PETELIN.RUКниги → FL Studio in Use

Petelin, Roman, and Yury Petelin.

FL Studio in Use

Wayne: A-LIST, 2005.- 300 p.
ISBN 1931769419

Click here to buy at

Electronic musicians and composers will create songs or loops only minutes after launching the software with this guide to FL Studio (formerly Fruity Loops), a complete virtual studio application. How to streamline the recording of multitrack musical compositions is explained in order to create complex songs and realistic guitar loops with 32-bit internal mixing and advanced MIDI support. Musicians are then shown how the resulting song or loop can be exported to a WAV/MP3 file and how MIDI events can be exported to a standard MIDI file. Preparing FL Studio for effective work, carrying out the main operations, building patterns in Step Sequencer, creating a melody in the Piano Roll view, and assembling and mixing a composition using Playlist and Mixer are also described.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Preparing for Work
Chapter 2: The Main Operations
Chapter 3: Building Patterns in the Step Sequencer
Chapter 4: Constructing a Melody with the Piano Roll Editor
Chapter 5: Building a Composition with the Playlist Editor
Chapter 6: Sound Synthesis Tools
Chapter 7: Recording Sound from External Sources and Editing Audio Files
Chapter 8: Using Plug-Ins
Chapter 9: Import and Export
Chapter 10: Using FL Studio with Steinberg Cubase SX,Cakewalk Sonar, and Adobe Audition
Chapter 11. Overview of Main Menu Commands
CD Contents


To our beloved daugh-ter
and granddaughter, Anna

We offer you our latest book about the use of a computer in creating music. This book is about FL Studio 5, one of the most popular applications for music creation. The ear-lier versions of the application were called Fruity Loops. The success of this applica-tion can be explained because its earlier, Fruity Loops versions were simple, and at-tracted novice computer musicians. A user had to perform just a few operations: select one of built-in synthesizers, record a fragment of a part (a pattern) in the step se-quencer, create the required number of patterns, and, finally, tell the application the or-der, in which the patterns should be played (in other words, fill a playlist). A musical composition was constructed from patterns like a house is built from "bricks," and the patterns were played cyclically, thus becoming loops. It appeared that the developers of Fruity Loops allowed users to create musical compositions without knowledge of music theory. Its users didn't need to write music using notes or other symbols.At the same time, the set of synthesizers, their parameters, and the technology of the application's use appeared suitable for contemporary music creation. With minimum effort, a user could quickly record an electronic composition to play it, for example, at a school dance party. As a result, a community of Fruity Loops users appeared.

Other applications based on similar principles appeared over time. In addition, tools for work with loops appeared in professional musical editors such as Cakewalk Sonar [2] and Steinberg Cubase [4]. The creators of Fruity Loops didn't rest on their laurels and kept developing the application.
FL Studio is the result of this competition. It allows a user to perform all the main operations necessary to create a musical composition: recording an accompaniment with built-in or connected synthesizers (Virtual Studio Technology, or VST, instru-ments), recording vocal and live instruments with a microphone, transforming the design and dynamic range of an audio signal, processing the signal with effects (using built-in and connected DX and VST plug-ins), and mixing the composition in the stereo format.

FL Studio allows a user to display musical information in forms traditional for pro-fessional virtual studios, for example, as keyprints or envelope curves.

FL Studio incorporates many built-in synthesizers (including unique ones) that im-plement rather complicated synthesis methods, such as FM synthesis (based on fre-quency modulation), RM synthesis (based on ring-balance modulation), and grain syn-thesis (based on combining short fragments of samples).

FL Studio allows a user make the most of DX and VST plug-ins (effects and proc-essings) and of DX and VST instruments (virtual synthesizers and samplers). You can connect ReWire applications as clients to FL Studio. In turn, you can connect FL Stu-dio to other musical editors (hosts) as a DX or VST plug-in or a ReWire client.

FL Studio does have unpleasant features (fortunately, not many). On the one hand, it retains components typical of its earlier versions, such as the step sequencer and the playlist.

On the other hand, new tools for displaying and editing music have appeared in it, for example, a keyprint editor. As a result, a composition created using different tools with similar features acquires an ambiguous structure. The logic of FL Studio's func-tioning has become sophisticated and different both from the logic of Fruity Loops and from that of popular virtual studios. Apparently, when the developers added new fea-tures, they tried to spare their efforts in reprogramming the code of the application. As a result, they used available objects to implement new features, but these weren't al-ways appropriate. For example, generators were used in earlier versions only as audio signal sources. In FL Studio versions 4 and 5, specialized generators appeared to allow users to work with audio clips and automation clips. These generators aren't signal sources, but they are available in the step sequencer's window. This can confuse a novice user.
It is difficult for a user to work with FL Studio relying only on intuition. The user needs to know and understand much. Therefore, there is a need for a book that would explain how to work with this interesting application.

FL Studio's ideology assumes that its user doesn't know the music theory. Aston-ishingly, the user even doesn't need to know notes.

As for the interface, the musical essence of FL Studio is disclosed only by virtual keyboards in the step sequencer and the keyprint editor. Most astonishingly, FL Studio is a fine tool that can give music all the nuances of a composer's intention. Although notes and a staff are missing from FL Studio, there are many up-to-date computer tools for affecting the properties of musical sound that composers of the past couldn't even dream of.

FL Studio is a virtual studio directed toward the use of software processings, ef-fects, and instruments. To start writing music, you need only a computer and FL Stu-dio. You even don't need a MIDI keyboard, to say nothing of external synthesizers. FL Studio allows you to use the computer keyboard instead of a MIDI one and a joystick as a MIDI controller. Virtual instruments will substitute hardware synthesizers and samplers.

An advantage of FL Studio is its cheapness in comparison to professional virtual studios such as Cakewalk SONAR or Steinberg Cubase. Many musicians simply can-not make the most of those powerful musical applications. So what's the point in pay-ing for features you cannot use?

When it comes to mixing audio data sources, FL Studio is competitive with these applications.

You can connect ReWire applications as clients to FL Studio. In turn, you can connect FL Studio to other musical editors as a ReWire client. FL Studio is designed so that you can use DX and VST plug-ins in your projects. At the same time, you can use FL Studio as a DXi or VSTi plug-in in other musical applications. Suppose you are working with Cakewalk SONAR or Steinberg Cubase. Why don't you try connecting
FL Studio to one of your projects, thus enhancing your technical abilities? It is most convenient to do some things (e.g., create drum loops or melodic grooves) in FL Stu-dio.

Currently, there are a few versions of the application on the market. The full name of the version described in this book is FL Studio Producer Edition version 5.0.1.

It is the most popular version. We call it FL Studio for brevity.

The latest version of FL Studio is available at

Well, we have told you much about the application; it's time to describe the struc-ture of this book.

The book consists of an introduction, eleven chapters, references, and index.

It is accompanied by a CD.

Chapter 1 introduces FL Studio's ideology and a way of preparing it for work.

It clarifies terms used in the application description, such as pattern, step sequencer, generator, channel, song position, and automation. It also describes the purpose of con-trols in the main window: the main panel, the main menu, the hint bar, and a few indica-tors.

Preparing the application for work is also described. The following operations are emphasized:

  • Selecting parameters of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) and audio interfaces of FL Studio
  • Making general settings and project settings
  • Configuring FL Studio folders and setting paths to files of projects, samples, and virtual synthesizer settings and to some other files supported by FL Studio

Chapter 2 comprehensively describes the main operations of FL Studio:

  • Creating a new project and selecting a template
  • Selecting a current pattern
  • Using the transport panel and tools on the Shortcut panel
  • Using the step sequencer and performing basic operations on patterns

The Playlist editor is described as it applies to creating a simple composition from available patterns. Procedures of adding a new channel and changing the pattern length are also described in Chapter 2. An example of creating a bass part is given to illustrate the ways of editing keyprints in the Piano roll window.

The structure of a typical mixer and the purpose of its components are described. The Mixer window is described as it applies to the following:

  • Routing channel signals to different mixer strips
  • Connecting plug-ins in the insert mode (using sequential effects)
  • Connecting plug-ins in the send mode (using parallel effects)

Recommendations on connecting a MIDI keyboard to the sound card using MIDI or the universal serial bus interface are given.

Options available on the Recording panel that relate to recording a MIDI composi-tion are described. Also described are procedures of recording from the MIDI key-board, writing and editing automation, and changing the composition tempo.

Many operations described in this and the following chapters are illustrated with examples saved in FLP files on the accompanying CD.

Chapter 3 describes how to build patterns in the Step sequencer window. The chapter begins with an overview of controls in this window. A procedure of program-ming a musical sequence is given. Peculiarities of the musical sequence playback de-pending on the step sequencer settings are described.

The Graph editor is described. It is a bar chart that allows you to specify the values of the following parameters for each step of the step sequencer: the panorama, the ve-locity (the speed of pressing a MIDI key), the properties of a filter used for timbre modulation, and the pitch bend and the time shift of a note.

The Keyboard editor is described. It allows you to specify the pitch (note) for each step of the step sequencer. An individual MIDI keyboard corresponds to each step.

Implementation of the portamento effect (a gradual transition from one note to an-other) is described.

There can be tens of channels in a project. To sort them out, you can choose, which ones should be displayed in the step sequencer's window. An example illustrates channel filtration by grouping them according to certain criteria.

Commands of the following menus are described:

CHANNELS - Operations over channels; adding a new channel, and connecting VSTi and DXi to a project are emphasized.

EDIT - Operations over patterns:

  • Undoing the last operation and cutting, copying, and pasting the contents of a pattern
  • Shifting a pattern one step to the left or to the right
  • Randomizing (i.e., randomly choosing notes and synthesis parameter values)
  • Converting a note sequence programmed in the step sequencer into a key-print sequence

Multilayering is explained. It is a technology that plays multiple timbres simultane-ously when generating the sound of one instrument. An example is given to demon-strate the use of the Layer plug-in that implements multilayering in FL Studio.

Chapter 4 describes creating a melody in the Piano roll keyprint editor. This editor first appeared in Fruity Loops version 3 (a predecessor of FL Studio 4). Currently, the Piano roll editor is ousting programming with the step sequencer, which was typical of Fruity Loops. Each pattern channel can be associated with a keyprint track that doesn't depend on the note sequence programmed with the step sequencer.

The Piano roll window consists of two sections: one for editing keyprints and the other for graphically editing synthesis parameters. The window offers you tools for ed-iting keyprints and synthesis parameter graphs and for zooming their images.

The following operations on the elements of the Piano roll window are described:

  • Drawing and moving individual keyprints, changing their lengths, and drawing syn-thesis parameter charts
  • Drawing keyprint sequences
  • Selecting and deleting keyprints and synthesis parameter graphs
  • Selecting graphical objects or a fragment of the time ruler
  • Listening to notes that correspond to keyprints
  • Drawing slide notes to implement the portamento technique
  • Selecting a mode for binding keyprints to the sequence's step and fractions of a step
  • Implementing quantization and quick quantization using a template

The menu of the Piano roll window is described:

  • File - Working with files
  • Edit - Editing elements of the Piano roll window
  • Tools - Performing quantization and cutting keyprints
  • View and Zoom - Controlling how elements of the Piano roll window are displayed
  • Chord - Automatically creating chords of the selected type

Chapter 5 looks at how you build a composition from individual patterns in the Playlist editor. The Playlist window consists of two sections: a pattern section and an audio track section. The pattern section is the main component of the Playlist window. It is a coordinate plane whose horizontal axis is musical time measured in bars:beats:ticks. The marks on the vertical axis correspond to pattern tracks differen-tiated by numbers or names. Here, you can draw, move, and delete graphical objects. This is how you build a composition from patterns like you would build a toy house from blocks.

The audio track section allows you to place audio files on the same time axis as patterns.

The buttons on the toolbar of the Playlist window are described. The use of the loop marker and text markers is explained.

FL Studio allows you to build a composition of patterns spontaneously. You can start the playback of desired patterns using the MIDI keyboard (or the computer key-board, which can substitute for it). A mode of "live" pattern playback and the purpose of commands and buttons are described. An algorithm for editing existing audio clips and adding new ones in the audio track section is explained. The use of automation clips to automate audio clip parameters, other FL Studio parameters, and plug-ins used in the project is described.

The Playlist window's menu is also described:

  • Edit - Editing operations
  • Tools - Quantization
  • Patterns - Operations with pattern tracks
  • Audio tracks - Control over audio clip display
  • View - Choice of colors of tracks
  • Zoom - Zoom of graphical objects

Chapter 6 describes built-in generators and generators implemented as plug-ins. The methods for connecting the generators to a project are overviewed. Channel pa-rameters common to all the generators (the menu of the Channel settings window) and the controls of the Channel settings window available on the MISC and FUNC tabs are described.

Sound synthesis methods implemented in the generator plug-ins are explained, and the structure of the sound element of a typical synthesizer is given. Both built-in in-struments and those connected as Fruity plug-ins are described:

  • Sampler - A simple built-in sampler that allows you to load only one audio file.
  • TS404 - A pseudoanalog synthesizer that makes it possible to simulate the sound of the legendary Roland TB-303 synthesizer and a few other famous analog synthesizers. In addition, TS404 can generate unique sound. It is designed to create bass parts with "electronic" timbres.
  • 3x Osc - A synthesizer based on the additive synthesis method. You use it to cre-ate bright timbres with many high-frequency components. Its sound strongly differs from TS404's sound. 3x Osc isn't a built-in FL Studio synthesizer, but it is a Fruity plug-in.
  • BeepMap - A unique synthesizer that converts an image into an audio-frequency signal.
  • BooBass - An audio module that allows you to synthesize the sound of a bass guitar.
  • FL Keys - An audio module designed to create top-quality parts of the piano, electric piano, and organ. The advantages of this plug-in are a small load on the processor and sparing use of the computer memory.
  • Plucked! - A synthesizer used to simulate the sound of strings.
  • Fruity Slicer - A drum loop player. Slices of a loop are mapped to the MIDI key-board so that only one MIDI key corresponds to each slice. A keyprint track that can play all the loop slices in a sequence is created automatically. After that, you can change the order of the loop slices by changing the order of the keyprints. You also can adjust synthesis parameters for each drum sound separately by editing pa-rameters of the keyprints.
  • FPC - A drum machine.
  • Fruity Granulizer - A grain synthesizer. It synthesizes sound from short fragments (grains). The timbre of the synthesized sound depends on the properties of the grains and their order. This synthesizer isn't good for creating parts of traditional instruments because distortions introduced by this plug-in are too noticeable. How-ever, it is an excellent tool for implementing effects based on processing a human voice.
  • Wave Traveller - A specialized audio file player that can use the scratch effect. Scratch is a special technique of playing vinyl records used by DJs: They manually move a record in different directions while the pickup touches the record.
  • Sytrus - A 6-operand FM/RM synthesizer with excellent sound. In functionality and sound quality, it is similar to Native Instruments FM7, one of the best software synthesizers. Like FM7, Sytrus is compatible with the famous synthesizer Yamaha DX7 on the Sysx (system MIDI events) level. It allows you to load DX7 presets from SYX and DX7 files.
  • Fruit kick - A synthesizer designed to create parts of a synthetic bass drum.
  • Fruity Vibrator - A plug-in that allows you to use a device with feedback (such as a joystick or a steering wheel.)
  • Fruity Wrapper - A plug-in of the Fruity family used as an adapter that allows FL Studio and a DXi or VSTi plug-in to exchange audio and MIDI information.
  • MIDI Out - A generator that allows you to control any MIDI instrument external to FL Studio. Here, external means hardware or virtual MIDI devices (including VSTi and DXi connected using Fruity Wrapper).
  • Fruity Keyboard Controller - A specialized controller that allows you to convert a Key Pressed MIDI event into an angle of rotation of a knob. That knob can be set to control any parameter of any virtual device.
  • ReWired - A plug-in that allows you to connect to FL Studio other applications that support ReWire technology.

FL Slayer, a VSTi that simulates a six-string electric guitar and a bass guitar, is comprehensively described. It was developed using methods similar to physical model-ing. Although the program is small and undemanding of computer performance, it al-lows you to simulate many playing techniques typical to the contemporary electric gui-tar. You use it to create guitar parts with a typical "electronic" sound processed with effects similar to overload. However, its sound differs from that of an actual acoustic guitar and even that of an electric guitar without processings.

In addition to a virtual electric guitar proper, the plug-in incorporates a few variants of a combo box (an amplifier plus an acoustic system) and an effects processor. This is a complete instrument that allows you to create guitar parts using all traditional ef-fects and processings. The influence of various settings on the timbre of this instrument is clarified.

The latest product of MusicLab, Inc. (, RealGuitar VSTi, is comprehensively described. It is a VSTi whose sound closely resembles the sound of an actual acoustic guitar. It allows you to simulate guitar techniques by playing on the MIDI keyboard. RealGuitar is based on original high-quality samples obtained by re-cording actual guitars. (Individual sounds were recorded rather than fragments of gui-tar parts). This VSTi is equipped with a sound bank of seven guitar types.

The sample base was created with the participation of professional musicians who used typical playing techniques on each fret of each string. The plug-in uses these sounds to form the chords you specify. You can record the chords as MIDI events onto the sequencer track of the host application, to which the plug-in is connected as a virtual output MIDI port. The chords are displayed on a virtual guitar fretboard. You can strike chord in several positions. It is important that in each position your hear only notes that exactly correspond to the position.

Chapter 7 describes recording sound from external sources and editing audio files. The use of microphones of various types is overviewed, taking into account their char-acteristics. Recommendations on recording vocal and guitar parts are given. Simple techniques for monitoring the recording process are offered. The following technolo-gies are described:

  • Recording the sound from an external source using the virtual mixer incorporated into FL Studio (the Mixer window)
  • Recording and editing audio files with the built-in WaveEditor

Chapter 8 describes effects plug-ins connected to the FL Studio mixer. The es-sence of the effects and the most important processings (such as frequency filtration and dynamic processing) implemented in these plug-ins are explained. The following plug-ins are described:

  • Fruity 7 Band EQ, Fruity Parametric EQ, Fruity Bass Boost, Fruity Fast LP, Fruity Filter, and Fruity Free Filter - Equalizers and filters
  • Fruity Compressor and Fruity Soft Clipper - Plug-ins for dynamic processing
  • Fruity Delay and Fruity Delay 2 - Plug-ins implementing the delay effect
  • Fruity Flanger, Fruity Flangus, Fruity Phaser, and Fruity Stereo Enhancer - Plug-ins implementing the flanger and phaser effects and stereo-based enhancing
  • Fruity Chorus - A plug-in implementing the chorus effect
  • Fruity Reeverb - A plug-in implementing the reverberation
  • Fruity Blood Overdrive, Fruity Fast Dist, and Fruity WaveShaper - Plug-ins im-plementing variants of the distortion effect
  • Fruity Vocoder and speech synthesizer - A vocoder and a built-in speech synthe-sizer
  • Fruity dB Meter and Fruity Spectroman - Analyzers of the signal level and spec-trum
  • Fruity Balance, Fruity Center, Fruity PanOMatic, Fruity Send, Fruity Mute 2, and Fruity Phase Inverter - Auxiliary plug-ins that enhance the mixer's features
  • Fruity LSD - A specialized synthesizer that supports sample banks of the down-loadable sounds (DLS) format
  • Fruity Scratcher - A specialized plug-in to simulate a vinyl record player
  • Fruity X-Y Controller - A specialized controller that allows you to control any two parameters you like using a mouse or joystick
  • Fruity Formula Controller - A specialized controller that generates a control signal based on a user-specified formula
  • Fruity Peak Controller - A specialized controller that generates two control sig-nals
  • Fruity NoteBook and Fruity HTML NoteBook - Specialized notebook plug-ins
  • Fruity Big Clock - A specialized plug-in that indicates song position

Chapter 9 describes two interrelated issues: import to FL Studio and export from FL Studio to other applications. Although FL Studio is a self-sufficient tool for creating music, you will often need to import material created in other applications into an FL Studio project. Commands of the Import submenu of the FILE menu that imple-ment import operations are described comprehensively:

  • MIDI File - Import data from the selected MIDI file
  • Beat to slice - Import drum loops
  • ReBirth RB-338 song - Import projects created with the ReBirth RB-338 soft-ware synthesizer

When you are finished with working on an FL Studio project, the issues become urgent of archiving it or exporting it to an audio file to record it on a CD or publish it on the Internet in the MP3 format. You likely will want to transfer your project or individ-ual instrument parts to another musical editor and finish it there, or you might wish to export a pattern containing a drum loop to a WAV file. In these cases, you need export commands such as Zipped loop package, Wave file MP3 file, MIDI file, Project bones, and Project data files, available in the Export submenu of the FILE menu, and the Disk recording > Render to wave file(s) command of the Mixer window.

Chapter 10 explains the use of FL Studio with Steinberg Cubase SX [4], Cake-walk SONAR [2], and Adobe Audition [5]. Connecting different versions of FL Studio (with 1 and with 16 stereo output ports) to host applications is described. Each version exists as a DXi and a VSTi.

You can connect FL Studio to Cakewalk SONAR using various methods. The most convenient method, using FL Studio as a DXi plug-in, is suggested. In addition, connecting FL Studio to SONAR as a ReWire client is described.

The most convenient variant of connecting FL Studio to Steinberg Cubase, as a VSTi plug-in, is suggested. Using Cubase SX's tools, you can control the selected syn-thesis parameter through the MIDI port of FL Studio. For example, you can connect the MidiControl plug-in to a MIDI track set to work with FL Studio and then use this plug-in to control the selected synthesis parameter of FL Studio's generator.

You don't have to use the Cubase SX sequencer to control FL Studio's generator. The transport (recording, playback, and any other movement of the song position) and the tempo in the playback mode will be controlled from Cubase SX.

Chapter 11 is for your reference. It contains brief descriptions of the main menu commands and of a few tools that weren't covered in the preceding chapters.

Appendix describes the contents of the CD that accompanies this book. The CD includes:

  • A demo version of the MusicLab RealGuitar VSTi plug-in
  • Files with examples illustrating the use of the application's tools
  • An off-line version of our Web site with articles and the contents of books about the use of computers by musicians and sound producers

References mention our books about the use of computers in music creation.

Index will help you find terms and obtain detailed information about the issues cov-ered in this book.