Midi Entry - How I Wish It Worked

Hi All,

Like many composers, I like to work at the keyboard, and have always wanted midi entry that was designed to work better for an improv → notation process. (Followed by pulling out the good stuff, trashing everything else, and going from there).

The key for me being that all I really want to capture with midi is really the pitch material on the fly, and then to be able to go back and add rhythms later. (For myself, and I would imagine most people, rhythm is far easier to remember and work out from memory than pitch is).

I also want to be able to work without being required to follow a metronome. I just want to play, and worry about everything else later.

How I imagine this might work is:

  1. You hit record
  2. You play a midi keyboard hooked up to dorico. No barlines or time signatures!
  3. You improv, and what dorico records is just (black) noteheads on the pitches which it displays without stems, but with horizontal spacing implying relative durations.
  4. Once you’re done, you can then toggle into a mode to add rhythm.
  5. Once in rhythm mode, you can just move through the notes using the arrow keys and specify the rhythms for the notes using numbers. You’d probably also want to be able to move notes between different voices at this stage of the process.
  6. Then you can add times signature/s which inserts barlines where appropriate.
  7. Then you can move over to normal dorico mode to continue working with your material as per usual.

Hopefully the description is clear to other people.

Alternatively, imagine that when you improved in using a midi keyboard, dorico just recorded everything as quavers. Then you can go back and just adjust each quaver to the correct duration. You can do this currently with Finale for example, but the problem is in going back and adjusting the rhythms with how finale handles bar(lines). You end up having to insert lots of bars as you fix up the rhythm, and copy and paste stuff between bars etc. If it weren’t for the damn barlines it’d all be much easier.

I doubt this will ever be something that is introduced, but in the off chance that someone at Dorico might go “Hmmm, interesting idea. Let’s do it”… please and thank you.


1 Like

I think to some degree you can already do this, can’t you, Chris? You can bring the click right down in the Mixer so that you don’t hear it, and then just input the music however you like. You’ll find that the durations are odd and may well be offset at a funny distance from the start of the music, but if you use Insert mode to delete the gap at the start, you can then work with Insert mode switched on to change the durations of all of your notes to match whatever you like.

1 Like

Currently, unless I’ve missed something, it’s a lot more work to clean up the rhythms to fit a grid than if you simply only had pitches and them just went and punched in the durations.

Or you have to have bars, barlines and time signatures and provide rhythmic information as you go.

I want a limbo state where all the pitch information is recorded sequentially but awaiting being provided with rhythm information.

I’ve just never found midi entry to be nearly as useful as a composer (if you’re not working to a specific tempo) as it should/could be. Either you end up spending so much time trying to clean all the rhythms up that it defeats the point, or you have to stop constantly to specify the rhythm which makes it impossible to really get a flow going.

The closest thing is F* with simple entry set to crotchets, you just play, and everything ends up being crotchets, then you go back and adjust rhythms. It’s easier to work with than recording with the metronome silenced and trying to clean it up, and you can get into the ‘flow’ more where some nice musical things start to happen.

I dunno. Maybe it’s just me, but if there was a better way to go from improv → notation, for the early stages of a rough draft, that would really be something else!

1 Like

If you want to input notes with a “generic” note value, you can do that using a MIDI keyboard using Dorico’s standard note input method (the caret); the added benefit of that method being you don’t need to create sufficient time before starting input, Dorico will just keep adding beats at the end as you keep inputting notes.

You can then use Insert mode to tidy up the durations of notes afterwards, and with Insert mode on, deleting notes doesn’t leave a gap either - notes “move up” to fill the space of deleted notes.

As Lillie says, it’s hard to see how F*s Simple Entry could be more suited to this than Dorico already is.

I’m sure you’ve tried this already, but there is one area where F* might yield good results (under the right conditions) and that is with HyperScribe, using TAP tempo. Since both your playing and the tap will come from the same source, latency is not an issue, and the notation is much more accurate. (certainly with a little bit of practise :slight_smile: )

Remember that it’s easy to start in F* and then export MusicXML and continue working in Dorico. Unless miracles happen, Dorico is much better suited to this kind of editing operations than F* will ever be…

Of course Dorico can enter notes according to a defined pitch, as with SimpleEntry. (Duration first, then pitch) - or as in Speedy Entry (Pitch first, then duration). Many composers like the latter, as you can ‘noodle’ on the keyboard to get the right notes, and then only enter the notes when you press a duration button.

Actually, I was quite intrigued by Score Cloud and its “smart transcription.” The idea is quite brilliant, and seems to be what the OP is asking for.

Unfortunately I found it doesn’t export well via XML, but I think there’s a lot of exciting potential here for smarter transcription engines.


Ooh, that font, though… ! :grin:

I actually really like this idea. This is very similar to a workflow you might see in the venerable SCORE or something close to it.

To type out pitches, then go back and assign values sounds incredible, but without the distraction of inputting “generic” note values. This would be true “pitch before duration” like how I can input rhythms right now and then go back and “lock rhythms” before inputting notes.

THIS! Looks really cool. Shame it doesn’t export well to XML.
That said, I don’t even particularly care if it has the ‘transcription’ part of it. What you see at around 0:35 looks exactly like what I was imagining, and then you can go back and assign rhythms later.

Like you said, a true “pitch before duration” situation.

Just to clarify, I’m not suggesting F* is in anyway superior to Dorico. I have used it for years and know how to work with it, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

That said, my hope is that Dorico could be the software that really nails midi entry from a composer’s perspective.

Surely you can just play your notes in to a quarter note, and then with Insert on, set the durations you want.
Everything you ask for seems to be here already, unless I’m misunderstanding?

Sure, starting off in F* is fine. For routine operations, like note entry, I’m still 10 faster i F* myself , but for non-modernist projects Dorico is way superior for the later stages, and transferring projects via XML is very straightforward, certainly with quarter notes only … :wink:

Anyone using Staff Pad? allows you to simply write on a touch screen and notes are formatted correctly and played by samples. Export to Dorico to clean up as required…

1 Like

Not really sure how writing into Staff Pad has anything to do with quick note entry in Dorico. Yes, it’s an alternative workflow, but it requires additional software and expense, and many people aren’t quite happy with the quality of the parsing engine of SP.

I own SP*. I like it and think it is a cool program. I’ve sketched a handful of my works there before exporting back to F* or S*.

What I like about it is that you only need one hand to do note entry. With other programs it generally requires some controting and stretching to use qwerty entry one handed.

The reason I like this is that working at a piano, I can leave my left hand in place while I notate the right hand before moving on to the left etc.

Also, only having a panorama view as the option while writing changes how you think. Whether or is a good thing or not is unclear to me, it’s just different.

Personally, I’d love a touch screen notation app that worked as described here. Perhaps Dorico could make an accompanying app so one can plug their ipad into a midi keyboard for note capture, and then fixing up the durations, then bring it back into Dorico. Would work really well as a touch screen thing imo.

Well I guess this is about MIDI entry and the many ways to speed this up. All these programs are creating MIDI files, but I take your point about the expense to achieve this.

SP is certainly a huge leap forward, but Dorico is doing something different; creating beautiful looking scores.

I don’t think there’ll ever be a single solution to getting our music printed and performed, you’ll always have to use various apps to do it based on your personal ideas and workflow.

Thanks for the info. I’d like to try SP at some point, as speed of entry is a big factor for me and you can clean everything up in Dorico for the final print out if you don’t like SPs formatting.

There’s never one solution is there?!

I wouldn’t say SP is quicker. Two hands qwerty is faster.

SP can be quite frustrating to use and you have to learn how to work with it.

I like it for sketching at the piano and jotting down ideas etc. Beyond that, other programs are likely better options for more serious working


I wonder if it is our mindset - that it might be more effective to be in the Piano roll of the PLAY tab for that kind of writing? I watched a couple of Spitfire library walkthroughs where a film composer was playing MIDI into the Cubase Piano roll, and then editing.

Dorico can change the written notation based on adjustments made in the Piano roll - so we can play them however we like, change the duration and rhythm first by dragging on the roll before fussing with insertion and note types? At least go into the notation view with something closer?

While Cubase does seem to have some advanced features as far as hot keys for quantization etc, on the piano roll (they were working incredibly fast!) it doesn’t sound like anything that a plugin couldn’t do at some point,