Using Note Colors in The Piano Roll

In most of FLStudio's advertising we see multiple note colors being used in the Piano Roll, and while it does look good, the uses for multiple note colors extend far beyond the visual. This tutorial will talk about some of the practical ways to use different note colors and some of the major workflow advantages that come from it.

Let's begin with a piano melody, I recorded it in FLStudio with my midi keyboard.

Next, I am going to make a copy of the melody and have it play one octave higher, in addition to the melody already in place. This isn't the sort of thing you'd normally do with a piano part, but more likely with an ensemble of strings or brass. In order to keep track of the higher octave, let's change the color of the new piano roll notes. With the new notes selected, change the color group selection (which is the pallet of colors in the upper left) and use keyboard shortcut Alt+C (think ALTer + Color).

The main thing we've done here is to make it easier to select groups of notes in FLStudio. For example, if we wanted to apply different quantization to one of the groups or if we wanted to lower the velocity or timing of one the groups, we could easily do that. As an example, let's lower the velocity of only the green group. To do this, change the Color Group Selection in the upper-left to green, use keyboard shortcut Shift+C to select by color, and then use keyboard shortcut Alt+X for the Scale Levels tool.

Now I'll undo that velocity change because I'm going to want equal velocities in this next technique. This step will be to have the melody play in canon. Another term used for this, especially when it's a group of people singing, is "in a round."

We're going to have the upper octave begin one bar later than the lower octave. To do this, switch the Color Group Selection to Yellow, use shortcut Shift+C to select by color, and then move the melody over a bar. Here's what it sounds and looks like in FLStudio:

I copied everything four bars over to hear what it would sound like leading back into itself. The images below show the FLStudio piano roll before and after editing, and the audio file shows the result.

To help make it sound less busy, I want to move the upper octave notes to a different instrument. If I hadn't been using different note colors, this would be very difficult to do, but with note colors, it's as easy as cut-and-paste. Switch the Color Group selection, use Shift+C to select by color, and then copy the notes to the new instrument's piano roll using the FLStudio piano roll's edit menu. I'm going to use a harp because it's similar to a piano, the notes might even make it sound like a different type of piano.

Here's the example playing over a stock FLStudio loop. This piece wouldn't really work as a backing track for a vocal, but it would work well as an intro, solo, or outro.

Final tips:

If you're using a multiple-instrument module like Sampletank, Directwave, or Philharmonik, you will need to use a Midi Out channel in order to take advantage of note colors in this way. If you use a multi-timbral instrument's piano roll, the different note colors will respond to different midi channels.

Other Uses for FLStudio note color groups include separating your grace notes from your main notes, grouping the "in-between" notes in drum rolls, and best of all, easily adjusting and maintaining a group of notes.

This tutorial was written by Sean Duncan for and is published here with permission.

Category: FL Studio | Recording | Tutorials | Workflow | FLStudio
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