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Using Cubase in the Classroom

Published: Mon June 19, 2006  News Feed
Cubase is a highly sophisticated, music creation and production system that is well suited to use within the music curriculum at all levels from KS3 upwards.

Music technology is now an established part of the music curriculum, and can be used to enhance and enrich the learning experience for students. The greater emphasis upon a practical, enactive programme of study where students develop and refine their musical skills through composing, performing and listening, opens up numerous opportunities for the use of Cubase.

The most common uses for Cubase within the school curriculum include:

  • Sequencing
  • Recording
  • Producing
  • Composing
  • Arranging
  • Score-writing


Sequencing can be associated with MIDI or Audio, or both!

It allows students to create pieces of music by playing in bars, phrases, parts, instrumental lines, or even individual notes one at a time. In this way they can build up more complex musical structures using copy and paste commands, and be able to realise musical performances using Cubase as the playback device.

Sequencing can be used to develop an understanding of the following musical elements:

  • Pitch
  • Rhythm
  • Tempo
  • Phrasing
  • Articulation
  • Structure
  • Form
  • Instrumentation
  • Notation

MIDI sequencing can also be used as a very effective rehearsal tool, where students can develop backing tracks or accompaniments to perform along to.

Recording and Producing

Cubase software is a highly sophisticated recording and production tool that allows students to capture, edit, develop and produce high quality audio recordings.

With the appropriate audio hardware, it is possible to use Cubase as the centre piece of a multi-track recording studio that is capable of recording live bands.

Students can develop a thorough understanding of the key elements of the recording process all within Cubase! The highly flexible mixer and vast range of plug-in effects processors provide students with all the tools to create professional recordings.

Recording and Production work can be used to develop the following skills:

  • Capture - microphone placement and choice
  • Balance and Blend
  • Using EQ controls to shape and refine the sound
  • Controlling dynamic levels
  • Using effects processing to create ambience or specific timbral changes
  • Placing sounds within the stereo field using pan control
  • Mixing the sounds to create a stereo track
  • Listening and Appraising - developing aural skills for the studio
  • Communication, Management and Social skills associated with running a recording session

Composing and Arranging

Cubase is an excellent composition tool that allows students to explore a wide range of creative musical ideas.

It is important to remember that Cubase does not compose itself - it has no auto accompaniment or auto-arrange features, but it does allow students to build up textures and ideas, track by track, or line by line. As such, it should be thought of as a 'medium' through which students can realise their creative ideas - a digital sketch book.

Cubase will allow students to create conventional tonal music, using established forms and structures and electronic timbres, or it can be used to nurture more abstract creativity through the exploration of sounds, timbres and textures using electronic synthesized sounds or original digital samples. In either situation, it functions really effectively and facilitates musical learning.

Developing arranging skills and a wider knowledge of orchestration can also be achieved using Cubase. Using good quality instrumental sounds or samples, students can develop original arrangements that allow them to explore instrumental voicings and orchestration techniques. The process can even be taken one step further and staff notation scores produced from within the software for use with real musicians.

Music Technology has had a significant impact upon the way in which composition is taught in schools, and the styles and formats of music that our students can produce. No more is composition an activity for those with perfect pitch and a high command of staff notation. Through the use of Cubase, students of all ages and musical abilities can compose and realise their own musical ideas.

Composition activities with Cubase can develop the following skills:

  • Aural skills
  • Notation Skills
  • Pitch
  • Rhythm
  • Melody
  • Harmony
  • Arrangement
  • Structure and Form
  • Texture
  • Instrumentation
  • Timbre

Score- Writing

The score- writing capabilities of Cubase vary according to which version you have purchased.

Cubase SX has full professional scoring. This allows you to have all types of note heads, drum notation, guitar chords, guitar tab, text, lyrics etc…

Cubase SL and SE have very limited notation features - they can still allow students to input pitch and rhythm data, and enter basic page titles etc, but have much less editing capability. However, for KS3 and GCSE work, they can provide a very good means to support the development of notation skills.

One of the most attractive aspects of working with the score-writing features of Cubase SX is that it is totally integrated within the MIDI sequencing software that students have learnt to use. They do not have another piece of music software to learn!

Handling staff notation is an important skill that has a place within a balanced music curriculum, and if through the use of music technology, teachers can help students to build a link between the 'aural sound' and the 'written notation', then this will be a positive educational activity.

As well as basic notation, using the score-writing features within Cubase can help students to develop their knowledge and understanding of:

  • Pitch
  • Rhythm
  • Harmony
  • Instrumentation
  • Score layouts
  • Ensemble groupings
  • Transposition
  • Clefs
  • Key signatures
  • Drum notation
  • Guitar Chords
  • Lead sheets
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