How To

FL Studio 20 Tutorial & Review

Photograph of the blog post author, Craig Brown

Craig Brown

17.4.2020

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Always wondered about FL Studio and whether it might be the right DAW for you? In this article, we’ll have a look at FL Studio 20 to bring you a tutorial and a review. Keep reading to find out more.

What is FL Studio?

FL Studio is a digital audio workstation developed by the Belgian software company Image-Line. 

FL Studio 20 Image-line

It started almost like a game in its infant stage. FL Studio is a DAW that is easier to navigate and create music quickly.  It features a graphical user interface based on a pattern-based music sequencer.  

FL Studio was first known as Fruity Loops but they changed the name to FL Studio (Fruit Loops Studio) because the former name seems professional and less childlike.  FL Studio can also be used as a VST instrument in other audio workstation programs and it also functions as a ReWire client. 

Image-Line, who owns the software, also offers other VST instruments and audio applications. But it was the simple interface of FL Studio that brought it a huge number of fans, in particular the States. It is quite popular in the hip-hop community.

FL Studio has been used by countless Hip-Hop, Beat Makers and EDM producers and has established itself as one of the top five most popular DAWs on the market.

What can you do with FL Studio? 

FL-Studio-20-Featured

FL Studio allows you to load instruments and samples, including the ability to play these instruments live

or you can manually enter the notes and record external sounds. You can save the completed project and export to a Wav, MP3 or OGG audio file. 

Although FL Studio had capabilities to run on Mac, it was quite glitchy and complicated. In 2018, Image-Line finally created a compatible version FL Studio for Apple Mac users. Therefore you can now run FL Studio on your Mac Book Pro with full VST and AU support!

Getting Started & Pricing

FL Studio 20 Wallpaper

At the entry-level, you have FL Studio Fruity Edition. This is a great way to start out with a DAW such as FL Studio. It features a limited playlist, no audio clips and no audio recording. But it is a great price at only $99.00

FL Studio Producer Edition is an All-in-one virtual studio. This edition will cover all your music production needs in one simple to use location. For a budding or seasoned music producer with a bit of a budget, I would strongly suggest this edition. 

It has full song creation & mic recording features including audio recording full playlist and 7 additional native plugins. This edition goes for $199 with a lot provided for your buck.

Next is the FL Studio Signature Bundle, which is a combination of FL Studio Producer Edition including some signature plugins. It features audio recording with full playlist and an increased 14 additional native plugins for $299.

If you are a producer that likes to collect countless synths and plugins, the All Plugin Bundle would work for you. It is priced at $699.

If you want to try out FL Studio before purchasing, you can try their free demo version which includes all of the program’s features. It includes all VST plugins and allows users to render project audio to WAV, MIDI, MP3, and OGG. 

Download the free version here.

Setting Up

MIDI

Setting up MIDI to FL Studio can seem a bit daunting at first but it is quite simple once you become familiar with the interface. First, FL Studio needs to recognize that your MIDI keyboard is connected to your computer before you will be able to use it. If needed, you will be prompted to install the latest drivers for your keyboard and follow the instructions in the owner’s manual before proceeding. 

To manage MIDI connections for FL Studio, you need to navigate to the MIDI Device menu. From this point, you can activate or deactivate the MIDI ports or channels of your hardware. 

First, you need to click the “Options menu” from the top toolbar, then click MIDI Settings. 

The next step is to go in the MIDI Options window, go to the Input settings section. You can select your MIDI keyboard and click Enable. If you happen to see the input named USB Audio Device, you should enable that, and change the controller type to Generic Controller. Finally, you should press a key or pad to confirm you’re getting a MIDI signal.

Audio Interface

To set up an audio interface with FL Studio, you will need to connect the cable that came with your audio interface to the interface and to your computer. Next step is to set your sound settings. You can do this by going to the same drop-down menu by going back to “Options” then select Audio.

From the drop-down box similar to the MIDI set up box, you can select your interface. Example, Focusrite or other default settings, including FL Studio.  Although I am connected to my Focusrite, I tend to keep it on FL Studio. But you can play around with it and listen to the difference in the sounds. 

Once your keyboard is set up, you can select it in FL Studio, and start working with FL Studio.

Let’s Talk Main Windows Flexibility

fl Studio main screen view

The FL Studio DAW has numerous windows. Most of these windows are movable, resizable, zoomable and easily interchangeable. 

The main windows in FL Studio music creation are as follows:

  • Playlist (F5)
  • Channel rack ( F6) 
  • Piano roll (F7)
  • Mixer(F9)

The Browser is used to access audio files, plugins & presets. You can press Alt+F8 to access the browser. The flexibility with the windows makes it quite easy to navigate between the different sections while creating – ideally have a large monitor screen or dual screens are best so you don’t have to keep flicking between windows and set up everything so essential gear can be accessed quickly. 

Powerful New Features In Version 20

Mixer Left FL STUDIO

FL Studio recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. 

To celebrate their 20th anniversary they skipped versions 13-19 and went straight to 20. With their 20th version came countless new features. Including the ability to render (freeze). You can create and save complete multi-track music projects & arrangements with their complete layouts of automation and pattern clips. 

In addition, there is Plug-in delay compensation that ensures a smooth mixing experience. You’ll also enjoy an updated version of Graph Editor, Precomputed FX, an upgraded Channel Sampler, including a variety of new and updated plug-ins. 

Powerful & Convenient

Sytrus Synth Screen

Image-Line FL Studio 20 has a full-featured melody and loop creation capabilities. 

This includes audio sends, sidechain control, advanced automation, multi-touch support, and much more to boot.

The Piano Roll makes arranging and sequencing quite easy to accomplish. The playlist is very flexible and allows you to use Automation and Note data. Workflow is super-fast due mainly to FL Studio’s browser. A unique capability of FL Studio is the ability to use third-party VSTs. 

Therefore making it extra powerful beyond its already powerful capabilities. This is quite an impressive quality and another selling point. 

Advanced MIDI Music Production Capabilities

Mixer Right

It’s very flexible loop-creation tools let you time-stretch, beat-slice, chop and edit mix your audio with ease. 

Including, up to eight different effects can be added to each track, in addition to being routed to any of the other audio tracks.  

There are a wide variety of effects that are already added to spark instant inspiration. Including effects such as: 

  • Delay
  • Distortion
  • EQ
  • Filtering
  • Reverb
  • Phasing
  • Flanging
  • Chorus
  • Vocoding

You can use the software just as a drum machine, beat maker or access the drum samples in conjunction with other high-quality instrumentals such as transistor bass and lead synths. Easy access to mastering tools like multiband compression/limiting and parametric EQ are also included.

Automation & Music Production Support

Slicex

Fl Studio also has very slick automation features. It’s quite fluid with various ways to manipulate automation to allow you to breathe life into your songs and musical creations.  

Among the other new features, FL Studio 20 also updated several of its signature features and plugins. 

Fruity Reverb 2
  1. You can customise the browser to make it easier to navigate back and forth during the creative process. 
  2. Fruity Reverb 2 now includes a modulation section that adds some of that cool classic metallic ring modulation to your sound. 
  3. FL Studio’s very unique sample chopper and beat arranger Slicex has been updated with new slicing and send options.
  4. The main window features such as Channel rack, Playlist and Browser can be clicked on or off. Therefore decluttering the DAW’s creative workspace is much easier to accomplish. 
  5. Automation can be added to the Playlist later.
  6. The mixer in FL Studio is customisable with channel width and number of controls on display.
  7. FL Studio 20 Producer version comes with 80 VST plug-ins which can be added to the Channel rack by hitting the + button and then selecting from a drop-down menu. This cool new feature makes it easier to add plugins rather than navigating away from the Channel rack.
  8. Piano roll editor now features plenty of melodic editing options within the Piano Roll editor.
  9. All of the settings are in one window via lots of tabs. Therefore you can set up everything you need for more fluidity.

FL Studio vs Ableton vs Logic

ABLETON logo

FL Studio is a quality DAW that’s not in question, with easy accessibility to numerous sounds in addition to ease of use to quickly create a musical idea. 

It has more than enough effects to perform the highest level tasks. As a long time owner and user of FL Studio, there are so many other segments to this all in one powerful DAW. 

You can keep discovering something new, years after owning it. One of their best synthesizers and my go-to synth in FL Studio is Systrus. This is a hybrid FM and additive synth with a wide sound palette. 

FL Studio might best be compared to other DAWs such as Ableton or PreSonus but its features are more flexible. There isn’t the go-to DAW for producers or composers of a certain genre of music. 

Therefore it might not have the unlimited number of track capabilities such as Logic, but it has both PC and MAC capabilities. 

While Ableton seems to have a better MIDI controller support and less learning curve with most of its synths, FL Studio 20 has a lot of easily accessible sounds.  Including easy to navigate windows to quickly come up with creative ideas. 

There are so many sounds in the earlier edition of  FL Studio and with FL Studio 20 there is a lot more to choose from. 

Specs

  • Bit Depth:
  • 64-bit
  • Format:
  • VST2, VST3, AU
  • Hardware Requirements – Mac:
  • Intel Core Duo or higher, 4GB RAM or more recommended
  • Hardware Requirements – PC:
  • Intel Core Duo / AMD Athlon 64 or higher, 4GB RAM or more recommended
  • OS Requirements – Mac:
  • macOS 10.13.6 or later
  • OS Requirements – PC:
  • Windows 8.1 or later.

Conclusion

It would take you a while to even begin to scratch the surface. Another bonus and reason to get  FL Studio 20. It has free updates for lifetime use, which other software brands don’t offer as you only normally get discounted upgrades from the purchase price, which some people criticise and stop them from upgrading.  

FL Studio 20 is a great DAW for both, beginners and professional producers. Especially if you are into making beats and genres such as Hip Hop & EDM productions. You should definitely get this super cool All-in-one DAW by Image-Line.



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