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.
- Piano roll Menu: provides a number of important functions for working with the Piano roll, such as opening tools, converting color groups, etc.
- Quick Tool Menu:
Riff machine (Alt+E);
Quick legato (Ctrl+L);
Quick quantize (Ctrl+Q);
Quick quantize start times (Shift+Q);
Quick chop (Ctrl+U);
Scale levels (Alt+X),
- Snap Menu: controls how notes move relative to the Piano roll grid.
- Tools Menu:
Zoom to selection (Z),
Playback (scrub) (Y).
- Target Channel - Change instrument channels (of the current pattern) without leaving the Piano roll. Right-click to open the target Channel instrument's interface.
- 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.
- 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.
- Display Mode (M): Click to swap between Keyboard
and Text (Drum Names, Slice names, etc).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Notes - Click/select to drag, stretch, paint, clone, copy, etc. (see 'operating with notes' below). Note colors can have special functions, discussed here.
- Right-click here - As an alternative way to open the Target Control menu (4).
- Resize - Left-click and drag the divider to resize the upper and lower windows. Right-click to return to the original position.
- 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.
- Notes - in Piano roll are displayed as horizontal bars (12) and slides are shown as horizontal bars with a small triangle drawn in the left side
(11). Preview tones by Left-clicking the Preview Keyboard keys (7). Pitch is mapped from bottom (low) to top (high).
The horizontal dimension represents time. Each number in Piano roll's ruler represents single bar.
- Resolution - The smaller time segments each bar is divided into are set by the window's "snap" parameter (). Selecting "Main" will use the global snap value as defined in the Recording panel instead.
- Source Channel - Click a Channel's name in the title bar (3) to select another Channel to display in the Piano roll.
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)
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.
- Tools Menu - () is a shortcut to the Piano roll
tools submenu (see the Piano roll menu page, ),
containing various commands for operating on patterns in the Playlist.
- Adding Notes - draw mode () allows you to draw, edit and delete notes. To add notes and draw the length, hold the (Left-Shift)
Left-click and drag to the desired length. The paint mode () is similar, but allows you to draw
multiple notes at once while dragging horizontally in the Piano roll. Notes are added monophonically (replacing any notes they overlap). Hold (Shift) to bypass monophonic paint mode. In draw or paint mode, Left-click in the Piano roll's grid to draw a note. The default length for notes will be equal to the last touched note.
- Deleting notes - Right-click a note to erase it (alternatively switch to erase mode to erase with Left-clicks ()).
- Selecting/Deselecting groups of notes - There are a number of methods to select several notes, so you can move and resize them all at once:
- Standard selection - Press and hold ( Ctrl
key) and either click a note to select it, or drag a rectangle to select all notes in enclosed area.
- Magic lasso - The Piano roll Menu > Select > Magic lasso option must be selected. Move your mouse pointer in a loop that encloses the notes you want to select (no clicking required, it's 'magic' remember). Make sure you have no notes selected before you perform the lasso action (Right-click the empty Piano roll to deselect
all notes and make another selection).
- Add notes to selection - Hold ( Ctrl+Shift) together while selecting to add notes to the existing selection.
- Selecting notes in a time or pitch range - Time, ( Ctrl+Left-click) or double-click the time ruler
(along the top of the Piano roll) and drag along it to select all notes in a specified time range. Pitch, ( Ctrl+Left-click) the Preview Keyboard (7) to select a range
of notes with the same pitch (dragging vertically on the Keyboard will select notes in the vertical pitch range).
- Deselect all notes - While holding ( Ctrl key), click empty space in Piano roll's grid.
- Remove notes from selection - ( Ctrl+Shift) deselects individual notes from the existing selection of notes.
- Invert selection - Holding ( Ctrl) and Left-clicking selects the one note and deselects all the others.
- Select mode button - Instead of holding ( Ctrl key), you can also switch Piano roll to select mode by clicking
the select mode button ().
- Group notes - (Shift+G) - Group the selected notes. Grouping functions so that an action on any
note in the Group will affect all other notes in the same way. Any number of groupings may be created. To group notes: make a selection using the
Select tool, then use the Group function. Activate / deactivate grouping: Use the Note / Pattern Grouping switch on the Recording Panel. Deselecting the Note / Pattern Grouping switch will disable note grouping behavior until the switch is reactivated.
- Copy & Paste - Make a selection (see above), hold the ( Shift) button THEN drag selection with the left-mouse button OR ( Ctrl+C), scroll to the new position/pattern and ( Ctrl+V).
- Duplicate selection - Make a selection and press ( Ctrl+B). The selection, or all notes if nothing is selected, will be duplicated to the
right of the original selection. To define a specific repeat interval, make a time-line equal to the complete interval to be duplicated and press
( Ctrl+B). NOTE: The time-line selection and note selection can be made independently. The repeat interval is set by the time-line selection, the notes duplicated by the note selection. In this way, notes outside the time-line selection
can be duplicated according to the time-line interval.
- Moving notes - Select the note/sequence, Left-click on the note and drag vertically or horizontally. NOTES:
- The snap setting will affect the movement.
- Horizontal note positions can be adjusted by (Shift + mouse-wheel) by holding the cursor over a target note in the Piano roll.
- (Shift) - Vertical position lock.
- (Ctrl) - Horizontal position lock.
- Bumping notes - This allows you to move the note/s by either 'snap' or 'pixel' based units. Snap units: Select the sequence/note and hold the (
Shift key) and use the arrow keys on your keyboard. The snap setting will
affect the bump size. Pixel units: Hold the ( Alt) key and use the arrow keys on your keyboard. In
this case the zoom setting will affect the bump size.
- Change note length - Select the note/sequence, Left-click on the right side and drag horizontally to change the note
length. This can also be performed on a selection of notes. NOTE: The snap setting
will affect the way in which the note changes length. If ( Caps Lock) is on and the note is selected by the left side, resizing notes will
anchor the note end point, moving only the start position. If the note is selected by the right side the start point will be anchored.
- Edit Ghost notes - Use (Double Right-click or X1 button) on the Ghost notes to switch to the Ghost channel.
- Stretch / compress scores - Select a group of notes and drag the pop-up handle OR hold ( Right-Shift) and drag the right edge of a note in the selection.
This changes both note length and sequence duration. ( Alt + Right-Shift) will stretch in 25% increments.
- Cut Tool - () allows you to split one or more notes in the direction of the cut through the Piano roll. To use the cut
tool, make sure you're in cut mode (the Cut button is selected), Left-click in the grid area and drag to define the "cut line" direction and length. Release the mouse button to split all notes at their
intersection point with the cut line.
- Resize chords & splits - Hold ( Left-Shift) click and drag on the slice point or right-side of the chord.
- Playback/Scrub tool - () enables you to preview the current sequence by dragging horizontally in the
Piano roll (thus enabling you to define the playback speed and order). Alternatively, hold ( Alt) + Right-Mouse button while in draw mode.
- Play notes straddling the playback position marker - When stopping and starting you can play notes that cross the playback position by opening the Audio Options and selecting 'Play truncated notes'.
- Quick chords - Draw complete chords in one step. Right-click the draw mode button ()
and from the menu select a chord type. When you draw in the Piano roll, FL Studio will automatically create a chord. To draw single notes again, Right-click the draw mode button and select None
- Note properties - Note velocity, panning, filter-cutoff, etc, are available from the Target control menu (4)
and appear in the Piano roll Event Editor (9). Note properties can be adjusted by mouse-wheel
( Alt+mouse-wheel) by holding the cursor over a
target note in the 'Note event window'.
- Merging scores across Patterns - Place the Pattern Clips in the Playlist, with the Pattern Clip you want to receive the other scores at the top. Select all the clips to merge
then use the Edit > Merge pattern Clips function from the Playlist Menu. This merges the selected Pattern Clips into the uppermost Clip.
- Click-and-hold functions in piano roll - Copy: Hold on an existing note. Slide & Porta: Click and hold when adding a note to cycle through slide, portamento event mode. See General Options settings.
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
- Add a slide note - Click the slide switch (5) and then click as normal to add a note to the Piano roll.
- De-select the slide mode - Click the slide button again.
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
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.
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
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.
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
||Some keyboard modifiers apply only to Draw mode ().
||Bypass snap (very useful when combined with other modifiers).
||View note helpers.
||Change color of selected note/s (to selected color group).
||Ungroup selected notes.
||Switch waveform helper view (when available).
||Switch Ghost channels ON/OFF.
||Change the selected note property of the note the mouse pointer is on or near.
||Nudge the position of the selected note/s OR all notes if no selection is made.
||Horizontal lock (Shift is Horizontal).
||Duplicate selection, or all notes in zoom range if nothing is selected, to the right. Works also with time-line selections.
||Import MIDI file.
|| Add to selection.
||Zoom on selection/Drag to make zoom selection (zoom on release).
|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).
|Middle mouse button
||Pan view (hold and drag left/right).
||Delete Selected Note/s.
||Slice notes (click above/below note and drag vertical).
||Slice notes & delete smallest part (click above/below note and drag vertical).
||Vertical lock (Alt is Horizontal).
||Group selected notes.
|Shift(any)+Left-click (on note)
||Clone note/s (drag while holding note/s). Move split / resize chord (when holding split / end of chord).
||Nudge note position of the note the mouse pointer is on or near.