Turn MIDI into Sheet Music

Your class is composing!

Maybe they are using MIDI keyboards, QWERTY keyboards or maybe just the mouse. Melodies, bass lines and chords are flowing into beautifully crafted boxes with every virtual instrument available a mouse click away.

How can the MIDI piano roll editor and standard music notation complement each other? The connection from a MIDI sequencer to printed sheet music is closer than students know. MIDI compositions can easily be turned into sheet music which can then be performed and recorded by student instrumentalists in a few steps.

The Goal

Our goal is to turn the melody track into sheet music using Sibelius. Once in Sibelius, any part can be transposed to accommodate a variety of instrumentations and recorded or performed live. Let’s start with a student MIDI composition in Ableton Live. This project has four tracks; Melody, Bass, Harmony and Percussion.

MIDI Composition

MIDI Composition


Save As

Before we go any further, lets Save Live Set As (MIDI Project_notation) so that we can come back to our original version if necessary.

Export Midi Parts

Right click on the clip in the track named “Melody” and select Export Midi Clip (Shift Command E)
Name the MIDI file and choose a destination.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 4.34.51 PM

Import in Sibelius

  • Click Open MIDI File
  • Select the Melody.mid file we exported from Ableton Live

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 2.24.38 PM

The Open MIDI File dialog lets us change settings to improve readability in our sheet music.
Our goal is to open the MIDI file with minimal amount of editing to be done in Sibelius.


Deselect “Use Multiple Voices”. Since this is a monophonic melody we don’t want multiple voices.
Select “Only One Staff Per Track”

Sibelius Import MIDI File Setting


  • If your parts do not contain tupelts then select “none” for all tuplet types.
  • Adjust the minimum note duration to the smallest note for that part.

Import Midi into Sibelius - Notation Settings

Our result is the student melody notated in treble clef!



Next Steps:

  • Transpose: Learn the melody in different keys, alter key signature and play in a different mode.
  • Instrumentation: add another instrument in the Sibelius score and try this melody on woodwinds, brass, string instruments.
  • Perform: combine with other MIDI parts and perform with your clarinet/laptop “electro-acoustic” ensemble.


What are other creative ways have you used this technique in your classroom?

By | 2017-01-24T17:05:59+00:00 January 12th, 2016|Ableton Live, Music Education, Music Technology|0 Comments

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