Well, I finally took the plunge and upgraded to Mac OS Big Sur. Most of the major plugin developers I use had published updates so I was fairly confident it would all still work. And I’m happy to report, so far, I haven’t encountered a single broken plugin!
One piece of software which did stop working though was Touch Portal. The app continued to load fine on desktop and iPad, and it showed as being connected, but none of the keystrokes were getting through to Cubase.
A short bit of googling later, and I had the answer from the Touch Portal website…
Since a macOs update you have to add Touch Portal in the security & privacy settings. If Touch Portal is already added, please remove it and re add it again.
Security & Privacy >> remove >> add >> Touch Portal Do this in the categories Accessibility and Input Monitoring.
After following the above, all is working again so I thought I’d share this in case anyone else encounters the same problem.
As good as it’s been to finally organise my Kontakt libraries in Cubase, it does mean you end up with a template containing literally hundreds of instrument tracks. Fortunately, with the help of the Project Logical Editor and TouchPortal on my iPad, navigating them is a breeze. So I thought I’d share what I did as it may be of help to you too!
Before I get onto that though, it’s probably best to take you through the naming conventions and folder structure I used first.
There are lots of schools of thought on how to organise your instruments but I decided to start with 5 top-level folders of instrument families; Strings, Brass, Winds, Percussion and Synths. Within each of these families, I then have subfolders for the individual instrument types. For example, Strings has subfolders of Violins, Violas, Celli, Basses and Ensembles.
This worked for the majority of my libraries, but I did also create some separate folders which sit outside of the above for things like Guitars, Voices and Music Boxes. Whilst I freely admit that Music Boxes could have sat in the Percussion family (under Tuned Percussion), they are one of my go-to sounds, so I liked the idea of them being their own thing.
Track Naming Conventions
I prefix each of the Instrument Tracks with either the name of the brand or the name of the library if it contains lots of instruments. For example, the Spitfire Audio BBC SO library is prefixed ‘BBC’, whereas the individual Waverunner Audio instruments, are just prefixed ‘Waverunner’. I then add the name of the instrument, followed by any details on the articulations used.
e.g. BBC Tenor Trombone Legato
Individual Tracks vs Key Switching
This is a whole topic in itself, and there’s a great video from Guy Mitchelmore covering the pros and cons for both approaches, but having tried both, I personally like to have the most commonly used articulations on separate tracks.
Project Logical Editor
Now to the fun bit! How to take control of your template and only see the bits you are interested in. And this is where the Project Logical Editor comes in. You’ll find it in the Cubase ‘Project’ menu, under ‘Project Logical Editor…’
You can create and use Logical Editor presets to hide or unhide specific folders, which Cubase refers to as visibility. I’ll describe the process for hiding everything apart from the Strings.
First, I created a preset to hide all folder tracks. I named this ‘Visibility – Hide All’
Next, I created a preset to show the Strings folder, which will automatically make any subfolders visible as well. I named this ‘Visibility – Show STRINGS’.
I then mapped the two new editor presets to key commands. You’ll find this in the Cubase ‘Edit’ menu, under ‘Key Commands’. To locate the preset you created, use the search field above the ‘Commands’ section (Shown below with the search term ‘STRINGS’).
Then type any key, or sequence of keys, until you find a combination which isn’t used. As you type, it will appear in the ‘Type in Key’ field on the right of the ‘Key commands’ window, and any existing mapping will be shown under ‘Assigned to’. Once you have found an unused combination, just click ‘Assign’, then the OK button.
In my case, I mapped ‘Hide’ to Control+Shift+H, and ‘Strings’ to Control+Shift+1.
As a front-end navigation tool, I’m using Touch Portal, an iOS app which simulates key presses on my iMac. Taking the example of the ‘Strings’ instrument family, it’s just a case of mapping a button to the ‘Hide’ and ‘Strings’ key commands per the below screenshot. I’m sure you can do much the same with Lemur, Touch OSC or even a hardware controller such as Stream Deck.
You’ll no doubt be wondering why I suggested putting the brand or library name as a prefix? Well, you can also create Logical editor presets that show only tracks that contain a given keyword. Here’s an example for the BBC Core library.
I then have a second Cubase screen available in Touch Portal which has buttons for libraries instead of Instrument types.
I’ve got lots of things on the go at the moment, so thought I’d take a step back and summarise what I’m up to.
Korg NTS-1 editor
I recently picked up a Korg NTS-1 synth and have had a lot of fun trying out all the user oscillators, particular those from Sinevibes. There are one or two shortcomings, such as the custom controls for the user oscillators not being controllable via MIDI and some audible noise when powering the NTS-1 from my computer. Running on a USB battery pack sorts the latter issue out though I’m pleased to say. And as the user interface is a bit basic, I thought I’d build an editor in MaxforLive.
I decided to revisit the patch randomiser I coded for my Meeblip Micro editor, but this time, triggering it with incoming MIDI notes. That way, each note will fire off a completely different sound. The seed for the idea came from a twitter post from Finlay Shakespeare, detailing his time working for Novation. The end result is something a bit like the AFX mode on the Novation Bass Station II, but completely random each time as opposed to cycling through presets. Sounds really good – most of the time!
To add some predictability though, you can control which elements are randomised using the toggles. With just cutoff selected, it works a bit like a Sample and Hold.
Still have a bit of work to do, not least to add more elements for randomisation and controls for the effects, but hope to have it available to download in a couple of days. Then I’ll be using it for a 1 synth challenge
Gotek Floppy Emulator
My first sampler was an Akai S2000 and I’ve been meaning to back-up my old sound library for some time now. For years, this was my main sound source and whilst it’s true that nowadays, we’re spoilt with the abundance of gigabyte sample libraries and soft synths, I have fond memories of what I could achieve with much more limited resources at my disposal.
I also know there are some sounds in there from equipment I no longer have, such as the dying EDP Wasp Deluxe that I found dumped outside a neighbours house (true story).
So, I’m going to install a Gotek floppy emulator and back up all my sounds to that. Not exactly sure how to do it yet, but I’m a fast learner!
But, just to be contrary, I’ve also succumbed to the Black Friday sales and bought lots of gigabyte sample libraries including Spitfire Audio’s BBC Core!
Guru Gara Synth Modules
I’ve purchased more PCB’s and Panel’s from Guru Gara Synth and already have a single full voice up and running in my Eurorack system (Oscillator, VCF, VCA and Envelope). Calibration was pretty straightforward and it tracks nicely. I also went with the more expensive CEM3340 reissued chips, as used in the Roland SH101 and MC202, and the oscillator sounds all the better for it!
I have another 2 oscillators and a second envelope to build next as well as a ring modulator.
Although I’ve been using Ableton for many years now, my sequencer journey started back on Cubase on the Atari ST (That is if you discount the Cheetah SpecDrum module I had with my ZX Spectrum before that). I stayed with Cubase until around version 5, then made the move to Sonic Foundry’s Acid, before finally settling on Ableton.
So why the history lesson on my sequencers? Well, as I’m writing more cinematic stuff at the moment, I thought I’d revisit Cubase 11 and have been really impressed. It’s certainly a different way of working, but it’s amazing how much of it feels familiar too.
One of the main reasons for trying Cubase again was to build up the obligatory orchestral template, and finally make some sense of the various Kontakt sample libraries I’ve bought along the way. It’s a slow, laborious process, and getting the different libraries to play nicely together is a bit of challenge, but it’s strangely rewarding too.
Of course, the downside of a mammoth orchestral template is how you navigate the thing, and this was another factor in choosing Cubase thanks to it’s powerful visibility agents (which I’m not going to even try and explain – lots of head scratching to work those out I can tell you!)
But even then, navigating through menus wasn’t much fun, so I’ve built an editor using TouchPortal that allows me to hide and unhide sections of the template, manage tracks etc. as well as having transport controls. Unlike other similar tools such as Touch OSC or Lemur, it’s a lot more straight forward to program too, although it is at heart, a glorified keyboard emulator. But, it works brilliantly for my purposes and is definitely a good alternative to something like a StreamDeck controller.
Incidentally, I did consider the StreamDeck controller app too, but was put off by the annual subscription for that. Plus, the limitation on 15 buttons.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. Oh, and I also need to finish my third Meat Beat Manifesto mix tape too. So I better get on, lot’s to do…