6 Steps: Natural tempo (rubato) MIDI => Linear tempo MIDI

Hello all,

after a number of very long nights wrestling with Cubase 8 as a rank beginner, finally I have had some success recording MIDI and managing ‘natural’ tempo.

One of my current musical aims is to make extensive recordings of my father* (and myself) playing piano naturally (using my Roland RD-800) and create reasonable scores for posterity and in my case, be able to layer other MIDI information in a linear environment and return the new works to the original natural tempo, among other possibilities that open up.

For my part, playing to a metronome can be very stifling but I can imagine that linearity in a DAW environment will allow for so much more flexibility. To be able to bounce between natural and linear then, for me has been a dream which until now has seemed a bit too hard to achieve at an acceptable standard.

So following are the details and related samples of these efforts that represent countless hours of frustration, searching, reading and finally jubilation at achieving a better result than expected.

I’m putting this up for a couple of reasons: to attempt to add some value for other newbies and to seek some guidance on better ways to achieve these results, as no doubt there will be. Please forgive me if some of my terminology proves that I’m far from an ‘industry specialist’ but I am hopeful that these instructions will save some folk many hours. In all my searching I wasn’t able to find a comprehensive guide on this that I could fully grasp.


Setup: Set the project up with both a Bars & Beats and a Timecode ruler - you will learn more this way. It’s important to work in Linear mode (make sure the little clock appears on your track and not the note) and with Tempo set to Track (on the Transport bar). This project is based on the first 20 bars of a very simple 4/4 piece (Have you met Miss Jones?) but played with a heavy rubato.

1. Record Naturally: Lay down a MIDI track of your natural playing (done here with an intentionally over-enthusiastic rubato to make the point). Trim and move the take so the first note is right up to the start of the track and time 00:00:00:00. This will save you a headache later.

2. Create Audio Version: Record an audio version of your MIDI track by sending the recorded MIDI to an instrument and recording to an audio track. Here I’ve used one of my internal RD-800 piano sounds. Played together these 2 tracks should align perfectly.

Obviously this could be done with any instrument but for me the piano makes sense as it gives a good attack for finding hitpoints in the next step. My raw take is here with no post editing whatsoever (note HUGE variations in tempo):

3. Edit Hitpoints (the most critical step): Double-click on the new audio track to open the Sample Editor. Click on “Hitpoints” and choose the “Edit Hitpoints” button and work through your song making sure hitpoints are accurately positioned at each and every beat. This is critical. You can work in coarser (down to every 2 bars) or finer (up to 8 beats/bar) resolutions as required.

Note: circled in the image below are some places where hitpoints had to be manually added where notes carried over the beats (minims in this case) and so were not automatically detected. You would also need to remove excess hitpoints (on quavers etc.).

First time around, this took me about 5 mins for 20 bars but with experience it will only take seconds - for me a very efficient way to get the result (didn’t have much luck with the Time Warp tool).

Note: it takes some effort to get ralls and accels etc. on long notes sounding natural and I have a long way to go as you will hear in the next clip…

4. Create MIDI Click Track: Now click on the “Create MIDI Notes” button in the Sample Editor to create a new MIDI track with notes for clickpoints. For this I chose 1/16 and A4 to correspond with a hi-hat on a HALIon drum kit. This now becomes the new click track from which the tempo changes will be derived in step 5. You can hear this new click track overlayed with the original recording, still in ‘natural tempo’ here:

5. Create Tempo Map: After listening to and readjusting as necessary in step 4, we’re now ready to create a tempo track based on the new MIDI click track. Still in Linear Mode and with Tempo set to Track in the transport, select the MIDI click track and choose: MIDI > Functions > Merge Tempo from Tapping.

Add a Tempo track and you should see the fruits of your labour! Ramping the tempo points is easily achieved here for smoother playback. At this point my screen looked like the following (note Linear mode and Tempo Track):

6. Linear Playback at Last!: to enable linear playback, switch both the original MIDI track and the MIDI click tracks to Musical Mode and the Tempo to Fixed on the Transport. Voila - now you have a dry linear version of your originally emotive and sexy natural recording to work on. To return to natural (sexy) mode, leave your tracks in Musical Mode and switch Tempo back to Track.

Here’s how my original MIDI track sounds in linear (yucko but it’s a useful yucko!):

https://soundcloud.com/deldridg/03-straight-time (Played through a HALIon piano patch).

From here you should also have a lot less trouble scoring your work. Mine went from a dog’s breakfast to a near perfect score after these steps.

A quick check would be to create a score of your MIDI click track. Mine creates semi-quavers on every beat perfectly for the full 20 bars. Very pleasing indeed!!

So I hope the above is of use to someone. There are many who have given their hearts and souls to supporting new people like me and without them I would never have gotten off the ground with this stuff. So thank you fellow forum members - I have thoroughly enjoyed my early learning curves thanks to your tireless efforts!

Many regards from Sydney, Australia - David

  • Dad is a highly sought-after church musician who has given over 65 years of tireless musical service - from tiny congregations in remote Australia to endless performances for aged folk all over the country to performing on pipe organs across the country, including both the Adelaide and Sydney Town Halls. His ability to make the most dreadful instruments breathe beautiful music (including one piano with half the strings missing and which began to roll off the stage in a little country hall as he played!), his ability to harmonise any tune in endless ways with any emotive drive in any key in real time and his incredible humility are really driving me to record and hopefully transcribe his music while he can still play, whether it be old hymns or theatre organ style ‘hits’ of the past. I can’t wait to get started!

Impressive post. You’ve obviously put a lot of work into this. I’m also a new Cubase user having migrated from another popular DAW. I’ve been working hard on learning the program and after about 20 weeks with it, I’m starting to feel generally grounded with the primary features. The forum is packed with excellent posts, look up the “tips, tricks and workflow goodness” posts if you’ve not already found them.

Good luck.

MIDI tempo - a topic close to my heart. I wrote some software to take a MIDI click track and create a MIDI tempo map from it. Cubase’s tempo from tapping has a few limitations that I thought were overly restrictive. You can read more about it here, if interested:


Have you explored the Tempo Detection function (Ops Manual pg. 920)? You can do this on both midi or audio, so no need to render your midi to audio.

Hi Stephen,

thanks for your kind words. Yes, as a waaay < 20 week user (more like 4 or 5) but with a little Logic experience, it was a lot of effort for me to get this far. Sometimes it’s not until you’ve worked through tons of material that you discover that really the process can be a. boiled down to a few simple steps and b. there are many potential pathways to achieve the same thing!

I will be looking through the tips posts you mention later tonight! :slight_smile:

Cheers and thanks, David

Hi Raino - yes, I have worked with this but my results haven’t been as solid as me doing the grind and building the click track semi-manually. Perhaps that says something about my playing! :slight_smile:

Cheers and thanks,

Hi Stephen,

thanks for your kind words. Yes, as a waaay < 20 week user (more like 4 or 5) but with a little Logic experience, it was a lot of effort for me to get this far. Sometimes it’s not until you’ve worked through tons of material that you discover that really the process can be a. boiled down to a few simple steps and b. there are many potential pathways to achieve the same thing!

I will be looking through the tips posts you mention later tonight! :slight_smile:

One thing that keeps me going is hearing the good music and audio engineering people are generating with Cubase. See a a few of the recent links in the “made with Steinberg” forum when time permits.

I find that the Operations Manual is very thin on providing usage examples of the program’s features. This is where the forum posts have really helped me (some posting, mostly reading). As far as working with tempo goes, it looks like you’ve gotten to a an advanced level quickly. You’ll find further techniques as you go, I’m sure. Perhaps for you, the Score Editor is a natural next step? It’s part of the program I’ve yet to really work with, but plan to be giving it some serious efforts in the next few weeks and months.

A rock music joke: How do you know there’s a drummer at the door? Ans: The knock speeds up. :wink:

Thanks deldridg and commenters for a helpful discussion in a matter I would like to pursue.

Hello David,

thank you for passing on this article - I enjoyed reading it and have played around with the Maestrolizer, successfully creating tempo maps.+

Initially I created a series of random duration notes in Cubase and fed these into your utility and was able to open up the TT_ file and produce a tempo map. It appears, at least from my fumblings that there seems no way in Cubase to copy and paste the new MIDI file over an existing one - you have to import into a new project. In fact, in my efforts, unless I opened the TT_ file into a new project I was unable to generate a tempo map from it.

So as it stands I’m uncertain as to what this gives me that I’m unable to achieve within Cubase where I can directly create a tempo map from the original notes and presumably apply it wherever I like. No doubt I’ve missed something and would love to know what it is. Anything that can help me in the tempo department will be quickly learned and added to my very small but hopefully growing ‘toolkit’!

Many thanks and cheers,
David (Sydney)

Yes, I have always opened the TT file in its own project and copied and pasted into the target project.

The limitations of the Cubase native solution … well, it’s been a while but from memory …

Merge puts the tempo right at the start of the project. There’s no way one can place it into the project. While this is fine for a short piece, for a longer one, it’s often efficient to create the tempo map in pieces. Also, as I recall, you are limited to quarter notes only. Seems like there’s one more limitation but I can’t recall it now. Like I said, it’s been a while.

Hi again David,

my experience as said is fairly basic but no doubt I will hit up against these limitations in the future. However, this post (https://www.steinberg.net/forums/viewtopic.php?p=380105) shows how to at least cut/paste sections of track around (see vic_franc’s post) and I’ve now been able to do this with all/parts of the tempo track using the Edit > Range > Global Copy and then paste. I can’t see how to do this with just the tempo track - it appears to copy all tracks regardless of which ones are selected. Back to playing around - fun!!

Many thanks again David.


Are you aware that you can select multiple events in the tempo editor and copy/cut and paste them elsewhere? This is now I normally tackle moving tempo events around - right in the tempo editor itself. Now, I have not had to work with multiple time signatures when doing this - that might throw a severe wrinkle into the process.