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electronic MUSICIAN

Cool Tip of the Month

January 1, 2003

Whether you're cutting tracks with speed-metal bands or editing music for the next blockbuster film, you need to know how to create a tempo track in your DAW software. This month, I'll explain an option for creating a simple tempo track in Cubase SX. Cubase's Tempo Track is used to create musical time signature and tempo events. Creating such changes in a song is sometimes referred to as tempo and meter mapping.

  1. Enable the Master button in the Transport panel. That allows events in the tempo track to control tempo and time-signature changes.

  2. Open the Tempo Track Editor by selecting Tempo Track from the Project menu (in Windows, Control + T; on a Mac, Command + T).

  3. If necessary, adjust the window magnification by using the zoom sliders in the window's lower right to display the range of the song you'd like to edit. It's usually easier to begin editing tempo events with the Snap button enabled so that positions are adjusted to the bar lines.

  4. Enable the Pencil Tool and click in the Tempo Curve Display area at the point where you want to insert a tempo change and drag up or down to the desired tempo. For abrupt changes in tempo, repeat the process with the Insert Curve set to Jump.

  5. To create tempo changes over time, set the Insert Curve setting to Ramp. With the Pencil Tool enabled, click to insert the destination tempo. A line will ramp up or down from the previous tempo to indicate the transition. Continue adding tempo changes as desired.

It's important to be aware that these tempo changes do not affect any existing audio tracks unless you've created audio slices in them. If you do change tempo settings afterwards, MIDI tracks will drift out of sync with existing audio tracks.
Steve Albanese

Scrambling Sound Forge Loops

Most people know Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge as a sophisticated stereo audio editor. With just a few mouse clicks, you can use Sound Forge's Playlist feature to create very complex, stuttering, wacky rhythm loops.

Begin by opening Sound Forge and loading a file such as a drum or bass pattern. Then choose Playlist/Cutlist from the Special menu. Highlight different segments of the pattern and drag them into the Playlist window. You can rearrange entries in the List just by dragging them up or down, or preview each entry by clicking on the arrow to its left. Double-click on an entry to reveal its Edit menu, and then set the number of times you want that entry to repeat (from 0 to 999) before moving to the next one. If you want your entire Playlist under MIDI control (Sound Forge is an audio editor, remember), just set Trigger to MIDI: Note On-Play, and select a note and channel.

Right-click in the Playlist window and select Convert to New. A new audio file will open that contains the entire sequence of events you put in the Playlist. You can't mix different files directly into a Playlist, but you can convert any number of lists into new audio files and then crossfade or mix them together as needed. Without much effort, you can rearrange and scramble your way to some very interesting music!
Dennis Miller

The Lost Chords

Steinberg's VST instrument plug-in Virtual Guitar is a handy creative tool for nonguitarists who want to comp guitar parts. If you try to use it on the Macintosh with any program other than Cubase, however, a common problem occurs immediately after installation. When you open either the Acoustic or Electric Guitar in your favorite sequencer, a message says, “Files Not Found!” and you're instructed to reinstall Virtual Guitarist. You can reinstall it until you're blue in the face, though, and it still won't find the files.

To solve the problem, first check the Virtual Guitarist Web site ( to ensure that you have the latest version, and then download the utility VGSetContentFolder. When you run the application, it will ask you to locate Virtual Guitarist and then locate the folder containing Virtual Guitarist's samples. Virtual Guitarist should then work normally.
Geary Yelton

Simulating 12-String Guitars

Most 12-string guitar patches are simply layered guitar samples that are tuned an octave apart. Unfortunately, that's not an ideal emulation, because the first two string pairs of a real 12-string are usually tuned in unison.

Instead of a using a preset 12-string patch, split the top two pitches from a 6-string guitar track and copy them to two separate tracks. Then, because string pairs don't quite sound at exactly the same time (depending on pick direction), slightly time-shift those tracks relative to each other. Quantizing one of the track pairs with a slight degree of randomization helps remove the timing uniformity between string pairs. Slight variations in Velocity can also help provide a more humanized performance. Additionally, you can add tiny amounts of Pitch Bend to simulate minute differences in tuning.

For the octave pairs, simply copy the notes to a new track and transpose the copied track down an octave. Then time-shift the copied track and add Pitch Bend as before. The results might not provide a letter-perfect simulation, but it will sound far more authentic than a factory-programmed 12-string guitar patch.
Marty Cutler

Trigger Happy

If you're working with a MIDI-only sequencer (hardware or software) and a separate audio editor or you're using two computers with MIDI sequencing on one machine and audio on the other, you might be able to bring the two worlds together.

Some audio-editing programs support MIDI keyboard shortcuts. In Cool Edit Pro 2.0, for example, those shortcuts are called MIDI Triggers, and they're easy to set up. In the Shortcuts dialog box, assign a MIDI note or controller event to trigger Transport Play. Then embed the note or event in your sequence at the appropriate location.

During playback, when the sequence reaches the MIDI event, Cool Edit Pro will play back the sound effect or audio clip. (The audio file must be open and waiting for playback.) Just make sure the computer that's running Cool Edit Pro can receive MIDI input from the sequencer. Remember that triggering a sound this way doesn't guarantee continued sync; for longer audio files that must stay locked to picture, you'll have to use SMPTE time code.
David Rubin

Make sure to check out the streaming movie tutorial of this tip to view additional options and procedures for creating tempo changes in Cubase SX. You won't be sorry! Visit for this online adventure. Also, if you dare, take the quiz to review what you've learned!

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