Wannabe rockers have been playing with the music system in The Lord of the Rings Online since the launch of the game in 2007. There's a lot to have fun with: LotRO allows you to play songs on a variety of instruments, and inspired players can create complex musical creations. Community events that include musical performances brighten the darkest day of Middle-earth.
Each of the classes is able to learn the Lute and one other instrument (which one depends on your class); you pick up the skill from the same Bards who help you choose which traits to equip. The Minstrel class is the obvious musical expert in LotRO, able to learn all 10 of the available instruments: clarinet, flute, harp, horn, lute, drum, theorbo (bass), bagpipes, and cowbell. With instrument in hand, players can choose either to play freestyle, or to use the built-in ABC system, a type of program that lets your character automatically “play” a song for which someone else has already written a notation script.
A few technical details on how it all works: all instruments are in concert pitch, and there are just over two octaves that potential musical savants can play with. Those who want to play the notes themselves can use the 1 through 0 keys to play each of the notes in the C major scale (think “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music). The Shift key can be used to switch octaves, and the Ctrl key drops the pitch one half step. Want to play a blues scale? 1, Ctrl-3, 4, Ctrl-5, 5, Ctrl-7, 8. With that, you'll be strummin' the blues in no time.
If you're not up to playing for real, you can still jam, however. Using the “/play [songtitle]” command (see boxout for more info on the ABC music system) allows players to perform prepared music solo or in groups. Want to know if that awesome lute player is playing the notes freestyle or using ABC? Just look at the notes flowing above his head. If they're hollow, then you're looking at someone who's found a great tune. If they're solid, then you've got a real virtuoso on your hands.
The community events in LotRO add to the game's thriving culture. According to Goldenstar from A Casual Stroll to Mordor, a podcast and blog about Lord of the Rings Online, “[the music system] can set the perfect mood for themed events and creates a wonderful atmosphere for parties.”
Weatherstock is the biggest community event of the year. This day-long festival of music and camaraderie takes place at the summit of Weathertop, encircled by the ruins where Frodo and his friends were attacked by the Nazgul. A series of competitive events (which includes a people's choice category) has bands from across the server competing atop an impromptu stage for the adulation of the crowd. Not as large, but more regular, is the Monday night Ales and Tales event that takes place in various locations. This gathering of scribes, poets, and musicians has each of them taking turns entertaining the audience with their original creations.
Both events take place on the Landroval server and are hosted by The Lonely Mountain Band, whose leader Harperella, a musician in real life, has released an album of Middle-earth–themed music called Beyond the Western Seas.
With lore as rich as The Lord of the Rings to draw from, Turbine has created a world which allows players to immerse themselves in Middle-earth. The music system is a genius addition, and allows the surroundings to inspire the players to become Beethovens and McCartneys as they create community events beyond compare.