Cubase VST Tips & Tricks

 

Using REX Files and how to Get More Variety from Drum Loops with Cubase VST

Triggering sampled grooves (or drum loops) in a sampler was a great way to get instant incredible drum tracks, especially with all the different styles of sample CD ROMS and audio CD's available, it became pretty easy to put together a song. Using loops was also a great time saver since you didn't have to program everything from scratch.

Unfortunately, there were many drawbacks to using loops - they were not always exactly what you wanted -great groove, wrong snare - great drum sounds, terrible groove.. and so on. Tempo was another problem where you had to deal with the pitch changing along with the tempo in a sampler and if you were working with digital audio, you would have to do a time correction every single time you wanted a new tempo - which would affect the audio quality and disrupt the creative flow while working on music. Using drum loops can also become stale pretty quickly since you are triggering the same thing over and over again throughout the entire song.

Then came ReCycle! a great program that changed everything. You could cut up drum loops and send them to a sampler. But what if you don't have a sampler? Now with a combination of VST and ReCycle! you can get a greater variety out of those static drum loops and use them right in your VST audio tracks.

With or Without ReCycle!

There are 2 ways to do this: with ReCycle REX files or without ReCycle! using Cubase M-Points and by using the "Any" channel. There are advantages and disadvantages of using either method, so if you do not have ReCycle! don't worry, you can still use some of the same features.

With ReCycle! Using REX files.

Once you have sliced up the loop of your choice in ReCycle! (don't forget to enter the number of bars for it to automatically calculate the tempo for you) instead of sending it to a sampler, you can save it as a REX (ReCycle! EXport) file. Now you can go to Cubase and import a REX file right into your VST audio track; but before you do that, go to an audio track and choose the "any" channel. Now when you go to the file menu and choose Import>ReCycle File a dialog box will pop up and ask you how many channels you would like to divide (or split) your loop out on to.

Pick 3 for now and hit do it. Next set the left and right locators around the part (or hit option P on your computer keyboard) make sure cycle is on and hit play to listen to the loop. While the loop is still playing, double click on the tempo in the transport bar and enter different values with the numeric keypad (hit enter on the numeric keypad each time) try different values 120, 80, 130, 135, 136 etc - without ever stopping, you will notice that the loop speeds up and slows down each time.

How is it doing this? Let's take a look. Double click on the part to see what's inside

you will notice that the audio is cut up into different pieces, so now when you enter a different tempo it will speed up or slow down the rate each piece is played - unlike normal digital audio or samples which are all one piece of continuous audio and would play back at the same rate no matter what tempo you enter.

Viva variety!

You will also notice that the loop was split out across 3 tracks, so, next, go to your VST mixer and see how the loop is playing back on Channels 1, 2 and 3. Now pan Channel 1 hard left and Channel 3 hard right - starting to make sense now? Don't be shy, you can now click on solos, mutes, pans, EQ's, FX sends and even Effects parameters to squeeze more variety out of that tired old loop. Try sending channel 1 to the reverb and channel 2 to the delay, solo one channel and sweep the EQ, click on an effects parameter and play it in real time, the possibilities are endless. It is best to arrange the EQ/Sends the way they are in the screenshot so you can play the mixer like an instrument. If you want to record your movements, just click on Write in the VST mixer.

ReArrange the Groove

Working with such little snippets of audio is now very much like working with MIDI notes, since you can click on the individual pieces of audio to cut, copy, paste, pick up, move around and rearrange the components of the original loop. Let's say you like everything about a loop except for the snare: just delete it and replace it with any other sound you like. Groovy? If you haven't noticed by now, each piece of audio has a Q-Point, which means that each piece will snap to the closest 16th note or 32nd note on the grid - depending on what quantize value you have selected. This means you can now quantize a loop or groove quantize a loop to alter the feel of the original.

Isolating the individual drum sounds

Some people may want to work in this way, put all the kicks on one track, all the snares on another and all the hi-hats on another, then EQ and effect them separately. There is no way to do this automatically, but you can place each type of sound onto a different track. To do this hold down Shift while you move one piece to another track, this prevents you from moving it left or right which would put it out of time. Without ReCycle!

Using M-Points

If you do not have ReCycle! you can slice a loop up into pieces and get the same effect as a REX file by using M-Points (Match Points). First find a 2 or 4 bar loop, (yes, you can use a stereo loop). Next you should find the tempo of that loop by setting the Q-Point at the beginning of the loop (all the way to the left) then place the loop at the beginning of the bar. Set the Left and Right locators around the loop to get ready to automatically calculate the tempo. If the loop does not fit perfectly between the left and right locators, the tempo is wrong, to correct it simply hold down Shift and drag the number in the meter and drop it on to the end of the loop. Now you will see the tempo in the transport bar change to the correct tempo.

Get Match Points

In the audio editor, click on view to make sure dynamic events are checked, next, look just to the right where it says Volume click on it, and change it to M-Points now click on the do menu and select get match points. A dialog box will pop up

 

where you can increase the sensitivity and number of events per second, you may have to increase this if your loop is very rhythmic. Next hit Process, now you will see the Match Points , pretty much the same way ReCycle calculated the hits. Finally click on the do menu again and select Snip at M-Points. Now your loop is cut up into pieces, ready to pick up, move around, split out onto other tracks, etc.

With or Without ReCycle! Advantages/Disadvantages

The advantage of having ReCycle is that it is very quick and easy to slice a loop with the sensitivity fader, plus once you save your loop as a REX file you can automatically split the loop across a few tracks when importing into an audio track set to the "Any" channel. The advantage of using M-Points in Cubase is that it works on stereo files. One last note - you must have at least Mac VST 3.5 or PC VST 3.55 to import REX files and Mac ReCycle 1.61 or PC ReCycle 1.7 to export your own REX files.

About the writer:

Costa Kotselas worked for Steinberg for many years as a product specialist and content producer for cubase.net. Costa has also been working as a consultant to some of the world's top film composers and is now offering intensive weekend "learn cubase" seminars.

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