How to Midi Quantize in songs with changes in time sections?

I don’t know about comping as I don’t use it for midi. I only use it for audio which I don’t quantise. I also do manual moving of notes if the part has good feel but just the odd note is too far out.

So it it normal when you have a midi track that need to be quantized but has sections within the track that need to be free of the quantize (like the ending where it’s slower) to cut the track and quantize only the sections you want or is there a better way? Also in this same tune there is a section where there are some triplets or at least a trill. Is it best to cut this section too or to quantize it with a setting that works for it? If it does work for a trill would it also work for the rest of the tune even though the rest of the tune doesn’t have any notes that are this fast?


Exactly. You can quantize per note. So if you need to quantize a group of 5 notes as 1/16 and other group as 1/8T, select the groups separately and quantize the separately.

For the slow down you can record it in the original tempo and then change the tempo map to slow down all tracks the very same way at once.

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Ahhh Ok thanks Martin! I appreciate your input and time on this.
Thank you.

ahhh I’m still not all that happy with any type of quantizing with midi.
I get the performance decent then quantize. Some of the tune is fine with one setting and other aren’t. So I cut things up to separate the sections that require a different scale of quantizing but it’s spending way too much time messing with this and it feels like it’s taking away from the performance. Why is it every time I see a video about Cubase that it all goes perfectly and every time I do the same it’s a mess? It never seems to work out. I find it hard to believe that the first song I use Cubase on is that much different and that out of the ordinary to require this much messing with the get a simple quantized track done.

With quantise a lot depends on the original accuracy of playing. Also Cubase can’t possibly know exactly what you want. I don’t know any program you can just hit the quantise button with material with triplets and semi quavers as well as tempo changes and it just work.

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Yeah I would have to agree but I don’t think I’ve seen one example video that shows anything I’m dealing with. I guess that’s why I’m frustrated. So is it common to chop up the track to quantize it?

Also when making a track using the comp method where you have many takes and trying to pick and choose the best out of all of them to make a decent final track how to do you recommend handling the quantize? It seems it might be better to record all takes then decide which ones are going to make up the final track and THEN quantize rather than trying to quantize for every track. What’s your thoughts on this?
I just tried to record a section of this song without the click that never feels quite right playing to the click but it’s so far off I haven’t found any quantize settings that seem to keep the feel of the music without messing everything up. I must be doing something wrong.


So I play drums from an electronic kit triggering sd3 drum vst. I always play a song from beginning to end. If I comp then I choose my parts before quantise and make a single track. I already know what bits quantise will not work well in so I tend to manually adjust nites that are too far out. In some parts I just go through selecting groups of notes to quantise.

If you are playing without a click and want to keep the feel then I suggest just manual fixing. Quantise works well for strict timing and you can also use it to move notes closer without it being aggressive but I must stress if the playing is too far out then quantise without cutting up or manual could shift things in any direction. The smaller the value you choose then a note will move to the wrong place if it is closer to it. Also with too greater value with drums you get flams moving to the same position so they are no longer flams. They are then duplicates.

So I use use a mixture of manual and specific notes. I also cut parts up. If you do cut watch out for notes that start too early as they end up in the wrong part.

Have you tried working on the midi data in the Key Editor rather than in the Project Window? How do the notes appear in relation to the grid? First, select any notes or sections that are badly out of sync and then, quantize to taste. Have you tried Iterative Quantize? Say 25-30%? - that moves your notes closer, but not exactly to the grid. Getting the settings right matters. You can get as granular as you want depending on the zoom level and size of selection, either working on large sections or even note by note. Knowing applicable key commands is super helpful for this kind of work. You might also try Track Versions instead of comping multiple takes. HTH

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hi Rhenn,
I have…just recently though. I didn’t even think of quantizing in the key editor! I was manually moving things…which works but not for everything.
You are the second person that mentioned “Iterative Quantize”. I’ve never heard of that and looked up the term in the Cubase 12 manual but it didn’t show up. Is that similar to “Soft Quantize”?

So track versions are different than the Comp method where you have lanes?

In general would you say that you’re never quantizing a track in a single go? I have never been successful with that method. It always messes up something.

I never quantise a track in one go. Iterative quantise moves the notes closer but depending on the value you choose it may move them closer to the wrong place.

Quantise is good but it is never going to know exactly what you were aiming for. If you play something and say have 8th note quantise then it will move a note to the nearest 8th note. If you have played too far out the note could be closer to where you don’t want it. It really is down to playing in time or at least very close. If you are far out quantise will never work right

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Ok I gotcha,
Well it’s not that I’m FAR out of time, it’s that some of the music has a “swing” feel an anticipated feel where the notes don’t fall on the grid. If they do fall on the gird in this passage it doesn’t sound right. This is the struggle right now. I’ve gotten it a bit better in the last 10 hours but wow it’s a learning curve for sure.
Is Iterative Quantize the same as Soft Quantize?]
Yes I’ve noticed sometime the quantize features is moving the notes in the opposite direction I need them to go in. Of course I wasn’t aware that I could have quantized in the midi note editor in small sections which would have helped make things a bit easier.
The more I mess with this the more I’ll understand. I’ll get it…I hope
Thanks for you help.

Sounds like you’re making progress. You familiar with Edit>Quantize Panel? Many ways to subtly effect timing, including swing, “groove”, and yes, sorry, “soft quantize”. (Apparently the lingo changed at some point; I’m an old dog.)
Highly recommend you read the Operation Manual section on quantize, or at least watch some videos. It takes some practice and experimentation to figure it out. UNDO is your friend. Try something, and if you don’t like it, undo. Better yet, make a copy of the current track version in the Inspector, and experiment on the copy. Or duplicate the track which does a similar thing in a much less elegant manner.

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Thanks Rhenn,
I didn’t know about the Quantize Panel!! I see the Swing adjustment! This was one of the reason why I switched from Ardour to Cubase. It has everything and every tool that’s needed. It’s just learning that they exists and how to use them. Thanks I’ll read the manual and watch some videos on Quantize. Thanks again

It’s completely normal to have MIDI cut up into different regions that need to be quantized differently. Unfortunately, I don’t see that Cubase makes it as easy as other DAWs to be able to go back and look at how you quantized individual MISI regions - and see what that is set to after you have already applied quantization. So say you set a region 1/16 note quantization and 50% swing and want to go back an see what you did, but don’t recall you used those settings… I don’t see a way to get the MIDI info for that region to report that is already set to 1/16 note quantization with 50% swing after you’ve changed settings and quantized other regions to something different.

But you might want to consider the following. In the left hand side panel , you can expand MIDI Inserts, and then from the list of MIDI plugins, there is a MIDI quantize plugin that can be applied per track. When you select a quantize setting in the MIDI quantize plugin it is applied to the MIDI regions on that track during playback only and you don’t need to use the Quantize panel and quantize each region. Unfortunately this only works per track though and not per region, i.e., you can’t click on a region and bring up it’s own unique instance of the MIDI quantize plugin. In other DAWS the inspector displays quantization settings per MIDI region and instantly recalls and allows you to set quantization per region. So in Cubase, you would need to have the MIDI quantize plugin set to unique settings on different tracks, and then sort the regions you need quantized to be on the track with the quantize setting you want for that region.

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@C.F.Christopher Here’s my workflow for MIDI performances.

If multiple takes were made, comp these together first.
Bounce your comp to a new event and stow away the original takes. I prefer to have a single long event at this point.
Open the key editor and listen to the comped performance. Any sections or groups of notes at this point that are noticeably off, I move by hand. Disable “Snap to grid” here (or hold down Ctrl do defeat snapping temporarily). Instead of moving notes by hand, I might instead manipulate the start value of the selected notes from the status line or use a “Nudge” command.
Sometimes I use “Soft quantize” (previously called Iterative quantize) with a low strength value, between 10-20% or so, and apply the soft quantize repeatedly until the notes look like they’re where they are supposed to be.
I seldomly quantize anything to be exactly on the grid.
After I have gone through the entire comped event, I listen through it again to see if I find anything I previously missed.
I do not split or cut an event based on quantizing needs. Splitting or cutting an event would be for arranging purposes. If there are tempo changes in the song, I match the tempo track to any changes if the performance was recorded without a click track.

Finally, if the MIDI performance appear to require a large amount of editing/quantize, perhaps re-recording is the faster option.

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Thank you Mlindeb!
I really appreciate this. I’m going to keep this and refer back to it. This is a very bumpy path I’m on right now. Because of my stumbling into the edit world I’ve lost my momentum. I’ll try your method for sure.
Thank you very much.

Thanks Cdr80. So you too are breaking up the midi event to do the quantizing?
There are so many options and I’m not experianced with any of them so I’ll try different methods of recording and see what “clicks”. Recording without a click…with a click…etc.

I remember this happening a long time ago when using other DAWs. The issue is me I think . I don’t have the time in yet to be too hard on myself but I need this recording/editing process to NOT feel like it’s non-musical and clunky. I feel right now that when I play a tune without recording there is a good chance I’ll play is fairly well. Then when I record I screw up all the time. Which means now I have to edit more and because of this and my lack of experience editing it starts to get more like I’m “assembling” a song rather than recording it. Because of this, I then become super critical because I know I didn’t play it in one shot so I’m trying to use the edit process to make it feel natural…as if I played it all the way through. I don’t like this at all.

Thanks again. I’ll take what you said and document it, referring back to it when I record and edit again.
Thank you

I completely agree that it’s good to play in parts as best/accurately as you can, and then only go back and quantize if you need to. So depending upon how accurately you play, you may find none or only gentle quantization is needed, e.g., maybe start with 1/32 or 1/16 and increase the quantize strength from 0% to 100% (which I prefer to doing iterative quantization) until you get a feel that’s a bit more tight but not necessarily always on the beat. But I’m not talking about quantizing individual notes in the key editor because usually Cubase (and other DAWs) do a good enough job quantization wise (on a MIDI region with many events) that you can get some reasonable quantization w/o having to edit the timing on a per note basis.

Play in your parts as best you can just to get them recorded and into the project. Then go back and re-visit them with more of a “producer” hat on and focus on how all the parts hang together timing wise. For popular music, many people start with getting the rhythm of the drums and bass correct . Once these are together, they might go back and re-record the parts they played in to now be more in time with the drum and bass track, e.g., keyboards, guitar, etc. In this workflow people often end up cutting up the performance with a region for verse1, verse2, chorus1, bridge, chorus2, etc. - because they might want to play in (and/or quantize) the parts for chorus2 to have a slightly different feel compared to chorus1. It really depends upon the type of music you are doing and how picky you want to be about the timing and variation of parts.

What I often find is that I come back to a project after 1 or 2 days of not listening to it and conclude that I no longer like the timing of the parts in chorus2 and want to look at each (MIDI) region there to see what is going on with them timing wise including recalling whatever the quantization settings are for those regions. I find this is not straightforward to do in Cubase (so I filed a feature request for it, Display and set quantization parameters per MIDI region (regardless of track)).

Instead of having to hit the record button, do a take, and then hit stop - try using retrospective recording. Cubase is always buffering the MIDI events you play, and can save them at any time into the project - should not matter if you are playing back the project and practicing with playing other parts. You can turn that into real take I think by using one of the options/fold down menus in the track inspector where it asks you to insert retrospective recording into the track. Maybe you can set the buffer size in preferences but I’m not sure.

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Hey thanks. I have a bad habit of gradually picking up speed when I play. Slowly but surly. But the time I realize it’s too late. I have the song played in four takes and I comped them together. These were played to a click and an active tempo track. It’s not terrible but it feels a little stiff in a few places. I them muted this and played the song two more times without a click…but I actually forgot to disable the tempo track when playing it back. The results was that both tracks played without the click was faster. The second try when recording without the click was 5 bars shorter then the one with the tempo track played to the click. I’m desperate to find the “Ah ha!” moment but so far I’m not there. The bridge of the song has a slightly different feel and there are emphasizes parts of the music has plays a little before the beat. I don’t understand if not playing to a click how I would slide things around. Since I wasn’t playing to a click the grid really doesn’t reference anything. I’m not sure yet but I don’t think that NOT playing to a click is the answer but it does sound more natural.
Crap - if this takes me this long to record a lead piano line in every song I’ve go to record I’ll be doing this for a decade or more!
I need a break for tonight from this song…I’m going numb!! Bedtime for now. I’ll dive into this more tomorrow.

Thanks very much for your input and time on this. I’m really hoping I can find a solution or two that will work for me. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue and struggle with a DAW while recording MIDI.