There Is NOTHING Complicated About Cubase

Brandon Drury —  October 1, 2007

I wish I had a million dollars given to me every time a person in the recording forum mentioned Cubase being complicated. I’d be rich! I guess that’s a given. However, I’d be rich, if I had a dollar every time someone said that Cubase was complicated, I’d still be rich!

It appears that Cubase has somehow earned this reputation for being a difficult program to learn. I’m hear to say that there is nothing complicated about Cubase. Nothing! The process goes like this.
1.Turn on computer
2.Load Cubase
3.Create new track
4.Name new track
5.Arm new track (push the small red button)
6.Hit record (that’s the big red button)

Of course, this is how it works in any recording software. In fact, this is basically how it’s done on analog tape, too (more or less). I don’t see what the big deal is. Granted, you have to setup Cubase initially, but you have to do that with Pro Tools, Sonar, Digital Performer or anything else. Once you understand the concept that all audio is routed through Microsoft Windows and then into your recording software, you should be off and running.

Reasons Cubase Is Difficult
I can think of a few reasons why Cubase is difficult.
A person doesn’t read the manual
A person can’t handle the fact that they are learning something new and therefore the person gets anxious and even irritable
That’s it

Reasons Cubase Is More Difficult Than Pro Tools, Samplitude, Sonar, etc
A person is already comfortable with one of these other programs
That’s it.

There is a big learning curve with any piece of recording software. The software is just part of the equation. There is hardware that has to be learned as well. Getting the complete system to work flawlessly is a pain in the neck the first time. However, don’t blame Cubase for your troubles. Accept the fact that you may not know what you are doing and take on the challenge of defeating the learning curve. When your put your brain into “destroy” mode, you’ll learn Cubase in no time.

Advanced Features In Cubase
Not long ago me and a buddy went hiking in the mountains in North Carolina. (No, this was not Brokenback Mountain or whatever it was!). On the last half of the trip, I drove. We took my buddy’s Civic which is quite a bit newer than mine and has more girl features (power windows and such). Anyway, I never bothered to learn where the cruise control was. My car doesn’t have it so I just didn’t bother with it. It wouldn’t have got us there any quicker anyway.

I feel the same way about all those advanced hidden features in Cubase. I know they are there. I took the time to learn what features exist in Cubase, but just like the cruise control, I choose not to bother with them until they make my life easier. The day that I need to sync the tempo of a song with a previously recorded song, I know that Cubase can do it. Great! I’ll open up the manual, read for 45 seconds, and do it. Done.

The Key To Learning Cubase
The big secret to learning Cubase isn’t really a big secret at all. In fact, it’s common sense. You simply have to be able to decipher the basic stuff from the advanced features. There is no point in learning how to develop Boolean MIDI functions when you don’t even have your audio interface routed to software properly.

Two Parts To Learning Cubase
When you learn Cubase, there are two main goals you should achieve. First, you should understand all basic functionality so that you can perform normal recording functions. You should be able to record audio and MIDI. You should be able to use your plugins. You should know how to edit and splice audio. You should know how to do basic routing of aux sends. You should know how to render the track to a wav file. This is the basic stuff that all real recording software can do. Some software companies have made this sort of thing a little more thought out, easier to use, etc. I think that Cubase has some EXTREMELY well thought out software.

Cubase has already broken up this process for you. They include a “Getting Started” manual inside of Cubase.

The second half to learning Cubase is to be aware of what features exist. It’s easy to get into a situation where you are taking an hour to do something that Cubase can do just as well in 8 seconds. If you are not aware that the feature exists, you’ll waste years of your life. This is where the manual comes in handy. Of course, Cubase has switched over entirely to PDF for their manuals, which I consider to be a great thing. (I DON’T LOSE THE MANUAL ANYMORE!!! Searching is much easier as well). The great thing about this second half is you can do it in 5 minutes. If you get bored one day or you are waiting for your samples to load in DFH Superior or something, fire up the big Cubase manual (not the Getting Started version) and read the table of contents. Everytime I do this, I learn something new or at least I’m reminded of a feature that I’ve forgotten about.

Missing The Bigger Picture
The people that say “I just want something simple to record with” are missing the bigger picture. Imagine those super thin roads in France that will barely fit one of those Mini Cooper cars. Of course, France is a zillion years old and the buildings were constructed before humans discovered gravity or Mars. France isn’t about to knock down and rebuilt a couple thousand buildings just so its roads can have an extra lane. However, this also means that congestion can be a problem. (For the record, all I know about France is the Nazis surprised them in 1940 and beat the living crap out of them in practically no time. I have no idea about French traffic. I’m just illustrating a point even if it is fictional).

Here’s the point. You probably say you want “simple” recording software. (I’ve never heard anyone say “I want recording software that is extremely difficult to use”. I don’t expect to ever hear this). However, the second you ask for one little feature that will save you 10 hours of work, you’ll find that the “simple” recording software out there simply can’t do it. (I call this “not thought out” software).

You can read all about this in my article, The Problem With Simple Recording Software.

Anyone who says that Cubase is difficult to learn is either regurgitating the rumors that someone else regurgitated from someone else who didn’t know what they are talking about. Zillions of people use Cubase in professional recording situations. If you take the time to learn it, not only will you realize that Cubase is very easy to use when you know how, you’ll thank those Germans for putting so much thought into their Cubase recording software…..even if the Germans did blow the hell out of France 67 years ago.

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 and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

9 responses to There Is NOTHING Complicated About Cubase

  1. I have used alot of Midi/Music software and I find Cubase to be one of the most difficult. The documentation is incomplete, the commands are not intuitive. For simple audio recording…easy, no problem. Midi editing is nearly impossible compared to many simple midi editors on the market for alot less money. Simple things like patch changes, moving musical line from one score to another, etc are not intuitive at all. To simply say, “You just need to read the documentation” is simply avoiding the question. No one is saying that Cubase is IMPOSSIBLE or that it doesn’t have the FUNCTIONALITY. What we are saying is:

    If you buy CUBASE, expect to spend hours reading documentation and being frustrated. Period. Cubase is VERY difficult, counter-intuitive, and poorly documented.

  2. I don’t agree. I think the documentation in Cubase SX3 is probably the best documentation I’ve seen in any high end software I’ve ever owned. The full blown manual is 1,000 pages. It covers EVERYTHING in detail. Of course,no one reads the 1,000 page manual. It’s not intended to be read. That’s what the Getting Started tutorial is for.

    I personally felt that MIDI editing was extremely intuitive in Cubase. I don’t remember ever consulting the manual for that one.

    Simple things like patch changes, moving musical line from one score to another, etc are not intuitive at all.

    Are we talking about the same program? To change the “patch” of a VSTi, you simply click one button to change the patch within the VSTi. It’s harder to tie a shoe.

    To move a MIDI line from one track to another, you simply cut the line you want and drag it down to a different track. I’m not sure how that could be any more intuitive either.

    If you buy CUBASE, expect to spend hours reading documentation and being frustrated. Period. Cubase is VERY difficult, counter-intuitive, and poorly documented.

    Well, I’m certainly no genius and I can honestly say that I pretty much had Cubase SX3 conquered in a Saturday afternoon simply by going through the included documentation. I consider it to be as good as anything else out there.


  3. I have used alot of Midi/Music software

    This is something I never understood. Because all recording software has a learning curve, I never saw the point in trying out zillions of programs. Purchase recording software that does what you need and learn how it works. I’m not sure why a Logic or Pro Tools guy would even try out Cubase unless there was something limiting in Pro Tools or Logic.

    People that try out all kinds of different software are typically the kind of people who have a new car and a new wife every time you see them.


  4. I agree that most things are not difficult when you know how to do them. My point is that Cubase is difficult to figure out and counter-intuitive. I purchased Cubase in an attempt to upgrade, not switch from software to software. Changing a patch on a single track is not a big problem, I just have to count all the blank options 1,2,3,5…49 Timpani, got it. No numbers, no patch names, not intuitive way to map the VST setting so that they show up in the menu, Tech support simply blames the VST even though it happens on just about all of them. Changing a patch in the middle of the score is not intuitive.

    Again, “difficult” does not mean that the software is not powerful or that things can’t be done. It just means that it is not easy to figure out. And, BTW, I spent alot of time reading the manuals. And yes, it is somewhat helpful, but alot is left out. The common wisdon is that you don’t lear CUBASE by manual, but by forum, frustrations and hours spent.

  5. I am just beginning to use Cubase for a home project these days. I have no experience in Home Recording whatsoever so I will be learning everything from scratch.

    I’ll post my response to this thread in a few days.

    Would like to add that I am extremely comfortable with using technology tools, and I figure out my way pretty fast be it computer hardware or software. So I’ll be in a good position to judge whether Cubase is really all that non-intuitive that it is made out to be.

    Till then.



  6. I use Cubase 4, Pro Tools 6.4.1 TDM Mix plus and Pro Tools Le. 8 As far as software goes these are all similar when it comes to basic operation. There are also special features in each of them. As far as Cubase being hard to learn, that’s not true at all.

    You must work at your own pace when learning a new software, think positively. read a little of the manual each day and execute what you learn day by day. Write yourself some notes. Don’t try to take it all in in one day.

    Good Luck
    Lex Lutha

  7. I have tascam us-1641 and Qubase 5
    I think I have installed everything right. I can my project to record more than one track at a time as differnt tracks can anyone help

  8. Well interesting perspective, I have one of my own.
    Remember Guitar processors in the 80′s. You know the rack mount sob’s that took 500 hours to program to your liking and gear. Well they looked sharp and they did everything. That is true if you were also a wanna be programmer. This is cubase in a nutshell. My girlfriend spent a better part of the day printing out the manual putting divider tabs and punching holes so i would have half of a chance looking stuff up. Now i bought cubase ai to take the place of fruity loops acid and sound forge. But I have not been able to produce one single tune yet. Why? well it fights you on everything. Read a 800 page manual are you nuts I just want to loop some flipping tracks!! the manual should be 50 pages max for the interface shouldn’t take 800 pages to describe please…………. if I hadn’t spent 200 bucks I would smash it all with a sledgehammer!!!

  9. I’m teetering back and forth on agreeing lol. No, I have to say that I’ve been using LE 4 since last year and have made some progress audio wise. Recently, upgraded by adding monitor speakers and a mixboard (low end) and I’m still having problems with routing but I’m definitely getting a clearer signal. Hell, when I started, I just had a mic and a tascam us-122l. I live in Germany and as an American who frequents most english-speaking sites, the advanced features are a steep climb and I had trouble finding ANY American friends who were familiar with or currently using Cubase. Of course, you always have the tech heads who point you back to the manual (RDB: read da book) and it’s frustrating to have to learn it all for 0. Cubase definitely isn’t simple but it can be very rewarding. For about 30 tracks recorded, I’ve probably nailed 4 or 5 where I was seriously happy with the outcome of the mixdown. This isn’t a fault in Cubase but due to my lack of knowledge. Thus, I agree with your statement about reasons why some say it’s difficult. Still, thanks for relating to my frustration and sorry about this ‘thesis’. Take care