The Ultimate Guide to FL Studio for Beginners: Review, Tips & Complete Overview

The Ultimate Guide to FL Studio for Beginners: Review, Tips & Complete Overview
Posted on: March 07, 2023
18 minute read
Last updated on: March 7, 2023
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If you’re a beginner looking to get started with music production, you’ve probably come across FL Studio. It’s one of the most popular digital audio workstations (DAWs) on the market and has been used by artists like Avicii, Martin Garrix, and Deadmau5. In this ultimate guide to FL Studio for beginners, we’ll go over everything you need to know to get started with this powerful music-making software.

What is FL Studio?

FL Studio, formerly known as FruityLoops, is a digital audio workstation that allows users to create, record, mix, and master music. It was first released in 1997 by Image-Line and has since become one of the most widely used DAWs in the world. The software is known for its intuitive interface, advanced features, and powerful plugins.

Pricing

FL Studio is available in four different editions: Fruity, Producer, Signature, and All Plugins Bundle. The Fruity edition is the cheapest and is best for beginners, while the All Plugins Bundle is the most expensive and includes all of the available plugins. Here are the prices for each edition:

  • Fruity: $99
  • Producer: $199
  • Signature: $299
  • All Plugins Bundle: $899

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It’s worth noting that Image-Line often offers discounts on their products, so you may be able to get a better deal if you wait for a sale.

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Features

FL Studio is known for its extensive set of features, which include:

  • Step sequencer: This is a graphical interface that allows users to program patterns and melodies using a grid-based system.
  • Piano roll: This is a MIDI editor that allows users to create melodies and chord progressions by clicking and dragging notes on a piano roll.
  • Mixer: This is where users can adjust the levels and effects of individual tracks.
  • Automation: This allows users to automate parameters like volume, pan, and effects over time.
  • Plugins: FL Studio comes with a wide range of plugins, including synthesizers, samplers, and effects.
  • Audio recording: FL Studio allows users to record audio directly into the software.
  • Video game music creation: There is a special plugin called FLEX that can be used to create soundtracks for video games.

Let’s talk a deeper look at them.

Step Sequencer

 

 

Here are 10 tips for using the FL Studio Step Sequencer:

  1. Use the Piano Roll

The Piano Roll is a powerful tool for editing your patterns in the Step Sequencer. It allows you to add and remove notes, adjust the length of notes, and change the velocity and pitch of individual notes.

  1. Use the Step Editor

The Step Editor is a feature in the Piano Roll that allows you to edit your patterns using a grid-based interface. It’s especially useful for creating repetitive patterns and can save you a lot of time compared to manually entering each note.

  1. Use the Channel Rack

    FL Studio Channel Rack

The Channel Rack is where you manage your instruments and plugins in the Step Sequencer. Spend some time organizing your sounds and creating custom presets, so you can quickly access the sounds you need for your projects.

  1. Use the Mixer

    FL Studio Mixer

The Mixer is where you control the volume, panning, and effects of your tracks in the Step Sequencer. Spend some time learning how to add effects, create sends, and use the EQ and compressor to shape your sounds. (Hotkey to activate the Mixer – F9)

  1. Use the Pattern Selector

    FL Studio Pattern Selector

The Pattern Selector allows you to quickly switch between different patterns in the Step Sequencer. Spend some time organizing your patterns and creating custom names, so you can easily find the pattern you need for your project.

  1. Use the Snap Function

    FL Studio Snap Feature

The Snap Function allows you to snap your notes to a specific grid size, making it easier to create precise patterns. You can adjust the snap size by right-clicking on the Snap button in the toolbar.

  1. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can help you work more efficiently in the Step Sequencer. For example, pressing Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V will copy and paste your selected notes, respectively.

  1. Use Automation

Automation allows you to create dynamic changes in your patterns over time. Spend some time learning how to create automation clips for parameters like volume, panning, and filter cutoff, and experiment with different shapes and curves.

  1. Use Swing

    FL Studio Swing

Swing is a feature in the Step Sequencer that adds a rhythmic feel to your patterns. It can be especially useful for creating hip-hop and electronic beats. Spend some time experimenting with different swing settings to find the right feel for your project.

  1. Use the Fruity Slicer

The Fruity Slicer is a plugin in FL Studio that allows you to chop up samples and create new patterns. Spend some time learning how to use the Fruity Slicer, and experiment with different slicing modes and settings.

These are just a few tips for using the FL Studio Step Sequencer. With practice and experimentation, you’ll discover new techniques and workflows that work best for you.

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Alternatives to choose from

While FL Studio is a great choice for beginners, it’s not the only DAW on the market. Here are some other popular alternatives:

  • Ableton Live: This is a popular DAW for electronic music production and live performance.
  • Logic Pro: This is a DAW that is exclusive to Mac users and is known for its user-friendly interface and advanced features.
  • Pro Tools: This is a professional-grade DAW that is commonly used in recording studios.

There are a few reasons why FL Studio is so popular among music producers:

  1. User-friendly interface: FL Studio’s interface is easy to navigate and allows users to focus on making music rather than getting lost in menus and settings.
  2. Wide range of features: FL Studio’s extensive set of features means that users don’t need to rely on external plugins and software to create professional-quality music.
  3. Affordable pricing: FL Studio is one of the most affordable DAWs on the market, making it accessible to beginner and professional producers alike.
  4. Huge online community: FL Studio has a large and active online community, with forums, tutorials, and resources available to help users learn and grow their skills.
  5. Powerful plugins: FL Studio’s plugins are some of the best in the industry, with synthesizers like Serum and Harmor and effects like Gross Beat and Fruity Convolver.

Getting Started with FL Studio

Now that you know what FL Studio is, its features, pricing, and alternatives, let’s dive into getting started with the software.

  1. Download and Install

The first step is to download and install FL Studio. You can do this by visiting the official Image-Line website and selecting the edition you want to purchase. Once you’ve completed the purchase, you’ll be able to download the software and install it on your computer.

  1. Set up Audio Devices

After installing FL Studio, the next step is to set up your audio devices. This involves selecting the input and output devices that you want to use for recording and playback. You can do this by going to the Options menu and selecting Audio Settings. From there, you can select your audio device and configure the settings as needed.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Interface

FL Studio’s interface can be intimidating at first, but it’s designed to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Spend some time exploring the different menus and settings, and familiarize yourself with the layout of the software. You can also watch tutorials on YouTube or read the official FL Studio manual to learn more about the interface.

  1. Learn the Basics of Music Production

Before you start creating music in FL Studio, it’s important to understand the basics of music production. This includes things like music theory, arrangement, and mixing. There are plenty of resources available online to help you learn these skills, including YouTube tutorials and online courses.

  1. Start Creating Music

Once you’re comfortable with the basics of music production and FL Studio’s interface, it’s time to start creating music. Start by experimenting with different sounds and plugins, and try to come up with a basic melody or chord progression. You can then build on this by adding drums, bass, and other elements to create a full song.

  1. Collaborate with Other Producers

Collaborating with other producers is a great way to learn new skills and get feedback on your music. There are plenty of online communities and forums dedicated to FL Studio and music production, where you can connect with other producers and share your work.

Here are top-10 pro tips to beginners for fl studio mixer

  1. Organize your mixer tracks: Keep your mixer organized by grouping similar tracks together and naming them appropriately. This makes it easier to navigate and find specific tracks when you need to make adjustments. (check attached screenshot)
    FL Studio Mixer Tips
  2. Use color coding: Color coding your mixer tracks can help you visually identify which tracks belong to which group, making it easier to spot mistakes and adjust settings.
  3. Use inserts: Inserts allow you to add effects and plugins to individual mixer tracks. This can help you shape the sound of specific tracks without affecting the overall mix. (For example you can listen to your reference track without affecting it by mastering chain)
  4. Use sends: Sends allow you to send a portion of a track’s signal to another mixer track. This is useful for adding reverb, delay, or other effects to a group of tracks.
  5. Use EQ: Use the mixer’s built-in EQ to shape the tonal balance of individual tracks. This can help prevent frequency clashes and make the mix sound more cohesive.
    FL Studio EQ
  6. Use compression: Compression helps even out the levels of a track and can give it more punch and presence in the mix. Use it sparingly, however, as too much compression can result in a flat, lifeless sound.
    FL Studio 21 Compressor
  7. Use automation: Automation allows you to change the level, panning, and other settings of a track over time. This is useful for creating dynamic mixes that evolve and change as the song progresses.
  8. Use sidechain compression: Sidechain compression allows you to “duck” certain tracks when others are playing. This is useful for creating a “pumping” effect in dance music or for making room for a lead vocal.
  9. Use the mixer’s built-in meters: The mixer’s built-in meters allow you to monitor the levels of individual tracks and the overall mix. Keep an eye on these meters to prevent clipping and ensure that your mix is well-balanced.FL Studio 21 Mixer Metering
  10. Use headphones: Finally, always check your mix on headphones as well as on speakers. Headphones can reveal flaws and imperfections in the mix that might not be immediately apparent on speakers.

Here is the list of essential FL Studio 21 hotkeys:

  1. F9 – Open/close Mixer window
  2. F11 – Open/close Plugin Picker
  3. Alt + Left/Right Arrow – Select previous/next mixer track
  4. Ctrl + L – Link selected channels
  5. Ctrl + U – Unlink selected channels
  6. Ctrl + Shift + C – Copy selected mixer track(s)
  7. Ctrl + Shift + V – Paste copied mixer track(s)
  8. Alt + Scroll Wheel – Adjust mixer track volume
  9. Alt + Shift + Scroll Wheel – Adjust mixer track panning
  10. Ctrl + Up/Down Arrow – Cycle through mixer track insert slots

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FL Studio browser main features every producer should know:

  1. File management: The browser allows you to browse, manage and organize your files, including samples, plugins, and project files.
    FL Studio Browser features
  2. Search function: You can quickly search for files by name or tag, making it easy to find specific files or sounds.
    Fl Studio 21 Browser Search
  3. Preview and audition: The browser includes a preview function that allows you to audition samples and presets before you import them into your project. Simply click on the sample and you will activate fast preview for the selected sound.
  4. Customizable tags: You can add custom tags to your files, making it easy to categorize and organize them for future use.
  5. Plugin database: The browser includes a comprehensive database of plugins that come with FL Studio, as well as third-party plugins installed on your system.
  6. Favorites: You can save your favorite files, samples, and presets to a separate folder, making them easy to access.
  7. Online integration: The browser allows you to access online content, including presets, samples, and project files, directly from within FL Studio.
  8. User interface: The browser has a user-friendly interface that allows you to navigate and organize your files easily.

When you just started using FL Studio it’s time to change some settings 😈😈😈

So what is the main things to tune for beginners?

  1. Audio settings:
    Go to Options > Audio Settings, and select your audio device from the list. Choose a low buffer size to minimize latency and enable the “Triple Buffering” option to reduce the likelihood of dropouts.
  2. Interface settings:
    Go to Options > General Settings and adjust the interface settings to your liking. For example, you can change the theme, font size, and window layout.
  3. MIDI settings:
    Go to Options > MIDI Settings and select your MIDI device from the list. Ensure that the “Auto Close” option is disabled so that FL Studio doesn’t disconnect your MIDI device when you switch to another application.
  4. Project settings:
    Go to Options > Project General Settings and set the project tempo and time signature to match the type of music you’re working on. You can also adjust other settings, such as the default length of new patterns and the snap-to-grid value.
  5. Plugin settings:
    Go to Options > File Settings and set up the plugin search paths so that FL Studio can find your plugins. You can also specify which file types should be associated with FL Studio.
  6. Keyboard shortcuts:
    Go to Options > General Settings and configure keyboard shortcuts to speed up your workflow. For example, you can assign shortcuts to frequently used tools and functions.

FL Studio Playlist
FL Studio Playlist

Composing your first song in the FL Studio Playlist can be a fun and rewarding experience. Here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Choose Your Instruments and Sounds

The first step in composing your first song is to choose the instruments and sounds you want to use. You can do this by opening the Channel Rack and selecting your plugins and samples. Spend some time experimenting with different sounds, and try to find a combination that works well together.

  1. Create Your Patterns

Once you have your sounds selected, it’s time to create your patterns. Open the Step Sequencer and start programming your beats and melodies. You can use the Piano Roll to edit your patterns, and you can use the Pattern Selector to switch between different patterns.

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  1. Arrange Your Patterns

Once you have your patterns created, it’s time to arrange them into a song. Open the Playlist and drag your patterns onto the timeline. You can use the Pencil Tool to draw in automation and add effects to your tracks.

  1. Add Transitions

To make your song more interesting, try adding transitions between your different sections. This can include drum fills, filter sweeps, and other effects. You can use automation to create these transitions, or you can use pre-made samples and loops.

  1. Mix and Master Your Song

Once you have your song arranged, it’s time to mix and master it. Use the Mixer to adjust the volume and panning of your tracks, and add effects like EQ and compression to shape your sounds. You can also use mastering plugins to give your song a polished and professional sound.

Remember, composing your first song in FL Studio is a learning experience, and it may take some time to get the results you want. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things, and always keep learning and growing as a musician.

Exporting

Exporting your song from FL Studio can be an exciting moment, but it’s important to make sure you’ve checked everything before hitting the export button.

Here are 10 points to check before exporting your song in FL Studio:

  1. Check Your Levels

Make sure your tracks aren’t clipping and that the overall level of your mix is appropriate. You can use the Mixer to adjust the volume and panning of your tracks.

  1. Check Your EQ

Make sure your tracks are properly EQ’d and that there aren’t any frequencies that are clashing or causing problems in the mix. Use EQ plugins to shape your sounds and clean up any issues.

  1. Check Your Compression

Make sure you’re using compression appropriately on your tracks, and that you’re not over-compressing or under-compressing. Use compression to control the dynamic range of your sounds and create a more consistent mix.

  1. Check Your Reverb and Delay

Make sure your reverb and delay settings are appropriate for your mix. Too much reverb or delay can make your mix sound muddy or washed out, while too little can make it sound dry and lifeless.

  1. Check Your Stereo Field

Make sure you’re using the stereo field effectively in your mix, and that your sounds aren’t all panned hard left or right. Use stereo imaging plugins to widen your sounds and create a more spacious mix.

  1. Check Your Timing

Make sure all of your tracks are properly timed and that there aren’t any timing issues or discrepancies between tracks. Use the Quantize feature in the Piano Roll to snap your notes to the grid and create a more precise performance.

  1. Check Your Transitions

Make sure your transitions between sections are smooth and well-executed. Use automation to create buildups and breakdowns, and make sure your transitions flow naturally.

  1. Check Your Arrangement

Make sure your arrangement is logical and makes sense. Your song should have a clear structure and progression, with each section building on the previous one.

  1. Check Your Mastering

Make sure your mastering is appropriate for your mix. Use mastering plugins to add EQ, compression, and limiting to your mix, and make sure your levels are appropriate for streaming and distribution.

  1. Check Your File Format

Finally, make sure you’re exporting your song in the appropriate file format. For most purposes, exporting to WAV or MP3 will suffice, but there may be other formats required for specific platforms or uses.

By checking these 10 points before exporting your song from FL Studio, you can ensure that your mix is polished, professional, and ready to be shared with the world.

Top-10 Pro level tricks for FL Studio every beginner should know

For all the producers who read all the info here are top-10 secret features in FL Studio:

  1. Piano roll strumming

    FL Studio 21 Strum function
    In the Piano Roll, you can select notes and then use the strumming tool to create realistic strumming patterns for guitars or other stringed instruments.

  2. Advanced automation

    FL Studio’s automation system is incredibly powerful. You can automate almost any parameter in the software, and you can use complex automation clips to create complex and evolving soundscapes.

  3. MIDI scripting

    If you’re a pc power user, you might want to create your own MIDI scripts to automate repetitive tasks or create custom workflows. FL Studio supports custom MIDI scripts written in Python.

  4. Customizable interface

    FL Studio allows you to customize the interface to your liking. You can resize or hide various panels, create your own custom layouts, and even assign custom keyboard shortcuts to any function in the software.

  5. Video support

    You can import and export video files in FL Studio, which can be handy if you’re creating music for film or video games.

  6. Granulizer

    FL Studio granulizer
    The Granulizer is a powerful tool for manipulating audio. It allows you to break down audio into small grains and then manipulate each grain individually to create complex textures and effects.

  7. Patcher

    Patcher is a modular effects plugin that allows you to chain together multiple effects and instruments in a single interface. You can create custom signal chains and even build your own virtual instruments using Patcher.

  8. Fruity Dance

    Fruity Dance

    Fruity Dance is a plugin that allows you to create complex rhythmic patterns using a simple interface. You can use it to create glitch effects, stuttering patterns, or even to generate random rhythms.

  9. Edison

    Fruity Edison
    Edison is a powerful audio editor that is built into FL Studio. You can use it to record, edit, and manipulate audio files, and you can even use it to extract audio from video files.

  10. ZGameEditor Visualizer

    ZGameEditor Vizualizer

    ZGameEditor is a visualizer plugin that allows you to create stunning visualizations that are synchronized to your music. You can create custom 3D animations, use built-in effects, and even use your own images and videos to create unique visualizations.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion FL Studio is a powerful and accessible DAW that is perfect for beginners and professionals alike. With its user-friendly interface, extensive set of features, and affordable pricing, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular DAWs on the market. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to get started with FL Studio and start creating your own music in no time.
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See also
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Author Maxim Hetman
Highly skilled sound designer with over 15 years of experience in the field. He is known for his ability to create immersive soundscapes that engage and captivate audiences across a range of mediums, including film, television, video games, music production and virtual reality experiences. Maxim is a dedicated mentor and teacher, and is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience with others in the industry. Maxim's social: Youtube LinkedIn
Maxim Hetman