MUS 514A / CSC 514A

Piano Roll View

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The Piano Roll View displays all events (notes, etc.) of one track at a time in a grid format that looks much like a player piano roll (p. 169ff).  To access this view, either right-click in the Track or Clips pane to see the menu, or, from the menu bar select View, New, Piano Roll.

Notes are displayed as horizontal bars, and percussion notes a diamonds.  Pitch runs from bottom to top, with the left vertical margin indicating the pitches as piano keys--i.e., each note entry is lined up with the actual piano key representing that pitch.  Time is displayed running left to right with vertical measure and beat boundaries.

Piano Roll view has two main panes:  Notes (upper half of window) and Controllers (lower half of window).  When you first open a Piano Roll window, the Note pane is full size and the Controllers pane is hidden at the bottom.  Double-click the border to maximize the Controllers pane, or drag the border as high as you want.


  • Any Edit commands you use in a Piano Roll view operate only on the single track shown.  This helps you avoid editing other selected tracks by mistake.
  • You can open more than one Piano Roll at a time.
  • Besides the Piano Roll view, there are three other views that let you edit events in tracks: the Staff, Audio, and Event List views.  (Audio view applies to externally recorded audio files, such as events recorded via microphone or imported audio files.  We will likely have limited exposure to audio files in this class.)  Event List view is extremely helpful in editing.  More about that on another handout.

Editing in Real Time

Piano Roll view lets you edit notes and their controllers (volume, e.g,) during playback or recording.  This is particularly helpful when you are looping a small region, such as a couple of measures.  You can hear any changes you make on the next loop.  This view also shows notes on-screen as you record them.  When a Piano Roll view is the active window, Edit menu commands operate only on those notes that you have selected in that Piano Roll view.


The tools in the top left corner of the view apply to both the Notes pane and the Controllers pane.  For example, if you choose the Scrub tool (lets you hear the notes as you "scrub" over them--looks like a gold speaker), it scrubs notes in the Note pane, and changes to a pencil (allows edits) in the Controllers pane.  This lets you scrub notes above, and modify event Controllers below, all without changing tools.  The erase tool is the one exception; it only erases notes.

Picking a Track

This button [89] is located at the bottom right corner of the screen.  If you open the Piano Roll view on the wrong track, or you want to work on a different track, click this button, or press T.  Doing so brings up a dialog box where you may make your selection.  To return to the previous track, click Cancel in the Pick Track dialog box.


(Magnifying glass keys at bottom right).  Click on the larger magnifying glass to zoom in, and the smaller to zoom out.  There are six levels of vertical zoom affecting only the Note pane.

Working in the Note Pane (upper half of screen)

There are four modes:  Select, Draw, Erase and Scrub.

Select Mode

[a] Shortcut key:  S.  Click the Select button to enter Select mode.  In this mode, you can select one or more notes (click drag, shift+click drag).  Notes may be dragged and dropped (copied).

Draw Mode

  • [g] Shortcut key:  D.  Click the Draw button to enter Draw mode.  The Draw mode lets you insert new notes and change existing notes.  When you draw notes, they are inserted into the current clip.
  • Changing an Existing Note:  The part of the note that you click--left, middle, right--determines what aspect of a note that you can change.
  • L:  Pointing to the left third of the note affects the note's start time.
  • M:  Pointing to the middle third of the note allows the note to be dragged up or down to a new pitch without changing the starting time.
  • R:  Pointing to the right third of the note allows change in the note's duration.


  • Inserting or Copying a New Note:  New notes can be inserted in two ways:
  • Simply click on an empty space.  You can release the mouse button at that point or drag to another location and release.
  • Control+Click an existing note and drag the copy to the desired location.

Erase Mode

[t] Shortcut key:  E.  When you select the Erase tool, you can click on notes to delete them.  You can also left-click and hold the mouse button while you press the Delete key.

Scrub Mode

This is the button that looks like a small speaker.  Shortcut key: B.  Click the Scrub tool to activate it.  Move the pointer to the place where you would like scrubbing to begin.  Click and hold down the left mouse button to display a vertical line.  As you drag this line over the notes--in either direction, at whatever speed--the notes sound.  This feature can be helpful if you are trying to locate a wrong note, or need to test notes after adjusting their velocities, etc.


Using the right mouse button, click a single note.  The Note Properties dialog box lets you edit all note parameters, including some that Piano Roll view does not display:  Time, Pitch, Velocity, Duration, Channel.


[g] Shortcut key:  N.  The Snap to Grid button (matrix button) lets you pick a round-off number for changing note start times and durations.  When you move or copy a selection using drag-and-drop, the start time of the entire selection is rounded to the nearest Snap-To duration.  Clicking the Snap button (or pressing N) displays the Snap to Grid dialog box where you can choose various resolutions.

Working in the Controllers Pane (lower half of screen)

The lower pane shows Controller and Velocity events.  These events look like a graph.  The horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents the event values.  Each event appears as a single vertical line, and the height of the line shows the event's value.  Only one type of Controller event is viewed at a time.

Selecting a Controller Event type:

To change the type of event to view and edit, use the Control drop-down list menu, located at the bottom left corner of the screen.  The list contains choices for Velocity, Pitch Wheel, Channel Aftertouch, 120 Controller types, RPNs (Registered Parameter Number), and NRPNs (Non-Registered...).


Using the editing tools, you can decrease or increase the velocity of a note by adjusting the height of its velocity mark.

Pitch Wheel

This selection shows pitch-bend messages created by using the Pitch Wheel.

Channel Aftertouch

This selection shows Aftertouch messages created by applying extra pressure to a synth keyboard note.  Aftertouch primarily involves vibrato, but may also include other modulating sounds.


Choosing Control activates a second drop-down list which contains the names off all the controllers available for this instrument.  This includes events such as use of the sustain foot pedal, etc.

Editing Controllers and Velocities

The Controllers pane has four editing modes, which are activated by clicking the appropriate button in the upper-left corner of the window.

Select Mode

[a] Shortcut key:  S.  The Select mode lets you select Controller events using the mouse.  As in other views, you can select events by clicking them individually, or you can lasso entire ranges of events by holding down the Shift key while clicking or drawing. (p. 180)

Draw Mode

[g] Shortcut key:  D.  Use the Draw mode to draw Controller changes with your mouse.  This mode allows you to add new Controller events or modify existing ones.  Select the Controller type and MIDI channel you want to change.  Drag to draw the event shape you want.  When you release the button, the view updates to show the new Controller events. (p. 181) Use ^+Z to undo.

Line Draw mode

[ \ ] Shortcut key:  L.  To draw a straight line between two points, select this tool and hold at the beginning point, and drag to the second point.  When the mouse button is released, the two points are connected by a straight line. (p. 182)

Erase mode

[t] Shortcut key:  E.  Use the Erase mode to delete Controller events.  Drag over the desired region.  Those events are deleted when you release the mouse button. (p. 183)

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