Piano roll

FL Studio's Piano roll has the well deserved reputation as the best Piano roll in the business (with good reason). The Piano roll's purpose is to send note and automation data to plugin instruments loaded on the Piano roll's Channel. This is known as 'sequencing'. 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. This is the exact principle as paper 'Piano rolls' used to automate player-pianos in former times. The resolution of the grid is user-selectable (zoomable) and allows the composition of songs with unlimited complexity. Note data can be entered manually with the editing tools or recorded in from 'live' MIDI controllers, then edited to fix mistakes or make changes.

Piano roll Basics

NOTES: Beware the 'F10 > General Settings > 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. Time Markers - When set to type Pattern length (Right-click a marker) Time Markers will define the length of the currently selected Pattern.

Piano roll Controls

Using the Piano roll

FL Studio has, arguably, the most powerful Piano roll 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 controls how notes move relative to the Piano roll grid. Hold the (Alt) key to temporarily bypass snap. Important also, 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.

Note Properties & Event Editor

The note properties editor gives you access to a number of per-note properties and event data velocity, pan, release, Mod X & Y (where supported), pitch etc. Select the data to be edited with the Target control, as shown below.

Time Signatures

The default Project Time signature is set in the 'Project General Settings > Time settings > Set as time signature'. You can also set custom and even multiple Time Signatures per Pattern. And, since Patterns exist independent of the Playlist Time Signature, you can use multiple Time Signatures at any point in the Playlist (polyrhythms) by stacking Patterns using different Time Signatures. This flexibility means you need to manage your Pattern and Playlist time signatures independently.

NOTE: Time Signatures are a visual helper for the Piano roll and Playlist grids. They have no technical effect on the notes played, except for the downbeat heard when using the Metronome. You can safely change Time Signatures for the Pattern without affecting the notes, only the grid behind them changes. One Channel affects all - As Time Signatures are set per-Pattern, changing the Time Signature for any Piano roll (Channel) will affect ALL Channels in the Pattern. Use the Pattern Clip menu opton 'Make unique' to avoid this, if it is a problem.

TIPS: Here are some useful tips for working with Time Signatures. This applies both to the Piano roll and Playlist.

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 deselect this view use Piano roll menu > Helpers > Background waveform (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.

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 notes will start sliding toward the slide note, reaching the same pitch at the end of the slide note event. The length of the slide note controls the duration of the slide. Chords - If notes are overlapping so they form part of a chord, the topmost note is used as the reference for the pitch offset (see picture below). The chord slides 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 applies only to 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. The color does not affect sound, it is used for independent processing of notes in the Piano roll, these include:

NOTE: Some plugins use note colors for special functions. For example Harmless, Harmor and Slicex.

Note Properties Dialog

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.

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. For more information, see the Piano Roll menu page.

Multi-touch Gestures

See FL Studio User Interface > Multi-touch support

Piano roll keyboard shortcuts

See the Playlist Keyboard Shortcuts page.