Picture this: you’re struck by a sudden bolt of inspiration and just itching to start the music production process.
But you’re a newbie and have no idea where to start drafting your project. On top of that, it can be DIFFICULT if you don’t have the right software.
Enter your savior: LMMS, professional software that’s very beginner-friendly.
In this complete guide, we’ll show you the easy steps on how to use LMMS!
- LMMS is a free digital audio workstation (DAW). It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- It’s equipped with features like the Automation Editor, FX mixer, and Beat/Bassline Editor that can help you create a whole song.
- It has a learning curve and is not as fully featured as other DAWs, but it’s enough for beginners to get the hang of making music.
How to Use LMMS Easily in 7 Steps
Below is a quick LMMS tutorial:
LMMS works on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.
You can choose to have a MIDI controller if you’re more comfortable using an external controller, but it’s not required.
Another option is to actually use your computer keyboard as your MIDI controller!
A stable version to download is the LMMS version 1.2.0-RC7. If you’re unsure if your computer is 32 bits or 64 bits, you can just download the 32-bit version.
Here’s how to set up LMMS, so it’s ready for your first project:
- Download LMMS from the official website and follow the instructions.
- Open the software to Edit > Settings.
- Allow “Enable note labels in the piano roll” so you know what notes you’re using while writing music. You can change the language as well.
- In “Directories,” you can set up what folders LMMS will look for in your files.
- You can also check your Performance Settings, Audio Settings, MIDI settings, and general settings. The first two are where you can adjust your audio interface.
- Press OK and re-launch LMMS.
Step 1: Create the Patterns
Start a NEW PROJECT and display the Beat/Bassline Editor.
You’ll find that there’s a default Kicker track. You can remove that track to erase project presets to create your tracks from scratch.
You can also see the tempo at the top of the LMMS window.
Once that’s set, open the Song Editor to rename that first Beat/Bassline Editor track to “All Instruments” and remove other channels.
Try adding patterns (maybe one per instrument) by dragging samples from the samples tab. Some of the things you can add are drums, bass, hi-hat, and organs.
But you can toggle this according to your concept.
The Beat/Bassline Editor will have a list of all the patterns.
NOTE: The “All Instruments” pattern will serve as your first draft, where you’ll draw notes and create other tracks. This allows you to hear all the instruments simultaneously while still toggling each independently. This gives you an idea of how your music project always sounds. Once you’ve finalized everything, you can transfer the instruments to their respective patterns.
Step 2: Make the Tracks in the All Instruments Pattern
We’ll start referring to the “All Instruments” pattern as the main pattern. Now, you can start adding other instruments to the main pattern.
You can do this by clicking on the My Samples icon (which is a music note), where you can look for samples through the different instrument folders.
For example, for organs, you’ll see “church organ” and “raver organ” as choices.
Drag and drop the samples to the main pattern on the Beat/Bassline Editor.
Step 3: Draw the Notes
The first instrument you should ideally draw notes of first is the DRUMS.
In the Beat/Bassline Editor, activate the squares where you want the drum to sound. You can keep adding more if your drum grid runs out of space.
For the bass and organs, use the piano roll.
Once you’re done working on all your virtual instruments, you can play the music from the Beat/Bassline Editor window.
Step 4: Transfer the Instruments to Their Respective Patterns
All you have to do is copy the information of each instrument from the main pattern and paste it into their respective patterns.
For instance, to copy the hi-hat information:
- Right-click the “Hi-Hat” grid and select “Copy.”
- Switch to the “Hi-Hat” pattern.
- Right-click the “Hi-Hat” track grid
- Select “Paste.”
Repeat for ALL your patterns.
Step 5: Create the Song Structure
It’s now time to use the Song Editor to create your full song!
The Song Editor has a grid where you can put the instruments’ loops that you’ve created previously. It will call the loops for every cell you activate in the grid.
You can easily add and remove instruments along the song to add more patterns and change the structure as you like.
Listen to the structure you’re making by pressing play in the Song Editor.
Step 6: Review Your Mix
Mixing is admittedly a BIG topic on its own.
But for now, you need to know that you should route each of your instruments to one of the mixer’s channels.
To do this, open the instrument and modify the FX parameter at the top of the window.
When you’ve routed everything to their own channels, you can adjust the levels of the instruments and check them by playing the music.
However, remember to rename the channels to know what instruments they contain.
Step 7: Export to MP3
When you’re done, just go to the File menu, then export as Compressed MP3-File (or .mp3).
The file will automatically be saved in the same folder as your LMMS project file. However, you can always choose its destination folder.
A Brief Overview of LMMS
LMMS, formerly Linux MultiMedia Studio, is a free digital audio workstation (DAW) that you can use on Linux, Windows, and Mac.
It lets you create music by allowing you to play on a MIDI keyboard, arrange samples, synthesize sounds, and more!
You can build your sounds individually before combining them and adjusting them through trackers and sequencers.
To give you a better idea of what kind of DAW LMMS is, we’ve listed some of its great features below:
The toolbar is where you can find the typical shortcuts. You even get an info button where you can click on another icon that tells you what it does!
Below the File Menu is the View Menu.
The View Menu is where you can find the following:
- Beat/Bassline Editor
- Song Editor
- Piano Roll
- Automation Editor
- FX Mixer
- Project Notes
The transport section is part of the toolbar as well, which shows information about your arrangement.
You can click on the position and toggle between “time” and “measure.” You can double-click, click, drag, or scroll through them to change the rest.
You’ll also find the master volume and pitch. You even have a convenient CPU meter!
You can find the media browser on the left side of the program. You’ll see a couple of things here, such as:
- Virtual instruments
- Samples and presets
- Directories (for your computer)
You can simply drag and drop sounds and instruments LMMS comes with from the media browser folders directly into the Song Editor or Beat/Bassline Editor.
It feels like this media deserves its own subheading.
LMMS has A LOT of virtual instruments in its media browser.
You can use the Piano Roll to create chord progressions and melodies to make the most of them.
To add a new instrument track, just open the Instrument Plugins tab and drag your choice.
You can further customize how virtual instruments sound by checking the various settings when you click on the name. You can use effects plugins too!
The Song Editor, also known as the Playlist or Sequencer, is where you arrange patterns and audio.
It’s also where you store the WHOLE project — from drum beats to sound effects.
You can assign things to their respective tracks by dragging and dropping them in the Song Editor.
Aside from plugins and samples from your computer, you can also add the Beat/Bassline Editor, audio files, and automation tracks from the Song Editor window.
You can rearrange the order of your tracks by dragging on the items that DON’T have a parameter or button.
Each track has an options menu — but what the menu contains differs depending on what kind of track it is.
For instance, a VST or audio track has a test button. Double-click a pattern to edit what’s in it.
You can manually resize a track in the Song Editor, but a MIDI pattern will automatically adjust to fit the length of the notes it contains.
You can enable the option to set loop points from the toolbar too. You can also do more with the other menu buttons, such as when you press stop or auto-scrolling.
Also known as the step sequencer, the Beat/Bassline Editor is your “mini” song editor.
The play/pause buttons you see here are specifically for this window rather than the actual Song Editor.
Every block is a beat or MIDI note with its own options menu. For instance, right-click a block to show the piano roll.
The step sequencer has four bars by default, but you can add or remove them as you like. You can also loop the sequence’s playback.
The step sequencer is a place to draft quick and simple patterns. You should use the Piano Roll to further customize and fine-tune your project.
The piano roll has a piano to the left side of the window and a grid interface representing the time signature of the project.
The piano roll has horizontal and vertical zoom and quantization features.
It also lets you choose how long your notes are when you draw them and what your scale is. Another impressive thing is you can write in chords in just ONE click!
If your Draw Mode is enabled, you can also drag duplicate notes by holding the shift key and dragging. Delete notes by right-clicking, and place notes by left-clicking.
To simply select multiple notes, hold the CTRL key and left-click while dragging.
The piano roll lets you record immediately from a MIDI controller — whether on its own or while your song is playing.
You can find the note velocity and panning option at the bottom of the Piano Roll window. You’ll be able to make changes separately or in bulk.
Piano Roll also has a feature called Pitch Bend Mode, which lets you use the Automation Editor for a particular note, even if it’s in a selection with other notes.
The FX mixer doesn’t have many features compared to competitors. That’s because you can only route instrument tracks to this window.
However, you can still add effects when you click on the track name and change the volume from the Song Editor.
The master FX mixer track is where all the tracks are sent to by default. But you can disconnect tracks or change what’s being sent.
There are two ways to add other tracks to the FX mixer:
- Just press the plus icon.
- Go to the Song Editor, look at the options of an instrument track, then assign that to a new track.
Each track has its own settings that you can adjust.
But, the master FX mixer track’s settings go first since it holds the audio settings and master volume per track.
So if the master track has a reverb, all tracks automatically have reverb too.
The automation editor is pretty straightforward — you can make automation patterns that change specific parameters over time.
Simply left-click to put an automation point and right-click to delete one. You can also delete multiple notes simultaneously by left-clicking and dragging.
Like the Piano Roll, the Automation Editor has zoom and quantization features.
However, it’s best to stick to whole numbers when changing the vertical position for the zoom.
Depending on your parameter, your automation clips might also have their track in the song editor.
You might also have to make a new automation track for each parameter you want to change.
To add an automation track:
- Click “Add Automation Track” on the song editor.
- Map the automation track to a parameter. To do this, open the window with the parameter you want to automate.
- Hold CTRL on your keyboard, and click and drag the slider to the automation track in the Song Editor.
But note that you can’t handle the pitch bend since you’ll have to use the piano roll.
To make the most of the Automation Editor, it’s also best to add effects to the automation tracks using the FX mixer.
There’s a project notes window where you can write down everything about your project.
You’ll find that it’s VERY customizable and has many features for a supposedly-simple notepad.
Why Should I Use LMMS?
LMMS is quite beginner-friendly, though it does have a learning curve.
Admittedly, it’s not used by professional producers since it doesn’t have as many instruments, samples, and effects as other DAWs.
However, it gives you enough features to play around without feeling overwhelmed with options.
You’d also be happy to hear that despite the relatively limited features, you can still create excellent music with LMMS.
Alternatives to LMMS
If you want a DAW with more features (or a DAW to switch to when you’ve gotten the hang of music production), below are some alternatives to consider:
Soundation allows COLLABORATION among producers. You get real-time updates and syncing across projects.
That’s another thing — you can work on multiple projects simultaneously!
A centralized dashboard allows everyone to record, upload, and share audio and MIDI files.
Soundation has a freemium tier, which is excellent for beginners to get the hang of sound production.
But to make the most of the software, you can pay just $1.99 a month or $6.99 a year.
The premium tier gives you a bunch of great extra features, such as:
- At least 12,000 loops and effects
- 20 sound sets
- Parametric EQ
- Access to the professional feedback group
It has different kits, such as dubstep, EDM, and hip-hop.
Soundation is great for both beginners and professionals alike — especially if they need to collaborate with others.
Audiotool is a free, cloud- and browser-based software and distribution platform.
It’s a great option if you’re ready to transition from a novice platform like LMMS to more professional software.
Audiotool has audio samples in various genres — including techno, trance, and funk.
You can fine-tune frequencies and convert a mono signal to a wider stereo source.
Some UNIQUE features it has include:
- Workflow management
- Media library
- Data synchronization
The library is cloud-based too! Thanks to the community contributing to it, it now has at least one MILLION samples, and 200,000 device presets.
Though free and browser-based, Audiotool is one of the more powerful software for professionals.
Ableton Live Lite
Ableton Live Lite is a stripped-down version of Ableton Live. The sad news is you’re limited to only eight tracks — but everything else is great!
It has a session view that can make composing using loops easy. Other cool features include a warp feature that lets you shift pitches and stretch time.
You get up to four inputs and four outputs at the same time.
Ableton Live Lite has a good range of effects and instruments — and it’ll give you a feel for Ableton Live’s workflow.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ll answer a few more questions about LMMS and how it compares to other popular DAWs.
Is LMMS Good for Beginners?
Yes, LMMS is one of the better free DAWs that’s great for beginners!
As previously mentioned, it’s not the most equipped with features. However, it has enough functionality to let beginners get used to the electronic music production process.
The LMMS interface isn’t exactly the most intuitive, but it shapes your learning curve by making the essential buttons more easily accessible.
Is LMMS Similar to FL Studio?
Yes, they’re pretty similar at first glance.
Basically, they both have great beginner-friendly features.
However, FL Studio comes with four price tiers. Despite that, it has more impressive features than LMMS.
For one, FL Studio is easier to navigate. It also allows for the following:
- Audio recording
- Advanced automation
- Side-chain compression
- Latency compensation.
But, again, LMMS is good enough for those with zero experience since it’s free and has enough features to play with.
Which is Better, Audacity or LMMS?
Overall, Audacity is better than LMMS.
Audacity has a COMPLETE range of features that lets you edit and record audio.
It has a WIDE collection of virtual instruments and sounds. You also get a powerful audio file manager and sequencing and recording engine.
All that means you can easily make and mix your own beats and tracks!
Audacity is also suitable for beginners since it has a simple interface that prevents you from being overwhelmed by your options.
LMMS can help beginners create a music project using amazing features, such as Controller Rack, Song Editor, and Beat/Bassline Editor.
They can even use samples and instruments LMMS comes with!
It’s admittedly not the best music software out there — not to mention it has a learning curve. However, it’s good enough to let even absolute beginners get a feel for music production.
We hope this LMMS tutorial has been a great help to you!