Every DAW on the market has its strengths and weaknesses. Some are catered towards specific genres of music, like Ableton Live and FL Studio, while some excel at various specific tasks. As a result, before investing in one of your own, it’s important to do your research, take advantage of free trials, and figure out what you like.
That being said, throughout my time producing music I’ve come to the conclusion that I really like working in both Pro Tools and Cubase for different reasons. Within the realm of mixing and mastering, I prefer to work in Pro Tools, but when it comes to writing and recording I prefer Cubase. As a result, I’ll usually end up writing and recording a song in Cubase, and then moving it over to Pro Tools for mixing and mastering.
Although the main reason behind this is simply user preference that is unique to me and my workflow, there are some very specific reasons that I split up my workflow in this way. In the video on this page, as well as in the rest of this article, I will be outlining those specifics.
Cubase: Custom Drum Maps
One of the main reasons I prefer to write in Cubase is the option to create different drum maps for different samplers. I utilize this in a way that has become absolutely critical to my workflow.
In my writing template I have a selection of drum samplers that are always ready to go and routed with multi-out configurations. Additionally, each one has a custom-made drum map which allows me to look on the piano roll and see the name of each drum kit piece as I’m programming. This way, I don’t have to awkwardly shuffle around the piano roll to find the sound I’m looking for. Instead, I simply see the name of the articulation I want and I’m off to the races.
Cubase: Retrospective Audio Record
I’m not sure if that’s the actual name for this feature, but it makes sense to me so that’s what I’m calling it. I’m also not 100% sure that Pro Tools doesn’t have this feature, but I’ve looked everywhere for it and haven’t been able to find it.
Let’s say you have Cubase set to record a one bar section for a vocal part. You set your punch in and punch out locators so that it starts and stops recording when you need it to, give yourself some pre-roll, hit record, and you’re ready to go. Now, what if you came in slightly too early before the punch in locator told Cubase to start recording? Normally, you’d have to re-record and make sure you come in on time the next time, but not with retrospective audio record.
This feature tells Cubase to start recording you a few seconds before you tell it to. What this means is that you’ll never have to deal with a guitar pick attack getting cut off or a vocal syllable sounding choppy because the vocalist slightly rushed. All you have to do is slide the audio event backwards and the beginning of the take will sound just fine.
Cubase: MIDI Manipulation
It’s no secret that Pro Tools is a little bit behind most DAWs in the MIDI world.
One big thing I love about working with MIDI in Cubase is how easy it is to make parts crescendo, decrescendo, and have a bigger or smaller dynamic range. All you have to do is make sure your MIDI editor is displaying velocity information at the bottom, highlight the MIDI you want to edit, and then look at the tiny squares on the borders of the newly highlighted part in the velocity window.
Drag the one in the top right corner down for a decrescendo or drag the one in the top left down for a crescendo. You can also drag the one on the right in the middle down to lower the MIDI’s dynamic range or drag it up to raise the MIDI’s dynamic range.
Cubase: Group Track Creation
The process of creating a group track, also known as an aux track or a bus, is much faster in Cubase.
Simply create a keyboard shortcut for “mixer – add track to selected: group”, highlight the audio track(s) with the audio you want to send to a group, use your keyboard shortcut, and that’s it. Just like that you’ve got a new group that’s already routed and ready to go.
Cubase: Sample Track Creation
You can create a keyboard shortcut that makes sample track creation insanely fast.
Create a keyboard shortcut for “media – create sampler track”, go into the media window on the right side of your screen, find a sample that you like and left click it, use that keyboard shortcut you just made, and now you have a new sample track that already has the sample you chose loaded onto it.
Cubase: Custom Keyboard Shortcuts and Macros
Do I really need to explain this one? Let’s just say the possibilities of what you can do with just your keyboard inside of Cubase are pretty endless.
Pro Tools: HEAT
Honestly, if it weren’t for HEAT I probably wouldn’t use Pro Tools at all anymore.
HEAT is a wonderful set-it-and-forget-it kind of saturation module that can work across every individual audio track in your session. It’s only got 2 knobs, drive and tone, and that’s all it needs. Turn the drive knob to the right for some tube saturation, turn it to the left for tape. Additionally, you can make HEAT bypassed and/or pre-fader on any individual channel you’d like, and you can also bypass it or turn it off across your whole session.
The hype and color that HEAT will add throughout the entire frequency spectrum of your mix is fantastic. Not only does it sound wonderfully musical, but it takes pretty much no effort to set. Watch the video on this page to hear what a mix sounds like with and without HEAT being applied.
I hope you got something out of this! If you did, be sure to sign up for the Beneath the Bunk Studios Newsletter for updates on new blog posts and videos by clicking here. Also feel free to click/tap any of the circle icons below to follow me elsewhere.
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