Making music in Fruityloops: Part II

In August we ran through the basic concepts involved in using Fruityloops as an electronic music composition tool or sound sketch pad. This month, we'll look more closely at the various aspects of the step, as well as how to go about experimenting with instrument effects.

The Step Sequencer The Step Sequencer is the area where most of the activity in Fruityloops takes place. Open Fruityloops and take a look at FIGURE 1 (in the box at top right) for an explanation of some of the more complex functions and tools that are available for your use.

Last month you may have begun experimenting with creating a pattern or even a song, so let's jump straight in and create one from scratch.

Select File-DrumKits-Basic TS404 and then set the tempo from the default of 140 beats per minute (bpm) to 200. Next, go to Options-Song Settings and increase the Bar Length to 32. Press the close window button in the top right to exit. This makes the pattern move more quickly from left to right, giving more room (or resolution, if you like) to add incidental sounds between main sections of the beat.

When this initial setup is completed, plot the bars in each channel, your screen should look exactly the same. Now click on the channel settings button of channel 1 (TS404#1) and then on the TS404 tab. A window will appear that is full of knobs and dials - these are the controls for the TS404 synthesiser. Oscillator waveforms, envelopes, filters, LFO types, distortion levels and delay settings can all be changed from here. For now, try changing the distortion amount (amt) - the dial in the bottom left of the channel settings window - to just left of halfway. Set the delay (bottom right) to the second most maximum notch. Under filter, set the cutoff (cut) all the way to the left and the resonance (res) to just about all the way to the right. Now right-click on channel 1's mute switch and select solo. Being able to hear only the sound from the selected channel (soloing) makes it easy to edit individual sounds in your pattern. Press or click on the Play button to begin playback. Keep the volume of channel 1 a little over halfway.

Tip: continue the rest of the editing while playback is continuing, so you can hear your changes in real time.

Next, set the volume of channels 2 (C_Kick), 3 (C_HC) and 5 (C_Snare) to maximum. Now it's time to get slightly tricky. Use the channel selector to select channel 4 (C_HH) and then solo it. As you can hear, the hi-hats are a little on the boring side. A good way to add something quickly and easily to your sound is by pressing -H. A window will appear with humanise options, but for now just click on the tick to accept the default perimeters. Hear the difference? The timing and velocity (strength) of each hit is slightly changed, to give the sequence a more human, less programmed feel.

However, as with all effects. less is more. Change the volume of channel 4 to just under halfway. Right-click on channel 4's mute switch once again and deselect solo, adding the rest of the samples/channels into the mix. Next, click on channel 3's channel settings button: you will see a window appear with channel 3's waveform and a myriad of knobs and tools for editing the sound of channel 3's sample. For now, turn the reverb dial to just under half way, the amplitude/volume (amp) up one notch and press the square LED next to the word Reverse. After the latter action, the LED will turn orange and the sample on channel 3 (in our case, a clap sound) will now be played backwards - quite a handy effect. Finally, we'll add some delay to the clap sound by clicking on the TIME tab and turning the Feed dial three notches from the left.

Next month we wrap up this tutorial by using the playlist to sequence single patterns/loops into a full track/song, and look at experimenting with plug-in instruments and effects.

THE STEP SEQUENCER

1. Pattern Shuffle - Slide right to add 'swing' to sequences2. Graph Editor Button - Display and hide editor (visually set volume, cutoff, resonance, pitch and shift)3. Keyboard Editor - Display and hide editor (set pitch of notes in Step Sequencer, just like a piano)4. Playing Step LEDs - This orange light will show you the current step playing in the pattern; affected by set tempo5. Channel Panning Wheel - Changes a channel's panning6. Channel Volume Wheel - Changes a channel's volume7. Mute Switch - This small green LED indicates if a channel is muted or not. Keys 1-9 are shortcut keys for muting corresponding channel numbers. Isolate a channel by right-clicking and selecting solo from the pop-up menu8. Channel Settings Button - Displays and hides channel/sample name and channel settings. Channel settings change the way the current channel/sample sounds. Delay, reverse, LFO, pitch effects and much more9. Channel Selector - When this LED is green, the channel is selected. Used to apply changes to current channel or for cut-and-paste type operations: -C copies selected channel, -V pastes, -W copies entire current pattern10. Sequence Steps Grid - A lit step/bar signifies when a sample from the current channel is to be triggered to play. Each step can be set to a different note using the Keyboard Editor. -left/right arrows move steps one bar each way, -H humanises the selected channel - subtly changing timing and velocity - and -R randomises

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