At first sight, Cubase does not have an obvious way or tool to make this kind of automation where the automation points instantly jump straight from the previous curve point to the new one without any transition while keeping everything outside of the range untouched - a kind of jump automation!
Do not worry, there is a easy way to achieve it, but it is a typical Cubase thing: you have so many tools and so many possibilites, you can achieve the same result through so many different paths that you have to figure it out which one works the best for you. Consider these solutions below like 'hacks', as they are not listed in the Cubase / Nuendo manual at all.
Typical scenarios when you need it:
- automate volume fader at certain passages,
- setting the levels of different syllables of a vocal track or
- just modulate any parameter
but it hard to accomplish because you can not draw straight vertical and horizontal lines to keep the lines precisely.
People wanted to achieve this by chaining some commands into automation macros and scripts, which can be quite complicated in certain situations so I will show you a much easier way to make jump automation.
Steps (it is much faster in practice):
- First press and hold the mouse button on the Line tool and select the Square waveform in the dropdown.
- Now choose the audio track and open its volume automation lane.
- Find the exact part of the audio file where you want to make a volume jump.
- Now press and hold Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS X) while the Line tool is being selected and drag the mouse from one side to the other. You get a little rectangular bump or hole (depending on where you started drawing the line).
- Using the selection tool, choose the necessary point at the edge. You can move the selection with the left / right arrows between the points.
- Press Shift plus the arrows - you have to select at least two consecutive points.
- You got the automation range and the straight line to automate using any of the following methods:
- move it up and down using the Scale Vertical tool starting at the top of the bounding box
- Info line at the top: move the number up / down in the Value field
- So the cycle is: hold Ctrl / Command + Shift > drag > release - repeat...
What if you want to draw automation snapping strictly to the grid?
- Make sure the Snap mode is on in the Project window.
- Open the automation track, like Volume.
- Select Square from the automation waveforms.
- Set the Grid mode to Bar or Beat. You can select the Use Quantize option as well, but only if you want to automate with really fine settings e.g. 1/16 or more, but this time make sure you first zoom into the area you want to automate. When you move the cursor now with the mouse, you should see it snapping exactly to the grid.
- Now comes the real difference: hold down Shift only! and drag with the Square tool. It will draw a black square wave, it looks it will be wrong as it makes a jumping square shape. Do not worry, just keep drawing it and do not release the Shift + the mouse button yet! It is much easier now to set the proper distance as the snap to grid is active.
- Now, while holding Shift + the mouse button, start pressing the Ctrl/Cmd button multiple times and watch what will happen: whenever you press the Ctrl/Cmd the square shape edge starts sliding to left /right (depending on the original drag direction). Just press it multiple times until the black square shape becomes a simple line!
- Now release the mouse button first, then the Shift and you get the automation line precisely matching to the grids.
It is much longer to read than doing it, so with a little practice you'll quickly become a master of drawing snapped automation!
- Worth to set a Cubase keycommand for the Line tool - it is the number 9 in my setup.
- Pressing this keycommand multiple times will cycle through the available automation waveforms so you can easily change between them until you reach the square waveform. If you change between tools, like to the selection tool and than back to the Line tool, you'll get the last setting, so you don't have to adjust it again.
- At selection, do not click the point as you can accidentally move it - this can be confusing. Instead draw a rectangle selection around the point to select it, then use the Shift + left / right arrow to make a range.
- Why Ctrl + Shift? Ctrl disables Snap which is essential to avoid multiple cycles, Shift sets the period of the square waveform - essentially only one cycle with this combination.
- If you select multiple values, the info line will show values in orange and you can set all values simultaneously (relative by default or absolute by pressing the Ctrl / Command). If you select just one parameter, it will be light grey.
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Great tip! I will be using this for sure