Sibelius Tutorial: How To Record With Your MIDI Keyboard [Video]

Sibelius Tutorial: How To Record With Your MIDI Keyboard [Video]

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.

By |2018-09-08T06:59:16+00:00June 25th, 2012|Macs and PCs, Teacher Tech Tips|22 Comments

About the Author:

I love to simplify technology for music teachers. I help teachers from all around the world through the Midnight Music Community - an online professional development community where teachers can take online courses, ask questions and receive personalised help for the music tech goals.


  1. Laura Blackwood October 13, 2012 at 9:59 am - Reply

    THANK YOU for this tutorial. It saved me so much time when first setting up to record in Sibelius using my keyboard.

    • Katie October 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks Laura! Glad it helped.

  2. jose manuel July 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    thank you so much!! it help me a lot

  3. Warbecks October 20, 2013 at 5:33 am - Reply

    Thanks a ton! The flexi-time section was especially helpful!

    • Katie October 21, 2013 at 11:06 am - Reply

      You’re welcome 🙂

  4. LYNN TAYLOR February 10, 2014 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Good afternoon
    I have recently upgraded to Sibelius 7 and am having trouble getting the metronome and playback to come out of the keyboard itself. The metronome click is very soft on the computer. I have the computer set on 100% volume, but it is still very soft. Can you Help?

    Yours sincerely


    • Katie February 13, 2014 at 8:08 am - Reply

      Hello Lynn,

      You might like to try adjusting the volume level in Sibelius itself. Open the Mixer by pressing “M” and then check that the volume slider for the Click is all the way up to the top. You can also make sure the Master Volume slider is all the way up. If you’re using the Sibelius 7 Sounds as your playback, there’s a separate volume slider for that too (it’s green with “S.Player” at the bottom – if you can’t see it, click on the VI button on the left of the Mixer screen). Slide that up as well! Hopefully that might help. – Katie

  5. Graham December 9, 2014 at 3:18 am - Reply

    Recording live in MIDI is fine thanks. But can I alter the “instrument” that I hear on recording. Currently it is a string sound – but prefer piano or something with attack.

  6. James August 19, 2015 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks Katie for your tutorial, it has helped me a lot understanding the basics ..I am having trouble now with midi instrument seems not to be in sync with everything on the otherwords I am playing in tempo with the beat of the bar..but it doesn’t come out in sync ?
    I have midi accordion into a Roland RA95 module and into the computer and Sibelius 7 ?
    Any ideas ?

    Many Thanks

    • Katie September 9, 2015 at 9:12 am - Reply

      Hi James,

      It sounds like you have a latency issue. It’s difficult to diagnose the exact cause because the cause is different for everyone and dependant on your computer, OS and equipment combination! Take a look at this article for further info.

  7. andremartins April 2, 2016 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Katie, thanks a lot for putting such a great energy and time on this page!
    I have a question to you: I am having a very hard time to create scores on Sibelius (same to Finale or Musescore) using my Akai EWI USB as the primmary midi controller. Or I can’t have any input at all (all midi configuration done right) or I have weirdo notes and articulations, something completelly different from what I played.
    Any idea how to improve this?
    Thanks for any help or hint,

    cheers from Brazil,


    • Katie April 6, 2016 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Andre! I’m not familiar with that model, and haven’t heard of a problem like that before so I don’t know if I’ll be any help. It might be worth trying the Akai support pages perhaps?

  8. Alex April 8, 2016 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Hi Katie,

    Thanks for the instructions above – really looking forward to recording sheets so I do not keep forgetting what I compose over time.

    Does Sibelius give you the ability to play two hands at once? If so, how do I set Flexitime to record my playing?

    • Katie April 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Alex – yes, you can just go ahead and play with both hands together. Sibelius works out whether to put notes in the right hand or left hand staves by way of a “split point” – a specific note somewhere in the middle of the pitches played by both hands. Everything above the split point goes into the RH stave and everything below into the LH stave. You can let Sibelius automatically work out the split point or you can set it yourself in the Flexi Time Options dialogue.

      It can be difficult to find a consistent split point in any given piece though! My personal preference is to record each hand separately most of the time. It means a higher level of accuracy and less fixing up in the long run!

  9. Doug May 15, 2016 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Hi, Katie I’m a total newcomer to MIDI interface. I have a Yamaha NU1 hybrid, and I am trying to get Sibelius (on my Mac) to record it. I have gotten as far as it listing the keyboard in Devices, but it does nothing when I test or hit record in Flexi-time.

    Other maybe pertinent info. In the columns columns it shows the following:
    Use: I can check the box, but the check is white, barely visible
    Device: MIO (not sure what that means)
    Type: Keyboard
    Input Map: MIDI Keyboard

    Any thoughts?


    • Katie May 17, 2016 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Hi Doug – not sure I can help you with that one. It might be best if you contact Sibelius support or post in the Sibelius users’ forum (lots of helpful people there!)

  10. Sharny Russell June 24, 2016 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks Katie! I record a lot of melodies straight into charts using a midi keyboard, and it works well. But I have this issue which keeps turning up. Even though I select the whole score and make sure it’s just one voice, I always end up with a whole lot of mess with 2 voices going on, and have to delete rests all over the place and my melody ending up being a combination of 2 voices! What am I doing wrong!? I well over it by now.

    Thanks so much

    • Katie July 7, 2016 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      Hi Sharney – have you made sure to uncheck the “Record into multiple voices” box in the Flexitime Options window? That should ensure that you’re definitely recording into one voice only. Hopefully that will solve it!

  11. Bill Scott May 17, 2018 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    I’m using Sibelius 6 with a Yamaha p250 keyboard for recording and playback could you suggest some smaller speakers and keyboard I could use Many thanks Bill

    • Katie May 24, 2018 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Hi Bill! I’m not really an expert on what’s available right now in speakers (your local music shop could probably help out with advice), but I have speakers by M-Audio – Studiophile AV40s – which are great.They are compact in size so they fit on my desk easily. I also have another set of speakers which I use when I’m presenting. They’re also M-Audio speakers and are the Studiophile BX5a Deluxe model. I’ve had both of those for a long time now so the models may have changed over the years.

  12. indra barus June 20, 2018 at 1:40 am - Reply

    Hi Katie, I am using Behringer UMX 250 Midi controller recording to the music score thru Sibelius, but when i press the UMX250 keys then the voice is getting delay to the music score, can you guide me how to fix it please. thanks Indra

    • Katie July 16, 2018 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      Hi Indra – it’s difficult to know without being there looking at your setup. Did you watch the video above? The tips I give are the things you should check/test.

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