Piano Roll Editor


Empty Piano Roll, but connected to a segment!

The Piano-roll editor is the main workspace for composing and editing melodies and harmonies. It can be accessed by double-clicking (or through the context menu which you bring up with right click):

It can also be accessed using the Show/Hide Piano-Roll button Piano.png in the main tool bar (shortcut: F7). Notice that it opens the last edited segment. If you just opened the LMMS project you must connect it to a segment first to be able to edit it. LMMS does not remember the last edited segment from one session to another.

Piano Roll Tool Bar[edit]

The Piano Roll tool bar looks like this:
Piano Roll toolbar1.0.0.png

Many of the tools are similar to those found in the Song Editor with several important additions. Also, editing is done a bit differently in the Piano-Roll editor, so you must remember what window you are working in. The Piano Roll can never be resized to anything less than the width of this bar.

Playback & Record[edit]

Piano Roll Playback1.0.0.png

In addition to the Playback and Stop controls, there is a Record button which will 'record' the notes you play on either:

Press Stop to stop playback or recording. The computer keyboard's spacebar will toggle between Playback and Stop in both playback and record modes. After you press stop, you will be able to see all the notes as LMMS notes, in your score. These notes can be edited just as any other notes. There are some things you should considder before you start a note-recording: How precise do you want the 'capture' to be? This is controlled with the Q(uantizise) value! This means,that if you play short fast notes, you need to select a Q-value of the same magnitude. To record absolutely everything, you should chose 1/196 for Q


Can you guess which notes are selected?

Piano Roll Editingtools1.0.0.png Selected notes can be manipulated together. Some of the most used tricks on such a selection, is to move the selection (left-mouse) copy:(sh+left-mouse) and the so-called 'transposing', meaning that the notes are moved to different semitones. Ctrl+up/dn, will move your selection exactly one octave. You can find a complete list of all the shortcut-keys in [[Link title]LINK HERE LATER]

The 4 editing modes (tools) are Draw, Erase, Select, and Detune. The Draw and Erase modes are explained below in the Notes section.

The Select mode tool allows you to select individual notes to create a group or "selection" of notes, which you can then move, cut, copy, or paste.

Detuning as shown in the Piano Roll

The Detune mode tool allows you to edit the frequency profile of an individual note, for several types of instruments. When you click on a note, the Automation Editor window opens for that note and is labeled "Note detuning". The beginning of the note is represented as the beginning of that auto editor. You can use your mouse to draw a frequency (pitch) profile graph in both higher and lower frequencies (pitches) than the base frequency (pitch) of the original note. This profile will be used to produce the final pitch (varying or not) of the note when played. Back in the Piano-Roll, the note will have blue lines showing that it has been detuned and between which notes. VST-based instruments can not be detuned.


Piano Roll Clipboard1.0.0.png

The Clipboard buttons (above) allow you to cut, copy, and paste a selection, and the Delete key on the computer keyboard will delete the selected notes.

Playback Control[edit]

Playbackcontrols1.0.0.png These work the same as the Playback Controls in the Song Editor.


Zoomsection1.0.0.png This works the same as the Zoom Control in the Song Editor.


The current Quantisation [1] setting is displayed and can be set using the drop-down menu. This allows you to set the minimum resolution for manipulating note length (start and end times on the time line) using that fraction of a bar, both when using the Draw mode tool and when using Record. If you for example set the Quantisation to 1/1 (1 bar resolution), you'll only be able to place notes at the start of a whole bar, and you'll only be able to lengthen or shorten notes in 1-bar increments. You can extrapolate this example case to all the other available quantisation levels.

Edit Notes[edit]

Draw and Move Notes[edit]

Tip: holding down the Ctrl key in Draw mode converts the mouse cursor to the Select mode tool, and it returns to the Draw mode tool when you release the Ctrl key.
Use the Draw mode tool to place notes in the Piano-Roll. As you hover your mouse or move a note in the work area, the gray horizontal line helps you see the pitch of the note you're placing:

Erase Notes[edit]

There are 3 ways to erase notes:

Default Note Length[edit]

Piano Roll note length1.0.0.png
The Default Note Length setting (in bar lengths) is displayed and can be set using a drop-down menu. This sets the default length of notes made when you click in the Piano-Roll with the Draw mode tool. You can choose either a given note length or that the next note will be the same length as the last drawn note. If you have manipulated notes for a speciel effect, it is alway prudent to use a fixed note-length, when you start a new edit. As soon as you have establiseh a perfect note-length and posistion, you will nomally like to use the setting 'last-note'. You can drag any note to any size, and posistion, depending on your Q-setting.

Note Volume & Panning[edit]

Changing individual note velocity in the Piano Roll

Click on the Note Volume/Note Panning button below the piano keys to toggle between the Note Volume and Note Panning editor. The volume (loudness) of each note is termed velocity in music sequencing. Velocity is shown as a vertical green bar below the note in the Note Volume editor. You can change the velocity of each note by clicking somewhere on the vertical bar for that note or by dragging the blue box to the level you want. The color of the note will brighten with increased velocity and dim with decreased velocity. Velocity info is set automatically when you record notes using a MIDI keyboard that is capable of transmitting the velocity of the notes as they are played.

Changing individual note panning in the Piano Roll

The pan of each note is the ratio of the note volume that is transmitted out the right stereo channel versus the left stereo channel. Pan is shown as a vertical orange bar below the note in the Note Pan editor. By default, the pan is centered (equal volume out the left and right channels). You can change the velocity of each note by clicking somewhere on the vertical bar for that note or by dragging the orange box to the position you want.

Piano Keys[edit]


The piano keyboard on the left side of the window, offers a lot of tools.
Firstly you can mark all whole-notes (white-keys) with the correct notation.
This option is selected in the Setup, on the General page. But you can also mark individual notes, chords, and scales.
All these options are available as items on a context-menu.
As always with contex-menus, you right-click on the item. For the piano-keyboard, each key is an item!
It matters which key you draw the context-menu from. The resulting selections will take place, with that key as focus-point!
The Marking-keys options is rather self-explained, but marking scales with a key as key-note, needs some explanation.
The term scale covers notes that goes well together. It is important to know about scales!
In the section Useful_resources, there are several good links to pages, that explain scales in music-theory. You can also find many tutorials on the net, and several are mentioned in the section Video_tutorials
But the concept scale needs to be connected to a key!
This is covered with one of the best tools you will find in LMMS for helping you in composing good melodies!
First you need to select the type of scale in the scale selector Then you need to bind the scale type, to an actual composing-scale.
You find the scale-selector as the second most-right on the piano-roll tool-bar
Piano Roll toolbar1.0.0.png After you have selected a scale, You right-click on that note you like to use as key-note for you scale. From the contex-menu, you then choose Mark This Scale.
The marked notes are the one that works together in that scale
Use this tool!
You can scroll the piano-roll vertically using either the scroll bar on the right side of the window or the scroll wheel on your mouse. However, if you hold Ctrl, and then mouse-scroll, you can scroll horizontally.
Left-click (or click-and-hold) on any piano key to hear the corresponding note, you will also hear the note if you left-click inside the piano-roll, on a note, and when you move them.

Computer Keyboard[edit]

Computer keyboard as a piano.

In the Piano-Roll window, you can use the computer keyboard to play notes in a 2-octave range. It starts from Z at C3 and goes horizontally across the bottom 2 rows of the keyboard to M playing B3 (i.e. Z X C V B N M play the natural notes and S D G H J play the sharps and flats). It continues with Q playing C4 and uses the top 2 rows of the keyboard to P playing E5 (i.e. Q W E R T Y U I O P play the natural notes and 2 3 5 6 7 9 0 play the sharps and flats).
Also, an attached MIDI keyboard can be used to play notes.
Both the computer keyboard and a MIDI keyboard can be used to record notes when using the Record feature.



HowTo: Composing in the Piano Roll Editor

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