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Turning Midi Files into Sheet Music

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If you know how to use a music notation programme that can import midi files (e.g. Encore, Note Worthy Composer, Melody Assistant, Finale, Sibelius, Midinotate, etc.) you can easily create your own sheet music from standard midi files. You can e-mail me for help if you get stuck or to answer questions, all I ask is that you e-mail me some of the songs you create so that I can add them to my page!
Try out Midinotate for Windows.  This programme takes the hard work out of converting midi files to sheet music.  It guesses the key and arranges the notes to fit the hands for piano players.



STEP ONE: Find a midi file

I use for my searches. Type in the song title and/or artists name, and the word "midi".  I also use a midi search engine.  Try to find a midi file that is simple or just featuring the instrument you want. E.g. just piano, or with a clear piano line. The more instrument parts the harder the music will be to edit.

STEP TWO: Import into a music notation programme

Use File/Open or File/Import (depending on programme) to open the midi file and display it as sheet music. I use Encore mainly, Noteworthy Composer and Melody Assistant are also good or any other music notation programme that uses midi files.

STEP THREE: Identify & Remove unnecessary staves

Usually when you import a midi file you will have between 6 & 12 staves of music of different instruments. First of all you need to identify and name each of these. Most notation programmes have a feature to let you listen to each part separately. (In Encore you do this from Window/Staff Sheet and click in the box under solo next to each line.  In Finale go to Windows/Instrument List and click the play button next to the stave you want to hear).  Listen to each part and lable the instrument. If you just want the melody line for an instrument like the violin or flute you simply select the stave with the melody (in Encore by double clicking in the margin next to the stave at the beginning of the piece) and extract the part (Encore: Edit/Extract Part). If you want piano music then you need to work the other way round and delete each part that you dont want. I usually start by removing the drums. (Encore select the stave you dont want and go to Score/Delete Staff). Listen to each part separately to see what music you need (ie melody, harmony & bass for each bar of music) and remove all unnecessary staves. You will be left with 2 - 5 lines of music that have necessary material and you will then have to cut and paste bar by bar, or section by section bits from each line into the most important two lines until you have just two lines left. At this point I usually change the midi instrument voice for these two lines to piano (Encore Windows/Staff Sheet Program). Sometimes you may find the piano music you want is only on one stave with both hands all in together, in this case you split the stave in two (Encore: Score/Split Stave) specify at what point you want it to split, the usual is C3 middle C.  Midinotate has a special function for this Track/Split Hands which automatically works out the best way to divide the music into two staves to fit the hands nicely.

STEP FOUR: Final Edit

At this point you tidy up your sheet music. Add Lyrics, Title (Encore Score/Text Elements), change the speed (Encore: Measure/Tempo) and any other elements. Key signatures need to be added as when a midi file imports it puts sharps and flats in front of each note. Work out what sharps or flats are in the first 4 or 5 bars and if this fits with a key signature you know. If it does select the song music from bar one to the end and change the key signature (Encore Measure/Key Signature). Then follow through the music to see if sharps and flats start coming in further through suggesting that the music has changed key. If it has then select the music from that point onwards and change the key signature. If the key of the music is a difficult one for you to play in you can consider transposing the music (shifting the notes higher or lower into an easier key). For example I had a song today in F# major with seven sharps. I transposed it up 1 key into G Major 1 sharp (Encore: Measure/Key Signature, tick the transpose button and select the new key signature).

If you are editing piano music you will also have to look at how far the notes are apart on one stave and whether your hand can physically reach them. You may have to either remove some notes, or replace them up or down an octave, or copy them into the other hand. Noteworthy Composer has a feature in the midi conversion wizard that wont allow chords over a certain number of semitones that you specify, this can be helpful, but I often make the chords larger at the start so that all the piano music is only on two staves and then I fix it manually.

Dont forget through all of this to save your work regularly, some features cant be undone so if you save after each good step you can always close the program without saving it and re-open it at the last step.

If you get stuck e-mail me at any time for more help Some songs are much easier than others to do, if you have a hard one you can e-mail me the half done file in either .mid .enc .nwc or .mus format and I will finish it off for you.  Please also think of me when you complete a piece of sheet music and send it to me so that I can add it to my page with an - arranged by your name - tag.

Good luck and have fun!

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