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.
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.
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.
Click on the instrument’s name in the editor and configure it a bit.
Lower the volume a bit if you value your eardrums (8 or 9 should work for this example).
In the instrument’s settings, click just above the C5 note in the keyboard visualizer to set the pitch frequency.
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.
Use the draw tool (it has a pencil icon) to “draw” notes on the piano roll. The following image is a simple progression.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once there, we can watch their levels as we play our composition.
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.
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.
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.
The same can be done with the second instrument to create a different sound. Copy our settings below for a low, noisy snare sound.
We can add this section to the song just as we did the one before it.
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.