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4.2 Jumping Right In
A project is created by adding instruments (sidebar tab 1), samples (sidebar tab 3) and/or presets (sidebar tab 4) to either the Song-Editor or the Beat+Bassline-Editor. Each added element is in LMMS regarded as a Track.
In this way you can have instrument tracks based on presets, Beat+Bassline tracks and automation tracks.
The Song-Editor is useful for non-repeating sound events, such as melody lines, while the Beat+Bassline-Editor is useful for repeating sequences, like percussion.
Events created in the Beat+Bassline-Editor are "continuous", i.e. they can't be expanded (but can be copied, of course).
The actual song is always built in the Song-Editor. This is where all the elements (Song-Editor blocks), including events in the Beat+Bassline Editor, come together on the timeline forming the project.
When starting a new project in LMMS there are 4 items loaded in the Song Editor by default. The first one, named "Default Preset", is an instance of the TripleOscillator (3-OSC) generator; it's a good example of an instrument container. This TripleOscillator instance's default settings generate sounds using waveforms, default it is simple sine waveform, but that you can change. Let's take a look at this instrument, because it has behavior that is the same for all other instrument containers. When you move your mouse over the instrument containers, they will highlight. This indicates that the instrument can be clicked as if they were buttons! Left-click the 3-OSC. This opens the instrument GUI. The 3-OSC instrument is now chosen, and it is at the same time the focused instrument. Click again, and the GUI will close. All instruments behave like this.
When you make changes on the GUI you create a preset. If it sounds less than horrible, you have an instrument-preset :) If you right-click you will have a rename option. Always name your presets! To the left of the instruments there are 2 clickable lights (
). When the green light is ON, the track is activated. In its OFF state the track is muted. The other light is red. When it is ON, the track will mute all other tracks and play solo.
Next, to the left of these, we have the action-button (
). Here you can delete or clone the track and all of its events. To the right of the Instruments, before the knobs, we have a vertical bar. When clicked, it will play the root note of the instrument. We also have a dial for volume and one for balance:
Volume and panning
In most great programs, there are always more than one way to do a specific task! This makes various workflows possible. This is also the case with LMMS. The volume dial we just looked at, is a good example. You can adjust volume with several different controls. In the main component we have the main sound settings, called the "master volume".
You would really never change this setting for creative reasons. But if the phone rings... The same goes for master pitch. Creative changes in volume is best done in other controllers. The volume dial on your instrument, that is suited for controlling the volume on a saved instrument preset. The volume sliders in FX-Mixer are suited to set volume in a project. Remember that everything you like to save for general usage, that must be saved with the preset! This goes for the aforementioned volume, but also for effects added on the FX-Tab. Amazing FX chains that you build in the FX-Mixer will not be simple to use in a new project! If, however, it is made directly in an instrument preset, then it is natively usable in any project, as a saved instrument preset! Planning and making good decisions can spare you a lot of fruitless redoing! I will also recommend you to use the project notes. Write down your ideas, because it is next to given, that you will not remember where in the project you had that "neat little phrase".
On the right half of the Song Editor, we have the timeline. Create a track by adding events to this timeline. The timeline is divided in bar-sized blocks. Click in one next to 3-OSC. You get a visually different "box". If you double-click this box, you open the Piano-Roll Editor. This is where you compose. You can also right-click in the box and choose the context menu option Open in Piano-Roll. We will return to that later.
Below the 3-OSC you have the Sample Track. It is great for vocals or other larger WAV or OGG files that you want to replay unaltered, but can also be used as an advanced clip looper. You can add a new sample track with the 6. button on the Song Editor toolbar (
Next you have the default Beat+Bassline instance. Just for illustration, click on one of the boxes in the timeline next to the Beat+Bassline track. You get a blue block. Click and drag its right end and it will expand. This is what I meant by Beat+Bassline events are "continuous". When you did that with the 3-OSC, the block would not expand. You can add a new Beat+Bassline with the 5. button on the Song Editor toolbar (
Last is an instance of the Automation track. This can give you advanced variations in real-time, and it is with automation that you can create nice subtle changes in the sound over several bars, known in trance and house music, or rhythmic repeated growls and effects for, say dubstep. How to do all this and how to use automation tracks is explained in Working with automation. You can add a new automation track with the 7. button on the Song Editor toolbar (