Scoring on Cubase

Scoring on Cubase
by Keith Turner-Cairns

<B>Producing scores is really a state of mind! Ok, there are some rules, but the purpose of the score is to get a player to play what you want. It's up to you to be clear, and to understand what players and instruments can, and cannot do. Most players can cope with a few technical errors, but they cannot read your mind! <P>

Even the simplest of directions are so useful. For example, don't worry about all the proper Italian expressions, use English, and go
ahead and add things like 'slowly', 'fast', 'sadly', 'smoothly', 'dance beat', etc., in fact anything brief that you think indicates how the section of music should be. Then, right from the start, the player can begin to make some sense of the notes.
Remember, the player reading your score will always be looking well ahead for clues!


With this in mind, I shall orientate around the players point of view, and Cubase will just have to oblige in getting whatever is needed. You will find that it always can.

First, though, some practical points must be raised about common faults in scoring. I shall not dwell too much on each of them but your understanding of these specific problems and restrictions will help to ease the final outcome, ie. someone playing it.


<IMG SRC="/atariphile/images/04/scor_2.gif" ALT="[Image]" ALIGN="left">Firstly, there is no need to go mad, writing every dynamic change in.
It will look really messy. The major dynamic events must be covered,
and general guidance markings, but reasonable players will naturally 'go with the feel' so long as you mark the overall feel, as mentioned above. <P>

Tip: Cubase Score has a function obtained by double clicking a dynamics symbol, that allows you to alter the midi data within a range. First, however, go through the entire arrangement making all notes maximum velocity. You can do this very quickly by using 'Select
All' from the Arrange window, then using the 'Transpose/Velocity' selection on the Functions Menu. Set it to 127 then click 'Do'.

<IMG SRC="/atariphile/images/04/scor_3.gif" ALT="[Image]" ALIGN="right">Now you can 'double-click' your dynamic markings and alter the midi data. Cubase has two types, Process Crescendo (double-click a
Crescendo marking), and Process Accents (they don't mean accents, that's a mistake, they mean Dynamics - anyway, double- click a dynamics marking). The recommended amounts are set up by default and they're about right. By doing this you will be getting a general feel for if your dynamics are close to what you want, and you will be fairly sure that the players will get that pretty much the same. They will be a bit better as they also are blessed with ears. <P>

Tip: Don't forget the [Alternate] key. Holding it down whilst inserting dynamics will insert them on ALL tracks in edit.

Staccato, Pizzicato and Harmonics

The use of the staccato symbol is frequently forgotten when scoring. Essentially, the player will play the note in the score by
about half it written length. Often this is very useful to clean
up the score. Most instruments can make very little difference between a quaver and a staccato crotchet, so by using staccato crotchets (1st bar below) instead of quavers and quaver rests (2nd
bar below) the phrase looks much clearer. String players certainly prefer this.

<IMG SRC="/atariphile/images/04/scor_4.gif" ALT="[Image]" align="left">If you need to change the midi data to make the notes longer for clarity, as mentioned above, you can still get Cubase to play a shorter note by activating 'Midi Meaning'. This function is designed for this very purpose. On the 'Options' menu in score edit, select 'Midi Meaning', click the active 'button' and alter the set up as shown here. Now Cubase will play all notes with a staccato symbol 50% shorter.

With pizzicato, unless the music is very quiet, where the difference between a pizzicato quaver and a pizzicato crotchet can
be heard (especially on cello), there is also little point having
rests adorning the spaces between notes (2nd bar below). The notes may as well fill all the bar space (1st bar below), as a string
player will tell you that they can't play a long pizzicato note anyway, and it looks so much clearer. <P>

One slight error in the Cubase manual (chapter 11-8) is that 5th symbol on the 'symb. 1' pop-up menu, being a small circle to go above the note, is stated as being a symbol for Pizzicato. Modern players use this to indicate harmonics now, and Pizzicato is always written in as 'pizz.' and terminated with the written 'arco'. <P>

Tip : Don't forget the [Alternate] key, holding it down whilst inserting Staccato symbols (in fact any symbol related to notes - hence the little 'note' next to the symbol) will insert them on all selected notes, (very useful).


Slurs form an essential part of the phrasing. If you are a guitarist, slurs start when the note is plucked and span over the notes that are hammered on or pulled off. All instruments have the same principals, but different methods. <P>

Strings will start the bow at the beginning of a slur and keep the
bow moving throughout the notes within the slurs. Remember that
when strings have to play very loud, the shorter is the available time in the slur, as the player tends to bow faster as well as with greater pressure to produce the volume. Very good players can
change bowing direction in the middle of a slur without any disturbance to the sound, so you must consider if it's worth risking it.

Tone production on all wind instruments is 'kicked off' by the player forming, silently, the syllable 'tu'. This is called tonguing. The first note under every slur is tongued and detached notes are tongued individually. Again, remember that more volume requires more wind, so don't expect a wind player to be able to take a long slurred phrase at high volume in one breath.

Keyboard players, especially pianist, can't always do much about slurs, of course, as every note has to be played with the same hammer action. Old analogue synths manufacturers were aware of this and used the retriggering system to enable slurs to be played.
Modern keyboards are pretty poor at this type of expression
and is the most common cause of music on Cubase sounding 'sequenced' or mechanical. <P>

Tip: If you are good at programming your synth and your sequencer, then you could set up a controller to shift the start point of the sound later so as to miss the attack part. Switching this controller before and after every desired slur is quite a task,
but worth the effort as a great degree of realism is achieved this way.

The other exceptions to the rule are obviously some percussion, the harp to a great degree, and maybe surprisingly the Trombone. Problems exist if you want smooth legato and slurs from the trombone as the player really has to tongue every note. Using the slide is precarious and sometimes impossible, as the purpose of the slide is NOT for making slithery glides (see Trombone later). Most of the time the best most players can do is make a 'D' sound instead of a 'T' sound with their tongue to soften the attack of the note.

When scoring for almost all instruments, slurs are vital for expression. But remember on the Cubase symbols menus, the slurs and ties look almost the same. The slurs are the 'fatter' ones. <P>

Tip: Entering slurs can take ages. Cubase Score has a trick up it's sleeve for this, (and many other symbols). First select the group of notes to be within the slur by dragging a box over them -
don't worry if you also select other non-note items like the slanted beams etc. as they will be ignored by Cubase.

Then select the slur symbol from the symbols menu. Now press [INSERT] on the keyboard. A perfect slur will appear. Getting used to this really speeds things up. You can use the same method for accents, staccato, etc. But be careful you don't accidentally hit the [DELETE] key, which is rather too close to [INSERT].

Transposing Instruments

Many people falter with scoring for these instruments, but it's really quite simple, though perhaps about time it was abandoned now that modern instruments are musically fluent. For example, an instrument in B flat (trumpet, clarinet) will 'sound' a B flat when the score has a C written. All instruments names (eg. French horn in F) refer to the note they will sound if you write a C on the score. From this you can work out what the notes on the score should be to get the actual sounds you want.

<IMG SRC="/atariphile/images/04/scor_5.gif" ALT="[Image]" ALIGN="left">With Cubase this presents a problem because the midi data is playing your sound device, but the score needs to be transposed. There are actually two ways of getting around this.

 1.  Use the 'Staff Settings',  Display transpose to set  the 

display to the correct amount of semitones above or below the actual sounded pitch. A few are included in a pop up menu or you can
set the display transpose box yourself. I don't know why Steinberg only included presets for trumpet and alto, tenor and baritone
saxophones, but see the chart at the end for a more complete guide.
2. If you intend to do a reasonable amount of scoring for brass, woodwind and saxophones etc., then transpose the sound permanently in your sound generating device. That way the midi data will always be right for the score and the device. Though it will play havoc with other peoples devices, not to mention your keyboard
playing! But it will help relating to players in the future. Don't forget to tune in the opposite direction from the chart shown later.

Parts and Masterscores

<IMG SRC="/atariphile/images/04/scor_6.gif" ALT="[Image]" ALIGN="right">First, the best looking and efficient 'Page Mode' setting is shown here, the 'real book' setting makes the clef appear only on the
first line of the page, and the 'thin bar lines' setting really
helps to make the notes stand out more. Well that's the only time I've put in opinion. I use a laser printer, maybe on other types of printer things may look different.

Masterscores, with all parts appearing, can easily be sorted out by using the auto layout function. Setting the number of bars per line in the 'Global Settings' first, to a high-ish number like 8 will save space wherever possible.

<IMG SRC="/atariphile/images/04/scor_7.gif" ALT="[Image]" ALIGN="left">Individual parts are quite a different matter. Mostly they only have the notes for the one instrument, though they can be split, eg. four trumpets on the same staff is common (they will sort out their own pecking order usually), but they are frequently more 'personalised'
than the master score, though the music is supposed to be the same. <P>

For example, cue notes (smaller than normal) as well as written words for the occasional lyric can be used for a players reference, or to let them know when other instruments come in. Don't be afraid to add cues, especially when there is a repetitive section, even put in a bar count when there are more than 4 bars rest. But make sure they are clearly away from the notes,
and use a different font to distinguish them from musical instructions. <P>

Most important is 'page turns'. At least two bars of rests at the end of the page is essential if the players are expected to turn the
pages themselves. This can be an absolute nightmare to achieve but really must be done. When arranging the 'page turns' it's best to spread things out, as players frequently want to scribble notes along the score anyway, rather than cram everything in. <P>

Lastly, here is a short reference section to help with some of the more awkward instruments to score for. Also the chart is in the
usual order that they appear on the masterscore. It probably makes dull reading but the information may useful.

For Reference

<B>French Horn</B><BR>

French horn is normally in F so writing a C on the score will result in an F being sounded 7 semitones below (perfect fifth). It is written on the treble clef but can go to the bass clef if a section would otherwise have many leger lines. Uniquely strange is the fact that french horn players do not have key signatures. Eveything is
written in C. How they can cope with a piece of music written in B major (F sharp major for them) just plastered in accidentals, I'll never know, sigh! There are other problems for the horn to bear in mind. One problem is the mute or hand stopping, frequently used for quiet passages (write 'stopped' on the score for the player),
where the player stuffs their hand into the bell of the horn. This raises the pitch a semitone so you must make allowances for this in the score. Also keep in mind the horn is very powerful, and high notes have to be blown harder. Four french horns playing 'fff' can drown out an entire orchestra. Play it safe with the dynamics. <P>


The trumpet in normal use is the B flat trumpet. It is written a whole tone above the actual sound, ie. if you write a C, the player will play a Bb. There is a D and E flat trumpet which are both smaller and produce higher notes. The D trumpet is written a tone below that which it sounds and the E flat trumpet is written a tone and a half, or 3 semitones (minor 3rd) below the actual sound. <P>


Trombones come in the tenor or B flat, and sometimes the bass or G. They sound as written and both on the bass clef. You can jump to the treble clef to avoid masses of leger lines if necessary. The trombone is quite agile but if you want very fast lines you must remember the purpose of the slide. Although it can occasionally be used for a slithery sort of glissando, the slide has 7 positions. The notes in the first position (slide fully in) are (going up) Bb, F, D, F, Ab, Bb and each position gives the same series of notes but a semitone lower. Though some notes do occur in several positions it is best to avoid the player having to move very quickly from the 7th position (slide full out) to the 1st position (slide fully in) very rapidly.


The tuba is normally in F, though there are also bigger C tubas. They sound as written and on the bass clef with key signatures. The tuba is pretty agile and can get up quite high and still sound good. It's main problem is that it doesn't combine too well with the trombones and trumpets, being a 'wide bore' brass it's sound is very different, more akin to the 'Brass Band'. However, it's great to add power to the overall sound of the ensemble, but if it's mainly a 'brass section' the double bass trombone blends better.


Drums have their own set of rules and it is worth using drum notation as you will be surprised how many drummers can read, to some extent, this notation. Just set the Staff Settings to 'No Overlap' and just put in the first few bars of the drum pattern. Below are the main notes used by modern drummers. Cubase allows you to set up separate drum maps to re-map the midi notes to the correct score notes and types of note heads.

Useful Chart Of Instruments
Instrument Nat.Key Write Sound Trans Clef
Alto FluteGCG+5Treble
Bass FluteDCC0Treble
Cor AnglaisFCF+7Treble
Bass OboeCCC0Bass
Alto ClarinetEbCEb+9Treble
Bass ClarinetBbCBb+14Treble
Contra - bass ClarinetBbCBb+26Treble
Double BassonFCC+12Bass
French HornFCF+7Treble
Trombone (Tenor)BbCC0C Tenor
Bass TromboneGCC0Bass
Double Bass TromboneBbCC0Bass
Saxophone (Alto)EbCEb+9Treble or Alto
Tenor SaxBbCBb+14Treble or Tenor
Baritone SaxEbCEb+21Treble or Bass

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