Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 3, last updated 6/25/2013
3.2 Applications
3.2.1 Piano Roll and Event List Views
Learning to read music on a staff is important for anyone working with music. However, for non-
musicians working on computer-based music, there are other, perhaps more intuitive ways to
picture musical notes. Some software programs MIDI sequencers, for example provide two
other views that you may find helpful the piano roll view and the event list view. We'll talk
more about MIDI sequencers in Chapter 6, but this give you a preview of how their graphical
user interfaces.
A piano roll view is essentially a graph with the vertical axis representing the notes on a
piano and the horizontal axis showing time. In Figure 3.41 you can see a graphical representation
of a piano keyboard flipped vertically and placed on the left side of the window. On the
horizontal row at the top of the window you can see a number representing each new measure.
This graph forms a grid where notes can be placed at the intersection of the note and beat where
the note should occur. Notes can also be adjusted to any duration. In this case, you can see each
note starting on a quarter beat. Some notes are longer than others. The quarter notes are shown
using bars that start on a quarter beat but don’t extend beyond the neighboring quarter beat. The
half notes start on a quarter beat and extend beyond the neighboring quarter beat. In most cases
you can grab note events using your mouse pointer and move them to different notes on the
vertical scale as well as move them to a different beat on the grid. You can even extend or
shorten the notes after they’ve been entered. You can also usually draw new notes directly into
the piano roll.
Figure 3.41 Piano roll view of melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
Another way you might see the musical data is in an event list view, as shown in Figure
3.42. This is a list showing information about every musical event that occurs for a given song.
Each event usually includes the position in time that the event occurs, the type of event, and any
pertinent details about the event such as note number, duration, etc. The event position value is
divided into four columns. These are Bars:Beats:Divisions:Ticks. You should already be familiar
with bars and beats. Divisions are some division of a beat. This is usually an eighth or asixteenth
and can be user-defined. Ticks are a miniscule value. You can think of these like frames or
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