Channel Window & Step Sequencer

The Channel Window is an important part of the FL Studio composition process, it holds Instruments and music data in the form of Step sequences and Piano roll scores. Instruments are loaded into Channels (each button is a 'Channel' and represents an instrument). The audio from each Channel instrument is then sent to one of the Mixer Tracks for further effects processing and level mixing. When Instrument Channels are added or removed from the project the height of the Channel window will change dynamically. The Channel buttons also access Instrument Channel Settings (where a Mixer track is set) or the associated Piano roll. The Step Sequencer, (Video Here) is a pattern-based grid sequencer ideal for creating drum loops and simple melodies.

The note and automation data contained in the Channel window is known as a 'pattern'. Patterns can include both Piano roll and Step Sequencer data. Switch between patterns using the Transport Panel 'PAT' selector OR the Pattern selector on the Channel window (3). As the pattern number is changed, note how the pattern data visible in the Channel window also changes, reflecting the selected pattern. Patterns can be arranged in the Playlist as Pattern Clips to create a song.


Each row of controls in the Channel window belongs to a single Channel instrument. From left to right are: Pan, Volume, Channel button (click this to open the instrument interface) and Step Sequencer buttons or Piano roll preview (top row below), depending on how the Channel has been configured.

  1. Pattern Length (Number of Beats) - Sets the number of beats for the current pattern. If this is left undefined: '--', the pattern is set to the global value of the project. You can change the global value and the beat length in the Project General Settings window. Note: There are a maximum of 64 steps in the Step Sequencer. If you need more then use the Piano roll.
  2. Repeat Step Sequencer - When selected, causes the Step Sequencer to repeat throughout any Piano roll sequences or automation data that extend beyond the basic step sequence length (1). For example: a 4 bar percussion step sequence will repeat while an 16 bar Piano roll sequence plays. If this setting is off then the percussion would stop after 4 bars and the Piano roll sequence would continue unaccompanied.
  3. Pattern selector - Select (left side) and name, copy & work with patterns (right side) from this drop-down menu.
  4. Swing - Slide to the right to add a 'swing' rhythm to Steps. 'swing' holds the first note of the bar at the expense of the second note in the bar. The control determines the amount of swing. Click here to see a swing diagram.
  5. Graph Editor (G) - Shows/hides the Graph Editor.
  6. Keyboard Editor (K) - Shows/hides the Keyboard Editor.
  7. Channels Area - Contains the Channels and pattern grid.
  8. Channel Display Filter ( Page Down for next group; Page Up for previous group) - Allows you to set the group of Channels to show in the Step Sequencer (see the Channel Filter Groups section below for more information)
  9. Playing Step LEDs - These LEDs indicate the step in the pattern that is currently playing.
  10. Channel Panning - Use to set the Channel panning.
  11. Channel Volume - Use to adjust the Channel volume. Levels: Samples loaded into the Channel Sampler will be set to -5dB (79%) of their original level to allow headroom for the pattern sequencer to avoid clipping, set volume to 100% to restore the original level. Audio clips will play at 100% their original level. NOTE: The Circular panning law, selected by default, will also lower the output of a sample panned to center by -3 dB.
  12. Channel Settings Button - Displays the Channel name (usually the name of the instrument). Left and Right-clicking provides the following functions:
  13. Channel Selector - When this LED is on, the Channel is selected (used in cut, copy, etc. operations - see Edit menu).
  14. Piano roll Preview- This mini-note-preview replaces the steps when a Piano roll is active on the Channel. The preview allows you to see the notes in the Piano roll without opening it. You cannot edit notes in the mini- preview. Left-click the preview to show/hide the Piano roll window. Right-click to open the Piano roll centered on the notes clicked. NOTES: 1. The lighter and darker blocks in the preview indicate the number of bars contained in the Piano roll sequence (each block is a bar). 2. To add a Piano roll Right-click the Channel button and select 'Piano roll' from the pop-up menu.
  15. Mute ( 0-9 to mute/unmute; Ctrl+0-9 to solo/unmute all) - Turning this LED off will mute the Channel. Clicking it again will unmute it. You can also quickly solo a Channel by Right-clicking the LED and, from the popup menu, select Solo. Repeat this action to unsolo the Channel (unmute all). NOTE: Live MIDI input to the Channel will continue to play regardless of the switch mode as mute/solo applies only to Step Sequencer and Piano roll playback.
  16. Sequence Steps - Each step represents a 16th note in the pattern. Turn the steps on or off to create the desired loop.

Red channel buttons

If you open a project and some, or all, Channel buttons are red, this means the samples or instruments nominated for those Channels can't be found. The likely causes are -

  1. The samples or directories have been renamed, moved to another location or deleted.
  2. The format of the sample has been changed (FL Studio only loads .wav, .mp3 and .ogg files).
  3. The Browser extra search folders have been deleted from the search list.
  4. The VST plugins extra search directory has been deleted from the search list or the plugin directory moved.

FL Studio searches its own installation directory for samples and the extra search folders as described above. If you have no idea where the samples are, one method is to put your root drive (usually C:) as one of the extra search directories, then reload the project. FL Studio will now search you entire hard-drive. Once you locate the samples it's a good idea to remove the root from the extra search folders as is can make future searches very slow. See the section on missing VSTs or files for more information.

External Controllers and Instrument Channels

If you have a keyboard or other controller this can be used to play or control the Instrument Channel. FL Studio listens in 'Omni' mode (all MIDI channels) so any controller will play the selected Instrument Channel. If you have more than one controller you can use these to simultaneously play separate instrument Channels. Selected instrument Channels are assigned by ascending MIDI channel number each controller is set to transmit on (i.e. lowest MIDI channel = top selected Instrument Channel, highest MIDI channel = bottom selected Instrument Channel). For more information see the Controller type section of the MIDI Settings page.

NOTE: When Options > General settings > Auto select linked modules is OFF: Channel buttons open plugins for editing and the Channel selector LEDs select channels for live MIDI control. This allows you to play one instrument channel live and edit another.

Step Sequencer Functions

The step-sequencer represents a series of steps in a sequence, the steps are scanned from left to right as the pattern/song plays. When an activated step is reached, the related Channel instrument will play that note.

Using The Step Sequencer

Channel Filter Groups

As projects grow in size and the number of Channels increases, finding the right Channel can become a tedious process. To optimize workflow, combine several Channels in a group and set the Step Sequencer to display only that specific group of Channels (for example percussion group or lead synth group). Use the Channel Display Filter control (8) to choose which Channels should be visible. Left-click to open the Channel filter menu. Selecting 'All' will show all Channels at once, regardless of whether they are part of a group or are unassigned. Selecting 'Unsorted' displays only the unassigned Channels. If you have made any Channel groups, you can select them for display from this menu.

Other Channel filter group actions include: