Humanise the hard quantise


Is this possible with any flavour of Cubase?

I’d like to be able to hard quantise everything so it’s bang on the grid for easy editing and sending out as MIDI files BUT get it to play back with a more human feel. Ideally it’s controllable, either swing or not swung but a control as to how tight the playing is.

Like the quantise functions are now but it only affects playback.

Thanks for any suggestions.


iMac 27" 3.6GHz OSX.6.6 12GB RAM

There are many ways…

Humanize Midi - “Inspector”:

Inspector > Midi Modifiers = "Random > “Position”> "+/-"
(than “MIDI” > “Freeze Midi-Modifiers”, all settings of the inspector rendered in midi regions!)
Very good results, I use this a lot.

Humanize Midi - “Quantize Setup”:
open the Midi Key Editor, and open the cubase “Quantize Setup” window.
In this window, set “auto” - now, midi-quantize is in real time, incl. with undo (!)
edit the quantize parameters directly, try different settings, the “Magnetic Area” and “Random Quantize” is most important. press “apply” - the midi notes are fixed now.
You can save own quantize presets!
After this, the famous “Q”-button is your friend, as ever…:

Humanzise Midi - “Input Transformer”,or "Logic Editor"
Apply Logical editor with following preset:
_Condition (upper part of logical editor window):
Filter Target: Type Is, Condition = equal, Parameter1 = note

Actions (lower part of logical editor window):

  1. Action target = Position, Operation = Set relative random values between, Parametet1 = -8, Parametet2 = 8
  2. Action target = Value2, Operation = Set relative random values between, Parametet1 = -25, Parametet2 = 25
  3. Action target = Length, Operation = Divide by, Parametet1 = 2
    • Value2 in Action 2 is velocity
      ** - Third action is done to avoid overlapping of notes after randomizing position_

(preset by az65535, thanks a lot!)

Hope this helps!


But don’t confuse “Human feel” with “random wrongness”. A good player may place notes before or after the beat. But he’s doing it with perfect control, not because he’s being sloppy!

There’s also the midi plugin “Quantizer” that has swing % settings.

Applying “random position” using the midi modifier (like Centralmusic said) is a good way to add some imperfection and you can also randomize velocity.


Great responses - thanks, especially Centralmusic.

What I’d really like is more of a macro across a folder of say, Woodwind or Brass or even the whole of the MIDI tracks. My orchestral template has about 200 plus instruments so setting each one with slightly different amounts is possible but hard to judge until the whole lot is done. And then, of course, it might need further adjustment depending on the type of music playing. Could spend an awful long time adjusting and not so much composing.

Does this make sense?


+1 !!!

I agree but that isn’t really what I’m talking about.

If we have a run of 8th note string chords, nothing screams “samples” more than hard quantisation. Yes, we can have iterative quantisation to help make it more realistic but then the notes aren’t quite on the grid for copying/sending MIDI files into notation software. Brass, woodwind and percussion all have figures like this where a little “wrongness” makes it more human and more interesting to listen to. Real orchestras work in a state of permanent flux which is very hard/impossible to program.

What I’d love is a Macro control that affects all MIDI rather than per track basis. A touch of randomisation would, given the right music, add more, I believe, than it would loose. In essence, it’s probably a touch of the Random Midi Modifier combined with the Quantize Setup that would make a very useful tool. Doing this sort of thing on each individual track when there are more than a hundred is too time consuming.

Everything suggested so far (unless I’m missing something) is done on a single track level and that’s where the problem lies for me.


Everything suggested so far (unless I’m missing something) is done on a single track level and that’s where the problem lies for me.

I think you are missing something…CentralMusic already explained perfectly your options for randomising/humanising…the methods will work across selected midi parts so not only at track level…you can do all your midi in one go or select only the parts that need doing.

It would be great to have something that works like the regroove mixer in Reason… fully adjustable, mix the amount of groove that is applied or even change it on the fly, pull grooves form pre recorded parts etc, all done really simply.

Ok, unless I’m REALLY missing something here’s what I tried:

The MIDI Modifier is good for a single track only. It certainly works as described by Centralmusic but is really a non-starter when you have more than a handful of tracks to adjust.

The Quantize Setup function certainly does things on a Macro level but fundamentally changes the notes off the grid. When cutting/pasting sections or general editing after this has been applied then the chances of things being missed/left-in accidentally/just placed slightly wrongly increases significantly.

The Logic editor - as above with Quantise Setup.

What I’m after, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t yet exist in Cubase, is a button on the main Arrange page saying Human Playback. It will not alter the actual positions on the grid of the MIDI information but has the flexibility like the MIDI Modifiers/Quantise Setup to change the interpretation. There could even be Presets saying Very Tight, Loose, Slightly Swung along with the other possibilities in more exact numbers.

It could then even have the option of adjusting the MIDI information so that the desired performance is then captured by truly altering the MIDI notes if so desired. It would also have nothing to do with the Quantise functions so that they can still be manipulated as normal.

I think there was a Roland/Yamaha sequencer in the 90’s that did just that.

It seems to me that we are very close to being able to do this but at the same time it isn’t there in an easily accessible way without making changes to the actual notes and the consequences of it.

Anyone else not think this would be a popular feature?


…a button on the main Arrange page saying Human Playback…

I don´t think there are enough user of sequencers who want such button. (think about the electro-dance-chance-fence-“musicians”) :wink:
Even the word “sequence” says: serial uniformity (!)
But in today´s DAWs there are enough features and tips to “humanize” midi at all. (e.g. see above) And the same goes for audio.
Congratulations, we´re in 2011.
IMHO Makros & Co must be enough, I think an extra button would be a litte bit oversized (?)
BTW 1: best way to “humanize” midi is: not to quantize!!!
BTW 2: learn to play “human”-straight. That´s it.
BTW 3: no kidding.

Yes, I’m sure the majority of users are writing music that is served very well by what we have now but you are talking about a piece of music that is a single, unconnected entity.

But there are some of us who aren’t doing that sort of thing. I’m using Cubase for MIDI mock-ups for writing music to picture as are many up to the very, very top of the business. The deadlines are appalling and so any sort of advantage should be grabbed.

Here’s how it works:

Write a cue to picture and the director and co review it. If it’s orchestral based they will want to know pretty much what it’s going to sound like before money is spent on real players so the mock-up quality is crucial. A little percentage of Humanisation can go a long way! Assuming they basically like it they ask for a couple of changes. Fine. Then the supposedly locked picture changes come in and the cue has to be tweaked/severely edited. Having well-programmed MIDI on the grid makes this a much more efficient process. Review again. Perhaps more tweaks and then off to the orchestrator who will also need the music on the grid as importing MIDI into notation software can go horribly wrong if notes are off. Players need to see notes on the grid (!) to be able to then pull them around.

Do you see that humanising the notes in the way we have now doesn’t make our workflow easier when I suspect it’s a relatively simple thing for Steinberg to do? There is plenty of room on the top of the Arrange page for a small button with a drop down menu. It can be hidden by default and only revealed by those of us who would want it.

Am I truly alone in this?!?


Excellent :sunglasses:

@ windle: no. beautifully described. :wink:

P.S: I welcome such feature request as you descriped it - because I prefer such more musical and human opportunities, which are dearer to me than any loop-the-loop-step-by-step-dance-trance-chance-fence-“pattern´n go”-ready-made-preset-“one-click-here´s the song”-features.
So, I think, I vote for your human-button, no problem.
Go and call the hotline to fulfill your wish!

No- you’re not alone- this sounds like a great idea. As you say, hard-quantise for score output, very slightly random (or not-so-random) non-destructive playback across the entire mix.

Not just useful for orchestral mockups, great for band simulations also. With the ability to exclude instruments as well, of course, so they remain hard-quantised, eg 808s. I think the Yamaha QY700 did this in the 90s, but I could be wrong.

Great - I’m glad this idea is getting some traction.

I’d also add that part of the feature would be that both MIDI tracks and Folders could have Human Playback (HP) bypass buttons. RMX drum loops, bass lines, synth arpeggiations are all potential examples where the MIDI wouldn’t want to be tampered with.

I know we are discussing it here but is there a better place to put in an official feature request so that there is the possibility that it could be at least discussed at Steinberg HQ?

Centralmusic - thank you so much for your input on this thread. You have been very helpful in showing me what is currently possible and help me clarify how this new idea could develop.


You’re welcome! I also have an absolute interest in such technical improvements - especially in midi, even if this function is very old there are many undiscovered opportunities.

You will find, if you analyse the tempo and dynamics of a straight audio file that it is dynamics as much as any “lateness / earliness” of execution that sets the natural feel of a performance.
For instance you can hard Quantise a row or hat 16ths or a snare roll and make it sound natural by very small variations in the dynamics.
Mind you, it could be an idea to utilise this effect in some future version of Quantise. “It. Q. + Dyn?”

Yes, this is a good idea. There could be the option of doing the same playback adjustments to dynamics again without it permanently affecting the notes unless requested by the user.

And if we go down that path, why not even an option for varying by degrees Volume (cc7), Modulation (cc1) and Expression (cc11)? Many samples have limited velocities but respond quite well to using the above controllers. These are elements I’m usually pretty good about programming initially but I can see it has the potential to be useful or even make for interesting “accidents!”

All of these are already in place in Cubase but not in the most helpful way for the workflow I’m describing.

Wonder if any Powers-That-Be from Steinberg look at these threads…