This article is part of the My Musical Mouth series which shows you how to make a whole piece of music in Cubase 6 using just your mouth and a microphone – so no technical or instrumental ability is required. A full set of tutorials are available to our customers by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is an overview of what is covered in part two – creating a bass line in Cubase 6 using your voice.
Other articles in this series:
Converting audio to midi is so easy in Cubase 6, that even if you have a fairly easy bass line to write, you may still find it easier to sing it in and then convert it. In my project I used a particularly fast jittery sequence, as is popular in modern music, with a lot of notes only a 16th apart. I’m not good enough to play these sequences accurately on my midi keyboard. Because of my lack of ability, I tend to find myself micro-composing; i.e. write a 2 or 4 bar section, and then write another smaller section, and another – this can take a lot of time and result in me losing track of the bigger picture. I know from teaching inexperienced musicians that I am not alone in this. Singing in the bass-line (and other instrument parts) is so easy that I can just keep going – I could sing the whole track at once. The time is then spent in just converting the audio to midi, rather than trying to accurately play just a small part.
This is a bit more complicated than doing percussion and I had to do a two-part process; the first part to detect the timing of my audio (using Hitpoints) and the second part to detect the pitch (using Vari-Audio). You may only need to do the second part.
To start with, I select a loop of four bars and record a number of takes to play around with. My bass-line is a series of single bars that interplay with one another. By selecting to Show Lanes (the last button on the Track Header), I am able to see all the takes and, using the scissors tool, I can chop the segments into single bars and just click on them to audition. You can see this below:
Once I’ve decided on the best arrangement of four bars, I bounce the audio to create a new audio file of the four bar segment – if I didn’t do this, I would have to repeat the following process four times, once for each segment.
I then double-click on the newly created audio segment to open up the Sample Editor. As with my “hats” in the previous section, I go to the “Hitpoints” tab and slide the Threshold bar from the left until it includes all my notes and nothing more (I actually left it fully to the left in this case). You can see this in the picture below:
I then click the Extract MIDI Notes button and elect to export the dynamic content as the velocity of the midi notes and to send to a new midi part.
I then go back to the Sample Editor and this time click on the Vari-Audio tab and then Pitch & Warp button to analyse the pitch of my notes. This presents me with a series of colourful bars which look a bit like midi notes. A keyboard runs vertically down the left hand side of the Sample Editor, against which the coloured bars are plotted to show me their pitch. Inside the coloured boxes there is a squiggly line which denotes the actual pitch information. My audio wave is visible in the background so I can see how the bars align with my “bass notes”. To start with my notes are not pitched accurately and hover between notes. Also, because my bass notes are so fast, there is not enough tonal information in places and so Vari-Audio has been unable to detect the pitch and therefore can’t register a note – this is why I exported the timing separately earlier. My aim here is to simply get the pitches. Because I don’t care about the audio itself, I Quantise Pitch and Straighten Pitch to the maximum by sliding the two controls completely to the right. You can see the effect of this below:
With the pitch straightened, my voice sounds un-natural and synthetic which is better for checking the pitch is correct. The quantisation has moved the blocks onto the nearest whole note. I then click the Extract MIDI button and in the dialogue box select the Pitch Mode to be “Just Notes and No Pitchbend Data” and send to a new midi track.
I then select both midi parts from the Project Page and hit [Enter] to open the two parts simultaneously inside the Key Editor. You can see in the picture below that I have the light blue notes that were extracted from Hitpoints and have accurate timing, but are static on note C1, and then the dark blue set of notes which were created by Vari-Audio on the correct pitch:
I then just move the light blue notes to overlap the dark blue notes and the job of “writing” my bass-line is done. This picture also shows you a bit more clearly how the four bars differ (looking at the sequence of light blue notes).
To find the perfect sound for your bass part there are a few ways you can go, none of which are perfect, and this is definitely the most time consuming part. If like me you are using Cubase 6’s content only, then using the Media Bay is the best way to go about this task. You can open the Media Bay by pressing [F5]. The Media Bay is like a search engine for all the sounds included in Cubase 6 (you can use it to search your own content too). The search starts with everything, and then you filter on the terms you want to isolate. You can see in the picture below that I haven’t really set any terms and I’ve just selected “Bass” in the Category column:
As I haven’t got a midi keyboard plugged in, I activate the keyboard control by clicking the icon that looks like a computer key in the top right corner of the Previewer section at the bottom of the Media Bay. This allows me to use the QWERTY keys to play notes and audition the sounds.
After a bit of searching I find one I like and drag it from the Media Bay into the empty Track Header area to add it as a new Instrument Track. I drag my midi segment onto the new Instrument Track and I have my midi part playing back the bass sound. If you are undecided on exactly what sound you are looking for, then drag a few sounds out and then just move your midi part between them to compare and decide which one is best.
You can hear the completed track below and I will be posting the next part in which I create a synth-line in the next few days.