Music Production Blog

Improving Your Arrangements in Cubase 9

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Posted on: February 18, 2017
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Cubase’s Arranger track is a great tool to use to help you sketch out your arrangements. Maybe you have a verse and chorus idea and you’re not too sure how many times you want to play each part. With the Arranger track you can create the play order and choose how many times you want each part to play, and then you can flatten this play order to see how long your song is. Let’s take a look at how to create these items and how the Arranger track can be used to improve the arrangement of your song. 

What is the Arranger Track?

The Arranger Track is an item you choose from the Project > Add Track menu. It might not be clear at first what it’s used for so let me take you through it and show you the best ways to use it. Let’s say you’ve created some ideas for a song, maybe a verse and chorus, and another idea and you want to see how to sketch these out into a bigger arrangement for your song. First let’s create an Arranger track. Go to the Project menu and choose an Arranger Track. Or you can right click on any track and choose it from there.

Now this creates an empty track with the Arranger Chain 1 as the default first arranger chain (you can create multiple arranger chain options by the way, but I’ll explain more on this later in the article). You’re going to populate this track with arranger markers for the different areas in your track.

Drawing in Parts on the Arranger Track

On the Arranger Track select your pen tool and draw in a region. By default, it will call your first region A, and name them alphabetically ascending after that.

Notice also in the Inspector how it creates the Arranger Events

Now to make more sense of these arranger events I’m going to rename them to what part of the song it is, like the verse and chorus, and so on. You can rename an event by first selecting it and then typing in the new name in the name section above the Inspector/Visibility tabs.

I’ve gone through and renamed all the parts I have so far in my arrangement.

 

Test the Play Order

You’ll see that above the Arranger Events you have your Current Arranger Chain. And this has just put the Arranger events in the same order that I have in my arrangement window. But I can drag them around for a different play order. You’ll also notice that there is a play button next to each event. So I can click on this and it will play back that event. Observe when you play an event from here that it activates the Arrange Mode. This means it bypasses the arrange area events and plays through the Arranger Chain play order.

The beauty of this is you can now test out the different arrangement ideas. Let’s say I want the chorus to play before the verse: I can drag this up in the play order. And if I want the verse to play back twice I just input a 2 there. So go through and try different lengths and orders. And if you’re happy with that arrangement why not try another one. What’s cool about the Arranger Track is that you can choose different Arranger Chains.

Maybe you want to try out a radio edit version. And you want to shorten some of the sections and only have them play once, or even remove some of the sections completely from the arrangement. Like let’s say we want to remove the second verse. This can be done by selecting an item, then right clicking and choosing remove event. So you can then switch between these different chains and hear how each arrangement sounds, and compare the two.

You can also choose to stop the play order when running through the events. You have the options of either stop whenever (by selecting the option “None”) or by different interval amounts such as 1 beat up to 4 bars. Or you can even choose it to stop the playback after the end of the event.

Flattening Your Arrangement

Once you’re happy with your new arrangement play order and lengths, you can print or flatten this out. To do this you can go to the Arranger chain and choose Flatten Chain. This will print out the parts you have made, and then remove the Arranger Track. 

 

And there you have the chain you wanted for your final arrangement of the song. The only problem is that once you flatten an arrangement it removes the Arranger Chain you have created. 

So if you want to flatten each chain what I’d recommend is saving out the project as a new project before flattening it. And then going into each project and flattening it with the respective arrange chain. For example, if I had sketched out my full song in one Arranger chain I would save this as a project called Song_Full. Then if I did a Radio Edit Arranger chain I would save this as a different project called Song_Radio. Then I can go into each project and flatten them when I’m happy with the arrangement for each.

Conclusion

So that’s how to use the features of the Arranger track to help you sketch out your full arrangement. It’s really handy if you want to polish up and finish your arrangement, plus you can use it to test out alternate arrangements ideas, maybe like radio edits. And then you can flatten them and bounce them out as your new track arrangement or the song. Try it out in your next Cubase song to see if you can improve on your song arrangement.

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