If you are a music producer that is just starting to make beats, trying to use the interface of Fruity Loops (also known as FL Studio) for the first time might seem complex. This is completely normal and it would happen to every beginner beatmaker with any DAW.
FL Studio tutorial for beginners
Fruity Loops is a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) created by Image-Line. It is an extremely powerful and practical music software, with which you can create beats, edit and arrange, and finally mix and master them.
Into FL Studio, you can load plugins, sound libraries, loops and samples and use them to create your music productions. Let’s see the basic steps of how to make a beat in Fruity Loops.
Open FL Studio
First of all, you need to open Fruity Loops on your computer. You will see the environment of the software and you can choose the way you want your menus to appear. Test the buttons and arrange them according to your convenience.
Navigate through the entire DAW and experiment to get familiar with how FL Studio is built. It might seem a bit overcomplicated in the beginning, but trust me it is not. After you practice for some times and you make your first beats, you will realize that it is really handy.
The browser is placed at the left side of your screen. It has the form of a column, and you can drag its edges to expand or shrink it. Through the browser, you can view all your project, sound and VST libraries and you can control which projects to open or which sounds to use.
To load a project, you can browse and find it, and then drag and drop it to the area and the FILE/EDIT etc. buttons. These buttons are in the upper left area in your screen.
To load sounds, you can search through your browser and find the files or subfiles with your sounds. Navigate through the sounds and make sure that you preview them before you use them in your project, by clicking the left button of your pad when you are upon a sound.
To close your subfiles and return to your main files, you can click on the name of the subfile and it will close. Keep in mind that all sounds play for about five seconds before they stop. In order to listen to the full length of your samples or sounds, you need to load them on a channel of your pattern.
When you right-click on one of the sounds displayed on your browser you can either replace the sound of a particular channel you have chosen, or open a new channel with the sound that you have right-clicked.
If you choose to replace the already existing sound of a channel, the rest of the values such as the volume, the panning of the effects applied remain the same.
On the other hand, if you choose to open a new track which will include the sound you right-clicked, the volume and the panning will be the standard as if you opened a new empty channel. Also, there will be no effects applied.
The step sequencer (or pattern)
In order to load sounds, samples or loops you need to use the step sequencer. When you open the step sequencer, you can see at the left side the mute on/off button in the form of a green light, the volume and panning controls and the sampler button.
In order to actually load a sound or a loop to the sequencer, you need to right-click on a sampler button and a list of choices will appear. You must choose load sample in order to browse through your file and find the sound you want to load, or drag and drop a sound file from your browser.
The name of the sampler button automatically changes and it takes the name of the sound you loaded. You can place the sound in as many steps of the pattern as you wish or send it to the piano roll and change its tonality, quantize it and apply filters on it.
You can duplicate or delete the sampler button by right-clicking on it and choosing clone (to duplicate) or delete.
In order to make variations of the loops you create in the step sequencer, you can go to the upper place of FL Studio where it says “Pattern 1” and choose on the rest patterns. For every other pattern you choose, you will see an empty step sequencer environment on which you can create new loops or variations of those that you have already created.
Make sure that you give proper names and colorize your patterns and sampler button in order to stay organized, and make the production process easier for you.
How to use the piano roll
Piano roll is a more accurate way of creating melodies and drum loops in comparison to the step sequencer, although the step sequencer itself is great for building the basis of your beats.
In each piano roll window, you can use one of the sounds or loops of the sample channel you have selected. You can process the pitch of your sounds, apply filtering, change the volume and tweak the panning of your loops.
What is more, you can make the process of your samples or drum loops much more accurate, by controlling the velocity length of each note and applying separate filters and volume or panning values for every note.
To use the piano roll, you must press the piano roll button at the top of FL Studio near the step sequencer and playlist buttons, or you can right-click on a sampler button and click “Send to piano roll”, which will send the sound load on this channel to the piano roll.
At the left side of the new window, you can see a column of keys like those that you see on a midi keyboard. You can all those key to tweak your sound or loop.
You can left-click with your mouse pad on the piano roll to apply a note. Every note you apply is another frequency for your sound, which it makes very easy to tweak them and create melodies and loops. To extend or shorten the length of a note you have to go to its edges and drag it to the left or right according to what you want to do.
This is a great way to quantize your notes and make your melodies sound more rhythmical. In addition, you can experiment with lower or higher notes of your sounds, move the loops up or down an octave to make them sound lower or higher.
Furthermore, you can mark all of your notes together and apply any effects, tweak them and note length changes to all of them. You can also move them up or down to change the key value or entire octave of your notes.
How to organize your mixer
Learning how to use the mixer of the FL Studio is one of the most crucial parts of the beatmaking process. The mixer is one of the most important tool for every DAW and its correct use will determine the final sound of your music production.
Using the mixer, you can apply effects to every individual channel of the step sequencer. Through the mixer, you can control the volume, panning, and the effect amount you want to apply to your sounds. To achieve this you need to apply each one of your sound channel to a channel of your mixer.
You can do this by left-clicking on a sampler button of your step sequencer to select it and then open the mixer. In the mixer, you have to choose one channel, right-click on it and select Channel routing > Route selected channels to this track. Now you can control your sound through the mixer and apply effects.
In order to remain organized and speed up the beat-making process, you should first of all name your tracks so that you know which sound is on each track. It has to be noted, that when you route a certain sound to a track of the mixer, this track takes the name of the sound routed.
In addition to this, you should color every track to distinguish them. A more effective way, is to apply the same colors to similar instrument or sound group so that you know what kind of process you need to follow for them. It will also come very handy in the case you want to apply bus compression to certain groups of instruments.
You can also set the size of the mixer so that it makes it easier for you to use it. There several different types of display from compact to extra-large. You should choose the one that suits you best and test it to see if it makes you work with more convenience.
What is more, you can change the volume of the sound routed to each track by using the volume controls, or experiment with the panning. You can apply up to ten effects, by loading them in the effect slots, which are displayed in the right side of your mixer.
You can turn every individual effect on or off by pressing the green button, or tweak the mix level of the effect applied with knob at the right side of each effect slot. This makes it easy to control how much of the effect you want on every sound, rather than just using it on the maximum level.
In the playlist, you can build the structure of your beat. You can combine the total of your patterns and edit them in order to build an instrumental or a complete song.
To open up the playlist you have to press the playlist button, which is on the upper area of FL Studio, along with the buttons of the browser, the step sequencer and the piano roll. You can place the patterns in the playlist by selecting each pattern and left-clicking to a certain area of the playlist.
You can change the position of every pattern you placed by left-clicking on the pattern and moving it to the place you want. You can extend or shrink the pattern by going to their edges and dragging them to the right or the left. If you want to delete a pattern, you can right-click on it.
What is more, you can chop every pattern to your liking by pressing the slicer button. You can find the slicer button to the upper area of your playlist’s window. Press it, and find the exact places you want to chop your patterns.
This way you can create pauses or bridges between the loops or cut long samples and melodies you have created to make them end sooner.
Furthermore, you can select a certain amount or all of your patterns at once, and apply the same changes to all of them, such as duplicate them, delete them, extend or shrink them and more.
The playlist gives you the opportunity to structure your beat in many different ways. I can also help you mix one or multiple songs or beats together and create a mush-up. It is very handy and it makes it very convenient for producers to tweak certain patterns and loops of a song, or multiple songs at once.
Export your track
After you have created your music production, applied effects on it and structured it in the playlist, your track is considered ready. It strongly advised that you listen to it carefully multiple times, make corrections and revisit it every now and then until you are sure about the result.
When you consider your track ready, it is time to export it. Fruity Loops gives you the opportunity to export your track in many audio formats, such as WAV, MP3 or MIDI. You can choose the quality of the mp3 file you want to export or the WAV bit depth.
You can also apply changes to the general audio quality of your track and it gives you information about the disk space required for the export or the total time of your track. When you make the appropriate choices for your track, press start and FL Studio will start exporting your track.
That’s it, your track is ready!
These are the basic step for beginner users of FL Studio. There are more advanced steps that need to be taken in order to actually create a beat in Fruity Loops, and those will be covered in another article.
Have fun using FL Studio!