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Metronomes have been in use in the music field for a long time. They help you to stay in time and feel the tempo of the song. Even though mechanical metronomes are still in use, digital metronomes found in our DAWs are just as useful. Learning to use them effectively will help you prevent problems in your projects. In this tutorial, I will show you how to use the metronome (aka Click) in Cubase, and properly set up the features it offers.
What Is Precount?
As the name suggests, Precount is adding a few counts just before you start any real recording. Think of it as the revving of the car engine before you hit the clutch. You can activate it by pressing the Precount On button on the transport panel, or by selecting Precount On from the Transport menu. Once Precount is activated, that number of bars will be played back before recording starts.
This function can be really useful in situations where you need to establish the tempo of the song to the player or the vocalist, but don’t want to waste any time playing the track with just a click track. Therefore the player can feel the tempo of the song, but doesn’t have to leave gaps in the recording. Precount can also be used in situations where you want to give some time to the player to get ready for the recording.
Tweaking the Settings
Cubase has a few metronome settings that can be tweaked. To view them, Ctrl + click on the “Click” area in the transport panel, or select Metronome Setup from the Transport menu.
On the left hand side of the dialog box, you can change the metronome and Precount options.
Metronome & Precount Options
In the metronome options, you have three checkboxes that will help you to determine when you want the metronome to be played. If you activate Metronome in Record, the click will be played while any audio is recorded into the project. Metronome in Play will activate the click while you are playing back the project. Make sure that the click is activated in the transport panel, else you won’t be able to hear the metronome.
The first option is to set the number of Precount bars. As explained in the above section, this value determines the number of bars that will be played before recording or playback is activated. The Use Time Signature At Record Start Time checkbox will make the Precount use the tempo and the time signature of the cursor location when you start recording. This is important in orchestral music and movies where time signature may be different in different parts of the score. The Use Time Signature at Project Time will use the tempo and the time signature that is specified in the tempo track.
You can also manually override the time signature of the Precount by changing the Use Signature value field. The time signature specified here will be followed by the Precount irrespective of the time signature specified in the transport panel or the tempo track.
MIDI Click & Audio Click
On the right hand side of the dialog box you can see the options for changing the tone and volume of the clicks. You can change the value of the notes that are being played and the velocity of each note. Let’s see what these settings do.
The Activate MIDI Click can be used to specify whether the metronome’s audio will be played through a MIDI device or not. This option will come in handy if you are using an external MIDI device to record and want to listen to the metronome through that device.
MIDI Port/Channel helps you to select the channel number for the MIDI output. If you have set up a VST instrument previously for the project, you can use VST as a channel for the MIDI. Use this option if you want your VST instrument to read the metronome for its performance, however most VST sync up automatically to the host’s clock.
The Hi Note and the Lo Note determines the MIDI note number for the metronome clicks. The Hi Note value will change the sound of the first beat in a bar and the Lo Note value will change the value of the sound for the rest of the beats. You can also adjust the velocity of the Hi and Lo notes. The value of the note field ranges from C2 to G8. This way, you can determine the notes that are sent to your VST instrument and can control the notes that are being played through your VST.
Audio Click helps you to choose the sound of the clicks of the metronome. You have the option to select custom audio files as the tones for each click. You need to activate the Audio Click option for this to work. The first option is to select Beeps. You can adjust the sliders to change the pitch of the clicks. Drag the Hi slider to change the pitch of the first beat in a bar and drag the Lo slider to change the rest of the beats. The velocity of each note can be changed here by dragging the Level meter left or right.
In order to select a custom sound for your metronome, select the Sounds option and click on the Hi and Lo fields to select any type of audio file as your metronome sound. Click on the empty field and a file locator will pop up, here you can navigate to your custom audio file and select it. The levels of each file can be adjusted using the Level sliders.
In any recording scenario, metronomes or clicks have become a standard. Many musicians feel that playing alongside a metronome will help the performance become tighter and more enjoyable. However, there are people who say it doesn’t matter.
In either case, metronomes will help you make better recordings. It’s not just the power of the metronome,
it’s also your creativity that will help you make wonderful music. Next time
you are working on a recording project, try using a metronome. You might be
amazed how much better it makes your performance.