Keys and scales - where is the logic? (There is no logic...)

I’m using Cubase Pro for quite some years now, to compose music. I’m a classical composer, that is: I like to write my music as if it were in a score. I use Cubase because I make the arrangements with VST instruments and have comprehensive control about this in Cubase.

Therefore I often just write the notes within the Key Editor, as if it were on a score. For me, writing works usually faster than playing. I have tried to write within the Score window (Control R) but that poses other speed issues, so the Key Editor works the fastest.

BUT NOT IN ALL KEYS! Lately I’ve been getting a little angry with Cubase (Steinberg) - again. In the left zone of my Key Editor I find Scale Suggestions. There is no less than a choice between 61 scales! But there is not one single key with flat notes (bemols - like Ab)!! How do you want me to compose in Ab major? OK, I can imagine hearing you say that this is equivalent to G# major, but this key (G# major) has no less than 8 # signs on the clef. It wouldn’t be completely impossible to work in this, but the C key would have to appear in the Key Editor as B#, the F key as E# and the G key as FX (double #)! What we are presented with in the Key Editor is a scale of G# major as follows: G# - A# - C - C# - D# - F - G - G# ! ??? This is simply impossible (well… extremely complicated and annoying) to work with for any well-trained classical musician. The G# major scale is G# - A# - B# - C# - E# - F double# - G#. It may seem complicated to less trained musicians, to work with B#, E# and F double # as base notes. But that’s just how tonal music works.

The fact that this is ignored by Cubase makes me seriously doubts about the seriousness of the program makers in terms of music theory.
I do understand that working with B#, E# and G## as base notes is not obvious. And actually this doesn’t have to be the case at all. The Score window (Control R) effectively offers the possibility to work with flat notes in the preliminary drawing. And in almost all cases one will not choose the key of G# major, but instead use its enharmonic variant Ab major. The Key Editor should do this too! In other words when I enter Ab major as ongoing key, I should see Ab, Bb, Db and Eb appear instead of G#, A3, C# and D#.

I really hope to hear from you, as to when this will be adjusted, because at this moment this is downright an amateurish system in this regard!

I have not yet tried Dorico for composing, because I also want to have those extensive VST applications and mixer options. Maybe I need to look into Dorico better - maybe it offers the same VST flexibility. Can you comment on this, please?

I did hear from someone within Steinberg that a merger or extensive linking/cooperation of both programs would be possible in the future. This seems to me to be (perhaps) a possible solution to this problem. Is there any forecast on that?

In any case, the current system makes serious work very difficult (in the way I like to do it - and I’m sure that I’m not the only composer who works in this way), i.e. smooth composing in keys with bemols is extremely debilitating.
to the developers: DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS PLEASE! (and let me know…)

Cubase is a DAW, not a scoring program. What you are asking for is what a serious notation system is doing and therefore you should look at Dorico.

What exactly is it that you require from VST instruments. Dorico allows you to load and work with all kind of instruments and libraries, like Kontakt, Noteperformer, Vienna Symphonic Libary, Iconica Opus and a lot more. It allows to create scores of nearly any size and complexity.

So if your focus is on composing you should take Dorico. There is a trial that allows you to check it out.

The program manager for Dorico said in one post that this merger is not going to happen in the near future, due to the different software technologies used.

Use Dorico.


It doesn’t seem complicated, but hard to read. What purpose is there to G# major with 8 sharps, aside from having to use it due to other transposing instruments in the ensemble?

It might be fastest, but it’s the Score Editor that has the functions you are discussing. Also note that you can use the Logical Editor to mass-select certain pitches and change their enharmonic spellings.

If you practice Score Editor skills you would get faster, and be able to take advantage of its features, such as transposing instruments, and enharmonic spelling commands.

Why would you make it personal?

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If I want to use Ab instead of G# in the Key Editor I have to use Dorico?

It’s a long time issue. Personally I think it would be easy to fix.
(Currently the display seems to be hardcoded, that is it will never change no matter what the musical context is; a G# will always be a G#; if they would write two tables, one with sharp names and one with flat names, and then depending on the current musical context would switch the lookup in the correct table, the note and scale names would have the proper names.)

Who knows if and when they’re going to improve this area.
However, I don’t think any future integration of Dorico into Cubase will have any effect on this.

No, but the OP was asking for much more than that.

Sorry, that was written “in the heat of the moment”. I regret this and I would therefore like to apologize to the developers, who have done - and continue to do - excellent work. Let there be no misunderstanding here, I am a big Cubase fan. And the support is also one of a kind.


@DirkMM, which display are you talking about here? On the left side piano keys of the Key Editor?

I’ve indeed been considering trying Dorico for quite some time now. Why I still stick with Cubase is because I suspect the execution options in Cubase are much greater. Nowadays I mainly work with the Vienna Symphonic Library instruments, because of their sound quality and because they offer so many articulation options - which is very important to obtain the most realistic possible end result. But this involves many more aspects than just articulations: subtle nuances in the general tempo, but also the timing of each individual note, their dynamic volume, timbre, etc. In Cubase this can be achieved very precisely with automation curves. I suspect this is not possible in Dorico. In my opinion, these parameters have a huge influence on the music and therefore they help determine how I make my arrangement.
I’m also considering the possibility of starting in Dorico and then importing to Cubase and vice versa. Maybe you can tell me if this is possible.
But I remain hopeful that Cubase will simply introduce the possibility of flat notes in the Key Editor. It doesn’t seem like an insurmountable problem to me.

The main grid is where we put the notes. Left of it there’s the piano keyboard, rotated 90 degrees. And more to the left there is the part with all kinds of setting possibilities (when you have activated the left zone with the appropriate small icon in the top upper right corner.

Indeed, there’s not much use. That’s why I’m asking for the possibility of using flat notes, because I would like to write in A b major instead. In the score, we can alter a note by its enharmonic alternative. Why not making this possible in the Key Editor as well, by indicating the key of the peace. In idea: adding a Key-track, like we also have a tempo and signature track would be fantastic.

So essentially your trouble is that no matter the enharmonic spelling, the vertical keyboard’s note names continue to be spelt in sharps?

I like that idea. It would be in line with already existing design approach, as you said — similar to Tempo and Signature Tracks and for users who do not need such a function, you simply do not have to create such a track.

If you create a new thread presenting this idea and add the “feature-request” tag, I’m sure many users would chime in and support it

Just creating a Key track would solve the problem, since it’s the user who would / has to determine the number of sharp and flat tones. For specific less used scales, there could be added the possibility of manually change one (or more) steps within the scale or just create your own customized scale.

When I write in the Key Editor, of course I look at the notes, placed there. Those have there names indicated at that spot. When I’m writing in A b major, I will just read nonsensical note names. This feels like I’m reading a text that frequently contains words in another language that I don’t know well, and I always have to think about the translation. This really doesn’t work smoothly.

I understand that. I just wanted to make sure where exactly it happens on the screen. So, even though using the Chord track CAN spell the right accidental on the events themselves, like this:

There are still 3 places that don’t care about enharmonic spelling:

  • The key editor’s left side piano:

  • Scales entered into the Chord Track:


  • And the Editor Scale:


I agree it would be nice to have this improved.


Have a look at the various key editors in Dorico, there are many ways of getting into these aspects as well.

or as an example the Dynamics Editor

Both products allow export and import of Midi files, but I don’t know how good this process works.

Anyway, you should see for yourself what is working for you and what not. So take the time and get a Dorico trial, see what it can do and then decide.

Everyone has different requirments and it is good to have the ability to chose.

I read the first post three times now, slowly and thouroughly, and I cannot see the OP asking for anything more.
@ggmanestraki nails it with the screenshots. There is a code area in Cubase that understands whether to use flats or sharps. Then there is one or more code areas that do not have this flexibility, they have what I call hardcoded names.
The reason for this is that different developers in different generations were working on the different areas of Cubase. Nobody bothered to re-write the older parts of Cubase so that they are as musically context aware as the newer code parts.

If you don’t mind me saying, this is a classical Cubase problem. Different people at different times write stuff that in the end does not work in harmony with other areas. It is a patch work.

Continue in the other thread