How deep have you really dived into FL Studio’s mixer? Let me show you some of my top tricks to make the most of one of the most powerful mixer environments out there! Before we start, if you are interested in learning more about music production in general, be sure to check out my daily podcast Producer Cast!
1. Shift + Ctrl + L
This is one of the most powerful shortcuts in all of FL Studio. When moved to FL Studio after years as an Ableton user, one of the most hardest things to manage was keeping the channel rack, mixer, and patterns organized. Shift + Ctrl + L will assign everything selected in the channel rack to individual mixer tracks while keeping the same color and name from the channels!
2. Mixer Track Icon, Name, and Color Selection (F2)
Again, organization is super key in any DAW, but especially in FL Studio. You need to keep track of the linking between your channels, patterns, and mixer tracks. By using colors, icons, and names to organize projects, you can save a lot of frustration. It is also worth noting the “Split by Channel” option in the patterns dropdown menu which will create patterns based on each channel. Between “Split by Channel” and “Shift + Ctrl + L”, you can easily keep all the channels, patterns, and mixer tracks organized with the same colors, icons, and names!
3. Select Multiple Mixer Tracks
It’s easy to select multiple tracks at once! All you have to do is hold the ctrl key and drag your mouse over the top of mixer tracks you want to select. This is super useful for tasks like grouping or adjusting the volume of multiple tracks at once (for example, to adjust headroom).
4. Grouping (and Creating Separators)
If you select multiple mixer tracks, you will have the option to create a group from those tracks. This is another powerful organization technique, especially when working with larger, studio-based projects. For a long time, Pro Tools was seen as the industry standard for mixing, but as you will see throughout the next few mixer hacks, FL Studio has a truly deep, intuitive, and powerful mixer. Grouping and creating separators will allow you to creatively organize tracks to perform complex routing in the mixer. Use grouping to put similar elements together. For example, you could have groups for drums, vocals, synths, guitars, or any other related elements of your mix.
5. Bussing (and Group Processing)
This is a phenomenally underrated technique in FL Studio’s mixer. At the bottom of any selected mixer track you will find the routing options. To create a bus, you will want to detach every mixer track in a group from the master and then reattach it to a separate mixer track (called a bus) which all the tracks are routed through before the bus sends all the sounds to the master. This will allow you to process all sounds in a group together with techniques such as glue compression before they go to master!
A little known aspect of FL Studio’s mixer track layout is that they are divided into 3 separate docks. By default, every track is placed in the middle dock, but you have the option to move any track to the left or right dock, which can make them easier to access and a helpful organizational tool. For example, you can move your busses to the left dock and your returns to the right dock.
7. Sends and Returns (Aux Tracks)
The difference between busses and aux tracks is the way they are routed. In a bus, tracks are routed entirely through the bus before going to the master. In the send/return routing method, only part of the signal is sent to a return (sometimes called an aux) track. This is great for applying effects like reverb and delay as it can help maintain a cohesive sound between the transients of different elements in the mix. This technique is also super valuable for automating vocal effects as it allows you to determine how much of the effect is being applied to the entire mix (or vocal mix) or individual elements by automating the amount of the signal being sent to the return track.
8. Fruity Send Plugin
Sometimes you will need to mute a send channel but still want to be able to hear the return track with reverb or delay. This is where the Fruity Send Plugin is super helpful because it allows you to mute the track while still sending a signal to a bus. This is a simple routing solution to a fairly annoying problem. If I’ve worded it in a way that sounds too complex, just open the plugin and you will see how simple it really is!
9. Easy Parallel Processing
One of my favorite parts of the FL Studio mixer is the dry-wet dials on every single effect insert. This means that you can easily parallel process any effect in FL Studio EVEN IF it doesn’t have a built in dry-wet dial! Parallel processing with the dry-wet dials will allow you to blend the signal of the unaffected sound with the effected signal!
10. Stereo Separation Knob
The stereo separation knob is one of my favorite parts of the FL Studio mixer. You need to make sure that you are in a view that shows this knob (look in the top left of the mixer window for the “view extra volume / stereo properties”), but once it’s there it will become one of your best friends in mixing. It allows you to simply and quickly make a track more stereo (spreading further to the left and right) or more mono. The algorithm in this thing is phenomenal! Use it on pads and melodies to make space for the drums by adding stereo separation or use it on kicks and 808s to narrow their focus in the stereo field.
11. Waveform View (Alt + W)
The alt + w command is a way to quickly see how the transients of your song are lining up. Basically it swaps out the meters for miniature waveform analyzers. Identify the spacing between the peaks of all your drum sounds and see where there may be conflicts or space that could be filled!
12. Fader Resolution
A quirk (albeit a necessary one) of mixing consoles in general is fader resolution. When a fader is closer to 0dB, it is more precise. As the fader gets closer to -inf dB the resolution drops and every movement represents a larger change in volume. Mixing near the top of the mixer means that you will have more precision control over your levels. So, when you’re gainstaging, try to route signals from the channel rack at the approximate volume you want into the mixer. This will allow you to have much more precision control when leveling.
This is one of the most important concepts in mixing, yet it is still not talked about enough. Understanding gainstaging will benefit you more than any other mixing concept in my honest opinion. Basically, gainstaging is running clean signals into your mixing. If your meters peak below your fader level before you apply any effects, you are gainstaging. Aim for -6dB of head room to find an easy balance between the need to gainstage and still having fader resolution to work with. The reason for gainstaging is to preserve the clarity of your signals which will allow to get a more polished and professional mix!
14. Open Edison (Ctrl + E)
Edison is a kind of complicated but super powerful sampler that really deserves a different post to dive deep into! Basically, Edison allows you to perform creative and ultra precise audio editing. While Edison opens up on a mixer track, it’s better to think of it as a standalone sampler and recording software instead of as an effect. Use it for all your waveform editing needs!
15. Quickly Record Into Edison (Shift + E)
While FL Studio isn’t exactly the ideal vocal recording solution, Edison is again very useful for this task. Instead of recording directly into the playlist, you can manage your takes in Edison. Use this key command to get to work quickly! This will get you better results than the fairly difficult process of managing latency while arming disk recording.
16. Mixer Layout
FL Studio has a number of different mixer views that open up a world of workflow possibilities and preferences. My personal favorite (on a 4k retina display) is “Compact 2”. Look at the buttons in the top left of the mixer and you will see one that allows you toggle the Mixer Layout. Experiment with the options and find the one that you like best!
17. Post Processing EQ
My personal mixing process primarily revolves around signal flow. I’m more focused on the way signal flows into the mixer than I am with slapping on tons of effects. Often it’s too easy to try and fix a signal flow problem with effects, when it’s really more effective to manage the signal flow (see Hack #13 above). Still EQ and compression are super valuable tools. One of my favorite parts of the FL Studio Mixer is the parametric EQ that is built into every mixer track. I frequently use this as ‘high pass filter magic’ to remove muddy frequencies!
18. Analyzers on “Current” Channel
The “Current” channel (located next to “Master” channel) is an often underutilized, but extremely valuable addition to the FL Studio mixer. One of my absolute favorite hacks is using this as a channel for analyzer plugins like Wave Candy or PAZ-Analyzer. Because some analyzers can be heavy on CPU, the “Current” Channel makes their use super convenient as your analyzers will show the analysis of whatever track is currently selected!
Some people swear by sidechain compression and others curse it. However you feel about it, it’s worth knowing what it does and how to do it. Essentially, sidechaining allows you to use the output of one channel to affect another channel. 9 out of 10 times when people refer to sidechaining, they are talking about sidechaining the kick drum to other tracks to get the classic pumping effect. Use this to help the kick cut through elements like pads, synths, guitars, 808s, or any other elements that might otherwise overpower the kick.
20. Invert Phase Button
Any time you have related elements such as a kick and 808 or two melodic elements, there is a slight chance that there may be conflict between the phase of the two sounds. It would require a deep dive into audio physics to explain how and why this happens, but it’s good to know that these in practice these types of issues can sometimes easily be fixed by simply inverting the phase of one of the conflicting sounds. Sometimes, for example, if you have trouble getting a kick to punch through the 808, it may possibly be fixed by simply inverting the phase of one of the two sounds.
21. Bypass All Effects
It is possible to quickly bypass or disable all effects on a given track by toggling the button directly above the record arm button. This is an often underutilized button that can be used to quickly compare dry and effected signals. This is particularly helpful as a blind check of whether or not all those effects you’re adding are really helpful!
If you’re looking to continue growing your technical skillset as a producer, one of the best things you can do is to develop habits that allow you to continually grow and increase your productivity! I wrote a short book called The Daily Producer’s Seven that goes over 7 of my favorite habits that promote productivity and has helped tons of producers catapult there growth!
I’d love to give you a free copy today! Check it out, read it in an afternoon, and implement these habits to see transformation in your workflow as a producer!