Cubase 5 – Getting started, configuration, settings, how to record songs

In this tutorial, I am going to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years that may get you started with your recording sessions in Cubase. I am going to focus mainly on the preparation process, general settings, inputs and VST settings in Cubase 5. The following pieces of advice may very well work on any upper versions of Cubase like Cubase PRO 8.5, but I have tested them only on Cubase 5, since that’s the version I own right now. Let’s get started:

0. The obvious

Before getting lost in the following configurations, make sure that your audio interface is connected to your computer and it is installed properly. You can verify this by listening to a Youtube song or playing any type of audio file from your local disk.

Cubase 5 Getting Started Tutorial

1. Getting started

When you start Cubase for the first time, you should choose New Project in the pop-up window or from the File > New Project option. A new pop-up should appear, asking you to choose the type of template you are going to use. Choose “Empty” and then press OK button. Next, you are asked to choose the working folder, the folder that will contain all the recordings you make for this particular project. I like to be organized, so I keep a separate folder for each song, so things won’t get to mixed up in the process. In the end, your screen should like just like in the image above.

Cubase 5 setting audio interface setting

2. Setting the Audio Interface in Cubase 5

In some cases, Cubase will auto-select your laptop/desktop’s audio interface instead of your audio interface. In order to make sure the proper interface is set on your project, go to Main menu > Devices > Device Setup > VST Audio System and select your audio interface. Once you’ve done that, press OK/Save.

3. VST Settings for microphone in Cubase

By default, Cubase 5 allows you to record using a stereo input. In other words, you will get the left and the right source on the same channel (if you are planning to record on a stereo channel). But there might be a problem, since most microphones are mono, so you will be getting signal only from left or right, the channel containing only the self noise that’s coming the recording chain. In this case, you should make some changes in the VST connection settings in order to capture only the channel that’s active.

Press F4 or select Main Menu > Devices > VST Connections. Choose the “Inputs” tab, and select 2xMono from the Presets drop down. If there is no such options there, you have to do it manually: delete everything in the BusName table and Press Add Bus twice in order to add two Mono Inputs. Make sure each Bus Name has both Left and Right as device port settings. Now, you should have two mono inputs set, one for the left and one for the right channel. Close this window and return to the main window.

Adding new channel in cubase

4. Adding a new channel in Cubase

In order to add a new audio channel to your project, select Main Menu > Project > Add Track > Audio. A new pop-up should appear, allowing you to choose the type of audio channel you are going to create. Create a new Stereo channel by pressing OK. Alternatively, you can do this by right cliking in the bluish vertical area, just like in the image above.

setting microphone input

5. Setting the microphone as mono input in Cubase

Open the mixer window by pressing F3 or by clicking on the small mixer button under the main menu. There, you should see the mix-volume for your newly created audio channel and the mono1 (Audio 01 in the image above), Mono1 and Mono 2 input channels (Mono In and Mono In 2 in the image above). In the upper area of Audio 01, just above “Stereo Out” lies the input settings for the Audio channel you have created. See which mono inputs has an active signal and select it as the the source for your audio channel. In my example above, I have set MonoIn as the recording source. Close the mixer window, make sure the recording is enabled on this channel and press record. If everything works smoothly, you should be able to record your voice on the audio channel you’ve just created. If there is no sound on the recording, you should probably choose the other Mono input.

Troubleshooting and hints:

  • By pressing the small speaker on the audio channel’s controls, you should be able to hear live what the channel captures.
  • If the process fails and there is no input signal from the condenser microphone, make sure the 48V Phantom Power is activated on your audio interface.
  • I like to record mono inputs on Stereo channels since there are times when you want to add a stereo effect to a particular channel, and if that channel is mono then you won’t be getting the effect you want.

A short guide for home studio beginners

As I said in my previous article, buying all the right equipment for a home studio is not enough. There are so many aspects that you should take into consideration before even setting up a budget for your studio. If you are a beginner, you will soon learn that recording music at home is not as easy as you previously thought…

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Top 10 music software for a home recording project

13 years ago, when I first got into music, the Internet was not packed with tutorials and advices on how to create your own home recording studio, how to make an instrumental, how to record music, how to mix and master a song. Living in a small city made it impossible for me to achieve the right quality for my music. The lack of information almost broke my wings and the first couple of years of me entering the music world represented the dark age of my small “carrier”. It took some time before I got my hands on a decent music software. Those where the days when I was using the N-Track Studio to record my vocals on an instrumental created on a common keyboard. As I said, totally unprofessional.

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A short tutorial on how To Master a Song or Album [video]

Ok, so you have seen what “Youtube” says about mixing and mastering. I will give you my fast recipe about this topic. Before going into details, you need to know there is no ultimate tutorial on how to mix and master a song, because there are many factors involved, and the raw recordings will always sound different. There are so many mics, so many soundcards, it’s impossible to create a recipe that will work for every each one.

The Mix

First, you need to lay down your vocals. That’s the first thing you should take care of. Try to have the best performance ever, if you notice a mistake remove that recording and try again. Don’t think that the mixing will “save the day” because you will end up with a mediocre project. After you have your vocals in the multi-track software, you need to clean them. Use the cut tool and remove the parts before the actual voice and the large silence parts. It should be an easy process. Once you have your vocals cleaned, the hook/chorus is in place, you need to apply effects to each track. What I like to do here, is to create a Group or a FX channel and send the output of all these tracks to that group. This way, you can add the effects to a single Group/FX channel and it would be easier to work and to control. If you need additional effects for chorus, you can use a secondary group or FX channel for that group. And if we are talking about chorus, you should know that the chorus needs a different mix in order to stand up and be noticed. What I like to do is apply a stereo effect on it (adding a small delay to the left channel) or pan the chorus vocals in original mix, one to the left, one to the right and live the third one as it is. I presume that you have at least three vocals for the chorus. That should give you a nice stereo effect.

Mixing effects

I like to add the following VST effects on the vocal group: EQ (to cut down frequencies below 150hz), compression (max 4:1), de-esser, reverb. Sometimes, if you add the reverb before the first EQ, you will notice that the vocals may stand better in the mix. You should experiment with all these effects, depending on your music genre. At this point, you should watch the overall output levels of the song. Make sure there is no clipping (usually marked by red).

Mastering a song

Once the mix is done, you need to add mastering effects. I like the Wave SSL for mastering and I try to use effects that are transparent and clean. Add a small touch in the high frequencies (optional), stereo pan (optional), a mastering compressor add a maximizer (L2 or L3 is nice). You should listen to your final song on different sound systems and make sure there is not to much compression there. What I like to do is compare the sound levels and audio quality of my song with another song that’s hot right now on TV. That should give you an idea on what sound mainstream producers are going for.

Most of the audio effects plugins used in this video come from the Waves SSL 4000 plugin. You should the package is not cheap, but it’s used by audio engineers all over the world. There are many free or cheaper alternatives, but Waves plugins are the best.