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.
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The Basics
What Are ABCs?

ABC[en.wikipedia.org] is a file type that can save a song in LOTRO for automatically playing it in-game, as solo or with a band. They have the *.abc file extension and they're light in file size.

What they need to work is the folder "Music" in the directory %UserProfile%\Documents\The Lord of the Rings Online (copy for a shortcut). If the folder doesn't exist there, create it manually. All your ABC files should be placed inside.

If you will have a high number of ABCs and want be well organized then you may want to create more folders inside the Music folder. It will work since Lotro finds them from the sub folders as well.

You can download ABCs from the web by searching for "LOTRO ABCs". However, if you have the aptitude of a composer or you can't find the particular song you're looking for, you may also create original music.

Solo or Band?

One ABC file can contain one or more instrument tracks that can be synced with a band of players. Even if it reads in the ABC file that a track is meant for a certain instrument, you can still try it out with another.

To make a band, a fellowship or raid must be formed which means that one song can have anything from solo player to a large orchestra (a band of 24 players).

Solo players can play a song without a fellowship.

The Use of Standard Channel for ABC Music

As a musician you might want the Standard channel to be enabled and easily readable in one of your chat tabs, at least without installed plugins. It is where all the music related information will be displayed, including 'Musician is ready to play "Sample Song (4:20) - Instrument."' and 'Synchronized playing is about to begin.'

These lines are important for seeing if everyone in the band are ready when the sync is started, and if everyone are having the correct part and instrument.
Instruments & Skills
Getting Instruments

Usually the instruments can be bought with the common coins from a bard[lotro-wiki.com]. Yet some of the instruments cannot be bought from them, but can rather be bartered with a festival trader such as most of the fiddles – so keep an eye on the festivals.

Learning and Using a Skill

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

  • Equip an instrument matching the skill that you already have. It automatically goes to the ranged slot.
  • To toggle the music mode on, either type the command, click your face icon and choose the mode from the menu or use the Songbook plugin.
  • To toggle your music mode off, use same methods as you started it with or move to interrupt it.

All classes get the lute, fiddle and bassoon skills. However, it's the privilege of the Minstrel class[lotro-wiki.com] to get all of 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 cooldown of five days for all teaching skills. Minstrels can also scribe manuals for teaching a skill, but doing so a causes them ten days cooldown and it costs them 500 silver coins.

Here is the YouTube playlist of the currently available instruments in Lotro, and its melodic instruments:




All the instruments are played in the highest volume that the game allows. If an instrument is silent or loud compared to the other instruments in the video, it is also that in the game.

The video about drums is at its own section.

Trying Instruments Manually

All the instruments use C major as a default note scale in game. You can toggle the music mode on in game and press the buttons 1-8 like this:

1 = C4
2 = D4
3 = E4


Etc...

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

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


Etc...

If you hold Ctrl button, all notes will be flat (♭).
LOTRO Commands for Music
All Commands

These are the old fashioned ways to play a song without the Songbook plugin which are typed into the chat bar. Replace the "quotation marks" as a whole with the appropriate words or numbers.

  • Toggle music mode on or off: /music
  • Search your ABC files: /playlist /"Filter". Filter is optional and accepts the wildcards '*' and '?'.
  • Play a solo song: /play "Filename".
  • Choose a song part for a band: /play "Filename" "Part number" sync.
  • Start the song for a band: /playstart.
Plugins 'Songbook' And 'Poetical'
Downloading Plugins for LOTRO

Lotro Interface[www.lotrointerface.com] is a site where plugins (custom widgets and UIs) for LOTRO can be downloaded - also the ones related to ABCs and lyrics, but they can also be found elsewhere. Remember to follow the instructions on the pages to modify the game with them.

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 available in the game by default.

Songbook

Songbook is a plugin with a separate app that searches your ABC files (outside the game) and sub folders, and builds a searchable list out of them. Once you have installed the plugin and used the app to update the list, you can click a song to play it in-game, solo or synced with a band. If you have this plugin typing out commands won't be necessary.

It also has a time counter and highlights showing the instruments that have been already chosen by the others.

Get Songbook[www.lotrointerface.com]

Poetical

Poetical is a plugin which lets you recite poetry, lines or lyrics wherever it's needed with a mouse click. When you don't need to type or copy and paste the lines one at a time you can speak or sing flawlessly in rhythm (with a bit of practice).

Emotes or chat commands added into Poetical will also work. "%" is a comment, and any line beginning with it will be skipped.

Get Poetical[www.lotrointerface.com]

To enable the chat bubbles overhead, go to Options > UI Settings and check Chat Bubbles.

A few unicode characters exist for the lyrics that work both overhead and in text chat if you want to decorate your lyrics. They are:

– En Dash
— Em Dash
~ Tilde
• Bullet
∙ Bullet Operator
◦ White Bullet
● Black Circle
∞ Infinity
◊ Lozenge
‹ › Single Angle Quotation Mark
« » Double Angle Quotation Mark
Composing With MIDI
What is MIDI?

In composing for LOTRO, using MIDI[en.wikipedia.org] is the first step.

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

The Full Note Range

LOTRO instruments allow a bigger range than trying instruments in game lets one understand. The whole range of notes for any instrument is C3 - C6 which covers three octaves total, allowing the lowest octave to be played exclusively with ABC files.

Tempo Changes

You can change the time signatures and BPM (beats per minute) during the song as much as you like, they don't have to be uniform.

Remember Both Bass and Treble

Treble or bass may sound beautiful on their own but a well balanced song makes balanced switches and mixes of both. While treble is typically more at the foreground bass can still be the soul of the sound – not what you may focus on, but what you certainly feel. Or in some cases, vice versa.

MIDI Editors

You may use any MIDI editing app such as MuseScore[musescore.org] or Anvil Studio[www.anvilstudio.com] which are free, but there are more of them.


Downloading Popular Music

You don't have to compose an entirely new song if you already have a special one in mind. You can download a MIDI version of an existing song that you want (if readily available).

If you'll do that, some adjustments may still be recommended, considering that it was not originally made to be especially LOTRO compatible. It may work well like it is so only a key change is needed for conversion to ABC, but sometimes the MIDI file will need a few more detailed tweaks.

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

The next step is using an app that will convert the song from MIDI to ABC for you. Maestro[github.com] and BruTE[sites.google.com] are the well known ones, of which Maestro is the one I have personally used. Remember to check back for their updates, especially after the changes for the game instruments.

Layering Multiple MIDI Parts for an ABC Part

It is possible to choose two or more MIDI tracks for packing them in one ABC track. It might be helpful if you're condensing a multi part song into a solo version.

Making Clean Arrangements

The largest chord that a LOTRO ABC file is capable of playing with one instrument is made of six notes. Having a chord of seven or more notes means that Maestro will start deleting some notes from the arrangement so it can work.

However, it may sound messy if the parts of a whole orchestra are compressed for one solo player. It's best to try making arrangements that sound well designed.

Transposing Notes

Maestro will let you know with the red color when something is out of note range for the selected instrument part. It will still play and convert the red notes, but they will be automatically transposed to the nearest possible octave which may not always create the desired effect.

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 transpose the song by octaves, but to change into a new key you will need to use your MIDI editor.

ABC to MIDI

If you have an ABC version a song, try ABC Navigator[abcnavigator.free.fr] for converting it back to MIDI.
Working with Drums
Drum Mapping

Drums are its "own species" in Lotro since rather that following a uniform melodic pattern each note has its own drum. I have sorted them by type and rising pitch in this video:


Drum tracks should not be transposed in MIDI file; shifting notes will break the drum mapping and make the drums sound altogether different.

Creating Drums from Downloaded MIDI

Maestro allows you to pick your own drums from the drop down menus. I may have named the drums differently in my drum video (I find them more convenient as such) but the ABC notes shown on the left are still the same as in Maestro.

Creating Drums from Scratch

Creating drums from scratch may sound intimidating at first but to write like a drummer one must think like a drummer. On stage they use their feet for bass drums and hands for everything else and thus I also recommend working in layers.

  • One layer for bass drums,
  • One for medium drums and...
  • One for shakers and tambourine.

Once these individual "limbs" work on their own they may be combined as one track if it makes sense for volume changes.

If you want some visual reference then some sheet music or live video from the drummer's perspective will be handy.

Combining Drums for New Sounds

One of the upsides of working with drums is increasing their volume by creating a "chord" of two or more similar drums so you won't have to touch the actual volume effects at all.

You may also use your imagination by combining two different drums for creating a new one. For example, Slap + Shaker = Snare drum.
Creating Volume Changes
Volume in ABC Files

ABC files have a volume change that works rather like stairs instead of a slide. It looks like this:

  • +pppp+ (10%)
  • +ppp+ (20%)
  • +pp+ (30%)
  • +p+ (40%)
  • +mp+ (50%)
  • +mf+ (60%)
  • +f+ (70%)
  • +ff+ (80%)
  • +fff+ (90%)
  • +ffff+ (100%)

Volume and Velocity in the MIDI File

Maestro will read all volume changes within a MIDI file and make the closest copy accordingly but the file may also have some info on note velocity, also known as the force of key strike. It does different effects depending on a synth but it also translates as volume change in Maestro.

Thus the volume in the final edit has two factors instead of one.

Gradual Volume Changes

When the volume of a single track is changed in Maestro it will keep the volume changes written in the notes. Yet the change won't be relative like it would be when editing a wave file. Instead, the change will shift every volume from +pp+ to +p+ or +f+ to +ff+ – all of them are increased by one.

That is why I recommend using a MIDI editing software with a curve editor (like automation clips with channel volume here) if you want some accurate gradual changes to the volume, while using Maestro as a reference on where every volume should be at a point.

If you want noticeable changes to the volume then the velocity of all notes should be 100 before adding the curves (unless volume change by velocity is intentional). If it's lower then the change will also remain more shallow.

Volume in Chords

It is best to keep instruments as separate if you wish to preserve a chord with differing volumes, as in one part as solo and the other as supportive. When trying to pack them as one track Maestro tends to pick the highest given volume in a chord and give it to all the other notes within. It might drown the solo parts under the supporting sounds, more than intended.

Echo

One easy way to create an echo is to have two or three identical tracks and set the others to begin with a delay. The one that begins should be louder and the ones that follow more silent. Whether they can be combined as one track depends if the notes are played on top of one another.
Reading and Manually Editing ABCs
ABC Files in Notepad

ABC coding is quite simple, and the information can be safely edited for some things by using an app such as Notepad in Windows.

They look like this inside:

%abc-2.1 %%song-title Path of the Wind %%song-composer Joe Hisaishi %%song-duration 3:10 %%song-transcriber Elvealin of Laurelin %%abc-creator Maestro v2.5.0 %%abc-version 2.1 % Some parts are hidden for the guide. X: 3 T: Path of the Wind (3:10) - Basic Flute %%part-name Basic Flute C: Joe Hisaishi Z: Elvealin of Laurelin M: 4/4 Q: 172 K: C maj +f+ z [A,/E/] z/ [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ [A,/E/] z3/2 [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ | z [A,/E/] z/ [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ [A,/E/] z3/2 [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ | z [G,/D/] z/ [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ [G,/D/] z3/2 [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ | z [G,/D/] z/ [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ [G,/D/] z3/2 [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ | z [A,/E/] z/ [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ [A,/E/] z3/2 [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ | z [A,/E/] z/ [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ [A,/E/] z3/2 [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ | z [G,/D/] z/ [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ [G,/D/] z3/2 [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ | z [G,/D/] z/ [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ [G,/D/] z3/2 [E,/C/] z/ [C,/G,/] z/ | z [A,/E/] z/ [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ [A,/E/] z3/2 [G,/D/] z/ [E,/A,/] z/ | % Bar 10 (0:12)

... and so on ...

Meaning of Different Symbols

  • "%" is a comment, information that is seen only when reading the file and not in-game.
  • "X:" defines which track is played when the number is referred to. Each number of a track must be unique.
  • "T:" is the title of a track. This info will be shown in-game with some given extras.
  • "C:" is the composer.
  • "Z:" is the transcriber. This can be used when the creator of file isn't the original composer but rather the arranger.
  • "M:" is the time signature. Can be changed during the song.
  • "Q:" is BPM (beats per minute) to mark the speed of the song. Can be changed during the song.

  • "+pppp+ – +ffff+" is the volume of the notes or chords. Can be changed during the song.
  • "z" is a rest, followed by a possible number or slash to mark duration.
  • "C, – c'" is the pitch of a note, followed by a possible number or slash to mark duration.
  • "[ ]" has the chords inside.
  • "|" marks a new bar.
Debugging Triplet Rhythm
Why Do My Triplets Sound Odd?

While Maestro is good in many other things, it doesn't recognize triplets very well without the "Triplets/Swing Rhythm" setting and mainly does the closest rhythm which isn't perfect. Even then the parts that aren't triplets may sound off with the setting on.

What needs to be done is:

  • Exporting the ABC file as both versions: with and without the triplet setting,
  • Memorizing where the triplets are and
  • Replacing those bars in the non-triplet file from the matching lines in triplet file.

The easy scenario is one track consisting of triplets entirely so it can be replaced as a whole. However, it will be a bit more complicated if it's only certain bars.

How to Find the Right Spots

Once you know the whereabouts of the bugged bars then open the ABC Player that comes with Maestro and play the files with it.

You will notice numbers running at the right side of each instrument; those are the lines of the file indicating where the currently heard parts are found at. Click the numbers and a screen opens that will guide you into the right direction, along with the bar numbers left in the file by Maestro as comments.

Open the Notepad, find and replace those bars and save the changes you need.
Managing a Band
Basic Tips

Here are the tips for the management of a band – assuming that you already know the key parts in this guide.

  • If your band is established or has a value in roleplay, consider creating a name.
  • For convenience, have all your band members to install the Songbook plugin and always update the ABC file list within. Use sub folders for different purposes.
  • Use a calendar to plan the dates for practise, concerts and special events. Practising ABC files isn't similar to practising the sheet music in real life, but a band still needs to ensure that there is a small chance for error in the concert. Practise is also needed to test the new songs or arrangements in game.
  • Make sure that everyone knows the parts they will play at the concert. Spreadsheet will help with the planning.
  • Choose someone in the band to push the sync button at the right moment when everyone are ready with the right instruments. This will remove some of the potential confusion and mismatches.
  • Post an advertisement. For example, create it in Lotro Artists[lotroartists.com] or announce it in /world channel.
  • Use servertime[www.timeanddate.com] to express event time.
  • Have a plan B. In some cases a band member may not make it to the actual event especially if the band is very large and its members over several time zones. Usually what is needed for this case are the arrangements with less instruments or optional instruments, and sometimes a spare singer.

Song Repository

To play songs together, every member of the band should have the same file and so a repository for sharing them easily is needed. What I recommend for this are the cloud services like Google Drive[drive.google.com], OneDrive[www.onedrive.com] or Dropbox[www.dropbox.com].

There used to be a public Lotro ABC file sharing site called The Fat Lute, but it no longer operates.

Music Festivals on Landroval Server

If your band is ambitious enough then create alt characters in Landroval server for performing in the Weatherstock[lotro-wiki.com] (apply[weatherstock.guildlaunch.com]) and Winterstock[lotro-wiki.com] (apply[winterstock.guildlaunch.com]) festivals, the biggest musical events in all servers. It is also broadcasted on Twitch[www.twitch.tv].

I play Elvealin, the member of the elven band Lindamar[laurelinarchives.org] which also makes me a Weatherstock veteran.

Once Everything is Said and Done...

All you really need to do is have fun and enjoy the rush in front of the audience!
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12 Comments
Elaini  [author] Nov 10, 2020 @ 10:32am 
@ßïçh I do too, but for now the cloud services like Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox are the best bet.
ßïçh Nov 6, 2020 @ 1:23pm 
I miss The Fat Lute
Elaini  [author] Nov 2, 2020 @ 6:33am 
The guide has been updated once more. Added more details to working with drums, and a chapter for volume and debugging triplets in the ABC files.
GladioSanctus Jan 27, 2020 @ 10:44pm 
this game has you learn musical notes now..? what the heck?
Star Nov 4, 2018 @ 8:45am 
:)
Elaini  [author] Nov 4, 2018 @ 8:08am 
Most videos updated. The last one will be posted once the new Brusque Bassoon is out.
Elaini  [author] Mar 29, 2018 @ 5:47am 
The link for Maestro has been updated, now includes the new fiddles. I will update the video once the Traveller's Trusty Fiddle is published for the Lotro Anniversary.
Star May 22, 2015 @ 8:46am 
awessoome
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.