Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH

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20097 Hamburg

Tel: +49 (0)40 210 35-0
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VST Expression

VST Expression is a groundbreaking technology introduced by Steinberg in Cubase 5 and significantly extended in Cubase 6. The latest version, VST Expression 2, is based on three core technologies: Note Expression, Expression Maps and VST Dynamics.

Note Expression

Note Expression is a revolutionary new way of controller editing, introduced in Cubase 6. As an alternative to viewing/editing controller data in the Controller Lane in the Key Editor, controller data can now be viewed/edited directly on the associated MIDI note events. Controllers now have a much more logical and musical character. A note event and its associated controller data are treated as a unit. A single note or multiple selected notes can be moved, copied, duplicated or deleted, and all their associated controller information will follow. Controllers can be conveniently edited using intuitive tools in the new Note Expression editor. This allows for more intuitive and more accurate editing of controller data.

A major limitation of MIDI is the nature of controller information. With the exception of poly pressure (polyphonic aftertouch), controller messages such as modulation or pitch bend are channel messages. It is important to understand that articulation data on one note usually also affect any other note playing on the same track/channel at the same time.

With VST 3, Cubase is able to break free from the limitations of MIDI controller events by providing access to new VST 3 controller events that circumvent the laws of MIDI and provide articulation information for each individual note even in a polyphonic arrangement. Articulating each note in a chord individually creates a much more natural feel, just like multiple players playing the same instrument at the same time but each one adding his own personality to the notes played. Of course, this not only requires a new set of controller parameters, the socalled VST 3 Controllers, but it also requires an instrument capable of playing back these new controller messages. HALion Sonic SE and HALion Sonic 1.5 are the first Note Expression compatible VST 3.5 instruments available on the market that support this revolutionary new technology.

Without Note Expression: articulation data affects all notes playing at the same time
With Note Expression: individual articulation information for each note in a chord

Expression Maps

Expression Maps help you work with musical articulations. Articulations define how certain notes “sound”, i.e. how they should be performed on a given instrument. They allow you to specify that a string instrument is bowed (not plucked), a trumpet muted (not played open), and so on.

In Cubase, when you select an Expression Map for a MIDI or instrument track, the articulations (sounds) defined in the map are automatically applied during playback. Cubase recognizes the expressions scored for the MIDI part, searches for a matching articulation, and then the current note is either modified (e.g. played louder), or the MIDI channel, program change or key switch information is sent to the connected instrument, so that a different sound is played.


In Cubase, HALion Sonic SE comes with a set of track presets with pre-configured Expression Maps. These track presets show the suffix “VX”. Each of these track presets contains a sound with articulations on key switches and a matching Expression Map. In addition, HALion Sonic SE can transmit key switch information directly to Cubase, when no custom map is available. To import the available articulations of an instrument, simply open the pop-up menu on the Expression Map Inspector tab and select “Import Key Switches”. All articulations that are specified for the selected Expression Map are then available on the controller lane.

VST Dynamics

From pianissimo to crescendo and fortissimo — in Cubase 6, all dynamics from the Score Editor are also available in the new Articulations/Dynamics Lane in the Key Editor.

When using VST 3.5-compatible instruments, you get instant acoustic feedback from parts that contain dynamics. What’s more, the Dynamics Mapping feature allows very fine adjustments for up to three controllers for dynamics, including velocity, volume and freely assignable MIDI CC.