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Piano Roll Editor

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Empty Piano Roll, but connected to a segment!

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

  • a segment in an instrument track e.g.: Instrument pattern Song Editor1.0.0.png
  • a step in a track in the Beat+Bassline Editor

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 select a segment first to be able to edit it.

Piano Roll Tool Bar

The Piano Roll tool bar has these buttons:
Piano Roll toolbar1.0.0.png

Many of the tools are similar to those found in the Song Editor but in piano-roll you find several important additions. Editing is done a bit differently in the Piano-Roll editor.

Playback & Record

Piano Roll Playback1.0.0.png

First we have what is called the transport-controls: The Playback and Stop controls, and two different Record buttons which will capture the notes you play on either:

  • an attached MIDI keyboard, and/or
  • your computer's keyboard. We say 'Record', or rather capture, because it is the actual note-events, that you sample. It is not a recording of the sound!

Press Stop to stop playback or recording. The computer keyboard's spacebar will toggle between Playback and Stop in both playback and record modes. Captured notes are completely normal notes, so these notes can be edited just as any other notes. Before you start a note-recording, you need to decide how precisely the snap of the notes in the the 'capture' should be? Do you want your captures notes to be snapped to the vertical dividers for ticks, beats and bars, or do you rather prefer the notes to be captured with your own free timing? This is controlled with the Q(uantizise) value! Setting a Q-value can really influence the end-result, so this is something you need to experiment with, and find what works best for you! 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 will be manipulated together. Some of the most used actions on selections, is to move the selection (left-mouse ao arrow-keys) copy:(sh+left-mouse -then drag) and the so-called 'transposing', meaning that the notes are moved to different octaves. Ctrl+up/dn-arrow, will move your selection exactly one octave.
Ctrl+lt/rt-arrow moves your notes one bar.
Sh+up/dn-arrow moves everything one semitone.
You can find a complete list of all the shortcut-keys here [[Link title]LINK HERE LATER]


The 4 editing modes (tools) are Draw, Erase, Select, and Detune.
The Select mode tool allows you to select individual notes to create a group or "selection" of notes, which you can move, cut, copy, or paste.

  • Rectangular Selection: use the Select tool to drag a rectangular area around some notes. When you release the mouse button, the selected notes will turn blue.
  • Individual Selection: use the Select tool to left-click on a single note, and it will turn blue.
  • You can Add to (or remove from) a Selection: Add more notes to the current selection by holding down the Shift key (Shift+drag or Shift+click) and the additional notes will turn blue, too. If the notes are already selected, it will remove them from the selection.
  • Clear Selection: left-click on an unselected note, or you can press ESC. That will unselect all selections.
Detuning as shown in the Piano Roll

Smart Selecting

In addition to these standardized selection methods, that you will find in most DAW, LMMS has a couple of smart-select methods.
You can select all notes under a horizontal line.
Point to the very top of the editor, hold SH, and drag up-stream. All notes, also any notes not in view, will be added to a selection.
The second smart-select is placed on the notes context-menu. Right click any note, and from the options select Mark-all-notes-on-this-semitone. All notes on the focused semitone will be selected. If there already are selected notes, the notes on the semitone will be added to the selection.


The Detune mode tool allows you to edit the frequency profile of an individual note, for several types of instruments. When you have chosen the detune-tool and you click on a note, the Automation Editor window opens for that note and the automation-window is labelled "Note detuning". The beginning of the note is represented as the beginning of that automation-editor. You can use your mouse to draw a frequency (pitch) profile, in both higher and lower frequencies (pitches) of the original note. This profile will be used to produce the final pitch of the note, when it is passed by the play-head in playback, and ofcause in song-editor-playback too. Detuned notes will in Piano-Roll have blue lines showing that it has been detuned and between which note-frequencies.
VST-based instruments can not be detuned this way.


Piano Roll Clipboard1.0.0.png

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

  • Click the Copy button (Ctrl+C) to copy the selected note(s) and place them in the clipboard. Shift+drag on the selected note(s) to duplicate these notes, as you drag a copy of the selected note(s) away from the original(s).
  • Click the Cut button (Ctrl+X) to cut the selected note(s) (i.e. remove from Piano-Roll) and place in the clipboard.
  • Click the Paste button (Ctrl+V) to paste the note(s) from the clipboard into the Piano-Roll. This does not empty the clipboard, so you can do multiple paste actions with the same Clipboard note(s). When pasting, Click on the timeline to position the playhead where you want to paste the note(s) from the clipboard. These note(s) will be pasted to the right of the position of the playhead. The distance from the playhead can be a little off, but pasted note(s) are selected by default, so you can immediately drag them to the exact position you want. or you can use the left ot right arrow-key + sh.

Playback Control

Playbackcontrols1.0.0.png These work the same as the Playback Controls in the Song Editor. To repiticulate Loops:
Set right-loop-point : use right-mouse Only
Set left-loop-point : use right-mouse + SH
Using AltGr too, you can place loop-points freely.


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


The current Quantisation [1] setting is displayed. You can change the Q-value in 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 segments, however -you can break that restraint by holding AltGr, then the the Q-setting is ignored.

Edit Notes

Draw and Move Notes

Use the Draw mode Draw tool 1.0.0.PNG to place notes in the Piano-Roll. As you hover your mouse or move a note in the work area, a grey horizontal line helps you see the position of the note you're placing:

  • left-click to place a note
  • right-click to delete a note

If Chords are selected:

  • place the rootnote of the chord, as the note the mouse points at.
  • Shift+left-click notes in a chord will cause the notes to be placed in arpeggio mode.

To move a note:

  • Hover over the centre of the note. A move-icon will appear, and you can drag the note to a new position. This also works for a selection of notes. The note(s) will snap according to the chosen Q-value.
  • AltGr+drag the note left or right without snapping to the grid. This also works for a selection of notes. The note(s) will "free-drag", but they will snap to the nearest 1/192, so they are still synchronized.

Changing length :

  • Hover over the right-end of the note until a two headed arrow appears then drag the end of note either left or right to change the length of the note. This also works for a selection of notes. The right end of the note(s) will snap to the nearest value in the Quantisation drop-down.

To override the Q-value, you can again use AltGr+drag This also works for a selection of notes.

Erase Notes

There are 3 ways to erase notes:

  • Use the Erase mode tool to delete clicked notes.
  • In Draw mode (default-pencil-tool) Right-click to delete notes. This is the most simple way to work, and is preferred by most.
  • To delete multiple notes, use the Select mode tool (or Ctrl-click and drag) and press delete.

Default Note Length

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 special effect, it is always smart to use a fixed note-length, when you start a new edit. As soon as you have establish a perfect note-length and position, you will normally like to use the setting 'last-note'. You can drag any note to any size, and position, depending on your Q-setting.

Note Velocity & Panning

Changing individual note velocity (Velocity Attack-force of each note is termed velocity in music sequencing) in the Piano Roll

Click on the Note Velocity/Note Panning button below the piano keys to toggle between the Note Velocity and Note Panning editor. 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 values are set automatically when you record notes using a MIDI keyboard that is capable of transmitting the velocity of the notes as they are played.
This functionality will depend on the quality of your MIDI-Keyboard. The "force" you hit the keys on your PC-keyboard, is not registrated, and you will need to manually edit the velocity data.
A continuous change in velocity, can make a great roll of any type of percussion-instrument.

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 resp. stereo channels. Pan is shown as a vertical bar below the note in the Note Pan editor. By default, the pan is centred. You can change the panning of each note by clicking somewhere on the vertical bar for that note or by dragging the top-end to the position you want. There is also an indicator, that shows you the value in percent.

Piano Keys


When you take first look at the piano-roll, you will notice that the first C-note on each octave is marked. But You can also mark all whole-notes (white-keys) with a letter for the note.
This option is selected in the Setup-menu, on the General page.
Beside this valuable assistance, The piano keyboard on the left side of the window, offers a lot of tools.
These tools are available in the context-menu of the individual note.
Right-click any note on the keyboard, and open that notes context-menu. You can mark individual notes, chords, and scales.
All these options are available as items in the context-menu.
As always with context-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!
PianoRollContext1 2 1.png
The Marking-keys options is rather self-explained, except perhaps what this feature is good for..
This feature can be used to emulate # and b in sheet-music!
In DAW terms, we always only talk about # sharps, witch mean that a Bb would be called an A# -That is simply a DAW-convention!
You would have to change positions for annotated notes, if you had a score with sharps in the cleft, and thats where this mark/unmark-notes feature would assist you
But before that feature really makes sense, we need to look at marking scales with a key as key-note.
The term Scale covers notes that has common tonality in Hz. That is a bit technical but the result is that all notes in that one scale, sounds 'good' or pleasant when they are played both in succession, but most important, when they are played simultaneously! -As chords!
It is important to know about scales! If you hear the opposite claim, then dont listen!
In the section Useful_resources, there are several good links to pages, that explain the concept of scales in music-theory. You can also find many tutorials on the net, and there are several tutorials mentioned in the section Video_tutorials A lot of those has a practical point of view, so do not get scared. Music theory does not have to be heavy and theoretical
The concept scale is always 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 you want to use in the scale selector.
You need to bind the scale type, to an actual composing-scale, in a specific key.
You find the scale-selector as the second most-right on the piano-roll tool-bar
Default is shows No Scale
Piano Roll toolbar1.0.0.png After you have selected a scale, You right-click on the note you like to use as key-note for your scale. From the contex-menu, you then choose Mark This Scale.
The marked notes are the 7 harmonic notes in that scale
Learn to use this tool! It will aid you tremendously in composing good melodies, without disharmonies

The 2 most simple scale you can choose, is the Cmajor (Cmaj) and its 'cousin' the Aminor (aMin)! Both only uses the white keys!

Scrolling & zoom

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. If you hold Shift, and then mouse-scroll, you scroll the view horizontally.
If you hold Ctrl and mouse-scroll, you will change the magnification.
Left-click (or click-and-hold) on any piano key to hear the corresponding note, The horizontal position of the click, determines the note-velocity! you will also hear the note if you left-click inside the piano-roll, on a note, when you create a new note, and when you move nots to a new position in the octave.

Computer Keyboard

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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