Transposing a track for both incoming and recorded MIDI events

So. The problem: say that I want to write a piece in D major (possibly with modulations to other keys) but I only want to write on the key editor and play on my keyboard the “white keys” or C major.

Cubase offers many solutions to sorta achieve this with transposition, but none seems to fully help me.

What I’ve tried:

  1. The transpose track. Simple, easy and works. Setup to “2” and all the midi tracks are transposed when playing and when previewing the notes. Want to modulate to another key? Just add another event and set a new value. The only problem is that it doesn’t transport incoming notes, so I don’t have the “play C on my keyboard, hear and record D on Cubase” effect.
  2. Transpose track + Input transformer: The incoming notes are transposed but not their sound, so playing the same note on the keyboard and auditioning it in the key editor results in different notes being played
  3. Transpose track + Midi transform: it doesn’t work since the transpositions are summed
  4. Midi transform in the track: this works. The notes are transposed during playback, when recording from the external MIDI keyboard and when previewing them. The problem is that every time you want to when to modulate to a different key, you should automate a change of the Transpose parameter or the Midi Transformer on every track! This so time consuming if compared to the Transpose track when you can just add an event and have all the tracks follow it

What am I missing? Thanks!

To be honest I don’t get why you need to use the transpose track. If you use the Input Transformer I would imagine everything is in the right key. And if you want to write in a different key, you can change the Input Transfomer settings.

Is what you are doing like this? (but in a different mode):

Hi Steve, thanks for your reply. I mostly compose by drawing notes in the key editor. As per the original post, I want to do it only using the white keys. I occasionally look for melodies or record short pieces on the midi keyboard. Your solution would help in this second case, which is like 20% of my workflow, but not when drawing notes since setting the input transformer alone results in C notes written in the key editor to sound and preview like C and not like, say, D, which is what I want.

Have you played with the scale assistant?

Hi Steve, thanks again for taking your time and trying to help me.
English is not my first language, so maybe I didn’t make myself super clear.

I want to write a piece in D major. It sounds in D major, but I want to play and write it in C major. I don’t what to touch the black keys neither when I’m playing on my MIDI keyboard, nor when I’m editing notes one by one in the key editor. I’m looking for the place(s) where to say “transpose everything +2 semitones” so:

  • I draw a “C3” on the key editor, or move a note to “C3”, and it previews as “D3” via the VST of the track
  • I hit play, and all the “C3” notes of all the MIDI parts play as “D3” from their VSTs
  • I play the “C3” key on my MIDI keyboard, I hear a “D3” from Cubase.
  • If I’m recording, I play the “C3” key on my MIDI keyboard, I hear “D3” from Cubase’s VST, but it writes the “C3” event in the key editor (so, when editing it manually, I still don’t have to use black keys and when playing it back that “C3” sounds as “D3” as per the second point)

The closest thing so far is the Midi Modifier on the track with “Transpose” set to 2. I write a “C3”, it plays as “D3”, I play a “C3”, it is recorded as “C3” but I hear “D3” during the recording and during the playback. The only problem is that it’s not global, so it must be configured per track and if I want to modulate from D major to G major (so, from +2 to +7) I have to write an automation for each track. Not ideal at all.

With the Input transformer (and the preset to transpose), when I play the “C3” key on my keyboard I correctly hear a “D3”, but it’s also writing a D3 when recording, so when I go back to edit it “manually”, which is what I do the most, I see a “D3”, and not a “C3”, that is what I want.

With the Transpose track, “C3” is correctly played back as “D3” and if I want to modulate to a different key (still only writing / playing in C major) all I have to is to add an a point the Transpose track and set the new transpose value. All great, but when I select a track and play a “C3” on my MIDI keyboard, it sounds like a “C3”. Not a “D3”. It only works on playback.
I tried this in combination with the Input transformer: I play “C3” on my midi keyboard, I hear a “D3”, but that’s because it also writes a “D3” when recording. So, when playing it. back, “D3” is now played as “E” (because of the Transpose track applying its +2). So, I wanted to see a “C3” and hear a “D3”, and I see a “D3” and hear a “E”. Not what I want.

If I select “D major” in the Scale assistant, it tells me that C is in the scale, F is not, F# is. Still, a C3 is played as a C3. If I play C3 on my keyboard it sound like C3. It doesn’t help, it’s not what I need.

I hope I managed to make myself clearer!

Thanks again.

To clarify if I have this exactly right, let’s say we have a song from E major, that transposes up half a step each verse.

E → F → F# → G

You want to be able to set an initial transposition of +4 to the track, and start playing in C major from your keyboard. Then, when the piece modulates to F, you still want to play C and have it be F major in reality. Then, you keep playing C, it gets translated to F# for the next verse, etc…

Do I understand correctly?

But then, why doesn’t point 3. work? You start with a transposition value (on the Transpose Track) of 0 for the E major, and +4 for the MIDI Modifier on the track. Then when it goes into F major, you give the transpose track a +1. Then when it goes into F# major, make it a +2. For G major make it a +3. But what if you want to have vocals and other material? You will be forced to exclude these from transposition, and any other material that’s not supposed to conform to this “transposing setup” we are discussing.

Duh, transpose track works on the MIDI part/ audio event level, so no transposing while recording.

I don’t think there’s an easy way to do this.

Duh, transpose track works on the MIDI part/ audio event level, so no transposing while recording.

Yeah, that’s exactly the problem.

Why don’t you do the transposition the keyboard itself, as you go along, before you add the transposition using the transpose track?

That would be ideal, but my keyboard doesn’t support semitone transposition. I figured that with three different ways of doing transpositions, Cubase had a combination of them that supported the workflow I want to use.

I suppose you could use the same idea using the the input transformer instead of transposing the keyboard.

I think I’ve described why this doesn’t work in any combination in a previous reply



I’m not entirely sure I got your suggestion, but I’m eager to try it! What do you mean?

If I wanted to play some passages in different keys using only the white keys on the keyboard, I wouldn’t use the transpose track.

I would:

  1. Set transposition using the Input Transformer.
  2. Record the passage that’s in that key

Then, for the passage in the second key I would

  1. Set the transposition for that keyusing the Input Transformer.
  2. Record the passage that’s in that key


Oh, I see. As I wrote in previous messages, the problem is that I’m looking for a solution that lets me draw / see / hear and play in the transposed key. Shifting the key while recording lets me with the transposed notes in the key editor

So when you want to draw notes, activate the transpose track, and when you want to play piano, deactivate it.

Are you saying you want to work in C major both on your piano and in the key editor, no matter what key you’re actually in?

Basically! C major and then transpose it if I’m working in a major key, a minor of I want to work in a minor key and so on.

So it should always look like the tonic is C?

Probably you can simply use Midi Modifiers → transpose as you record each section, and forget about all the other stuff we’re talking about.

Here’s a project file, for the example:
tranposing.cpr (197.8 KB)

As per previous post, Midi Modifier works. I don’t even need to transpose the external keyboard, it just works. As mentioned, the problem with that is that compared to the Transpose track, key changes are a chore.

Say I have 10 tracks. I want to work in Bb minor, I have to set Midi Transform +1 on all of them and work like I’m always in A minor. Annoying, but doable. In the middle of the piece I want to temporarily modulate to F minor then back to Bb minor. I have to automate the change in the Midi Modifier on all the tracks, back and forth. That’s like fiddling with 20 automations compared to the Transpose track when you just add a couple of events that handle it all elegantly

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I’ve been faced with the same issue, I’ve set up a macro with keyboard maestro to quickly add a midi modifier and start typing in the transpose section. It would be great if the input modifier could work like the transpose in the midi modifier. Otherwise then when you look at the midi event it’s not easy to recognize what you recorded.