Mastering MONTAGE: Getting Started with Cubase

This begins a new "how-to" mini-series from Bad Mister to help you get the most from your MONTAGE. Learn more here about MONTAGE and Cubase.

The video below is a great accompaniment to this article. Check it out: 



The MONTAGE will communicate both MIDI and audio bi-directionally via a single USB connection. You will need to download and install the most recent "Yamaha Steinberg USB driver" for your computer operating system.

(Currently, that is 1.9.9 on Windows, and 1.9.10 on Macintosh). You should also make sure you have the latest firmware update for your MONTAGE (Currently, that is 1.60.x). These downloads come zipped with instructions. Please take a moment to read through the documentation, as it will take you through each step of the process.

These can be obtained from the official Yamaha download site:
http://www.yamaha.com/countries

This GUIDE will give you the basic setup and will apply, in general, to both Cubase Pro or Cubase AI. And while there are minor differences in the screenshots between Mac and PC, again the function is the same in both.
The MONTAGE via USB becomes both a MIDI and AUDIO interface for itself and one external device. This assumes that your Montage is connected to a pair of high quality monitor speakers. This system setup does not use the computer's own sound system. You must connect the main L&R analog audio outputs of your Montage to the speaker system you are going to use (or monitor through headphones). 

MONTAGE SETUP
On the MONTAGE, navigate to the MIDI I/O screen
Press [UTILITY] > "Settings" > "MIDI I/O"
Select "USB" (green) for your MIDI I/O

MIDIIO USB

Touch the "Audio I/O" option and let's take a look at the audio record setup screen (the Signal Flow diagram updates with the selections you make):

16Stereo441kHz

Making a change to the AUDIO I/O Mode requires a restart of the MONTAGE. Above we are set to 16 Stereo bus outputs at 44.1kHz (24-bit). If you opt to switch configurations, the change only occurs after you reboot. Also found on this screen is the A/D (or Analog-to-Digital) Input setting. The default is LINE level input. Set this according the item plugged into the A/D INPUT jacks. If nothing is plugged in, please leave this set to LINE level. Importantly, you have audio OUTPUT level settings for the Main L&R (analog), Assign L&R (analog), the USB Main, and the assignable USB 1-30. 

DIRECT MONITOR -
The MONTAGE acts as an audio interface for your computer. When you are playing and recording the Montage or you are singing or playing a guitar into a microphone, you will typically opt to monitor (listen) to yourself DIRECT (zero latency). You normally opt to avoid being 'downwind' of the signal that must travel through the computer. Latency is the delay introduced in any digital system that must process the signal; Direct Monitoring is routing scheme that allows you to listen to the signal that is routed directly to the speakers, avoiding entirely the signal sent through the DAW to be recorded. You can verify the recording during playback. The key is to not have to worry about latency at all. 

While here in [UTILITY] > "Settings" area touch the "Quick Setups" option... Here you can create the type of routing scenario you need. This can vary from project to project and even within the project. These templates can make the required settings for you in one operation (including MONTAGE Clocking options). We'll explain each as we go.

Basically, there is the normal setup, appropriately named "Standalone" for use when using the Montage without a computer.
Quick Setup #1: MIDI REC on DAW - used when you are doing normal recording on an external DAW, like Cubase.
Quick Setup #2: ARP REC on DAW - used when arpeggiators are active and you wish to capture the MIDI data generated by the arpeggios.
Quick Setup #3: AUDIO REC on DAW - used when you wish to record audio data via Montage's 32-bus audio output system.
Each of the three will have a separate article with example, briefly:

QUICK SETUP: (Default) STANDALONE:

Standalone

STANDALONE - Use this for when playing the MONTAGE without a computer. The graphic shows both the AUDIO SIGNAL FLOW and the MIDI SIGNAL FLOW through the system. When Standalone is selected the MONTAGE is "back to normal" for use without a computer. Direct Monitor is ON, Local Control is ON, MIDI SYNC options are set to the INTERNAL clock... In general, the MONTAGE is set to play, standalone.

QUICK SETUP: MIDI REC on DAW:

MIDIRecDAW


MIDI RECORD ON DAW - Use this when you are recording standard MIDI data to the DAW. You will notice the following differences in the SIGNAL FLOW Local Control (that is the Keyboard going to MIDI OUT does not include the ARPEGGIATOR (more on that later). Use this when you recording and no arpeggio data need to be documented. This Quick Setup template also take care of making setting so that the MONTAGE will slave to MIDI clock - we will need to setup Cubase to send MIDI Clock to the Montage MIDI Port 1 - in general, the DAW will be the master MIDI clock source. By setting up and using MIDI clock you expand your opportunities to add data at a latter time easily. When your music references Measures and Beats, you can ensure synchronization of the Motion Control engine (arpeggios, Motion Sequences, Tempo driven Effects and LFOs, etc.) even if adding this days or weeks later!
Important concept to understand here: Local Control is Off (connection between the Keyboard and Tone Generator is interrupted), key presses travel OUT via MIDI to an active MIDI Track in the DAW, where it can be documented and echoed back to the MONTAGE Arpeggiator and Tone Generator via MIDI IN.

QUICK SETUP: Arp REC on DAW:

ArpRecDAW

Arp RECORD on DAW - Use this setup when an arpeggio is involved. On the MIDI Signal Flow diagram notice that the Keyboard is sent to the Arpeggiator and then data goes to the MIDI OUT, Local Control is OFF. This allows the data generated by the Arpeggiators to be documented in the DAW, it is the MIDI data echoed back from the DAW that triggers the Tone Generator. This is a specific use case that makes recording data generated by the arpeggiators to be documented as events in the DAW. Again, MIDI Clock issues are automatically set wtih this template. The Montage will take tempo cues from the DAW. It will slave to MIDI clock. You must make sure your DAW (Cubase) is set to Output MIDI clock to the Montage.

QUICK SETUP: Audio Rec on DAW:

AudioRecDAW

Audio Rec on DAW - Use this setup when you are going to not record MIDI data (LOCAL CONTROL is ON). Notice the changes in the AUDIO SIGNAL FLOW pathways. Montage PARTS can be routed either to the MAIN L&R or assigned to the USB 1-30.

There is not going to be just one setup, get comfortable using the appropriate template for what you need to do. We will try to cover the basic operations with some variety of examples to give you an idea of the workflow. Just *when* you should opt to record a specific way is really going to be a decision you make based on what you are trying to accomplish. The examples given will only be given to show how each might be used in reality.

MIDI I/O MODE: MULTI vs. SINGLE
Also touch the "Advanced" option; here you can set the "MIDI I/O mode". We'll see that depending on how and what you record, you may opt to split things to separate MIDI Channels (Multi) or to just one Channel (Single). If you select SINGLE, you get to choose one MIDI channel on which the Montage will transmit/receive MIDI data. This is useful when you are playing specifically a "MULTI PART single instrument PERFORMANCE". 

MIDImulti

This is where Montage is a bit different from the previous series (Motif, MOXF, S-series) where a program occupied one Part. One Part was communicated to on one channel, via one track. 16 Parts, 16 channels, 16 tracks ... It used to be straight ahead. Now, a single program can occupy as many as 8 Parts. This means in many cases two, three, four or more Part slots are used to make a single instrument sound in very great detail. The four Part "CFX Concert" piano, and the seven Part "Seattle Sections" string orchestra Performances are examples of "Multi Part-single instrument" Performances. If your intention is record your performing as MIDI, you will want to opt for the MIDI I/O mode = Single and select a particular MIDI channel. This will let MONTAGE create MIDI data via a single MIDI channel, instead of dividing each Part to a separate MIDI channel, as in a normal "Multi Part-multiple instrument" Performance, where you typically want each Part output on a separate MIDI channel, especially when drums and arpeggiated Parts are involved.

Because some MONTAGE sounds are bigger than the one Part, the rules and workflow are forced to change. If the goal is record these as Midi (to edit and/or fix notes or to notate), no one wants edit the same mistake four or seven times. A single channel Midi stream makes sense. And if you are going to use more than one "Multi Part-single instrument" program, rendering MIDI to Audio will be a very important part of your workflow. Assigning MONTAGE Parts to audio outputs is straightforward and we'll cover it in a future article. 

MIDI I/O mode = Multi - use this when you want to record each Part to its own MIDI channel. This is a requirement when wishing to document the MIDI events into the DAW. Quite naturally, where arpeggiated data is involved sending the data out on multiple channels is required when attempting to document the events.
MIDI I/O mode = Single - use this when performing on a multiple Part Performance where the Parts are used to create a single playable sound, like the "CFX Concert" or "Seattle Sections", and for viewing and editing a single stream of events makes the most sense.

CUBASE MIDI SETUP
In Cubase, let's make some fundamental Preference changes to prepare the program for the type of data that MONTAGE transmits. Cubase Preferences are settings you make within the program to tailor it to how you most often work. These are personal preferences and will be memorized so they only really need to be made once (not each time you use the program). They can be changed if you develop a new workflow. You maybe a long time user of Cubase, but lets see what changes, if any, might need to be made to your current workflow.

If you are on a Windows computer you find your Preference by going to FILE > Preferences
If you are on a Macintosh computer you find your Preferences by going to CUBASE > Preferences

In your Cubase "Preferences" > MIDI > MIDI FILTER
MIDI FilterMake sure you remove the Filter check mark from SysEx for both Record and Thru. 
Click APPLY
Click OK

It is the normal default for Cubase to filter System Exclusive data from being recorded, with MONTAGE, in particular, you will want to activate this feature because the Super Knob and several other control knobs stream Parameter Change messages (Sysex) - very exclusive to the Montage system! You will want to record their messages to capture every nuances of your performing with Montage. In many instances it is these PARAMETER CHANGE functions that make MONTAGE different from your other synths. If you've been used to using cc74 for example to change the CUTOFF FREQUENCY of the attached synthesizer's filter, you quickly start to realize that Filter movement can be so very specific that you can (via Parameter Change) be addressing just the FILTER assigned to ELEMENT 4 of PART 7 which could be opening, while the same controller gesture is closing the FILTER assigned to ELEMENT 2 of PART 3... just as an example. Parameter Change messages are System Exclusive. 

This is part of how MONTAGE does its magic. If your Super Knob moves are not being recorded this Filtering of the messages could be the cause.

You can opt to filter, or not, Aftertouch. This will depend on whether or not the Performance includes this control category. If your Performance does not use this control message you may want to avoid it filling up your event list unnecessarily.

"Preferences" > MIDI > MIDI FILE
While in the Preferences area I recommend you setup the Import Option for importing MIDI Files. There are going to be times when it is prudent to record the MONTAGE to its own Performance Recorder, then export that recording as a .mid file to Cubase... which you can drag and drop into a Cubase Project window using the "MONTAGE CONNECT" application.

MIDI MIDIfileUnder "MIDI File" set the options to import the data to a single track. This will make the assignment easy.
Click APPLY
Click OK

You'll assign the MIDI OUT of this single track to "MONTAGE 1" (port 1), set the Channel = "Any", and then you DISSOLVE PARTS (break it down) - so each Channel is on a separate MIDI Track if required.

One potential workflow is to record quick ideas in the MONTAGE onboard Performance Recorder as MIDI (.mid) then import the data to Cubase. Basically, you can literally drop the file in the Cubase Project window and it will automatically assign itself to your MONTAGE - ready to playback. Set this Preference so that you can use this feature when necessary.

When you launch Cubase the MONTAGE should be connected and powered On. During the launch splash screen Cubase will search the connected hardware and find the MONTAGE. It will ask you if want to use this as your ASIO (Audio Streaming Input/Output) device. Yes, you do!

DEVICES > DEVICE SETUP > MIDI
Go to DEVICES > DEVICE SETUP > MIDI > MIDI PORT SETUP
In the column labeled "In All Midi Inputs" mark "MONTAGE 1"
Click APPLY
Click OK

You can, if you have a second controller you wish to use as an input device, connect it to the MIDI In and Out jacks on the MONTAGE back panel. The computer (Cubase) will recognize this as "MONTAGE 3" (port 3). You can select "All MIDI Inputs" as the INPUT on the Track Inspector, when you want to use both devices. This column defines your MIDI sources. Only legitimate sources should be marked in the "In 'All MIDI Inputs'" column.

MIDI Port SetupWhat you see here is the INPUT Ports in yellow and the OUTPUT Ports in blue. A Port consists of an In and an Out, each contain 16 Channels. MONTAGE Port 1 is the MIDI Port on which data coming from the MONTAGE is routed to reach a MIDI Track in Cubase. Port 2 is not used. And Port 3 is reserved for a second MIDI device connected to the 5-pin MIDI jacks on the back of Montage. It can be routed as a controller through the system as well. You can, if you wish, use two different keyboards (even simultaneously). The STATE (or STATUS) column will detect if anything is conneccted. If nothing is connected the port is "Inactive".

Cubase AUDIO SETUP
DEVICES > DEVICE SETUP... > VST AUDIO SYSTEM

VST Audio SysHere you select the ASIO DRIVER for the system. Shown at left is the selection "MONTAGE" on a Macintosh computer... if you are using a Windows computer your option will be "Yamaha Steinberg USB" for the ASIO Driver - this accomplishes the same thing. The Montage is now your computer's audio soundcard. 

If you move the cursor down to the selection "MONTAGE" you will see the AUDIO INPUTS (yellow) and the OUTPUTS (blue).

VST Audio SystemMontage

The STATE or STATUS will be "Active" when you are setup to use that particular Port. It will report "Inactive" if nothing is currently assigned to that Port. In the initial setup the USB Main L/R are Active as input and Output. When a Port is activated (in use) it will be shown here as "Active".

USB Main L and USB Main R are the main stereo audio ports. The MAIN L&R analog audio outputs should be connected to a pair of quality Monitor Speakers capable of reproducing the high quality audio output from the MONTAGE.  

Cubase Project Synchronization Setup:
On the main menu bar find TRANSPORT > PROJECT SYNCHRONIZATION SETUP... > MIDI CLOCK OUT > MIDI CLOCK DESTINATIONS > Check the Montage Port 1
MIDIClockDestinations


MONTAGE PERFORMANCE TYPES:
Single Part, single instrument - CFX PopStudioGrand, Full Concert Grand, Bassoon3 
Multi Part, single instrument - Seattle Sections, CFX Concert, All 9 Bars
Multi Part, multi instrument - Mr. Side Chain, Kreuzberg Funk, DJ Montage

We'll start our example workflows with a setup that starts with sixteen Single Part programs. The strategy here is MIDI I/O mode = Multi. We will address one Part at a time, and setup to loop type recording (called Cycle) in Cubase.
Please see the following example Workflow: MIDI Rec on DAW

For an in depth tour of Cubase, please see the following YouTube series: https://youtu.be/_k_XevQ1kJ4

Want to join the conversation about this article? Post your questions/comments on the Forum here.

Ready to take the next lesson in the series? Check out Cubase Setup Guide Workflow 1: MIDI REC on DAW here.