10 Essential Mixing Tips for FL Studio Users

FL Studio is the complete package for recording, arranging, DJing and mixing! To celebrate how much we love FL Studio, Gary Hiebner presents his top 10 tips to help get the most out of your mix.  

FL Studio is very flexible in the way you can work with it when mixing. With its channels and mixer insert tracks, you can build up quite complex mixes. Let’s look at some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of FL Studio when you mix your tracks.

Tip 1 - Route Your Channels to Dedicated Mixer Insert Tracks

With FL Studio you can route any channel to any insert track in the mixer. This is nice in that you can customize your channel layout in the mixer by determining which channels go to which track. With each channel going to a dedicated mixer insert track, you can apply individual effects to each track.

To see what track a channel is routed to, first select the track by clicking on it in the Step Sequencer window. This will open up the Channel Settings window for that track and in the top right-hand corner you’ll see a box labeled FX. This shows which insert track the channel is routed to. You can change the routing by dragging up or down. Notice how the track selection of that channel changes in the Mixer window.

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Tip 2 - Summing Channels to Mixer Insert Tracks

You can use this channel/track flexibility to your advantage. Let’s say in your song you’ve added three different types of bass instruments to three channels. But it’s getting a bit tedious jumping between each track to process and edit the bass sounds. Route the different bass tracks to the same mixer insert track. So you’ll be summing these bass channels to one insert track. This way you can apply processing to this one mixer track, and it’ll be applied to all the bass instruments as a whole. This is a great way to gel similar instruments together and simplify your mixer window. 

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Tip 3 - Setting Up a Reverb Send

Send effects are great in that it allows you to apply an amount of one effect across all the tracks. Let’s see how this is done. First insert a Reverb effect on one of the Sends. Insert an instance of Reeverb 2 on Send 1 and make sure the Wet signal is set to 100% and the Dry to 0.

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Now select the track you want to apply the reverb on, then jump back to the Send track. Turn up the rotary knob just under the volume fader. This will increase the amount of signal that is sent from the track to this send.

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Now select another track, and then go back to the Send reverb track. You’ll see that the rotary knob is at zero again. Increase this to apply the send reverb to this track. This is where it can get a bit confusing. In other DAWs, there is a dedicated send level on each track. In FL Studio, each time you select a track the dedicated knob for that track is found on the Send track. Sends work really well as it’s less taxing on your CPU because you don’t have to insert an instance of the same plug-in on each track.

Another thing to point out is that in FL Studio any track can actually be a send. You don’t have to just use the assigned send tracks. This is achieved through FL Studio’s inter-track routing. Simply route a track to another track, and this becomes the send track. The labeled send tracks are there for backward compatibility with older FL Studio projects. In the next step let’s take a look at how to route tracks around.

Tip 4 - Creating Sub Mixes

In the Mixer you can also route track to other tracks. By default each track is routed to the Master track. When you select a track, you’ll see an orange arrow under the fader on the Master Track, indicating that this track is going out to the master track. If you click on this arrow it’ll bypass the track going to the output and you’ll no longer hear it on the master output. Click it again and you’ll hear the track through the master output. 

But what if you wanted this to go out to another track. For example, let’s say you wanted to route your drums to another track so that you can adjust the volume of all the drums with just one fader. First select one of your drum tracks and click on the orange arrow on the master track. This will bypass that track being routed to the master track output. Then go to an empty insert track and click the arrow under the volume fader. Now this drum track is routed here. Do the same with your other drums tracks. Rename this new submix track to Drums. Right-click the track and choose Rename, or use the shortcut F2. Now you can control the volume of all your drum elements with just one track. 

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You can even add other effects on this track to process all the drums. Maybe you want to add a compressor to compress all the drums, and then maybe an EQ which will alter the drums as a whole. This way you can add individual effects to each drum, plus add effects on the submix track where they’re all routed to. Giving you much more possibilities on how to mix your songs. Group similar elements together and then route then to an insert track so that you can edit and process those elements with one single track.

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Note: Another way to create a submix is to select the insert track, right-click on it. Then from the contextual pop-up window scroll to ‘Create submix to’ and then select an Insert track that you want to send the track to. This shows you how easy it is to route tracks within FL Studio.

Tip 5 - EQs and Frequency Analyzers

For EQs I’d highly recommend using the Fruity Parametric EQ2 to your tracks. It’s a 7-band parametric EQ. You can choose different EQ curve shapes for these bands, and it has a great frequency analyzer that is very handy when you want to see what frequency areas that particular track is taking up. There is increased activity in the bands that are colored orange/red/ and less in the areas that are purple/blue in color. 

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To get a higher quality spectrum view on the Parametric EQ2, make sure to click on the HQ button to active this.

Another great spectrum plug-in is Wave Candy. This has Oscilloscope, Spectrum, Meter, and Vectorscope views to help you analyze your audio. 

Quick tip: On the Selected track, insert a Wave Candy plug-in. Now whatever mixer track you have selected, the Wave Candy plug-in will display the audio for that track. So you’ll only need one Wave Candy plug-in for the whole song.

Tip 6 - Parallel Processing

Parallel processing is where you mix a dry signal with a wet signal. This way you get the original audio blended with the processed audio. And this can be done very easily in FL Studio. Next to each insert there is a dry/wet dial. Tweak this to change the amount of dry versus wet signal. This works very well with drums. On your drums, add a compressor and dial in a very heavy compression setting like a ratio of 20.1:1, have a very short attack and release, and drop the threshold down to about -40. This will be heavily compressing your drums. Now balance the dry with the wet. There you go that’s how easy it is to do parallel compression in FL Studio.

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Note: One word of caution, if you have many plug-ins on a track, it can add some processing delay to your audio signal. When you tweak the wet/dry dial it could result in some flanging of the audio. So just be aware of this when making changes to the wet/dry dial.

Tip 7 - Add Interest with Automation

Automation can really bring your tracks to life, and this can be done very easily in FL. You can automate any parameter. Simply right-click on a parameter, and then choose create automation clip. 

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Now when you jump across to the Pattern Editor. You’ll see a new Clip lane for that automation. So go in and do some volume automations, or reverb send automation to add some variance in your tracks.

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Tip 8 - Limiting Your Audio

If you want to add extra loudness to your audio so that it compares with other commercial releases, then add the Fruity Limiter last on the Master Inserts chain. This will allow you to increase the level of your audio, and at the same time you can set a ceiling so that it doesn’t clip. Set the Ceil to -0.3 dB, and increase the Gain to somewhere between 3-5 dB to give you that much more loudness. What’s also good is to add the Fruity dB Meter after the limiter just to check how this has pushed up your audio. But no matter how hard you push it, if you have the ceiling set at -0.3 dB it’ll never go over that.

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Tip 9 - Changing Effects Order

This is a very quick tip, but super helpful. If you want to change the order of your effect, place your mouse over the effect you want to move, and then use the scroll wheel to move the effect either up or down the inserts chain. Maybe you want your EQ to be placed after your compressor. Different effects chaining orders can have different results on your audio, so keep this in mind.

Tip 10 - Handy Export Options

There’s some very handy export options. You can choose to zip your project. If you want to collaborate with another FL user, zip up your project, copy this onto a hard drive, then take it to their setup and load up your zipped project.

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You can also choose to export out your mixer tracks as separate tracks. This is handy if you're going to be moving your project to another DAW. Maybe you’re getting someone else to mix your song. Split up the tracks, and then bring then into the other DAW to mix.

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Conclusion

So there's 10 helpful tips you can use to make the most of FL Studio when you get into mixing your songs. The Mixer window is very flexible with its channels and insert routing, and the FL plug-in can really help beef up your mix.

For further FL Studio Tips and Tricks check out this video course:

https://www.askvideo.com/course/fl-studio-101-introducing-fl-studio

Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More

Discussion

Jay-Mwilaman
Hi Gary Hiebner. You have no idea how much help your article has given me. I feel such a huge relief man! I am a beginner in music production and I love FL Studio but I was getting stuck in my work because my computer would start acting slow before I even finish a project.

I am right now on tip number 2 of your article and already I have a breakthrough. I did not know how much CPU the effects routed through the individual channels were taking up and this was the source of my problem and you have saved my life! Lol.

Thanks a million my man.

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