LMMS Tutorial Part 4: Custom Sounds, Instruments And Other Tricks

In previous articles, you were introduced into the basics of LMMS, and using sound files and presets as instruments for your songs. Also, you were shown a few sound effect plugins using the FM Mixer interface. This series concludes by showing you some of the techniques that I use when composing music with LMMS. Hopefully, you will be able to experiment further with the features that LMMS has to offer and find a way to use these tools (and other ones) in a way that works for you.

How To Use LMMS?

Sound Effects I Typically Use

Over the years, I have come up with a few tricks that can make your tracks be roughly comparable to studio recordings in terms of sound quality.

Fade In And Fade Out

​These are volume effects: fade in is where sound gradually get louder to a point and fade out is where it becomes quieter until it’s silent. There are two ways to achieve this depending on what tracks and instruments are used.

Automation Tracks

The first way is through using automation tracks. These are used to automatically alter certain controls for different settings. Controls that can be automated include volume (master and individual tracks), panning, and pitch (if you really wanted to). Even the song’s tempo can be changed.

To automate a control, you need to make sure an automation track is present in the project. One is created for you when a new project is created. Otherwise, add one.

lmms automation

Then click on the bar you wish to start automating and increase the length of the automation to span however many bars you want. Open up the automation editor by double-clicking on the piece. Here you will see three different progression options to choose from. Discrete progression (default) means that the automated change is sudden, i.e. change from 63% to 44%. Linear progression is a gradual change that appears as a line on the editor. Cubic Hermite progression is similar to linear, except that it appears as a curve on the editor. For fading in or out, you will want either the linear or cubic Hermite progressions.

lmms automation editor

More than one control can be assigned to a single automation piece by simply dragging those controls to the same piece. To do so, hold down Ctrl and drag the desired control to the automation piece.​Here is an example with panning:

lmms automating panning using cubic hermite progression

Remember, this will directly alter the controls automatically. You will most likely want to preserve the original value after the automation has done its job. If so, remember to configure the automation to revert back to the original settings after the desired section of music has been affected. This will ensure that your workflow isn’t disrupted by the automation settings.

resetting original volume for easier workflow

Changing Note Volume In Piano Roll

The controls on ZynAddSubFX instruments do not respond to automation tracks. You can assign a control from it to an automation piece, but it will do nothing. The only other thing to do is open a piece in the piano roll and change each note to simulate fade-in and fade-out effects. Remember, you can quickly change the volume of several notes and chords by dragging your mouse down or up across multiple bars.

Automating Master Volume

The best way to do a fade-out effect to finish the whole song off like many studio recordings is to automate the master volume. Place the automation piece at the bar you wish to apply the effect from. Because this is the master volume, automating this will affect everything, including the ZynAddSubFX tracks.

lmms fade out with automation

Custom Sounds

If you want to use other sounds obtained elsewhere in your project, you can absolutely place those sounds in LMMS to use. There are two folders in particular that I recommend you use to store those files in: “~/lmms/presets” and “~/lmms/samples”. How you organize your sounds is entirely up to you. Your additions will appear alongside the samples and preset that came with your LMMS installation.

Something Else To Show

I want to introduce you to the myriad of controls that the ZynAddSubFX plugin has to offer. Only a few will be touched upon here as there would already be complete guides on how to use these controls. These can be accessed by opening the instrument by clicking on it, and pressing “Show GUI”. This will give you access to more controls provided by the plugin in addition to ones found by clicking on the instrument name.

lmms zynaddsubfx controls

Each plugin will have its own set of controls, also accessible by clicking on the instrument name.

Volume And Panning Controls

Each instrument has its own volume level and master volume to help fine-tune the volume of the instrument. I use these to fine tune the volume of some instruments to achieve the effect that I want in my tracks. The panning can also be altered here as well.

Velocity Sensing

I sometimes change the velocity sensing and offset controls whenever I need to change the richness of the sound of the instrument.

Key Shift

The key shift is equivalent to the LMMS master pitch, except it’s for that particular instrument. You can transpose the instrument by several semitones. You can even change the instrument’s octave that it plays at. There are 12 semitones between octaves.

Fine Detune

Fine Detune affects the tuning of the selected instrument. A lower value indicates a flatter pitch, whereas a higher value indicates a sharper pitch.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these guides have been instrumental in getting started with LMMS. There are good guides out there regarding different aspects of LMMS. These will help you to channel your creativity using LMMS. Next part – Panning, Volume, And Sound Effects

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