Not all piano-roll editors are created equal — Cubase’s boasts some very handy chord-programming tools.
As explained in previous columns (in SOS November 2013, May 2015 and November 2018), Cubase offers a range of tools that enable anyone who lacks keyboard skills to create convincing MIDI chord or melody parts. The Chord Pad system is superb, but for a step-based approach to chord/melody creation, you should turn your attention to Cubase’s Key Editor — while most DAWs have such a piano-roll editor, this one is particularly well specified, and it boasts a couple of features that make creating chord sequences a breeze, namely Step Input and the Chord Editing panel.
If you’re able to finger the chords you want, but not good enough to play a complex sequence in real time, Step Input can be a real time-saver. It can be enabled from the Key Editor’s Toolbar, where a blue cursor appears to tell you this mode is on. (Visit the Toolbar’s Settings panel if the buttons aren’t displayed by default.) Any notes played on your MIDI keyboard appear at the cursor position, and when you release the notes the cursor moves one ‘step’ along the timeline. The step length is determined by the Quantize setting, and the note lengths by the Quantize Length setting. (If you set the latter to ‘Quantize Link’, it’s controlled by the former.)
The automatic advance of the blue cursor makes note or chord entry very efficient. You can take as much time as you wish...
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