The Ultimate Guide To Fl Studio
When it comes to a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), FL Studio benefits from over 20 years of innovation. Created by Belgian-owned company Image-Line, the software provides musicians and DJs with everything needed to compose, arrange, record, edit, mix and master music on a professional level. Understanding what FL studio offers and how it measures against other DAWs allows you to determine whether it’s capable of providing you with the needed tools as a creative artist.
How FL Studio is Used
FL Studio is a digital audio workstation that can be used for recording and editing digital audio. The software can be used by DJs, professional recording studios, live performers, and more.
Essentially, the DAW helps to eliminate the need for a lot of hardware. DJs that were used to having multiple turntables and recording studios that used synthesizers can eliminate all of that. Instead, they simply need a laptop (or desktop) and audio software that incorporates a recording interface.
There’s no longer the need to record a song all at once or even in the same location. It adds diversity. Vocals can be recorded by one person and the percussion can be recorded by another. Then, with the use of FL Studio, an audio engineer brings all of the sounds together.
Bands have become obsolete in many instances, particularly within the recording studio. Those who are recording hip hop and rap will often use the digital tools of their DAW to get the desired sound. An engineer and a producer can use midi keyboards, drum machines, and samples.
Regardless of the type of music being recorded, most musicians are going to use a Digital Audio Workstation because of the control it offers. With the diverse sounds that can be used from FL Studio and the many plugins, any type of music can be created and shared.
The user interface of FL Studio has replicated many of the features of a multi-track tape recorder. This means that there are such controls as:
There are also other controls similar to a computer—copy, paste, and undo are among the most popular. It makes it possible for producers and DJs to do mashups of different songs, cut out various aspects of a song, and more.
With all of the tools, filters, and plugins included within FL Studio, it’s possible to make music, record vocals, create overlays, and finalize songs so that they can go on to be burned to a CD or published online. Additionally, mixing can be done on the spot, complete with automation, so that solo artists have all of the music and backup that they need to make an impressive performance.
7 Top Features of FL Studio
FL Studio has had a variety of versions over the years. FL Studio 20 is the latest and greatest option that is available, with a wide array of features to set it apart from the competition. Although it has a lot of features, there are seven that you should be aware of.
Particularly when you’re deciding if FL Studio is right for you, there are different videos and demos online that will show you how each of the features works. This can show you everything you need to know about the look, feel, and how easy it is to work with the features.
Perhaps the most important feature of any DAW is the Mixer. FL Studio has an impressive one that allows you to see all of the inserts at once. You can mix and master the sound to the highest standards. As you work to produce inside of the mixer, you can take advantage of such things as plugin delay compensation, advanced automation, effects chains, audio sends, and more.
The Piano Roll feature is how FL Studio stands out in comparison to the competition. It is used for sequencing to send note and automation data out to the plugin instruments. Various tools are incorporated into this feature to help with manipulation and complex score editing. It is user-friendly and intuitive, making it easy to learn about the functionality. Within this window, you also have the ability to save and load an array of score presets, set target channels, and more. Of course, there are also plenty of visual aids and helpers that you can toggle at any moment.
Browser & Playlist
The Playlist is extremely flexible, making it possible to sequence all of the different elements. Tracks have the ability to hold audio, notes, and automation. It’s possible to type data anywhere and overlay tracks within the playlist. The browser also makes it possible to keep the data organized. When workflows of other DAWs fail, FL Studio shines.
There are countless plugins included within FL Studio. There are over 80 included within the Producer Edition, featuring everything from automation to equalization filtering. You will have the ability to create virtually any style of music with the plugins that are included. Anything that you are missing can be obtained with free or paid plugins from the Image Line marketplace or through various third-party websites.
Instruments & FX
You will find that there are a lot of native instruments and effects incorporated into FL Studio. When you want more, the software supports all of the VST Standards (1, 2, and 3). It ensures you can find what you want in a format that works with the DAW that you have installed on your computer.
Live DJ Control
The Live DJ Control makes it possible for you to create powerful live performances, complete with clip-triggering. The quick response of the software makes it possible to create mash ups live. There are different pieces of hardware that you can connect to your laptop in order to have even greater control, including a MIDI controller and a keyboard.
FL Studio features a vectorial interface that gives you greater control over the interface that you use on the screen. You have the ability to resize and rearrange based on everything else that you have on your screen. Particularly when you have multiple plug-in screens available, using the vectorial interface will make it possible for you to establish a view that works best for your mixing style.
More Features to Look Forward To
FL Studio makes updates to the program on a regular basis. What started out being called FruityLoops has become one of the most popular DAWs on the market—and benefits from over 20 years in the business. As such, it has listened to feedback from producers and artists around the globe to incorporate more features:
- More memory
- More RAM
- New audio options
- Auto Backup
Exploring the different features provided within each version of FL Studio will make it easier to determine which one you want to work with. Some producers choose to work with older versions as a way to avoid being overwhelmed by new features. Additionally, new features can require additional training– and some people simply don’t want to take the time to learn them. As such, you can choose which features you want to have within your DAW by comparing older versions to newer versions. Once you purchase a license to FL Studio, you will have access to every version out there.
By participating in the forums, you can also be a part of identifying what features you want to see for future versions of FL Studio. Whether you want to see more visual tools, more plugins that come standard, or something else, let your voice be heard. You never know—the next version may be better than ever as a result of you sharing some of your ideas based on issues you’ve had or features you’ve experienced from another DAW. You simply never know what could be included unless you choose to speak out.
Comparing FL Studio to Other Products
Finding a Digital Audio Workstation is as important as finding a recording studio or a producer. It’s responsible for the sound that you create. As such, you must take some time to study the options. As you explore FL Studio 12 and all of the other versions out there, you also have to compare it to some of the other products out there.
When you make comparisons, there are a few things you should always review. It can make it easier for you to figure out the kind of experience you’re going to get.
Operating system: Determine what operating system the DAW will work on.
CPU stability: Reviews will tell you whether the DAW is stable or not. Demos can also help you to figure this out so that you’re not disappointed after running the software.
Dongle or no dongle: Some DAWs require the use of dongles, which means that it can lead to them dangling out of the machines or even losing them. Whether you opt for a dongle or not will depend on whether you’re producing in one place or if you’re a traveling producer or DJ.
Scalability: Many of the DAWs on the market offer some kind of scalability so that you can expand your skillset when necessary. Particularly if you’re going to make a career out of music production, you need scalability, and this includes the ability to use third-party plugins.
There are plenty of reviews out there. However, there are a few DAWs out there that are worth exploring, listed at random:
- Logic Pro X
- Ableton Live
- Cubabase Pro
- Mixcraft Pro Studio
- Bitwig Studio
Let’s take a closer look at each to see what they have to offer and the pros and cons of each software program.
Logic Pro X
Logic Pro X is considered one of the top DAW programs for Mac users. It’s a straight out of the box solution that offers countless tools and instruments to make music tracks that are commercial-ready. Logic Remote is also an app that can work on an iPad to serve as a wireless remote inside of a recording studio.
- One of the best DAWs for Mac
- Plenty of virtual instruments
- Easy to use interface
- No Windows option
- Courses to learn advanced mixing don’t come cheap
Ableton Live is one of the heavy-hitting software programs on the market. It’s used by artists around the globe and can quickly integrate into your live sets. It’s most commonly used for live performances but can be used for recording tracks, too. When you look at Ableton vs FL Studio, Ableton doesn’t have the same capabilities for beat making.
- Sound samples are quickly edited and tweaked
- Editing features are intuitive
- One-man artists shine with this software
- Some advanced mixing features are missing
- Band and film producers find it to be lacking
Steinberg Cubase has been on the music scene since 1989 when MIDI files were still popular. It’s been upgraded considerably over the years, offering not only MIDI editing tools but also adaptive and rhythm quantization. It’s gained quite the reputation amongst DJs.
- Stable DAW
- Advanced editing features
- World-class library of plugins
- Learning curve is steep
Mixcraft Pro Studio
Mixcraft Pro Studio was developed by Acoustica. It offers a variety of features for recording and editing audio along with burning tracks. The interface is colorful, though new users will find it to be overwhelming. A range of audio filters and special effects make it possible to customize and round out the sound being produced.
- Packed with loops and sound effects
- Rip and burn features are lacking
- Layout is confusing
Although Bitwig Studio is one of the lesser-known DAWs out there, it’s an affordable solution for live performances and music productions alike. The streamlined design eliminates most of the pop-ups that occur with other programs. Plus, there are some impressive networking features offered within the Studio. It was also founded by former engineers from Ableton, so it’s not as if the software was produced by rookies.
- Workflow contains high-end features
- Unified display
- Strong support to avoid crashes
- Limited plugins are available
- Project management tools are minimal
Any time you make comparisons between the different DAW software programs out there, you have to compare features, cost, and the overall ease of use. When you are making comparisons, read reviews to help you learn more about the programs. Additionally, take advantage of demos, where available, so you can see how the programs operate.
The Cost of FL Studio
Any time you shop for a Digital Audio Workstation, you have to look at it as an investment. Different programs can cost significantly different amounts based on what is being offered. Ultimately, it’s best to invest in one program rather than finding out you need to buy two or more smaller programs to fill the gaps of what the one offers.
FL Studio 11 and other versions are available for you to try out with a free trial download. You have the ability to save FL Studio projects but not to reopen them. You will also be limited on some of the functions you can use. However, it allows you to test out the interface and see how many of the tools are powerful.
Once you have exhausted the trial, you can choose to purchase FL Studio. There are multiple versions for you to compare, including:
- All Plugins Bundle
The versions are available for Windows and Mac with no cost difference between the two.
The Fruity version is available for $99 while the All Editions Bundle is $899. The other versions are found between the high and low price points, allowing you to determine which other features are important to you.
Particularly when you want a pitch and time editor and you want to have access to more instruments, such as the Drum Kit in FL Studio, it can be beneficial to spend more to get all of the bundles. It will provide you with everything from Harmor to Morphine to Transistor Bass. If you’re a DJ or like to do a lot of mixing, you will want these instruments and synthesizers to create a completely unique sound.
As you look for the program that you want, you may come across an FL Studio Crack. These are pirated versions, which should never be used. The downside of a cracked version, too, is that you cannot make updates to it. Image Line is well aware of the pirating issues, which is why they offer older versions of the software on their website, including FL Studio 10, FL Studio 11, and FL Studio 12. The older versions are also available to those who buy the latest version at no extra cost simply by using the license.
Additionally, FL Studio owners are given lifetime free updates, ensuring that customers get what they pay for.
As for the question of whether FL Studio is worth the money, the answer is a resounding “yes” when being reviewed by musicians and producers. One review identified that the program is not only one of the more affordable DAWs on the market but that it also provides the free lifetime updates. To get started with the cheapest version, it is under $100 – and that can be a savings of hundreds of dollars in comparison to the competition.
It often comes down to using the various tutorials and guides that are out there to effectively learn how to use FL Studio. Many of the programs are overwhelming to a newbie who has never used mixing software before. You will get your money’s worth when you invest the time to learn how to use the various tools. The FL Studio Online Reference Manual, particularly, is something you should review once you make the investment and pay to download the DAW.
What is a cracked version?
When you begin shopping for FL Studio, there may be a ‘cracked’ version. This is a form of pirating as it means that professional coders used an illegal method to provide free access to the software.
Whether you plan on using the DAW as a hobby or for professional sound editing, you will want to pay for the program using the legitimate download process and obtaining the license.
Using a cracked version can pose a variety of problems:
- Crashes are common
- You cannot obtain updates
- Bugs can cause you to remove the program
- There’s no tech support
Perhaps the biggest reason not to use a cracked version is that it’s a form of theft. You can be legally prosecuted because downloads are tracked. When you’re tired to a stolen version, it can result in criminal charges.
The FL Studio Mobile App
Unlike many of the other DAWs out there, FL Studio is available in a mobile app. This allows you to fine tune or even end your project inside of the app. You can choose apps for virtually any platform:
There are countless features included within the app, allowing you to have advanced sound creation, the ability to capture live performances, and have touch controllers so that you can have virtual drum pads and keyboards at your fingertips.
Additional features within the mobile app includes:
- Special effects
- Flexible interface
- Easy project sharing
- MIDI control
What you do within one app can be opened inside of another app on a different platform and also be moved over to your desktop, allowing you to work on music everywhere you go.
Free FL Studio Plugins
When you begin using a DAW, you want to get the full experience. This includes being able to create the sound that you desire in post-production, even if you don’t have a full band. Plugins can be added to FL Studio as a way to enhance your sound. Some of the self-contained programs will function as an instrument while others will offer special effects.
A variety of free FL studio plugins are available out there.
Before you start downloading programs that you find across the internet, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the different plugin formats that you will find.
An FL plugin is only going to work inside of FL Studio.
A VST plugin can be used in all VST host programs – and they are supported within FL Studio.
An AU plugin is only going to work when you have the DAW on Mac OS X.
Finally, there are going to be stand-alone plugins that will inside of the host-wrapper as a self-contained application.
Plugins Directly from FL Studio
The first place to look for plugins is, of course, Image Line. This is where you’ll find all of the native plugins for FL Studio. While some of the plugins are free with the purchase of any FL Studio license, others are going to cost you some money.
Some of the free ones you will want to look at include:
- Autogun: Allows you to search for countless presets
- Flex: An advanced synthesizer
- Effector: Provides you with 12 effects for performance effects
- Patcher: Creates chain effects that you can load into new projects quickly
Depending on what you’re using the produced music files for, such as for live performances, it may be worth it to invest in some of the paid plugins, too. They can range in price from $35 up to $189 and more.
FLStudioMusic Plugins and Sample Packs
A variety of free FL Studio plugins can be found from FLStudioMusic. The VST plugins can be used regardless of whether you are using the DAW on Windows or Mac. Each of the plugins identifies the features you can expect out of the plugin.
In addition to plugins, you can also find sample packs. These will provide you with a variety of options to suit your music styles. Whether you’re mixing hip hop, electro, rock, or something else, you can find royalty-free sound effects, vocals, and one-shots.
Whether you’re searching for a Drum Kit FL Studio plugin or you want sound design exercises that are capable of providing the next cinematic hit, there’s something on the website that you can download.
More Free VST Plugins
You can also find 200 of the best VST plugins available on LANDR. The plugins can help you to take your mixing to the next level, and with the amount of freeware that’s out there from experienced musicians who want to share, they can enhance your experience on FL Studio.
The site does a great job of dividing all of the plugins into categories, allowing you to find them based on:
Once you know what you’re looking for, you can search for it there. You will have the opportunity to read a bit more about the VST plugin. Then, the link for the plugin will take you to the original website where you’re able to download it. Most of the download pages will give you some more details of what to expect from the plugin and give you a quick audio sample.
Exercise Caution When Using Free VST Plugins
There’s always the question of: is it safe to use free VST plugins? Many people are concerned that if they download a free plugin that it’s going to wreak havoc on their system. There are a few things that you should know.
- Always use a trusted site when you download anything to your computer.
- Read the reviews on the plugin to make sure that they’re not going to crash your DAW.
- Only download as many plugins as you plan to use.
While it can be easy to go crazy downloading plugin after plugin because they’re free, be selective. Too many plugins can make it difficult to figure out which ones are the good ones. Additionally, it can bog down your system. If you find that a plugin always seems to crash, delete it from your system and look for a better one. The Image-Line forum is a great resource to go in order to talk about the different plugins that are out there and get advice as to which one is going to help you with a particular sound or task.
How to Use FL Studio
When you decide that FL Studio is going to be your DAW of choice, it’s important to know how to use it. There are a lot of tools, and if you’re not sure of how to use them, you’re only going to tap into a small portion of what the software has to offer. As such, it’s a good idea to get a FL Studio tutorial to show you around the program.
Download the Program
It all starts by purchasing and downloading FL Studio. Once you have run the installer, you will want to go through the Setup Wizard.
- Select the audio device that you’re going to use and the appropriate driver.
- Select any controllers that you will use with FL Studio, including keyboards and MIDI controllers.
- Go through the file settings to select folders that will show within the browser menu.
The Setup Wizard will take you through all of the different controls and settings, allowing you to select the input/output of your speakers, the buffer length setting, and more. You can choose to go with default settings or adjust to your own preferences.
Connect all of the different keyboards and controllers to your system. Once everything has been properly connected and installed, restart FL Studio. Keep in mind that there is a troubleshooting panel to help you if certain connections aren’t made or the system isn’t recognizing a controller that you have plugged in.
Use the Hint Bars
Hint bars can serve as mini tutorials to tell you more about what a particular feature does. As you’re learning to navigate the different windows, you can hover over the controls. A pop up will appear to tell you more about what the button does.
There’s also an “Extended Hint Panel” that you can activate by going into the Toolbars of “View Menu.”
Various icons will also display from time to time, including a happy face (when things go right) and a sad face (when things go wrong). There’s also an attention/warning icon that shows you when a hint is important so that you don’t miss out on it.
Explore the Main Windows
Several main windows make up the FL Studio desktop. Each of these windows can be moved, resized, and overlapped to create the workspace that is most conducive to what you’re doing. The main windows within the program include:
- Piano Roll
It’s important to familiarize yourself with what each of the windows do.
The Channel Rack is responsible for holding your instruments along with the internal generators used for automation. Each row of controls within the rack are for a single instrument. Then, there are step sequencer buttons to help you. If there are red buttons, they signify that a plugin or sample is not found.
The file setting options will also allow you to open other windows as you desire. You can also use a shortcut toolbar to close windows and reopen them as needed.
The Piano Roll helps with all of the sequencing. You can enter note data manually using a variety of editing tools or record it in a “live” mode with MIDI controllers. Some of the basics found within this window include notes, pitch, duration, resolution, and target channel. There are click-and-hold functions that will help you with copy and glue aspects.
The Mixer is what all audio will pass through within FL Studio. The main mixer controls that you need to become familiar with includes the mixer menu (allowing you to record, view, link, and route), along with multi-touch control, meter wave view, and extra mixer track properties. Ctrl+Shift will also allow you to select multiple tracks and determine how they will fade.
The Playlist is responsible for sequencing all of the elements in order to create the final song. The window consists of a stack of ‘Clip Tracks’ that will hold automation, audio, and pattern clips. You will want to remember that instrument channels are bound to Mixer tracks and not to Playlist tracks. Perhaps the most important aspect of this window is the Playlist Snap as it will identify how the clips will move and align within an event to create the final song.
Finally, the Browser will give you access to preset libraries, VST and AU plugins, projects, and samples. You will find 3 tabs: All, Current Project, Plugin database. This is the window where you can load files using drag and drop. You can also open with a selected plugin as well as preview samples (by left clicking on them).
Introducing various instruments into the project is what allows you to have a band without actually having physical instruments and performers in a sound stage.
Decide where your instruments are going to come from – plugins that are built within FL Studio, separate VST plugins, or other recordings that you have. These will get loaded into your Channel Rack.
As you’re searching for different VSTs, you have the ability to toggle between the categories. You can also go into the patterns section to choose those from within the channel rack. There’s also a drop-down window above the playlist to help you make this selection.
Finally, you can go into the options tab to decide how you want to configure your settings. If you’re going to use a Midi keyboard as a way to “play” the instruments, the audio settings will allow you to control the inputs and outputs as necessary.
To make it easier to see everything, you can also left click on the channel button as a way of being able to open an instrument interface.
Compose & Sequence Music
You have the ability to go into composing by using a controller keyboard to play musical notes and chords or enter them manually into the piano roll.
There are a few things to note:
- Use pattern mode to help you with editing any patterns
- There’s a step sequencer display to the right of every instrument button
- You can interchange piano rolls and step sequencers in each channel
- You activate the steps on a step sequencer by left clicking the squares to turn them on
You have the ability to create a total of 999 unique patterns. The pattern selector will then allow you to edit them as needed. You can also determine the length of every pattern you work with – and the number of bars spanning across the channels will tell you the length in comparison to other patterns you’re working with.
Arrange & Edit Songs
When you’re ready to arrange and edit the music, you will be working primarily within the Playlist window. The Picker Panel will help with the arranging. You can drag or drop the different patterns and clips into the Playlist using this tool.
With the ‘Producer’ edition of FL Studio, you will also be able to work with pattern, audio, and automation clips. When you’re working with the ‘Fruity’ edition, you will only have access to pattern clips.
When you select a clip, you have the ability to enter draw or paint mode to help you with repeating the clip while dragging it horizontally.
Additionally, you have the ability to color code and name the clip tracks in order to help you with the visual layout. The way that you access these functions is by right-clicking within the name area at the beginning of the track.
Take Advantage of Different Tutorials
The reality is that FL Studio is a robust Digital Audio Workstation. What you decide to use the software for may be different than what other people use it for. If you’re using it for music production, you may end up using a lot more features than DJs who want to make a few mashups of their favorite songs. As such, it can be difficult to know what to do with all of the settings and windows.
Since FL Studio is considered to be one of the most popular DAWs out there, a lot of artists and producers use it. They have shared tutorials online to show you how to perform one specific task. You can spend hours watching YouTube videos and reading tutorials to learn how to do specific things. This includes everything from navigating the Patterns Menu to manipulating the Piano Roll. As you start to play around within the interface, you will start to learn more about what the program can offer and how you can use the tools and articulators to create the kind of music that you desire.
The reference manual will provide you with more specifics and tutorials when working with FL Studio, too.
A Few Tips & Tricks
You can get even more out of FL Studio by learning about some of the different tips and tricks that are out there. It can make it easier for you to perform certain tasks and get the sound quality that you desire.
Check out some of the most popular tips that are found within this DAW:
- Keyboard shortcuts: You’ll find quite a few keyboard shortcuts throughout the DAW, including Ctrl+B in Piano Roll will duplicate the current selection or highlighted area of your timeline.
- Mouse shortcut: Middle click the Preset Selector when you’re in any plugin window to pull up the most recent present within the Browser.
- Waveform view: Use Alt+N to toggle this view on and off. You can drag a sample into Piano Roll in order to load slice markers as a background image. It makes it easier to place notes in an audio segment.
- Create in-sync visuals: Use the ZGameEditor Visualize as a 3D visual effects generator to accompany music on YouTube.
- Song playback relocation: By clicking in the timeline of the Piano Roll, you can relocate the song position marker so that you can work with it directly inside of Piano Roll instead of having to go back to the Playlist window.
- Tap tempo: You can right click on the tempo to take advantage of the ‘tap’ function. This allows you to tap in your tempo at whatever rate you wish.
- Master pitch: Change the pitch of your entire track using the master pitch knob. It’s a time-saver from having to go into the various MIDI clips and adjust the notes in that way.
- Plugin Picker: By pressing F8, you’re able to pull up every plugin you have, making it easier to decide which one you want to use.