FL Studio’s move to iOS was unexpected, but their mobile music production suite has really got a lot to offer for when you’re away from your beloved desktop and you have an idea that you just have to get down. FL Studio Mobile HD allows you not just to input ideas, but develop them into fully-fledged songs with a suprising level of complexity.
I’m what you could call an FL Studio power user, so I felt right at home using it’s younger brother to compose ideas that I could immediately touch up on the desktop version. Even if you don’t use Fl Studio as your main DAW, or if you’re new to the music production scene altogether, Image-Line’s nifty app has a relatively steep learning curve, meaning you’ll have to sit with it for a little while before you familiarise yourself with the interface. This tutorial will guide you through the steps of producing an idea or even a full song right there on your iPad.
If you’re an experienced sound synthesist, a little disappointment lies ahead: there isn’t the function allowing you to create sounds from scratch. You can alter the volume, pan, attack and release of each instrument, but there’s a lack of ability to tweak instruments. That’s not, however, underestimating the reasonably powerful tool kit that FL Studio Mobile offers, with a wide variety of sounds to choose from to start developing some ideas.
If you know the kind of song you want to create, select the appropriate instruments from the preset library that FL Studio gives you under the instruments tab. Even if you’re not certain, play around with the sounds and drums for a bit until you get something you like.
Don’t worry if you can’t find the sounds you want; as we progress through this tutorial you can adapt your instruments to something more fitting.
Starting to Sequence
If you have something you want to work with already, like a melody, drum beat, or chord progression, then insert it into the step sequencer/piano roll by touching the tracks tab, selecting the instrument you want to input the idea into by touching the piano roll button at the top right. In this example, I have used a single looping bar of drums that I’ve repeated for 4 bars in total along with a simple chord progression on my pad synth.
You can repeat things by selecting the track you want to repeat and tapping the X2 button.
If you’re not one for inserting note after note (which I will admit is quite a frustrating and time consuming task in the piano roll) I advise you to head over to the keyboard tab and play the thing yourself, experienced or not. It gets the notes down much quicker, and you’ll be able to edit the timing and position of each note once you’ve recorded it. After that, listen back to your composition to make any necessary tweaks. We can now begin to develop each track further.
Now we can start to add different parts to the composition. If you have a simple chord progression, such as Am-C-G-D, we can make a bassline and melody around this progression. The timing of these will take a little imagination, but that’s what brings originality into your creation. A melody to this chord progression could use the A Minor Pentatonic scale, which contains the notes A, C, D, E, and G. A baseline can be made in a similar way; you can just use the base notes of your chord progression and mess around with the timing. Play around with similar ideas until you find a melody that works for you.
Sometimes I get a musicians equivalent of writers block and can’t think up anything; try going back to it tomorrow with a fresh set of ears.
Effects of the App
On any track, you have the option to enable FL Studio’s effects. These will help us to get the right sounding finished products. Each effect has the option to ‘limit to FX tracks’, which will change the effect from global to singular to a track(s). You can enable FX on any track by touching the FX button under the ‘tracks’ tab once you’ve touched the track you want. You can also record any changes to effects throughout your track, although that does take a little finger work.
The first effect we’ll cover is reverb. For those that don’t know, reverb makes a sound appear to resound in a succession of echoes, giving the effect that it’s being played in a large room. In this example, I’ve added some small reverb to the lead melody of my composition.
A second effect we can apply is the in-built filter. This is controlled through an XY pad that Korg fans will be familiar with, with the X-axis controlling cutoff and the Y-axis controlling resonance. You can use the filter for one of two things: changing a track’s sound, or doing so over a period of time by recording changes to the XY pad, like automation clips would do in the original FL.
The filter has high, low, and band pass modes, but in this example I’m going to use the low pass filter to vary the cutoff and resonance for the first 4 bars of song. After pressing record, I dragged the XY pad diagonally right until the end of the 4th bar.
The third effect I’m going to touch on is the delay feature. This will aptly produce a delay when a note is played for a given amount of time. I’ve put a small delay on my lead to complement the reverb.
The app also has an amplifier, EQ, and limiter, however they’re not really necessary unless you’re planning on taking this track one step further. The inbuilt EQ isn’t the best, so all serious equalisation should be done outside the app.
The Desktop’s the Limit
If you end up hitting a brick wall, you can export the project to the app’s big brother, FL Studio. There you can edit it far more flexibly, albeit with a much higher price tag. From there, your imagination is the only limit! Fl Studio Mobile HD is a superb app for getting the seeds of ideas down and allowing them to grow.
Looking For More?
If you liked this article, it’s definitely worth taking a look at our in-depth review of FL Studio Mobile HD.