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Cubase 12: Audio To MIDI Chords

Steinberg Cubase Tips & Techniques By John Walden
Published July 2022

The upper half of the screenshot shows the Audio To MIDI Chords result from a fairly simple strummed guitar performance with three‑ and four‑note chords. The chords were correctly identified (top) and only some minor timing edits (second row) were needed. The lower half shows a less successful example, based on simple chords but with some open‑string drones. Cubase’s chord identification struggled but, even so, the required editing took only a couple of minutes.The upper half of the screenshot shows the Audio To MIDI Chords result from a fairly simple strummed guitar performance with three‑ and four‑note chords. The chords were correctly identified (top) and only some minor timing edits (second row) were needed. The lower half shows a less successful example, based on simple chords but with some open‑string drones. Cubase’s chord identification struggled but, even so, the required editing took only a couple of minutes.

We get to grips with Cubase 12’s new Audio To MIDI Chords feature included in Pro, Artist and Elements.

One of the most intriguing features Steinberg introduced in Cubase 12 is Audio To MIDI Chords. Included in Pro, Artist and Elements, it’s one of a number of enhancements to the Chord Track system and the basic process couldn’t be easier. Simply drag and drop an audio recording onto the Chord Track: Cubase will analyse it to work out the chord and key/scale changes contained within, and will then populate the Chord Track with that information. Obviously, you can use this to analyse commercial tracks and sampled loops, but in this column I’ll focus on using it when you’ve laid down your own musical ideas — a strummed guitar part, for example — and want to develop them further in Cubase but are a little unsure of the chords.

Keep It Simple?

It’s quite a tricky thing that Cubase is attempting to do here, and common sense suggests that simpler recordings should increase the chances of success — so how ambitious can you be? In my experiments, Cubase did an impressive job of extracting the chord sequences from clean DI electric guitar performances containing three‑note triad chords, even when played with busier rhythms, and with four‑note chords the identification was still good, though not always quite as accurate. Unsurprisingly, the results grew less predictable as I reached the limits of my jazz‑flavoured voicings, and I found that arpeggiating the chords or using an alternating thumb bass note could throw the detection off track. Things were also a little hit‑and‑miss with guitar chords that featured open strings as ‘drones’.

When extracting the chords from an overdriven or heavily processed guitar sound, the process was still very usable if the...

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