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FL Studio Tutorial 2: Patterns text & images free fruity loops tutorials

FL Studio Tutorial 2: Patterns…

and the Playlist ( short title)

Alright, I know my first tutorial was very basic, as it was just intended to get someone started with FL that has had NO experience with it. The second edition is going to pickup where the first left off, so if you haven’t read the first I highly suggest you go back and at least skim through it first to make sure you’re up to pace.

Anyways, in the last lesson you learned how to make a simple pattern using one instrument. This is a very important concept, but it only gets you so far. Before long you’ll need several instruments, drum tracks, and such. And sorting through all of the sequences in the whole song can get quite messy if you’re trying to squeeze it all into the same sequence. This is why FL implements a system of patterns.

Let’s take a loot at the playlist:

See the left panel, with all of the patterns? The one in orange is the currently selected patern, and the corresponding row for that pattern is highlighted. Each pattern can hold it’s own little sequence for any of the instruments at once. This is a rather hard concept to explain in words, so let’s try it out shall we? Go up to File -> New or just launch FL fresh, and let’s start a new project.

Firstly, those 4 default instruments you see all the time, Kick, clap, hi-hat, and snare – we don’t need those! Try clicking on some of them, you’ll notice just to the right of the name there is a small green circle that lights up. Our goal is to light all 4 of those up. Theres two ways to do this, you can either click the top one and drag down, or you can just click one that’s already green, which will automatically light up all 4.
Pick your method, and after they’re all lit up, hit Ctrl + Delete. Hit ok to the dialog, and there they go! You’ll notice that FL doesn’t like to be left empty-handed, so any time it runs out of instruments, it automatically inserts an empty placeholder, called a sampler. This instrument won’t do anything uless you load your own samples and go through the process of configuring everything – but let’s not worry about that right now. Remember how we added the 3x Osc last time? That time we went to insert, then the instrument, which added it to the list – but this time, we want to get rid of the sampler too. FL studio allows us to do this at the same time. Go to replace -> FPC*.

It may take a second to load, but then you will have a beautiful yellow window pop up with lots of buttons and things scattered about. This is your main window for FPC, and it wouldn’t hurt to leave it open for the rest of the time if you can. Looking back at the Playlist, make sure Pattern 1 is orange and the first row is highlighted. If another pattern is oragne, just click Pattern 1 and everything will be fine.

Look in the upper right hand corner of the FPC window, just to the right of “MIXER”. There’s a folder icon. click on this and a window opens up with many different choices for your drum pattern.

For this example, let’s go into 808 Loops, and pick 808kit_01.mid. You’ll notice the name pops up in the corner, just to the right of the folder icon we clicked previously. You may also notice some data appears in the step sequencer. This shows that we now have a little sequence in this pattern. Hit space bar to listen to it. This is a good beat, and we’ll use it later. But what about those fills? Drum parts get boring after a while, and it doesn’t hurt to throw in a good fill here and ther. Go over to the playlist again, and click on Pattern 2. Notice that the information in the step sequencer clears. This is because this pattern can hold completely different data. If you go back to pattern 1 you’ll see the drum loop reappear.

Anyways, go to Pattern 2, and go back to the FPC window. If you accidentally closed it, just click FPC in the step sequencer and it comes right back. You can close the main instrument window if you want, the FPC window will stay open. Since we’re using 808 loops, it’s a good idea to stay within the same style. The left and right arrows on either side of the name of the current pattern (in the upper right hand corner, remember) will allow you to move through the other loops in this same folder. Alternatively you can hit the down arrow all the way to the right and get a list of all the loops in the folder.

Since this pattern is empty, you simply need to change the loop once for FPC to fill it in. hit the right arrow to go to 808kit_02, and you’ll see the data appear in the SS (step sequencer, I’ll use shorthand occasionally) again. Go ahead and hit spacebar to listen to it, and continue clicking the right arrow to listen to differnet loops. You can pick whatever you like, but I decided on 808kit_07 for a fill. Remember this for later, and we’ll continue moving on.

It never hurts to start off a song with a good bass line, so let’s find ourself a good Bass. Go to Insert again, and click BooBass. Seems simple enough. Now I just picked this since it’s quick and simple, as I’m trying to get through this tutorial in a short time. Feel free to experiment with different instruments, especially after we go over the browser a little bit later. Anyways, after selecting BooBass, the familiar instrument window will come up, with BooBass’ own settings. you can tweak the simple 3 band eq if you want, but once you’re done, close the window so as not to clutter your workspace.

Select Pattern 3 on the playlist first, then right click on BooBass and select Piano Roll. Look at the sequence below

Punch this into your own Piano Roll and play it. Nothing to flashy, but still almost catchy in a way. Now go over to the Playlist again. We know that pattern 1 is our main drum pattern, pattern 2 is our fill, and pattern 3 is our bassline. Rather annoying remembering all those numbers don’t you think? Especially whne you’ve got lot s of patterns to remember. Click on pattern 1 and hit F2. Type in Drums and hit enter. Click on pattern 2, hit F2, type Fill and hit enter. Click on pattern 3, hit F2, type Bass, and hit enter. Simple enough, but now we have some clear labels. Just a word of advice, sometimes the patterns aren’t as simple to name as this, as you’ll see later, so you may have to be rather creative with your names so you know what the pattern holds.

Anyways, gettting on with it. You’ll notice that the playlist works a lot lke the PR – you can draw on it the same way, create bars by clicking, erase by right clicking. However, you cannot change the size of the bar, only the location. We’ll talk more about this later. I can’t remember what the default tool is for the playlist at the moment, but put your mouse over the playlist, if it looks like a pencil or anything else, go to the tool pallette in the upper left hand corner and click the paintbrush. Now when you hover your mouse over the playlist it should turn into a paintbrush. This is a lot more useful than the pencil, which only allows you to draw one pattern at a time. The paintbrush allows you to drag and create a string of patterns as long as you want.

Let’s start the song off with 2 bars of bass line, kick the drums in on measure three, then continue until measure 8 where we change to a fill. Confused? Read on. We know the bassline is going to be constant, so click in the first measure accross from Bass, and drag over to measure 8. The drums come in on measure 3, and change to a fill on 8. Click on measure 3 accross from Drums, and drag over to measure 7. Then Click on measure 8 accross from Fill. When you’re finished, it should look like this…

Before we play it, take a look at the transport controls…

Notice the indicator to the left of the play button. You’ll see two labels, PAT and SONG. Each has a light next to it, and the one selected is lit up orange. Until now we’ve been working with individual patterns, but now that we have an actual song going using multiple patterns, we want to play the whole song. you can click anywhere in this little section or you can hit L to change the play mode to SONG. Hit the spacebar and you’ll notice a bar moving accross the playlist as your song begins to play. You can hear the repetitive bass and drums go until measure eight where you hear a fill and then your song immediately loops back to the beginning.

Now let’s start building the song. Bring up the browser. The browser operates using a tree design – in other words, when you go inside a folder, each subsequent file and folder are indented slightly to show that they are on a lower level. Looking at the first level, find Plugin Presets, and click it to drop down the list if it’s not already so. Next click on Generators, to see a list of some of the instruments you have available to you. Go to Sytrus. Sytrus is the name of a very powerful synth included with FL Studio 6. It is much more powerful than any of the synths we’ve used so far. It’s also an all-around synth, so you can make virtually any instrument you want. You’ll notice after clicking on Sytrus there are several more folders. Go to Plucked. You’ll see several instruments come up. To use one, drag it onto the SS. Make sure not to drag onto another instrument (it will light up orange) as this will actually replace the instrument with the preset. Find Zen (it’s the last one) and drag it over.

Go down to pattern 4, so as not to overwrite any previous material. Open up the PR for Zen and put a quarter note on G5 (ie the G above C5) on count 4, and a quarter note on C5 on count 1 of measure two.

Hit L to change back to PAT play mode and hit space to listen to it. Simple enough. Now let’s get back to the song. Let’s do the same pattern for bass and drums again (minus the solo bass intro). Extend the bass line over to measure 16. Extend the drums over to 15 and do a fill on measure 16. Now try putting in pattern 4 at measure 8. Hey, it looks different! You may rememeber me mentioning something about not being able to change the size of the bars within the playlist. The size of the bar is determined by the length of the pattern. If you remember when we made Pattern 4 we extended it into the second measure, making the pattern 2 measures long. for this reason when we implement it in the playlist the bar will be twice as long. Go ahead and stick pattern 4 in there until measure 16, don’t worry about it hanging off at the end by a measure, we’ll fix that later.

Well that pattern is nice, but gets old rather fast, so lets make another one taking off from this pattern. Go to pattern 5 and punch this in for Zen…

Now this may look like nothing but a bunch of bars to you at first, but play it (remember to put it in pattern play mode) and you can hear a simple melody (yes this is the one I used in gamey, sue me). Go ahead and extend the drums, bass, and now pat 4 another 8 measures to 23. Stick this new pattern in there from 16 to 23 as well. You’ll notice the pattern is 4 measures long, so you only have to stick it in there twice!

OK, you may have noticed I didn’t put a fill in this time on measure 24. That’s because I want to introduce a larger part here, so rather than do another fill, I want to do a hit on 1 and then have a break. To do this, we first need to create a simple pattern for the downbeat. But, in the sake of keeping things organized, it would be better if the break were up with the percussion patterns at the top. Inserting a pattern here is simple, right click on Bass and select Insert One. Rename the new pattern to Break. Now go up to the SS and open up the PR for BooBass. Put a note on C5 on 1 (it doesn’t really matter how long it is, eigth note or quarter note will do fine). Now, without changing patterns, open up the PR for FPC. Here’s that different looking Piano Roll we taled about in the last lesson. Find the note that says “Kick Drum” and put a note on the downbeat of 1 as well.

EDIT: Sometimes FL doesn’t like to change the piano roll like it should. If you pull up the PR for FPC and it looks like a normal one, with an unapetizing keyboard along the side, close out of the piano roll, then right click FPC and select Piano Roll again. This should fix the problem. If you really can’t get it, the kick drum is on C3.

Now there’s one more part to insert, a few more things to teach you, and I’ll leave the rest to you. Go back to the browser, into Sytrus again (in case you forgot how to get there, it’s Plugin Presets -> Generators -> Sytrus). This time go to Gutiars and pick Electric 3. Add it to the SS. Note that, like before, I looked through the instruments rather quickly for the sake of time to get this tutorials out sooner. Feel free to experiment with any of the others, and even check out other synths, like FL Slayer.

Anyways, go to Pattern 7, or whatever your first empty pattern is. Bring up the PR for electric 3 and punch this in…

By the way, did you notice something strange about that pattern? Look closely at the first and second to last C5’s. They have triangles lightly engraved at the beginning of the bar. And they’re also right on top of another note, with a short delay in starting time. These notes with triangle denoations are called slides, or glides. FL implements this concept rather strangely, but it’s easy after you get the hang of it. Whenever a slide is placed in a sequence, any pitches that the instrument is currently playing will slide towards that note. Sometimes if you have two differnet patterns using the same instrument playing at the same time, and one has a slide, you’ll hear the notes from the other pattern slide as well. So, in the example above, we establish the G for a sixteenth note then slide up to C. Note that when you use slides, most of the time you want a short period to establish the starting note, and then you want to restate the note after the slide so there is a clear start and finish. Notice how this is done in the above pattern.

To create slides is simple, there is a toggle switch in the upper left hand corner, next to the color bar. It has the same triangle symbol. Click this once to turn slides on. All notes you create after slides are turned on will have the triangle symbol and be slides. Click the button again to turn slides off. Simple enough. I do wish they’d just made it affect one note and then turn off automatically, but sadly that’s not so. You’ll just have to remember to do it yourself.

Anyways, with that said, you should be able to create the above pattern for Electric 3. Now to put the last pieces together. Put the previously created break pattern on measure 24 and start both zen patterns and the electric one. Continue running everything to measure 31. Then put another pattern of bass and fill on measure 32. Your playlist should now look something like this…

Go ahead and listen to your song thus far. You’ll notice the break is a rather neat effect, but the mix is rather off and the guitar seems to cover up everything else. The third lesson will show you how to map channels to the mixer and use it to mix and balance your song, but for now I’ll show you a few more tools in the SS to keep you goin. Look at the SS for a minute. To the left of each instrument there are 3 things: A mute switch, a pan knob, and a volume knob, in that order (left to right). The first item, the mute switch, is simply a green light. All instruments are normally on, and the green light lit. To mute an instrument to temporarily take it out of the mix, simply click the green light. The light will go dim and the instrument will no longer be heard. To unmute, just click the now dim light again. It lights back up!

Next is the pan knob. You’ll notice it’s normally in the exact center for each instrument. Here’s a quick tip about knobs in FL, and most daws. FL Studio uses what’s called linear knobs. This means you click a knob, and drag the mouse up to increase its value, and down to decrease. This can be a bit strange at first, but you’ll adjust quickly. Back to the SS, the first knob, next to the mute switch, controls panning. If you begin to change it, you can see the meter come up, as you increase the knob more, the meter fills to the right, indicating a pan towards the right. If you decrease, the opposite is true. The volume knob is a little different. It has a vertical meter, that rises on increase, and falls on decrease. It is not always the best choice to use these controls to fix balance problems rather than using the mixer, but it is there when you need it. Until the next lesson, if the electric guitar sounds as horribly out of balance to you as it did to me, by all means, go to that volume knob and pull it down some. note that you can tweak these knobs in realtime, while the song is playing.

Lastly, you’ll notice we never named a few of those patterns. Remember what I said a while back, about it not always being easy to name patterns? Sometimes you have to make up something stupid that reminds you what the pattern is for. Come up with your own name for the remaining 3 unnamed patterns, and be creative!

And so I leave the rest up to you, take this song wherever you like – or promptly delete this piece of crap and start your own! Until the next lesson, goodbye BandAmp!!

Footnotes:
*-Note to pre-FL 6 users, fpc was added in version 6 of FL studio, so you likely won’t be able to see it. Don’t worry about the specific parts applying to fpc itself, but pay attention to the rest of the lesson, as it will still apply to you.

Hey, after you’re done with this tutorial, how’d you like to check out the corresponding flp? You can download it here.

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