How To Record On Cubase – The A to Z Guide

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how to record on cubaseRecording on Cubase is easier than you think, so in this tutorial I will show you how to record on cubase by keeping it easy and simple.

I will also show you how to record real instruments using WAV files (guitars, bass, drums etc) but I will also show you how to record using MIDI.

Also, click here to open a new tab, filtered with results about everything cubase related. Let’s get started!

1. Configure Your Audio Interface

After the installation of your audio interface – no matter if it uses USB or Firewire connection – Cubase is now able to recognize it. The only thing you’ve got to do is to choose it.

Open Cubase and click on Devices -> Device Setup.

1-cubase-device-setup

Then click on VST Audio System and choose your (already installed) audio interface.

The place that I create the tutorials is at my home. So I needed to get a cheap sound card at home for your recording and mixing tutorials. For this reason I about a $149 sound card the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.

It’s pretty logical to install it first in order for cubase to “see” it, else you won’t be able to find it in the list below. Please choose your sound card and click OK.

2-vst-audio-system

2. Configure Your VSTs

Before we create any channels it would be wise to configure our VST folder.

Click on Devices -> Plug-in Information.

3-plug-in-information

Now click on VST 2.x Plug-in Paths

4-vst-paths

And now click Add to let Cubase know the folder that you will save your VSTs to.

As you can see there are some default folders but you can also create your own folder (path).

Now, everytime you are going to install a new VST you will choose the path that you’ve just created during the setup wizard. Everything will be organized your own way!

This step is really a matter of preference.

5-vst-add-new-path

When you choose the folder/path of your liking just click on OK and then Update.

3. Create New Project

Click on File -> New Project…

6-create-new-project

And now on Empty.

7-new-empty-project

Choose the folder of your liking (the one that you are going to save the current project) and click OK.

8-set-project-folder

Then click on File -> Save and save the Project in the same folder that you’ve just created above.

9-save-project

4. Recording WAV Audio Tracks

(Check out Step 6 for MIDI, but please read this chapter first)

When you save your project you’ll end up with an empty screen of cubase without a track, but just the cubase tools.

Before we create our audio tracks, let me first explain the difference between Stereo and Mono Track.

Stereo VS Mono Track

The Stereo Track is nothing more than 2 Mono Tracks panned 100% Left and Right. If you send those 2 Mono Tracks to a single Group then you’ve got a Stereo Channel.

Then why do Stereo Tracks exist;

It’s really simple. Because there are music programs that produce ready-made stereo sounds and in this case you don’t need to record 2 Mono Tracks to create your Stereo Track/Sound.

Also,  if there weren’t any Stereo Tracks you wouldn’t be able to process Multiple Mono Sounds in 1 Stereo Track/Group.

So, instead of sending multiple Mono Tracks to 1 Stereo Group Track and process that track, you would need to process each track individually even if you used the exact same VSTs with the exact same settings.

This results in spending double or even triple CPU power – in case you’re mixing digitally – and of course spending more of your time to copy paste your equalizers, compressors, reverbs, etc.

So it’s better to mix using the 1 Stereo Track and not the 2 Mono Tracks;

There’s no difference and it’s clearly depending on your computer’s CPU power and RAM.

If you’ve got a strong PC/MAC that can handle lots of VSTs then work with the 2 Monos. You have more freedom this way.

Let me explain.

For example, a client can send me an instrument recorded on a Stereo Track and from my left speaker… it’s a mess!!! My only option to fix problems is to work on this Stereo Track since I don’t have access to both of the speakers (2 Mono Tracks panned hard left/right).

If I had access to the 2 Mono Tracks I could just edit the left mono track and not even touch the right speaker/microphone (because each Mono Track is recorded using different takes, so the signal of the microphone is different).

What I like in Pro Tools is that when you insert a Stereo Track it automatically separates them to 2 Monos panned 100% L and R for the reason that I just explained. It’s just a matter of ¨workflow freedom¨.

Finally, without Stereo Tracks whatever Stereo Sound that you would “drag and drop” in the software for mixing, it would be converted to Mono… and I don’t think you would like that!

Create Mono Audio Tracks

Now that we know the differences let’s create our Tracks!

Right Click on the empty space and then click on Add Audio Track.

10-add-audio-track

Choose Mono (unless you have an analog synthesizer, a VSTi Synth or anything that produces Stereo Audio) and then click OK.

11-add-mono-track

Highlight your Track and select your audio interface input. It should be the input that you’ve connected your microphone or instrument.

Depending on the sound card you would come across different options.

The sound card that I have at home has only 2 Inputs so there are only 2 choices – Left και Right.

I’ve connected the microphone to my left Input so I’ve chosen Left. Please choose your own input.

12-setup-audio-input

Arm the channel (click the small red button).

This “tells” Cubase that “When I’ll press the Big Red Recording Button I want you to record this channel”.

You can Arm many channels depending on how many Inputs your sound card has.

If you can connect, for example, 3 instruments you are able to record all 3 at the same time, by arming all the 3 channels.

13-enable-record-button

If you want to the Arm button to be displayed on every simple track for faster movements then click the little arrow just like the image below.

Now choose Default or Recording – Minimal.

14-enable-default-recording-template

When recording you are also able to hear the sound you’re recording coming out of your speakers (Playback). Click on the small orange Monitor Icon just like in the image below.

It’s not necessary to have the monitor icon enabled in order to record though. Arm is for recording and Monitor is for listening to what you’re recording.

Small Tip:

You usually use them together, but some home studio owners don’t have enough room space, so they are obliged to put the guitar cabinet with the recording microphone next to the speakers. In this situation there’s no need to enable monitoring.

Then click Channel to see the volume balance.

The recording volume can be configured from the “Gain” knob of your sound card and not by the channel itself.

The channel fader must be at  it’s default position just like the image below (if you are unsure about it just Control + Click the fader and it will return to its default position).

“Play” with your audio interface’s Gain knob. Adjust it till the signal peaks at -3db maximum.

15-monitor-and-channel-metering

Before recording we should setup our song’s Tempo, else it would be too late to change the tempo later!

Right Click on the empty space again and click Add Tempo Track.

16-add-tempo-track

By clicking inside the bars you create new Tempos that you can adjust.

For example, if you want Bar 5 to play on 140bmp you just click on bar 5, create a new spot and drag and drop this spot up and down to choose the bpm of your liking.

You can also hit Ctrl + T to open a new window with your Tempo Track and Zoom In.

17-create-new-tempo

Don’t forget to enable Bars+Beats and Snap.

Bars+Beats show you the bars of the song instead of time (minutes) and Snap “snaps” your clicks on the nearer bar for easier workflow.

18-bars-and-beats-snap-enabled

Also you need to Enable Tempo Track or Cubase won’t take into consideration your configured BPMs.

Just hit F2 and click like in the image below:

19-tempo-track-on

You’ve configured everything!

Just hit the big red button (Record) and… Happy Recording!

You can stop recording by hitting Space on your keyboard.

20-etoimoi-gia-ixografisi

When you record your first take a new folder will appear – inside your saved project folder – with the name Audio.

DO NOT DELETE IT.

In there, you’ll find all your recording takes and deleting it is not a good idea.

5. Play With Metronome

No Mixing Engineer can save a bad recorded song.

I am sure you know that there are tools to fix time issues but there’s nothing better than working with experienced musicians and perfectly recorded takes.

Enable The Metronome

Just hit F2 click ON like in the image below.

21-metronome-on

By Control Clicking we open a new window with the Metronome Options:

Metronome in Record: Enables Metronome while Recording.
Metronome in Play: Enables Metronome when Hearing (Playback).

Precount Bars: Choose how many bars you want the metronome to play on, before recording.

This is perfect because it gives you the opportunity to give yourself some time before you start recording. It’s like someone singing to you “1… 2… 3… 4…” just to “get in” right.

Audio Click: Here we can configure the volume of the Metronome.

We can also choose different volumes for 1 (Hi Pitch) and for 2-3-4 (Low Pitch).
Pretty Cool huh?

22-cubase-metronome-options

No matter the quantity of the Precount Bars that you’ve chosen, you also need to enable the precount bars.

Just click like in the image below to enable it.

23-enable-precount-click

6. Record MIDI

The way we record MIDI is almost the same with the way that we record WAV. The only difference is that now we are going to create MIDI tracks.

I will use a Cubase VST of my liking but if you want to use a third party VST that you’ve paid for it, it’s pretty logical to install it first before following the steps below.

Recording Midi – The Steps

Click Devices -> VST Instruments or just hit F11.

24-devices-vst-instruments

Choose the software of your liking.

In this example I will use EZ Drummer.

25-ez-drummer

Click Create on the window that will pop up.

A MIDI channel will appear that will get automatically get “connected” with your software/synth/VST.

26-create-midi-track

Choose the little pencil tool (Draw) or just hit 8 on your keyboard.

27-pencil-tool

And “draw” on the bars that you want to compose music.

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Change from the pencil tool to the little arrow by clicking it or by just hitting 1 on your keyboard.

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Now Double Click the box that you’ve just drawn.

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In this window you can “draw” notes and also configure the dynamics of the notes.

Notes are displayed as horizontal bars and the dynamics as vertical bars at the bottom of your window.

31-midi-window

By selecting a box and hitting Ctrl + D (Duplicate) you create a duplicate box right next to the original one.

32-duplicate-tab

By clicking the yellow piano icon you can open your program’s window.

33-edit-instrument

If the program you’re using has more than 1 Outputs hit F11 again and Enable them, just like in the image below.

Some VSTi have only 1 output which is always enabled by default.

On the contrary, there are many programs like the EZ Drummer that need more than 1 outputs/tracks (for the Kick, Snare, Hi-hat, Toms etc)

As you can see, with each Output that you enable cubase also creates the corresponding track.

34-multiple-outputs

You’re ready!

Now, you can insert Effects and Processors on every single track!

35-add-fx

MIDI Track VS Instrument Track

Cubase also gives you the option to create Instrument Tracks.

What’s their difference with the MIDI tracks? Is is better to use these Tracks or just follow the guidelines that I’ve shown you above?

The Difference Between the MIDI Track and the Instrument Track

The way of setting up the tracks that I showed you above is for me the most “correct” one. By what do I mean by correct?

Programs like EZDrummer and Nexus can produce more than 1 sounds. For example,  EZDrummer, can produce multiple sounds like the Kick Drum, Snare, Toms, Overheads etc… so you need many outputs/tracks.

The way of setting up the tracks that I showed you above allows you to use every single program no matter how many outputs it needs. No matter if you need 1 output or multiple outputs you are able to use everything.

On the contrary, the Instrument Track needs less clicks and less time to setup your software but it works only for software that needs only 1 output.

VSTi programs like piano, harp or bass can easily  be used with the Instrument Track since you won’t need multiple outputs/tracks.

As you can see, there’s no “worse” or “better” track. It really depends on the program that you want to use.

What I like to do is to use the Instrument Tracks on my bass VSTi – since it produces 1 sound, the bass guitar sound – and MIDI tracks on my Drum VSTi in case I want to blend some drum sounds with the drum sounds of my acoustic kit.

Let’s See How To Setup A VSTi Program Using The Instrument Track

Right click on the empty space and then Add Instrument Track.

36-add-instrument-track

Choose a VSTi that needs only 1 output.

37-choose-vst-instrument

1. By clicking the little piano icon you open your program’s interface window.

2. Click on Inserts to insert your VSTs there.

38-edit-instrument-inserts

It’s easier than it seems

I know that when you visited this page you thought “what is this thing?!”.

The tutorial is a bit long yeah, but I would like to help you understand everything and not leave you with unanswered questions.

I guarantee that you will get used to it really fast.

Just follow step by step this tutorial and I am sure that you will be able to record without the help of this tutorial in just a couple of hours!

If you wanna thank me for this guide consider sharing this guide and leaving a comment below 🙂

Share some love for: How To Record On Cubase – The A to Z Guide.

 

17 Responses

  1. Cody Blanchard

    April 21, 2015 4:35 pm

    Hey there Pas, sorry I haven’t had time yet to read through your walkthrough yet but this article sparked a interest about your personal preference.
    Do you prefer using cubase over other DAWs? And do you have a archive of vst plugins that you use with this?
    Have you experimented with ableton live?
    Or the unreachable Pro tools ?
    Can you reveal your top 10 or 20 3rd party plugins

    Reply
    • Paschalis

      April 21, 2015 9:39 pm

      Hi!

      I prefer cubase and studio one over pro tools. Pro tools are great for mixing and mastering but I didn’t really like their midi workflow.
      A friend of mine is using ableton live, it was pretty weird for me when I first saw it, but once you get the basics it’s damn easy and you can automate everything so damn easy (thus the name live). Great for EDM stuff. I am using Studio One right now though.
      I love the CLA pack from waves, Fabfilter, DUY plugins, PSP audioware and Steven Digital plugins mostly. 🙂

      Let me know if I can help more!

      Reply
  2. Iulian

    November 15, 2015 1:25 pm

    Hi,
    I’m trying to record an acoustic guitar, everything seems to be set up properly (I can hear the guitar sound coming through my Steinberg CI2 if I turn the Mix Knob to Input), but when I click on Record Enable for the audio track, nothing happens. The button does not stay lit up so I cannot arm the channel for recording. Do you have an idea why that happpens?

    Thanks,
    Iulian

    Reply
    • Paschalis

      November 16, 2015 7:33 am

      Hi there, you should have the mix knob all the way to the right and play with the input gain until you hear a sound.
      Record/Monitor buttons in your DAW both enabled. Let me know if this worked!

      Reply
  3. Joe

    November 18, 2015 1:01 pm

    This looks like a pretty good website with some valuable information, but those irritating links to Facebook and G+ and whatever on the left cover up some of the text on every page on my android phone!

    Reply
  4. Damoah Solomon

    January 7, 2016 1:29 pm

    Please I want you to give me hint about how use the cue base 5 itself to create beat.

    Thanks a lot for your help and support.

    Reply
    • Paschalis

      September 5, 2016 8:23 pm

      The settings for reducing noises? Just make sure your recording source has no noise 🙂 For example, if you record a guitar cabinet move the mic off-axis to remove some fuzziness.

      Reply
  5. Glenn

    April 14, 2017 11:15 pm

    Thank you for the tutorial It has been a tremendous help to me and you did it in a way that even total newbs like me can understand. Thank you. However, I do not see the gain to adjust it and I have looked everywhere (I think). I am using Cubase Artist 8.0. Do you have tutorials on what to do after all the tracks are laid down? For example adding effects, mixing and saving it in a format such as MP3 that can be shared via email and played on phones, radios,etc….I am totally new to this. The only thing i’ve ever used is Magix MusicMaker 2015 Premium.
    Again thank you for the tutorial. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge.

    Reply

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