Channel Rack & Step Sequencer
The Channel Rack holds instruments that create sound and internal generators that control automation. Every pattern has access to all instruments in the rack. In other words, all patterns play from the same set of instruments. Patterns are not limited to a single instrument as they are in most other sequencers. Music data can come in the form of Step sequences and Piano roll scores.
There is one Channel button per instrument. The audio from each Channel is sent to one of the Mixer Tracks for effects processing and level mixing. When Instrument Channels are added or removed from the project the height of the Channel Rack 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 visible across all Channels is known as a 'pattern'. Patterns include Piano roll, Step Sequencer and Automation data. Switch between patterns using the
Pattern selector (15) shown below. As the pattern number is changed, note how the pattern data visible in the Channel Rack also changes, reflecting the selected pattern. Patterns are designed to be arranged in the Playlist as Pattern Clips to create a song.
Each row of controls in the Channel Rack belongs to a single Channel instrument. From left to right are: Mute, Pan, Volume, Mixer Track destination, Channel button (click this to open the instrument interface), Channel Selector (outer border) / Activity indicator (inner region) and Step Sequencer buttons or Piano roll preview (top row below), depending on how the Channel has been configured.
NOTE: When Options > General settings > Auto select linked modules is:
ON: Use (Alt+Left-Click) to open plugins without closing the currently
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.
1. Channel Options Menu
NOTE: The Channel Options Menu swapped places with the Pattern Menu at FL Studio 12.
- Add one - Contains a list of all Instruments selected as favorites. Choosing a instrument from this menu will add a single instance of it at the
bottom of the Channel Rack & Step Sequencer window.
Click More plugins... to open the Select plugin window, that contains a list of all instruments present in FL Studio (including Native and VST) which can be used as follows:
- To open a Channel containing a plugin - Double-click the instrument name.
- To mark an instrument as a 'favorite' - Click the check box preceding the instrument name (all plugins preceded by a check mark will appear
in the favorites list).
- To add newly installed plugins to this list - Click Manage plugins at the bottom of the window to open the Plugin Manager. We recommend selecting 'Verify plugins' before you 'Start scan'. After the scan is complete, your new plugins will be listed in the 'Select plugin' window.
NOTE: See the Browser 'Using Browser content' section for alternative (faster) ways to load plugins.
- Clone selected (Alt+C) - Inserts a clone of each selected Channel in the Step Sequencer right after it. The clone retains the instrument type of the original, as well as all of its settings, but does not contain its notes and events.
- Delete selected (Alt+Del)- Removes all selected Channels in the Step Sequencer.
- Move selected up ( Alt+Up-arrow) - Moves selected Channel/s one slot up.
- Move selected down (Alt+Down-arrow) - Moves selected Channel/s one slot down.
- Sort by - Reorder Channels:
- Color - Channels are sorted Red (top) through Green, Blue, Indigo to Violet (bottom).
- Name - Alphabetically sorted by Channel name.
- Track number - Order will be Mixer track 1 to Max. Generator and Layer Channels will be sorted to the top.
- Group selected (Alt+G) - Adds all selected Channels to a group (a popup window displays to enter the name of the group). If a group with the name you specified doesn't exist, it will be automatically created. For more information on Channel grouping see the Channel Filtering section in the Step Sequencer page.
- Color selected - Provides several options for coloring Channel buttons. Useful for grouping instrument types/sections.
- Gradient - Opens a dialog for selecting start and end colors. All selected Channels will be colored in sequence from the start to end points in the
color space selected.
- Random - Colors Channels randomly. This function contains some rules on coloring so it won't look as bad as you might expect.
- Zip selected (Alt+Z) - Turns all
selected Channels in the Step Sequencer into compact view mode. Right-click the button of a zipped Channel to unzip it.
- Unzip all (Alt+U) - Unzips all
Channels in the Step Sequencer.
- Restretch all (Ctrl+Alt+R) - Active only when tempo automation is used. When the tempo is automated the auto-restretch feature is disabled as it is not
a real-time process. This feature allows you to adjust the tempo manually and force a restretch.
- Auto resize - Set the height of the Channel Rack to:
- Off - Height stays where it was set.
- Minimum height - Height adjusts to the minimum necessary to show all Channels.
- Maximum height - Height adjusts to the to maximum height based on the vertical space.
- Channel button width - Choose from preset Button widths (100% to 400%).
- Focus selected channel on playback - The selected Channel, or highest selected Channel scrolls vertically to ensure it's visible on transport events (Start/Stop).
- Mute removed steps - When selected the event data (volume, pan etc) associated with steps is preserved so settings are not lost when experimenting with different step-patterns. That is, the Piano roll notes associated with the steps are actually muted rather than deleted. Deactivated steps show in the Piano roll as muted notes. When deselected the event data is discarded and underlying notes in the Piano roll are deleted.
- Show mixer track selectors (Alt+M) - Click and drag vertically to assign the Mixer track the Channel is routed to.
- Detached - Detach the Channel Rack from the FL Studio desktop.
2. 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 (2) 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.
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)
Other Channel filter group actions include:
- Add an empty group - Right-click Channel Display Filter (2) and
select Add Filter Group.
- Rename/Delete group - Select a group and Right-click Channel Display Filter (2) 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 Channel Options Menu.
- Add a single Channel to an existing group - Select the desired group and add a new Channel to the Channel Rack. 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
Channel Options Menu, and enter the name of an existing group.
3. Global Swing
Swing - Slide to the right to add a 'swing' rhythm to Steps. In the case of the Step-sequencer, swing affects the length of odd vs even steps. If 4 beats per bar are set, 'swing' holds odd 16th notes (1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15) at the expense of even 16th notes (2,4,6,8,10,12 and 16) in the bar. The control determines the amount of swing. NOTE: Each Channel has a Swing Multipler knob under the 'Time' section. This allows you to set per-channel swing relative to the global setting.
4. Step/Piano roll View
The Stepsequencer overlays the Piano roll and so switching to this mode allows you to edit stepsequences in Piano roll mode, so long as you respect the note length (zero length) and positioning
(on beat) layout. NOTE: The Channel Rack Menu > Mute removed steps option will preserve note event data (volume, pan etc) associated with steps so settings are not lost when experimenting with different step-patterns. Deactivated steps will show in the Piano roll as muted notes. When deselected the event data is discarded and no muted notes preserved in the Piano roll.
If you would like to convert a Piano roll to Step mode again, you need notes of zero length. Select all notes, set Snap to 'none' and Discard note lengths
5 & 6. Pan & Volume
These knobs control the Pan and Volume of the Channel pre-mixer and so can be used as Pre Fader Level (PFL) controls. You can choose to adjust Pan and Volume here AND OR in
the Mixer. What you do depends on the workflow that suits you best and how the plugin responds to these controls. NOTE: The Pan and Volume controls are sent directly to the plugin, rather than acting on the output audio, so how they are interpreted will depend on the plugin, as discussed below:
- 5. Channel Panning - Use to set the Channel panning. This is pan information sent to the plugin, so what this does will depend entirely on the plugin loaded in the Channel. All native plugins will pan, some VST plugins won't respond to this parameter. Normally you would use the Mixer track Pan controls.
- 6. 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. Channel Volume for native plugins affects note voice volume directly. For VST plugins it's likely to affect overall plugin output level. If this control is not working as expected, use the Mixer track Level Fader.
7. Channel Button
The Channel Button - Displays the Channel name (usually the name of the instrument). Left and Right-clicking provides the following functions:
- 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:
- Piano roll - Opens the Piano roll for the Channel. Notice how step-data is opened, aligned with the grid and set to the minimum note length. This is how the Piano roll recognizes step events. You can use the Edit > Discard note lengths (Shift+D) + Quantize (Shift+Q), if necessary, to return any note data to step format.
- Rename, recolor and icon... - Opens the combination control for these functions. Rename or re-color the Channel. Click on the Channel name and type to rename, or Left-click on the color square (shown below) to open the re-color dialog or Right-click to randomly assign a color from a palette pre-approved by the Image-Line Aesthetics Committee. Once the name dialog is open, press (F2) to randomly select colors OR (F3) to select the last used color:
NOTE: To Gradient Color Channels make a selection by left-clicking and dragging down on the Channel Selectors (8) and select from the Channel Options Menu Channels > Color selected > Gradient
- Change color - Choose a color directly from the selector.
- Change icon - Choose an icon directly from the selector. NOTE: Middle-click on existing icons to directly open the icon menu.
- Load Sample - If the Channel accepts samples this will allow you to load from a file Browser menu.
- Cut itself - Cuts the sound of previous notes in the Channel when new one starts. Note: Use the Channel Settings > MISC > Cut/Cut by settings
to set up cut groups. This allows you to cut any Channel with any other/s.
- Insert - Insert a new Channel before the selected one from the Favorites list.
- Replace - Replaces the current generator with a new one from the Favorites list.
- Clone - Makes a copy of the current Channel including settings and generator type.
- Delete - Deletes the selected Channel.
- Cut/Copy/Paste - Allows you to cut/copy/paste note data present.
- Fill each 2/4/8 steps - Fills step sequence steps according to the setting.
- Rotate left (Shift+Ctrl+Left-Arrow) - Move note data one snap-unit to the left. Step-notes are unaffected.
- Rotate right (Shift+Ctrl+Right-Arrow) - Move note data one snap-unit to the right. Step-notes are unaffected.
- MIDI channel through - Allows all MIDI Channels from a controller or external sequencer to pass to the plugin. Some plugins can respond to more than one MIDI Channel. For example, in Slicex MIDI Channel 1 plays Part A and Channel 2 plays Part B. Kontakt allows you to play different instruments on each of the 16 MIDI Channels. When 'MIDI channel through' is selected, changing the MIDI Channel on the controller will play the appropriate voice/instrument in the plugin.
NOTES: 1. When recording notes will be set to the note-color/s of incoming MIDI Channels. For example, MIDI Channel 1 is green and 6 is, ummmm...purple? Up to 16 separate MIDI Channel colors can be recorded simultaneously. 2.'MIDI channel through' is not available when there is no input device and 'Typing keyboard to midi' is disabled.
- Receive notes from - Select a MIDI Controller, and optional MIDI Channel, to play the selected Channel Rack instrument. The controller's note output will remain locked to the selected Channel instrument regardless of the selected Channel Button in the Channel Rack. NOTES: 1. An Input Port must be set for the device to appear in the menu. 2. The Channel Button will display a Lock icon and the Activity LED/ Channel Selector will show Orange for locked Channels. 3. The linked controller will show in the Hint Bar when you mouse-over channels. See Lock Controller Notes to Instrument Channels for more information.
- Reorder Channels - (Shift + mousewheel) while over a Channel button OR
(Alt + up/down arrow buttons)to move the position of the selected Channel.
8. Channel Selector
Channel Selector - When lit, the Channel is selected (used in cut, copy, etc. operations - see Edit menu). The selected Channel also receives MIDI/Controller
- 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 (7).
- Right-click - Select multiple Channels. Right-click (hold) and drag down the Channel Selectors to make multiple selections.
- Move / reorder instrument Channels use the Channel selector to group and move Channels up and down the stack by holding the Alt key and pressing the up/down arrows
on your keyboard. This does not affect mixer routing.
9. 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 can't 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.
10. Mute Control
Track Mute / Solo - 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..
- Mute/Unmute - Left-Click the Mute icon.
- Solo/Unsolo - Ctrl+Click OR Right+Click and Select 'Solo' on the Mute icon.
- Mute/Solo a group - Alt+Click a Mute icon for the Muted/Unmuted group. Groups are defined by Channel Filter groups.
- Lock state - Shift+Click a Mute icon.
Using the Stepsequencer:
- Each line in the Channel Rack 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 window.
- Activating & deactivating steps - Left-clicking a step button activates that step; Right-clicking turns it off. NOTES: The Use Both Mouse Keys option in the General Settings page can be deselected so you can select and deselect steps with the left-mouse button. The Mute removed steps option will decide if deleted steps are muted, so their event data is preserved or discarded.
- Pitch - To set the pitch of a step use the Piano roll view and edit the pitch there. Click on (4). Each note has some additional properties (panning, volume, etc.) that may be set using the Piano roll (4).
- Copy, Cut & Paste - This will work between Channels or Patterns. Select the source Channel, click on the Channel selector (8), 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 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.
- Advanced features - Right-clicking the Channel Button (7) opens a menu of commands for managing Channels (see Channel Button Menu). This menu also provides access to the Piano roll.
- NOTE: The main Edit menu also contains commands for working with Step Sequencer.
12. Mixer Track Routing
The Mixer Track Routing controls are optionally shown (Alt+M). Click and drag vertically to change the Mixer Track the Channel is routed to. By default, all new instrument Channels are routed to the Master Mixer track (the display shows "---"). This control doesn't appear for Channels that hold generators that don't output audio, icons will be shown instead. The Mixer Track Routing control is also replicated on the Channel Settings.
13. Add Plugin Channels
Add a plugin - This is a shortcut to open the Channel Options Menu > Add one
menu. To lean more ways to add both instrument and effect plugins to projects click here.
14. Pattern Length
Pattern Length (Number of Beats) can be set by dragging the bottom-right of the Channel Rack to set the number of beats. You can also set the default pattern length from the global value
on the Project Settings. Note: There are a maximum of 64 steps in the Step Sequencer. If you need more
then use the Piano roll.
15. Pattern Selector
The Pattern selector is located in the FL Studio Tool Bar and also the Pattern Menu from the Main Menu. For more on working with Patterns, and how they are used, see the Arranging Workflow section.
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 and opens the name dialog. The (F4)
is a good workflow habit when making new patterns.
- Find next empty (no naming) (Ctrl+F4) - Same as the above, but does not open the naming dialog.
- 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 (8) 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.
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.
Linking Controllers to Play Instrument Channels
Use a keyboard or other controller to play selected Instrument Channels. By default FL Studio listens to all MIDI Channels, so any enabled controller will play the selected Channel. However, if you want to lock a controller to play a specific Instrument Channel, there are two options:
Lock Controller Notes to Instrument Channels
This method locks Instrument Channels to the note output from the specified controller. You can lock multiple Instrument Channels to a single controller to record layers OR even lock several controllers to a single Instrument Channel.
Video Playlist Here.
How to set a Channel to receive notes from a MIDI Controller:
- To set a specific MIDI Input Port (optional) - Pre-set an Input Port from the MIDI Settings > Input > Port options. Otherwise choose 'No input port set (click to auto assign)' at the next step.
- Right-click the Channel Button - Select 'Receive notes from > [choose a controller] > No input port set (click to auto assign)'.
- To set a specific MIDI Channel - After choosing the controller (Step 2), repeat the process and select a MIDI Channel. Normally choose 'All MIDI channels'. If you choose a specific MIDI Channel, the instrument will only respond to controller notes received from that controller and MIDI Channel.
TIP: If your controller can transmit on different MIDI Channels across the keyboard/pad range, you can play different Instruments Channels with the left and right hands, or a drum kit consisting of up to 16 Sampler Channels.
IMPORTANT: Only the note information is locked to the Channel. To assign knobs and sliders (MIDI CC) to specific plugin targets, use Per-Project Links.
Features of locked Channels:
- The Channel Button will display a Lock icon.
- The Activity LED/ Channel Selector will show Orange.
- The linked controller will show in the Hint Bar when you mouse-over Channel Buttons.
- You can lock Multiple Channels to the same MIDI controller to create Layers.
Floating Assignment of Controller Notes to Instrument Channels
This method is less rigid than the 'Receive notes from', above and is how FL Studio worked prior to FL Studio version 12.3. Selected instrument Channels are assigned to controllers based on their MIDI Channel number. For this method to work you must set each controller to transmit on a unique MIDI Channel (i.e. 1 to 16). The lowest MIDI Channel will control the top-most selected Instrument Channel and the highest MIDI Channel the bottom-most selected Instrument Channel (see the image below).
- Set MIDI Channels - Set each controller to transmit on a different MIDI channel number (1 to 16, see the documentation that came with the controller on setting MIDI send/transmit channels). This is to avoid controller CC conflicts (where more than one controller tries to adjust the same software control on the same MIDI channel). See the documentation that came with the controller on setting MIDI send/transmit channels. By default, FL Studio listens to MIDI data in OMNI mode (all channels 1 - 16 simultaneously).
- Select Instrument Channels - Right-click Channel Selectors for as many Channels in the Channel Rack as you have active controllers. The controller transmitting on the lowest MIDI channel number will be assigned to the top-most selected Instrument Channel. Selected instrument channels below are assigned by ascending MIDI channel number (i.e. lowest MIDI channel = top selected instrument channel, highest MIDI channel = bottom selected instrument channel). When only one channel is selected then all controllers will play that instrument channel. When more instrument channels are selected than there are active MIDI controllers, then top most instrument channels will be assigned.
- Changing controller to plugin relationships - The simplest method is to move the target Instrument Channel up/down in the Channel Rack stack (select the target instrument channel, hold the Alt key and press the up/down arrows on your keyboard OR Shift+Mouse-wheel with your cursor over the Channel button). Remember that instrument channels are assigned to controller MIDI numbers, from top to bottom in the stack.
NOTE: When Options > General settings > Auto select linked modules is:
- ON: Use (Alt+Left-Click) to open plugins without closing the currently
- 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.