0.4:Piano Roll Editor

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The Piano-roll editor is the main workspace for composing and editing melodies and harmonies.

Pianoroll-main.png


It can be accessed by double-clicking (or right-clicking):

  • a block in an instrument track e.g.: Pattern-pianoroll.png
  • a step in a track in the Beat+Bassline Editor

It can also be accessed using the Show/Hide Piano-Roll button in the main tool bar: Menubar-f7-pianoroll.png (F7)

Contents

Piano Roll Tool Bar

The Piano Roll toolbar looks like this:

Pianoroll-toolbar.png

Many of the tools are similar to those found in the Song Editor with several important additions.
Also, editing is done a bit differently in the Piano-Roll editor, so you'll have to learn 2 slightly incompatible editing styles.
Warning! the Undo feature (Edit, Undo or Ctrl-Z) does not work!

Playback & Record

Pianoroll-playback.png

In addition to the Playback and Stop controls, there is a Record button which will record the notes you play on either:

Press Stop to stop playback or recording.
The computer keyboard's spacebar will toggle between Playback and Stop in both playback and record modes.

Editing

Pianoroll-editing.png

The 4 editing modes (tools) are Draw, Erase, Select, and Detune. The Draw and Erase modes are explained below in the Notes section.

The Select mode tool allows you to select individual notes to create a group, or "selection", which you can then move, cut, copy, or paste.

  • Rectangular Selection: use the Select tool to drag a rectangular area around some notes. When you release the mouse button, the selected notes will turn blue.
  • Individual Selection: use the Select tool to left-click on a note--it will turn blue.
  • Add to (or remove from) Selection: you can add more notes to the current selection by holding down the Shift key (Shift+drag or Shift+click) and the additional notes will turn blue, too. If the notes are already selected, it will remove them from the selection.
  • Clear Selection: left-click on an empty space in the Piano-Roll


Detuned notes.
Detuned notes.

The Detune mode tool allows you to edit the frequency profile of an individual note. When you click on a note, the Automation Editor window opens for that note and is labeled "Note detuning". You can use your mouse to draw a frequency (pitch) profile graph in both higher and lower frequencies (pitches) than the base frequency (pitch) of the original note. This profile will be used to produce the final pitch (varying or not) of the note when played. Back in the Piano-Roll, the note will have yellow dots either above or below the note which indicates that it has been detuned and in which direction.

Clipboard

Pianoroll-clipboard.png

The Clipboard buttons (above) allow you to cut, copy, and paste a selection, and the Delete key on the computer keyboard will delete the selected notes.

  • Click the Copy button (Ctrl+C) to copy the selected note(s) and place them in the Clipboard. Shift+drag on the selected note(s) to drag a copy of the selected note(s) away from the original(s).
  • Click the Cut button (Ctrl+X) to cut the selected note(s) (i.e. remove from Piano-Roll) and place in the Clipboard.
  • Click the Paste button (Ctrl+V) to paste the note(s) from the Clipboard into the Piano-Roll (this does not empty the Clipboard, so you can do multiple paste actions with the same Clipboarded note(s)). Note these 2 things when pasting:
    • Click on the timeline to position the playhead where you want to paste the Clipboarded note(s), because these note(s) will be pasted to the right of the position of the playhead on the timeline, but the distance from the playhead is sometimes unpredictable.
    • The pasted note(s) are selected (blue) so you can immediately drag them to the exact position you want.

Playback Control

Pianoroll-playbackcontrol.png
These work the same as the Playback Controls in the Song Editor.

Zoom

Zoomsection.png
This works the same as the Zoom Control in the Song Editor.

Quantisation

Pianoroll-quantisation.png
The current Quantisation [1] setting is displayed and can be set using the drop-down menu. This allows you to set the minimum resolution for manipulating note start and end times on the timeline using that fraction of a bar, both when using the Draw mode tool and when using Record.

For example, if you set the Quantisation to 1/1 (i.e. 1 bar resolution), you'll only be able to place notes at the start of a whole bar, and you'll only be able to lengthen or shorten notes in 1-bar increments. You can extrapolate this example case to all the other available quantisation levels.

Notes

Draw and Move Notes

Tip: holding down the Ctrl key in Draw mode converts the mouse cursor to the Select mode tool, and it returns to the Draw mode tool when you release the Ctrl key.
Use the Draw mode tool to place notes in the Piano-Roll.
As you hover your mouse or move a note in the work area, the gray horizontal line helps you see the pitch of the note you're placing:

  • left-click to place a note, or if a chord is selected:
    • place the notes of the chord with current note as the lower note
    • Shift+left-click idem except that the notes are placed in arpeggio mode
  • right-click to delete a note
  • hover over the center of a note until a 4-headed arrow appears then:
    • drag the note either left/right in time or up/down in pitch. This also works for a selection of notes. The note(s) will snap to the nearest time increment as set in the Quantisation drop-down.
    • Alt+drag the note either left/right in time or up/down in pitch. This also works for a selection of notes. The note(s) will "free-drag" and snap to the nearest 1/192 time increment (i.e. max Quantisation).
  • hover over the right-end of the note until a 2-headed arrow appears then:
    • drag the end of note either left/right to change the length of the note. This also works for a selection of notes. The right end of the note(s) will snap to the nearest time increment as set in the Quantisation drop-down.
    • Alt-drag the end of note either left/right to change the length of the note. This also works for a selection of notes. The right end of the note(s) will "free-drag" and snap to the nearest 1/192 time increment (i.e. max Quantisation).

Erase Notes

Use the Erase mode tool to delete notes in the Piano-Roll:

  • left-click to delete a note

Default Note Length

Pianoroll-notelength.png
The Default Note Length setting (in bar lengths) is displayed and can be set using a drop-down menu.
This sets the default length of notes made when you click in the Piano-Roll with the Draw mode tool.
You can choose either a given note length or that the next note will be the same length as the last note drawn.

Note Volume & Panning

Click on the Note Volume/Note Panning button below the piano keys to toggle between the Note Volume and Note Panning editor.

Note Volume Editor.
Note Volume Editor.

The volume (loudness) of each note is termed velocity in music sequencing. Velocity is shown as a vertical green bar below the note in the Note Volume editor. You can change the velocity of each note by clicking somewhere on the vertical bar for that note or by dragging the orange box to the level you want. The color of the note will brighten with increased velocity and dim with decreased velocity. Velocity info is set automatically when you record notes using a MIDI keyboard that is capable of transmitting the velocity of the notes as they are played.

The pan of each note is the ratio of the note volume that is transmitted out the right stereo channel versus the left stereo channel. Pan is shown as a vertical orange bar below the note in the Note Pan editor. By default, the pan is centered (equal volume out the left and right channels). You can change the velocity of each note by clicking somewhere on the vertical bar for that note or by dragging the orange box to the position you want.

Piano Keys

Pianoroll-keys.png

The piano keyboard is on the left side of the window.
You can scroll up (higher pitch) and down (lower pitch) using either the scroll bar on the right side of the window or the scroll wheel on your mouse.
Left-click (or click-and-hold) on any piano key to hear the corresponding note. You can also, by right-clicking, mark the current semitone or all the semitones of the selected chord or scale based on the current note.

Computer Keyboard

Computer keyboard as a piano.

In the Piano-Roll window, you can use the computer keyboard to play notes in a 2-octave range. It starts from Z at C3 and goes horizontally across the bottom 2 rows of the keyboard to M playing B3 (i.e. Z X C V B N M play the natural notes and S D G H J play the sharps and flats). It continues with Q playing C4 and uses the top 2 rows of the keyboard to P playing E5 (i.e. Q W E R T Y U I O P play the natural notes and 2 3 5 6 7 9 0 play the sharps and flats).
Also, an attached MIDI keyboard can be used to play notes.
Both the computer keyboard and a MIDI keyboard can be used to record notes when using the Record feature.

Navigation

HowTo: Composing in the Piano Roll Editor

Prev: Beat + Bassline Editor Up: Manual Next: Automation Editor
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