So you want to play VST instruments live with your band. Well you can use cubase to do this quite easily. This tutorial will walk you through how to get low latency, set up the project, set up the outputs and how to setup the instruments.
Setting up your project
Setting up the project is quite straight forward but first i recommend you create a folder called live or live instruments and then create project folders in there for each setup you want to use. This is just good file management and will stop projects getting lost or audio files missing.
Start cubase, select create new project and select blank project.
One of the most important things to consider when playing live is latency. Latency is the amount of time it takes between you pressing a note on your midi keyboard and the sound coming out from your computer. You need it to be as low as possible so that the computer reacts as quickly as possible to your playing. Getting low latency can be tricky as the lower it goes the more CPU power and stress is put on your audio interface to compute what is happening. Some audio interfaces can achieve low latency easily but others can’t.
Click on devices from the top row of drop down menus and double click on device setup right at the bottom.
This should bring up the device setup menu like below.
The device setup window will show you what audio interface your using and the input and output latency. If Cubase shows the wrong audio interface you can choose the right one from the drop down menu. As you can see i’m using Rig kontrol 2 as my audio interface and the input latency is 6.5 ms (milli seconds) and the output latency is 10.5 ms. Both of which are too high for live work so lets get them lower.
In the left hand panel underneath “vst audiobay” will be the name of your audio interface, click on it and it will bring up another box like below.
Now once that window is open click on the control panel button which will bring up the control panel for your audio interface. From there you can change the latency settings. Most audio interfaces will have preset latency settings but if you can create a custom preset do so and save it for future reference.
You should aim to get the latency as low as possible, 2 ms is unnoticeable but anything over 6 ms is. Be careful going to low as you audio interface will start to pop and click randomly, so the name of the game is to get the right balance between latency and audio interface stability. Once your finished click apply in the device manager and your ready to rock.
Setting up inputs and outputs
Setting up the inputs and outputs is important when using cubase live. Disabling unused inputs and outputs will save on CPU power. To view your routing options go to the devices drop down menu and select VST connections or just press F4.
The VST connections window will show you the input & output configuration for the inputs, outputs, group/FX, external effects, external instruments and the studio (audition).
All were interested in here is the inputs and outputs. As were not going be using the inputs you can go ahead and delete the bus by clicking on the input tab and right clicking the buss, then select remove buss. This will save you some CPU power.
Now if you go back to the output tab, check that the right outputs are selected for your audio interface. If you want to add another output click on the add buss button, name the buss and selected the appropriate outputs. You can save your setup as a preset which can be quickly accessed. Next to the add buss button is the preset manager, click on the plus sign to save your configuration.
Now your outputs and inputs are configured for live use.
Setting up the instruments and tracks
Now all your inputs and outputs are set up and your latency is configured its time for the fun bit, the instruments. For this tutorial i want to be able to play the Mr Ray 73 plugin rhodes simulator via my midi keyboard. The techniques here will work with any vst instrument you want.
First i’ll create a midi track and name it Rhodes.
Now i need to select the right midi input. This is important if you want to use multiple instruments and midi controllers. Here i’m selecting In-A USB midisport 2×2 which is what my midi keyboards connected to.
Now we need to load the VST instrument. The shortcut for the VST instruments window is F11. Once that’s open select Mr Ray 73 or whatever you want to use.
Now we need to connect the midi track to the vst instrument.
Now you’ve setup the instrument and the midi track you’ll be able to play it but there’s one more thing. If you don’t have the midi track selected then you’ll notice that you won’t be able to play the instrument. To stop this from happening you need to turn on monitor mode for the midi track by clicking on the button highlighted below in the screenshot.
Well that’s it your setup to play VST instruments live. If you want to change the output buss for the vst instrument then select the output channel and click on the out box. A drop down menu will appear with available outputs.
So now you know how to use Cubase to play vst instruments live. Cubase can do a lot more than just play one instrument at a time but i’m going to covering that in tutorials soon. If you have problems with CPU power and RAM or clicks and pops then you need to try and free up some CPU power by stoping other programs you don’t need. You could also make the latency bigger. If you have any questions please post them in the forum and i will answer them. Hope this tutorial was helpful.