This article will discuss the best ways, tips, and tricks to get better at FL Studio and learn it faster.
FL Studio is hands down the most versatile and easy-to-use DAW. If you’re someone who has picked Fruity Loops as your DAW, you made a great choice! Everything from sound design to sampling to mixing-mastering can be best done with this DAW!
However, initially, it could be difficult to get a hang of the entire software, as it has such an elaborate workspace. With multiple windows and so many plugins, FL Studio can get quite overwhelming. But no worries, in this article, I will cover the best tips and tricks to improve at producing and mixing music with FL Studio.
Whether you’re a seasoned music producer/audio engineer switching to FL Studio or are an absolute beginner, I have you covered. We will look at DAW-specific advice but will also discuss how beginners can best utilize FL. My guide to beginners is that if there is a terminology that you don’t understand, go to YouTube/Google/ChatGPT, study it, and come back to this article after that.
Use this article as a guide! With that being clear, let’s dive right into the article.
How to Learn FL Studio Fast: 14 Tips To Improve Your Skills
1. Get familiar with the Playlist Window
FL Studio has a fairly simple interface, divided into three primary windows: Playlist, Mixer, and Piano Roll.
The Playlist is the main workspace where you arrange and organize your patterns, samples, loops, recordings, etc., to create a complete song. It follows a timeline measuring the song in bars and beats. If you’re an absolute fresher at music production, I would suggest you learn about concepts like tempo, beats, time signature, and bars.
You can open the playlist window by clicking on the highlighted icon in the following image.
Going deeper into the playlist window, you can arrange your songs by simply dragging and dropping MIDI patterns or samples from the left side of your FL Studio window. As you can see in the image below, there is a browser window on the extreme left, from where you can drag and drop loops, samples, MIDI patterns, etc.
Once that data is in your session, you can see it in the picker section, which is further divided into patterns (piano icon), audio clips (waveform icon), and automation clips (line icon).
Next, it’s important that you learn all the tools in the playlist window, including the pencil tool, brush tool, cut tool, etc.
Further, I also recommend that you explore and learn about Playlist options/main menu.
You can also set your grid divisions/lines and snap your samples and loops to those grid divisions. For beginners reading this, grids in FL Studio help you align and snap patterns and audio clips to a rhythmic grid. This ensures that your elements are synchronized and positioned accurately. You can adjust the grid resolution by right-clicking on the magnet icon in the toolbar and selecting the desired resolution.
Lastly, you can have different instances of the same or different arrangements in the Playlist Window, where you can clone arrangements, merge them, add a new arrangement, and delete and rename them.
Further, you can do much more with your playlist window, like editing and creating automation clips, editing and manipulating audio clips, recording, layering instruments, soloing or muting tracks, creating drum patterns, time stretching loops, arranging an entire song, and more. The playlist window is almost 50% of what FL Studio is!
Once you learn this and explore it deeply, you will be very clear on navigating this software. Here’s FL Studio’s official manual on the playlist window so you can study all the concepts discussed in this section in detail.
2. Dive Deep into the Piano Roll
The piano roll is where all the musical and compositional magic happens!!! Here, you can draw drum patterns, melodies, bass lines, etc. This is where you create/draw, manipulate, and edit MIDI notes for your instruments.
It also provides features for adjusting note properties, such as velocity, pitch, and duration. To access the piano roll, you have to open the “Channel Rack” and then open the piano roll of the sample or instrument you’d like to open the piano roll for.
Click on the icon highlighted on the top right of the image below to open the channel rack, and then click on the highlighted part right next to the instrument to open its Piano Roll.
In the piano roll, you get access to editing tools like draw, paint, delete, mute, etc., which are highlighted below. You can use these to draw and edit your MIDI notes.
Next, it would really help if you also study other tools. You can use these tools to arpeggiate your notes, join separated notes to create a legato effect, quantize recorded MIDI notes, articulate them, add randomized velocity and pan values to different MIDI notes, etc. It’s very important to explore these tools in order to make the best use of the piano roll.
Then there’s also “Grid setting” (magnet icon), which lets you select grid division and snapping, and “Stamp” (stamp icon), which lets you select the chords and scales you want to snap your MIDI notes to.
Grid settings let you You can choose between different musical divisions such as “Step,” “Beat,” “Bar,” “Line,” and others. So, for example, when you quantize your MIDI notes, they will snap to the grid that you set from here.
Lastly, it’s also important to learn how you can adjust the velocity, pan, and release of the MIDI notes and assign them to a MIDI controller by using the “Control” arrow.
Once you cover all these aspects of piano roll, you will become a MIDI-programming wizard. There’s nothing you cannot program when these tools are used correctly. Once you understand this and add it to your workflow, just practice it enough to make MIDI editing an intuitional process.
3. Study Music Theory
The entire workflow of FL Studio is based on Western Music Theory. Music theory provides knowledge of musical structures, helping you comprehend how different elements fit together harmonically and melodically. With a grasp of music theory, you can create more compelling and melodically rich melodies in FL Studio.
Knowledge of chord progressions and scales facilitates composition, allowing you to create more engaging and diverse musical arrangements. Understanding music theory streamlines your workflow in FL Studio, enabling quicker and more informed decision-making when arranging and composing.
Music theory provides a foundation for expressive playing and nuanced control over various parameters, enhancing the emotional impact of your music. Here’s a list of subjects that you can study to get better at FL Studio:
- Tones/semitones and Scales
Understanding tones and semitones helps in navigating the pitch space. Further, it’s important to know at least the chromatic, Major, minor, augmented, and diminished scales.
- Chords & Intervals
Intervals are the relationships between the notes. Studying intervals will help you create better melodies as it will give you an understanding of how notes are related to each other. Next, chords will help you create the foundational bed of your music and give you a harmonic understanding of arranging songs. These concepts will help you with better programming in the piano roll.
- Tempo/BPM and Time Signatures
Tempo and time signatures are fundamental to establishing the rhythm and pulse of your music. Knowing how to set the BPM and work with different time signatures in FL Studio ensures rhythmic consistency and variety.
- Beats and Bars
The knowledge of what quarter (1/4) notes, half (1/2) notes, triplets (1/3), etc., are will help you better program your drums and melodies and help you navigate through the Piano Roll and the Playlist window.
4. Learn the basics of Audio Engineering
FL Studio, as an audio engine, is based on the physical principles of sound. Studying the following concepts is absolutely essential. You have to have an understanding of how the sound travels, how amplitude and frequencies are measured, etc. Here’s a list of things I recommend you study:
- Physical properties of sound
Understanding the physical properties of sound involves grasping concepts like frequency (pitch), amplitude (volume), and waveform shapes. Recognizing how these elements interact forms the basis for manipulating audio in FL Studio. It’s akin to knowing the language of sound, allowing you to communicate your creative ideas within the DAW effectively.
I also suggest that you study the basics of the loudness law and normalization.
- Loudness meters
I suggest that you become aware of all meters that measure loudness, like the RMS meter, Peak/True Peak meter, VU meter, digital loudness scales, and the LUFS meter.
- Frequency Analysis & Equalization
Do you know what each frequency does? Do you know how the lows, mids, and highs interact with each other in a mix? Do you know what corrective and additive EQ is, what different types of bands are, and what it means to adjust the slope in EQ? If not, then it’s essential that you dive into frequency analysis and EQ tools. You can also study frequency visualization tools like the spectrogram.
- Dynamic Processing
Dynamic range is the difference between the loudest part of the sound and the softest part. As an FL Studio user, it’s essential to know why dynamics are important and how they impact your overall sound, as you will be using dynamic processing tools like compressor, gate, limiter, etc.
- Harmonics & Overtones
Harmonics and overtones are additional frequencies in a sound, contributing to its timbre and character. Recognizing and manipulating these elements can lead to richer and more complex sonic textures in FL Studio.
- Harmonic Processing
Harmonic processing involves techniques that add or manipulate harmonics to a sound, often achieved through tools like saturation and distortion. Applying harmonic processing creatively in FL Studio can add warmth, grit, or character to your audio.
- Time-based effects
Time-based effects include Reverb, Delay, Flager, Phaser, Chorus, etc. These effects manipulate your audio in terms of sound and create a sense of space/ambiance or simply add an interesting texture/effect to your sounds.
5. Gain-stage your audio
Gain staging is the process of managing the levels of audio signals throughout the various stages of a signal chain to optimize the overall sound quality and prevent unwanted distortion or noise.
It involves setting appropriate gain levels at each stage, from recording and processing to mixing and mastering. Proper gain staging ensures that the signal remains within the optimal range, preventing excessive quietness (resulting in a poor signal-to-noise ratio) and distortion caused by clipping (when the signal is too loud and exceeds the available headroom).
Learning gain-staging will prove to be a great workflow hack for you, as you won’t find yourself distorting or clipping your audio output. In FL Studio, you can adjust the gain by tweaking the “Volume” button in your sampler or synthesizer you have loaded and not by the volume sliders in the mixer window.
Adjusting volume sliders on your insert channels is for level-balancing and not gain-adjusting/staging. Lastly, I suggest you set the gain of your audio anywhere between -18 to -12 dB for optimal gain-staging.
6. Master the “Sampler”
The sampler is where you can edit and manipulate the basic properties of your samples and loops, like pitch, volume, time, etc., and route your sounds to the mixer channel. You can also create crossfades, view/edit sample locations, set de-clicking mode, set your audio for time-stretching, and more.
The sampler has three tabs. The first tab, “Sample Settings” (waveform icon), is the most important one and is often used parallel to the playlist window. For example, if you want to time-stretch a sample. You will need to open it in a sampler and set it to “Stretch Mode” in “Mode” under the “Time stretching” section.
Then, you must go to the playlist window, enable “STRETCH” under Focus: Audio Clips, and then stretch the sample or loop.
Next, you can also add pitch and volume modulators (envelope and LFO) to your sample and create interesting effects in the “Envelope/Instruments settings” in the second tab of the sampler, as shown below.
Next, the third tab, “Miscellaneous settings,” allows you to add more expressions by manipulating the number of voices/polyphony, adding time effects like portamento, adding arpeggiator effects, doing volume and keyboard tracking, and more.
Next, when you open a plugin window, whether a virtual instrument or an effects plugin, you get various settings by which you can adjust the inner processing and settings of the plugin, as shown below.
7. Get well-versed with the Mixer Window
The mixer window in FL Studio is where you add all effects on your sounds, create buses/groups, sidechain things to one another, level-balance your arrangement elements, and more. It can be opened by clicking the “sliders/mixer” icon, as shown in the image below.
Here, on the left side, are the insert channels. There are a total of 125 inserts and 1 master channel in FL Studio.
You can route a channel (sample or synth) from the channel rack into any of the 125 insert channels by right-clicking on the channel’s “Target mixer track” and typing in the value (from 1 to 125) of the insert to which you want to route the channel to, as shown in the image below. By default, all channels in the channel rack go to the master insert in the Mixer window.
Once a sound/channel is routed into an insert, you can add effects plugins like EQ, Compressor, saturation, etc., to them, and mix your track. Most of the mixing-mastering is done on the mixer window only, so it’s important that you understand it.
You can access panning, stereo imaging, volume adjustment, arm disk recording, effects bypass button, mute/solo button, and more on each insert. In addition, you can resize the mixer, enable/disable the Track Inspector view (where you add all effects), view waveforms in the mixer, enable multi-touch control, and enable/disable extra volume/stereo properties view.
8. Master Edison
Edison is a versatile audio editing and recording tool that allows you to seamlessly edit, record, and analyze audio. Its waveform display provides a visual representation of the audio, allowing precise editing of start and end points, as well as the application of fade-ins and fade-outs.
Edison’s spectral analysis tools enable you to visualize audio frequency content, aiding in tasks like noise removal or identifying specific elements within a sound. With advanced time-stretching and pitch-shifting capabilities, Edison is invaluable for adjusting the tempo or key of audio recordings.
Its seamless integration with FL Studio ensures a smooth workflow, allowing you to drag and drop audio directly from Edison into the Playlist or Channel Rack. Additionally, Edison’s noise reduction features make it an effective tool for cleaning up recordings. Lastly, it has a huge range of tools that enable elaborate editing on your samples and loops.
9. Know sound designing/synthesis
Understanding fundamental concepts of sound synthesis, such as oscillators, filters, and modulators (LFOs and Envelopes), is crucial for sound design and music production in FL Studio. Oscillators serve the vital function of generating the basic waveform of a sound, offering options like sine, sawtooth, square, and triangle waves.
Filters, including low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, and notch types, shape the frequency content of a sound by selectively allowing or attenuating specific frequencies. Modulators, such as LFOs, produce low-frequency waveforms used for cyclic modulation effects like vibrato and tremolo, while Envelopes control the sound’s shape over time, commonly employed for volume control with parameters like Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release (ADSR).
Next, learn about virtual instruments and synthesizers like 3x Oscillator, Sytrus, Harmor, FLEX, etc., to put all theory into practice. 3x Oscillator, in my opinion, is the most underrated FL Studio plugin. To learn sound design, it’s the best and most basic plugin to start with. Once you get familiar with it, you can move on to the FM synthesis plugin Sytrus, which is, again, a limitless synthesizer.
Then, you can explore more advanced plugins like Serum by Xfer Records, a third-party Wavetable synthesizer plugin. Learning a plugin like Serum, Vital, Omnisphere, Massive, or Diva will open your sound design horizon to unlimited possibilities.
10. Experiment with plugins
Plugins are your main weapons!!! The more you experiment with them, the better you will know what tools work the best for you and which tools you must use for different sounds and contexts. For example, when it comes to compressors, there’s a huge variety! There are multiband compressors, optical compressors, tube compressors, VCA compressors, FET, etc.
Then, there are various compression techniques like parallel, sidechain, etc. Hence, to get really good at sound design, you must practice and experiment with plugins and their different settings. I also recommend reading manuals and watching tutorials to understand the plugin controls and best-use scenarios.
Further, when it comes to virtual instruments/synths, trying different plugins will help you explore different sonic palettes and even up your sound selection game. Pros know which synth presets would best suit the genre under which context. Actively using and experimenting with plugins helps users understand their functionalities. It’s a practical, hands-on approach to learning how each plugin works, from synthesizers to audio processors, and how they contribute to the overall sound.
Next, every plugin has its own sonic characteristics and features. By experimenting, you can identify plugins that resonate with your style, contributing to developing a unique sound signature that distinguishes your work.
Lastly, experimentation aids in discovering shortcuts, quick workflows, and efficient ways to use plugins. This knowledge can significantly enhance productivity and streamline the creative process in FL Studio.
11. Use templates, mixer states/effects chains
Templates allow you to create a predefined project structure with your preferred instruments, mixer channels, and routing. That ensures consistency across your projects and saves time by eliminating the need to set up the same elements repeatedly.
Templates provide a starting point with instruments, effects, and routing already in place. This accelerates the initial phase of a project, allowing you to dive into creativity without spending time on repetitive setup tasks.
Mixer states and FX chains capture your preferred mixer settings, channel configurations, and applied effects. Reusing these setups across projects ensures a consistent and efficient mixing process. For example, if you are producing for a specific vocalist, you can use the same effects chain every time you produce/mix their song(s).
Next, you can also find effects chains for a particular style of vocal mixing. For example, Drake’s, Central Cee’s, and Travis Scott’s vocal effects chains are quite famous online. These effects chains also let you learn from more experienced producers.
12. Utilize automation and MIDI controllers
The use of MIDI controllers greatly improves the hands-on and expressive aspects of FL studio. The controllers provide a hands-on approach to manipulating the software’s variables in real time. You can record MIDI notes using MIDI keyboards. Furthermore, they assist you in recording some forms of automation, such as volume changes and modulations, by using pads, sliders, knobs, and other controllers.
For controllers without automapping, FL Studio allows users to manually map MIDI controls to various parameters using the MIDI Learn function. This provides flexibility in customizing the control scheme.
In the absence of automatic mapping of controllers, FL Studio allows you to assign MIDI controls to different parameters via the MIDI learn feature. It gives scope for tailoring the design of a control scheme.
Lastly, the performance mode in the FL Studio is designed exclusively for live concerts. In this mode, you can utilize MIDI controllers to trigger clips, control effects, and shape sounds on the go and live settings.
13. Organize your workflow
Organizing and having your own mix template was the first thing I was taught at audio school. For my sessions, I color-code my tracks and follow a naming convention. For example, I color my guitars green, vocals red, synths blue, bass pink, and drums orange. That helps me navigate my instruments easily and gives a good visual aid.
Next, I suggest organizing your samples in categories like key, BPM/tempo, one-shot/loops, instrument/element types, etc. Also, knowing where everything is located and having quick access to essential tools and features allows you to work faster and more productively.
Lastly, have a backup cycle, maybe once a week or once a month, when you back up all your sessions and samples on an external drive and cloud.
14. Learn keyboard shortcuts
It is important to learn all the necessary FL Studio keyboard shortcuts, which can help increase work efficiency and save time. These shortcuts are meant to aid in fast surfing across FL Studio’s interface, allowing you to navigate the different functions with ease and less frequent mouse clicking.
Such efficiency ensures that producers can continue innovating as they move effortlessly from one idea to another. Keyboard shortcuts are valuable, especially for cut, paste, and duplication tasks done quickly in the editing and arranging phase.
Watch tutorials, study blogs/articles, join online communities, receive feedback, and keep learning!
To enhance your proficiency in FL Studio, it’s crucial to engage in a multifaceted approach to learning. Begin with video lessons that outline different functions and complex methods associated with the software. Further your education by reading music education blogs like integraudio and articles with detailed advice, tricks, and guidelines.
There is immense benefit in joining online communities or forums and on social media platforms created specifically for fellow producers of FL Studio. You can find such communities on Reddit, Discord, Telegram, Quora, etc. This stimulates an active sharing of ideas within the communities, enhancing the collective learning process.
Also, always take feedback from people of different backgrounds regarding your music. Good criticism assists you in spotting areas of weakness as a producer and speeds up your progress. Additionally, as technology changes, have a lifelong learning attitude and always know about the latest features and trends to ensure your knowledge remains current.
Incorporating tutors, web blogging, community forums, and an ongoing commitment to lifelong learning combine into a single comprehensive strategy, propelling you on the path of mastery in FL studio and ultimately enhancing your music production.
Work/intern/shadow a professional
When you work with or shadow someone who has experience in the field and software of your interest, you get to learn their tricks, skills, professionalism, how they deal with clients, how they perceive music, how their business operates, etc.
You get on-ground and practical learning experience, working with their clients and artists. Shadowing a professional also provides an observational learning experience, allowing you to witness the nuances of production, mixing, and mastering firsthand.
Moreover, these experiences offer networking opportunities, enabling you to establish connections within the music production industry. Building relationships with professionals can lead to mentorship opportunities, exposure to a broader network, and potential collaboration on projects.
Practice A LOT!!!
Can’t stress this enough!!! In terms of practice, the best thing you can do is transcribe and reproduce your favourite songs. I also suggest exploring and practicing producing songs of different genres and styles. Many production breakdown tutorials on YouTube also give access to download the sessions, samples, project bones, etc.
You can download those sessions and break them down. Next, let’s say you’re trying to get better at sound design! Take any sound and try recreating that with your synth. That will develop your sound design muscle. Platforms like SoundGym and Tone Gym help you learn music production & ear training with engaging online games.
Then there are some websites that allow you to download stems and multitrack for practicing mixing! Practicing allows you to refine your workflow, experiment with different genres, and ultimately find your unique style. Lastly, it’s not just about accumulating hours but about deliberate, focused practice that cultivates expertise and creativity over time.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.