Create Your First Track In FL Studio

By Rossi Fernandes | Published on 01 Mar 2008
Create Your First Track In FL Studio

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Become a DJ with your own virtual turntable and mixer

FL Studio (formerly Fruity Loops) is an audio creation tool that works by creating sequence of sounds. It’s been around for years now, and generally gives the impression that music creation is easy. Sure, anyone can randomly go about clicking to add beats and get a respectable sound, there are a few features and steps that need to be understood first.

Creating A Suitable Base Project

By default, an empty file is created when you start, but you can create a new project based on a few bundled templates. Some of these templates are set for certain genres of music or types of tasks such as surround sound panning and recording. Go to File > New from template and select a template that best suits your plan.

Set The Tempo

The tempo for the track is the speed at which your track plays. Most newcomers will leave the tempo—which is denoted in beats per minute—at the default value. It should be set to suit the style of the track you’re composing.

The tempo value can be changed by clicking on the BPM value next to the playback buttons. Click and drag the mouse cursor upwards or downwards, to change the value. You can also enable a metronome to get the idea of the tempo by clicking the Metronome icon from the toolbar at the top.

Adding Items To The Playlist

The playlist is one of the most important windows and is centric to FL Studio. It contains the entire track, and is where all the loops and patterns come together to create a proper song. Most people end up creating a random loop and adding sounds and effects to it, but audio tracks can be added to the playlist as well. This is useful in places where you want to add vocals to your track. Like image or video editing software, multiple tracks and effects can be arranged in layers. The lower section of the playlist window is where these recorded sounds can be added. The browser tab on the left contains all the sounds and tools that can be used to create tracks—simply drag and drop sounds from there on to the playlist.

If you have a long playlist, then navigating through it using the scrollbars is a pain—use middle click instead. Hold down the middle click button and move the mouse to navigate through the playlist window.
Creating Loops Using Step Sequencer

A step sequence is to be created, because in the end, your entire track will be made up of many such steps. There are a few things that can be done in the Step Sequencer. The length of a step can be increased in a similar manner to the tempo of the track.

The loop step sequencer is one of the most basic, but vital, starting points for a song

On the top left of the Step Sequencer window, click on the empty text box and drag it up to increase the number of beats per bar. You can now put in more steps per beat. Here again, you can drag and drop new effects from the browser. The view can be filtered to show just drum beats or recorded sounds—use the drop-down menu at the bottom left of the Step Sequencer window to do this. To make any changes to the properties of a channel, click on the channel name and a new window should open which lets you do that.

Using the Piano Roll

The Piano Roll feature allows you to give each note a characteristic sound—you can set the velocity at which the notes are hit and make very minute and accurate notes on the sheet. Right-click on any of the channel buttons and select Piano Roll.

The Piano Roll feature allows accurate notes and beat plotting

Here, you can plot beats, and the bottom section of the window can be used to change the volume of the beats—so every individual beat has its own intensity. To further customise beats, click on the Graph Editor icon on the right top of the Step Sequencer window. Use the scrollbar to switch to a different property.

Using Scratching And The Mixer

An interesting feature to use in FL Studio is the Fruity Scratcher, which allows you to create the same sounds that you hear from DJs scratching discs. To add a scratcher to Fruity Loops, click on the View Mixer icon on the right of the upper toolbar. Click the drop-down there and go to Select > Fruity Scratcher. Load a music file using the folder icon on the left. When that’s done, click Play and you can click and drag the mouse over the disc on top or the status bar below. There are controls on this window for the speed and sensitivity of the turntable.

Your very own personal turntable for disc scratching in Fruity Loops

The Fruity Loop Mixer is a feature that allows you to plug in multiple processors and generators in a loop. The Fruity Loops Scratcher is one such add-on. Similarly, you can add many other plugins in a chain. The volume for each plugin can be controlled individually as well. Instruments and items can be excluded from being affected by the added plugins, if required. The Fruity Loops Mixer is a great way to make fine tweaks to the track in real time. It also works fine with the recording feature that we will talk of next.

Live Recording

When you’re comfortable with the software and you’ve created a basic tune, you can also record small clips in real time. We’ll try using the scratching feature in FL Studio as an example.

Downloaded or custom made audio samples can be added to the Fruity Loops library

Before we start the recording itself, we first load the scratcher, and click the Record button next to the playback buttons. If you click the 321 icon on the same toolbar, you will be given a countdown before recording starts. Click the Playback button to start the recording itself. All your loops and tunes will play as usual—if you want the recording to loop, then click the Loop record / Enable Overdub icon in the main toolbar.

Adding Audio Samples To the library

FL Studio has loads of audio presets and sounds that will keep you busy for a very long time. When things do turn a little dull, you can also choose to use downloaded or self-created sounds, which can be added to the browser. Go to Options > File Settings and click on the folder icon to the left of the empty field and choose the folder where you have the custom sounds. When done, close the window and you will find the newly added folder in the browser. Like other tracks, left click and drag your clips to the step sequencer. Keep in mind that large MP3s will hog up the system resources and significantly slow down FL Studio.

Edison is an audio editor built into Fruity Loops

FL Studio also has a very versatile inbuilt audio editing plugin called Edison that can be enabled by clicking on the Open New Audio Editor icon on the top toolbar. This is useful to create your own samples.

Tweaking FL Studio

Fruity Loops might seem optimised when you’re working on a few channels, but it becomes a completely different beast when you go large-scale. It then becomes necessary to make a few adjustments to the audio settings to optimise the program a bit.

Fruity Loops can be unforgivable if loaded with too many tracks—so tweaking is Necessary

Go to Options > Audio Settings. If you haven’t made use of ASIO yet, enable it by selecting it from the dropdown menu for Output. ASIO4ALL is a driver, which gives very good latency on most sound cards—it is installed along with FL Studio. Changing the sampling rate using the dropdown menu can also help.

Completed tracks can be exported as MP3s and other formats without any problems

If you choose the sound driver itself, you can then set a buffer length to it. A shorter buffer length will reduce latency, but will hit performance. If your sound is already stuttering, you should try increasing the buffer length.

Exporting The Final Result

Encode.tif—Completed tracks can be exported as MP3s and other formats without any dramas

When you feel your track is ready, and it’s time to export—go to File > Save As or File > Export > MP3 File. Select the format, and if you choose MP3, you can choose from quality settings such as bit rate and depth of the song. The approximate resulting file size is also displayed, so you are free to make any changes. Click Start to start the encoding process.

That’s it, then! It is pretty obvious that there’s a lot of that can be done with FL Studio, but it’s only a matter of messing around in the software to know the best ones.

Shortcuts For FL Studio

Some helpful keyboard shortcuts that’ll make working with FL Studio much easier:
Toggle Step Sequencer — [F6]
Toggle Mixer — [F9]
Send to Piano roll — Alt] [P]
Toggle Piano Roll — [F7]
Toggle recording countdown — [Ctrl] [P]
Next pattern — [ ]
Previous pattern — [-]
Solo step—[Ctrl] [1] to [0]

Rossi Fernandes

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