with Cubase in a session (a zillion hours of anything will do that to you), I don’t know much about it.  Kinda like how humans know extremely little about what’s really under the ocean, there’s a whole bunch of Cubase stuff that I’m rather clueless on, too.

While I’m POSITIVE that there are elements of Cubase that would make my life easier,  I don’t make much time to get serious with learning them.  I have mixing deadlines and articles that need to go up Tuesday morning.

When there is a feature that I suspect Cubase has and using it would save me more time than doing the task manually, I check Google or the big manual.  It’s shocking how often Cubase has it taken care of.  Every once in a blue moon I like to do a little homework and understand a new feature just to see what it can do for me.  Otherwise, it’s back to work.

Deciding when to invest time into searching and learning a better, faster method is tricky.  It’s sometimes easy to spend two hours and not come up with a better method than you have now.  Other times you find a 30 second tip that saves you six hours of work that day and any other day you need to handle the task.

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dudermn – 11-08-2011, 06:40 PM
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If cubase is like a hummy, acid must be like an abrams Tank . Think about it, we have the ability to zoom in just by dragging the scroll wheel, just like how a tank would move it’s turrent and use it’s camera about. Both can use the same tools, and both can run over clay-mores and what not, but acid backs things up every time you move the cursor, if you want. So a tank has more security than a hummy. Of course the hummy will get you there faster, but tank technology is catching up, and a tank can go through more terrain (can’t wait to see what acid 8 will do, maybe it’ll be voice activated). Cubase might be more customizable, just like a hummy, but acid is like a tank, where you sit in your driver position and only a few things are customizable. Yes yes yes, I could go on for days…… In the end if you want to learn cubase first you gotta get your head around how it works, I still remember the first time I got into it. I couldn’t even record something, it must’ve took me a whole week to figure it out. So ya patience is import. Then in cubase there’s also the whole file management system which, is unknown to me. But yea, I’m a tank person. Cool article.

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Dee-Funked – 11-08-2011, 08:34 PM
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I’m with Brandon, I’ve always been drawn to Cubase because it seemed to work intuitively, have everything (and more) you’ll ever need and the further I get into it, the more I find things that make me go, “Woah! I’ve wished my DAW could do that for ages… now I know it does!” That said, with the immense lists and varieties of functions (setting up midi control for the editing/arrangement window was the most fun so far) the included documentation really is your best friend… a quick fiund search in the .pdf and your usually where you need to be in the comprehensive operation manual. It also has a very impressive output/monitor mix capability, providing your interface supports multiple outs from the computer. Nad above all I think I just like the aesthetic and feel: it’s German, precise, concise, understated and focussed on funtionality.

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Prado Escondido – 11-08-2011, 11:35 PM
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I’ve had a different experience with the videos. I thought the ones from AskVideo were fantastic. Sure you don’t remember everything … but you get an overview of all the features and then when you want to do something and you’re not sure how, you suddenly remember … “Oh! that’s on the video.” Then you have the reference, right there. I love Cubase. I’m always finding deeper things … like using the ‘Input transformer’ to limit what is coming in on a midi track or how friggin’ easy it is to sequence hardware and record it in real time on a track in Cubase. Internal summing … using ‘dummy’ output busses … to record your VSTi tracks in real time to audio without having to render is amazing. Most of all I love the midi functionality. I always steer anyone starting out towards Reaper … but once you’ve got the time and money sunk in Cubase, I don’t think you every would want to go back. I also own Reaper, Acid Pro 6 and Ableton 6 … and they mostly gather digital dust … although I’m not above rewiring Acid from time to time when I want to use it’s great pitch and tempo stretching. Were money no object, I’d also get ProTools as I think it has some mixing capabilities beyond anything else … the ability to set up multiple fader groups so you can adjust different groups of channels together once you have their relative levels with one another set … and then there’s Transfuser! The Cubase Forum has some absolute gurus who love to help and have amazingly deep Cubase knowledge. There is one guy called ‘Vic_France.’ who every time I see his name in a thread I read his post … and 9 times out of 10 learn something new. Prado

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Equilibrium8 – 11-09-2011, 04:35 AM
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“That’s like test driving EVERY woman on Earth before you buy one. ” I’m failing to see how this is unnecessary. Except that I’d have no time to learn to use Cubase.

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Electriclight – 11-09-2011, 08:39 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by dudermn View Post
If cubase is like a hummy, acid must be like an abrams Tank .
Yeah, I use Acid for a few tasks and it feels as agile as a Abrahms tank. Some of the most elementary things, like starting and stopping playback, seems unnecesarily complex or unintuitive. I can right click in Cubase and it performs common tasks the same as MS Word or Excel. I dont’ have to think about what I am doing. When I’m in Acid I have to concentrate on everything but the music. I’m sure it’s just lack of experience – but that being said, it amazes me that people can shift between 15 different programs without going nuts.

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screamindave – 11-09-2011, 10:28 PM
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I 1st got started with Cubase LE, jumped straight into Cubase Studio 4, upgraded to Cubase 5 64 bit, and now I’m waiting for Cubase 6 to get delivered. I absolutely love this platform and couldn’t imagine using anything else. The more I use it, the more I learn about it’s capabilities and I’m far from mastering it. Kudos to Steinberg!

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famouspatrick – 11-10-2011, 12:17 AM
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I’m a Sonar user, and I found that all of the advice in this article works for Sonar as well. There is a getting started PDF, there are a couple of good video tutorial series, and a freaking gazillion page manual on PDF that is searchable. Everything from #4 on is applicable to every major DAW, and I agree with every one. Great advice!

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brandondrury – 11-10-2011, 01:49 PM
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the ability to set up multiple fader groups so you can adjust different groups of channels together once you have their relative levels with one another set
Just curious. Can’t Cubase do this by linking channels or are you talking about something more fancy?
“That’s like test driving EVERY woman on Earth before you buy one. ” I’m failing to see how this is unnecessary.
You may think it’s necessary to try out every woman on Earth. We’ll say each woman can be tried in 3 weeks. My super quick math says it would take 200,000,000 years to do it.
When I’m in Acid I have to concentrate on everything but the music. I’m sure it’s just lack of experience
Most likely. I’d guess that all programs feel natural once you use them enough.Then again, I find video editing in Premiere to be TOTALLY cumbersome. I’ve taken many hours to look and find a way to find shortcuts and such so I don’t have to perform 3-4 tasks to get to the spot I want to be and such. These shortcuts for speedy workflow just don’t seem to be there.So maybe some programs just are slow and force you to use to much of the brain. Not sure.
it amazes me that people can shift between 15 different programs without going nuts.
Agreed! Maybe it’s because I’m multi-tasking to the max now, but if I had to learn one more damn program, it had better do something breathtaking.
I’m a Sonar user, and I found that all of the advice in this article works for Sonar as well. There is a getting started PDF, there are a couple of good video tutorial series, and a freaking gazillion page manual on PDF that is searchable. Everything from #4 on is applicable to every major DAW, and I agree with every one. Great advice!
Great point. I think this is going to be the case with any good software. The differences between the top stuff now are so slight that it’s not even that interesting to discuss it, anymore.Brandon

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screamindave – 11-10-2011, 08:37 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by brandondrury View Post
Just curious. Can’t Cubase do this by linking channels or are you talking about something more fancy?Brandon
Yes – linking multiple channels is a key feature of Cubase.

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BenJaMan – 11-11-2011, 01:11 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by Prado Escondido View Post
… the ability to set up multiple fader groups so you can adjust different groups of channels together once you have their relative levels with one another set …
Quote Originally Posted by screamindave View Post
Yes – linking multiple channels is a key feature of Cubase.
yes, you can “link” channels in cubase . but then you have to un-link if you want to make any change to relative volumes then remember to re-link them . possible, but probably the long way around .much more usable / time-friendly >> hit F4, create bus (3 seconds) then set desired channel outputs to that bus . now you have a fader to control the group . as a powerful extention, you can even bus busses !

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brandondrury – 11-11-2011, 06:39 PM
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hit F4, create bus (3 seconds) then set desired channel outputs to that bus . now you have a fader to control the group .
That’s what I always do if I need to manipulate a bunch of tracks. I rarely have less than 15 buses in a mix.I was under the impression that someone in Pro Tools found a magic, exclusive feature.Brandon

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Prado Escondido – 11-15-2011, 11:00 PM
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Right, you can group multiple faders … but what i said was “multiple fader groups.” You can link as many faders as you like in Cubase, but only in one group at a time. In PT you can have multiple groups of faders.For example, link all the drum tracks coming into your drum buss after you have set the individual track levels. Do the same for other groups of say, guitars. Now you can change the track levels coming into the buss for each group for mixing while keeping the balance of the tracks the same.There are situations where easily reseting the levels of tracks within the buss is better than simply adusting the output levels of the buss. Think about sends. Post fader sends levels from the individual tracks will get changed in the mix … increased or decreased … when you use the buss level to change the group in the mix. But if you have the track faders ‘ganged’ in the buss, the relative send level of each track can be maintained.AFAIK, this is an exclusive feature of PTPrado

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brandondrury – 11-16-2011, 01:28 AM
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I see. Thanks for the explanation. On my more complex mixes I do find this to be a bit of a pain. When I’ve got a vocal track flowing into a chorus_vocal bus into a vocal bus it can get maddening trying to track back where I used the send.

Of course, in these cases, I find that simpler is better 99% of the time and I just undo all that dumb processing I did previously.

Brandon

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LRM – 11-16-2011, 01:43 AM
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I’m not sure I get you…
Do you essentially mean linking a single fader – or multiple faders – into multiple fader groups and each fader group has exclusive control over that fader – or faders?
Or do you mean as you first state it, having multiple groups of linked faders?

As to the latter, you are not limited to having just one group (at least not with Cubase 6), you can have multiple sets of different faders independently linked. But you can’t link one fader or set of faders more than once.

To me though, for the most part linking tracks is a limited function better done through group tracks or additional buses in Cubase. You can assign a track/group/bus output to a group track or bus or use a sends to up to 8 different group tracks or buses – pre as well as post fader.

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Prado Escondido – 11-16-2011, 01:01 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by LRM View Post
I’m not sure I get you…
Do you essentially mean linking a single fader – or multiple faders – into multiple fader groups and each fader group has exclusive control over that fader – or faders?
Or do you mean as you first state it, having multiple groups of linked faders?

As to the latter, you are not limited to having just one group (at least not with Cubase 6), you can have multiple sets of different faders independently linked. But you can’t link one fader or set of faders more than once.

To me though, for the most part linking tracks is a limited function better done through group tracks or additional buses in Cubase. You can assign a track/group/bus output to a group track or bus or use a sends to up to 8 different group tracks or buses – pre as well as post fader.
Yes, an individual track can belong to more than one group at the same time. So you can, for example, have a group for snare top and snare bottom but also have a larger group containing those snares and all other drum tracks. Additionally you can have your sends linked for the group, so if you use send 2 on all tracks to send to a plate, those individual track amounts can be adjusted within the group and retain their relative levels. Finally, you can create VCA mix tracks which provide a virtual fader that moves all the track levels in the group.

See this video: Pro Tools 9 – Creating and Using Edit & Mix Groups – Mac OS X & Win 7 – YouTube

Note how the group membership info and whether the group is active or not is clearly displayed in the track itself in the mixer. Notice how many more colors you can use to create easy visualization of groups beyond Cubase’s 16 tracks.

I love Cubase, but there is no question that Pro Tools is the superior platform for mixing.

Prado

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brandondrury – 11-16-2011, 01:26 PM
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I love Cubase, but there is no question that Pro Tools is the superior platform for mixing.
Interesting. I’m not sold yet. What else does Pro Tools do better?

The only difference I see in what Pro Tools does is the way the sends are handled. I’m guessing this would save me 10 seconds of time on a 5 hour mix and it won’t sound any better. If I understand you correctly, we are talking the different between Pro Tools getting 999 out of 1,000 and Cubase getting 997 out of 1,000.

Notice how many more colors you can use to create easy visualization of groups beyond Cubase’s 16 tracks.
Interesting. I always wondered why people wanted 16. I do pretty well with 5 or 6.

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LRM – 11-16-2011, 02:05 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by Prado Escondido View Post
Yes, an individual track can belong to more than one group at the same time. So you can, for example, have a group for snare top and snare bottom but also have a larger group containing those snares and all other drum tracks. Additionally you can have your sends linked for the group, so if you use send 2 on all tracks to send to a plate, those individual track amounts can be adjusted within the group and retain their relative levels. Finally, you can create VCA mix tracks which provide a virtual fader that moves all the track levels in the group.

See this video: Pro Tools 9 – Creating and Using Edit & Mix Groups – Mac OS X & Win 7 – YouTube

Note how the group membership info and whether the group is active or not is clearly displayed in the track itself in the mixer. Notice how many more colors you can use to create easy visualization of groups beyond Cubase’s 16 tracks.

I love Cubase, but there is no question that Pro Tools is the superior platform for mixing.

Prado
So I watched the video and got it now. To a certain degree, it’s looks more like it encompasses track linking, groups, folder tracks and send buses while staying within a track linking view and literally controlling the track faders with a group.
I can see some advantage to it in certain cases but my method of chaining groups and folders and buses gets me “almost” all of the same functionality within less space and less faders… even if it might be costing me more brain cell fry stepping forwards and backwards through the chains than the way PT9 allows you to do it.

hmm…If this is new to PT9, I’m wondering though if Cubase 6 doesn’t have the missing functionality stashed away somewhere that I haven’t looked into yet. Probably not but now I’m going have to go look tonight anyhow.

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Prado Escondido – 11-16-2011, 02:09 PM
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It all boils down to a couple of things … once we are agreed that it is better to adjust levels inside the buss as opposed to with the buss fader.Cubase channels can be linked or unlinked. Channels can only belong to one group. There is no way to acitvate or deactivate a group: unlink it and it is gone. There is no visualization of what is linked or what it is linked to: you don’t know until you select one of the channels and they all highlight. There is no ‘master fader’ for the linked groups, i.e., VCA channels, which can be automated.Pro Tools does all the above. IMO these are powerful and efficient mixing tools. If when you see and understand from the video what they do and you then see no use or advantage for your work flow, then you will be satisfied without them.I have and use Cubase 6, but wish it also contained similar tools.This lenghty digression arose because I stated I wished Cubase had faders groups like Pro Tools, you asked the question ‘ … something more fancy?’ and someone replied Cubase can do the same thing.I think it is clear to all now that what Cubase can do is not the not the same thing.I think everyone would agree that what Pro Tools does with this is better, but how much better or how much more useful is another question.For recording and mixing bands, maybe not so much. For dance music or post production, maybe a lot.BTW, this thread has gotten me around to making a feature request on the Cubase forum.Anyway, peace to all. Prdo

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Prado Escondido – 11-16-2011, 02:19 PM
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hmm…If this is new to PT9, I’m wondering though if Cubase 6 doesn’t have the missing functionality stashed away somewhere that I haven’t looked into yet. Probably not but now I’m going have to go look tonight anyhow.
I think since PT 7. But I’m not sure.Prado

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LRM – 11-16-2011, 02:30 PM
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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying the functionality being useful and for some things (maybe a lot) even better and beyond Cubase’s functionality – and if I ahd the chance I’d probably play with it to see how it would suit how I do things.
hehe – all this also reminds me of the back and forth that went on over MIDI Tracks vs. Instrument Tracks.
I think since PT 7. But I’m not sure
If it’s been that long and not a pointed out feature of Cubase,I can’t see it being hidden in there somewhere. oh well…

Prado Escondido – 11-16-2011, 05:40 PM
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What?!Everyone knows instrument tracks are just for ‘poochies!’Prado

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rook2c4 – 11-18-2011, 02:12 PM
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When it comes to DAW’s (and a lot of other software in general) 9 out of 10 times people get stuck on something that can be found in the manual with a little searching. There have been things I assumed the DAW I use was incapable of doing until I accidentally stumbled upon the topic years later while reading the manual – looking for something else entirely.

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dubturbomixer.com – 11-27-2011, 01:13 AM
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Nice article

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jelloboy – 12-03-2011, 05:33 AM
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My two cents… If you are primarily an engineer, skip Cubase and jump right to Nuendo, Steinberg’s answer to Protools. Cubase, imho, is aimed at songwriter/producers…while Nuendo is a full fledged mixing and mastering piece of software. Of course, you can do both things in either software, but Nuendo is aimed clearly at the post production side of things..it’s audio engine is rock solid and after using Sonar for years, I took the jump and couldn’t be happier. jl

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brandondrury – 12-04-2011, 01:36 PM
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Alright, I’m listening. So what can I do in Nuendo that I can’t do in Cubase?

Brandon

 

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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4 responses to The 10 Fastest Ways To Learn Cubase

  1. You recommend as number 1 “Watch Killing With Cubase series”. I do it, I open the first video and the man in the video says: “I don’t know how this is called, the project window?”… Sorry, but you made me lose my time. I’d rather to pay for a serious course.

  2. Have fun with your “serious” course. My video skills have improved (slightly SMILIE), but the Killing With Cubase series has done a lot of good for a lot of people. You are correct, I did not memorize the name of some random window. Most people who are Cubase experts don’t bother to memorize the names of certain windows that are not named within Cubase for the same reason that most athletes aren’t experts on physiology. Using the tool is much different that memorizing random facts about the tool.

  3. WELL CUBASE LANDED IN MY LAP SO I MIGHT AS WELL LEARN IT…IM FRESH NEW AT THIS STUFF ,HOWEVER I HAVE THE TIME TO GET INTO THIS. I PURCHASED AN MG MIXER WITH USB, AND IT CAMWE WITH CUBASEE A1 7 TO DOWNLOAD NOW THE MIXER CAN ACT AS AN INTERFACE. I MUST BE BUGGIN,BUT I THINK I MIGHT BE ABLE TO DO THIS IM A DECENT PIANIST BUT JUST CROSSED OVER TO “OLD-SCHOOL” SO LETS TRY I WOULD LIKE A HAND HELD BOOK OR MANUAL TO LEARN TO RECORD IN CUBASE HEP A BRO. OUT

  4. If you want a hand held manual for Cubase, check out the Cubase Power series. They basically just copy and paste the Cubase manual and print it out.

    Another option is to read the Cubase manual (which is a PDF file) on your dumbphone, tablet, or laptop. My step dad snagged a no name tablet from Amazon for $90. Since that would save you the $30 for Cubase Power, you’d be in for $60 (depending on how you look at it).

    Brandon

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