Midi channel on track vs inside of key editor

I am working with cubase scores and to use polyphonic voicing you use “midi channels” to route each note to the corresponding voice in the score. This is displayed in the key editor at the top of the page. However, I am confused by this. On each midi track there is also a place where I change output routing of midi into a VST instrument. Are these the same thing?


No, these are not the same things.

The MIDI Channel assigned to a specific Note is what the Score uses for Polyphony. On the Track if the Channel is set to “Any” then the Track will play that Note on that Channel. However if you change the Channel setting on the Track to a specific Channel, for example Channel 10, then the Track will play back every Note on Channel 10 regardless of the Note’s Channel. So set the Track to “Any” if you want to retain the Channels on the Notes themselves.


Good point, @raino , thank you.

Thank you but I am a bit confused by this because I am able to still assign different channel values to midi notes in the key editor even though my output channel is not set to any. In this case the channel is set to 1 on my track becuase that is where the midi is being routed to the vst instrument I am using on that track. So, with the setting on 1 on the track, I can still use polyphony on that track in my score editor. Can you explain this please? According to your explanation, all the notes should go through channel 1 in my key editor if I have it set to “1” on the track but then I have selected several notes in my key editor to check this and and they are not set to “channel 1” in the key editor, but rather to the individual channels that correspond to the voices in my score editor…


Yes, you can assign MIDI Channel of any MIDI Event (MIDI Note, MIDI CC, etc.) in the Key Editor. But this value is overwritten by the Track settings. So it doesn’t matter, what is written on the MIDI Event, if the MIDI Track forces to set all to MIDI Channel 1 (in this case).

Only if the MIDI Tracks Channel is set to Any, then the MIDI Event’s MIDI Channel is in use.

All MIDI Parts belong to a track. So even if you open multiple MIDI Parts in the Key Editor, the MIDI Channel of the track (the MIDI Part belongs to) is in use. Only in case the MIDI Channel of the track is set to Any.

Hi Martin. If this value is overwritten by the Track settings as you say then why does my polyphonic voicing still work in my score?

You can see all my midi data is seperated into seperate channels which is how polyphony works in cubase. Having my track set to channel “1” did not overide that.

The concept you are missing is that the Track’s Channel setting ONLY effects playback, nothing else.

For example, if you have a multitimbral VSTi like Halion or Kontakt set up with 4 instruments on different channels.

  • Ch1 - Violin
  • Ch2 - Viola
  • Ch3 - Cello
  • Ch4 - Bass

Now if you write lines for all of these and look at them in the Score they will look fine. And if you have the Track set to ‘Any’ the violins will play their line, the violas their line, etc. Now if you change the Track setting to Channel 3, the score will still look exactly the same because you haven’t changed anything it cares about. But if you now play it, you’ll find that the Cello is playing all the lines because the violins, violas & bass will all have the Channel values on their notes changed to channel 3 by the Track during playback.

I understand that this is how the channel settings work on midi tracks and I often use Halion as a rack instrument routed to several midi tracks this way but I was specifically asking what relationship there was between the “track channel” and “key editor channel”. See below.

If I understand you correctly, the key editor channel setting is completely different to the channel setting on my track, can you please confirm this? Also, can you explain why this is in the key editor and what other function it has other than with polyphonic voices?

According to the MIDI spec every MIDI note message specifies a MIDI Channel for that note. In the Key, Score or List Editor this is the value you see when you select a MIDI note. This is also the data that Cubase uses to determine how to display polyphonic voices in the Score Editor. That’s not part of the MIDI spec, it is just how they designed Cubase (and it makes sense in actual use).

The Channel setting on the Track is a mechanism that allows you to change the Note’s Channel value on-the-fly during playback. It never modifies the actual channel values stored in the MIDI part. It’s kind of like at a gig having the piano player play the sax player’s part.

Normally folks leave the Track Channel set to ‘Any’ so it doesn’t mess with the existing Channel data. But if you decide you do want to mess with the Channel during playback, this is where you can do that (not the only place of course). So in general leave it set to ‘Any’.

Ok let me ask you this. Lets say I want to compose a string quartet with Halion SE so I open the vst as a rack instrument. I select 4 slots for the 4 instruments and route out the 4 sounds to 4 individual midi tracks 1-4. On the midi tracks I have to select the corresponding channel so I can’t set it to “any” as you said most folks do. So keeping this in mind, will I still be able to use polyphonic voicings for my score or will I only be able to have one track as one voice? Lets say I want midi track 3 to be part of voice 3 and voice 4 in the score at different times. Will this be possible if all midi data on track 3 is going to channel 3 as I have it set on the midi track?

This is incorrect. In your scenario this is exactly the situation where you do want to use ‘Any’ because it will preserve each MIDI Note’s Channel setting.

Here is a setup that you can use to see how these setting interact. Create your Halion string quartet. Next on the Track’s MIDI Insert put a MIDI Monitor which will show what the Track is sending to a VSTi. Now put a MIDI part on the Track & edit so it is 4 notes long one after the other (i.e. no chords) - one each on Channels 1 to 4. Then play it back in a loop while switching the Track’s MIDI Channel setting between ‘Any’ and Channels 1-5 (yes 5, which is an example of an unused channel). While doing this the MIDI Monitor will show how the Track Channel setting modifies the MIDI data stream.

like this?

I have each note set to a different channel as you can see the notes are colored by channel

Yeah, except I’d put them all on different pitches to make it even more obvious which is which - but as is will work.

ok I see what you are trying to show me. So when the track channel is set to any, the individual channels set in the key editor become active and each note is played by a different instrument and when I select channel 2 for example all the notes play the same instrument (in this case my cello which I have on channel 2 in Halion). So this bascially allows you to use one midi part and have the midi output to several instruments instead of using different tracks for each instrument right? For example, I could have my entire string quartet on one track with each note going to a different instrument patch in Halion right?

yes, exactly.

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THank you for all your help!

You can also use Instrument Tracks this way. So if you are only using MIDI Tracks to setup Channels for the Score, you could switch to the generally easier to use Instrument Tracks.

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good point, Instrument tracks are easier to use :slight_smile: