Piano Roll

Piano Roll Editor

The Piano Roll Editor is the main workspace for composing and editing melodies and harmonies. It can be accessed by double-clicking (or through the context menu which you bring up with right click):

  • a segment in an instrument track, e.g.

  • a step in a track in the Beat+Bassline Editor

It can also be accessed using the Show/Hide Piano-Roll buttonin the main toolbar (shortcut F7). Notice that it opens the last edited segment. If you just opened the LMMS project you must connect it to a segment first to be able to edit it. LMMS does not remember the last edited segment from one session to another.

3.9.1 Toolbar

Piano Roll toolbar

Many of the tools are similar to those found in the Song Editor with several important additions. Also, editing is done a bit differently in the Piano Roll Editor, so you must remember what window you are working in. The Piano Roll can never be resized to anything less than the width of this bar. Playback and Record

Playback and record buttons

In addition to the Playback and Stop controls, there is a Record button which will record the notes you play on either:

  • an attached MIDI keyboard

  • your computer's keyboard

Press Stop to stop playback or recording. The computer keyboard's spacebar will toggle between Playback and Stop in both playback and record modes. After you press stop, you will be able to see all the notes as LMMS notes, in your score. These notes can be edited just as any other notes.

There are some things you should consider before you start a note recording - how precise do you want the "capture" to be? This is controlled with the Q(uantize) value. This means, that if you play short fast notes, you need to select a Q-value of the same magnitude. To record absolutely everything, you should choose 1/196 for Q. Editing

Editing tools

Selected notes can be manipulated together. Some of the most used tricks on such a selection, is to move the selection (left click), copy (Shift+left click) and the transposing, meaning that the notes are moved to different semitones. Ctrl+up/down will move your selection exactly one octave.

The 4 editing modes (tools) are Draw, Erase, Select, and Detune. The Draw and Erase modes are explained below in the Notes section.

The Select mode tool allows you to select individual notes to create a group or "selection" of notes, which you can manipulate.

  • Rectangular Selection: use the Select tool to drag a rectangular area around some notes. When you release the mouse button, the selected notes will turn blue.

  • Individual Selection: use the Select tool to left-click on a note - it will turn blue

  • Add to (or remove from) Selection: you can add more notes to the current selection by holding down the Shift key (Shift+drag or Shift+click) and the additional notes will turn blue, too. If the notes are already selected, it will remove them from the selection.

  • Clear Selection: left-click on an empty space in the Piano Roll


The Detune mode allows you to edit the frequency profile of an individual note, for several types of instruments. When you click on a note, the Automation Editor window opens for that note and is labeled "Note detuning". The beginning of the note is represented as the beginning of that auto editor. You can use your mouse to draw a frequency (pitch) profile graph in both higher and lower frequencies than the base frequency of the original note. This profile will be used to produce the final pitch (varying or not) of the note when played. Back in the Piano Roll, the note will have blue lines showing that it has been detuned and between which notes. VST-based instruments can not be detuned. Clipboard

Clipboard buttons

The Clipboard buttons allow you to cut, copy, and paste a selection, and the Delete key on the computer keyboard will delete the selected notes.

  • Click the Copy button (Ctrl+c) to copy the selected note(s) and place them in the clipboard. Shift+drag on the selected note(s) to duplicate - drag a copy of the selected note(s) away from the original(s). Playback Control

Playback buttons

These work the same as the playback controls in the Song Editor. To repatriate loops:

  • Set right loop-point: use right mouse button only

  • Set left loop-point: use right mouse button + Shift

Using AltGr too, you can place loop-points freely. Zoom

Zoom control

This works the same as in the Song Editor. Quantization

Quantization control

The current Quantization setting is displayed and can be set using drop-down menu. This allows you to set the minimum resolution for manipulating note length (start and end times on the time line) using that fraction of a bar, both when using the Draw mode and when using Record. If you for example set the Quantization to 1/1 (1 bar resolution), you'll only be able to place notes at the start of a whole bar, and you'll only be able to make their length in 1-bar increments. You can extrapolate this example case to all the other available quantization levels. Edit Notes Draw and Move Notes

Tip: Holding down the Ctrl key in Draw mode converts the mouse cursor to the Select mode tool, and it returns to the Draw mode on release.

Use the Draw mode tool to place notes in the Piano Roll. As you hover your mouse or move a note in the work area, the gray horizontal line helps you see the pitch of the note you're placing:

  • Left-click to place a note, or if a chord is selected:

    • Place the notes of thew chord with current note as the lower note

    • Shift+left-click item except that the notes are placed in arpeggio mode

  • Right-click to delete a note

  • Hover over the center of a note until a four headed arrow appears then

    • Drag the note either left/right in time or up/down in pitch. This also works for a selection of notes. The note(s) will snap to the nearest time increment as set in the Quantization drop-down.

    • Alt+drag the note left/right in time without snapping to the grid. This also works for a selection of notes. The note(s) will "free-drag" and snap to the nearest 1/192 time increment (max Quantization in LMMS).

  • Hover over the right end of the note until a two headed arrow appears, then

    • Drag the end of note left/right to change the length of the note. This also works for a selection of notes. The right end of the note(s) will snap to the nearest time increment as set in the Quantization drop-down.

    • Alt+drag the end of note left/right to change the length of the note. This also works for a selection of notes. The right end of the note(s) will "free-drag" and snap to the nearest 1/192 time increment, i.e. max Quantization Erase notes

There are 3 ways to erase notes:

  • Use the Erase mode tool to delete notes: left-click and right-click

  • Right-click to delete notes in Draw mode

  • To delete multiple notes, use the Select mode tool (or Ctrl+click and drag) and press delete Default Note Length

Note length control

The Default note length setting (in bars) is displayed and can be set using a drop-down menu. This sets the default length of notes made when you click in the Piano Roll with the Draw mode tool. You can choose either a given note length or that the next note will be the same length as the last drawn note. If you have manipulated notes for a special effect, it is always prudent to use a fixed note length, when you start a new edit. As soon as you have established a perfect note-length and position, you will normally like to use the setting "last note". You can drag any note to any size and position, depending on your Q-setting.

3.9.2 Note Volume and Panning

Individual note velocity

Click on the Note Volume/Note Panning button below the piano keys to toggle between the Note Volume and Note Panning editor. The volume of each note is termed velocity in music sequencing. Velocity is shown as a vertical green bar below the note in the Note Volume editor. You can change the velocity of each note by clicking somewhere on the vertical bar for that note or by dragging the blue box to the level you want. The color of the note will brighten with increased velocity and dim with decreased velocity. Velocity info is set automatically when you record notes using a MIDI keyboard that is capable of transmitting the velocity of the notes as they are played.

Individual note panning

The pan of each note is the ratio of the note volume that is transmitted out the right stereo channel versus the left stereo channel. Pan is shown as a vertical orange bar below the note in the Note Pan editor. By default, the pan is centered (equal volume out the left and right channels). You can change the velocity of each note by clicking somewhere on the vertical bar for that note or by dragging the orange box to the position you want.

3.9.3 Piano Keys

Piano keys

The piano keyboard on the left side of the window offers a lot of tools. Firstly you can mark all whole notes with the correct notation. This option is selected in the Setup, on the General page. But you can also mark individual notes, chords and scales.

All these options are available as items in a context menu. As always with context menus, you right-click on the item. For the piano keyboard, each key is an item. It matters which key you draw the context menu from. The resulting selections will take place, with that key as focus point.

The Marking keys option is rather self-explanatory, but marking scales with a key as key note needs some explanation.

The term scale covers notes that sound well together. This is important to know about scales. Scale needs to be connected to a key. This is covered with one of the best tools you will find in LMMS for helping you in composing good melodies.

First you need to select the type of scale in the selector. Then you need to bind the scale type to an actual composing scale. You will find the scale selector as the second most right on the Piano Roll toolbar.

After you have selected a scale, right-click on that note. From the context menu, choose Mark this scale.

The marked notes are the ones in that scale.

You can scroll the Piano Roll vertically using either the scroll bar on the right side of the window or the scroll wheel on your mouse. However, if you hold Ctrl, and then mouse scroll, you can scroll horizontally. Left-click (or click and hold) on any piano key to hear the corresponding note. You will also hear the note if you left-click inside the Piano Roll, on a note, and when you move them.