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Oct 21 2009 01:32pm
OK, I am going to try to start a series of FL studio tutorials for those who are struggling with the program or just want to learn it. I'm pretty much just winging it on this tutorial, so there's likely to be lots of editing things in I missed and the like.

Anyways, as any good tutorial series should, I'm starting the first lesson with the basics of fl, where hopefully someone could come in thats never even heard of fl and begin using it.

First let's go over the interface. There are 5 key windows that you should know about, the Step Sequencer, mixer, Playlist, Piano Roll, and the Browser. If you notice, there are icons for each of these at the top of the screen.

you can click any of these to toggle showing the window it corresponds to. Some of these are automatically open when you start a new song, however it all depends on the way you set up your environment. I use two monitors, so I stick the step sequencer, mixer, and playlist on my right monitor, which runs at a considerably lower resolution than the left. Here's what my layout looks like, with the windows labeled.

You can see I pretty much cram everything in there to fill up the monitor. This has really helped me out. On the off chance the theres another dual monitor user out there, you might try a setup similar to this one.

Now, just for you, I'll cram the other two windows on to the screen so you can see what they look like as well.

Note that there are 2 versions of the piano roll. The one on top is a special version that maps out the drums to specific keys. You don't need to worry about messing with this, just know that you may see this when making drum patterns. The one on the bottom is what you are going to be seeing most of the time

So while we're on the topic of the Piano Roll, why not go into to detail on it? Well first we need to create an instrument to use! Go to the trusty step sequencer and right click on any of the instrument names. For this example we'll use the 3x Osc (this instrument will be rather familiar to those that have done any amount of synth programming). after right clicking, go Insert, then 3x Osc


After this you'll see the purple instrument pop up in the step sequencer, and you'll see this window pop up...


This is the main instrument window, you can get to this window for each instrument by clicking it's name in the sequencer. This is your headquarters for the instrument. Some more advanced instruments will actually have seperate windows pop up for special control unique to that instrument. For the simple 3x Osc, all the controls fit nicely in the plugin page itself. There are also other tabs which allow an extrodinary amount of control over the sound of any given instrument. Now I could go into detail on each and every button and knob, but for one thing, there are a few things in there that I still dont have a clue what they do, and for another thing the best way to learn these things is experimentation. Write yourself a little loop, let it go, and tweak away! But - you don't know how to do that yet? Well you must be reading this for the first time! Read on...


OK. If you go back to the Step Sequencer, you should now see a new instrument named "3x osc"!! Exciting! Right click on it and select Piano Roll (the first option). There it is! This pic may look a little scary at first, but that's mostly becasue I'm not much of a graphics designer o_0. Just read along and I'll explain everything. I happen to be a very visual learner myself so I like to provide aids like this to go along.
The piano roll is something you will be seeing a lot. It is used in virtually every DAW*for midi sequencing, and no matter which program you pick or move on to in the future, it's bound to have this little feature in there somewhere. Pay attention to this next part, because this is a very important concept!

The window is laid out on a 2d plane. The x axis (horizontal) is time, while the y axis (vertical) is pitch. Most of the time there is a friendly piano along the y axis to show you what particular pitch you are using. If you don't know where the notes are on a piano, no need to fret, the letter C is marked on each octave with a number indicating it's octave (C0 being the lowest, C10 being the highest). you can see C5 right at the edge of the letter h in Pitch. In most situations, you can click on the keys to trigger them on the affected instrument. Try it out, you can hear our little organ-like instrument. This also works on the keys on the main instrument window from earlier, btw! There is also a tool pallete in the upper left hand corner. The default is the pencil tool, and you aren't going to be changing it much.

To create a note click anywhere in the grid. Notes are represented by bars of any given color (green is the default, try clicking the green box in the upper left corner to change it!). After your note appears try clicking and dragging it up and down and all around!! Wow annoying o_0. But quite fun sometimes when you're stuck and very bored. Anyways, after you finish giving yourself a headache. Try right clicking the note. Ah! where did it go?! Good job, you deleted it. Go ahead and create another by left clicking on the grid again. OK, this is getting old, I know, but bear with me. To resize the note, hover over the right edge until your cursor changes to that familiar icon for resizing windows and such. Click and drag left and right to change the length of your note. This is the equivalent of changing between an 8th note or quarter note on paper (except with a lot less erasing). The grid is divided up along the x axis to help guide you in placing your notes rhythmically. The thickest white lines mark 1 of each measure, the 3 slightly thinner lines between them mark the other beats, 2 3 and 4, and the very tiny lines in between those mark each sixteenth note.

If you try resizing the note all the way over to the left, you should end up with a small green squre, that fits perfectly into any of the small squares on the grid. This is a sixteenth note. Drag it over to two squares. This is an eigth note. Drag it to fully extend from one semi-thick line to the next, and you have a quarter note! Exciting, I know. Now all you have to do is line the note up accross from the corresponding pitch on the keyboard and place it in the right place in the measure, and you're all set! Confused? keep reading...

Look at the example in the picture (yes we are still on that same picture with too much crap written all over it) Notice how each of the notes lines up with the white notes on the keyboard, starting at C3, going up to C4, and then back down. It's the good ol' C Major scale!! ^_^ Notice that the rhythm is straight eight notes until the end where we arrive back on the original note on a quarter note. Hm, the quarter note appears to be twice as long of a bar as the eighth note - go figure! If only those darn italians could've learned to write music this way** ....
then we'd end instead of a page with a bunch of lines and random circles and flags on it to a page with a grid and a bunch of random stupid bars on it. Wonderful.

Anyways, so there we go, now hopefully you have an idea of how to write out a musical idea into this sequencer and hear it played. Note that sometimes complex rhthyms take several tries to put down, it's not always simple sometimes you may find yourself counting on your fingers to see on the upbeat of what count something happens. But here's the beauty! Go ahead and punch in the piano roll our example from the image here. Now hit the spacebar. Wow, muzak!! You'll notice that much to your annoyance it continually loops over and over until you hit the spacebar again. This looping is automatic (lucky you!) and will always play through the last measure containing notes - I know that sounds confusing, but say you through a note in there way on the right edge of the screen, in measure 6. When you hit spacebar, FL would play all the way through to that note, finish measure 6, then loop back to the beginning. Try it!

OK, I know you're ready to be done with this god-forsaken window, but there's one more thing to talk about - that pane on the bottom. yes can you believe I wrote more crap on there for that too. This is where various data for each note is shown. The data is shown in the form of a bar directly under the note to which it corresponds. The default form of data for this section is velocity, and you wont' use much else very often. If you aren't familiar with midi data, values such as velocity are always a number between 0 and 127. When you create a note by the previous methods, it automatically gives it a preset velocity, 100 I believe (not entirely positive). Its about 3/4 of the way up, so you have some headroom. you can easily change the values for any note by simply clicking over the bar at the approximate velocity you want. In other words, let's say you wanted the C in the middle to be half as loud as the rest of the notes (dunno why, but oh well, it's possible!). Notice that the note is on the upbeat of 4 in the first meausre. You can also think of it as the 8th note, or the last note before the 1 bar for measure two - whatever works for you. Anyways, find the bar in the lower pane corresponding to that note, and click on the bar, about half way up. The bar shrinks to the size. Hit spacebar again to see how it sounds. You can also move the bars by clicking the white squares at the top and dragging them up and down.

This post was edited by Jogamok1 on Oct 21 2009 01:33pm
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