Cubase SX and Virtual Instruments On Tour With Cher

Nov 4, 2003 12:00 PM, Editors


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Los Angeles session keyboardist Paul Mirkovich (pictured) has been using numerous virtual instruments in the studio, but he is now taking them out on tour with Cher.

A longtime Cubase and Nuendo user, Mirkovich is especially enthusiastic about virtual instruments. "I've been using VSTi's in the studio since they first were developed, and now I'm starting to use them onstage too," he said. "For the longest time, I've been wanting to do it, but I didn't feel comfortable enough with the reliability issues; the thought of a computer crashing in the middle of a live show in front of 20,000 people is a little scary! But during the 120 shows I've done during the past year on tour with Cher, I've been slowly, but steadily, using more and more virtual instruments instead of my rack of hardware synths. Fortunately, VST and Windows XP and computer technology has gotten a lot better over the last year as well; in fact, it's grown by leaps and bounds."

According to Mirkovich, his Prostar 2.8 P4 laptop running Windows XP Pro has been more than up to the task. "It's got a 533 bus and a gig of RAM, and is loaded with all the latest versions of everything, and there have been no reliability problems so far. Of course, we load everything all in beforehand and we don't have a tremendous number of patch changes." Mirkovich runs a variety of Steinberg and third-party virtual instruments from within Cubase SX, including The Grand, D'Cota, PLEX, HALion and all the Virtual Guitarists: Acoustic, Electric and the Electric Edition.

"I find that virtual instruments are every bit as good as hardware synths," he said. "In fact, they're even better in a lot of ways, because they're a lot more convenient, a lot more powerful and they're recallable. Plus, they don't burn out, you never have a cord buzz, you can save everything with your songs. You don't have to go, 'Oh, what preset did I use here?' And you don't have to worry about spilling beer on them!"

The main virtual instrument Mirkovich is using on the Cher tour is The Grand. "That's actually become the only piano that I use in the show; in fact, I think it kicks ass over the real thing! D'Cota is the newest addition to my collection, and I think it's just brilliant. It's cool that it contains three synthesizers in one, and it's a very unique-sounding instrument. The analog section has a very warm sound, and the spectrum synth has a very cutting digital kind of sound. PLEX also sounds great; it's not quite as programmable as D'Cota is, but it's not meant to be. But the sound of it is excellent, and there are some presets in there that I really love.

"Back in 1998, I put together the Cher tour in Cubase VST,” Mirkovich continued. “It worked great, and everyone was happy with the results, so it was a logical step for me to move up to Nuendo. Since I'd been using Cubase VST for years to record audio, I was one of the people who was asked to help beta test Nuendo when it first came out. In fact, when I was beta testing the Macintosh version of Nuendo a couple of years ago, I was about to start Janet [Jackson’s] All 4 U tour. I think I was the first guy to use it for such a high-profile gig! There were some teething problems at that time, but the great thing about it was that I had direct communication with Steinberg, so whatever bug I reported would be fixed overnight and they'd e-mail a patch to me. Now I'm happy to see that a lot of the suggestions I made have been implemented in Nuendo 2.0.

"Nuendo was used to put together all the audio for the current Cher tour, as well as for Janet's tour. Frankly, the initial thing that attracted me to Nuendo was that it wasn't the same DAW that everybody else was using—that's just backward thinking to me. I never liked the idea of being married to a piece of hardware that, in a year or two, is going to be obsolete. Look at the situation all the users of that DAW are in now: Everybody who's got a system has to upgrade to the new hardware, and then they've got to buy all of their plug-ins again. That's just ridiculous!”

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