I'd like some hints reading piano roll notation in Cubase LE. At the moment when I see the vertical piano keyboard on the left-hand side of the window I'm sort of turning my head, imagining it horizontal.

Seems that everything that's on a stave can be represented in piano roll, e.g. note pitch, duration, bends, articulation and so on. I'm comfortable with using visual cues in stave notation, so for instance if a three note chord has notes on three adjacent lines (or three adjacent spaces) I know it's probably a root position triad. Or I can see if two notes are a third or a fifth or an octave apart. And so on.

What should I be concentrating on when I'm reading (or writing) piano roll? Are there corresponding visual cues that I can use to speed up my reading. It's really slow at the moment.

  • Yes, it is definitely slow. Personally I find the horizontal staff line of notation a closer visual metaphor than the vertical piano keys. The only problem is that accidentals all get their own line, making it hard to eyeball intervals... Oct 5, 2020 at 12:22
  • Wait, the Cubase piano roll notation displays dynamics? (I find this to be a traditional display weakness in piano roll and MIDI notation such as Synthesia.)
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 5, 2020 at 12:26
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci You can see note velocities via a vertical bar graph below the piano roll. Oct 5, 2020 at 12:36
  • @Dekkadeci Logic displays velocity in piano roll with color coding of the notes. Cool colors are low velocity, warmer colors are higher. Kelly green is approx 64. Oct 5, 2020 at 13:11
  • 1
    @Todd Wilcox She's 73 [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Green_(musician)], but a gentleman wouldn't mention it. Oct 5, 2020 at 18:39

1 Answer 1


One thing I find helpful it to think in terms of interval classes. This allows me to focus on the guide lines rather than the absolute pitches, thus largely ignoring the piano keyboard.

I found it fairly quick to train myself to see intervals in terms of the number of grid lines lay between pitches. So a major chord would look, vertically, like <0,4,3>, and a minor chord would be <0,3,4>. It takes a little while to get used to thinking of chords this way, but one starts to see "stacks of thirds", even when inverted, in a manner analogous to the way one learns to see them on a keyboard.

Octaves are especially easy to see, since each note will be equidistant from the "C" markers above and/or below. And seconds (1s and 2s) are also an easy starting place.

In general, I found harmonic intervals to be the best starting place. Once I began to see them more easily, my feel for melodic intervals followed.

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