FL Studio tutorial explaining how to use an external MIDI controller
Via an external MIDI controller (e.g. in the form of a keyboard), you can move FL Studio knobs and sliders by means of external controller movements – and even record these movements in real time (as event automation). Most commonly, such MID controllers come in various sizes of ‘piano’ keyboard, with several knobs and sliders that you can link to your FL Studio controls. Also, they are usually equiped with USB making connection to your computer a piece of cake.
MIDI controllers are not synthesizers themselves (though more expensive models can generate sounds stand alone), but act as input for other devices, such as DAW programs like FL Studio. In this tutorial we will have a look at how to use a standard USB based MIDI controller, linking its external controllers to controllers on the FL Studio interface.
One of my controllers is the inexpensive Behringer USB/MIDI UMX25, which is compact, portable and really easy to use. It has velocity sensitive keys, 10 MIDI controllers I can link to FL Studio and some other nice features, such as a user setting memory (hmmm…does this sound as a commercial?).
Connecting the MIDI controller to your computer
Well, this is as simple as it can get. Simply connect the controller to a USB port on your computer and let your operating system (Windows Vista in my case) figure out the rest (install drivers, etc). it will recognize it as a MIDI device and voila, you are done.
Setting up the MIDI controller as input device
Next, you will need to setup the controller as your MIDI input device. Start FL Studio and open the MIDI Settings dialog via Options | MIDI settings in the main menu (or press F10). See below:
If all went well, you should see the controller under ‘input’ in the dialog. If not, try to click the ‘Rescan MIDI devices’ button at the bottom of the dialog. Select your MIDI device so that it is highlighted and check the ‘Enable’ checkbox to enable it. Note that MIDI activity light on the Main Panel will blink each time MIDI data is received. This is a way to check whether you have successfully setup your MIDI controller. See below:
While FL Studio supports all generic MIDI controllers, it also has support for a number of custom MIDI controllers. If you are using one of those supported devices, you can select the corresponding controller type from the Controller type drop down box. Most commonly, however, the generic controller will do.
I won’t discuss the other settings on this dialog, except for Auto accept detected controller.
Auto accept detected controller – If this box is checked, the Remote Control Settings dialog will close automatically once an external controller (e.g. a knob) has been mapped to the internal FL Studio control (this mapping is done by simply tweaking the external control while the Remote Control Settings dialog is open – as we will see a bit further down). If you uncheck it, you will need to click Accept in the Remote Control Settings dialog to close it.
Linking external controller
Now that you have setup your MIDI device, you are ready to link controllers to FL Studio knobs and sliders. Let’s have a look at how this is achieved by linking an external controller to the channel volume knob. See below:
To link an external controller to the channel volume knob (knob to the left of the reFX Nexus channel button), simply right click it and choose Link to controller in the menu:
The Remote control settings dialog will open. See below:
Now, to map an external MIDI controller you simply tweak the controller on your MIDI device. Depending on whether or not you checked Auto accept detected controller on the MIDI settings dialog, the Remote control settings dialog may close immediately after the controller has been mapped. Below you see that I mapped controller 91 – which happens to be the first knob on my UMX25.
That’s all folks! I can now move the channel volume by turning the knob on my external controller.
If you want to link a controller to a knob/slider on a VST plugin, then follow the procedure below:
- Open the plugin
- Tweak the knob/slider to which you want to link an external controller
- Choose Last tweaked parameter | Link to controller from the Fruity Wrapper menu. See below:
Real time recording
You may wonder how you can record the movement of external controllers? Well, that is a matter of recording Automation Events, which I explained in the tutorial Recording automation events
Hope this FL Studio tutorial was helpful to you. Feel free to leave any comments. Happy composing!