LMMS is a great program for beginners to start making beats and produce music. It is free and professional. However, it is not that intuitive. There is a small learning curve.
This tutorial is different than other tutorials online. We are going to learn how to use LMMS by actually making a beat. Learning by doing. In this tutorial we will explain how to use each section of the free music production software LMMS from start to end. Plus we are going to make a project. When you complete this tutorial you will have your first song produced with LMMS.
Why not? LMMS is free. It only costs you time to try it, and you will learn something anyway.
LMMS is a good software to start learning. It is also a good software to keep making beats and be creative. Although there are some disadvantages compared to professional and commercial software, it is worth to try it and work with it.
The main differences between LMMS and FL Studio are: LMMS is completely free, whereas FL Studio has four price tiers. LMMS is based on community-created content, whereas FL Studio has plugins created and developed by them. LMMS has a steep learning curve, whereas FL Studio is a bit easier to navigate. LMMS is the Swiss army knife of music production. It is a cross-platform and entirely free application for creating or editing songs and mixing sounds. In essence, it operates as a digital-audio. LMMS is free and open source, but it is not as extensive and widely used. On the other hand, FL studio is a commercial DAW with extensive capabilities, and is also widely used by many professional producers. My advice would be to start out with LMMS if money is a issue, and then gradually proceed to FL studio and other commercial DAW's. LMMS aims to be a free alternative to popular (but commercial and closed-source) programs like FL Studio, Cubase and Logic. It offers you the ability of producing music with your computer by creating/synthesizing sounds, arranging samples, playing live with your keyboard.
LMMS does have some limitations. That’s why it is not used by professional producers, maybe. For example, it doesn’t have many instruments nor samples. It doesn’t come with many effects. But is has enough features to start experimenting with music production. And it is available for you to use it at no cost.
Something I like is that there is a group of people, a community that produces music with LMMS. There are even competitions where the best beats are shared in the LMMS official website. The music is not bad at all. You can listen to the community music in this link.
To be able to follow this tutorial, you basically need a Windows, Mac or Linux basic computer, of course, with LMMS installed. You don’t need anything fancy. Your normal PC or laptop should work. And LMMS is free, so you don’t need to pay anything and you can start with the tutorial right away!
This tutorial is for beginners. So, it is OK if you know nothing about LMMS or any other music production software. You just need to know how to use a computer.
Optionally, you could use (if you have one) a MIDI Controller to help you with the music production. You don’t need one. You will be able to follow the tutorial just with your computer. But it is always nice to have an external controller.
I am using the MPK Mini MKII to create this tutorial. It is a 25 keys USB keyboard. I love it. It is a really popular keyboard and it is really nice for beats production. It works well with LMMS. If you are curios, you can check this keyboard and its current price on Amazon in this link.
I am using LMMS version 1.2.0-RC7, which is a Release Candidate or beta version. This means, it is a version that is still under development, which might be unstable. However, I haven’t experienced any issue, so I am still using this newer version.
There is also a stable version: LMMS 1.1.3 which was released in 2015. It is a bit older, but it should be pretty safe to work with it.
For the sake of this tutorial, you can use any of these versions. They are really similar. You should have no issue to follow the tutorial with version 1.1.3.
If you don’t know if you computer is 32 bits or 64 bits, just download the 32-bit version. There will not be much difference.
Download LMMS from the official website here. The installation process is pretty straightforward. The software installs just as any other software, just by clicking the next button in the wizard:
- Execute the exe file.
- In the “Welcome” page, click “Next”.
- In the “License Agreement” page, click “I Agree”.
- In the “Choose Install Location” page, click “Next”.
- Finally, click the “Install” button.
Once the installation wizard completes the installation, you can lunch LMMS to start the tutorial.
Once the software is installed, you will usually have to configure it before you can use it. To get started, you basically need to configure only three things:
- The buffer size to be used by LMMS.
- The Audio Settings, so that you can actually hear sound from your computer.
- Optionally, the MIDI Settings, if you are using a MIDI Controller to work with LMMS.
Let’s start by opening the general settings. Launch LMMS and open the menu Edit > Settings. The “Setup LMMS” window will be shown with the “General Settings” tab displayed.
Check that your settings are similar to the ones I am showing in the screenshot above. The important parameter is the “BUFFER SIZE” which should be at least in 512 frames. If your computer supports it, a better value is 1024. If you experience latency in the audio or if your computer gets too slow, come back and adjust this parameter.
Now, let’s make sure we can hear the sound generated by LMMS. Click the speaker icon to show the “Audio Settings”. Usually the “SDL (Simple Direct Media)” option for the AUDIO INTERFACE field should work for you.
Finally, in case you have a MIDI Controller connected to your computer, click the Keyboard icon to display the MIDI settings. I have my keyboard connected and the option “WinMM MIDI” worked for me for the MIDI INTERFACE field.
This should be all you need to configure before starting to play with LMMS. Let’s now review the main sections of the music production software so that we can start working on our project.
Let’s now describe the main sections of the LMMS interface so that we can start creating our first song and we can understand why we are using one section instead of the other.
The sections can be confusing at the beginning, because you can hear sound by clicking the play button of different sections. You can control the volume of the same instrument in different sections, too. So, it becomes a bit difficult to understand where you should do adjustments. We will try to clarify that here.
The sections that I consider the most important to explain to a beginner are the following ones:
- My Samples panel.
- The Beat+Bassline editor.
- The Song-Editor.
- The Piano Roll.
- And the FX-Mixer.
By understanding these five sections, you should be able to start experimenting with different instruments to make your first beat. Let’s explain each of the sections.
1. My Samples Panel
As soon as you start LMMS, you can access the My Samples panel. In this panel you can have access to the different instruments LMMS is shipped with. You can find basses, drums, organs, pianos, guitars, and more. There are also pre-made loops and some effects.
You can find this panel to the left of your screen. There will be a vertical bar with six icons. Click the icon with a music note to display the “My Samples” panel. Then open the “bases”, “drums” and “instruments” folder to see your instruments. If you click any of the files within those folders (the files have the extension .ogg), you will hear the sound of the instrument represented by that file. That is how you can audit the instruments before using them in your project.
When you start creating your project, you will drag these instruments from here to the Beat+Bassline Editor window.
2. The Beat+Bassline Editor
This tool is what I most like about LMMS, and it emulates the same nice tool in FL Studio. It is basically a matrix or grid where you have several rows, each row representing an instrument, and several columns, each column representing a beat for one or more bars of the music you will create.
In the previous image, we have a kick, a snare, a hi hat and an open hi hat for our drums part. The grid is divided in 16 parts. Each green square represents that the drummer is hitting the specific instrument. And you draw those green squares by left clicking the grid cells with the mouse.
There is something important to note. As you can see in the image, there is a “Play” button and a “Stop” button in the Beat+Bassline editor. These buttons are not used to play the hole song, but to play just what you have within this window. You use these controls while you are designing (or as we say, programming) the drums. But when you want to play the whole song, there will be other controls.
You can also see that you can set the volume and panning for each instrument you have in this window. Again, these controls are only for your drums while you are programming them. You can set the levels and panning for you drums here. But there will be a mixer where you will be able to mix the whole song. We will see the mixer window later in this article.
With the Beat+Bassline Editor you are creating loops! This means that when you click the play button of this window, the pattern that you draw in the grid (the green squares; see image above to understand) will be repeated over and over, until you click the stop button. Later, when you create the structure of your song, you will be able to “paste” or use this loop in different sections of your song. You create the structure of your song in the “Song-Editor”, the next section we will review.
3. The Song-Editor
As I explained in the previous sub-chapter, with the Beat+Bassline Editor you create the loops for the drums arrangement of your song. Then, you can use those loops in the Song-Editor.
The Song-Editor is the window where you arrange all your song: where you will put your drums, where you will put a piano, where you will put the bass, etc.
There are different ways to use the Song-Editor together with the Beat+Bassline Editor, but for this tutorial we will show one way. The first way consists of programing the drums only in the Beat+Bassline Editor and the other instruments in the Song-Editor (see picture below). The other way is to program all the instruments in the Beat+Bassline Editor, so that you have already all your sounds in a loop, and then just drag each instrument to the Song Editor here and there, to create a nice structure.
We will use the second way.
The following picture shows the Song-Editor. We have only two tracks: one for the piano and one for the drums, which is the loop or pattern we designed in the Beat+Bassline Editor.
As you can see, I created a pattern for the piano, which repeats a couple of times. Then I used the loop we had in the Beat+Bassline Editor four times (blue rectangles).
Note that the piano starts by itself at the beginning of the song, and at some point, the drums start playing.
That is how you create and design the structure of your song, by adding or removing instruments during the development of the song.
4. The Piano Roll
Now, how did I create the piano pattern?
For this, there is a window called the Piano Roll. Here you can either draw the notes with your mouse or you can record the notes with a MIDI controller like the one I mentioned in the Requirements section of this article.
I also wrote an article that talks about if having a MIDI Controller is worth it. It explains several reasons why it is a good idea to have one and also some disadvantages. You can check the article in this link.
So, this is how the Piano Roll looks like with the notes I recorded. I actually recorded a couple of chords: C and Fmaj7.
Lmms Multimedia Studio
5. The Mixer
Finally, we have the Mixer window. The mixer is the place where you send the sound of each of your instruments so that you can adjust the volume of each of them, as well as use equalization, compression and other effects on each of them.
You don’t need to, but it is always a good idea to send each of your instruments to the mixer. If you don’t do it, the instrument will still play and sound. However, you cannot adjust or shape that sound that much.
In the previous picture, you can see that I send the Piano to channel one in the mixer and all my percussive instruments (kick, snare, hi hat and open hi hat) to a single channel, channel 2, in the mixer. I also have an equalizer for the Piano.
You could even send each instrument to a separate channel in the mixer, which is actually recommended.
With the mixer you can apply a lot of mixing techniques! But the mixing topic is huge and really exiting. You will have to learn little by litter. It will be a long and fun journey. It will be worth it!
By now, you should know the basic parts of LMMS. It is time to start making your first beats.
Since this will be your first beat, we are going to do something really simple but still really musical and cool. We will start working on the drums sections, then add some chords and a melody. Then a bass line. We will finally design the structure of the song with the patters or loops we created.
Finally, we will mix the song and export an mp3 file so that you can release your music to the world.
So, let’s start and have fun!
1. First we create the patterns or loops
Let’s start by creating a new project in LMMS. For this, go to File > New. Then press F6 in your keyboard to display the Beat+Bassline Editor. Here we will create the patters for all our instruments.
First, click the gear icon and then select “Remove this track” on the default Kicker track, so that you get rid of the project presets, and create all your tracks from scratch.
Also, set the tempo to 170 BPM. You can find the tempo at the top of LMMS window.
Now click F5 to show the Song-Editor. Rename the “Beat/Bassline 0” track to “All Instruments”. Then remove the other channels. This is how the two windows should look like:
Now, use the icon with the plus sign (+) in the Song-Editor to add more patters, one for each instrument. We will add 2 hi hats, a clap, a kick, a bass, 2 organs for the melody and another organ for the chords.
This is how the windows should look like now. Notice that the Beat+Bassline Editor has a list with all the patters.
2. Why do we have an All Instruments pattern?
This is really important!
In LMMS, the Beat+Bassline Editor shows all the tracks at the same time despite which pattern you select from the list. However, only the track where you draw notes while you have one of the patters selected, will play the instrument.
For that reason, we will work first in the “All Instruments” pattern. We will create all the instrument tracks there. We will draw notes in all the tracks in that pattern. And once we have all the instruments, we will start copying each particular track/instrument to its specific pattern.
It sounds confusing, but you will understand.
3. Create the tracks/instruments in the “All Instruments” pattern
Let’s start adding the instruments in the main pattern: the “All Instruments” pattern.
From the tools bar to the left of the screen, click the icon with the music note (My samples). Then expand the “drumsynth” folder, and look for 2 hi hats, a clap and the kick. You can select samples that you like. The ones I selected are the following ones:
- Hi hat 1: feelin’_high_hat_3.ds
- Hi Hat 2: hardhat.ds
- Clap: clap_layer.ds
- Kick: kick_hiphop01.ogg
Once you find a sample that you like, you just have to drag that sample to the Beat+Bassline Editor to create the track. Remember to have the “All Instruments” pattern selected.
Do the same for the rest of the instruments. My samples are:
- Bass: bass_acid02.ogg
- Organ 1: church_organ04.ogg
- Organ 2: raver_organ.ds
- Organ for the chords: church_organ04.ogg
This is how your Beat+Bassline Editor should look like for the “All Instruments” pattern:
4. Drawing the notes!
Finally! Let’s start drawing some notes for each track/instrument! Remember to stay in the “All Instruments” track.
The whole idea behind having an “All Instruments” track is being able to hear all the instruments at the same time while we are programming the loops, so that you have an idea of how your song is sounding all the time. And yet have the flexibility to use each instrument independently once you are composing the structure of your song.
So, again, while you have selected the “All Instruments” pattern, start activating in the sequencer the squares where each drum will sound (or where the drummer would hit the instrument). Copy the sequence that is shown in the following image.
Don’t pay attention to the bass and organs for now. You will do that later.
If you need more “cells” for your drums grid, you can add more with the icon with the plus sign (+) at the top right corner of the Beat+Bassline Editor window.
Click the image to enlarge!
Now, let’s draw the notes in the piano roll for the bass and the organs. You can open the piano roll by right clicking the grid for a specific instrument’s track in the Beat+Bassline Editor window, and selecting “Open in piano-roll”.
For the Bass, set the Q parameter for 1/16, and copy the following Piano Roll:
For Organ 1 copy the following Piano Roll. Note that the octave of the piano is C6:
Now draw what I have in the second Organ:
In fact, both organs play the same. We are just layering the instruments to have a richer sound.
Finally, draw the last organ, which will work as a chords section:
We have now all the instruments that will be used in our song. You can hear the combination by clicking the play button in the Beat+Bassline Editor window.
Lmms Vs Fl Studio 2019
5. Copy each instrument to its particular pattern
At this point, you have a pattern that has all the instruments with information, which is the “All Instruments” patter.
If you switch to any other of the patters, at this point they are empty. They have the tracks, but there is no information on any of these tracks.
That means that the other patterns have no sound!
You will have to copy the information of each track of the “All Instruments” pattern, and paste it in the other patters you have.
For example, you will have to go to the “All Instruments” pattern and copy the information of the hi hat 1. Then you will have to switch to the “Hi Hat 1” pattern, and paste the information you just copied in the track for the hi hat 1. You just need to copy the hi hat 1 track for this “Hi Hat 1” pattern.
To copy the track information, go to the “All Instruments track, put the mouse on top of the grid for the Hi Hat 1 track. Then right click that grid and select Copy.
Then switch to the “Hi Hat 1” pattern, and right click the Hi Hat 1 track grid. And select Paste.
This is how your “Hi Hat 1” pattern should look like:
The Hi Hat 1 track is the only track that will have information in the “Hi Hat 1” pattern. If you click the play button, you will hear just this hi hat.
Now, do the same for the second hi hat. It should look like this:
And do the same for the rest of the patterns and tracks.
5. Compose the song structure
In the previous section you created the loops for every instrument in a specific pattern. You also created a pattern that has all the instruments, which helps you hear how all the instruments sound at the same time.
Now it is time to create a full song, using each of the loops you have available. To do that, you will use the Song-Editor.
Lmms Fl Studio Theme
The Song-Editor also has a grid. Every cell that you activate in that grid, will make the Song-Editor to call the loops you created in the previous sections.
Draw the grid that is shown in the following picture:
Click the play button in the Song-Editor so that you hear how we have created a structure for our song.
As you can hear, thanks to the fact that we created one specific pattern for each instrument, we can now add and remove instruments along the song to create a structure. We can have verses, a chorus, a bridge, etc.
From here you can add more patterns and change the structure of the song as you like!
6. Review The Mix
Lmms Fl Studio
The last step we will review in this tutorial is the mixing. We will do a quick simple mix, since mixing is a huge topic on its own.
To be able to mix the instruments, you will have to route each instrument to a channel in the mixer. First create 8 channels in the mixer. It should look like this:
Note that I have already set the levels for each instrument. I have also renamed each channel, to remember where the instruments are.
Now you have to route each instrument to its own channel. To do that, open the instrument by clicking its name in the Beat+Bassline Editor. For example, click the bass. The following window will open:
The parameter that you have to modify is the FX parameter that is at the top of the window. See how the bass is being sent to channel 5.
Once you have all your instruments routed to a specific channel, you can play your song and adjust the level of each instrument.
7. Export To MP3
This step is pretty straightforward. Just go to File > Export… and select “Compressed MP3-File (*.mp3)”.
By default, the mp3 file will be saved in the same folder where your LMMS project file is. But you can select a different location.
We have created a full song using just LMMS as it is, with no other plug-ins or instruments. LMMS is a free option that you can start experimenting with and that you can use to create your first beats.
Something really good about LMMS is that it is really similar to FL Studio. That means that the concepts that you learnt in this tutorials can be applied to FL Studio, if you decide to test that software or to buy it to create great songs.
Now that you know how to work with LMMS, it is your turn to experiment and to create and compose your own beats!
I hope you had a great time following this tutorial. I also hope it was useful and it helped you to learn more about music production!