In my last couple of posts, I’ve been focusing on the topic of realizing and reading chord symbols in Finale and Sibelius. In this post, I’ll share another program that I find very useful for reading chord symbols from MIDI and audio files (MP3, WAV, AIF).

I’ve been using Band-in-a-Box since my Apple II days! That’s more than 25 years ago!  The program has continued to progress over the years. I use it quite a lot to create rhythm section tracks for practice and to import into my Finale and Sibelius scores.

Band-in-a-Box is available from They don’t provide a demo that you can download, but you can view a host of videos on their site. The program is reasonably priced so it can purchased for under $200. After you purchase and install Band-in-a-Box, there are two ways that you can have the program guess chord symbols:  From MIDI files and MP3 files.

Reading Chords from MIDI Files

Create a MIDI file from other music software or download a MIDI file from the Internet. I Googled “Jazz MIDI Files” and found a host of hits including The Jazz Page. When you find a file you want to download, right-click the mouse on the link and save it to your hard drive.

I downloaded the All the Things You Are file from this site. The next step is to have Band-in-a-Box read the chords for you.

1. Launch Band-in-a-Box

2. Choose File > Import Chords from MIDI File

3. Click the Open (Change) Button in the Chord Wizard window.

4. Navigate to the file you want to import. Then in a few seconds the chords will be imported into Band-in-a-Box.

You can play the file, adjust any chords manually, transpose the chords and print a lead sheet all from Band-in-a-Box. And you can export the notation in MIDI format and import it back into your notation software such as Finale and Sibelius.

Reading Chords from MP3 Audio Files

The same process can be done with MP3 files. You can go to your iTunes library and import any tune so long as it is in audio format.

1. In Band-in-a-Box, choose Windows > Run Audio Chord Wizard (Stand Alone)

2. In the Audio Chord Wizard app, choose File > Open Audio File.

3. I opened the first 30 seconds of Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance.

4. The chords from the MP3 file were read into the Audio Chord Wizard. The results were pretty good:

Original Lead Sheet from the Real Book:

The chords as analyzed from the Audio Chord Wizard:

You’ll notice that the Chord Wizard did a pretty good job of analyzing what was played in the audio file. You can also display the note view of the notes the program interpreted. This  can be helpful when transcribing more than a couple of chords per bar and when importing classical music.

To send the interpreted chords to Band-in-a-Box, simply click the button at the top of the window. Once in Band-in-a-Box, the chords can be manipulated, transposed and printed as a lead sheet.

I have found that using this tool, I can get a look inside the notes being played and often speed up the process of guessing chord changes. It is also a great tool for creating practice files for tunes that you want to learn.

Finale does have some of the Band-in-a-Box auto harmonizing features. Check out my blog post on how to use the Band-in-a-Box auto harmonizing plugin.