1. Use VCA Faders
This isn’t the same as creating Group channels, although they have their uses as well. VCA (voltage controlled) faders would once only have been found on seriously high-end mixing consoles, but they’re now available in Cubase. The idea is that they don’t change the audio routing of any channels, but they do enable you to connect any number of faders in a project to a VCA fader. When you then move that fader up and down, the channels linked to it will move proportionately by the same amount. This is important because it lets you for example set the perfect balance of multitracked drums and then adjust the level of the kit as a whole with a single fader. Of course, linked faders can be altered individually so you maintain ultimate flexibility.
2. Use Group Channels
Unlike VCA faders, Group channels collect the outputs of all tracks assigned to them and present them to the mixer as a single audio channel. Create a Group channel and then for any track in a project, click on its audio output assign menu to send it to any of the available Group channels. This is again something taken from the hardware mixing world, where physically managing 48 or more faders can become impossible. By routing similar channels to a group—say backing vocals or multitracked drums—you can control and even process them much more easily. Again, the originals remain editable too.
3. Save Versions
This might sound a little dry but it’s an important thing to know about. In the File menu you can choose not only to save a version of your project but also to save a new version. Since Cubase references audio files nondestructively, you can have multiple project versions without overwriting your audio recordings. If you go into the Preferences > General section, you can control how Cubase auto saves your projects. When you’re deep into a project, you really don’t want to find you accidentally deleted something then re-saved over it. So it makes sense to set up auto save at intervals that suit your working pace, and also configure a maximum number of backup files. On modern systems with plenty of storage you can set these very generously.
4. Manage Your Hardware Settings
Even on modern systems, running lots of plugins can eventually start to cause strain on your computer. When your project is very large it can be the case that you’re not really doing much live recording any more, rather you’re editing, arranging and mixing. Consequently, recording latency is no longer a priority. In Device Setup, tweak the buffer settings of your interface (small for low latency but high CPU, larger for more latency but less CPU load) to adjust for this. With Cubase set up for maximum processing power rather than low record latency you can squeeze some more life out of your CPU. Freezing tracks is also a good way to lessen the load overall.
5. The Pool Is Your Friend
You can view the Pool by selecting Project > Pool or by right-clicking on an audio event and choosing to view in the pool. The Pool is Cubase’s way of showing you all the audio and video content inside a project, whether it’s actually been used on the timeline yet or not. It shows you all the key attributes of a clip and even the different audio takes, where audio has been recorded in a loop. The reason this is helpful is that in a large project with maybe hundreds of different audio clips, it provides a central hub where they can all be searched, edited, exported or otherwise dealt with independently of your song structure. It makes sense to name recordings properly, since the files inherit the recording name and this will make searching far easier.
6. Understand Track View Options
Tracks in Cubase can show many different kinds of information but you don’t want to see most of it all the time—only when required. Right-clicking on one or more tracks reveals the contextual view menu with some handy tools. Notable here is the option to move the selected tracks to a new folder, quickly clearing up some space on the timeline. You can also hide tracks, show or hide all project automation and clean up lanes, hiding any that aren’t in use. It’s a quick way to instantly clean up your view of the whole project.
7. Use Zoom Key Commands
In the File > Key Commands menu you can assign key commands to almost anything. Scroll to the bottom of this list and you will see a whole folder dedicated to zoom commands. Inside it you can see, edit and if necessary reprogram the zoom commands that you use most often. For example, zoom to locators, zoom out full or zoom to a specific number of tracks. You will only need a few of these depending on how you like to work but you’ll very soon wonder how you ever managed without them, so greatly will they speed up your workflow.
8. Control MixConsole Views
MixConsole has some really powerful tools for simplifying and managing your mixer view which are invaluable when dealing with more than about 20 channels. From the Configuration menu at the top left you can click and choose to show or hide any specific types of channels from the mixer. Similarly, you can turn individual channels’ visibility on or off by clicking the white circle next to their name, and multiple select channels and then choose to show or hide just those channels, show only channels with data, with data at certain points and so on. A practical example might be to show only channels that have data within a certain time range, temporarily hiding all the other channels, which don’t need to occupy your attention while working on that particular section.