Some notes about how to transfer tracks from bandhub, a site for musical collaborations, onto cubase 5 for processing, mixing, and all that. Also, some notes about audacity at the end. OK, first off I know very little about cubase. But that’s perhaps my point, I’m more interested in playing than mixing. So I basically want a quick and easy way to produce a decent mix from a song in bandhub. So here’s what I do.
- Open the relevant collab with google chrome
- Slide one of the volume controls. After a while, all the audio tracks are transferred to your hard drive (opening the recording app also works, but I think it’s slower).
- All tracks can be found at C:\Users\<user_name>\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Cache in windows 7. They have pretty names like “f_001b5a” and no extension. In other windows versions and in iOS they are some other place, just google it up.
- Order them by date. The audio tracks you want will be the newest ones, and have sizes from about 0.5Mb to 2 Mb. Click on them twice slowly (or once, plus F2) and add the “.ogg” extension to them. This is an audio format similar to mp3, but with less copyright restrictions.
- Open cubase, select “empty project”. Then, create an empty project (it’s in the “More” tab of the project assistant).
- Then create the tracks you will need, using presets. Imagine the bandhub collab features some female singing. Then, you’d add a new audio track (project -> add track -> audio, or right click on the middle column, then click on “browse presets”, and start selecting. In this case, Vocal, Lead Vocal, Pop (for example). We could then select Female Vox Basic Lead, for example.
- Select one track, then import a bandhub track onto it (File -> Import -> Audio file). Chances are you’ll import the wrong one, just hit the play button and listen to what you got. Press the “S” button on the track to solo it if things get noisy. Once you know where this audio belongs, select the audio clicking on it, cut it, click on the right track, then paste it (of course, go to the beginning of the track or it will be pasted at the current time).
- Now, all presets are sensible to me but some are redundant. For example, if the vocals had some noticeable reverb, you won’t probably need more. Disable the reverb clickin on the Inserts tab, then the little on/off button. Same with echo. Electric guitars presets usually add some amp simulator which makes the sound really noisy if the guitar was already amped. So, disable that too. Needless to say, this is the part where you’ll be spending some time if you are serious about this stuff, tweaking the presets, adding new inserts, all that
- OK, when all tracks are sounding ok, open the mixer window (F3 or devices -> mixer). Play the song and you’ll see all those meters jumping up and down. Adjust them until you find the right volume for each of them. Try to avoid clipping, which shows as the meters reaching the top. Don’t forget to pan the mix moving the blue line left and right. This provides the stereo effect. Frankly, I don’t know much about panning, if I have to guitars I move one to one side, the other to another. I think panning the bass or drums makes no sense, and perhaps the same goes for the lead vocals, but I don’t really know.
- Then, select the range you want to record in your song by dragging the little triangle on the time bar to the end of the song. Then, export your mix (File -> Export -> Audio Mixdown). Congratulations! Now you may upload your song to youtube (but then you have to make a “video”, even with one frame!), or to soundcloud, dropbox …
- Other stuff you can do:
- track trimming, just move the white squares at the lower corners of the sound track
- fade ins and outs, click on the blue triangles at the upper corners
- clipping, right-click where you want to clip, select the scissors tool
- dubbing, this is kind of cheating, but you may add stuff to the song. Just record a new track the way you usually do. Of course, that track is not visible in the bandub collab (at least until they implement this feature, which some say they will). But, sometimes a song is lacking some simple thing I can’t record easily. Like a tambourine, my delicate condenser mic clips like crazy recording them. In this case, I start an instrument track, select Drums – Groove Agent One, and record some percussion with the PC keyboard. Remember to set up some drum set (sign with three little horizontal bars in the left column), or else you’ll get no sound. The keyboard appears with alt-K or devices -> Virtual keyboard.
- Another interesting possibility is to use cubase 5 to build a rough guiding track to start a new collab… but this deserves another post.
The basic process of importing the tracks and mixing them about is basically the same as above. I have the feeling it must be the same with about any modern DAW. Some advantages of using this piece software:
- It is open source and free
- It’s also quite lightweight
- Controls are much simpler
- ogg files are recogniced automatically, no need to add the “.ogg” extension. This is quite convenient
- All basic effects are there: reverb, echo, compression, EQ. But, they are low-level! I mean, no presets are there for you to use. That means you have to know some relative advanced stuff, which I certainly do not. It does depend on the effect. EQ, for example, can manage presets, and comes with some basic ones already (it’s a rather cool EQ, by the way). Compression, on the other hand, does not, so I have to start learning about what “attack time” means …
- Also, effects cannot be applied on the fly, you have to stop listening to the mix, apply them, then listen to the result.
- No “virtual” instruments as cubase. You can no longer play drums or synth on your PC’s keyboard. Also, no midi, it seems (not sure).
My feeling is that, for a very simple mix audacity is probably better, it being simpler and easier in the beginning. If you want to do slightly more advanced stuff and you don’t mind learning a bit about proper EQ, compression, etc, then probably audacity is still better, it being more low level. Now, if you are either lazy or you want to go deeper, it seems you’ll have to go pro.