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Steinberg Cubase VST 5

Interactive Phrase Synthesizer

Steinberg Cubase VST 5 - Interactive Phrase Synthesizer Overview
+ a step by step "how to" example for INSTANT GRATIFICATION.

Steinberg Cubase VST's ISP (INTERACTIVE PHRASE SYNTHESIZER) is a hidden little secret that few musicians take advantage of... Have you played with it yet? If not - you'll be hooked when you try it!

Click to enlarge

I had stumbled upon the ISP before and did a quick test and moved on, but again recently ran across the manual text describing it in the Acrobat PDF file (PDF's suck!) and my curiousity was again tweaked. So I read up on it again over some Asparagus & Snowpeas with Chicken, and soon after proceeded to sit down and try this Cubase VST feature on my Mac and later the PC... (basically the same on the PC)

So what is the Interative Phrase Synthesizer? Well, it is NOT a SYNTHESIZER... It is a cool feature within Cubase that allows you to take previously entered part data (musical phrases) and transform them into new music such as arpeggios and one finger accompanyment. It then allows you to further mutate the resulting music by setting parameters such as dynamics, pitch & rhythm. In short it is a real time midi mutator...

The ISP is best summarized by Steinberg as what it ISN'T...

"It is primarily not a random music generator, instead it relies heavily on your real time input. In fact you play it like an instrument..."

And that is exactly what I did... I ran through the PDF examples in the manual (in DOCUMENTATION folder within Cubase) and tried the accompanying ISP files and wow - I was floored! This baby is one powerful dynamo of an idea generator... It takes what you give it and tweaks away at it according to parameters you feed it... The great thing about the INTERACTIVE PHRASE SYNTHESIZER is the amount of CONTROL you have on affecting the output...

It has a lot of user input options which determine the random output it will generate... Glistening arpeggios... Incredible rhythm jabberings... and if you want - constantly looping and evolving phrases based on your input... At first glance it may seem like a toy, but this thing is so powerful that once you master it you can RECORD some intense shit into the MIDI TRACKS in Cubase VST... And if you desire you can take that further by editing the parts data after recording the midi. Intense. This feature is particularly useful for creating rhythmic grooves which yield pleasantly unpredictable results. That is what makes it so much fun!

For INSTANT GRATIFICATION just follow the simple steps below.

Simplified STEP BY STEP guide to recording IPS output into a PART in VST on a MAC (also PC).

* select a blank midi track to record a short riff.

* Record a few bars of playing to your liking.

* Trim, quantize and/or edit if desired and select PART with mouse (in EDITOR or in ARRANGE).

* Go to menu bar and select FUNCTION/CONVERT TO IPS PHRASE - save in empty slot

It will then be named whatever the track was named and will be available in the phrase presets.

* Mute that track you just recorded

* Bring up the IPS from PANELS

* Select the new phrase you just converted in the PHRASE INPUT popup in the ISP window

* Choose new track in Cubase which you are going to play and record live on

* Select OUTPUT as CUBASE in IPS (not MROS as suggested in manual - PC use MROS)

NOTE: you need to have CUBASE selected in the input options in MIDI SYSTEM before you can select it as an instrument.

* Hit ACTIVE button on IPS and make sure that IPS A is ON (or IPS B or both if you desire).

* Play keyboards to test and then hit RECORD and boom - whatever you play and hear on the IPS is what you will be recording.

Stop and play it back... It is all there to edit and tweak away on if desired!

NOTE: We had a LATENCY problem with the Interactive Phrase Synthesizer on our PC (also ARPEGIATTOR as well) with a severe delay when striking a note on the keyboard and a mondo lag before the results came out. Turns out that the SYSTEM PREROLL setting was 500 (in SYNC settings). We changed this to 5 and voila - it worked.

Now if only we could get Steinberg to help us figure out why the ISP and the ARPEGIATTOR does not work with VST INSTRUMENTS on the PC (it works fine on the Mac???). We asked support for help but never got a response. I guess that PC folks simply do not care enough about these features, otherwise Steinberg would certainly provide a cure. So if you plan on using the ISP or ARP with VST Instruments on the PC - good luck trying to record the data AND audition it at the same time. We gave up trying to get this to work. Do you have any suggestions? Let us know. Send an email to us at

see also arpeggiator info

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