Creating your own loops

Write guides and how-tos about LMMS for other members.
Hi everyone,

This will probably seem a bit too basic for some, but I've found it to be a huge help in my work and think it's worth sharing. One very simple way to make creating music faster and easier is by spending a little extra time beforehand creating your own loops.

For starters, let me explain what the heck I'm talking about. :) "Loops" are basically beats, sequences of sounds that can be repeated as much as you want during the song. For example, a drummer plays a steady rhythm of 16 steps. He hits the hi-hat (the closed-cymbal sounding thing) every other step, and on every 4 steps he alternates between playing the kick drum or the snare drum. That's pretty much all he does in our band (apart from fills and all that, but that's another story).

So for the same steady rhythm to happen in LMMS, we use the "beat/bassline editor" and take those three sounds, and arrange them kind of like this:

Hi-Hat: |x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|
Kick: |x---x---x---x----|
Snare: |--x---x---x---x--|

This isn't too hard but takes a bit of time. Then let's say you create tracks where the drummer plays cymbals, a cow bell, chimes, tom-toms or whatever else kit drummers put in their sets (and I'm more of a percussionist so I'm about clueless) you're talking more sounds on each track, more tracks, and a kind of cluttered "song editor" in LMMS. That and it takes a lot longer to put it all together.

So one thing you can do to help is create a single track that has all the stuff you want and save it as a "loop" for use in your songs. That's what I'd like to show you how to do here.


First we need to create the track that will become our loop. It doesn't have to be all drums, but for our purposes here I'm using the drummer as an example. So first you would create a beat like the one above, and repeat it 3 times in the song editor. Then let's say you want to add a fill in the end:

Hi-Hat: |x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|
Kick: |x---x-------------|
Snare: |--x---x-----------|
Tom1: |--------xx--------|
Tom2: |-----------xx-----|
Cymbal: |--------------x---|

Put this on the fourth space in the song editor and what you've got is a 4-bar beat where the drummer plays a steady rhythm for a while then plays a fill with 2 "toms" (BTW why are they called "Tom's" anyway? LOL) and a cymbal. This beat is common enough that you could use it in a couple different songs and no one would know the difference. But how do you make it a "loop"?


Before you export the finished loop, there's one thing you need to check first: the Beats Per Minute (BPM for short). That's the big yellow 2- to 3-digit number at the top center of the LMMS window (by default it's a "140"). This is the speed of the beat and can be hard to change after it's saved as a "wav". This is important because if you use the loop in a song with a different BPM, it won't sound right (like a drummer playing crazy-fast in a sweet lovey song or playing way too slow in an otherwise rockin' guitar solo). I like to export the beat at 140 BPM, then lowering it to 90 and exporting it again. That's because those are the BPM's I use the most, but you can create as many versions of the loop as you want.

To export the loop, go to "Project", then "Export" and give the loop a name (I suggest something that gives you all the info you need, like "kickin' solo 200 BPM", "Latin rock beat 140 BPM", "slow romantic beat 80 BPM" etc). Then choose the location you want to store the sound in. It should be someplace easy to access from within LMMS, like a folder on the desktop. Follow the steps in the windows that pop up and you're good to go - you've just created a loop that can be used in ANY song you create (or at least any song with the same BPM).


From here, I suggest completely exiting out of LMMS. That way you don't have to go deleting all the sounds you used, and you have a fresh track to work with. It also makes sure you can see the new loop in the panel on the left. So here's how to use that loop in a new song:

On the panel at the left (sorry I forgot its name; the list of folders with "Desktop" as an option) find your loop. At this point it's a single sound, a "wav" file like your original kick, snare etc. So you can drag it to either the beat/bassline editor or the song editor.

If you use the beat/bassline editor, keep in mind that you only need to have the first space lit up, like this:

Loop1: |x---------------|

This is because, the entire beat has been turned into one single sound. I don't usually like to do it this way but for some I guess it works really well. I usually use the song editor.

If you dragged your sound into the song editor, pull up the piano roll and go to the A key after C4. This is the default pitch setting for all sounds in LMMS and that's where you want your sound to be. If it's a 4-bar beat like the one from the example, drag the note all the way to the end of the fourth bar (and BTW I rarely make 4-bar loops, but you can). When this is done you can just copy/paste the note as many times as you want the beat to loop. And again, make sure the BPM showing in LMMS is the same as your loop. Then you are GOOD TO GO! :D


Okay, so I hope I've summarized this okay (not too technical and not too dumbed-down, LOL) and I really hope you can get into doing this. The great thing is, nearly all musical styles have that steady beat that really can be made simpler with loops. You may hear a drummer play the same basic beat in a dozen different songs, with the only variations being BPM and little things like fills, breaks etc. Like to me, all "classic" rock sounds the same (and I am sooo not a rocker so please don't quote me on that, LOL). It's always the same thing, kick, snare, kick, snare, kick, snare, kick-snare-cymbal. Then again in the styles I write in (salsa, reggaeton, merengue etc) I've heard people say the same thing. :)) So I think it's safe to say most styles have consistent beats and you can make them a lot easier by taking the time to create loops. But that's not the best part...

Did you know some people sell CDs that are almost completely made up of loops? LOL - I've purchased several of these, only to find out that half of what they're selling you is stuff you can create yourself! Don't get me wrong - there are some very good ones out there (Producer's Vault and Sony Caliente have awesome Latin stuff, for example) - but once you have mastered creating loops yourself, you'll see how much faster your songs come together. :)
Nice post. I should probably start doing this myself.
Just what I needed as an introduction, thanks for the post!
Excellent. Thank you.

Your explanation was excellent, thanks.

I have some samples in .wav format which I created in Virtual DJ and are 30 secs long. Is it possible to use these samples and if so, how would I go about using them in a song?

I hope that makes sense?
mfox32322 wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:19 am
Hi everyone,
Good idea. Using loops in this way also allows you to have a Song Editor not overloaded. It's convenient for big projects ;)