The Lord of the Rings Online™

The Lord of the Rings Online™

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Musician's Complete Guide To ABCs
By Elaini
An advanced all-round guide about LOTRO ABC music system for music listeners, players and makers alike. Includes links to custom plugins for making ABC playing simpler.
Basics About ABC Music
What Are ABCs?

ABCs are files that can store a song in LOTRO for playing it in-game. These files should be stored under "C:\Users\ ~Your computer username~ \Documents\The Lord of the Rings Online\Music\" so they can work in-game. The files have '.abc' file extensions.

More about ABC notation can be seen here[].

You can download ABCs from the web, by simply searching for "LOTRO ABCs". However, if you have the aptitude of a musician or you can't find the particular song you're looking for, you can create one yourself - the later chapters of this guide will tell you, how.

One ABC file can contain one or more tracks that can be synced with a band of players, that are currently under the same fellowship or raid, so that one song can actually have a large orchestra of well over 6 players!
Instrument Skills
Obtaining And Using a Skill

In game the intrument skills are listed under the passive skills. They become active once you:

  • Equip an instrument matching the skill that you already have. It automatically goes to the ranged slot, replacing a bow.
  • Either type the command '/music' or click your face icon and choose the music mode from the menu.
  • Toggle music skill off with the same commands or move to exit music mode.

All classes get the lute skill. However, it's a privilege of the Minstrel class[] to obtain all the instrument skills, and to teach them to the other classes. You can ask a Minstrel to teach you an instrument skill face to face, which gives them a three days cooldown for all teaching skills.

Minstrels can also scribe manuals for teaching a skill, but doing so a gives them ten days cooldown for all their teaching skills - and it also costs them 500 silver coins.

The intruments currently available in the music system are:

LOTRO also has some self playing "musical crackers" as festival rewards, such as flute and dulcimer, but aren't really playable within the music system.
Plugins 'Songbook' And 'Poetical'
Downloading Plugins for LOTRO is a site where you can download plugins (custom widgets) for LOTRO - also the ones related to ABCs and lyrics. Simply make sure to follow the instructions on the pages where you download them at.

Plugins Manager

Type "/plugins manager" command to access and load your installed plugins. It's the easiest way to use your plugins, and it's already available in the game.


Songbook is a plugin which includes a separate app that searches your ABC files (outside the game) and builds a list of them. Once you have installed the plugin and used the app to update the list, you can simply click a song to play it in-game. Usually you would need to type commands for making it to happen, but not after installing this.

If you prefer your ABC files being in a good order, you can make subfolders in your Music folder. Songbook would still find them, and playing them won't be any less easy.

Get Songbook[]


Poetical is a plugin which lets you recite poetry, lines or lyrics wherever it's needed. If you have seen how people seem to say lines fast and flawlessly and wonder how it's ever possible, the answer is this plugin.

Get Poetical[]
Composing With MIDI
What is MIDI?

In composing for LOTRO, using MIDI is the first step. Read more here[] to find out what it is.

Every MIDI file that can be converted as ABC has a common '.mid' file extension.

Downloading Existing Popular Songs

You don't have to especially compose an entirely new song if you don't feel like it. You could simply download a MIDI version of an existing song that you want (if readily available), for converting it to ABC without much trouble.

If you have done so, some adjustments may still be recommended, considering that it was not originally made to be especially LOTRO compatible. It may work well as it is so only transposing is needed for conversion to ABC, or the MIDI file itself will need a few minor tweaks.

Tools for Composing and Editing MIDI

You may use any MIDI making program and they may have different interfaces, but I use Anvil Studio[]. It's free, and fits well enough for the purpose. If you're any familiar with composing in general and have an ear for it, doing so with Anvil Studio should be a fairly easy process.

Percussion vs. Melody

Drums are different from melodious instruments in-game, because it's an "instrument" with certain percussion instruments given to certain notes. They should not be transposed later for ABC file, or they might sound out of place in game (for example: tom-tom might become a shaker).

The video at the "Instrument Skills" section of this guide shows the drum mapping, along with the other instruments.

Trying Instruments Manually

All the instruments use C major as a default note scale in-game. You simply need to get in music mode in-game and press the buttons 1-8 like this:

1 = C4
2 = D4
3 = E4


If you hold Shift button, the instruments go up one octave:

1 = C5 - "Middle C"
2 = D5
3 = E5


If you hold Ctrl button, the pitch will go down by a half note.

The Real Note Range

LOTRO actually allows more notes than trying instruments lets you know. The whole range of notes for any instrument is C3 - C6, one octave deeper and three octaves total, allowing some very low notes to be played exclusively with ABCs.

The video at the "Instrument Skills" section of this guide shows the range of the instruments.

Making Clean Arrangements

The maximum number of notes that LOTRO is capable of playing with one instrument in a single chord (doesn't apply to multiple instruments) is six.

Also make note that it may sound twitchy if the tracks of an enormous orchestra are forced on one solo instrument, or unrealistic if you're playing a wind instrument for example. You might want to consider how to make a clean arrangement for your songs.

Once you have your MIDI file ready, it's time to finally convert it to ABC.
Converting MIDI to ABC
Conversion to ABC

The next step is finding a program that will do the job of converting the file for you, so you don't have to do much manual changes to the ABC file. For that I use Maestro[].

Transposing Notes

Maestro is handy for letting you know when something is out of note range for LOTRO instruments. If the note range of your the MIDI file doesn't fit the instruments that you want it to work with, it is possible to change the key of song and transpose it using the simple up/down buttons. Remember to transpose all of the instruments the same way for proper harmonizing.

Also as previously said, remember to leave the drums out of transposing.

Once you have your ABC file, it's time to play or test it in-game. Have fun with sharing your music with Middle-Earth!

Adding Credits to ABCs
Understanding ABC Files

ABCs use quite simple coding, and the information can be safely edited in some places by using a basic app such as Notepad.

They look somewhat like this inside:

% Original song composed by Elvealin of Laurelin % 4 parts (three harps and drums) X: 1 T: Varda's Enigma by Elvealin - Harp 1 (2:52) L: 1/4 Q: 120 K: C G5/8 d3/4 [^a5/8g5/8] [] [^a5/8g5/8] G3/4 d5/8 [^a3/4g3/4] [] [^a3/4g3/4] F5/8 c3/4 [] [g3/4e3/4] [a5/8f5/8] ... X: 2 T: Varda's Enigma by Elvealin - Harp 2 (2:52) L: 1/4 Q: 120 K: C z16 z9/8 G3/4 d5/8 [^a3/4g3/4] [] [^a3/4g3/4] G5/8 d3/4 [^a5/8g5/8] [] [^a5/8g5/8] F5/8 c3/4 []

... and so on ...

Editable Contents of ABC

The symbol "%" is simply info that is seen only inside the file, and not in-game. These can be used for the info about the arrangement, maker, copyright, history, dedications, websites etc.

The letter "X" tells the track inside a song. This is what defines what is played when the number is given in a command. This is essential, and each number of a track must be unique.

The letter "T" is the title, and as you can see, it can contain more info, such as the play time of the track within the song. This is also essential, because it's the info that will show up in-game.

As you can see, there are more letters to tell more info, and basically their info can too be edited, but if you do edit the info, it will affect on how the song sounds like. It is safer to modify such things while making a MIDI file and using Maestro, leaving it to the appropriate tools.
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Star May 22, 2015 @ 8:46am 
Elaini  [author] Dec 30, 2014 @ 12:34pm 
I added a video showing all the instruments and their scales.

As you may discover, Maestro has quite narrow scales in a few instruments. I have usually solved this problem by exporting all tracks as Lute, and then manually changing the instrument names in int ABC file itself.
Elaini  [author] Aug 21, 2014 @ 12:46pm 
I've updated this guide to be more comprehensive, and with more chapters.
Elaini  [author] Jun 26, 2014 @ 9:04am 
You're welcome. I think a video would be best suited to explain the "MIDI" section, but given this time this is the best I could do.
Vazoth Jun 26, 2014 @ 7:45am 
I have the feeling that the "MIDI And Conversion To ABC" section will leave me with many questions when I try it myself. A detailed explanation of the used programs might be helpful. Then again, you could just look for existing guides to see how these programs work. Might be the better choice of you to keep this guide short and precise.

Thanks to you I now have a good impression of the process needed to create your own songs. I will see how well I do, once I have the time to try it out.