MIDI import for piano: thoughts

I recently tried recording a piano track to my DAW, cleaning it up there, and importing it into Dorico. It actually went fairly well, but I’m wondering if there’s something I can do differently.

I played pretty accurately, so it was easy to snap to grid. I was playing in 6/8 and quantized to 16ths. I’m in Studio One, and I used the “legato” feature to snap the note durations. When I imported it to Dorico, what I got scared me at first.

But Alt-M is GENIUS! It wasn’t too difficult to grab notes and send them to the bass clef. THIS is what I wish Finale could have done. It might have been enough to make me adopt this workflow years ago.

The other difficulty was the recorded note durations, which resulted in lots of tie chains. But here again, alt+shift+left (grid set to 16ths) was a lifesaver.

For kicks, back in my DAW I tried setting all the note lengths to 16ths (3rd example).

Also not bad. I didn’t use this one, but it seems it would be easier to work with, since I wouldn’t be wading through a bunch of tie chains.


Since at this point I need to do most of the prep work in the DAW, anyone have suggestions for how to give myself an advantage? Again, quantizing note attack isn’t a problem for me, it’s typically duration. Do other DAWs have more advanced functionality in this regard?


I’m sure the Dorico team is already on this, but here are two suggestions for future MIDI import:

  • a “smart” split point for piano tracks that at least tries to guess about hand splits based on the spread of notes at a given position
  • a function to minimize rests and ties

I’ve managed to fix a few problems with quantization (mostly for tuplets) in MIDI import and so hopefully that will greatly improve the results in the next release. A couple of things I’d suggest in the meantime:

  • You may get better results if you apply quantize first (in the future this should be less necessary)
  • You may get better results if you also quantize the endpoints or remove overlaps
  • Try unticking the splitpoint checkbox and use alt-M to move notes between staves - especially if there are tuplets, as there’s a bug at the moment that means you get lots of empty tuplets in the other voices.

If you have MIDI files that don’t import well at the moment then I would be very happy to receive them to improve our algorithms. Please mail to p dot walmsley at steinberg dot de

Thanks Paul. I did quantize it on both the attack and release. The results aren’t bad.

I’m considering getting Cubase, JUST for the ability to drag MIDI directly into Dorico. I like the idea of sketching out a couple bars and dragging them in in pieces. Can you comment on the functionality of this, or direct me to some info about it?

It’s something that is currently at an experimental stage (hence why we’re not really promoting it too much; I don’t think it’s mentioned in the manual or release notes yet). So it’s a bit rough around the edges, and one limitation (in common with MIDI import) is that it doesn’t respell. I can’t recall whether it snaps to the nearest beat or bar in Dorico. You can only drag into Play Mode currently. It is something that we do hope to improve when we get the chance. As well as Cubase, you should be able to drag and drop from any other application that adds its drag data in the format of a MIDI file (or you can even drag a MIDI file from Explorer). I’ve no idea what other applications support that though.

Ok, thanks! I’m getting good results with Studio One as I learn how to tweak it, so I’m pretty satisfied with what Dorico is producing.

That “smart” split point would be awesome someday, if it’s ever realistic. Meanwhile, alt-M is working wonders.

We certainly hope to do better than the current ‘poor man’s splitpoint’.