FL Studio used to go by “Fruity Loops” as I am sure many people remember. But as the DAW landscape changed, so did Image Line’s #1 product. Today we go over the entirety of FL Studio, and look at the standout features.
- FL Studio Introduction: We Have Come A Long Way…
- The Birth of FL Studio: History and Evolution
- Key Milestones in FL Studio’s Evolution
- Versatility and User Base
- Plugins Native To FL
- Synthesizers in FL Studio
- Drum Machines in FL Studio
- Standout Features of FL Studio
- Notable Artists Using FL Studio
- Conclusion: A Music Production Powerhouse
FL Studio Introduction: We Have Come A Long Way…
If you are brand new to DAW software, then FL Studio might be on your list of programs to check out. But if you have been producing for a while, you probably remember the beginning of FL studio when it was called “Fruity Loops”.
At one point, Fruity Loops was one of the most-ever pirated pieces of software. Not only did P2P users share the software itself, but they also shared huge sample packs to use with Fruity Loops. This was a mainstay during the days of Napster, and everyone I knew played around with Fruity Loops making beats.
By 2003, the company that created Fruity Loops had suffered greatly from the amount of piracy, to the point that the company almost shut down from profit loss. This time is where the rebranding of “FL Studio” moniker comes from, along with huge security updates.
FL Studio did not start out as a DAW, like most of the other recording software we have covered like Cubase. Fruity Loops had humble beginnings as a simple sequencer and drum machine, where the user could program drum loops, using a variety of classic sample sounds.
Also unlike the other DAWs we have covered so far, Fruity loops/FL Studio was often improved by users. Much like a video game that can download mods or skins, Fruity Loops had simple computer code that users would customize. This is a feature still available to this day, as users can create their own libraries of samples (often for a profit).
To understand what FL Studio is in modern times, we have to look into the past. While FL Studio has been a fully-functioning DAW for quite some time now, it was not always that way. In fact, it only recently became a real contender for a primary, professional DAW.
FL Studio stands out as a beat-making powerhouse with a rich history, a legion of devoted users, and a myriad of features that cater to both beginners and seasoned professionals. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll delve into the story of FL Studio, explore its diverse range of uses, uncover its unique features, and even take a look at some notable artists who’ve harnessed its creative potential.
The Birth of FL Studio: History and Evolution
FL Studio, previously known as Fruity Loops, traces its origins back to 1997 when Belgian company Image-Line released the first version of the software. Initially, FL Studio was conceived as a simple MIDI drum sequencer. However, it quickly evolved into a full-fledged DAW, thanks to its intuitive interface and innovative features.
Fruity Loops was renamed to “FL Studio” in mid 2003, after the threat of a lawsuit from Kellogg’s Cereal Brand. Even though it was not called “Fruit Loops” by name specifically, the name was close enough to cause some turmoil for the company.
Image-Line offers lifetime free updates to the program after one-time purchases, which means customers receive all future updates of the software for free after their purchase. This is almost completely unheard of in the music production software world. You get free updates, as they are released. You can also keep the version you have, and not update if you want and many users do this since they are comfortable with the current version.
Key Milestones in FL Studio’s Evolution
1. FruityLoops (1997): The debut version introduced the world to the core concepts of FL Studio: step sequencing, pattern-based arranging, and an easy-to-use interface.
2. FL Studio (2003): The transition from FruityLoops to FL Studio came with version 4.0. This was a significant step in the software’s evolution, marking a more mature and professional approach to music production.
3. FL Studio 7 (2007): Version 7 brought substantial updates, including the introduction of the Fruity Wrapper, enabling users to host third-party VST plugins.
4. FL Studio 10 (2011): The tenth version of FL Studio saw the introduction of a redesigned interface with improved vector graphics and many workflow enhancements. It also included a new project browser, fixed some bugs, and smoothed envelope points. It also introduced Patcher, a modular workflow environment capable of chaining together an unlimited number of instruments and effects
5. FL Studio 12 (2015): FL Studio 12 further refined the software’s interface, enhanced plugin management, and introduced a wide range of new features and plugins.
6. FL Studio 20 (2018): The twentieth anniversary edition marked a significant milestone for FL Studio. It introduced a Mac version, making the software accessible to a broader user base. Version 20.0, released on May 22, 2018, skipped versions 13 to 19 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the program. It introduced native macOS support, multiple time-signatures, MIDI conversion to audio, unlimited playlist arrangements, improved plugin delay compensation, the return of the step sequencer graph editor, In-situ rendering (“freezing”), and other improvements
7. FL Studio 20.8 (2021): The most recent update at the time of writing, FL Studio 20.8, brought features like Frequency Splitting, Virtual MIDI Controllers, and numerous workflow improvements.
FL Studio started as a simple drum machine program, but turned into a phenomenon. In fact, throughout the version history, FL Studio often gained new users that had no musical experience at all. The simple layout and easy to use UI made it accessible for even casual users with no experience.
This popularity sparked many other versions of the DAW, including phone app-based versions of the drum machine and sequencer features. This made FL Studio a multi-platform system that caught the attention of many young people.
Versatility and User Base
FL Studio has found its place in a wide range of music production scenarios, making it one of the most versatile DAWs on the market. Whether it was nostalgia from older users, or new users that discovered a talent for beat-making, FL Studio has been popular.
This means that the DAW attracts all kinds of different artist types. While drum machines and MIDI were usually used by EDM artists in the past, they are used in almost every genre these days, by professional artists in many cases.
1. Electronic Music Production:
FL Studio’s intuitive step sequencer, powerful piano roll, and extensive library of virtual instruments and effects make it a favorite among electronic music producers. Whether you’re creating techno, house, trap, or EDM, FL Studio offers the tools and sounds needed to craft electronic masterpieces.
In fact, you can find just about every popular EDM sound, from 808 drum machines to actual virtual synths that model classic KORG and MOOG keyboards. The library is huge, and you can edit each sample and tune them to your liking.
2. Hip-Hop and Beat Making:
Many renowned hip-hop producers, including Lex Luger, Southside, and Metro Boomin, have embraced the DAW’s workflow for crafting iconic beats and instrumentals. Its ease of use and robust sampling capabilities make it a go-to choice in the hip-hop world.
Hip-hop and Trap beats evolved with FL Studio, and many of the Soundcloud-era artists used the DAW to make arrangements. The step sequencer has taken the place of the analog samplers and drum machines that were used in the early days of hip-hop.
3. Film Scoring and Sound Design:
FL Studio’s comprehensive set of tools, including advanced synthesis options and automation capabilities, make it suitable for film scoring and sound design. It’s used by professionals to create soundtracks and soundscapes for movies and video games.
Many commercial artists and composers use the DAW because the UI and step sequencer allows for a very efficient workflow. You can take an idea from a simple melody, to a full string orchestra by copy and pasting. Commercial composers work under tight schedules, so workflow speed is paramount.
4. Electronic DJs and Performers:
FL Studio’s real-time recording and sequencing features make it a popular choice for EDM artists. The software’s flexible workflow allows for the creation of intricate drops, builds, and melodic elements that define the genre. All kinds of effects can be added to your setlist, and automated by MIDI.
5. Pop Music Production:
Many contemporary pop hits owe their sound to FL Studio. Its user-friendly interface and diverse range of virtual instruments cater to the needs of pop music producers and songwriters. Many cross-over hits that feature EDM elements were created with FL Studio.
No matter which genre you like to create, FL Studio has something to offer everyone. From famous artists to beginners, it is easy to capture an idea quickly and refine it later. Professional features for mixing and mastering are included in FL Studio, including surround sound options.
Dolby Atmos and 7.1 surround sound has become a popular way to release tracks, and this DAW is capable of completing these complex mixes. Usually, you would need a separate plugin to get results like that. Many commercial artists/composers need these kinds of mixing options, and it is built-in to the DAW.
This is what makes FL Studio so diverse, and appealing to so many artists. No matter what genre you work in, there are tons of tools to use. From beginners to professionals, commercial musicians to DJs, FL Studio is a valuable tool. But the native plugins are the real highlight of the DAW.
Plugins Native To FL
The plugins that come with FL Studio are the heart of the DAW. You get plenty of effects and tools like reverb, delay, and compressors. But the synths and drum machines are the main feature by a mile. These are all based on popular analog models, however they are not 1 to 1 copies of the source material.
The popular Harmor Synth for example works a lot like a KORG, but the DAW puts its own spin on the popular analog variants. It takes cues from all types of synths, and it is easy to manipulate, making it a huge sonic canvas.
The drum plugins also mimic famous drum machines from distorted industrial beats, to classic 808s that put hip-hop beats on the map. You can even upload acoustic drum kits and manipulate the sounds however you wish. The percussion options are virtually limitless, and the sequencing blocks make it simple to program.
Synthesizers in FL Studio
Sytrus is a powerful software synthesizer with six customizable operators. It’s capable of producing a wide array of sounds, from classic analog-style tones to complex FM synthesis textures. Sytrus’s flexibility and deep modulation capabilities make it a favorite among sound designers and electronic music producers.
Harmor (formerly Harmless) is a subtractive synthesizer known for its user-friendly interface and smooth, warm tones. It’s an excellent choice for creating melodic leads, pads, and bass sounds. Harmor’s simplified layout makes it accessible to beginners while offering sonic depth for more advanced users.
3xOSC is a straightforward and versatile subtractive synthesizer with three oscillators. While it may seem basic, it’s a powerful tool for crafting classic synth sounds, including leads, basses, and stabs. Its simplicity makes it an ideal starting point for newcomers to synthesis, and will be familiar to analog synth users
Sakura is a unique physical modeling synthesizer designed for creating string instrument sounds. It uses mathematical algorithms to replicate the behavior of strings, resulting in realistic and expressive tones. Sakura is an excellent choice for adding authentic string and plucked instrument textures to your tracks.
Flex is a versatile and user-friendly synthesizer introduced in more recent versions of the DAW. It offers a wide range of presets across various genres and allows for easy sound customization. Flex’s intuitive interface makes it a great choice for quick and inspiring sound design.
Drum Machines in FL Studio
Drumaxx is a percussion modeling instrument capable of creating a wide variety of drum and percussion sounds. It uses physical modeling synthesis to emulate the behavior of membranes, metals, and other percussive elements. Drumaxx is ideal for crafting realistic drum sounds and experimental percussive textures.
2. FPC (Fruity Pad Controller):
FPC is a sample-based drum machine that simplifies the process of building drum kits and triggering samples. It features a user-friendly interface and supports various sample formats. FPC is a valuable tool for both electronic and acoustic drum programming.
While not exclusively a drum machine, DirectWave is a versatile sampler that can be used for drum sample playback. It offers advanced sample manipulation features, making it suitable for constructing intricate drum kits and triggering samples with precision.
4. Transistor Bass:
Transistor Bass is a monophonic bass synthesizer designed to deliver classic bassline sounds reminiscent of analog hardware. It’s a handy tool for crafting basslines in various electronic music genres, from techno to house.
BeepMap is a quirky percussion and sound effects synthesizer that uses image synthesis to create unique, experimental sounds. It allows you to import images and turn them into sound, offering a creative approach to percussion design.
Standout Features of FL Studio
The plugin instruments are great, and they are definitely a standout feature of FL Studio. But if we dig into the actual tools that make those plugins function, you get a dead-simple UI and lots of MIDI editing options that are in “disguise”. What we mean by that, is the block-style step sequencer takes the pain out of “point and click” MIDI arrangements found in other DAWs.
In fact, it was this step sequencer that made Fruity Loops so famous in the first place. It took no musical knowledge to pick a sound, and then fill in the boxes with a sample. People who had never recorded anything in their lives were suddenly making really cool beats, all by themselves at home.
FL Studio’s enduring popularity can be attributed to several standout features that set it apart from other DAWs. FL Studio can have up to 125 tracks running simultaneously, as long as your hardware can keep up. FL Studio has been optimized to run well on most home computers.
Beyond that, the software comes with a myriad of plugins that are native to the DAW, and you cannot find them anywhere else. Your audio tracks can be imported, and almost all file types are supported. Even lossless quality like FLAC can be imported and manipulated.
1. Step Sequencer:
The step sequencer is at the heart of FL Studio’s creative process. It allows users to build patterns for instruments and beats quickly. The intuitive grid-based layout simplifies rhythm and melody creation. You can set the length and time signature of the sequence, and quickly add samples.
This takes the tough job of MIDI editing out of the picture, using simple blocks to create a drum loop. The step sequencer is much easier than using a MIDI piano roll on its own, and saves time when inspiration strikes for demos.
2. Piano Roll:
FL Studio’s piano roll is a robust tool for creating and editing melodies and chord progressions. It offers advanced features like ghost notes, articulation, and automation for precise musical expression. The built-in arpeggiation effect works with the various synth plugins.
3. Mixer and Effects:
The Mixer in FL Studio is incredibly flexible, with support for unlimited tracks and a wide range of routing options. Users can take advantage of a vast library of built-in effects, including EQs, compressors, reverbs, and more.
4. Virtual Instruments:
FL Studio comes bundled with a collection of high-quality virtual instruments, including synths, samplers, and drum machines. These instruments cover a broad spectrum of sounds, making it easy to find the perfect tone for your music.
5. Lifetime Updates:
FL Studio’s unique policy of offering free lifetime updates to its users ensures that you’re always equipped with the latest features and improvements. No other DAW on the market offers free updates for life, and this offered plenty of incentive to pay for the DAW, during the piracy issues.
The features that make this DAW operate with such ease is the very reason so many users find it attractive. Even if you have no musical training whatsoever, you can easily make a beat and string the loops together.
Notable Artists Using FL Studio
Numerous successful artists and producers have chosen FL Studio as their creative platform. Some notable names include:
- Martin Garrix: The world-renowned EDM artist has produced chart-topping hits using the DAW.
- Avicii: The late Swedish DJ and producer was known for his iconic tracks created with the DAW, and he inspired a whole new generation of artists.
- Metro Boomin: The influential hip-hop producer has crafted many of his famous beats using the step sequencer and FL plugins.
- Porter Robinson: The electronic music producer and DJ is another FL enthusiast known for his groundbreaking tracks.
- Zaytoven: The Grammy-winning producer and key figure in trap music has created countless hits with the DAW.
It has only been in the last decade of so that the DAW has become such a professional tool in studios around the world. The FL Community is known for sharing ideas and sample packs with each other, and this further increases the amount of sounds to work with, at home or in a pro studio.
When Fruity Loops first started, it may have seem like a toy to many people. Everyone has that friend that “made a sick beat” with Fruity Loops, but times have definitely changed. The expansion of the sound library as well as the added features over the years make this a DAW to reckon with in the production world.
Conclusion: A Music Production Powerhouse
FL Studio’s journey from its humble beginnings as Fruity Loops to its current status as a music production powerhouse is a testament to its enduring appeal and innovative features. Users all over the world have connected and expanded the sample library, and the FL community has continued to grow.
If it has been a few years since you have checked out “Fruity Loops” then you might want to take a look at just how far the software has come over the years. If you ever thought it was just a “toy” or a basic drum machine, you will be surprised at the DAW today.
With its diverse user base, versatile applications, and a rich history of updates and improvements, FL Studio continues to shape the sound of modern music across genres. Whether you’re a novice producer or a seasoned pro, FL Studio offers the tools and inspiration you need to bring your musical visions to life, making it a true cornerstone of the music production world.
Fl Studio is a fully-functional DAW with features that lean towards electronic music, but it can be used for any genre or style. Many pro studios without a drummer on hand use the step sequencer to map out MIDI drum samples as a “scratch track”. Some of those same studios replace the drummer all together with FL samples.
So if you are looking for a DAW that literally does it all, from industrial metal, to EDM, to jazz and commercial music…FL Studio might be exactly what you are looking for. It may be the tool that is missing from your current studio setup, or you could be a beginner just starting out.
FL Studio is a bargain for anyone wanting to make music, either as a hobby or professionally. The lifetime updates ensure that you stay ahead of the curve, and the user-made sample packs offer a whole world of sounds.
- Software for recording and mixing and intuitively producing, remixing and programming loops
- Lifetime free updates
- Audio recording and editing with direct-to-disc recording and offline rendering
- Integrated Edison audio editor for advanced editing
- Monophonic pitch and timing correction with Newtone
- Full automation of all parameters
- Simultaneous pattern and track-based operation
- Step sequencer with 4 to 64 steps or piano roll to create sequences