Things I’ve picked up in FL Studio over hours of music production. Everyone’s workflow is different but you’re likely to find something useful.
Rearrange and Organise
Sort instruments and samples in the step sequencer and mixer. Hold the alt key in combination with the up and down arrow keys when in the step sequencer to move inserts. Hold the Alt key in combination with the left and right keys when in the mixer to move mixer tracks.
It helps to keep everything organised. If you spend time organising a project file you’ll be more invested in following through with the track. That’s a good thing! I organise into groups e.g. lead, bass, drums, sound effects, automation.
Pays off long term to know shortcuts. Get used to using your keyboards function keys in FL Studio to improve your workflow. Here are the shortcuts you should master early on to switch back and forth between windows fast:
Toggle Step Sequencer
Toggle Piano roll
Show/hide Sample Browser
In addition to these here are two more shortcuts which are good to know.
1) Use the “alt” key when manipulating notes in the Piano Roll. This bypasses the snapping grid you have set and you can also use it to stretch or shorten the end of a note.
2) When you are drawing notes in the Piano Roll the note size will be equal to the previous note drawn or selected. Sometimes this is not desirable. In that case hold shift and draw a note and it’ll automatically be snapped back to the grid ready to be resized as you need it.
This frustrating interface problem can be caused when you undock one of the detachable interface panels (click and drag). This can be quickly fixed by pushing CTRL+SHIFT+H – which restores everything in FL Studio back to the default view.
Click & Hold Gesture Features
In FL Studio, “Click and hold & Special Gesture functions” is enabled by default. It means for instance in Piano Roll if you click and hold a note for a short period of time, you’ll be drawing a slide note instead. If you click and hold the right mouse button in the Playlist, it’ll switch to the Slice tool. Whether you change this setting or not is down to personal preference. If you aren’t a fan of these gesture based functions it’s handy to know you can disable them as so from within FL Studio:
Options > General Settings > uncheck “Click & Hold & special gesture functions”
If you’re frequently using the same effects, synths and samples, set up templates for when you load FL Studio. That way, all of your favorite settings will be loaded from the beginning.
You can set these up by saving any project in:
***FL Studio Folder***Data/Projects/Templates
Run through of the FL Studio template above…
1 – Step sequencer. I like to use Sylenth1, Massive & FM8 so every project I begin will have these ready. Set this up for yourself and your preferred synths.
2 – Sidechain Channel set up in the mixer – the Fruity Limiter effect added and a kick drum side-chained to this track. By default I have my kick drum linked to mixer track 1. Sylenth, Massive and FM8 are linked to track 2. You can add any number of effects here. You can have a signature synth lead sound with all your reverb/compression/delay/distortion effects added and pre-loaded. Really useful.
3 – VST Plugins – configured to whichever state you need. Their settings will be retained for when you load FL Studio. I have them set to their default initialisation state. New song, new sounds.
Did I use that Pattern?
Useful FL Studio function to know. Select any pattern or sample in the playlist and then press “select all similar clips”. It’ll highlight every instance of that pattern, or sample, or automation clip etc across the entire playlist. If you want to change a pattern without affecting the others, select “Make unique”.
Some plugins can cause FL Studio to Crash. One in particular is NI Massive – crashing FL studio whenever it loaded. It was possible to resolve this by deleting the database file located in:
Moral of the Story – if FL Studio is crashing each time you load up a project or load a certain VST it’s possibly defective. A quick reinstall or removing a file will usually resolve such issues.
Important. It’s possible backups won’t be active by default in FL Studio.
In FL Studio – Options > file settings > Backup autosave > select
This will generate a new (hidden) folder in your FL Studio directory. Backup files are stored inside the “Data” folder.
X:***Program Files***Image-Line***FL Studio Folder***DataBackup
Your backups will be saved here per the preferences you set within FL Studio. If you don’t take the time to sort this out now, you’ll end up setting it up after you lose a project. Here is one song I was working on where the file become corrupt and I lost it:
Also worth considering is increasing the number of “undo” levels in FL Studio. I set mine to 500.
When working with automation clips in FL Studio, you can right click any knob or parameter and select “copy value” – and then paste the value into your automation clip for precise automation.
Make it Pretty
Add a background to FL Studio. I use a black background with a subtle texture. The background I use is below – feel free to download.
Also, in FL Studio general options under animations try “entertain me!” and check the “ultrasmooth” setting for scrolling. It is also worth trying different skins, different view options in the piano roll/step sequencer and different font sizes in the browser.
Use the reverse clip option on any sample to get interesting effects. Especially good for big cymbal crashes and impact sounds – reverse those for power-up build up effects.
Record portions of your song and then reverse them, stretch them and change the pitch to create unique sound effects.
Make a repeating arpeggiating sequence in the Piano Roll, like ascending triplets and then select the notes. Hold the “alt” key and drag back to make the entire sequence 2x/4x/8x faster. Copy/paste to fill the rest of the measure with those super-fast notes. This is a way to make amazing chip-tune style sounds.
Some quick tips to make sequences sound less artificial.
Panning and volume for drums. ALT+R will open the randomiser in FL Studio which you can use to quickly add subtle variation.
Remove some drum hits from your sequence and add some “mistakes” to your melodies.
Use the “Alt” key when manipulating notes in the Piano Roll. This will allow you to stretch or shorten the length of any note.