How to create CHORD SYMBOLS from multi-track MIDI file

Hi, I have some very old projects that I’ve bringing into Cubase 10 from much older versions. One thing I’d like to do is create chord symbols from these old songs - it will make it easier to create lead sheets or change something in the chord progressions. I know how to do it on a part that contains the chord triad and the bassline (for example a piano accompaniement) - HOWEVER, in my case everything is on a separate track, assigned to a different instrument. Piano right hand in on its own channel… piano left hand i think would be the bass track…theres a guitar that hits on beats 2 and 4 with a chord… etc etc so all over the place. Whats the best way to make accurate chord symbols from this so that I can map out the song?


I’m not sure if this will work, but, you might try Merge MIDI In loop. (MIDI Menu > Merge MIDI in Loop).

Take the most likely chord-producing tracks and Merge them to one track – use a stock plug-in for the merge target track. What that track sounds like doesn’t matter, but use it to try: Project > Chord Track > Create Chord Symbols and see what you get. You may have to change the harmonic rhythms, inversions, chord voicing, but it may give you a good head-start on creating new projects from the older songs.

Good luck with resurrecting the tracks.

Thanks Stephen! I’ll most definitely give this a shot, and if it works out, will proceed this way with all the songs. I think it’s a good idea now to have a chord track for every project, now that this is part of Cubase.

You’re very welcome. Chord track is a very useful feature. I hope it works for you in this case. If not perfect, I think you’ll get some useful results. Hope so, anyway.

My basic project starter templates always include a chord track. Also, don’t over look that Chord Track itself can have Track Versions. This is very useful. For example, one patch, say, a pad, is fine with whole note chords, but another patch, say, a guitar, can have more advanced harmonic rhythm, passing chords, etc. I often create a basic Chord Track and then create a New Version or New Versions for other instruments.

The chord track, together with the Chord Assistant can lead to discovery of some interesting sounds. Good luck working with it. :slight_smile:

Ooh intriguing. So if you use multiple track versions of the Chord Track, how do you use that in the context of building a song? I mean, you can only use ONE version in the end when mixing right? Your described scenario sounds like something that maybe one could accomplish with a single version of the chord track but assigning different “players” depending on the instrument track. That way ONE chord event would trigger both the rhythmic guitar rhythm AND the piano chords at the same time. What do you do once you have setup your different track versions? Do you bounce to audio one track at a time?

By the way, I’m struggling with parts not creating chord symbols. Wanted to ask you… if you have a simple arpeggio part 1-3-5-8 up and down… should creating chord symbols from THAT be possible? It’s not working over here… nothing happens.

Using Chord Track Versions:

  1. Create the basic progression. Let’s take a I-IV-V 12 bar blues.
  2. Create the Basic Chords, one chord per bar, per the standard progression, whole note chords – C, F, G7 (save that as a version, name it “basic chords” This track will be useful for long-tone instruments, organs, pads and for keeping track of “where did this all start.”
  3. Create New Version of Chord Track (the first one has been saved as “basic chords.”)
  4. Use the new version for a track to play more interesting harmonic rhythms, passing chords, and other embellishments. Save that Version and name it something descriptive; assign this track to play an appropriate instrument – guitar, horns.
  5. Use: Project > Chord Track > Chords to MIDI

(In Preferences, make sure you have it set so X silences (inserts rests into) chord track during playback, this is how you can build a Chord Track that includes harmonic rhythms, syncopation, passing chords, substitute chords, into the Chord Track).

  1. Create New Version, edit, name, save, continue.

The basic process is – create instrument track (using MIDI or other inserts, etc), create chord track appropriate to instrument, section, part, save as chord track version.

Create Chord Symbols.
Project > Chord Track > Create Chord Symbols
When the dialogue opens, make sure to check “use arpeggios” and the other boxes that might make sense. Experiment with those if you have not.

I’ve found this can be somewhat hit or miss thing. Sometimes you’ll get very interesting chords, other times the chord track is over-populated and needs to be thinned out and further edited.

There are other users who know all this very well and if you look around the board, you’ll find some great posts. Even posts in sections about older versions of Cubase will still be valid, for the most part. Good luck. :slight_smile:

OK, I was able to follow your step-by-step instructions, however I still don’t understand how you can have various instrument tracks following DIFFERENT track versions of the Chord Track. I cannot select in the Inspector of those instrument tracks which chord track “version” I want it to use.

On the chord track itself I DID assign the Basic chords version to output to Piano track. And on the Embellished chords version I did set the output to Guitar track. However, 2 things…

(1) Track versions do not “hold” the vst instrument track I’m assigning. For example, if I select Piano track for the output of the Basic Chords version, it gets applied to all versions. If I switch it to Guitar track, once again all versions will output to it - not just the embellished chords version.

(2) When attempting playback of both instruments (both set to FOLLOW Chord Track directly), I ONLY hear the instrument track that is presently “selected” for routing on the chord track. So, how will I ever hear more than one track at a time if I want multiple tracks to follow the chord track?

I should have been more clear about the process.

Chord Track will work with 1) All Monitored Tracks, 2), an individual track assigned from the drop-down list of tracks on the chord track. (It’s also possible to use a MIDI Track and MIDI Send to trigger a set of up to four tracks, but that’s a topic for another post, and it has been discussed in other posts).

What I’m suggesting is that these Chord Track Versions will be used to create new MIDI tracks. After the MIDI tracks are created from the Chord Track Version (Project > Chord Track > Chords to MIDI), the Chord Track is no longer needed for that track and may be muted or assigned to a different Track.

The Players options here don’t matter apart from them yielding chords appropriate to your Project or individual Track.

I hope it’s clearer now? :slight_smile:

Ohhhh ok - I think I just got the missing piece.
So, you create different versions of the chord track for the purpose of later on converting these “on-the-fly” chord progressions into “printed midi data” on the instrument tracks themselves. This printing of the MIDI data achieved by the “Chords to MIDI” function is necessary if you want to have some tracks follow a more complex chord structure, which would be laid out by a second chord track “version”.

I guess the reason it took me a while to wrap my head around this is because the only use I saw for versions on the chord track was to “try out” a minor version of the song vs a major version… but as far as having more complicated rhythms I thought that that would just be a function of whatever was rhythmically programmed on the instrument track following the chord track, and not an actual change to the chord track itself.

You got it. :slight_smile: Making the chord track play an actual part, or close to one, can be an interesting way to create parts that employ actual Harmonic Rhythms, passing chords, substitutes. Chord Track Versions are a powerful Cubase feature, imho.