Brainblitz : FL Studio Tutorials : Automation


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You need to know how to send Channels (samples or instruments) to Mixer tracks, and set up basic stock FX.

1. The need for Automation

Scenarios frequently come up in music production where you need to automate some parameter - volume, cutoff frequency, channel panning, etc. A very common need is in dance/trance production, where the cutoff point of a low pass filter must slowly increase (i.e. coming out of a breakdown), sweeping some fat, detuned multi-sawtooth synth from warm and deep to bright and harsh. Another example would be the fade-in of deep, powerful strings underneath a piano-driven soundtrack piece.

The ability to do this, naturally, is called Automation - where actual control movements are recorded into the song, and those controls automatically repeat your recorded movements on subsequent plays.

FL Studio has significant support for automation. Just about every control available can be automated - the primary exception being the pre-computed FX (those found in the first tab of the channel settings window).

2. Automation - How to do it

Now, time for a simple walk-through of the process! For this tutorial, I've made a simple beat, then automated the cutoff of a "Fruity Fast LP" effect on the master FX channel. I love sweeping beats - they make you feel like something powerful is welling up... you can listen to the end result clip here.

1. Start a new FL project.
2. Make a groovy little beat on Pattern 1. Or use mine. Note - I am not including the samples with mine because they are all stock. If you don't have the samples for some reason, it should be pretty obvious what you need to substitute in (basic hat, kick, snares).
3. Place 4 bars of your beat sequence (Pattern 1) in the Playlist.
4. Press F9 to bring up the Mixer.
5. Put a Fruity Fast LP on the Master FX channel.

OK, so we've got our four bars playing our groovy little beat. Time for some automation! Bring up the window for your LP filter, set Cut-off control low - I set mine to 2 "ticks." (see Figure 1)

Figure 1 - it looks like all the FX are muted - that's because I wasn't careful with
my palette choice when I created the GIF image! They are all on (green).

6. Here's where it gets tricky. When you record automation, it will record to whatever playlist pattern you have selected. You do not want to have Pattern 1 (your beat pattern) selected! The reason being - if a pattern repeats (as ours does, every 1 bar), the automation will be recorded only until the playback reaches the beginning of another instance of that pattern. In our case, we'd only be able to record 1 bar's worth of automation!

Go ahead... read that a couple of times!

SO - select the pattern under Pattern 1, which should be.. unless you've been renaming patterns, Pattern 2 (who would'a guessed?!), and fill in the 1st bar. This will be the start of our automation. See Figure 2:

Figure 2 - Pattern 2 is selected, and will be our automation track. If you don't fill in the first bar,
FL will fill it in automatically - but we like to do these thing manually, so we understand
what's going on. : )

7. Now comes the fun part! Press the "record" button (just right of the "stop" button), and it will arm (i.e. "light up"). Press play, hurry and move your mouse to the LP Cut-off knob, and start tweakin' away!

Note: If you don't want playback to start until you're ready to start tweaking, depress the "Wait for Input button" (scaled up here) -->

When it reaches the end of the 4 bars, stop tweaking, and press stop.

8. Press the "record" button again to unarm it. Now press play, and keep your eyes on the cut-off knob. If you did everything correctly, it should be magically turning itself.

3. Fixin' errors & cleaning things up

Take at the Browser, and expand the Automation "directory" as far as you can. It should look something like Figure 3:

Figure 3 - The browser with Automation

"Initialized controls" is simply the control value at time 0 - the very beginning of the track. The only thing you can do with it here is... delete it!

"Pattern 2" is the one we're really concerned with right now. If you click on it, a piano-roll like window will pop up where you can see your automation as a time-vs-value graph. Sweet! And even sweeter yet - you can "draw" automation into it. If you right click, you can edit regions in a straight "line." From this window you can also cut and paste automations. All the typical short-cut keys apply (i.e. Ctrl-A, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, etc).


That does it for this tutorial. This is the first version - so if you're working through it, please tell me if there are errors, or if it's hard to follow!


Copyright © 2005, 2006 Anthony Rogers