How to Create a Short Song in LMMS

Lmms Song Featured Image

Making professional-sounding music has become far easier in recent years than ever before. Thanks to readily available digital audio workstations, or DAWs, on all consumer operating systems, anyone can create songs of their own. A particularly popular DAW option available to Linux and Windows users alike is LMMS, which takes after the well-known FLStudio DAW in terms of design and functionality.

In this article we’ll go over the basics of creating your first song in LMMS, so you, too, can get into music-making.

Installing LMMS

LMMS is available as an appimage for Linux, executable for Windows, and dmg for macOS. Download the installer and run it on your computer.

Starting Up in LMMS

When you fire up LMMS, you will be confronted with something comparable to the following image.

Lmms Song Open

On the left you’ll find buttons for traversing your file system and selecting plugins. Above, you can show/disable the various tools LMMS has to offer, manipulate the project’s tempo and more.

Click on the “Instrument Plugins” button on the left to find a plugin to bring into the project, then drag it into your “Beat and Bassline Editor” window.

Lmms Song Plugins

Click on the instrument’s name in the editor and configure it a bit.

Lmms Song Plugins Instrument

Lower the volume a bit if you value your eardrums (8 or 9 should work for this example).

Lmms Song Instrument Volume

In the instrument’s settings, click just above the C5 note in the keyboard visualizer to set the pitch frequency.

Lmms Song Instrument Pitch

Creating Notes

Now you can start laying notes down. Right-click on one of the squares on the right of the pan knob of your instrument’s lane in the editor, then choose to open the piano roll. The piano roll will open to reveal the following image.

Lmms Song Piano Roll

Use the draw tool (it has a pencil icon) to “draw” notes on the piano roll. The following image is a simple progression.

Lmms Song Piano Roll Notes

You can listen to your creation by pressing the play button at the top of the editor, which will shift to a pause button while playing.

Lmms Song Editor Play

You can duplicate the instrument by clicking on the cog icon on the left side of the instrument’s lane and choosing “Duplicate.” We’ll alter the sound of the second instrument by opening its settings and choosing a different signal shape.

Lmms Song Instrument Duplicate

Double-click on the bright green note representation in the editor to bring up this new instrument’s piano roll. We’ll move the second instrument’s notes around a bit to create harmonic intervals (two-note chords) with our first instrument.

Lmms Song Piano Roll Notes 2

Using the Mixer

Now that we have two instruments, it can help to monitor their levels individually in the mixer. We can do this by clicking on each instrument lane’s cog icon and choosing to route them to new mixer tracks. You should see the tracks in your mixer immediately.

Lmms Song Instrument Mixer

Once there, we can watch their levels as we play our composition.

Lmms Song Instrument Mixer 2

Using the Song Editor

To add the harmonic segment we’ve created to our song, we need to open the song editor and click on the timeline using the draw tool.

Lmms Song Song Editor

Next, let’s create a new “beat and bassline” lane in the song editor to work on a simple beat. Click the icon with the cubes to add one. Click its name to automatically refocus our beat and bassline editor to this new section.

Adding Percussion

We’ll drag the kicker plugin over to the beat and bassline editor twice to get two instances of it and open the first’s settings. You can adjust these as you please, then click a square in the editor’s sequencer lane to place the sound. Press play to listen and adjust the settings at the same time.

Lmms Song Plugins Kicker
Lmms Song Kicker Settings 1

The same can be done with the second instrument to create a different sound. Copy our settings below for a low, noisy snare sound.

Lmms Song Kicker Settings 2

Finishing Up

We can add this section to the song just as we did the one before it.

Lmms Song Song Editor Final

Press play in the song editor to hear everything we’ve laid out playing at once.

With the info in this article you should be ready to start creating your own songs from scratch in LMMS. There are plenty of additional plugins included by default in this DAW, so give them a try and find your favorites.

Jeff Mitchell
Jeff Mitchell

Jeff is a long time laptop lover and coding hobbyist. His interests span the gamut from DAWs to Dapps and beyond. He runs a music/arts site at Odd Nugget.

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