Make Your Own Music! // How to get started with FL Studio

BASICS OF FL STUDIO

Get started with making your own music and sounds!
DISCLAIMER: This only covers bare bone introduction, and is by no means a complete guide to the software. The full version of FL Studio is paid, but the infinite demo is free.

What is FL Studio?

“FL Studio, previously known as FruityLoops before 2003, is a digital audio workstation (DAW) developed by the Belgian company Image-Line.” (Wikipedia, as of Nov. 2021)

Basically, it’s a program to make music. A variety of tools on it allow you to do different things, such as arranging scoresheets (the notes to be played), mixing (changing volume), adding effects, layout out the composition, and more! FL Studio is one of the mainstream professional softwares that are used to create professional soundtracks and sound effects.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be showing you how to make music, not sound effects.

If you’re curious, it looks something like this:

(Image from a review of FL Studio by Music Radar)


Where do you get FL Studio?

You can get FL Studio from their website:

Like with any outside link, I give the warning that it is an outside site. This is a software, meaning you must download it on your computer. This website also contains prompts to purchase the software; you do not have to do this to get started, just download the trial edition.


How to start using FL Studio

When you first download the program, it will immediately overwhelm you with a large number of windows and assets. Get rid of this by going to File > New (Basic 808 with Limiter).

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When you start a new project, you may have a layout along the lines of this:

You can change this layout by dragging windows around! Before you do, I’ll show you the buttons that open/close these windows.

Where are these buttons?

Find all of the buttons that open/close these windows here:


Understanding the Windows

Here are some basic overviews of each window!

The Playlist

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The playlist is where you will lay out your patterns and sounds to create your music! You’ll learn shortly how to make patterns. When you do, you can paint your patterns and sounds onto the playlist; you can press play at any time to play the song in your playlist!

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Piano Roll

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If you have an instrument that will have different notes that form a composition, this is where you do it! The piano roll is a sheet where you can form melodies, bass lines, chords, and more.

Composing something on the roll looks like this:

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Instruments you may want to use this with:

  • Pianos
  • Guitars
  • Bass
  • Synths
  • Pads
  • Leads

Channel Rack

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The channel rack is a crucial area to forming music! This area can be used to create patterns, assign instruments to mixer tracks, and more. It looks something like this:

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Mixer

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Mixing music is universal across every music-making program. Mixers are where you change volumes, create and apply effects, and do interesting movements with sound using sub/side chaining.

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File Explorer

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The file explorer is where you can find instruments and samples to use in your music. It’s the window located on the left side.

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Asset Explorer + Plugin Explorer

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I don’t really use these in full honesty, they are useless in my eyes. You basically just use it to see your plugins and projects.

Tempo Tapper

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The tempo tapper is really simple but really helpful. Tap it based on how fast you want your song to be, and it will automatically adjust the BPM of your song.

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Touch Pads

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I also don’t use this, since I see no use for it. However, it’s used to play instruments on different notes, more-so for short sounds (like kicks or drums). It reminds me a lot of the novation launchpad style.

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Before you begin your song

There are some things you have to do every time you make a new song! Here is a basic bucket list:

  • Set the BPM (speed) of the song
  • Find the major note and progression you will use
  • Make sure you are comfortable with your layout

To set the BPM of the song, use the tempo tapper (as shown above), or use the manual entry (scroll over it to change):

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To set the major note and progression style, go to Piano Roll > View > Scale Highlighting, and select your options there. Keep in mind that anything highlighted in black on the piano roll is meant to tell you not to place notes there, given you are using scale highlighting.

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And finally, make sure you genuinely like your layout. Figure out where you want to place windows, what windows will be open 100% of the time, etc. Change settings in the windows if you would like to alter their appearance.


Creating patterns for kicks, claps, hats, and snares

By default, you will have basic 808 instruments in your channel rack. Follow along in the video below to see how you can use the channel rack to create patterns, and how to paint those patterns onto the playlist.

Creating a melody

You can add instruments like synths to your song to make a melody. Again, this will start in the channel rack. Below is a video of me guiding you through this.

Improving how it sounds

Mixing is crucial to making it sound better. The below video shows you how to mix your sounds, adding effects, and more.

Adding more complexity and movement

Let’s use everything we’ve learned so far and apply it to the next level; adding more instruments, adding more effects, and just doing more!

Finalizing the song

This is pretty easy to do! I’ll use a video again so that it’s extra-clear, but just do file > export.


Warning! Your first songs suck!

This is common sense, but in the same way, many forget this whenever they begin something. Just like beginning scripting, modeling, map design, or anything else, your first times doing this will not be very pleasant. Make sure you listen to feedback, and if possible, get help from friends!

You think I really knew how to use FL at first? Everything I made initially was embarassing! Below is a video of my first 30 songs with FL Studio, and trust me, it’s bad.

Hopefully by showing you my experience, it instills a bit more hope for you. It might take longer to get a grip on it, or even shorter, depending on who you are and what your learning style is.


Resources to help you more

Below are some resources to further your knowledge on this, if you would like:


Closing notes

Hopefully this introduction to FL Studio helped! If I left out something, or if you have questions, don’t wait, tell me in the replies below!

Have a good day, thanks for the read :heart:

22 Likes

The best of the best as always Mr. Corban!!
I love this tutorial. I have always wanted to make my own music for fun. Maybe not professionally…
I will definitely give this tutorial my best effort.

3 Likes