Music Tech Guide to FL Studio.pdf

September 11, 2017 | Author: Stephanie Johnson | Category: Synthesizer, Sound Recording And Reproduction, Piano, Web Browser, Audio Electronics
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Guide to...

FL Studio MASTER YOUR MUSIC SOFTWARE... TODAY!

BECOME AN FL STUDIO PRO! 12 step-by-step workshops Produce a track from scratch Pro tips to record, mix & master Speed up your workflow Get perfect bass, beats and lead sounds

56

PAGES OF EXPERT TUTORIALS

Getting started with FL Studio

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Welcome MT

Guide to…

FL Studio Welcome...

… to a special guide put together by the FL Studio experts at MusicTech magazine. FL Studio is one of the most widely-used pieces of music production software in the world. The MusicTech Guide To… FL Studio features everything you need to put together a piece of professional-sounding music, from scratch, with step-by-step workshops on every process. Whether you are new to FL Studio or a seasoned user, we will show you just why the software is so popular. We start by setting up the perfect FL Studio project and then deal with MIDI and audio recording and editing, before moving on to mixing and mastering. Along the way we also teach you how to make the most of the software’s brilliant effects and how to produce perfect beats, bass and lead lines – three elements that are essential parts of most great tunes. So boot up your software, turn the page and prepare to be blown away by one of the most fullyfledged digital audio workstations around. Enjoy the issue! Andy Jones Senior Editor Email [email protected] Send your tweets @AndyJonesMT Read my blogs at www.musictech.net

Guide to… MUSICTECH www.musictech.net Anthem Publishing Ltd Suite 6, Piccadilly House London Road, Bath BA1 6PL Tel +44 (0) 1225 489984 Fax +44 (0) 1225 489980 Editorial Director Paul Pettengale [email protected] Senior Editor Andy Jones [email protected] Art Editor Kai Wood [email protected] Digital Editor Andy Price [email protected] Multimedia Editor Alex Holmes [email protected] Business Dev’ Manager Di Marsh [email protected]

Guide to...

FL Studio MASTER YOUR MUSIC SOFTWARE... TODAY!

Production Controller Craig Broadbridge [email protected] com Contributors Mark Cousins, Keith Gemmell, Alex Holmes, Hollin Jones, John Pickford, Huw Price, Liam O’Mullane, Rob Boffard, Mike Hillier Art Director Jenny Cook [email protected] Advertising Director Simon Lewis [email protected] Managing Director Jon Bickley [email protected] Licensing enquiries Jon Bickley +44 (0) 1225 489984 www.anthem-publishing.com Subscriptions to MusicTech Magazine Tel +44 (0) 870 444 8468 Price (12 issues) £59.99 UK basic annual rate

All content copyright Anthem Publishing Ltd 2013 and 2014, all rights reserved. While we make every effort to ensure that the factual content of MusicTech Guide To… is correct we cannot take any responsibility nor be held accountable for any factual errors printed.

BECOME AN FL STUDIO PRO! 12 step-by-step workshops Produce a track from scratch Pro tips to record, mix & master Speed up your workflow Get perfect bass, beats and lead sounds

56

PAGES OF EXPERT TUTORIALS

Please make every effort to check quoted prices and product specifications with manufacturers prior to purchase. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or resold without the prior consent of Anthem Publishing Ltd. MusicTech Guide To… recognises all copyrights contained within this issue. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder.

Guide to… FL Studio | 3

MT Contents

Contents The MusicTech Guide to… FL Studio Part 1

Setting up the perfect FL Studio project Understanding the basics of how FL Studio works will help you get up and running quickly… p6 Part 3

Part 2

MIDI matters in FL Studio Master MIDI in FL Studio to unleash the software’s true potential… p14 Part 4

Part 5

Recording Perfect Audio How to get real-world sounds into your software… p30 4|

Editing MIDI… Getting control of your MIDI parts is the first step to making great music… p22

Guide to… FL Studio

Audio editing in FL Studio Once your sound is recorded, FL Studio lets you manipulate it in any way… p36

Contents MT Part 6

Making beats in FL Studio FL Studio is absolutely fantastic for making beats, and there’s more than one way to go about it… p40 Part 7

Part 8

Working with leads Getting a good lead sound into your mixes can help your tracks stand out… p48

Working with bass sounds Now we’ve done the beats in FL Studio, it’s time to turn to the bass… p44 Part 9

Part 10

Mixing in FL Studio How to mix a great-sounding track. FL Studio has all you need… p56

Creative use of effects Using effects in FL Studio can make a good track a great track… p52 Part 11

Automation and MIDI control Getting hands-on control over your mixes can reap dividends… p60

Part 12

Mastering and exporting How do you best master and export your music in FL Studio? Go here… p64 Guide to… FL Studio | 5

MT Tutorial Getting started with FL Studio

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 1

Getting started with FL Studio

Understanding the basics of how FL Studio works will help you get up and running quickly, as Hollin Jones explains…

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L Studio is one of the world’s most downloaded DAWs and Image Line’s policy of lifetime free updates of the version you have bought is surely one of the most generous around. Quite apart from that, it’s a very fully-featured music programming and production environment with some nifty tools and tricks to help you make the best music. But while it has literally thousands of different facets, you won’t get very far without understanding the basics. That is, how to get audio and MIDI in and out of the software, and how to work with project templates. How, for example, do you set up a controller device? These are all things that need to be looked at before you get started. Once you have mastered them, of course, they become second nature. FL Studio is quite unique in giving you a comprehensive breakdown of all the material available to you, from effect presets right through to complete project templates, in the Browser that appears by default down the left hand edge of the main window. It’s also cleverly integrated with Windows as an operating system, so it’s possible to access Explorer-style commands from inside the Browser to locate and work

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with files without having to go back to the desktop. You can define custom search folders, control the way the audio buffers behave and enable all kinds of keyboard shortcuts to improve your workflow and make everything run more smoothly. You can manage Window Sets and even arrange the layout to suit a tablet view, if the device you are working

While FL Studio has thousands of different facets, you need to understand the basics on doubles as a Windows tablet. There are remote control presets, smart searching of the browser and many more features that will help you out if you know about them before you dive head first into music-making. You can save projects and audio files out, of course, and even zip a whole project on export for transfer or sharing. FL Studio is a fun and capable DAW and by following a few simple guidelines you should be up and running in no time. MT

Getting started with FL Studio Tutorial MT FOCUS ON… MIDI FL Studio works with MIDI by using a system it calls the Piano Roll. Each MIDItriggered track has a MIDI sequencer available to it – actually often more than one type of MIDI sequencer – and the Piano Roll window has various MIDI tools in it. This means that you can quickly work with clips, loops and sequences flexibly and intuitively rather than having to go into the main Project view. Each channel also has a Channel Settings window which can be opened separately and provides control over things like plugin parameters, polyphony and the arpeggiator available to each track, in addition to many other things. You will become familiar with these tools as you learn to use FL Studio effectively.

MT Step-by-Step Starting out

Once installed the first thing you will need to do is look at your audio and MIDI in and out settings. To do this, go to the Options menu and select MIDI settings or press F10. This opens the preferences dialogue where you can manage all kinds of I/O and settings. Select the MIDI section.

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With your MIDI device connected, go to the MIDI Input section and click the Enable button. Click on the Controller Type menu to reveal a dropdown list of natively supported controllers. If yours appears in the list, select it. Otherwise, select Generic Controller. If in doubt, select the generic controller option.

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MT Tutorial Getting started with FL Studio MT Step-by-Step Starting out (cont.)

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Select MIDI port 1 in the port selection box, or a different port if you need to use one. Here you can also specify individual MIDI channels to be used for other operations like the Omni preview or Song Marker Jump and for working with Performance Mode. These are handy for setting up your own controller maps.

Move down to the Audio tab and from the device dropdown menu, look for your interface. If it does not appear, select the ASIO4ALL device and then click on the Show ASIO Panel button to reveal the list of devices contained within this option. Your connected device should appear. Make sure your drivers are all up to date.

This view may differ depending on your hardware, but here you can see the option to select the Xiosynth interface, and to set the buffer size. In the Advanced menu you get extra options like adjusting latency compensation and using the hardware buffer. Leave these unless you definitely need them.

Under the CPU section of the audio driver control panel make sure that multithreading is turned on (where available) for the generator and mixer processing sections. This will ensure maximum audio performance. You can tell the mixer to work at higher resolutions up to 512 point resampling, though this may be overkill.

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Getting started with FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Starting out (cont.)

Moving down to the General section, you can control how the application behaves and responds. Among the interesting stuff here is the option to change the levels of undo available, and to add the choice to undo knob tweaks as well as other actions. You can change the skin of the app here too, which will alter its appearance.

In the File section you can assign dedicated folders to be searchable by the Browser so they can be quickly accessed from inside a project. There’s also the option to add a secondary VST plug-ins folder search path and control how often an autosave is performed. It’s a good idea to leave this on, though it can be switched off.

Return to the main screen. On the left is the Browser and if you mouse over the top of this area you will see several Snap options. Each one is a preset view of the same Browser and you can flip between them by choosing from this menu. So one view might show all your plug-in presets and another, might show audio loops.

Go to Options and select Project General Settings. This lets you set the project data folder, where recorded and rendered audio files will be stored. Click on the Info tab and you can enter metadata about a project such as title, genre, and author as well as seeing how much time has been spent working on any given project.

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MT Tutorial Getting started with FL Studio MT Step-by-Step Starting out (cont.)

Returning to the Browser, you can set it up to behave as you wish. Click on the tiny icon at the top left of its column to reveal the Browser Options menu. You can alter its size, make it auto-hide and choose to sort its view in any way you like. This is great if you use lots of some types of content but not others.

Templates are a great way to get started quickly. In the Browser, zoom down to the Projects section and click on it. Inside this is the Templates folder, and within that a series of subfolders grouping templates by type and genre. Double click on any one to open a new project based on that template.

If you right click on any file in the Browser and choose Windows Shell Menu and then Properties, you can reveal the properties for any file including its location on the hard drive. This makes it easy to locate, duplicate or even delete that file, as well as to see if there are any previous versions of it contained in a backup.

Rather than digging into the templates in the Browser you can go to the File menu and choose New > From Template and then choose from the lists found inside. The Minimal options are quite basic, and the Performance templates are designed to get you up and running with a variety of controller devices.

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If you go to the View > Arrange Windows menu you are able to quickly snap FL Studio to any window layout. If you have created one that you like, choose Save Current Arrangement from this menu and the Window Set will then be available as a preset for you to use in future.

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You can access a live news feed from Image Line directly inside Fl Studio by clicking on the News Menu and then selecting from the list of stories it presents to you. Of course your PC needs to be online for this to work but it’s a good way to get the latest news at a glance.

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PRO TIP… CHANNELS

Under the Options menu you can enable MIDI Remote Control, useful for controlling aspects of a project other than simply inputting MIDI notes, such as automation, patch selection and so on. If you connect more than one MIDI device, MIDI Remote Control gets even more powerful. Set up these devices using the MIDI preferences section.

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To quickly add a channel using any of the available instruments, go to the Channels menu and the Add One submenu, then you can choose from the extensive list of channel types available. You can also clone the currently selected channel or group, move, delete or label them as you prefer.

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MT Tutorial MIDI matters in FL Studio

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 2

MIDI matters in FL Studio

If you get to master MIDI in FL Studio you will unleash the software’s true potential, as Hollin Jones reveals…

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L Studio’s a great MIDI recorder and sequencing application. Even though it also records audio, for much of its life it has concentrated on MIDI and this is still one aspect of the software that many people love. This is partly down to the fact that it comes with such an amazing selection of MIDI-triggered instruments, and has a range of tools for programming and inputting data. It helps to be a great player, of course, but it’s far from essential with FL Studio’s Step Input mode and arpeggiator among many other clever ways to input notes. The great thing about basing a lot of your composition on MIDI tracks is that they are so flexible, with none of the limitations of digital audio files. MIDI can be copied, pasted, manipulated and re-routed easily. It’s weightless too, meaning that MIDI data uses virtually no space and no CPU power. In fact the only thing that uses resources is whatever you send the MIDI to in order to make a sound, typically a software instrument. You can use MIDI tracks to trigger external hardware too, of course, and route the audio signal from synths, drum machines and other MIDI hardware back into FL Studio for recording. This lets you incorporate older, more traditional

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hardware that might be fiddly to program into the much more userfriendly world of FL Studio where putting together parts is much easier than it ever was using outboard kit. For getting MIDI in you can use your computer’s keyboard, a regular MIDI keyboard or a more specialised control surface. FL Studio supports the

For much of its life FL Studio concentrated on MIDI, an aspect of the software people love connection of multiple devices, though to avoid conflicts it can be a good idea to assign each one a unique MIDI channel to work on. In fact there are a number of controller templates in the FL Studio installation directory (Program Files\ Image-Line\FL Studio\System\ Hardware specific). These templates are loaded into the editor that came with your controller and will map it to FL Studio. So hook up your MIDI device and get recording parts right now! MT

MIDI matters in FL Studio Tutorial MT FOCUS ON… RIFF MACHINE There’s a handy tool in FL Studio for generating MIDI parts called Riff Machine. Choose Tools > Riff Machine and a new window opens. With it, you can create randomized patterns for whatever generator or instrument you currently have selected. There are multiple options including chords, progressions, arpeggios, flips, humanization and interpretation. Each one has a set of tweakable controls and can be previewed. If you’re happy with the results, accept them, or start over to do something entirely new. This is a great way to create complex and involving MIDI parts from only the most basic of input. It helps you to create music from nowhere, or to take the music you have already made and easily alter it.

MT Step-by-Step MIDI matters

With your MIDI interface or device connected, go into FL Studio’s MIDI Settings section and make sure it is visible and selected. If you click on the Controller Type menu you will be able to assign it directly if it’s a device that has a template supplied. Otherwise, just choose Generic Controller from this menu.

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Set the MIDI channel of the device in the Port box by clicking, holding and dragging the mouse up or down. It’s also possible to set dedicated MIDI channels to control things like Omni Preview, Song Marker Jump and Generator Mute in this window, if you have additional controllers connected for these purposes.

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MT Tutorial MIDI matters in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step MIDI matters (cont.)

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In the main window, go to the Transport panel and right click on the Record button to access the recording filter. Make sure that Score is selected so that notes will be captured. By default, recordings will go into the Piano Roll editor for a track. Here you can change this to send notes to the Step Sequencer if you like.

The simplest way of inputting MIDI doesn’t actually involve an input device at all, just the mouse. Go to the Step Sequencer and set the length of the pattern using the box at the top left, check the master tempo of the project and edit if necessary. Then click the buttons in each channel to trigger a note at a specific point.

That’s fine for beats but for anything melodic you’ll need to be creative. Try creating a bass instrument – it will appear in the Step Sequencer window. Select it and then click on the Keyboard Editor button at the top right hand corner of the Pattern window. This allows you to use the mouse to easily enter multiple chromatic notes.

This editor has a few more tricks up its sleeve, such as tiny portamento switches at the top of each note lane, denoted by triangles. You can also apply swing to the whole pattern using the tiny variable slider at the top of the window, and activate looping for the pattern with the loop button by the length box.

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MIDI matters in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step MIDI matters (cont.)

Next to the Keyboard Editor button is a Graph Editor button. Press this to reveal a window that lets you control the CCs for any of the notes in your pattern. Use the mouse to drag up or down to make individual notes louder or quieter using the pencil tool. Drag the Pattern window to make it longer if necessary.

The slider at the base of the Graph window can be moved to reveal other CC parameters including Pan, Release, Mod and Shift. Use the pencil tool to draw in controller data for any of these and make your part more dynamic and interesting rather than just a straightforward set of notes. Draw in a zero value to delete data.

As an alternative you might well want to use a MIDI keyboard to input MIDI note data. With your device set up, right click on the Record button and make sure that you are set to send data to the Piano Roll, by ensuring Record To Step Sequencer is off. Then play some notes and record them, perhaps with a countdown.

There’s more you can do with recording and programming in the Piano Roll editor. For example, if you go to the Options menu and then the Chord section, you can draw in any of a number of complex chords just by clicking with the mouse – great for sounding like a pro player.

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MT Tutorial MIDI matters in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step MIDI matters (cont.)

Another way to create music is to play or draw in some simple notes and then apply MIDI processing to them. Try this by inputting some notes into the Piano Roll editor and then from the Options menu choosing Tools > Arpeggiate or pressing Alt & A. You will see an arpeggiator window plus some controls.

Use the arpeggiator control window to load a preset and then tweak it. You can dial in different kinds of settings to make simple parts more complex while keeping them in time. You might not think of this as recording MIDI, but it is in the sense that you are creating notes out of nowhere and using them in a pattern.

You can try the same trick with other tools from the Tools menu. Try, for example, selecting some notes by dragging around them and then choosing the Flam, Strum or Claw tools. Each one introduces some tweakable new patterns to the proceedings and helps you to generate new parts with minimum effort.

Another option is to quickly enter MIDI notes using your computer’s keyboard. This can be done by going to the Options menu and checking that Typing Keyboard To Piano is switched on, or pressing Alt & T. Now you will find that your keys trigger notes in a chromatic fashion, which is handy for monophonic parts and beats.

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MT Tutorial MIDI matters in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step MIDI matters (cont.)

PRO TIP… CLICKS When recording you’ll want to use a click track. If you right click on the Tempo field you can access a range of shortcuts to tempos, a tap tempo option and even an option to link the project’s tempo to a controller so it can be sped up or slowed down dynamically on the fly.

If you return to the Step Sequencer window you can right click on any sound source and choose to fill the sequence with every 2, 4 or 8 steps. This is a quick way of creating beats, and data can be shifted around or randomized once it’s inside the sequencer to quickly alter your beats, melodies or riffs.

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PRO TIP… THE BUFFER A three minute buffer records all note activity from external controllers and keyboard to Piano. This can be dumped to the Piano roll at any time with the Dump Score Log To Selected Pattern command in the Tools Menu. So you need never lose a performance again, even if you were just noodling!

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PRO TIP… PARAMETER LINKS You can link almost any parameter on any virtual instrument to a connected external MIDI controller. Simply right click on the desired command and select to link it, and a window will open allowing you to do this. This is great for recording automation as well as other parameter changes.

MT Tutorial MIDI editing in FL Studio

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 3

MIDI editing in FL Studio

Getting control of your MIDI parts is the first step to making great music in FL Studio, as Hollin Jones reports…

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L Studio is one of the most powerful DAWs around when it comes to working with MIDI. In the previous workshop, we looked at how to get MIDI data into the application using various techniques, and now we will explore the many ways in which you can work with that data once it is inside the Piano Roll editor. The great thing about MIDI is that it is virtually weightless and almost infinitely malleable. It can be copied, pasted, shifted, tweaked and reassigned with a few clicks, all the while taking up virtually no file space at all. And with the wealth of virtual instruments that FL Studio provides, you won’t be short of new ways to generate sound. Once MIDI is inside the Piano Roll editor, you can work with it in many different ways. The Tools menu, accessible by clicking at the top left corner of the editor window, contains lots of handy features including articulations, quantizing and chopping, and shortcuts to create flam, strum and other effects as well as scaling levels and introducing randomization to a part. New notes can be drawn in, of course, and along the base of this window you will find a controller lane. Right click on

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this and you reveal the different parameters that can be set here, including note pan, velocity and pitch, and channel volume, pitch and pan. The Piano Roll editor has other talents too, letting you draw in slide and portamento data as well as slicing up notes in the grid. It’s also possible, by clicking on a generator’s name in the

MIDI is weightless and almost infinitely malleable, and takes no file space at all step sequencer list, to reassign any MIDI pattern to play any instrument, or indeed to clone it and duplicate the pattern using a second generator, perhaps tweaking the pattern to create some variation as you go. Further tricks include using the LFO Tool to draw LFO shapes into the Event Editor of the Piano Roll window and using the Claw Machine to modify existing MIDI parts to create new variations. So, working with MIDI in FL Studio is very rewarding. MT

MIDI editing in FL Studio Tutorial MT FOCUS ON… MIDI TOOLS Many of the tools that you use to work with MIDI in the Piano Roll editor can also be found in the toolbar that appears at the top of the Playlist window. Here, they have similar functions such as the ability to draw or paint entire patterns into the playlist, delete, mute or move patterns and indeed slice patterns up for easier arrangement across the timeline. MIDI files can be output from FL Studio using the File > Export menu and then choosing MIDI File. These can be imported into any other DAW, so you might for example use FL Studio’s great generators and MIDI processing tools to create backing parts, then export them to send to someone else to use to trigger the plug-ins they are using in their own setup. If they too are using FL Studio you can, of course, send them raw project data.

MT Step-by-Step MIDI editing

When you have programmed or recorded your MIDI part, open it in the Piano Roll editor by right clicking on the generator’s name and choosing Piano Roll. Use the Zoom tool to select a range and zoom in on it, or double click to zoom out to see the whole part. Now you’re ready to do some MIDI editing.

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The majority of MIDI commands in FL Studio work on the selected notes, whether that’s one single MIDI note or the whole clip, and you can use the Select tool to choose which notes you work with. Select one or more notes and then go to the Options dropdown menu and the Edit section.

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MT Tutorial MIDI editing in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step MIDI editing (cont.)

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From this menu you can perform some useful tasks, including transposing selected notes up or down, muting or unmuting them and shifting them left or right. You can also duplicate, delete, cut and copy selected notes. If you have selected the controller area you will also see the option to insert controller values in this menu.

Mouse over any note and you get a four directional arrow tool that can be used to place the note on any other note lane. Mouse to the right hand edge of any note and you can drag it to the right to make it longer. If you grab multiple notes and perform any of these actions, all the notes are affected by the same amount.

The Draw tool can be used to input individual new notes and the Paint tool can be used to paint in a range of notes using a sweeping motion with the mouse. This is useful for quickly creating rapid successions of notes say, for example, for making a repeated kick drum part. It’s also handy for monophonic bass parts.

When drawing in new notes or moving existing ones, snap settings are important because they affect the way the timing of the notes is controlled. Click the magnet icon at the top left corner of the Piano Roll editor to set how notes will snap, from a fine resolution to snapping to bar markers.

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MIDI editing in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step MIDI editing (cont.)

At the base of the Piano Roll editor window is the Controller editor, where you can enter parameters to vary the way notes are generated. Right click on the bottom left hand corner of this window, or left click on the Target Control menu from the window’s title bar to reveal a list of available controller parameters.

Here, for example, we have drawn in filter cutoff modulation by selecting it from the target menu then simply used the mouse to change the values at certain points in the pattern. The parameters available to you will depend on the generator you are working on, though things like channel controls are common to all generators.

The Piano Roll window contains a Tools menu revealed by clicking on the spanner icon at the top left corner. Here there are various options for manipulating your MIDI parts. The first options are Quick Legato and Articulate, which allow you to apply staccato and legato to all selected notes in order to change their playing style.

In the Articulator window you can precisely control the way the selected notes will be changed. You can choose a Length Alteration Style from the Options menu and then specify a multiplication factor, gap and variation amount. Hit Accept and the notes will be changed accordingly. It’s a quick way to tweak performances.

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MT Tutorial MIDI editing in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step MIDI editing (cont.)

Further down the Tools list you will find the Quantize tool, vital for any kind of MIDI-based music-making. Select it to reveal the Quantizer window. You can load a groove template, by clicking on the menu of that name. This is a great way to bring a specific type of swing – like the Amen break – to your beats and other MIDI parts.

Make further settings for quantization by tweaking the other controls in the window. You can change the start time, sensitivity, duration and even quantize the different parameter levels including pan, volume and pitch controllers. Hit Accept to hear the changes – you can always undo this and try again with a different value if you like.

Moving down the list of MIDI tools you will find a range of specialised processors. The first is an arpeggiator which has many presets available. Load one up or start from scratch and use the window controls to tweak the results. You can take simple MIDI parts and make them sound complex and interesting by adding arpeggiaton.

The other MIDI tools can be more useful for certain types of instrument than others. For example the Strum command, which processes MIDI to make it appear to have been strummed, is obviously better suited to a guitar. Similarly Flam is better on drums. But you are free to try any effect and you may get some unexpectedly great results.

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The Limit option is an interesting one. This allows you to restrict the MIDI notes within any given pattern to a specific scale or range of notes. It’s useful if, for example, you have recorded or generated a complex part but want to quickly get rid of any notes or accidentals that may not fit with the scale of the piece as a whole.

Double click on any MIDI note to reveal its properties. Here you can change pan, velocity, release, mod x y and pitch of a note as well as activating slide and portamento. You can also manually enter a note duration. These are good for accurately setting up a note more precisely than playing from a keyboard would allow.

In the Piano Roll editor, go to the title bar and click Target Track selector. This shows a list of all the channels that can accept Piano Roll input. From here you can quickly select another Piano Roll to view and work on without having to open a new window. If you want to open multiple windows for more flexibility, this is possible as well.

As we have noted before, MIDI can be edited directly from the Step Sequencer view as well, by using the Graph and Keyboard editor windows that can be revealed from the top right corner of the window. These can be used to quickly change notes or draw in controller data such as pan, velocity or mod x and y.

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MT Tutorial Audio recording in FL Studio

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 4

Audio recording in FL Studio

Getting audio, or real sounds, into FL Studio is a must. Luckily we have the complete guide right here…

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L Studio comes in a number of editions, with the Producer Edition being the one that has full audio-recording features. As good as the MIDI sequencer on FL Studio is, most users will find it incredibly useful to be able to capture audio parts into their projects, whether it’s a simple guitar line, a full vocal track or even multitracking a live band. It’s often in blending real and synthesized sounds that the most interesting results are achieved, and you can then process any audio using the many supplied audio effects. FL Studio Producer Edition has two main methods for recording audio, plus a third technique for printing audio internally. If you are working with one or just a couple of audio parts, or working with a loop, it’s recommended to use the Edison recorder module. This acts as a sort of mini wave recorder and editor and has a range of sample editing tools. It can then be triggered inside the Playlist, a bit like a very advanced version of a MIDI hardware sampler setup. You can use as many instances of Edison as you like. If you are recording longer parts or multitracking audio through a multiinput audio interface, perhaps a drum

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kit or several musicians at once, it can be a better idea to record arm mixer tracks in the Playlist and record directly into these. This is a more conventional, linear approach to recording and is preferred by some. Although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Edison, it’s better for some kinds of audio recording tasks.

Most users will find it incredibly useful to capture audio parts into their projects Last but not least, using the software’s internal routing features you can ‘freeze’ audio tracks internally to new, simple audio parts. This is really useful for conserving CPU power on tracks where you might have lots of effects going, so that you can lower your buffer size for more latency-free recording of new parts. However you approach audio recording in FL Studio Producer Edition, there’s sure to be something for you to learn, so read on! MT

Audio recording in FL Studio Tutorial MT FOCUS ON… ‘PRINTING’ It’s possible to ‘print’ audio parts internally inside Fl Studio. This can be done in realtime or non-realtime modes, with the latter providing a slower but higher quality render. Essentially what you do is record arm the mixer tracks you wish to record, then in the Mixer menu’s Disk Recording submenu, select Auto Create Audio Tracks as this will place a copy of the track into the playlist after recording has completed. From the Disk Recording submenu, choose Render To Wave File, set the required options and press Go. There is also an option in the Export Project menu called Split Mixer Tracks which will create a separate WAV file for each track in a project : great for creating stems for moving a project to another app, or for backup.

MT Step-by-Step Audio recording

FL Studio should record from your built-in soundcard, but you should use a dedicated interface for recording and playback, even if this is just a simple 2x2 USB device. To record multiple tracks at once you will need the corresponding number of physical inputs. Go to the Audio Preferences and check your device is set up.

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Set your buffer size so that you get as little latency as possible when playing a sound in from a mic or a guitar. Generally this means a smaller buffer. To avoid feedback you will need to switch off any speakers and use headphones to monitor on (unless you DI an instrument, say by plugging a guitar straight into the interface).

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MT Tutorial Audio recording in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step Audio recording (cont.)

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Unless you have customised your setup you should find Edison inside the Misc folder of your Plugin Database in the Browser. First we will look at recording into Edison, so create an instance by dragging it into your project. Or, click on the Record button on the Transport panel to be shown recording options.

Click to choose to record into the Edison module and one will be created, if you haven’t already created one. FL Studio will show you audio input levels at the top left and also in the mixer if you happen to have that open. Check your levels – you should be aiming for a decent signal, into the yellow but not hitting the red at the top.

There are various options for how to record: On Input, On Playback or Now being the main ones. To record along with a click, activate the metronome or have a beat playing in a track, then press the record button in Edison and perform. The sounds you make will be captured and you will see the waveform display update.

The other options can be useful to know about. On Input allows you to set a threshold trigger level by left clicking on the peak meter and dragging up and down. You will see the level displayed in the Info area at the top left of the app. On Play will start recording when play is pressed – useful for recording multiple takes.

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Audio recording in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Audio recording (cont.)

In the Max box in Edison you can set the maximum recording time. Since it operates in RAM, it’s better suited to working with shorter sections of audio than long takes. For that, use the Mixer recording mode. Activate the loop button on Edison’s transport if you want to loop playback within the module.

There are lots of tools in Edison to work with your audio. If you click on the button with the spanner icon you can access a range of functions including time and pitch stretching, normalization, noise gating and more. Interestingly, at the bottom of this list is the option to analyse the clip and send it to the Piano Roll as score data.

Under the Sequencing section at the base of this menu is an option to send the audio clip to the playlist or to send it to the selected channel. These are both ways to take captured and edited audio clips and make them part of a project. Use Edison to work on audio clips prior to sending them elsewhere in a project.

At the bottom left corner of Edison is a tiny button that, when clicked, provides access to a File menu. As well as getting to the audio processing functions from the previous step, this allows you to import a sample from your hard drive into Edison and also export the current sample as a file out to your desktop.

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MT Tutorial Audio recording in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step Audio recording (cont.)

To edit other parameters of an audio part such as envelopes, use the tiny buttons running underneath the main waveform display. Here you can set things like panning, volume and stereo envelopes plus an all-purpose envelope which can be assigned to parameters like setting volume fades or pans within a clip.

Use Region Tools to analyse audio clips so that they can be made more flexible. In Edison’s toolbar, click the Regions button for options. These include audio slicing, loop selection and the ability to manually identify a downbeat. These will help FL Studio accurately incorporate rhythmic and other loops into a project.

The second main way to record audio is to place it into a mixer track by using the shortcut of clicking on the Record icon in the Transport and choosing it, or opening the mixer. For a track, select it and then go to the Input menu at the top right and choose the input. To multitrack, assign each input to its own mixer track.

Click on the tiny disk icon at the base of an audio track and you will be prompted to set a record destination location for the audio that is captured in that track. This can be handy for sending different takes to different locations. All drums to one folder for example, all vocals to another and so on.

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Audio recording in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Audio recording (cont.)

It’s possible to send the signal from one channel to another using the Send button in the mixer. You could, for example, record several versions of the same take, but process each one differently using effects. It would also be possible to set a separate record location for each one, giving you more control over your recordings.

Now when you press Record in the transport your audio is captured directly as a clip into the Playlist. This is perfect for longer recordings since it records directly to disk. The tools that you use to edit MIDI clips in the playlist can also be used to manipulate the audio takes.

To record in a loop in the Playlist, do as follows. Go to the Recording Panel and select the button for Blend Recording / Overdub. Select Song Mode and then create a loop area using the markers in the Playlist. To toggle audibility of recorded parts as you loop, go to Options and turn Blend Recorded Notes on or off.

To edit a recorded audio clip in the Playlist, simply double click it and you will open its control panel from where you can change almost anything about it. From the waveform display at the base of this window you can drag and drop the clip anywhere into the Playlist area to duplicate it.

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MT Tutorial Audio editing in FL Studio

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 5

Audio editing in FL Studio

Once your sound is recorded, FL Studio lets you manipulate it in any way you can think of. Time to get editing…

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n the last of these MusicTech Guide To… workshops we looked at the different ways you could capture audio into FL Studio. Once it’s there, you will almost certainly need to edit it in some way, either to correct any problems with performance or timing, or to make it more flexible than a regular audio clip. This might be, for example, so that it can have a groove extracted or be replicated as a MIDI part. FL Studio has a range of tools available to help you with this. The more basic ones deal with things like normalization of a clip, reversing or fading clips. The Channel Settings window also lets you control

FOCUS ON… WAVES Edison is able to show you waveforms in a regular fashion or as a spectral display, which gives you much greater information about the intensity of specific frequencies in a clip, rather than just the amplitude of the sound over time. It’s also useful for specific tools like acquiring the noise profile of an audio clip and subsequently removing specific sounds from it or gating it to get rid of unwanted background noise. Other tools like Izotope’s RX or Sony’s Spectralayers have spectral capabilities, (Izotope’s Iris synth actualy uses spectral technology to generate sound) but there are some built right into FL Studio as well.

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time and pitch stretching, which are both essential for making audio parts conform to your project even if they start off being recorded in the wrong key or at the wrong speed. For detailed editing you can move to the Edison module, FL Studio’s dedicated audio manipulation tool. Here you will find a much more advanced selection of functions that can be used to take control of audio parts before they are played back using the sequencer. The spectrographic view in particular is handy for understanding what’s going on inside an audio clip and how to fix any potential problems. In the Playlist editor it’s also possible to edit audio clips insofar as they are sequenced as blocks of data on a timeline. So between these various tools and techniques you will find it quite possible to manipulate every aspect of your audio track whether it’s simply normalizing a clip that’s been recorded too quietly, removing hiss or rumble using effects and EQ, or slicing loops to the sequencer to make them playable as instruments in their own right. Read on to find out how it all works. MT

Audio editing in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Audio editing

You will need to have an audio clip either recorded or imported so it’s inside a project. Then click on it to open the Channel Settings window and you will see a number of options. Start by going to the very base of the window, and experimenting with using the In and Out knobs to create a fade at the start or end of the clip.

Another interesting option is the third knob, titled Pogo. If you turn this to the left or right you will hear that your audio clip speeds up or slows down as it goes. It’s sort of like a rubber band effect, and can sound really cool. To reset any of these knobs back to their default position, hold the alt key while clicking on them.

Moving up the window you will see more processing tools. Try clicking the Reverse, Normalize or Fade/Swap stereo buttons to make FL Studio pre-compute these effects on the clip. Normalization is useful for when a clip is too quiet, to raise the volume without having to push the channel’s fader all the way up.

Above this is the Time-stretching section which contains both time and pitch controls. The two can work independently. Move the Pitch knob to change pitch but not time, and the time knob to alter duration but not pitch (you can alter both). In the Stretch Type menu choose the algorithm suited to the material you’re stretching.

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MT Tutorial Audio editing in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step Audio editing (cont.)

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If you right click on the waveform icon in the Channel Settings window you can choose to save the file out to a new location. You can also drag the wave display into a project to place the track into the sequencer. To make more detailed edits, right click and choose Edit, which will open the Edison module.

Edison provides more tools for editing, most of which are accessed via the right-click menu and then going to Tools. These work on the selected part of the waveform so you can select some or all of it. Some are similar to those found in the Channel Settings window. You can do more with channels, declicking and normalization.

The gating functions are particularly useful. Using these you can acquire a noise threshold to identify parts of a clip where you want to gate out unwanted background noise, then either gate it in real time or have it trimmed out of the clip – great for vocals, where background bleed can be removed when no singing is taking place.

The Regions menu is useful too and allows you to place markers in regions inside audio clips and also slice them up. Go to the Detection section and you can choose to slice a clip up using different sensitivity settings. From here you can also detect beats and pitch regions, making it easier to slice a clip up.

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Audio editing in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Audio editing (cont.)

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Another handy function in the Region menu is called Set First Downbeat. Choose this and you can place a marker inside any audio clip where the first beat of the bar occurs. This is great for correctly-slicing and aligning rhythmic clips which may not at first be correctly cut, and may have an irregular length.

Some of the audio tools are also available from Edison’s toolbar. Try, for example, applying an effect directly to a clip using the EQ, Blur or Reverb buttons. This renders an effect onto a clip so that it is always played back as part of it rather than working as an insert on an audio channel – useful for reducing CPU overhead.

Click on the icons at the bottom left of Edison’s window to set envelope parameters for an audio clip. These include pan, volume and stereo separation and an assignable envelope. Right click to add a point and right click on a point to choose a curve or shape for that point. Use envelopes to modulate parameters in realtime.

Using the Tools or contextual menu you can go to the Sequencing section and choose to send the clip to the Playlist as an audio clip or send it to the selected channel. So once you have made your edits you can make the clip a part of your track. You can always re-open it in Edison at any point to make changes.

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MT Tutorial Making beats in FL Studio

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 6

Making beats in FL Studio

FL Studio is absolutely fantastic for making beats, and there’s more than one way to go about it…

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eats are at the heart of most music, be they sparse acoustic sounds or full-on electronic assaults. FL Studio provides you with a number of great tools to shape your beats. There’s Drumaxx, DrumSynth Live and Groove Machine as well as support for any third party plug-ins you might add. And the multiple programming options mean that whether you prefer to play your beats in using the mouse, a step sequencer or an auto generator, there’s sure to be something that works for you. In addition to the various virtual instruments provided for making beats,

FOCUS ON… PLAYING By connecting a MIDI controller to FL Studio you can get more hands-on with your beat creation. This might be as simple as a USB keyboard with drum pads, a dedicated drum pad controller or a full MIDI drum kit that you can play in the same way as a real kit. Go into the MIDI setup and see if your controller is natively supported. If not you can add it and make MIDI assignments manually, or you may find that the manufacturer has created an FL Studio-specific template that you can download and adapt to suit. Programming beats using a more drum-centric hardware unit is a great way to get better sounding beats.

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you can also import your own loops and slice them up or time stretch them to make new variations and patterns. When you have your beats in the Playlist, you can quantize them. Straight quantization will give you a more mechanical feel, which you might want for certain types of electronic music like house or techno. For a more human feel, say perhaps for hip hop, dubstep or even rock you can add groove quantization and swing so that the music doesn’t sound like it’s been made by a machine. FL Studio also makes it easy to layer up patterns, create variations and add percussion and other, non-drum sounds to your beats to keep things interesting. The bundled plug-ins allow for drum synthesis as well as sample-based beat creation. When you have a kit built from synth modules you can really get to the heart of the sound, detuning and morphing each element of the kit in ways that aren’t possible with samples, in order to get a really unique sound. So, however you approach beat making in FL Studio, there’s sure to be something on offer that will get you the best results possible. MT

Making beats in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Beat production

Start by setting your project tempo and calling up an instance of one of FL Studio’s bundled drum plug-ins. We have chosen Fruity DrumSynth Live, which is a simple drum synth for making electronic beats. Open the Piano Roll editor and use the Pen tool to draw in some beats. They will default to one measure in length.

Drag the boundary of any note to change its duration, or drag the note from its centre to change its position in time or move it to another drum channel. If you double click on any note you can open the note properties window where you can set various parameters including velocity and release on a note-by-note basis.

The Piano Roll and step sequencer tend to give you very rigid results which is good for some types of music. To get a more human feel, go to the Piano Roll’s Tools menu and choose Quantize. In the lower part of the window you can adjust quantize strength, which may be enough for some purposes.

For a better groove, click on the Groove Template File Load icon and you will see a number of preset groove templates. These will affect not only the timing of the beats but also the velocity, and alter what kind of emphasis is placed on the different beats. Try a hip hop groove for a nice swing, for example.

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MT Tutorial Making beats in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step Beat production (cont.)

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Next try loading an instance of the Drumaxx drum synth. Go to the Kit Selection menu and choose from the bundled kits. Here we have chosen a drum and bass kit. Program a pattern in using whatever your preferred method is and then you can start working with the modules that are generating the sound to customise the kit.

To swap out a drum for a different sound, click on the arrows by the name of the drum module to reveal a file browser. This should point you at the Drumaxx patches folder and you can try some different sounds. Repeat for any drums you want to swap until you have a kit that’s working for you.

As well as programming beats using FL Studio’s regular techniques you can use the built-in sequencer in Drumaxx, which is a more old school way of putting a pattern together. Select a drum module and then in the 16-step sequencer bar, click to add notes for every hit you want to add. Repeat for each drum module you want to include.

You can make patterns up to 64 steps in length and also add equalization using the multiple dials along the bottom, and limiting using the section next to EQ to beef up the sound of the beats. Also use the multiple controls in the centre of the instrument to tweak the sound of each individual drum hit.

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Making beats in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Beat production (cont.)

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Try adding some special fx or percussion to your drum parts. Add an instance of GMS Groove machine and go to the Special FX folder where you’ll find some synth hits and other sounds good to incorporate into rhythm patterns. Add some hits to the beats you already have running and repeat the process to start layering things up.

You can use audio file drum loops too. Go to the File menu and choose Import > Beat to Slice and navigate to a drum loop stored on your hard drive. Choose how to import the beat. We have chosen Slicer channels as it gives more freedom to play. This opens the file in Fruity Slicer and chops it up for us.

With the sliced up beat now automatically mapped across your MIDI keyboard you can play it in any sequence you like. This effectively lets you turn any sampled beat or other loop into an instrument. You can use the Pitch Shift and Slice Fade tools inside the Fruity Slicer to alter the behaviour of the slices.

Double click to open the pattern in the Piano Roll editor and all the usual tools like Quantization are available to you here too, so you can re-quantize the new loop with a fresh groove. You can also re-order the MIDI notes inside the pattern to change the slice playback order, which makes it easy to quickly create new grooves.

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MT Tutorial Working with bass sounds

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 7

Working with bass sounds

Now we’ve done the beats in FL Studio, it’s time to turn our attention to the bass. How low can we go?

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he power and energy of almost all music comes from the beats and the bass – especially true of electronic music. Last time we looked at beats so now we’re going to explore working with bass in FL Studio. Many of the synths that come with the software are great for making bass sounds and it also supports specialised third-party models. Synths tend to be good at bass as they can generate low frequencies and, as the sound remains virtual, there are no distortion issues. Even more generic

FOCUS ON… SPECTRAL ANALYSIS One of the most important ways to understand what’s going on in your mix, especially where bass is concerned, is to use some kind of spectral or visual analysis of the signal before it leaves the DAW and goes to your speakers. By applying a plug-in like FL’s own Wave Candy across any channel or ideally across the master channel, you can see how each part of the frequency spectrum of the track is behaving and whether you need to make any adjustments. Using your ears as a guide is also important, but the way you hear music will depend on your surroundings as well as the speakers you are listening on. Analysing the signal digitally in this way helps you understand it more fully and thus ensures it plays back more accurately on a range of different systems.

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synths have bass patches to use to build your own basses from scratch. If you’re after a more realistic bass sound you could look at a specialised plug-in like Spectrasonics’ Trilian or one of the many Kontakt-based electric basses from Native Instruments, either of which would do a better job than the simple BooBass that comes with FL Studio. If you’re looking to record your own bass parts you can do that live as well. Whichever route you take, there are plenty of tools to help you get a bigger bass sound. These include EQ and compression and things like amp simulation which helps add realism. The key thing when mixing bass is to retain as much energy as possible without letting it overpower the rest of the track or suck the life out of it. You might use the side-chain compression feature of a plug-in to selectively compress only certain parts of a bass signal, or indeed a multiband compressor to rein in certain elements of it while leaving others intact. However you approach bass in FL Studio, read on to unlock its secrets… MT

Working with bass sounds Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Bass tips

First off you’ll want to find a bass sound that works for you. Many of FL Studio’s bundled synths have bass patches or the ability to generate bass sounds. Here we have loaded in an instance of the classic TS404 bass synthesizer, chosen a patch and then programmed in some notes so it plays back.

If you like your bass parts a little old school you can always open the Channel Settings window for this or any instrument and go to the Function tab. There you will find an Arpeggiator section where you can activate and configure arpeggiation and repeats for the part, giving it a more classic effect.

If you’re after something more complex, try loading up an instance of the Toxic Biohazard synth and choosing a bass patch. This is more meaty and offers the ability to add multiple effects onboard and use up to six oscillators to create a truly enormous bass sound. There’s also a mod matrix for extra flexibility.

For a more realistic bass sound, investigate the Sakura bass plug-in. This has some excellent onboard controls for shaping your bass including a string damping section, resonator control and some built-in effects. It’s a good alternative to using a real bass guitar and you can program it using the MIDI tools supplied.

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MT Tutorial Working with bass sounds MT Step-by-Step Bass tips (cont.)

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You can also record your bass tracks as live audio, or use a third party plug-in. Once you have your part recorded you will want to start to shape the bass sound. Start by going to the effect preset chooser and open the mixer. Locate a compressor – we have the Fruity Compressor – and drop it onto the instrument’s channel.

Your settings will depend entirely on the kind of bass sound you are working with but for this short, electronic house style bass we want to use some relatively gentle compression, say a ratio of around 2.5:1, and a fairly fast attack and release since the sound is short and sharp. For more acoustic sounds, use a slower release.

Your aim should be to rein the bass in a little but without sucking the life out of it. If a simple compressor isn’t working, try a multiband compressor like FL’s own Fruity model. This allows you to apply different levels of compression to the low, mid and high bands, taming frequencies while letting others breathe more naturally.

There is a range of presets supplied, some of which are bass-specific. For synth basses you might find yourself compressing the bottom end of the signal more heavily while leaving the mid and upper ranges more free to cut through. The nature of sub basses means they can be tricky to tame, so special treatment is required.

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Working with bass sounds Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Bass tips (cont.)

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As well as compression you will need to use EQ to process your bass parts in order to make them play nicely with the rest of the track. It’s advisable to use a proper EQ for this, so maybe try the Fruity Parametric EQ, or a third party model. Using one with at least five bands should ensure better control over the different frequencies.

To liven things up a bit, adding some crunch or warmth to a bass track is often a good idea. Use one of the bundled distortion or overdrive plug-ins, or a specialised model. You don’t have to go mad – just adding a little crunch can really sound great and remove the artificiality of computer-generated instrument parts.

A multi effect can be good for dirtying up your bass parts. Here we have added an instance of Image Line’s Hardcore multi-stage guitar effect pedal plug-in and created a chain that adds a range of effects to really spice things up. Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig is another good effect for achieving this.

Remember that you can also manage all the plug-ins associated with any track in the mixer by selecting the channel and then using the Inspector section to the right, which also lets you draw in a handy master EQ curve for the whole channel. Be aware of how many EQs you are using and try to limit them.

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MT Tutorial Working with lead sounds

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 8

Working with lead sounds

Getting a good lead sound into your FL Studio mixes can really help your tracks stand out from the crowd…

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e often talk about ‘lead’ sounds without ever stopping to think what the term means. With instrumental music it is taking the place of a vocal in carrying the melody and adding catchy hooks to the song. Even when vocals are present, lead sounds still play a part, whether filling in breakdowns or middle eights or providing hook lines to underscore the vocal melody. As such, lead sounds tend to have certain characteristics. They occupy a similar frequency range to vocals, which is anywhere between the mid and high range, and tend to be either percussive, attacking or both.

FOCUS ON… MULTIBAND When mixing or mastering in FL Studio, consider using a multiband compressor across the output bus of your project in addition to a limiter and EQ. Strapped across the master channel, it can help you to tame difficult or unruly mixes, specifically targeting one or more frequencies that may be jumping out of a mix. You can also use this type of effect on any channel you like say, for example, where a synth sound runs the gamut from very low to very high frequencies, and needs carefully compressing as a result.

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As you might imagine, FL Studio has tons of lead sounds supplied as part of its arsenal of synths and other instruments and, of course, you can record in any sounds in that you like. Tweaking existing presets to make them suit your song is pretty straightforward and you can even create your own sounds from scratch in many of the synths. When it comes to mixing lead sounds they often benefit from being treated the same as vocals, which is to say that they need to be prominent and noticeable, while still working in the context of the track as a whole, and not overpowering any other elements. They usually benefit from some careful compression and EQ in addition to any other effects like reverb, delay or distortion you may be using. When you write lead lines you might start with a sequence or melody and then add other things like beats and basslines later, or you may do it the other way round, starting with a beat then adding a complementary lead part afterwards. Whichever way you do it, FL Studio has some excellent tools for helping you program and shape your lead parts and since it’s so flexible, it’s easy to quickly substitute one synth or patch for another. MT

Working with lead sounds Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Taking the lead

You can load up a lead preset in any synth, of course, but to really get a unique sound for your tracks it can be good to design your own, by starting from scratch or by modifying an existing preset. Try loading an instance of Wasp XT which is one of FL Studio’s simpler synths, and loading a preset. Here we have chosen Follow The Lead.

The building blocks of any synthesized sound begins with oscillators, and here there are three. Experiment with changing the waveforms used to generate the noise. You will see that the first two oscillators have four waveforms to choose from, and the third one has two. Use the Osc Mix slider to vary the amount of each signal present.

In the filter section to the left you can change the filter type. A low pass filter will give a more nasal, resonant effect which can be good for lead sounds that need to pierce through the rest of the track to be noticed. Raising the cutoff and resolution knobs will also have the effect of sharpening up the character of the sound.

To make the sound fade in more gradually when a note is pressed, go to the Amp and Filter Envelope sections and increase the amount of Attack knob on each one. To make the sound more immediate, lower these controls. Similarly, use the decay and sustain dials to control the way the sound behaves after a note is released.

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MT Tutorial Working with lead sounds MT Step-by-Step Taking the lead (cont.)

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To add a little oomph to this particular sound, go to the output section and add some drive, working with the tone and amount controls to determine how much bite is added to the signal. The Dual, Analog and White Noise buttons can also be activated to further fatten up the signal. In the next step we’ll add some effects.

Go to the Browser and locate the Plug-in Presets > Effects section. Here we have dropped an instance of Fruity Delay 2 onto our synth. This is a simple delay unit but works well on lead synth sounds, especially electronic types. It’s tempo synced and we can use the dry/wet control to determine how much delay is applied.

Next go to the Plug-in Database and choose to add something a little more extreme. Here we have chosen an instance of Hardcore, FL Studio’s guitar pedal and cabinet modelling suite. By flipping through its presets we can quickly dial in some crunch and compression that make our lead sound much meatier.

Swapping out pedals or adding new ones is easy by clicking on the chooser at the base of each pedal slot. Though you can, of course, use any effect you like, guitar effects can work really well on lead synth sounds. Try distortion, compression, delay and reverb and sync your delay tempo to the host tempo to keep everything in check.

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Working with lead sounds Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Taking the lead (cont.)

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For something even cooler, try adding an instance of the Effector module from the Plug-in Database. Select an effect type from the choices at the bottom and then use the X/Y grid to paint in a setting. This allows you to make some great-sounding effects and it works particularly well on lead sounds.

Subtractive synths often make for good lead sounds as they tend to have a directsounding character and are able to cut through a mix, as well as responding well to arpeggiation. Poizone is a good example of a synth with some excellent lead presets so load it up and have a dig around to see what you can find.

Another good synth for learning about the mechanics of patch-building is a simple one in the Plug-in Database called 3x Osc. As you might imagine this is a basic synth consists of three oscillators and not much else. Select a waveform for each oscillator and add some effects using the mixer, to create your own lead sound.

Even synths that aren’t specifically designed for leads can be adapted to make lead sounds. Here we have loaded an instance of Sawer which is mainly for basses but by transposing its oscillators up a few octaves and playing with filter cutoff and resonance it’s possible to make some really cool sounding leads as well as basses.

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MT Tutorial The creative use of effects

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 9

The creative use of effects

Getting a handle on using effects properly can make the difference between a good track and a great one…

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L Studio comes with a great selection of plug-ins for mangling and mashing up your audio. These range from more conventional tracking and mixing tools like compression, EQ and reverb to more outlandish stuff like the excellent Effector, Gross Beat and Fruity Scratcher. And the software can see any third party VST effects loaded on your system as well, so you can add anything you like to your setup.. . Understanding the audio processing effects available to you is at least as important as knowing which dial to turn on a synth to make it go from bleep to sweep. Standard, run of the mill

FOCUS ON… EXTRAS If you go into the Settings > File menu you will see the option to customise the search path that FL Studio uses to look for VST plug-ins. By adding a secondary plug-in folder here you can ensure that it correctly picks up all the additional models installed on your system. Demo versions of some of the plug-ins that come with your FL Studio install will generally function fully for a limited period of time before inserting a period of silence into the audio signal. Purchasing the plug-in, depending on which version of FL Studio you have, should unlock them and make them fully functional.

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samples or patches can be juiced up no end with the careful use of some choice plug-ins, and sometimes getting a really cool sound for a loop or a beat can define the sound of a track and inspire you to go off in other directions with it. Although it’s always good to get as much of the character of a sound as you can in place at the source, there’s nothing wrong with turning to effects postrecording to really spice things up and get a completely different flavour for your productions. Effector is one of the most interesting effects that comes with FL Studio. It’s a multi effect, meaning you can choose between 12 different effects per instance, though only one at once can be active, and use the X/Y grid to morph the character of the effect. To use more than one instance of Effector, simply load them up into slots on the channel. Like many of the effects in FL Studio it can be synced to the host tempo so things like LFO and delay effects can be made to stay in time even as you switch between different resolutions to change the character of the effect. Your system will happily run lots of effects and you can freeze or bounce channels down to free up resources if you want even more. Indeed, the sky is the limit! MT

The creative use of effects Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Using effects

Locate your track in the mixer and go to the Inserts pane to the far right. Click on the picker arrow to reveal a list of all the plug-in effects installed and available on your system. In this example we have a beat and we are going to insert an instance of Effector, so simply choose this from the list.

With the effect loaded on the snare channel, we choose the delay effect and then select a delay resolution using the numerical boxes along the right-hand edge. By clicking in the grid you can change the way the effect behaves. Using the Bypass button you can make the effect stay on or only come on when clicked.

Switch to an alternative effect from the chooser at the base of the plug-in window. Try Distortion, for example, and then use the dry/ wet control to vary the amount that is blended with the dry signal. Flip between the other effects and you’ll find it’s easy to dial in something cool sounding to liven up even dull sounds.

Now try loading up an instance of Hardcore on a channel. This guitar multi effect is capable of some really great crunch, warmth, overdrive and tone and is good for using on guitars, basses, synths, beats, vocals and much more. It can even be good to record your guitars clean, then add effects afterwards so they can be edited.

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MT Tutorial The creative use of effects MT Step-by-Step Using effects (cont.)

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Click on the name of a pedal in an effect slot to swap it out for a different kind of effect. You can also click on the cabinet model to select a different sort of amp to change the sound, and edit EQ by using the eight band sliders located by the top of the effect window.

To try out some extreme delays, look at the Fruity Delay Bank effect. Dial this in and you are able to create complex multi delays with variable feedback and filtering to add depth, movement and interest to your sounds. It works well on almost anything and you can take advantage of its host tempo-sync capabilities.

The Gross Beat plug-in which, like others, comes as a demo version depending on which FL Studio package you have bought, is great for gating and other rhythmic effects. Use the grid to draw in some variations and, from the area on the left, choose patterns and gating types to achieve something really cool sounding.

Effects don’t have to look flashy to be useful. Take the Pan-O-Matic, for example, which is able to place your sound precisely in the stereo field. Combined with using automation this can be useful for moving a sound around in relation to the listener for some interesting results.

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The creative use of effects Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Using effects (cont.)

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The Soundgoodizer is as good as it sounds and very simply adds maximization and enhancement with one of four presets and a large, variable amount knob. It’s subtle but effective and good to stick on all kinds of sources from drums and guitars to keyboards and vocals. Try using a moderate amount for the best results.

The Fruity Love Philter is a highly configurable filter plug-in that you can use to morph your sounds. Using the different control sections at the bottom left you can use envelopes based on LFO, modulation and other parameters to change the sound dynamically in real time. Try this on drum loops and vocals.

Reverb is a key mixing tool and it can be used as well as abused. Try the Fruity Reverb 2 and drag the rotating display to change the size and shape of the reverb effect. Try creating a really huge reverb and maybe even automating the dry/ wet amount so that the amount of reverb applied varies over time.

Last but not least, try the Fruity Blood Overdrive effect to add some bite and crunch to sounds like synths, guitars, drums and even vocals. Whack up the preamp amount and the colour control to create something really fierce sounding. This effect might look simple but it sounds huge.

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MT Tutorial Mixing in FL Studio

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 10

Mixing in FL Studio

Mixing is the key to getting a great-sounding track and FL Studio has all the tools you need. Hollin Jones gives you the lowdown…

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ixing is one of the most crucial parts of the music production process. As strange as it might sound, mixing is a combination of intuition and science. Your ears and your musical sense should tell you what is working or not working, but you will need the technical know how and an understanding of the tools at hand in order to fix any problems and get the best results you possibly can. In truth you should be performing mixing of one sort or another more or less the entire time when you’re composing and arranging music. To listen back over and

FOCUS ON: THE MASTER The Master channel in the mixer is a good place to add specific kinds of effects. In this example we have added EQ and a multiband compressor and, due to their location in the master channel’s insert slots, they are processing the output of the entire track. This is a form of ‘pre-mastering’ and some people like to use it, others don’t. It can be useful however, for just sweetening or fine tuning a mix, and the compression stage can be used to add audio ‘glue’ to the mix. Be careful not to overdo the processing here, as these kinds of effects can be used in a more targeted way in the next and final stage of the production process, mastering.

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over again and let a particular sound be inaudible or much too loud is madness and so you will be making constant adjustments and getting a decent ‘working mix’ going as you progress. The mixdown process is where you stop worrying about adding or removing new parts and focus on getting the balance of the tracks right. This also involves using the channel EQs available on each channel and the many plug-in effects available to you. The most commonly used mix tools are compression, EQ and a little reverb and delay although you are free to use any you like. As well as adding effects as inserts to individual channels in FL Studio you can add send effects which process multiple tracks through the same effect, and master effects that process the stereo output of the whole project at the same time. Be sparing with master effects as they have a big impact on the overall sound of the track. FL Studio supports automation – an important weapon in your arsenal, providing the ability to change levels, effects, panning and more in real time. You can even link mixer channels to the controls on a physical control surface in order to get better hands-on control over your projects. Time to mix… MT

Mixing in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Mixing in FL Studio

You should be happy with the instruments and arrangement of your project before approaching the mix stage and you’ll probably have a decent working mix going already. FL Studio provides you with lots of tools to take control over the balance of your tracks. Start by soloing up the drums or bass.

You can alter the layout and view of the mixer by going to the Tools menu and then the View submenu. It’s nice to turn the Scrolling Waveforms on as they show you when signal is present on a track and using the Wide Tracks and Big Meter options also makes things easier to manage. Maximise the mixer by dragging its edges out.

For any mixer channel you will see an insert effect and Control Area appear to the right hand side and this is contextual depending on which channel you select. Click on any of the effect insert slots and you are able to add an effect. The most common mix effects are EQ, compression and reverb.

At the far right edge of each insert slot is a mix level dial. You can alter to this to control the dry/wet blend of any effect, handy because you might not want to use an effect’s own level meter to do this. It can sometimes be preferable to have an effect running at full wetness but then blended in using the mixer itself.

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MT Tutorial Mixing in FL Studio MT Step-by-Step Mixing in FL Studio (cont.)

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Each track has its own EQ section built in and this can be accessed from the Inspector area underneath the insert effect slots. Click and drag with the mouse in the EQ box or use the small sliders and the three shelf controls to tweak and tailor the EQ settings to shape the frequency of the track.

You may well want to use a more precise EQ than the one found in the channel strip for the purposes of mixing. Here, for example, we have use an Insert slot to add an instance of the Fruity Parametric EQ 2 which affords us a much greater level of control over the precise behaviour of each frequency band. This is invaluable for mixing.

If you right click on any track in the mixer you are able to perform some useful actions. For example you might want to multiple select several tracks and then link them together using the Link option. This is handy for altering the levels of several tracks at the same time and by the same amount.

Another similar trick is to select Multiple Tracks and then right click and choose Create Submix To > and then choose one of the available insert channels in the mixer. This gives you control over the output of a number of different channels on a single fader and is also helpful for group processing those tracks.

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Mixing in FL Studio Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Mixing in FL Studio (cont.)

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It might seem trivial but the ability to assign icons to tracks in the mixer can actually be really useful. When you’re dealing with large, complex mixes and having to navigate the relatively small graphics in FL Studio, being able to see at a glance what any particular track is using its icon can be a real timesaver.

Right click on a track in the mixer and choose Create Automation Clip and you can create an automation lane in the Playlist for the track. If you right click on any Automation Keypoint you can choose its behaviour type and also assign it to control any mixer parameter, most obviously the fader level.

Right click once more on a channel’s fader and choose Link To Controller to open the controller window. You can choose to assign a MIDI controller device if you have one connected, or if you select Internal Controller, you can assign any of the automation envelopes to the channel. This is how you would remote control faders.

In the Browser you will find a section called Mixer Presets and this contains some handy effect and settings chains that you can drag and drop directly onto a mixer channel to create an instant effect like tape simulation or a processing setup designed specifically for an instrument type.

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MT Tutorial Automation and MIDI control

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 11

Automation and MIDI control

Getting hands-on control and automating your mixes can add those allimportant extras to your projects in FL Studio…

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t’s easy to take the power of modern music software for granted but the truth is that producers now have access to infinitely more tools than they would have had just a couple of decades ago. Most people are familiar with software synthesis, sampling and the like, but automation is perhaps one of the less obvious features. Nonetheless it’s an extremely useful thing to know about as it can add depth, interest and dynamism to your projects. Most parameters are automatable in FL Studio, even if it deals with automating its own plug-ins and third party VSTs in slightly different ways. As

FOCUS ON… PARAMETERS You can quickly zap your way to any automatable parameter from the Browser. Let’s say you have gone to the View menu and chosen to view either the generators or effects in use inside the project. Click on the one you want to view from the resulting graphical list that appears down the left hand side of the screen and you should see a list of its parameters appear. Right click on any of these and you can choose to quickly insert an automation clip linked to that control. This provides a more clinical way of assigning automation to instrument and effect parameters than digging around in their graphical user interfaces.

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well as instrument and effect controls you can automate mix parameters: from faders and panners to effect levels and more. Of course what you play and how it’s arranged is crucial but when listening critically to commercial tracks you’d be surprised how much automation is going on, whether it’s levels changing, sounds panning from left to right, varying the amount of an effect or the rate at which it repeats and so on. Back in the old days you would have had to do much of this physically during mixdown, which as you might imagine is a very delicate and risky process. Push the reverb dial slightly too far and you have to start the mixdown again. In software however there are no such risks. Everything can be precisely controlled to the finest level before you get to the stage of actually exporting a track. As well as moving controls around or painting data in you can also use a connected hardware MIDI controller to tweak any settings you like, and record the results as automation data. This is perhaps most useful when it comes to faders, so getting hands-on control of your mix by setting up a control surface is always desirable if you have the option. MT

Automation and MIDI control Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Automation and MIDI control

When automating plug-ins you have a couple of choices. If the plug is native to FL Studio you can right click on any of its automatable parameters – this should include most of them – and from the contextual menu choose Create Automation Clip. This will create a clip in the Playlist.

In the automation clip, drag the flat line up or down to set the constant level of the parameter. Right click to Add An Automation Point and then drag this in any direction in order to set its value at any given point. It’s easy to create ramps and parameter changes in FL Studio using this technique.

If you left click to Select An Automation Point and then hold the alt key while dragging up or down you will find that you are able to create a curve rather than a regular, uniform line between two points. These are useful for performing more organic transitions between values, say for effect levels, filter sweeps and so on.

Double click on any automation clip and you will open the Channel Settings window. Here you can affect the way the data behaves. By changing the Speed and Tension dials, for example, you can create a waveform style effect in the shape of the automation curves – perfect for creating regular modulation effects.

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The Shape, Pulse Width and Level dials will also affect the behaviour of the curves. Any automation clips that you clone will still be affected by changes you make to the original so you can create changes for one channel, copy them and have changes you make in the original automatically updated.

For non-native plug-ins there’s another method for creating automation clips. Move the parameter you want to work with then go to Tools > Last Tweaked > Create Automation Clip. This will link the parameter you moved with the newly-created clip and you can work with it as described in the previous steps.

FL Studio can display automation clips on the same channel as other Playlist data, so it can occasionally be difficult to see what’s going on. At the top left of the Playlist you will find a Focus Switcher. Clicking on the three options here lets you focus on audio, automation or pattern clips, bringing the selected data type to the front.

It’s also possible to filter and just view specific types of data in the pattern window. Use the dropdown menu at the bottom left hand corner to choose between the three types. This makes it easier to keep track of all the automation data – in this case – that’s in a project.

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MT Tutorial Automation and MIDI control MT Step-by-Step Automation and MIDI control (cont.)

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It’s also possible to pick up a parameter with recording running and move it in order to quickly create automation. Here, for example, we have put Record on and been prompted to choose a Record Type, then selected Automation. After this we move the mixer faders and the automation clips are recorded automatically.

The ‘Last tweaked…’ menu also allows you to assign any parameter to a connected MIDI control device. Go into this menu and then click on the Link To Controller option. It also works for the parameter previous to the last one clicked, which is in a separate menu.

In the resulting controller window you can set any parameter up to respond to a specific hardware MIDI control, or to an internal modulation or controller source by using the Internal option from the relevant section of the control window. You could assign any automation clip, for example, to control any other parameter.

There is support built-in for a range of MIDI control surfaces and you can set these up by going into the main Options menu, MIDI section and choosing from the list. It’s even possible to choose specific MIDI channels for previewing, performance mode and generator muting mode.

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MT Tutorial Mastering and exporting

FL Studio The MusicTech Guide: Part 12

Mastering and exporting

You’ve almost reached the end of the road, but how do you master and export your tracks in FL Studio? Hollin Jones reveals all…

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hen all the programming, recording, arranging and mixing is done on a track there’s still one process to go through and that’s mastering your music and exporting it ready for the world to hear. It’s a good idea to separate the mixing and mastering stages as they are different processes. Mixing is about balancing the elements of a track as well as you possibly can and the aim of mastering is to add volume and also get a nice EQ curve for the sound as a whole. When dealing with mastering you really want to be working on a single

FOCUS ON… ANALYSIS It’s a very good idea to use some kind of audio analysis plug-in both during mixdown and mastering. The reason is that although level meters are fine they only give you limited information about what’s really going on inside the signal you are working with. Tools like oscilloscopes, stereo meters and spectral analysers can help you understand issues like phasing or where part of your signal might be too loud or quiet. Simply relying on the room you are in and the speakers you are listening on isn’t really enough to get under the skin of a mix. Plug-ins like these don’t necessarily have to be expensive – Blue Cat Audio offers some for free on its website.

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stereo file and processing it alone, though it is possible to perform mastering on a whole project with multiple tracks. Processing a single track helps focus attention and means that you’re not tempted to start tweaking arrangements or levels of instruments – that should all have been done already. You might be using a mastering suite like Izotope’s Ozone or some combination of other effects. Mastering typically involves using single or multiband compression, EQ and limiting at the end of the signal chain. The limiter is also known as a maximiser as its purpose is to push a track as close to 0dB without clipping. This is a delicate process and you should aim for a good solid overall level but without crushing the track as this is fatiguing on the ears of the listener. When you are happy with the sound of the master you will want to export the track as a final, finished stereo file and this should be the one that you hold as the definitive version of the track. Use other software to compress it to MP3 and similar formats, but make sure you have a master copy at full quality and resolution. You can also export in various different formats so read on to find out how. MT

Mastering and exporting Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Mastering and exporting

Import your mixed-down file into a new blank project. Tempo and marker information are not really important since all you will be doing is processing the sound and not arranging anything. Open the mixer and locate the insert slots of either the track itself or the master track. It doesn’t make a big difference which you choose.

Start by strapping a compressor across the first insert slot of the channel. This will be processing the entire track so you will probably want to keep the compression gentle, as if using a master bus compressor on a hardware desk. Dial in some gentle compression with a low threshold and ratio.

If you find the track is losing some oomph as a result of the compression or that some frequencies are sticking out of the mix too much you might want to try a multiband compressor instead. FL Studio comes with one of these and it has some great mastering presets which you can use as a starting point.

The great thing about a multiband compressor is that you can compress different frequencies. So you may want to pull the upper mids in more heavily but leave the high frequencies less processed. You shouldn’t be compressing anything massively at this stage but a little is fine.

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EQ is another vital part of the mastering process so try adding a second insert, this time an instance of the Fruity Parametric EQ which gives you decent control over your frequency bands. Use the EQ points to carefully boost or cut the various frequencies and pull sounds slightly up or down inside the overall soundstage.

It’s possible to set the EQ point type by right clicking on one and choosing from the dropdown menu. This is useful to know about because it lets you assign points as pass or shelf curves which are handy for rolling off extreme top or bottom end. You can also mute or disable EQ points to simplify your EQ curve if necessary.

Working with the compression and EQ will take a little while to get exactly right but eventually you will want to add a limiter – here we are using the bundled Fruity Limiter – to squeeze some more volume out of the signal. Dial in some moderate but not overly-heavy limiting and watch the signal stay up near the zero mark.

The Fruity Limiter can also be switched into compressor mode and used as a regular compressor. You might want to add a third party limiter to the signal chain as some of these have more advanced features like Lookahead that can make for more accurate masters. For many uses though, FL Studio’s bundled plugs are fine.

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Mastering and exporting Tutorial MT MT Step-by-Step Mastering and exporting (cont.)

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You might also want to add a little stereo widening at the mastering stage, in which case you can stick on a Fruity Stereo Enhancer from the library of effects. Be very sparing with stereo enhancement as using too much will spoil the mix and the soundstage. But if a little enhancement sounds good, go ahead and use it.

When your sound is perfect you will want to export the processed file from the application. To do this, go to File > Export and choose WAVE file from the options. You can also export as compressed files or export the MIDI components of a project as a MIDI file, which can be useful in some situations.

If you choose Export > Project Data Files you can effectively back up the whole project to a new folder or drive. This option copies the audio files in use by the project as well as all the MIDI and other project data contained within it. It’s useful for keeping a safety copy of a project.

One final option is called Export > Zipped Loop Package and this creates new versions of all the audio files in a project, the MIDI content and all the project data and exports them out to a zip file. If you send this to someone, they will be able to open your project and work on it in their own copy of FL Studio.

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