During Sibelius training sessions, teachers often tell me that using a MIDI keyboard to record notes in live is “a waste of time” because they find they have a lot of fixing up to do at the end of the recording process. Personally, I use the MIDI record feature all the time, but it is a lot more successful is you know a few tricks. Two very important things to remember:

  • Give Sibelius some information about what you’re going to play before hitting record
  • Examine the music you’re about to record to check for repeated sections so you don’t record the same stuff twice

I also assess the complexity of the music: if it’s straightforward I will definitely record the notes in using a MIDI keyboard. If it’s very complex, with lots of syncopation, tied notes and triplets I may choose to enter the notes “manually” instead – using Step-time or Alphabetic Entry.

Don’t forget that you can also record small sections of a piece at a time, so you could record all the straightforward parts and then enter any difficult sections using Step-time or Alphabetic Entry.

Video: How To Record With A MIDI Keyboard

Video transcript below

Video Transcript

Hello it’s Katie Wardrobe from Midnight Music and today I’m going to show you some tips for recording into Sibelius using a MIDI keyboard.

Step 1: Set up your keyboard properly

First, plug in your MIDI keyboard and turn it on. Next, start Sibelius. If you don’t do it in that order you may find that Sibelius doesn’t recognise that your keyboard is plugged in. You can check whether it’s connected by selecting a bar or rest and pressing a few notes on your keyboard.

You can also go into Sibelius’s Preferences area: File > Preferences on all PCs and on Macs using Sibelius 7. Sibelius menu > Preferences on Macs using earlier versions of Sibelius. Click on the Input devices option on the left and you should see your keyboard listed in the window. When you play some notes on your keyboard, the little window will show a green light

Step 2: Getting ready to record

Look at the music you’re about to record into Sibelius. Check to see if there are any repeated sections because there’s no point recording the same section twice – you can just copy and paste the music. Keep in mind too that you don’t have to record the whole piece at once. You can record small sections at a time. Then, work out what the smallest rhythmic value is. That’s going to come in handy in the next step.

Step 3: Set up Flexi-time options

Your recording will be much more successful if you give Sibelius a little information about what you’re going to play before you hit the record button. Open Flexitime options by going to the Note Input tab and then click on the little dialogue launcher button here. In earlier version of Sibelius, go to the Notes menu and then Flexitime Options. I won’t go through all the settings here, but I’ll just highlight a few useful ones:

Firstly, this Flexibiltiy of tempo setting controls how Sibelius follows your speed. If you want to vary your tempo a little while you play and have Sibelius work out where your beats in the bar are, choose one of the Rubato options. I find that people trying Flexitime recording for the first time have more success when they leave this set to None. This means that Sibelius will keep a fixed tempo which you will need to follow by listening carefully to the metronome click. The Record Into Multiple Voices option here allows you to record two rhythmically independent parts on one stave. If you’re recording a single line melody I would suggest turning this off. On the notations tab, it’s important to leave this Adjust rhythms box checked. You might remember that we found out that the smallest rhythmic value that I have in my piece is a quaver, so that’s what I’m going to select in the drop-down menu here. This is not quite a quantisation setting but it will help Sibelius to round up the rhythmic values if you happen to play a very short note by accident. Lastly, unless I know I need to play tuplets, I turn all the tuplet settings to None. Click OK to close the window.

Step 4: Check the tempo

To check the tempo, I like to listen to the metronome for a couple of bars. That way I can see if it’s going to be too fast for me to play the music accurately. To listen to the metronome, I just select a bar or rest and press the record button, but I don’t actually record anyth:ng this first time. Press Space bar to stop. If it’s too fast, you can record at a slower speed by just making a temporary change to the tempo. Go to the View tab and in the Panels Group, check the Transport box to open the Transport window. If you’re on an earlier version of Sibelius, this window is usually open by default. Slow the tempo down by moving this tempo slider to the left.

Step 5: Record!

So, here’s where you take a deep breath, get ready and press the record button. Remember that you have a one-bar introduction before you will start playing. When you’ve finished playing, press Space bar to stop the recording.

Step 6: Fix any errors

The last step is to fix up any errors you made. If the pitch of a note is incorrect you can select it and use the up or down arrow keys to move it. If the rhythm is incorrect you can select the note and then choose a new rhythm on the Keypad.