Kwee's LOTRO Music Guide Rev2


Updated 6/12/2007 Evendim Patch


For Young Bards and Jongleurs of Middle Earth

Lord of the Rings Online offers a unique music system that allows players to compose and play their own (or anyone else's) songs in real-time. It's also possible to use a standard midi keyboard to interface with the game. Players can even write their own text file scripts of songs and trade or post them online and play them in-game.

The information here is current as of the mid-June Shores of Evendim update.

Instruments and You

The instruments available are horn, clarinet, lute, flute, harp, theorbo, and drums. Each has a unique sound, and they all are capable of playing 3 octaves, but the range of the octaves varies by instrument:

FLUTE - lowest note is middle-C
CLARINET - lowest note is one octave below middle-C; however the lowest 2 notes cannot actually be played on a clarinet, so playing them results in a breath sound.
LUTE, HARP, HORN - lowest note is 2 octaves below middle-C
THEORBO - lowest note is 3 octaves below middle-C
DRUMS - not actually tuned to notes; each different "note" is a different percussion sound

So you can see, if you wanted to play a high melody, the flute or clarinet might be your choice. The lute is a good instrument for playing both accompaniments and melodies, while the theorbo would be a good bass instrument. However, only the Minstrel class can play all instruments:

BURGLAR: clarinet, lute
CAPTAIN: horn, lute
CHAMPION: horn, lute
GUARDIAN: horn, lute
HUNTER: clarinet, lute
LORE-MASTER: clarinet, lute
MINSTREL: horn, clarinet, flute, harp, lute, theorbo, drums

How Do I Learn To Play?

Unlike Mozart, players don't pop into the world knowing how to play. Your character must be level 5 before they can learn an instrument. Your class trainer will then offer to train you individual instrument skills for 2.5 Silver each. (These will be offered under the Passive skills tab on the trainer.)

You will then need to find a Bard to purchase an instrument. These are the same Bards that let you manage your currently mastered traits. They are in many - but not all - towns. They appear as a lute icon on your radar map. Talk to the Bard, browse their merchandise, fork over 20 Silver for the instrument you've trained up and wander off to a remote spot so dogs won't begin to howl when you start practicing.

In order to play an instrument, you must equip it. The instrument will equip into your ranged weapon slot. Now, type /music and hit the ENTER key. You are now in "music mode." While in this mode, the normal key assignments of your keyboard are remapped for music. That is, your hotbar keys won't access your hotbar - they are available to be mapped to notes on your instrument. (More on this in the next section.)

While in music mode, hitting keys 1-8 will play the notes of a C scale. This scale will be in the middle octave of whichever instrument you have equipped to play. You can hold down 2 (or more) notes to play a chord.

If this is your first time, I suggest playing a little before continuing on. Oh! And to get out of music mode use your mouse to move you a step or two, or hit the SPACE key to jump - any key causing you to move will do.

Where Are the Rest of the Notes?

3 octaves of naturals (the white keys on a piano for a C scale) and accidentals (the black keys) plus the high C at the end of the 3rd octave means we have 37 different notes to play. Putting those notes on specific keys of your keyboard is a matter of individual taste and the developers purposely only mapped 8 keys to give you a sense of what could be done, rather than endorse a specific key mapping scheme.

If you go to the in-game options and select key mapping, then move the slider about 3/4 of the way down, you will notice a section titled Music. This is the section where you can tell the game which keys to hit on your keyboard to produce the available notes in the game.

I used the following key assignments to map the 3 octaves:

This may seem odd, but it puts the accidentals in the same relation to the "white keys" as they are on a piano keyboard. And you can now play a G chord which crosses octaves by simultaneously pressing TUS. It does, however, break up the second octave between 2 rows of your keyboard. A very popular method of key mapping was introduced by Psomm and it gets around this problem while also putting the high octave keys readily playable by your right hand while leaving the lower 2 octaves within reach of your left:

Remember, while you're setting up your key mapping in LOTRO, you will probably get a message telling you that a key is already being used for some other function. For music key mapping, it's ok to override prior settings (like your hotbars) because music mode overrides the normal settings, but your normal settings resume when you leave music mode.

Fine Tuning

You may have noticed while you were in the key mapping section of the options, there was a selection at the top of the music section called "Toggle Music Mode." If you like, you can assign a key here and that key will then take you into and out of music mode without having to type /music. However, this key should not be a key you have previously assigned. I found the numpad / key worked well for me.

There are also 3 settings in the options audio section you may want to look at. The first is the slider for Player Music Volume. This is the volume at which you will hear all player-created music. (As an aside, if you're trying to play music in an area that has background game music, you may want to temporarily turn the Music Volume slider down.)

The second is a checkbox labeled: Quantize Player Music. When checked, this will cause your music to "snap to" a tempo grid maintained by the server. Some like it, and some don't. Mine is unchecked, but use what seems to please you most.

Finally, there is a checkbox called low latency mode. When unchecked, you are essentially hearing the note when the server plays it to everyone. When checked, you hear the note as your client senses your key press. If you are playing with others, it's best to leave the box unchecked, so you hear your notes playing in "server" time, synched with everyone else. When playing solo, you may find it easier to play with this box checked, since you don't mind hearing the notes a few milliseconds before the other players do.

Ok. . . I Guess. Now what?

Don't despair! Even with these simple tools you can have a lot of fun playing music in Lord of the Rings Online. And every time I've seen a couple of musicians with even a bare minimum of skill playing together, they've drawn a crowd.

For now, you may want to visit the LOTRO's official Music Forums where there are discussions of all these topics, song listings, other key mappings and more. If you want to play your midi keyboard in-game, check out NolaquenTaurina's excellent MIDI2KEY utility. For help getting started using the ABC notation system for creating music scripts, see Northwoods' "The ABCs of Player Music Sharing" thread, which includes a link to the offical ABC site. The LOTRO Music Forums are at: http://forums.lotro.com/forumdisplay.php?f=108

~Kwee

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