LMMS review: Best free DAW software for music production?

LMMS review: Best free DAW software for music production?
Written by: Dexxter Clark
In this blog: a look at the free daw: LMMS for Mac.
Is it a suitable free DAW for the beginner?
How about the more advanced music producer?

a bit difficult

LMMS or Linux Multi Media Studio is available for Linux, Windows and Mac.
LMMS supposably took inspiration from FL studio and should be easy to understand when you are switching from that platform.
I however don’t know FL studio so I can’t say for sure and I was struggling to get started quite a bit.
I needed at least 6 or 7 tutorials to get me started.

Downloading and installing the software without registration was a breeze.
Starting the software however was not so smooth.
I couldn`t get it to work on my desktop Mac, it crashed on startup.
It had more luck on my laptop.


User Interface

The samples and instrument plugins you can find on the left in LMMS.
Also the presets for the instrument plugins you can find here.
Effect plugins you add to instrument-effects-chain in the plugin window.
The rest is a window within a window: so the timeline of your song is a window (called: song editor).
There is a separate window for the mixer and there is a separate window for the piano roll
And there is a separate window for the step sequencer.

Step sequencer parts in the song editor are coupled to the step sequencer window, the same for midi notes in the piano roll window.
The multiple window interface doesn’t work well for me, I’m constantly dragging windows out of the way and closing them.
Thats especially time consuming on a small 13” laptop screen with a trackpad.


It is possible to do side chaining, but it’s cumbersome by sending it to an effects channel, that you have to connect to a controller and rename the controller if you want to find it later. Or am I missing something here?

Automation is possible in LMMS.
You have to add an automation lane and automation block on the timeline, open the automation window, and drag and drop a knob to the window.
That dragging and dropping the knob I like, otherwise you have to search for the parameter in a long list.
The automation rest, not so much.

I’ve noticed some user interface issues in LMMS, like: not updating the user interface while playing.
Or the fight of being the on-top-of-everything-window when the automation window is open.
You can`t open other software on your computer, it is immediately pushed to the background.
The hints like `use CTRL and drag` and `use the middle mouse button` are meant for Linux and Windows, but do not apply for mac users, that is confusing to say the least.

By the lack of knowledge of ‘my documents’ and ‘music’ folder, or not saving the last folder you used, or not being able to scroll horizontally in the file browser, you can see the non-optimized multi platform nature of the software.
But also the horizontal and vertical scrolling that applies to the whole workspace, in stead of only the song editor... is unnecessary time consuming.

Midi keyboards are supported in LMMS, although I couldn’t get my keyboard to work.

LMMS can export WAV and Ogg lossless file formats and it can export stems, so multiple tracks at once.
WAV, AIF and FLAC for importing is supported, but MP3 regretfully not.

The software supports partial VST plugin support under Windows and supports the Linux Audio Developers Simple Plugin Api, or LADSPA for short.
That results in a slew of really simple plugins in the software with limited functionality.
Since using your own VSTs or AU`s won’t work, you have to rely on what they (or the Linux community plugins) provide for you.

One thing I definitely have to point out is the lack of recording features.
You can get around that by using Audacity for example, but that makes LMMS not a one stop free DAW.

at last

The professional music producer in the end will miss some features, like transient detection.
But other than that, the tool is okay.

LMMS DAW has more features than most free DAWs out there and LMMS has no limitations when it comes to number of tracks.
But the lack of support for VST plugins, the User Interface issues and the midi controller issues is a deal breaker for me.
So I don`t think that it`s the best free DAW if you are a beginner or even the advanced music producer.

If you are serious about music production and want to take it to the next level,
download my free music production e-book.
Besides information about music production basics and computers for music production, the book gives also a unique perspective on the world of DJs and music producers.

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photo author dexxter clark
Dexxter Clark
Music Producer / YouTuber

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