QuickScore Elite Tutorials

Piano Roll Editor Tutorial

Getting Started  How To  Manual  MIDI and Audio

This tutorial will acquaint you with the Piano Roll Editor. We want to start by opening the file TUTOR13.QSD if it is not already open. Click on the File menu, select Open and double-click on TUTOR13.QSD in the file list box.

Select the Piano Roll Editor window. The Piano Roll Editor lets you edit your music in piano roll notation. You see one track of music at a time.

The Piano Roll Editor's control area has the following features:

  • A toolbar.
  • A track list box for changing from track to track.
  • A channel list box showing the channel or channels being edited.
  • A mouse time locator showing the time of the mouse.
  • A mouse pitch locator showing the pitch of the mouse.
  • A button to show drum names or hide drum names.

Below the control area is the piano roll display. Here you see your music in piano roll notation.

  • At the top of the display is the bar number indicator.
  • To the left is a vertical piano keyboard to show you the pitches of your notes.
  • Notes appear in the note area as horizontal bars. The vertical position of the bar indicates the pitch of the note. The beginning of the bar shows the note's start time and the length of the bar shows the note's duration.
  • There is a cursor (the vertical purple line), where music is entered using step entry or the right mouse button. This is also the point where music, that has been cut or copied to the clipboard, will be pasted. The cursor moves by clicking the mouse or by using the arrow keys.

As in the Score Editor, there is a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the window and a vertical scroll bar at the right-hand side of the window. There are also four magnifying glass icons in this window. You use these to compress or expand the display. Click on the large magnifying glass on the bottom to zoom in in time, and click on the small magnifying glass on the bottom to zoom out in time. Click on the magnifying glasses below the vertical scroll bar to compress or expand the display vertically.

If you've been playing with the zoom icons, make sure that you are showing two bars on the display and that the vertical size of notes is more than one or two pixels.


We want to loop the first two bars in the piece. We do this by selecting the loop control in the main control area and setting a loop start time and a loop end time. Click on the loop button (this is the button with the looping red line) and then click on the time display to the right of the loop button. This will bring up the Loop Times dialog where you can set the loop start and end times. Set the loop From time to 1:1:0 and set the loop To time to 3:1:0 and then press OK.
Press the HOME key and then the SPACE BAR to hear the first two bars looping. Press the SPACE BAR again to stop playing.

Moving Notes Around

Now let's try some editing. First we'll drag some notes around. Let's set the duration value to 32nds so that we can move notes around on 32nd note boundaries. Click on the 32nd note in the durations palette in the main control area. Select the EW tool from the toolbar. Grab a note and move it around by clicking on the note, holding down the left mouse button and dragging the mouse in time to where you want to put the note. Release the left mouse button to enter the note at the point where you dragged it. Notice that the note snaps to the nearest 32nd note boundary.

Using the Snap/Free Button

You can move notes around on single-step boundaries if you change the Snap/Free button (below the toolbar) to Free. Right now this button reads Snap. Click on it and it will change to Free. Now try dragging a note around. You can put it anywhere in time you want.

Using Undo

Don't forget, you can undo any changes you make. You can choose Undo from the Edit menu, or press U or CTRL+Z. After you undo an edit, you can always redo the edit using Redo from the Edit menu. Try this a few times, listening to the difference between the two versions before you decide to keep the edit or go back to the previous version.

Changing Note Duration

Now let's change the durations of some notes. You do this with the duration tool, the tool with the right-pointing arrow, second from the right on the toolbar. Click on the duration tool. Now when you grab a note and drag it, you lengthen it or shorten it instead of moving the note around in time. We'll change the duration of notes in the second track, because this is a cello part and we can hear the differences in note durations more easily than in the first track, which is a piano track. Change to the second track by clicking on the Track drop-down list box to the right of the toolbar in the Piano Roll Editor's control area and selecting Track 2. Grab the first note with the mouse and lengthen it by dragging it to the right. Listen to how it sounds. Undo it if you don't like it. The Snap/Free setting and the duration value affect the way you can change durations. You can experiment with these settings if you like. Try changing the durations of some other notes and hearing what they sound like by pressing the SPACE BAR.

Changing Note Pitch

Now let's change some pitches. Select the NS tool (the one with the connected up and down arrows to the left of the duration tool) and grab a note. Drag it up and down to change its pitch. Press the SPACE BAR to hear what you've done.

Entering Notes

Let's put in a few notes. Select the pencil tool (second from the left in the toolbar) and click where you want to put in a note. The note is drawn with the duration equal to the duration value you set in the durations palette in the main control area. You can change this any time you want by clicking on a new note value in the durations palette. Try some more notes. Be aware that the note you enter doesn't get put in until you release the mouse button. You can see exactly where the note will go before you release the button.

Editing a Contiguous Group of Notes

Now let's try some block editing in the Piano Roll Editor. Select the arrow tool (the first tool in the toolbar) by clicking on it. Now let's select all the notes in the first bar. The best way to do this is to click the mouse just before the barline and drag the mouse backwards to the start of the display holding down the left mouse button. (It is easiest to select a note at the left edge of the display by dragging from right to left instead of left to right, because otherwise you would have to start with the mouse exactly at time zero, which is tricky.) The notes you selected will now be highlighted in gray and an edit menu will drop down. Let's select Octave and move all the notes down an octave. Select Down 1 Octave from the submenu that appears.

Editing a Non-Contiguous Group of Notes

Now let's try control-clicking to select some non-contiguous notes for editing. Hold down the CTRL key and click on the first note and the third note in the second bar. Release the CTRL key. The two notes you selected will now be highlighted in gray and an edit menu will drop down. Let's accent these notes by changing their velocities. Select Velocity from the edit menu. A dialog box appears. Enter a value of 127 (the maximum) to make these two notes sound loud. Press OK.

Copying and Pasting

Finally, let's select all the notes in the first bar again and copy them. Select the notes the same way you did earlier to change the octave. Instead of choosing Octave to change the octave, select Copy. Now that we've put a copy of these notes into the clipboard, we can paste it somewhere else when we want to. Let's have these echo one beat after they are first played. Put the cursor at the beginning of the second beat in bar one. Click on the Edit menu and select Paste. The notes you just copied are now pasted starting at the second beat in bar one, creating an echo effect.


If you like what you've done better than J. S. Bach's original, you can save the file using the Save As option under the File menu. Choose a name other than TUTOR13.QSD, otherwise you will write over the original file. We need it for the next tutorial.