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Play Order Editing in Cubase SX 3

Powerful arranging tool for quick and easy setups of multiple alternatives By Frank Moldstad

How many times have you recorded a song, and later wished you'd repeated a chorus or switched the second and third verses? One of the strengths of digital recording is the ability to copy and paste audio clips, rearranging to your heart's content without any loss of quality. The usual way of doing this is to define the in and out points of a section, select it, copy it, and then paste it in the desired location.

This works fine -- until you want to move around a number of sections, or create several different arrangements and compare them. At that point, the step-by-step process becomes laborious. That's why the new Play Order Editor introduced in Steinberg's Cubase SX 3 is a valuable creative tool.

The Play Order Editor makes rearranging a song an incredibly simple process. Any section can be quickly defined and assigned to play back at any point in a song. There's no limit to the number of sections that can be lined up and played back in any order. Here's how it works.

To start with, you need to insert a Play Order track [Project>Add Track>Play Order], which creates an empty track at the top of the interface. I'm using a stereo wave file as an example, but the proccess is the same with multiple tracks. Then, using the pencil tool,  you drag from the beginning to the end point of the first section you want to define. The section is created when you release the mouse. Repeat this procedure to create as many sections as you want, going down to the sample level to get precise in and out points. The sections can overlap if need be. Each new section is represented by a different color, and by default the sections are lettered A,B,C and so on. They can be renamed later.

Play Order sections have been drawn at top for stereo wave file underneath.

When all the desired sections are defined, press the  button at the left of the track. This opens the Play Order Editor. There are two windows in the Play Order Editor. The one on the right, called Play Order Parts, contains the sections you've identified in their original order. The one on the left, called Current Play Order List, is blank to start with.To assemble a new play order, simply drag and drop sections from the right to the left.

Sections have been dragged from the right to the left to create a new play order.

The parts can be assembled in any order on the left. In the example above, the original song order was A, B, C, D, E. It has been reordered on the left as E, B (2x), D (2X), A. You can repeat any of the sections as many times as you like. There may be a theoretical limit, but I set Section E to repeat 900 times, and it started playing before I hit stop after three times. The song length, which had been about five minutes, became over six hours long with that many repetitions.

Alternate arrangements can be easily assembled for comparison. The fourth button from the right on the Play Order Editor is called Create New Play Order. This allows you to preserve an already created Play Order, while trying different variations.

Multiple play orders can be created from defined sections for comparison.

When you are through, flatten the play order(s) you want to keep, which instantly reorders the wave file in the Track view. This process is done by pressing the first button on the right. Make sure to save the resulting wave file with a new name, so you don't save over the original recording. The file will still have split points at the various sections, so to make it one contiguous wave file, you Bounce it [Audio>Bounce Selection].

The Play Order Editor can even be used to repeat or reorder small sections of audio, such as instrumental double stops or drum breaks that might spice up other sections of a song. Once you try this feature, it will be hard to go back to the old cut and paste method of building arrangements. It's fast and flexible, and can be used to build creative arrangements on the fly that otherwise may never have occurred to you.

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Related Keywords:Play Order , Cubase SX 3, Steinberg, digital recording, arrangements, rearranging

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