Preparation of a Cubase Project

Hi everyone!

My assignment for week 2 of Introduction to Music Production at Coursera deals with the preparation of a project in Cubase Pro 8, the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of my choice. I will guide you through the most important steps that need to be done prior to recording. Unfortunately the screen-shots are in German as my operating system is German only.

The first thing to remember is, that a DAW project is not a single file but rather a whole folder with a predefined internal structure, the project folder. One golden rule is to always keep the file structure inside this project folder intact. Otherwise you will likely run into problems such as missing audio files. Even though Cubase provides search function for missing files, you should always keep everything together properly. This will also help when backing up projects or moving to another computer.
I use a dedicated solid state drive to store all projects, while the folder structure is self-explanatory by the use of client- and release-name as well as song-name for the individual project-folders.
For the present example I will create an “IMP” folder with a “Week 2” folder inside of it.

After starting Cubase Pro 8 the welcome screen called “steinberg hub” pops up.

Steinberg Hub

The welcome screen of Cubase Pro 8 – Steinberg Hub

Clicking on the highlighted area generates a new empty project. Another dialogue opens where the location of the empty project has to be specified.

Create a project folder at specific location

Create an empty project (folder) at a user specified location

As described above the new project is stored as a sub-folder to “IMP” under the name “Week2”. Clicking “OK” opens the following view in my dual-screen setup.

Empty project window with track-view on the left and mixer on the right hand side.

Empty project window on the left and mixer on the right hand side as it is shown on my specific dual-screen setup

The project window with tool- and status-bar, track list, etc. is shown on the left and the mixer on the right screen. We still need to save the project file (.cpr in Cubase) as Cubase has only created the folder structure earlier. After saving the project using the name “week2.cpr” the project folder looks like this

Project folder without any recording done so far

Project folder without any recording done so far

If there has been some material recorded already, two more sub-folders, namely “Images” and “Track Pictures” are added to the project folder. The folder “Images” contains the waveform images shown in the track list portion of Cubase while “Track Pictures” contains custom pictures that can be added to a mixer-channel. There’s actually another folder called “Edits”, which is only created as soon as some edits have been done.

Project folder with all sub-folders present after something has been recorded.

Project folder with (nearly) all sub-folders present after something has been recorded.

Now that the project folder and the actual project file have been created the project preferences have to be set by clicking on “project” from the main menu and then “project preferences” as highlighted in the following picture.

Open project preferences

Open project preferences

The most important settings in the preferences dialogue are again highlighted. I usually set the sample rate to 44.1 kHz, the bit depth (word length) to 24 Bit and the file type to broadcast wave. In the course Loudon Stearns recommends using a sample rate of 48 kHz. I have to admit that I am not quite sure at the moment if 48 kHz is preferable to 44.1 kHz if you are working with audio-only projects because a compact disk will have 44.1 kHz anyway. The thing that bothers me is a possible signal degradation when down-sampling, as pointed out in this article. I surely have to do a bit more research on that topic and will probably come back to you with another blog post on this. What is important though is to use a bit depth of 24 Bit (instead of 16 Bit) to make use of the hugely improved dynamic range. Remember 16 bit is able to represent 2^16 = 65 536 values while 24 bit is able to represent 2^24 = 16 777 216 values. The practical use of this fact is that you can leave more headroom to avoid digital clipping but still retain a signal that doesn’t suffer from noise.

set project preferences

set project preferences

All those settings have to possibly be set for your interface too. In my case this is the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 + Octopre MK II. The settings have to be dialed in using the Saffire mix control software. We also set the buffer size there, starting with 128 samples and probably increasing that value if glitches start to appear.

Saffire Mix Control Settings

Saffire Mix Control Settings: sample rate and buffer size

Furthermore, the interface has to be selected within Cubase. This is done using the “hardware” –> “configure hardware” dialogue.

configure hardware

Open the configure hardware dialog

In this dialogue your interface driver, the ASIO Saffire in my case, needs to be set. You can also see an estimate of input and output latency in milliseconds here. If you actually want to measure round-trip latency you need to use a third-party program.

VST system settings

VST system settings

By clicking F4 the VST-connections dialogue opens, where inputs, outputs and several other routing options are configured.

Input configuration

Input configuration

One option in Cubase is the control room, which is a very powerful monitor controller. Here you can see my control room settings, using 3 pairs of monitors that can be switched between via a hardware midi controller as well as two pairs of headphones for individual headphone mixes. However, I have to admit that I mostly use the zero latency monitoring provided by the onboard DSP of the Liquid Saffire 56.

Control Room settings

Control Room settings

Additionally, a sketch of the control room can be shown.

Control Room overview

Control Room overview

Now the mixer shows all 16 inputs as well.

Cubase mixer showing all 16 available inputs.

Cubase mixer showing all 16 available inputs

Now we are all set and done to create our first audio track set the inputs properly and start recording. Just make sure to name every track prior to recording to avoid audio files being named somehow inexplicable. I hope I managed to conclusively show you how you can go about preparing a project in Cubase Pro 8 and thank you very much for reading this post.

All the best,
Markus

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