The free trial version of Fruity Loops or FL Studio teaches you how to use one of the best digital audio platforms out there today. Some features are quite difficult to master, but they provide access to many musical options that make the trial version worth the detour. Know how to compose and export beautiful songs with this software.
Part 1 of 4: download the software
Step 1. Test the trial version
You have the possibility to test the trial version on image-line.com before downloading it. You will then know how the software works on your machine. The faster your processor, the more things you can do simultaneously on FL Studio Demo.
Step 2. Download FL Studio Demo
Download the most recent version of FL Studio Demo from image-line.com. You will need 1 GB of free hard drive space and at least 1 GB of RAM to run the program properly. 32 or 64-bit versions are available for PC and Mac.
- On PC, you will need Windows XP, Vista, 7 or later.
- On Mac, you will need Boot Camp / Windows (or OS X 10, 8 or 10, 9 for a Beta version). Yosemite is not supported.
Step 3. Launch FL Studio
Launch the program and take a look at the options and settings. There is a toolbar at the top and 5 main windows listed below with their respective keyboard shortcuts.
- The sequencer (F6): it brings together your instruments in the form of plug-ins. Plug-ins are the main way to add new instruments that you can use individually or simultaneously. Note that the height of the rack changes as you add or remove plug-ins.
- The Piano roll (F7): the Piano roll displays the notes of the instruments. The pitch is on the vertical axis and the time is on the horizontal axis. These cues allow you to visually follow the notes you play.
- The mixer or mixer (F9): all sounds go through the mixer. The instruments inserted in the sequencer are sent to the tracks of the mixer.
- The playlist or playlist (F5): this is the player that plays all the sounds that your final song includes.
- The Navigator (Alt + F8): The Navigator is a tab that includes 3 main sections (all, current projects and the plug-in database) that give you access to projects, samples and the sound library.
Part 2 of 4: planning the song
Step 1. Plan your song
Write down the basics of your song on paper or in your computer (on a word processor or spreadsheet) before you start composing. Know which instruments and plug-ins you can use, or at least know which ones will help you get started. Simulate the software on a piece of paper or on your computer.
If it's a 3-4 minute song, start with a simple melody, percussion, vocals and so on
Step 2. Develop your song
Develop your song in layers. If you are composing a long piece, proceed in layers.
- The first track can be a drumset to give the measure. A 4/4 rhythm is common in pop and dance songs. One way to remember this is to focus on the first and third beat of a bar.
- Add a bass line. The most common bass line is arguably a bass guitar or cello sound, but you can also try a baritone saxophone, tuba, or other sounds that come close to it.
- You can now add the melody. Once the rhythm and bass are established, you will have a better overview of the song and you can compose the melody. Stick to a few pre-recorded chords from FL Studio. This will give your composition the richness and depth that notes alone do not have.
Step 3. Know which instruments to use
FL Studio Demo includes a full range of virtual instruments and each track in the sequencer can accommodate one instrument (plug-in). You add an instrument (plug-in) by clicking on the "+" sign of the sequencer.
- In general, an instrument refers to a synthesizer or sample player that allows melodies or percussion to be created.
- FL Studio contains vintage instruments and instruments that reproduce analog grain. It also contains special effects and voice samples.
- You can increase the number of instruments by adding plug-ins through a VST (Virtual Studio Technology) interface. This is necessary when, for example, you don't see the instrument you are looking for, you want to use a rare or uncommon instrument, or you want to try a different version of an instrument available in the sequencer.
Step 4. Plan one instrument at a time
Plan one instrument at a time for longer songs. For the melody in particular, it is important to plan the notes of each instrument before placing them in the Piano roll. That said, you don't need to plan the entire song. Inspiration will come to you little by little to fill in the gaps and you can also intentionally leave blanks in the song for improvisation.
Step 5. Know what the composition possibilities are
A step-based rhythm machine allows you to create your own compositions. The step system rounds the length of notes to a defined duration to make it uniform. You can also use something called Fruity Slicer for more precision. The Fruity Slicer plug-in can be added from the channels menu in the main menu bar.
Part 3 of 4: master the composition process
Step 1. Follow your plan
Follow your plan to compose your song in FL Studio. It's best to plan your project out and start working on it when you have a full day off. If you can leave your computer in sleep mode, give yourself a night's break and get to work later.
Step 2. Dial
You can enter the notes directly into the Piano roll and you also have the option of playing music directly on a master keyboard. The step sequencer plays the percussion samples and you can record with the record button on the record panel.
Step 3. Learn to use the sequencer
The sequencer is an interface that records, modifies and plays audio samples. The sequencer's recording and playback functions are one of the biggest strengths of digital composition over analog instruments that must be played individually.
- Left click on the squares in the sequencer to activate them and right click to deactivate them.
- To edit patterns, go to the PAT selector on the toolbar and drag (left click and keep your finger pressed) up and down.
Step 4. Learn how to make arrangements
FL Studio offers many arrangement possibilities. You can arrange the audio clips in any order or stack them. You can even manipulate them like notes in the Piano roll. Use the playlist window to make your arrangements: add, delete, cut (with Fruity Slicer!), Rearrange or mute clips.
Step 5. Learn to mix
Left click on a sequencer instrument to select a track in the mixer (a green cursor will light up next to the instrument). The mixer is where all of your instruments are sent and therefore you should think of it as a filter to modify the sound as it passes through.
- Use the mixer to adjust volumes and add effects, such as reverb or delay. Effects can be automated.
- The recorded sounds will be displayed in the playlist as audio clips. Use the playlist window to listen to and rearrange clips.
Step 6. Use the preinstalled patterns
For any track, you can go to the Piano roll window and click on the Tools menu to select the riff machine. This contains a large number of riffs, chords and arpeggios that you can adjust. Unlike composing note by note, riffs feature multiple notes and chords play multiple notes simultaneously.
- Click on Throw the dice to create a new melody or a new beat and click on Accept to insert it into the Piano roll.
- Try the pre-recorded chords. On the Piano roll's Tools menu, click the Chords submenu. It allows you to add chords to the Piano roll without having to create and play them manually.
Part 4 of 4: control and export
Step 1. Adjust the spatialization
Adjust the spatialization of the different instruments when you have finished your composition. This involves directing them to different channels, such as the left and right speakers. Most songs don't sound good when played on a single channel (mono). Listen to your project until the end and do some mixing. You may need to adjust the spatialization and volume.
Step 2. Save your project
You may have already saved riffs or parts of your composition, but remember that you also need to save the entire song. FL Studio has a useful feature in case you forget it: it keeps in memory the MIDI notes of the previous 5 minutes, even if you do not make any backup. To retrieve a riff, go to an empty pattern and click on Dump Score Log To Selected Pattern.
Step 3. Edit the metadata for your project
Before exporting your composition, you can go to the options and modify the project information or the metadata that an audio player will be able to display. You have the option to edit things like song title, artist name, comments, and song genre.
Step 4. Export your song
Export your song when you're happy with it. You can save it in WAV, MP3, MIDI or OGG formats. The export is done from the file menu via a process called conversion. Scroll down the menu and select the type and quality of the file to save.
- You can no longer access projects saved on the trial version of FL Studio. To open them you need to use the full version with its plugins.
- The only other downside to the trial version is that you may hear white and static noise or silence while using certain plugins. That said, the trial version is still very functional and is still a good way to learn to use FL Studio.
- Listen to different styles of song, including pop, for inspiration.
- Learn modularly and step by step.
- Learning music theory can be very helpful in improving your composing skills.
- Take a break every now and then. Get up and walk, eat, chat with your friends, and get back to work when you feel the inspiration coming back.