Piano roll

FL Studio's Piano roll has the reputation of being one of the best in any software studio. Its main purpose is to send note and automation data to plugin instruments associated with the Piano roll's Channel. There are a number of useful tools that aid complex score editing and other manipulations as described below. Note pitch is displayed on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis (it's the same principle as ye-olde paper ' Piano rolls' used to automate mechanical pianos in the distant past). The resolution of the grid is user-selectable (zoomable,8) and allows the composition of songs with unlimited complexity. Note data can be entered manually with the editing tools or recorded from 'live' MIDI playing, then edited to fix mistakes or make changes.

NOTE: Beware the 'Click-and-hold functions in piano roll' option on the General settings tab. It's functions include: Copy note: Hold on an existing note to copy it. Cycle slide/porta: Click and hold when adding a note to cycle through slide & porta event modes. Glue notes: Place the cursor between 2 neighbor notes, so the resize cursor appears, then click and hold to glue them. Mouse wheel velocity: Use mouse wheel while holding notes to change velocity. Mouse wheel tools: Change tools by holding right click and rolling the wheel.

  1. Tools Menu: Draw (P); Paint (B); Erase (D); Mute (T); Cut (C); Select (E); Zoom to selection (Z), Playback (scrub) (Y).
  2. Target Channel - Change instrument channels (of the current pattern) without leaving the Piano roll. Right-click to open the target Channel instrument's interface.
  3. Target Control - Selects the data to be displayed in the integrated event editor (9). This can include parameters such as note properties (Panning, Velocity, etc.) or automation events.
  4. Color Group Selector - Create note groups for independent editing of overlapping notes categorized by color group. NOTES: 1. Color groups also transmit on separate MIDI channels so one Piano roll can control several MIDI channels on the loaded plugin. 2. There is another Note / Clip Grouping function activated on the Recording Panel that groups notes by selection. Use the Piano roll menu (1) to group selected notes.
  5. Display Mode (M): Click to swap between Keyboard and Text (Drum Names, Slice names, etc).
  6. Preview Keyboard - Click on the keyboard to preview notes. This does not work when play is active. Click here with the (Middle mouse button) and drag vertically to change the vertical zoom.
  7. Horizontal or Vertical Zoom - To horizontally zoom the Piano roll click on the edge of the horizontal position slider and drag. For the vertical zoom boxes likewise click and drag.
  8. Piano roll Event Editor - Edit: Note Velocity, Pan, Pitch, Filter cutoff & Automation events (the lower Piano roll area can display the same data as the Event Editor). Select events to edit from the Target Control selector (4) or Right-click (13).
  9. Left icon: Slide Toggle (S) - When selected, notes added to the Piano roll become 'slide notes' that cause standard notes, above or below the slide-note, to slide to the pitch of the slide-note. The slide-time = the duration of the slide-event. Right icon: Portamento Toggle (O) - When selected, notes added to the Piano roll will display a 'portamento flag' (/ icon). The portamento flag causes a short slide in pitch from the end of one note to the note with the portamento flag. This is a note transition effect. NOTES: 1. these features only work with native FL Studio instruments and not VST/DX instruments. 2. Click-and-hold functions in piano roll - Click and hold when adding a note to cycle through slide, portamento note mode. See General Options settings.
  10. Left note = Slide Event, right note = Portamento Event - Create glissando & portamento effects (the small white triangle and line at the start of the notes indicate the type of event). See item (5) for more information. NOTE: these features only work with native FL Studio instruments and not VST/DX instruments.
  11. Notes - Click/select to drag, stretch, paint, clone, copy, etc. (see 'operating with notes' below). Note colors can have special functions, discussed here.
  12. Right-click here - As an alternative way to open the Target Control menu (4).
  13. Resize - Left-click and drag the divider to resize the upper and lower windows. Right-click to return to the original position.
  14. Ghost notes - These are notes in other Piano rolls associated with the current Pattern. See the Piano roll Menu > Helpers > Ghost channels (Alt+V) option. To edit Ghost notes (Double Right-click or X1 button) on the notes to switch to the Ghost channel.


Using the Piano roll

FL Studio has, arguably, the most powerful Piano roll note editor available. Combined with the Piano roll menu you will find the possibilities are endless and (after practice) effortless.

NOTE: Many of the movement and draw commands are constrained by the snap setting that determines how notes move relative to the Piano roll grid. Hold the (Alt) key to temporarily bypass snap. Note also that the Global snap setting can be used for MIDI input quantizing.

Selection Stretch Handle

After making a selection the Stretch Handle appears. You can click and drag this to stretch the selected notes. Hold the (Alt) key to apply snap settings. Alternatively, hold (Right-Shift) key then click on the right-side of a note in the group and drag.

Mouse Wheel Property Note Changes

Hold your mouse over the note and hold (Alt+Mouse Wheel) to change the currently selected note property. To see the property being adjusted maximize the vertical zoom.

Waveform Helper View

Sometimes it is useful to closely align notes with an audio waveform. For example when using Fruity Vocoder or Pitcher. To show the waveform drag from a waveform preview and drop on the Piano roll. To switch the view on and off after this, use (Alt+N).

Understanding Slides & Portamento

The following ONLY applies to native FL Studio instruments. To slide a VST instrument automate the channel pitch knob. The Piano roll can slide notes from one pitch to another using slide notes above or below the notes to be affected. Slide notes have a small triangle drawn at the start of the note (11).

NOTE: The General settings Click-and-hold & special gesture functions activate cycle slide/porta. Click and hold when adding a note to cycle through slide & porta event modes.

How slide notes work

When the slide note is reached the pitch of any overlapping standard note will start sliding toward the slide note, reaching the same pitch at the end of the slide note event. In this way the length of the slide note controls the duration of the slide. Chords - If several notes are slid as part of a chord, the topmost note is used as the reference for the pitch offset (see picture below). The chord is slid, so the topmost note reaches the same pitch as the slide note. After the slide event ends, notes still remain offset from their original pitch.

NOTE: Slide events have all the usual note properties (velocity, panning, cutoff and resonance, etc). During slides all note properties move toward those set in the slide note. Slides themselves do NOT produce sound, although they allow preview when created/moved.

How portamento notes work

The Portamento command (11) affects only the transition from one note to the next. That is, causes a quick slide at the transition between notes. The effect is most audible when large tone intervals are made between the notes. The Portamento indicator should be set on the note to receive the portamento effect.

Color Groups (Slides, MIDI, Editing)

You can draw notes and slides in 16 color shades based on green, cyan, pink and yellow. To select the note/slide color, click the appropriate button on the color group selector (10).

The color does not affect sound, it is used for independent processing of notes in the Piano roll, these include:

Piano roll Event Editor

The Piano roll includes an integrated event editor (9), which lets you quickly edit channel's volume, panning and pitch and recorded automation data. To change the data displayed use the Target control (4). When editing notes properties these behave similar to the normal events, and are displayed in the event editor as lines with a small square at the top. Using this extension you can edit a note's velocity (local note volume), panning, cutoff and resonance - these are the same properties you can edit from the Graph Editor if you were entering notes in the Step Sequencer. Since note properties are part of the actual note, you can not move, delete or interpolate any of them. When you move a note horizontally (changing its start position), its properties also move with it. To choose what property or event type to edit, click the property/event selector (4) and choose property/event type from the menu that appears. The integrated editor also holds automation associated with the pattern.

NOTE: When several notes start at the same time you can not set the properties of each individual note (they are all set at once). To solve this issue, first select the notes you want to modify - editing this way alters only the properties of the selected notes. Another solution is to use the Note Properties Box (explained below).

Everything else in this integrated event editor works as in normal Event Editor window.

Note Properties Box

The Note Properties pop-up is an alternative way to set notes properties. It's particularly useful when you need to set different properties for notes that start simultaneously (so their properties appear as one in the integrated event editor). Double-click a note to display the properties pop-up box.

1. Levels

These controls allow changes to note - panning (PAN), note on velocity (VEL), release velocity (REL), channel filter cutoff (MODX) and channel filter resonance (MODY). The reset button next to 'Levels' title bar resets note properties to levels they had before launching the properties box.

Slide - Slide ON / Slide OFF. Determines if the note will respond to slide events.

Invert Porta - Inverts the portamento state for this note. If the global portamento (see Misc Channel Settings) for this channel is off, for this note it is on and vice versa.

Green box - Click on this to select the color channel group the note is on. See (10).

NOTE: If the note you double-click is a part of a selection, then the properties you set apply to all notes in that selection. The Time section is not available in that case, because the selected notes might have different length or start point.

2. Time

Change the Start Time (note position) and Duration (note length) for the selected note. For each setting the LCD adjusts bar:step:tick. From the screenshot above the note starts on bar 1, step 5 tick 000 (no ticks). The next line shows it's 2 steps in duration.

Piano roll Menu

This menu provides many important functions for working with the Piano roll, such as copying and pasting notes, converting color groups, etc. You can access Piano roll's menu by clicking the Piano roll menu button (1). For more information, see the Piano Roll menu page.

Piano roll keyboard shortcuts

Piano roll action
NOTE: Some keyboard modifiers apply only to Draw mode ().
B Paint tool
C Slice tool
D Delete tool
E Select tool
F Show next property in the Piano roll event lane (lower section)
M Toggle Keyboard view mode
O Toggle Portamento
P Pencil tool
T Mute tool
Y Playback tool
Z Zoom tool
Alt Bypass snap (very useful when combined with other modifiers)
Alt+A Arpeggiator
Alt+B View note helpers
Alt+C Change color of selected note/s (to selected color group)
Alt+E Riff machine
Alt+F Flam
Alt+G Ungroup selected notes
Alt+K Open Limit tool
Alt+L Open Articulate tool
Alt+N Switch waveform helper view (when available).
Alt+O Open LFO tool when in lower Event Editor area
Alt+Q Quantize
Alt+R Open Randomize tool
Alt+S Open Strum tool
Alt+U Open Chop tool
Alt+V Toggle Ghost channels ON/OFF
Alt+W Open Claw Machine tool
Alt+X Open Scale Levels tool
Alt+Y Open Score Flipper tool
Alt+Mouse wheel Change the selected note property of the note the mouse pointer is near or on.
Alt+Arrow keys Nudge the position of the selected note/s OR all notes if no selection is made.
Ctrl+A Select All
Ctrl+B Duplicate selection, or all notes in zoom range if nothing is selected, to the right. Works also with time-line selections.
Ctrl+C Copy selection
Ctrl+D Deselect selection
Ctrl+G Glue selected and touching notes
Ctrl+I Insert current controller value
Ctrl+L Quick legato
Ctrl+M Import MIDI file
Ctrl+Q Quick Quantize
Ctrl+U Quick Chop
Ctrl+V Paste selection
Ctrl+X Cut selection
Ctrl+Alt+G Grid Color
Ctrl+Alt+Home Toggle allow resizing from left
Ctrl+Delete Delete space equal to selection
Ctrl+Enter Select time around selection
Ctrl+Insert Insert space equal to the current time-line selection
Ctrl+Up-Arrow/Down-Arrow Transpose selection UP/Down 1 Octave
Ctrl+Left-Arrow/Right-Arrow Select time before (left) or after (right) current selection
Ctrl+Left-click Select
Ctrl+Shift+Left-click Add to selection
Ctrl+Right-click Zoom on selection/Drag to make zoom selection (zoom on release)
Del Delete selected
Double Left-click on note Open note properties
Double Right-click or X1 button on Ghost note Swap to Ghost channel to edit the note.
Left-Shift+Left-click (on Piano roll) Add and resize notes (move mouse L/R after click and hold to resize)
Left-Shift+Right-click Pan view
Left-Alt+Right-click Audio preview
Middle mouse button Pan view (hold and drag left/right)
PgUp / PgDown Zoom in / Zoom out
Pencil tool + Shift Swap to Brush
Right-click Delete Selected Note/s
Right-Alt+Right-click Quantize selected
Right-Shift+Left-click Slice notes (click above/below note and drag vertical)
Right-Shift+Right-click Slice notes & delete smallest part (click above/below note and drag vertical)
Shift+G Group selected notes
Shift+Ctrl+V Pase from MIDI clipboard
Shift Temporarily swaps between Paint & Draw modes
Shift+C Select by color
Shift+D Discard selected note lengths
Shift+G Group selected
Shift+I Invert selection
Shift+N Turn off selected chord
Shift+Q Quick quantize
Shift+R Select at random (multiple presses will select more notes)
Shift+Ctrl+V Paste from MIDI Keyboard
Shift+Left-Arrow/Right-Arrow Move selection Left/Right
Shift+Up-Arrow/Down-Arrow Move selection Up/Down
Shift+Left-click Clone (drag while holding clip/pattern), release Shift after dragging to unlock vertical movement
Shift+mouse-wheel (on Clips) Nudge Clip position
Shift+mouse-wheel (on Track label area) Re-order Clip Tracks
Shift + 0 (zero) Center Playlist to play-head position (numbers above typing keys)
Shift + 1 to 3 Horizontal Zoom levels 1 (zoom out) to 3 (zoom in), (numbers above typing keys)
Shift + 4 Horizontal Zoom, show all (numbers above typing keys)
Shift + 5 Zoom to selection (numbers above typing keys)