CHANNEL WINDOW & STEP SEQUENCER
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pattern selector - Select (left side) and name, copy & work with patterns (right side) from this drop-down menu.
- Find first empty (Shift + F4) - Find the first unused pattern the list.
- Find next empty (F4) - Find the next unused pattern the list. The (F4)
is a good workflow habit when making new patterns.
- Rename / recolor (F2) - Opens the Pattern naming window. Press (F2)
again to cycle Pattern colors. The selector can be opened by clicking the square on the end of the rename window. NOTE To Gradient Color Channels make a selection by left-clicking
and dragging down on the Channel Selectors (13) and select from the Main Menus Channels > Color selected > Gradient
- Open in project browser (Shift+Ctrl+P) - Open in Project Browser. Opens the Browser Project Folder to show the current pattern.
- Insert one (Shift+Ctrl+Ins) - Inserts a new empty Pattern before the selected pattern.
- Clone (Alt+C) - Makes a copy of the selected pattern after it.
- Delete (Del) - Deletes the selected pattern.
- Move up (Shift+Ctrl+Up arrow) - Moves the selected pattern up one number in the Pattern selector list.
- Move down (Shift+Ctrl+Down) - Moves the selected pattern down one number in the Pattern selector list.
- Split by channel - Creates a new pattern for each active Channel in the selected pattern. Patterns will be named according to the split Channel. To undo a split by channel - 1. Stack the Pattern Clips in an empty area of the Playlist making sure
they are correctly aligned. 2. Select all patterns in the stack. 3. Use the 'Playlist Menu > Edit > Merge selected clips' 4. Delete the merged clip from the Playlist.
- 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.
- Graph Editor (G)
- Shows/hides the Graph Editor.
- Keyboard Editor (K)
- Shows/hides the Keyboard Editor.
- Channels Area - Contains the Channels and pattern grid.
- 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)
- Playing Step LEDs - These LEDs indicate the step in the pattern that is currently playing.
- Channel Panning - Use to set the Channel panning.
- 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.
- Channel Settings Button - Displays the Channel name (usually the name of the instrument). Left and Right-clicking provides the following functions:
Channel Selector - When this LED is on, the Channel is selected (used in cut, copy, etc. operations - see Edit menu).
- Left-click - Opens/Closes the Channel Settings window AND plugin interface (if applicable).
NOTES: To keep the plugin interface open when another Channel is opened, FIRST close the Channel Settings window before opening the next
Channel OR from the General Settings panel deselect Auto select linked modules. When '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.
- Ctrl + Left-click - Preview Channel sound without opening the instrument.
- Right-click, Channel Operations Menu - Displays the following options:
- Reorder Channels - (Shift + mousewheel) while over a Channel button OR
(Alt + up/down arrow buttons)to move the position of the selected Channel.
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.
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.
Sequence Steps - Each step represents a 16th note in the pattern. Turn the steps on or off to create the desired loop.
- Left-click - Select/deselect target Channel. If multiple Channels are selected this will solo and mute the target Channel. NOTE: When Auto select linked channels
is off, the Channel Selector LED is used to choose the Channel to receive live MIDI input. This allows you to play one instrument Channel and edit another opened with the Channel button (12).
- Right-click - Select multiple Channels. Right-click (hold) and drag down the Channel Selectors to make multiple selections.
- Move / reorder instrument Channels up and down the stack by selecting one or more Channels then holding the Alt key and pressing the up/down arrows
on your keyboard. This does not affect mixer routing.
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 -
- The samples or directories have been renamed, moved to another location or deleted.
- The format of the sample has been changed (FL Studio only loads .wav, .mp3 and .ogg files).
- The Browser extra search folders have been deleted from the search list.
- 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
Using The Step Sequencer
- Each line in the Channel window belongs to a single Channel and the associated sequence data will only play the Channel instrument on the same line. From left to right you will see, the Pan, Volume, Channel button (opens the instrument interface) and
Step Sequencer buttons or Piano roll preview, depending on how the Channel has been configured.
- Each button (step) in the grid represents a 16th note.
- Default beats per bar and bars - The default is 4 beats x 4 bars = 16 steps. Change the default number of bars and steps from the Project General Settings
- Number of steps for the selected pattern - Each Pattern can have a unique number of Steps, set using the Pattern Length selector (1)
- Activating steps - Left-clicking a step button activates that step; Right-clicking turns it off. Note that if you have turned
off the Use Both Mouse Keys option in the General Settings page, Left-clicking will turn
the buttons both on and off.
- Pitch - To set the pitch of a step use the Keyboard Editor view. Click on (6). Each note has
some additional properties (panning, volume, etc.) that may be set using the Graph Editor tool (5).
- Copy, Cut & Paste - This will work between Channels or Patterns. Select the source Channel, click on the Channel selector (13), and press
( Ctrl+C) to copy or (
Ctrl+X) to Cut the steps. Next, select the destination Channel and press ( Ctrl+V),
paste. NOTE: You can access the same functions from the Edit Menu
- Stopping or cutting notes - Step Sequencer steps do not have a 'note off' feature. You can stop a note either by activating
a step after the offending note with zero velocity or, preferably, by using the Piano roll. The Piano roll is ideal for working on
more complex melodies.
- Turn steps into a Piano roll - Right-click the Channel Button and select 'Send to piano roll. NOTE: Apart from 'undo', there is no way to turn a Piano roll score into a Stepsequence.
- Advanced features - Right-clicking the Channel Button (11) opens a menu
of commands for managing Channels (see Channel Menu). This menu also provides access to the
- NOTE: The main Edit menu also contains commands for working with 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 (7) 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:
- Add an empty group - Right-click Channel Display Filter (7) and
select Add Filter Group.
- Rename/Delete group - Select a group and Right-click Channel Display Filter
(7) to display commands for renaming and deleting groups (NOTE: Deleting a group sets
included Channels as unassigned and does not delete the Channels).
- Add selected Channels to a new group - Use the Group Selected command from the
- Add a single channel to an existing group - Select the desired group and add a new channel to the channel window. All new
Channels will be inserted into the currently selected group.
- Move a channel to a different group - Select the channel/s and use the Group Selected command from the
Channels Menu, and enter the name of an existing group.