Key Signature Handling / MIDI Export

I’m a relatively new Cubase user (moved over from Sonar after X1 to 7.5) and I am digging the new workflow so far. However, coming from a different perspective I’ve found a few things I’m hoping Steinberg would look into supporting. Nothing crazy to implement, but they certainly would help out the converts. This is the first of them.

There was a discussion recently on another forum where we discovered that Cubase doesn’t export the key signature in its MIDI files. As a result, exporting something like:

(image: Cubase staff editor showing treble clef with 3 marked flats (Cmin) holding C, Bb, Ab, Eb. The flats are not directly notated but implied by the staff key signature.)

results at MIDI import into Sibelius as:

(image: Sibelius staff editor showing treble clef with no accidentals (Cmaj), holding C, Bb, G#, Eb. Accidentals are placed on each note.)

The MIDI note data is exported fine, but they key information is not, which makes it hard for Sibelius to import the file with the correct notation for the enharmonics and requires extra clean-up steps. Without the key signature, Bb and Eb are flatted because Sieblius chooses the lesser flat or sharp (Bb is flat#1 whereas A# is sharp#4, and it picks sharps over flats when they tie for the third position in the case of G#/Ab). Based on this post:, it appears we aren’t the only ones experiencing trouble related to key information.

I’ve checked the byte-level output of Cubase 8 Artist and Cubase 8 Pro, and neither exports a key signature. This includes the case when, in Pro, the key is set for a staff and the option to use a single key for all tracks is set in the score options window. I’ve also tried inserting a chord track with root key specified C minor at the start, but this also doesn’t seem to cause Cubase to add Key information.

In order to confirm that this was Cubase-specific, I knew that Sonar outputs key signature information. Using the same notated phrase in the Sonar score window and its “set key signature” feature, I exported a MIDI file, and Sibelius will correctly notate the phrase, including placing the correct key signature at the start and flatting all the notes. It also defaults to placing a key signature of C major at the start of the MIDI file and its project settings.

I recognize that it might be a lesser-used feature, but especially with some of Steinberg’s upcoming products that are rumored to be notation-oriented, I think it would be helpful to support it. And honestly, it seems a little like a deficiency in Cubase’s General MIDI support that it cannot import or export this information, since it’s part of the MIDI specification.

Since keys can be local in the score view but also be linked as a single global key, the simplest way might be to add a new “top-level” track structure, like the Time Signature Track.

Idea for implementation:

  • New track type: Global Key signature OR New event type on Chord track
  • Score keys inherit Global key signature if “Use Global/Single key” is enabled in Score options. If they have local keys they ignore all global key information for display. Transposed staves adjust their key display to either option accordingly.
  • As a cool new perk chord tracks now support a new method of entry: In addition to strictly Em, Dsus2, etc., you can enter I, ii, I/5, etc, and they use the entered Key to work accordingly.
  • MIDI data exported includes key signature events (FF 59 02 XX XX 00) entered from the Key Signature track or Chord Track.
  • In the absence of a key signature track, C major is assumed and broadcast at MIDI tick 0.
  • During playback, MIDI key changes are broadcast to all connected/routed outputs and VST instruments.
  • On MIDI file import, if the project does not yet contain key information for the time points in question, it assumes the signatures from the MIDI file and a corresponding Key Signature track or event list is created and populated. If keys from the project and MIDI file conflict, the user is prompted to have Cubase overwrite the existing key elements from the MIDI file.
  • I’m not sure how it should affect Hermode tuning options. Perhaps add an additional option in there to “use key signature” instead of the reference track for analysis?

Of course, if anyone could tell us that we’ve just been missing an option that would be fine too!


Cubase only understands keys in the Score Editor- you can export MusicXML from Cubase and the key sig goes with.

But yes, it would be very nice for Cubendo to be key-aware. It’s a long standing users’ request. +1