Using FL Studio’s Patcher for Layered Instruments and More

For a better sonic flexibility, FL Studio allows you to create your own instrument and effect chains using the Patcher. Gary Hiebner explores the ins and outs in this tutorial.  

Patcher is a great tool in FL Studio that you can used to build your own custom instrument and effects chains. The beauty of this is that you can then recall these in other songs, which helps streamline your workflow. Let’s see how to use Patcher and what it can do.

Loading Up Patcher

Patcher can either be added as an effect or as an instrument. Let’s load it up as an instrument and see how it operates. Under the Channels menu, select Patcher and this will load up and launch the Patcher window. Two items will load up: the ‘From FL Studio’ and the ‘To FL Studio’. What Patcher does is route the audio signal out for the channel into the Patcher plugin, and then back into the channel at the end of the chain.

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Adding Instruments

Now let’s add an instrument to the Patcher. In the middle, right-click and go to Add Plugin, and then choose an instrument, such as Poizone. You could also use the plugin picker to choose an instrument (do this by using the middle click on your mouse and clicking on a blank area in the background). This will reveal the Plugin Picker menu. You will see how the ‘From FL Studio’ is connected to the Poizone instrument and then is routed out to ‘To FL Studio’. And when you play on your MIDI controller, you will hear the instrument. The blue line represents event data, and the yellow line audio data. 

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Check how when you play MIDI how the arrow heads move along the event and audio lines. If you hover over the playhead on the audio line it becomes a volume control and you can control the output volume of the audio by tweaking this dial.

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Adding Effects to the Chain

Now let’s add some effects after the instrument. This time let’s use the Plugin Picker to add an effect. Open the Plugin Picker menu, and then drag the effect onto the instrument. You’ll see it adds the effect after the instrument. If you use the ‘Add Plugin’ window you’ll need to chain the instrument to the effect, so there is just a few extra steps this way. Now you’ve created your first simple plugin chain. Try adding some more effects to build up the Patcher instrument.

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Saving Presets

When you're happy with your instrument chain, save it as a preset. Click on the triangle on the top left of the Patcher plugin window and select Save preset as, and give the Patcher chain a name. 

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Now when you open a new project, you can recall this Patcher preset you built. You can find these presets under Plugin Presets, then under Generator, and in the Patcher subfolder. You can now drag this straight onto a channel to recall this Patcher instrument. 

Layered Instruments

So that’s really cool that you can create your own instrument and effects chains, it adds a more modular approach to the instrumentation side of FL Studio, instead of building up chains in the channels. But what is really handy is that you can use Patcher to create your own layered instrument tracks. Let’s check how this is done. Start off by adding Patcher to a channel like explained above. Now add an instrument, let’s add Poizone again.

Then let’s add another instrument, right-click below the Poizone instrument and choose GMS. Now when you play on your MIDI controller you’ll hear both instruments being triggered. Go in and also add some effects to the GMS instrument, how about adding a Fruity Flangus Flanger. Use the Plugin Picker and then drop the flanger effect onto the GMS instrument, now this is added to it’s chain.

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And you can easily mix how much you want of each instrument in the chain by tweaking the yellow audio line. Which makes it very easy to fine tune how these two sounds play together. 

If you double-click on an instrument or effect it’ll open up that effect in the Editors tab to tweak even further. The Editors window looks very much like a hardware rack, where all your instrument and effect devices are racked up together. So just scroll down or up here to find the instrument or effect you want to edit. If you have quite a complex Patcher chain, then click on the arrow buttons to minimize the size of the instrument or effect.

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Routing Instrument to Different Channels

With the Patcher Plugin the audio is routed out to FL Studio’s Master Output. If you want to route the audio to another track, then manually drag the audio line from the output of the instrument of effect to the middle of the ‘To FL Studio’ icon. Then a contextual menu will pop where you can choose to route your instrument to another insert track. Maybe you want to route this instrument to an Insert track, so that you can mix it differently in the Mixer window.

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Automating the Patcher Plugin

To automate any parameters in your Patcher chain is slightly different. You first need to activate the parameter you want to automate. To do this go to the Editor tab, then right-click on a parameter and choose Activate. Now the parameter will become active and you can either create an automation clip for this parameter, or you can even assign it to a knob or fader on your controller by using the Link to controller option. Click on this and then move a knob or fader on your controller and then the two will be linked. It’s as easy as that.

And when you want to get back to the module Patcher window, just click on the Map tab.

Conclusion

That’s how to use FL Studio’s Patcher to build your own unique instruments and effects chains. Plus the beauty of it is that you can save each Patcher instrument as a preset that you can recall in other projects.

For further FL Studio tips and tricks, check out the following tutorials:

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

https://www.askvideo.com/course/harmor-synthesis-on-steroids


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

Ryan W
Great read!! I had never really used FL's Patcher before mostly due to lack of understanding. I have already done some cool stuff that is a little more tedious without (such as being able to have a separated 100% wet reverb without needing to route to a new channel or a send). Excited to experiment with it

Quick question: Do you think Patcher is better on CPU for stuff like large FX racks?

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