If you’re completely new to FL, or Fruity Loops Studio, and you want to get to know the software, you’ve come to the right place. Before diving headfirst into the countless tutorials, guides and courses, it’s a great idea to get a better picture of what the general workflow of this DAW is like. Guest-blogger Tim Ease is here to tell you about the basics of FL Studio 20 (the successor to FL Studio 12), and guide you through creating your first track. While he normally writes his blogs for Typhonic Samples, today he’s picked up his digital pen to write this beginner blog for Bax Music!
- Why FL Studio?
- The Basic Elements of FL Studio
- The Channel Rack: Your First Loop
- Synthesizers and Other Plug-Ins (VSTs)
- The Piano Roll: Throw Some Variation In The Mix
- Using the Piano Roll
- The Playlist: Create Your Own Track
- The Mixer: Adding Effects and Balancing The Track
- See Also
Why FL Studio?
After deciding you want get into music production, the next step is to figure out which DAW you’re going to use, or rather, should use. Each DAW is different, and so is every producer. Chances are, you’ll only find out what suits you best after using some of the software, but it’s important to learn if the basic functionality and general workflow match you to some degree or another. I started out with FL Studio and worked with Cubase and Ableton afterwards, only to return to FL Studio in the end. Why? Because next to the satisfying interface and workflow, the software comes with free lifetime updates, each of which brings fresh upgrades and improvements. Now, after having been working with FL Studio for almost 10 years, I can say I’m still more than happy to use it.
The Basic Elements of FL Studio
FL Studio is built up around three basic elements: the patterns, song and mixer. These are the foundation of every track you make. Here’s an example to show you what I mean:
Any new track is:
- in the playlist/arrangement
- built using different patterns from the channel rack
- and balanced out using the mixer
When you begin creating a new track, you’ll usually start with making a pattern.
FL Studio Overview
The Channel Track: Your First Loop
When you boot up FL Studio, four samples (kick, hat, snare and clap) are automatically loaded in the four channels (tracks). By using your left and right mouse-buttons, you can add and remove the blocks that activate a sample loaded into the selected channel. Space bar can be used to playback the pattern. Please note that you have to make sure that the PAT button at the top is enabled and that the correct tempo (BPM) is set.
Pattern and Song Play + BPM
Obviously, you don’t want to be working with the same samples over and over. Fortunately, there’s this:
- Samples can be added or replaced by going to the sample library via the left-hand menu and dragging a new sample over any of the pattern channels.
- When you select a sample, it will automatically start to play, making the browsing of samples a very smooth process.
- Once you’ve found a sample you want to use, you can drag it to an existing channel to replace the sample there, or you can drag it down to pattern view to create a new channel (you’ll notice a + symbol near the cursor).
- While samples come included with FL Studio, you can easily add your own sample libraries by adding them to the relevant folder by accessing the File Settings via the Options menu.
Synthesizers and Other Plug-Ins (VSTs)
Rather than a collection of samples, VSTs are complete synthesizers or other digital instruments, like Moog keyboards or drum computer like the Roland TR-808. But VSTs definitely aren’t always based on existing hardware. These synths and similar plug-ins can be added by selecting ‘add’ in the main menu. Here, you’ll a list of all available VSTs, including the likes of Harmless, Sytrus and Transistor, which are sure you keep you busy for hours, if not entire nights, on end.
Adding Synths and Samples to the Channels
As you’ll probably notice, adding any synthesizer blocks isn’t very useful because these always activate the same note. In fact, the block-system simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to making complicated rhythms with variations in timing, volume and pitch. That’s why there’s piano roll functionality.
The Piano Roll: Throw Some Variation In The Mix
When you want to create more complex rhythms with varied pitches and volumes or, perhaps, something like a synth-based melody, FL Studio offers piano roll. This function can be opened by clicking the sample/plug-in name on the relevant channel with your right-mouse button. Piano rolls works basically the same as the pattern view, but lets you add ‘blocks’ to different pitches, adjust lengths, place them between rhythms and set the volume individually.
Using the Piano Roll
- Just like in the pattern viewer, you can add any blocks using your left mouse-button and remove any using the right one.
- When you add a block, it’ll be based on the one you placed previously.
- There are piano keys on the left, which can be played using your computer keyboard or with the authentic feel of a real MIDI keyboard. If you want to play using your standard keyboard, don’t forget to tick the ‘Typing Keyboard to Piano’ box in the Options menu first (shortcut: CTRL + T).
- By selecting any of the blocks on either their right or left side, the length, or duration, can be increased or decreased, which will affect the tone of the selected sample or synth. You’ll notice that by default, the length is automatically adjusted to the grid seen in the background. To change this, go to the grid size options at the top.
Piano Roll and Grid Size
- At the bottom of the piano roll interface, you’ll see there’s a bar at the beginning of each bar that matches the volume. Simply raise or lower these to adjust the volume.
The Playlist: Creating Your Own Track
In FL Studio’s playlist/arrangement view, you can compose your track by placing the different patterns in any order you’d like.
- Select a pattern at the top and set it up like before
- When you’ve created all of your channels in a single pattern, the pattern can be split by clicking on it with the right mouse button and selecting ‘split by channel’. This way, you can decide when you want which pattern to start and stop again.
Splitting a Pattern
- It’s also possible to cut or shorten patterns without ‘corrupting’ the source.
- Samples, loops and vocals can be directly dragged to the song view. Doing so will automatically create a new channel in the channel rack.
‘Building’ a Track
While you probably won’t be using the mixer section a whole lot at first, this will change soon enough. The mixer not only allows you to balance the volume of all channels, but add effects to the sounds and samples you’re using.
- The first four (default) channels are automatically linked to a mixer track (1 to 4).
- The channels that you create will also need to be linked to a mixer track. This can be done by pressing CTRL + L to select a channel, which will automatically link to an empty mixer track (see option 1 in the image below).
- You can also hook up multiple channels to a single mixer track by manually assigning them channel numbers. This is done by holding down your mouse on the mixer track number indicator in the channel (options). If you playback the track or pattern, you’ll notice that the volume bar responds to the audio.
Assigning a New Sample/Channel to a Mixer Track
- Next, you can add effects via the menu on the right. Click on one of the arrows to open a drop-down menu with a list of all available effects. Again, FL Studio comes pre-loaded with an arsenal of effects, and more can be added from third-party developers at will. My favourite ones are Fruity Parametric EQ2, Fruity Delay Bank and Fruity Fast Dist.
Adding Effects to Mixer Tracks
Dit is in het kort hoe de core elementen van FL Studio werken. Ik wil je tot slot de tip meegeven om gewoon te beginnen. Aan het begin zal het ongetwijfeld erg veel informatie zijn en is het moeilijk om direct te bereiken wat je wilt. Maar de ervaring zal ertoe leiden dat je steeds meer functies leert kennen en begrijpen. En dat zal er weer toe leiden dat je daadwerkelijk kan maken wat je wilt!
Needless to say, we’ve only scratched the surface of everything that’s possible using FL Studio. If you have any questions, leave a comment and we’ll do our best to help you out!
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