It’s easy for your track counts in projects to keep building and building to the point where you really need to add in some tools to manage your project. Thankfully, Cubase has some great features to help with this by using its folders, VCA grouping, Colors and Mixer Visibility tools. Let’s take a look at these and see how they can be used.
Coloring Your Tracks
I’m working on an orchestral piece and my track count has got quite high. It's sitting at about 80 tracks, and this gets quite hard to browse through. One of the easiest ways to help distinguish your tracks from each other is to provide them with different colors. This will color the track name, plus the recorded regions on the track. For example, if you color your violin track red, the regions on the track will be red as well. From a distance, you’ll clearly be able to tell them apart from the other tracks. To set a color for the track, go to the Inspector and then click on the arrow on the right of its name and here you’ll be able to set the color.
What’s also handy is to use the folder tracks to help bundle similar tracks together. I want to take my 1st violin tracks, with their different MIDI articulation tracks and move these into their own folder. There are two different ways to do this. First, I can add a Folder track from the Add Track contextual menu (this comes up if I right-click on a track or from the Project Menu).
This will create a folder track in my arrangement, and then I can select my tracks and move them into the folder. Make sure that when you move your tracks over into the folder track that a green arrow appears showing they’re getting moved into the folder track.
An easier way that requires one less step is to first select the tracks you want to move to a folder, then right-click on one of the tracks and choose ‘Move Selected Channels to New Folder’.
This will create the folder and the tracks will also be moved into it, without you having to move them there afterwards.
Minimize Maximize Folders
The beauty of folders is that you can minimize or expand them to reveal the tracks.
So if you have a lot of tracks which are embedded in folders, you can minimize the folders to hide these tracks, giving you more screen real estate.
This really helps if you’re working on a small display, like a 13-inch MacBook. You gotta save as much screen real estate as you can!
Folders Within Folders
And Folders don’t just end there. You can pack folders within folders. For example, I could pack my 1st string violin articulation tracks into a 1st Violin folder, and then I can pack this folder within a Strings folder. And I can keep going as far as I want to manage my tracks and folders.
Another way to manage your tracks is to make use of the VCA channels. These work great as overall level mixers for your tracks. For example, let’s say you’ve got a 100-track projects, and these tracks are being packed into about 15 folders. This is still quite a heavy load for a project. You could route these tracks to VCA channels so you can manage the overall mix.
Jumping back to my orchestral project example, I have packed my instruments into the respective folders: Strings, Brass, Woodwinds, and Percussion. But the folders don’t have volume control. So if I wanted to adjust the overall level of my strings, I wouldn’t be able to do this with the folder. What I have to do is take my Strings and route them to a VCA channel. If I do this, all I have to do is ride the Strings VCA fader to change the overall level of my strings. VCAs are a great way to take control of your overall mix this way, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of tracks.
To add a VCA channel from the Add Track contextual menu, choose Add VCA.
You can choose to house this VCA channel inside or outside of a folder track.
And once you’ve done this you’ll see a VCA track folder is created. So all your VCA’s will be here. So you can just jump here to make your overall mix changes.
And like with Folders you can also create a VCA from the tracks you have selected. Just select the track, and then right-click on one of them and select ‘Add VCA Fader to Selected Channels’.
You’ll also notice in the Mix Console that the VCA fader is green. So you can easily distinguish your VCA faders from the rest of the tracks in the mixer.
Another way of managing projects with big track counts is to use the Visibility Panel next to the Inspector tab. Click on the Visibility tab, and this will list all the tracks in your project. It also shows the folder tracks, and the tracks nested in these folders. If you click on the white radio buttons next to the track name, this will hide it in the Arrange area and the mixer. And if you hide the folder track it will also hide all the tracks nested in it. For example, if I want to hide my Winds folder and the associated tracks, all I have to do is click on the radio button next to the Winds name. Now all my Winds are hidden, and I can clear up some clutter in my track list and just view the tracks I want to edit.
This is super handy if you just want to focus in on a specific area of your song. Maybe you just want to edit your drums. Hide everything else and just focus on your drum tracks.
That’s how to use track management tools such as the Folders, VCA’s and the Visibility panel in Cubase to help you easily move around and work through your project. Plus, don’t forget how coloring your tracks can give you a better view of your project as a whole. These tools help minimize the clutter, and this helps you be more creative instead of hunting down tracks in big projects.