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Your First Song with LMMS

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Your First Song

LMMS is an easy tool to use. To showcase this fact, follow these step-by-step instructions, and you should be able to make your first song very easily.
First lets open LMMS

If you are using Windows, double click the icon on your desktop or go start menu - programs - LMMS to load your version of LMMS. If you are using Ubuntu, open up a terminal (CTRL+ALT+T on version 11.04), type in "lmms" (without the quotation marks), and press enter.

So now you've just loaded up LMMS so lets get started! In this situation, programmers write a "hello world" program! we're going to re-write "Popcorn", a classic for synthesizes that should be well known.
It is not?
Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjxNnqTcHhg

You've got the default screen in front of you, with the Song Editor, Beat+Bassline Editor and Project Notes open. First really good thing to do, is to write some information about your project in Project-notes. It could be:

  • Working Title
  • Scale
  • Key
  • Inspired from
  • Project-start-date

Maybe you can think of others, that fits your personal preferences better, but scale and key is really important!
After you have made that, you do have a kind of a standard, or as we call it a Template!
You can save this Template, and that will be the basis for every project you make! If you like to do that now, then go to

File| Save-as-default-template

Now you have a header on all your projects, in project-notes!
Fill in the data in your header
Your Scale is minor
key is A
Often written as Amin
After that has been done, close project-notes
We are now ready to find and add some instruments!

Choosing the instruments

In LMMS you have two types of instruments
Raw without any settings at all

  • Those you find in the Sidebar Sidebar as the topmost option Instrument Plugins
  • You can find detailed description of each of these plugins in Instrument

Instruments with special setup

  • Those we call Presets, and they are made so they sounds like real musical instruments!
  • You find these Presets in Sidebars 4. option: My Presets

We will use Presets for your first song!

Click the Presets icon (Presets icon 1.0.0.png) on the Sidebar to open up the list of preset sounds. Double-click on the TripleOscillator (3OC) -or click on the plus symbol on its left to open this collection, and you will be presented with a diverse range of preset-instruments, all made with 3OC. You can hold the mouse button down on any preset and get a preview of its sound. My presets with 3osc open.png
For Popcorn we will use a preset named "SquarePing", and we will use a really cool LMMS feature to help us find this preset: LMMS-token-search!
In the bottom of Sidebar, you have an input-field -This is a token-search field!
Just input a few letters of "SquarePing", and you will see how LMMS browse to all folders with presets that match your token!
We will use "SquarePing" from the Tripple-Oscilator collection

Drag the preset "SquarePing" onto the space in the middle of the Song Editor. When you drop it, a new track will be created with that preset as the instrument-preset.

Drag and drop preset 1.0.0.PNG Xylophon dragged 1.0.0.PNG

Making the melody

We now want to add notes to make the melody. Left-click in the first bar of the track, that creates a segment! A light-grey block in your song-editor.(New beat segment 1.0.0.PNG). Double-click on that and the Piano Roll Editor will appear Alternatively right-click in the segment- Then in context-menu select Open-piano-roll. Both methods opens piano-roll, and we are ready to compose the melody!


The first note

First lets get familiar with the Piano-roll window, and take a look at the most important buttons in Piano-rolls speedbar. An in depth explanation can be found in the section Piano Roll Editor.
First is Play
Fourth is Stop
Fifth is Draw-tool
Seventh Select-tool
Nineth is called Quantication or Q
-we also use these soon.
To the left you got a piano-keyboard. The highest notes are up (notes with high frequency) and the lowest (notes with low frequency are down. Press a note. You should now hear the preset make a sound that correspond to the the note you pressed.
The piano is divided in octaves. For each octave you will see the c-key marked, and the key has a number, that correspond to the octave-number. We are going to insert notes in fourth octave!
To the right you have the area where you insert your notes. It is made out of black squares, where one default tick has the size of 1/16 of a note.
The thin green lines shows the size of beats (Default four ticks)
The thick green lines shows the size of bars (Default four beats)

Click in the black square just to the right of the 'A4' note (which is three rows, or semitones, down from the note marked C5). This will create a new crotchet - a note one beat long - starting at that time.

The first note.png

However, this note is too long: we need notes half a beat - 1/8 - long. To change this, we simply move the mouse pointer to the right-hand edge of the note, until the cursor changes into a left-and-right arrow. Then hold the mouse button down, and drag the end of the note left two ticks (each block default being one sixteenth of a bar).

Resizing notes 1.0.0.PNG

After this, the new notes we put down will be the same length, because the Piano Roll Editor default is set to Last-Note (50%) -But you can change that in the drop-down. However most of the time you will work with the Last-Note setting, but if you suddenly cant create notes in the length you expected, its because you accidentally made a change to this drop-down.

More notes

Continue creating notes in the pattern shown:

Popcorn pattern 1.0.0.PNG

To place a note, you need to aim for the line at the start of the beat; LMMS will recognise a small fraction of the area left of the beat line as being closer to that beat than the previous. You can control this with the 'Q-setting'. Default 'Q' is correlated to note-length. That is 'Note-snap'. But again you can change that 'magnetic-point' in the Q-dropdown. If you make a mistake placing a note, you can move it to its correct position by clicking on the middle of the note (the cursor turns into a four-way cross) and dragging the note to its new position. LMMS will play the note that you're dragging, as an audible aide to correct placement. You can move notes horizontally (in time) as well as vertically (in octave-pitch).
If you need to delete a note, simply right-click on it.

Copy and paste

We now want to repeat those seven notes at the start of the bar in the next bar. There are three ways to do this.

The first and worst way to do it is to manually simply click the correct notes. But this is tedious, so let's use some of LMMS's features to speed this up.

The first smart way to do it, is to use the duplicator-feature of the drawing-tool. First you select the notes you want to copy: Hold down Ctrl and make a selection rectangle around the notes. Next, hold Shift and drag the newly selected notes . You are now dragging a copy of the selected notes. You can place this copy where you want.

Notes selected popcorn 1.0.0.PNG Dragging the notes 1.0.0.PNG Duplicated notes 1.0.0.PNG

Alternatively you can use good old copy and paste Ctrl+<a| c| v> short-cuts. Again, use Ctrl to select the notes you want, and then press Ctrl+C. Press Ctrl+V to paste the notes. The notes will be inserted at the play-head position, but as long as they are selected, you can move them.
In LMMS we have lots of smart-move options!
When notes are selected you can smart-move them:

  • One Q-snap:
    • Hold shift, tab left/right arrow
  • One bar
    • Hold ctrl, tab left/right arrow
  • One semitone:
    • Hold shift, tab up/down arrow
  • One Octave
    • Hold ctrl, tab up/down arrow

To select all notes in piano-roll, also those not in view, you can press Ctrl+A.

We can now press the play button (The play button 1.0.0.PNG) in the Piano Roll Editor window to play the current melody. When it gets to the end of the last bar in which there are notes, it will automatically repeat back to the start of the first bar.
This is fine, but You can now continue adding more notes of the tune.
Here's what your piano roll should look like at the end of this: Popcorn melody 1.0.0.PNG

Lets take a look at our melody in song-editor!
Press F5!
So there we got our segment, coloured, and with the notes we have composed.
Now remember the melody. The part we have here actually repeats trice more times. We could go back to piano-roll and make a copy, like we did before, but instead we will copy the segment in song-editor!

  • Point at it
  • Press and hold Ctrl
  • Drag the segment to the right.

You will see that you now have a complete copy of the segment, and you can drop that anywhere.
Do this two more times, so you now have 4 segments in song-editor.

Save the project!

But now we need to avoid the most annoying situation of all: Loosing everything!
Now you have made something that actually sound great, it is high time for saving your project!
The first time you save, LMMS will prompt you for a project name. Thats entirely up to you, but LMMS also lets you decide weather your project should be compressed (*.mmpz), or kept as uncompressed XML (*.mmp). Beside the size difference between MMP and MMPZ, witch can be significant! It is important to know, that file-errors in MMP-files are rather easy to solve, and therefore the project can be rescued, whereas flawed MMPZ-files are next to impossible to rescue!
Make your choice, and save your project now!
Observe that the program-tittle-line now has changed, and your project-name has been inserted. You should also notis, that as soon as you make an edit in your project, the tittle-bar shows a star next to your filename. When you see that, then your project has not been saved, with your latest edits

When you save your work, observe the message to the left, in the bottom of your screen!
Make sure you always see this OK-message, every time you save your project, and if you end your work, and closes LMMS, i recommend that you wait about 10 secd, after you have saved the last time, before you closes the program. You could also take a peek on your disk, and actually make sure that the project has been saved, has a believable size, and a correct time-stamp. But that only when you close LMMS.

Your First Beat

We also want a percussion part in this project. So letst make a beat in Beat&bass-editor!
First we open Beat&bass-editor: Press F6! For our beat we are going to use Samples in LMMS sample-player named AudioFilePlayer or AFP.
Click the My samples button on the Sidebar (Samples button 1.0.0.PNG). This is your sample collection that comes standard with LMMS. On the list of folders that appeared, one of them labeled "drums". Double-clicking the folder will show a list of percussion instruments. Click on them to hear the different sounds of the instruments.

In the samples select a Kick drum (any will work). Double-click the sample and it should appear in the Beat + Bassline editor. Also add a Closed Hihat and a Snare. You will end up with 3 AFP in the Beat + Bassline editor. You make drum patterns by clicking the grey squares (BeatBassline step editor1.0.0.png). You can play your drum pattern by pressing the play button (The play button 1.0.0.PNG). The pattern will loop until you stop it.

Here are some example drum patterns that you could use in your projects:

Drum pattern examples

[1] Four on the Floor - Standard beat pattern commonly used in Disco, House and Techno songs.

Four on the floor 1.0.0.PNG

[2] Amen Break - This drum solo was originally performed by Gregory Sylvester Coleman, but has been heavily sampled and pitched up for use in jump-up drum and bass and jungle.

Amen break 1.0.0.PNG

[3] Typical Breakbeat - By moving the Bass drum out of regular 4/4 timing we create a "Breakbeat"

Typical breakbeat 1.0.0.PNG

[4] Prodigy - Smack my B**** up - Breakbeat intro:

Prodigy beat intro 1.0.0.PNG

and main beat:

Prodigy beat main 1.0.0.PNG

  • Note the lowered volumes of the snare drum in the 2 examples above i.e. the dimmed led's in some steps. To change the volume of a step, hover your mouse over it and roll the scroll wheel down to lower volume and up to raise volume. The brightness of the step's color will change.

Want to hear how all these patterns sound? Download a demo project here.

There is more to making great percussion. Here we only looked at simple 'notes' added directly in B&B-editor. But you should also read the section Composing Bass Lines and Drum Sequences, where more advanced methods are explained. You will amo. learn how to alter quantizing, and humanize in piano-roll.

Adding automation

Now we will use one of LMMS' most powerfull features: Automation!
Automation means that controllers like dials and sliders, can be controlled by drawed graphical shapes, during playback! This is how sweeps, risers, and growls are made in EDM!
Here we will only make an automation-example, and automate the dial, that controls a filter.
But before we do that, lets swap the current instrument for an other!
Before we do something like that, it is recommended that you save your project!
Open the Xylophon preset, so you see its interfase.
From sidebar, use the method to smart-token-search, for an instrument-preset named Square Ping
After you found that preset, right-click it, and choose: "Send-to-active-instrument"
That is how easy it is to swap a new preset into an other!br> Play the project.
This preset has more Popcorn-feel!
Sometimes you can benefit from making tiny changes to a preset. In my ears there is a tad to much resonance, it has a kind of metallic artefact..
Here is something you need to understand. Even though a project sounds fine on your system, it may sound different on an other computer! That all depends on hardware! On my pc, i would like to have less resonance. We can set that on second tab on the preset. It has the name "Envelope, Filter & LFO"
Open that!
In the bottom part, there is a dial named RESO. Change the resonance to 0.12. Play the project again! Can you hear the difference?
To the left of dial RESO, we have an other dial: FREQ -That is the dial we will automate!
In Song-editor we first add an Automation-track.
Press the 5. button in Song-editor speedbar. It is named Add Automation-track.
LMMS inserted a new type of track in your project! You should rename this track now! Right-click in the name-field, and write "Square Ping HP-automation".
Point to the FREQ-dial! Press and hold Ctrl Drag the dial up into the Automation-track and release Ctrl.
LMMS inserts a block in the track. You can drag it longer, and you can see that the block has the same name as the track, but you can change that, on the context-menu
But the name is fine, so lets now add the automation
In this demo we will fade out over two bars, and fade in over the next two, for that we wil use a linear-progression!
Double-click in the Automation-segment. That open the Automation-editor!
First select the linear-progression
Place points on the progression as shown, by left-clicking in the editor.
Close Automation-editor (F8) Now play your project!
If you again open the tab "Envelope, Filter & LFO", you can see how the FREQ-dial moves because it it automated!

Good Song! Bad result

You are not there yet!

One of the most common problems, is sound-clipping, and nasty artefacts. One of those make the song sounds like it comes from a tin-bucket. Sometimes distortion will feel like really unpleasant hearing irritation, and your first impulse is to look for a volume control..
Your next job is to make sure you do not have that! This part of the process, is at least as important as the previous ones!
The first thing we need to do, is to give each track in the project its own mixer-channel (Also called 'Bus')!
There are as usual several ways to assign instrument-mixer-Nr, to a track:

  • Context-menu on the instrument-UI
    • All Instruments has a controller for Mixer-assignment!

General instrument controls1.0.0.png It is the controller named FX. Because no FX-channels have been made, we need a new one. Right-click the controller, and select: Assign-to. then select new-Mixer-channel.
Two thing happens: The value in the controller will change, and at the same time a new mixer-channel is created in Mixer, and it is also given the same name, as the assigned preset!
The same assignment can be made from the track-buttons action-button. Here left-click, and assign the preset.
Take a look at the mixer now. You can see that all channels has their own dB meter.
Start playing your project.
The first thing you need, is to make sure, that no meter, including master, are (constantly) in the red area. When a sound-intensity causes the meter to go 'into the red', you will get distortions, and really bad sound, well in fact even risk of damage to speakers, and worse -Your ears!
Often you will hear 'into-the-red, being called 'spiked-out', 'maxed-out' or 'clipping' -Those all mean the same: Excessive volume, that creates artefacts!

I choose the phrase constantly. I did that because it is acceptable that your meter occasionally touches in the red, but its a fine art to know when touching is more like groping..

If you have clipping, you can deal with it in a lot of different ways. You can find much more about tools as EQs, limiters, and compressors, in the more specialized chapters of the wiki.

You can also watch the mixing video-tutorials, and learn much more about the power of the LMMS-mixer.

Right now, you can try to just change the volume sliders, and get rid of the red-clippings. then listen to your track again. You should be able to hear the difference. The instruments should be cleaner, and stand better individually in the total mix.

Your First commercial success..

Is that even possible?

Is it possible to actually sign with a label, and make a real record-deal??

Some have done it already! This is such a story. Understand that this is just a story about how one person did get a 'deal', and that you dont have to use neither his methods, or indeed not his label, but it may be possible to do so.

Also understand that the label that is mentioned in this success-story, in no way is endorsed. It is simply just an example

This is what the LMMS user Chrimiting have experienced :

My experience with labels is quite simple.

I have been making music for four years and had recently started posting music on Soundcloud exclusively for free.

I am still a small producer so my music doesn’t generate tons and tons of attention but my music has been circling the internet for about three months.

Around two months in, my track Geared was featured on Top EDM Drops’s youtube video top Bigroom drops of june.

This was my first ever exposure that gave me any tiny bit recognition in the EDM world.

Soon after the release of this video I was sent a message on Soundcloud from a guy named Ivan Ces who said he was the owner of a label in its very beginning called ICG Recordings.

He said that he was looking for artists such as myself who produced music like myself to be part of this multi genre label.

I replied saying I was interested and wanted to know what the details about any profits made in the music that was sold under the label.

It was originally a 50/50 deal but I had it changed to be 55% me 45 % the label. After that I sent him a track I had recently finished called Buckshot (you buy Buckshot on Itunes now), He said that “they” liked it and he sent me a digital contract for the the single track the next day.

I now have another track coming out on the 18th of September 2015 called Serpent and it’s release was coordinated the same way.

This was my experience with a label and I hope that it gives you a small amount of insight to how getting “signed” to a label works.

the key thing is don’t always go to the label, build yourself so that they want you.

Labels want artists who will benefit them and their following. thanks for reading.

Sincerely Chrimiting.

For the label in question : these links


The label homepage

Discussion and comments should better take place on our forum:

Forum topic

As a suitable last thought in respect to this ..

When you make the down payment on your Ferrari-Testa-imposible ..or what such a thingy is called, a small donation would be appreciated :p


[1] - You could alternatively have dropped it on the existing "TripleOscillator: Default" track to replace that instrument with the one you were dragging, but this gives you an idea of how to create new instrument tracks.

[2] - You should avoid having segments that overlap as there is no clear display of how many segments overlap in a particular area. A small segment might completely disappear behind a large one, leaving you confused as to where those extra notes were coming from.


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