Why I Use Cubase

September 5, 2013

Now that the dust has settled following a whirlwind of film happenings, I would like to kick things off here at the Exit Signs studio with a write up of my favorite audio tool. At the center of my recording and production process is Steinberg's Cubase 7, a Digital Audio Workstation that I've been using for nearly 10 years now. It's sometimes difficult to pin down exactly how and why people commit to certain software, and my story is no different; much of it stemmed from what can only be called naivety to the other options available to me. It could also be considered a simple matter of circumstance, as I possessed at the time only a Windows PC for which pirated software was readily available.

When an early version of Steinberg's Nuendo (the big brother to Cubase) landed in my lap, I dove in and never looked back. Prior to this I had worked with a number of tools going as far back as the DOS-based Fast Tracker, then graduating to what was then known as Fruity Loops, and finally discovering Propellerhead's Reason which became a favorite of mine for years. After working with Nuendo for a few years and really getting a feel for its interface and recording capabilities, I finally realized that its feature set was complete overkill and decided to purchase my first shiny copy of Cubase 4. This was it: my production software of choice, with which I would record brilliant songs and produce most excellent film scores!

At this point I had amassed hundreds of project files for songs, each of which relied on a fair number of 3rd-party VST instrument and effect plugins. There truly was no turning back at this point, and my efficiency working with the Cubase's UI and feature set was growing every day. No amount of impressive feature lists from new versions of Apple's Logic or Pro Tools could sway me, as migrating to a new DAW would now be a painful undertaking. Nevertheless, I would be lying if I said I don't feel occasional envy when I hear about unique features in competing software - and I do additionally use the now-ubiquitous Ableton Live when taking to the stage - but I am very pleased with Cubase and the functionality that continues to improve with each version.

In no particular order, some of my favorite things about Cubase (version 7) include:

  1. An extremely powerful MIDI editor view - I work with MIDI extensively and find that I can program and edit it very effectively with the many built-in tools.
  2. Flexible automation - The excellent scaling features allow manipulation of automation data in ways that I would otherwise find very tedious.
  3. Chord Track & Chord Assistant - This new feature lets me quickly experiment with chord ideas and work out progressions that I likely would not have discovered on my own.
  4. Integrated 32-bit VST bridge - Most plugins that I use are 64-bit at this point, but a handful of unique instruments and effects remain 32-bit; this lets me continue to use them in an otherwise modern 64-bit host.
  5. Very customizable full-screen mixer - I keep this mixer view full-size on my laptop's display while working with Cubase's sequencer on my main 27" display.
  6. Quick multi-track lane-based comping / editing - I use this to easily pick parts from the best takes and combine them into one (non-destructively).
  7. Good video support for matching a composition frame by frame to film footage - This is essential to me when scoring a film and also works nicely with the video window moved to my secondary display.
  8. VariAudio vocal pitch editing and PitchCorrect plugin - These may not be as powerful as Melodyne or AutoTune, but work great in my experience for refining my not-so-perfect vocal takes.
  9. Really nice channel strip built into every channel - Very quick access to a simple noise gate, compressor, etc. without having to load additional inserts.
  10. MIDI plugins - It seems other hosts have recently caught up with this feature, but I have gotten a ton of mileage out of the Arpeggiator, Delay and other effects that allow very creative manipulation of MIDI tracks.
  11. Steinberg's CMC controllers - I have the CH and TP models for very quick hands-on control of the channel strips and transport, specially-made for Cubase.
  12. Cubase IC Pro iOS app - I use this on my iPad to navigate markers and record vocal and guitar takes from across the room via wifi, which saves me a lot of trips back and forth!


I will forever remain interested in the constantly-evolving world of audio software and keep up on every bit of it that I can, but as of today I am very satisfied with my current set of tools and the workflows I have developed with them. I'm spoiled by the wealth of (affordable) options available to me, and have zero nostalgia for the early days of huge studios recording to expensive tape. Cubase allows me to translate ideas in my head into high-fidelity sound, rapidly and without any of those hurdles that can bog down creative. But as I mentioned, I am no stranger to other software and will dive into some tips & tricks for the amazingly-versatile Ableton Live when we return next time.

Do you have a deep-rooted love for a piece of audio software that you never intend to let go? Is this love justifiable, or simply born of circumstance? Tell me all about it in the comments!