FL Studio Tutorial - Pattern Window and Step Sequencer Basics

In this FLStudio Tutorial we will explain the Pattern window. The pattern window is pretty much the starting point for almost every type of project you will involved with. Any sound that you need to use inside FLStudio from VST to sample to built-in FLStudio generator can be accessed from the pattern window.

Your workflow might vary from other people, but we'll go through some very basic steps on the ways to get sounds into the pattern.

When you first open FLStudio or create a new project, you will be presented with the pattern window. You can toggle this window by using the keyboard shortcut F6, or the tool bar button that looks like

Depending on your settings, you may see a row or several rows of buttons. In the screen shot below, we see an empty pattern.

Adding Sound

Before we start putting sounds into the pattern, I should explain that you can have as many patterns as you want. You should think about them and use new patterns for different parts of your song. For example, you might have one pattern for a specific drum part and another for the bassline and yet another for the lead synth. This will make more sense later when we talk about using the playlist to arrange the song. For now we'll keep it simple.

There are a couple of ways to actually insert a new channel you could drag a sample from windows explorer or FLStudio Browser into the pattern window or from the main menu's Channels>Add One.

They way I prefer to add channels depends on what I need. I have a large collection of drum kits and soundfonts, so I usually use the browser window for that. For adding VST instruments and FL Studio generators, I use the Channels>Add One menu.

To begin, lets browse for a couple drum sounds in the browser and drag them onto the pattern. This should create a new channel for each. If you drag over the top of an existing channel, it will be replaced so be careful about that unless thats what you want it to do.

After we drag a few more sounds our pattern look like this:


Notice how you have a row for each channel. The left most section of the row has a small button you can use to toggle the channel mute/solo. Next to that you have a panning control knob, followed by a Volume knob and a big button labeled with text to access the channel settings. Next to the big button is a nother oval shaped button that lets you select a channel. if it is lit up, then the channel is selected. You can use a right click to select multiple channels. Finally you have a row of buttons. These are the steps.

Step Sequencer

The step sequencer is an excellent way to trigger percussion type sounds and samples/loops.

Notice all those rows of buttons for each sound? Those are each called 'step' and you looking at a sequence of them each representing 1/16 of a measure or bar of music. Don't worry if you don't know what this means for now. Each group of four steps is equal to 1 beat. In the default FL Studio skin, the colors of each four will alternate to make it easier to use and identify the beats.

By clicking a step button, you activate it and it will play a sound of the sample contained in the channel. Clicking it again will remove it from playing.  By clicking some Kick, Snare and Hihat steps we can make a simple drum beat.

You can also control various aspects of individual steps like it's pitch or velocity by pressing the graph edit button next to the swing slider in the upper right portion of the pattern window. This will show you various parameters of the selected channel. Use the scroll bar to cycle through the parameters you can control. Click the graph edit button again to close it.

To hear what the pattern sounds like, set you play mode to PAT (the small light next to the play button) and click on the play button. Also notice that to the right of the tempo value, you can see (and set) what pattern number you are in. In the screen shot it's set to the value of 1.

The space bar can also be used to toggle the Play/Stop but be aware that in some VSTs, the space bar is used for another purpose and it may not trigger FLStudio to play all the time.

You can leave the pattern playing while turning steps on and off until you get a pattern that sounds good to you. Notice how the pattern will repeat automatically as you do this.

To go to a new or different pattern click in the pattern LCD, next to the tempo, and while holding down your left mouse button, drag up  or down. You can also press the + or - on the numpad to move up/down patterns.

Try going to a new pattern before moving to the next step.

Piano Roll

As a general rule, you will want to work in the piano roll for most non-percussive instruments. We will insert a simple piano sound by selecting Channels>Add One>FL Keys.

Now you should have a new channel called Keys. Make sure it's selected.

Right click on the channel settings button and select Piano Roll.

Notice the new window that appears:

In this piano roll window you can click and draw in the upper section, where you want notes to play. By making the notes longer or shorter, you can control how long they play. In the screen shot below, I've added a few notes to play a chord.

When You close the piano roll, you can see that the channel no longer contains steps, but rather a display that represents what's in the piano roll for that channel.

You can reopen the piano roll by pressing the F7 or clicking this button on the FL Studio tool bar: 

Double clicking on the piano roll display on the pattern will also bring up the piano roll window.

Just like with the step sequencer, you can loop play this pattern and adjust the notes to get what you want out of the piano roll.

The piano roll offers a lot more in terms of features so look for the tutorials on the various piano roll features for more information.


In this lesson we have seen the basic use of the FL Studio Pattern window. We learned how to create new channels for each sound and how to use the step sequencer. We touched briefly on the use of the piano roll as well. Be sure to look for the other tutorials on the Channel Settings, Piano Roll and Playlist to get some more vital information.



Category: FL Studio | Tutorials
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