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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Basics About ABC Music
What Are ABCs?

ABCs are files that can store 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 you need for them to work in game 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.

More about ABC notation can be read in Wikipedia[en.wikipedia.org].

You can download ABCs from the web, by simply 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 can create one yourself - the later chapters of this guide will tell you how.

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.

Solo or Band?

One ABC file can contain one or more tracks that can be synced with a band of players. To make a band, a fellowship or raid must be formed which means that one song can have a solo player or a large orchestra.

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. 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 coin 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 and fiddle skill. However, it's a 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 three days cooldown 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 the videos from it:




The video for wind instruments won't be added to the series until the promised Brusque Bassoon is rolled out, but until that you can watch them from the old video:


Volume levels have been elevated for the videos in the playlist, but the change is the same for all the instruments. If a note is quiet or loud in the videos in comparison then it will be that also in the game, but the volume can be defined in the ABC files.

LOTRO also has some self playing "musical crackers" as festival rewards, such as flute and dulcimer, but they aren't really playable within the music system. If you desire the sound of a dulcimer, Misty Mountain Harp is close.
LOTRO Commands for Music
All Commands

These are the old fashioned ways to play a song without the Songbook plugin. They would need to typed into the chat bar. Replace the ⟨chevrons⟩ 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 you can download plugins (custom widgets and UIs) for LOTRO - also the ones related to ABCs and lyrics. 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

Songbook is a plugin with a separate app that searches your ABC files (outside the game) 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. If you have this plugin you no longer need to type out your commands.

If you prefer to be organized, you can also make subfolders by topic, genre or event in your Music folder. Songbook would find them as well, and playing them will be a breeze.

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. If you have seen people saying lines flawlessly in rhythm, this plugin is their "secret". It's a must have for the singers.

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

Get Poetical[www.lotrointerface.com]

A few musical unicode characters exist for the lyrics that work for the chat bubbles overhead but not for the chat tabs where they would be shown as question marks. They are often used by the musicians to indicate singing at the start of each line. They are "" and "".

To enable the chat bubbles overhead, go to Options > UI Settings and check Chat Bubbles.
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 are minimal to no errors in the actual performance. Practise is also needed to test the new songs or arrangements in game.
  • Use servertime[www.timeanddate.com] to express event time.
  • Choose someone in the band to monitor the Standard channel and 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.
  • 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 a song together, every member of the band must have the same file so they must also have a repository to share them with for an easy download. What I use for this is Google Drive[drive.google.com].

Ambitious?

If your band is ambitious enough for trying to gain more fame, have alt characters in the Landroval server for competing in the Weatherstock[lotro-wiki.com], the biggest musical event in all servers. It is broadcasted on Twitch[www.twitch.tv] and performing on the summit will give the band members the unique title Weatherstock Bard[lotro-wiki.com].
Composing With MIDI
What is MIDI?

In composing for LOTRO, using MIDI is the first step. Find out more in Wikipedia[en.wikipedia.org].

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

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, the note will go down by a semitone.

The Full Note Range

LOTRO allows a bigger range than trying instruments lets you 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.

The playlist in the "Instruments & Skills" section displays the range of the instruments.

About Percussion

Percussion (drum) instruments are a special case because they have been given an individual sound for each semitone. Drum tracks should not be transposed for an ABC file because it will misplace the sounds, making the arrangement sound broken or creating a lucky accident.

Drums are such a percussion instrument most notably. Cowbell and Moor Cowbell also have changes in pitch though they are very slight.

The video about percussion scales and sounds can also be found in the "Instruments & Skills" section of this guide as an easy reference.

MIDI Editors

You may use any MIDI editor app such as MuseScore[musescore.org] or Anvil Studio[www.anvilstudio.com] which are free.


Downloading Popular Music

You don't have to especially compose an entirely new song if you have a certain 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 transposing 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.
Converting MIDI to ABC
ABC Converter

The next step is using an app that will convert the song from MIDI to ABC for you. My preference is Maestro[github.com]. Remember to check back for updates, especially after the changes for the game instruments.

Making Clean Arrangements

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

Notice that it may sound strange if all parts of an enormous philharmonic orchestra with a complex arrangement are forced only on one solo instrument. I recommend considering of making clean arrangements for your songs and picking mainly the essential MIDI parts for each ABC part.

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 jump to the nearest possible octave which may not be the effect you want to have.

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 a MIDI editor.

As previously told, do not transpose the percussion with the other parts. Yet as a special feature you may select your drums in Maestro once you choose Drums as an instrument.

Layering Multiple MIDI Parts for an ABC Part

It is possible to select multiple tracks in the MIDI file for a single ABC part. For instance, it might be helpful if you're condensing a multi part song into a solo version.

Volume Controls

It is also possible to make a track volume permanently quieter or louder than average in an ABC file. Combined with layering multiple MIDI parts you can create effects such as echoes, fade ins or outs. An ABC file from Maestro will still keep all the info about the changing volume within one part.

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!

Extra Info In ABCs
Understanding ABC Files

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

They look somewhat like this inside:

%abc-2.1 %%song-title On The Greens %%song-composer Richard Rossbach %%song-duration 5:41 %%song-transcriber Elvealin of Laurelin %%abc-creator Maestro v2.3.0 %%abc-version 2.1 X: 1 T: On The Greens (5:41) - Flute %%part-name Flute C: Richard Rossbach Z: Elvealin of Laurelin M: 4/4 Q: 170 K: C maj +mf+ z8 | z8 | z8 | z8 |

... and so on ...

Editable Contents of an ABC File

"%" 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. It's essential, and each number of a track must be unique.

"T:" is the title of a track and it can contain more info such as the play time of the track within the song. This information will be shown in-game.
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8 Comments
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.
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.