Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Wed 21st Mar, 2007

LMMS - solution and problem

Recently, I've been really getting into LMMS. Akin to Fruity Loops and Cubase, it's designed for composing music using all the things we lovers of electronic music like: repetitive drums, FM synthesis, digital effects and sample playback. You can probably lay down a good traditional rock-and-roll or pop song using it too.

Of course, at version 0.2.1, it's still a little rough around the edges. Occasionally I can crash the thing: although I haven't got around to finding their bug list, I have got into the habit of saving regularly. A lot of the tools have that 'programmer-only' functionality: in order to copy and paste, you select the 'select region' tool, select the region, choose 'copy', choose the 'move region' tool, move the original region, and press 'paste' to paste the copy where the original used to be. Makes perfect sense. Oh, and you can only do that in the piano roll view; you can't copy and paste in the song editor. At all. Dragging regions around, and dragging tracks up and down the song editor, also moves around in a drunken, crazy way that seems to be in proportion to how fast you move: move slowly and it'll probably follow you, move quickly and it's all ended up at bar 400 or so. Exciting.

The most irritating thing I'm finding at the moment, however, is that the TripleOscillator instruments all 'pop' when playing notes rapidly one after the other. You can hear it in this simple example made with the default patch here. This is one I will have to write a bug about, because it's quite hampering to not be able to play regular instruments that fast, and it occurs in both the preview output and the 'export to OGG file' output, which I'd expect to be of higher quality.

But, criticism of new work aside, it's still pretty slick. You get a whole bunch of presets for their standard TripleOscillator plugin and a good (if somewhat minimal) selection of samples - get more at Freesound Project. Each instrument and sample can have an individual effect, and I've just found a whole bunch of LADSPA plugins in the Planet CCRMA repository for Fedora that just slot right in and work great. And a big feature is the ability to add automation to any control that looks like a knob (and the two-dimensional 'sound position' for each instrument). This means that you can gradually fade in a track, you can move it from left to right and back, you can twiddle around with its resonance or attack or arpeggio range or even the knobs on the LADSPA effects! The automation editor interface is still a bit cumbersome, but the fact that it exists at all opens up exciting new vistas for experimentation.

So, what have I done with all this? Well, from my listening habits you'd probably guess that I've made another 140BPM trance track. And this is where I'd put on my Jeremy Clarkson voice and say "And you'd be wrong." Strangely enough, it's Drum and Bass. It's licensed under the Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution - Noncommercial - Sharealike license (naturally) so you can play it, mix it and give it friends. It's called Magnetic Deformation and I've even gone so far as to make up the cover art for it's projected album, Dark Matter. One sample in it is called "Ambient For You" by Aaron Baron, available on Freesound under the Creative Commons Sample Attribution license.


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