The majority of my articles before now have been concerned with setting up enormous orchestral templates using Cubase/Logic and Vienna Ensemble Pro, which is great for people who have slave computers or own a top of the range DAW.
However there are plenty of composers who don’t like wrangling with an 800 track template, and there are others who don’t have the luxury of copious RAM or disk space to run all their libraries at the same time. Finally, there are those prefer to work on one system, eschewing the complications of slave computers and VEP configurations.
Recent versions of Cubase have introduced the ability to Deactivate/Activate tracks, which could be a game-changer, however it’s incredibly buggy, regularly forgetting MIDI inputs and expression maps when tracks are activated. The latest (8.5 at time of writing) update hasn’t fixed this.
So what is the best way to have all of your instruments at your fingertips, without the need to set up a large template?
Personally, my preferred way to tackle this is to take the Cubase Track Preset functionality and bend it to my will.I must admit I’ve never been a fan of preset implementation in Cubase. The tagging method always feels a bit messy (I know some love it) – and in this case I prefer Logic X’s simple approach of organising presets in folders.That aside, what are the benefits of using track presets?
- You can save both individual instrument tracks and groups of tracks – perfect for saving entire sections of the orchestra, or a specific library.
- Track Presets will save the track name, icon, colour and expression maps, which saves a lot of time when adding instruments.
Setting up a Skeleton Template
For this workflow I recommend setting up a template without any instruments loaded, but with all of your group channels and FX channels set up and ready to go.
This means when you fire up a new project you have a lovely clean, empty arrange screen, yet most of the hard work is already in place for the mixing process. So the moment you add an instrument – violins for example – you can quickly route them to your strings bus and the EQ and reverb is already configured.
Saving Cubase Track Presets and Keeping them Organized
Saving track presets is very easy, many of you will already know how.
Once you’ve configured your track with colour, icons and expression maps, right click the track header and select Save Track Preset.
The time consuming part is setting up your instrument tracks to begin with before you save them.It’s a job worth doing though. The first time you can load up an entire string section with a couple of clicks with all the naming an colouring already in place it’ll save so much time.
As I said, I don’t find Cubase very user friendly when it comes to dealing with presets and it’s easy for your newly created patches to get lost amongst the bundled content.To deal with this I add a couple of steps when saving:
- I use a consistent naming convention. For example STRING SECTION – Hollywood Strings V1 I for saving the entire Violins 1 section of Hollywood Strings. Once you build up a large collection of presets, this will come in very useful when scanning down a long list.
- I assign every preset five stars – this is the essential part when it comes to loading your custom preset, as we’ll see.
This is where rating each preset five stars comes in useful.
- To be able to quickly pull up the track preset dialogue box, assign a key command to Add Track > Using Track Preset.
- Click on the small grey Window Layout button at the bottom left of the dialogue box, uncheck ‘Filters’ and ‘Previewer’.
- Set the Rating filter at the top left of the dialogue box to ‘5’, as in the screenshot below.
As you can see, setting the rating to five stars means that only my track presets appear in the search, and my naming system means they are easy to browse.
You’ve probably noticed that I have a few basic instruments in the screenshot prefixed by a number. Why would I bother to do this when I can load a blank instrument the regular way?
It’s simply so that for certain instrument, such as Omnisphere, the track colour (and icon if you wish) will already be set when the instrument loads, saving a tiny amount of time, but it soon mounts up over the course of a project.
Adding a number before the instrument name moves them to the top of the preset list for easy access.That’s it! You may find ways you can customise this method to suite your workflow, but hopefully it’ll help in being able to keep your favourite instruments at hand without the need for a template that makes your eyes bleed.