If you have come across this article it means either you are new to FL Studios or you are into music production. That’s true, right? Maybe you are puzzled while loading the FL Studio interface, it may seem difficult to you, but don’t worry this article will guide you.
According to statistics, most of the music producers don’t want to learn more about DAW. Their excuses will be like this:
But the good thing is that you are not like them, you are willing to make an effort to learn more about it. In this guide, we are going to help you by breaking down the important features of FL Studios so that you can start making music in no time.
Note: FL Studio 20 Producer Edition will be used for this guide.
As you can see in the picture below, FL studio will look like this when you open its interface, if you are using the same version.
When you load the interface of FL Studio, it will turn up like this:
FL Studio is famous for having a user-friendly interface; you will be thrilled to know that you can move around all of its windows. One of the best features of this DAW is that it’s completely customizable, unlike its competitor “Ableton Live”. The toolbar is the only thing on the screen that is fixed, other than that you can move anything you want. On the top left you will find File, edit, add and, many other options, most of them are simple and straightforward and some of them are just the detailed version of several icons that are already available on the interface, so don’t think about it too much.
You can find the transport section right in the center: this section is quite self-explanatory and it contains icons for playback like Play, Stop, and Record. There are two more options in this section, Pat and Song. These two options allow you to arrange your song in FL studio, by using the Pat and Song option you can switch between playlists of both, Channel Racks and Arrangement. This will allow you to easily switch between generating ideas to producing the full soundtrack. Here you can find multiple icons and the time counter feature along with some visual effects, these features allow you to play and time your music simultaneously.
As shown in the above image, the line is called universal Snap Control. This function controls the snapping of the grids through the Arrangements and Piano roll. In laymen term, it will retain everything to a specific time interval throughout your music. This function “Snap Control” can also be categorized individually too, for example, Piano Roll.
Now let’s talk about some most important features of FL studio, you can find these icons on the right side of its interface.
2. Piano Roll
3. Channel Rack
This feature has a vital function in FL Studio, all the material you need for the creation of music comes from “Browser”, and it could be samples, instruments, soundtracks, etc. Let’s assume that you are a craftsman, and you have all the resources like wood, metal, and a toolbox that consists of all the tools for making goods. In FL studio Browser does the same function for music producers. There are many folders in Browser by default but we are going to discuss only important ones.
You can find all FL Studios defaults soundtracks in the Pack Folder. If you know how to use them then you will find these sounds quite useful. There is a wide variety of sounds available like FX, drum, loops, etc. We will discuss this more in the Channel Rack section.
This folder will display all automation clips, sounds, or anything related to the current project. You can open this folder by clicking on the paper icon on the top of the bar. You can find your required material without any hassle of going through different windows.
This is quite similar to current projects. You can open the plugin database window by clicking the Plug icon. This plug icon is located at the top right side of the browsers window. In this folder, you can find all effects and instrumental plugins.
Let’s face it, today people want to personalize everything, they might also want to add some of their samples in the Browser. The good news is that FL Studio has this feature available. You just have to go to Options via File Settings as shown in the above GIF. After opening it, click on the spare folder icon, that will open up a window then you can choose a folder, select the folder that contains your samples; these samples will be visible in the Browser Section.
This is an interesting feature of FL studio; it basically holds instruments that generate sound. Moreover, it serves the purpose of holding internal generators that regulate automation. Channel Rack is the place where you can create patterns; this is exactly like giving life to your ideas.
Perhaps, Channel Rack is considered to be the most significant function of FL studio because it makes it different from all the competitors.
It has four stock sound options by default. You can either use the available sounds or you can find some other good sounds as well. To create a new sample you just have to drag it above the top of current sounds and shift it into a new slot beneath.
At the top left, there is a menu with multiple options in it. There is no need to discuss all of them, but they are available if you need them for your project. There is definitely no need to get confused as a lot of these options are self-explanatory.
This is the most important part of the Channel Rack; it enables you to swiftly draft new ideas. The following points will guide you about the functionality of this feature.
1. To add a step you just can left-click on the box, another efficient way is that you can drag and drop so you can add multiple steps.
2. If you want to delete a step, just right click on the box, by drag and drop you can delete multiple steps.
3. On the left side of the sequencer, you can see the label of every single channel within a box.
4. There is a thin LED next to each channel, to select the existing channel you just have to left-click on the LED.
5. You can also select the channel by clicking its name in the box.
6. By using the dropdown menu option, you can have a look at several applicable menu settings.
On the left side, you can find some knobs and icons. The green LED indicates that the channel is on; you can turn on the channel by left-clicking on it. If you want to solo a channel you can just right-click on it. For panning and volume control there are two icons available right next to the LED. Moreover, this is an efficient function when you are in a flow state and you like to do the mixing of sounds without opening the mixer every time. You can find some numbers next to the icons that indicate the mixer routing. We will discuss the Mixer outing in more detail in the mixer section of this guide. There are few icons at the top right corner; you can change all notes on the piano roll by clicking the mini step sequence that will take you into the subsequent segment. If you want to open the graph editor you just need to click on the bars, this will enable you to escalate the pace, pitch, and some other factors of every note.
The figures on the left side will decide the length of the pattern. The length of the pattern is sixteen by default.
There is a button on the right that will decide the swing amount. The swing amount is a timing effect that pleasantly changes musical notes. If you have a slight knowledge about music theory then by this time you already know the restraints of a Step Sequencer. But don’t worry we will cover this in the next section.
FL Studio is famous for its incredible Piano Roll, by using this feature you can write complex rhythms, melodies, chords, and patterns. An effective Piano Roll is a developing part of the Channel Rack. FL studio piano roll is the best in the market and it functions smoothly.
The function of the Piano Roll is quite similar to the Step Sequencer, but in the Piano Roll you can change time and pitch and it has a feature that allows you to move it in all directions. If you want to change the duration of the note, you can simply just move the cursor and change its time interval. Overall, you can control the pace of each note. You can adjust these values by one left click and you can go to Control dropdown Menu and undo the changes.
These are some main tools on the toolbar:
There are some advanced MIDI editing options on the left, its purpose is to control the snapping of the grid and change its notes into a specific grid. By using the tool section you can entirely change the notes you have, and you can add completely new rhythms and new chords by using the stamp section. For a good understanding of this guide, you must have sufficient knowledge about music otherwise this guide won’t be beneficial for you.
For a good understanding of music theory, you can go through these courses
1. Songwriting for Producers course
2. Music Theory: The TL;DR Version eBook
This is one of the best features of FL studio. This feature allows you to convert the patterns (you made in the Channel Rack section) into a full track. You will be able to select and drag any pattern you created in the channel rack section and you can turn these patterns into any track.
There is so much more to this feature rather than just patterns. With the help of this feature, you can structure audio samples as per your requirement. Moreover, all the automation clips you have created in the past will appear in this section. You can drag clips into a variety of soundtracks like Channel Rack. You can change the length of these clips by just doing left-click on them and you can turn them on and off simultaneously. Furthermore, by clicking right you can solo a track.
No Paint (Sequencer) control (not applicable)
It’s quite similar to the piano roll.
There is no paint control
It has an option called slip, which allows you to drag the content of the clips without disturbing the start and endpoints.
In the end when you have fully arranged your tracks, then it’s time to use the Mixer. It is used to process the final track. This feature is famous for its creative sound design, routing, and processing abilities. Let’s discuss this feature in more detail, from the channel rack every channel will be allocated to a Mixer, you can see all the channel of the Mixer on the main interface, and on the left, you can find the master channel. The level of the full soundtrack will be shown at the meter (on the left).
This is the most interesting part, FX are inserted to process soundtrack in the mixer by using the insert option. The slots above the EQ option are used to add FL studios built-in plugins. You can open up a menu by simply clicking left; from the menu, you can select your desired plugins. The following are some plugins.
Fruity Limiter (Limiter/Compressor Effect)
Fruity Delay 3 (Delay Effect)
Fruity Parametric EQ2 (EQ Effect)
Fruity Reverb 2 (Reverb Effect)
To use these plugins you need to take a lesson on how it works, you can tap on these links and start learning!
Apart from those main 5 sections, some other features will assist you in creating music.
Customers prefer FL Studio because it comes with a variety of plugins. If you are planning to add plugins then you should follow these next steps
By following these steps you will be able to see a menu with a variety of options.
To find more plugins just click on the Find Plugin icon on the left. If you have various plugins in your system then it will take some time to process it, it will show you all the plugins that you have downloaded. If you want customization, then at the top right of the Plugin Search Patharea you can find the Plus Folder. Just select your desired folder, after that leave plugin manager and go to Browser > Plugin database and you can find more plugins there.
For producing electronic music, Automation is one of the most important features of FL studio. This feature enables you to
Add movement to sounds
Influence the energy tension
Fix up any mix issues and much more.
An FL studio Automation purpose is simply to move or automate lined controls. You just have to click right and choose “Create Automation clip” then you can see a new clip with a line that outlines the controls that are automated. To add automation point just click right anywhere and if you want to move the clip around then just click left on the line. If you want to change the curve point you can do that just by clicking right.
Let’s say you are habitual of using some other DAW, at that point, you might wonder where are the functions of audio processing and bouncing. Otherwise, it won’t bother you.
Now let’s discuss the functions of Edison, it can be used as an audio recorder and audio editor, it will play or record audio when it loads into in effects slot in the mixer. For opening this further you just need to press Ctrl+E in the sample channel or one can open it from the menu.
Last but not least we are going to learn how to export your track once it’s ready. That is the main goal of this whole exercise right? Just go to the top toolbar and click on the save button then select the location where you want to export it and the following window will appear on your screen.
There are some important points you need to memorize
The mode should be set on full song, that how you can export the full soundtrack.
You must choose the preferred format for your track like .mp3 or .wav etc.
You may want to turn on dithering.
Finally, you soundtrack is ready, now you can listen to your masterpiece by hitting the start button.
Now you have basic information about FL studios, you can create your music without any difficulty. You might find FL Studio a bit challenging at the start, but it gets easier with time. This is a great DAW, you just need some practice then you can produce your music.