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cubase automation



What is automation, and why would I need to use it?

It’s possible to control different elements of a mix (such as how loud a track is, or which side of the stereo image the instrument appears on) and record these elements through time. This is automation. For example, it may be that you want a guitar to play in the background for most of the song, and then be louder in the instrumental break when it has a solo. If you are doing an audio mixdown (using the export function), it is not possible to change this as the computer is mixing down.

In this tutorial, we'll see how automation overcomes this problem, and makes it possible to record many changes to the arrangement, subtly (or suddenly) changing vocal or instrument levels as the song progresses, as well as giving you control over a whole manner of other elements.


How to use basic automation

1. Find a track you would like to automate

2. Click on the area of the red circle marked (see diagram below)

Cuabse automation

This will cause a small arrow pointing downwards to appear (in earlier versions of Cubase there will be a "+" sign here). When this is clicked, the first automation lane appears.

3. Now click on the "w" (write) and the "r" (read). These will change colour to red and green respectively.

4. Clicking on the grey straight line in this lane will cause it to change colour (it will now be the same colour as the track colour). Doing this has now set a volume level.

5. Now click again somewhere else on this line, and drag the line upwards (see diagram above).

6. Click once more, further on in the track (so it resembles the shape of the diagram)

6. Now play back the song and you should find that this track becomes gradually louder, and then quieter, as the material progresses.


Automating other elements of the mix

It's possible to control a whole series of other elements using Cubase automation. Not only can tracks be automated (e.g. volume, pan etc.) but also vst instruments and audio effects.

Here's how to change other elements on the track:-

1. Open the automation as before.

2. Click and hold the word "Volume" (see above). This opens a list of other possible elements that can be automated.

3. Select "Pan"

4. As before, click on the straight line that has appeared, and drag it upwards. As you do so, you will notice the number (underneath the word "Pan") changes from a negative to a postive number. When the number is neither postive nor negative, it shows the letter "c", standing for "centre". This will cause the sound to appear in the centre of the stereo image. Numbers down or up will cause the sound to appear in the left or right speakers. Select a minus number (say about -40)

5. Click on the automation lane further into the track, and select a postive number (say about 30). Now play back the material. The instrument should move across the stereo image.


Tips for automation

1. More automation lanes can be opened by clicking in the area of the green circle (see diagram above)

2. BE CAREFUL! Remember that when the "w" key (write key) is active, Cubase will record any movements that you make specific to that track when you are playing the music back. For example, let's say that you have the mixer open, and you move the volume slider around on this automated track, whilst playing the music. Cubase has now recorded all these movements and will make them happen for you the next time you play the song back! Of course, you may not have wanted this. You can prevent this from happening by switching off the "w" so that it is no longer lit as red. Or you can delete the unwanted automation by taking the rubber tool and erasing the dots on the automation volume line.

3. This just scratches the surface of what it's possible to do with automation. Some good further reading on this topic can be found here in these "Sound on Sound" articles:-


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