If you are new to music production, opening FL Studio for the first time might be confusing. Nothing seems to make sense and it can get difficult to even produce a basic and simple beat.
If it is the case, you are in the right place.
I had the same feeling back in 2009, when I first opened FL Studio.
I could do classic four on floor beat with the given initial samples, but that was it.
With the proper guidance, you can master FL Studio basics very quickly. It might take you a few days to get used to it if you keep reading the points I have to share with you.
Personally I’ve learnt the hard way by doing it manually. But I do not recommend this method, since you will be limited by capabilities that you didn’t know existed!
Time is the most valuable currency there is, so I will do my best to give it to you.
So without further ado, let’s get right into the basics!
FL Studio 20 Interface
In order to get familiar with FL Studio, the first thing we have to cover is all the interface. What are the main parts of this program, and what do all these weird buttons mean.
This is where all the menu preferences, main controls, shortkeys and most used functions are placed.
It is nicely built so that you can manage your project faster and access main features without spending a lot of time.
Menu Bar Section
The most basic and most used functions in Menu bar is:
- Save As
- Export/Import Audio
- New Project
- Open Project
- Audio Settings
- MIDI Settings
- General Settings
- File Settings
- Manage Plugins
These are the main points that you will be using more oftenly as a beginner. There are more to cover, but I will make intermediate, advanced tutorials in another post to make this article more easy to follow.
Toolbar contains the main controls of essential production flow.
Let’s zoom in and cover it in different sections:
- PAT – Pattern loop. After you press play, this will play what you have in the opened channel rack pattern.
- SONG – This plays what you see in the playlist.
- Play / Stop buttons
- Red Button – Recording mode
- 130.00 shows BPM(Beat Per Minute) of the project
As a beginner, you can only remember button 1 – Metronome, others are used less.
- Plays a track only after keyboard is pressed
- Countdown before recording
- Blend Recording
- Loop Recording
- Use typing keyboard as a piano
- Scrolls To Reach Time Markers
- Stop Editing Mode
- Enable Note / Clip Groups
- Multilink to controllers
Snap To Grid Section.
For beginners, I recommend leaving it as it is – Line snap.
View section controls what is shown and what is hidden(works like shortkeys to open different windows).
- View Playlist
- View Piano roll
- View Channel rack
- View Mixer
- View Browser / Plugin Picker
- Open Project
- Open Plugin / Project Picker
- View Tempo Tapper
- View Touch Controller
- Launch Content Library
- Open Audio Editor
- One-click Audio Recording
- Save as
- Render as audio file
- View project info
In this section you can find all the files that are installed or placed in your installation directory.
It includes your sample packs, installed plugins and effects, project files and presets.
The only folder that you need to know are only these two:
As it says, it includes all the stock and third party plugins.
Let’s dissect all these folders
- Effects – Stock effects plugins
- Generators – Stock synthesizers, samplers plugins
- Installed – Your own purchased third party plugins that are installed separately
In this folder you will find stock FL Studio samples.
This folder content will be different than stock, because it is my personal sample folders:)
This section is where the magic happens.
By default, there are 4 basic samples: kick, clap, hat and snare. But you are able to insert any other sample from the packs folder by drag and drop
Or you can insert plugin by clicking right mouse button
After inserting plugins and samples that you wanted, then you can start messing with melodies and rhythms.
FL Studio channel rack is very friendly for making quick beats. You just click the block where you want your sample to take part and you can instantly start making beats.
It should look like this:
After you have your drum beat set, let’s open a piano roll to make our melody.
To do that, right click on your instrument and navigate to piano roll.
Ant this is where you draw your melodies and chord progression in!
Click F5 to open FL Studio playlist.
In this section, you can arrange your loops that you’ve created in the previously mentioned channel rack section. Just click with the mouse where you want to put the channel rack and it will insert it.
FL Studio will insert the channel to the playlist that is currently or last opened in the window.
After we’ve covered how to set up the channel rack, how to insert your audio samples and instruments and how to make drums and melodies, let’s have a look where mixing takes part.
To open mixer, you can click F9, or just hit the following button:
Ant this is how the FL Studio mixer looks:
There is a lot to cover, so let’s cover all the basic elements so that you could be able to start mixing your tracks.
Every single audio sample or instrument has to be set in different channels in order to mix them separately. Or you can set a few similar instruments in one channel if you are ready to mix them as a group.
In order to insert the instrument into the channel first select your plugin or double click on the audio sample. After you have selected your instrument, right click on the mixer channel that you want to put the sound source in and navigate to Channel routing – Route selected channels to the track. Or just click CTRL+L.
Congrats! Now you have connected your instrument with the mixer channel.
It is now time to start adding some vst in order to make our instrument sound professional.
Mixer Channel Slots
In order to select effect FX, click on empty slot, navigate to select and choose which effect you want to use. In my case, I’ve selected Fruity Parametric EQ 2.
That’s it! Now you can open your inserted effect and start making adjustments to your sound.
The very first channel is master channel. It affects all the sounds and instruments in the project.
Usually it is used after the whole song is finished and mixed. Mastering is the last phase of the production process. It is essential in order to make your song sound full, loud and ready for public radio stations or other music streaming channels.
And that’s all about the FL Studio interface. I’ve covered the most basic elements of FL Studio. It is a super easy to use program that all of us should be able to master in a few days.
I hope this article gave you some help with getting familiar with FL Studio. I wish you great music production sessions.