FL Studio 9 (and 8) tutorial explaining how to record and manipulate external audio.
In FL Studio you can record external audio sources that are connected to your soundcard inputs. I’ve never paid too much attention to this as I neither can sing nor play a ‘real’ instrument. So this feature of FL Studio was not relevant for me. Until I discovered the fun of recording audio and using effects to process it in various ways. No longer was my below average voice any problem. Once recorded I can do almost anything with it and mold it into something really cool. On several occasions I simply picked a poem and read it out loud – then manipulated it and used it for my compositions.
While this tutorial only scratches the surface of recording, it should at least get you started. So let’s have a look.
Recording can be achieved in a number of ways (via the Mixer). See below:
One option is to specify an external input on an insert track of your choice (but never the master track) and place the Edison tool (integrated audio recording and editing tool) in one of the effect slots. In this way audio will be recorded into memory. After recording you can edit and export the audio (save to disk) via the same Edison tool.
Another option is to record to disk. See below:
Via this option you also specify an external input on an insert track, but instead of using Edison, the external audio is recorded to disk. After you stop recording FL Studio will automatically place an audio clip with the recorded audio in your Playlist (this feature is enabled by default, but can be disabled).
Before exploring both options, see also the screenshot of the Mixer below and make sure you are familiar with the view and its controls:
In case you are not really familiar with the Mixer, you may want to read one of my other tutorials: FL Studio Mixer
Audio Settings (F10)
One thing you want to make sure is that you have selected the appropriate Audio settings in the Setting dialog. You can open this via Options Audit Settings in the main menu (or use F10 and select Audio Settings). See below:
One thing you definitely want to do is select your soundcards native ASIO driver in the Input/output box (or choose ASIO4ALL if there is no native driver – ASIO4ALL is a generic driver that supports most soundcards). ASIO drivers are faster and more efficient (less CPU load) than the Primary Sound Driver driver.
Check the Auto close device checkbox if you want other applications to be able to use the soundcard if FL Studio loses focus (e.g. minimized). If you do not check this box FL Studio will keep using the soundcard even if it does not have focus. Other applications cannot use the soundcard in that case, which can be annoying.
I will not discuss every aspect here, but one thing that is perhaps worth mentioning is that you do not want to have too many so called buffer underruns. If you hear popping or clicking sounds when you play your song, it may be due to the fact that the audio buffer temporarily runs out of audio. A few occasional underruns are no problem and you should only deal with this if you detect (hear) problems in the output. By increasing the buffer length you can usually eliminate these issues (click Show ASIO panel – which will bring up the vendor specific ASIO dialog).
Recording using Edison
Ok, let’s get started with recording. The first thing you want to do is open the Mixer (F9) and select the proper input from the External mixer input drop down box. See below:
Note that you may have other options available as this depends on what soundcard inputs you have. Take also note of the fact that I have selected Insert track 1 and not the Master track. In general, you do not want to use the Master track as all audio from all other tracks is routed to this track.
Now, it may take a little experimentation to figure out what input source to use. To have things setup quickly, you can right click the External mixer input drop down box. From the menu, select Auto map. See below:
After you’ve click OK in the confirmation dialog, the available inputs will be mapped to Insert tracks, starting from the selected one. See below:
In the screenshot shown above you see that my three inputs have been mapped to Insert track 1, 2 and 3. By selecting one by one I can quickly determine the appropriate input (if I did not know before hand).
Note that if you use Auto map, then the Send track enable switch on the Master track is disabled by default (for the 3 Insert tracks). See below:
This means that the audio from the insert tracks is not send to the Master track. Hence, you will not hear the audio in the speakers (which can be an advantage – avoiding latency echo). Check the peak meters instead to detect incoming audio.
To route the audio to the Master track, simply select the Insert track and then enable the Send track enable switch. In the example above – if I want to route all audio to the Master track – I will have to do this for each of the 3 Insert tracks.
My audio comes in via Insert track 2, so I select that one. I now insert the Edison tool in the first FX slot for this track See below:
It would go beyond the scope of this tutorial to explain all Edison features, but a few aspects are worthwhile discussing. See also the screenshot below:
First of all, you can instruct Edison to start recording either:
- Now (Recording options) – recording starts immediately upon clicking the Record button (Transport controls);
- On input (Recording options) – recording starts when an audio signal is received (you still need to click the record button first);
- Input (Recording options) – recording pauses during silence and resumes when the audio signal is received again;
- On play (Recording options) – recording startes when you playback your composition using the main transport controls in FL Studio.
For now, let’s select On input as the Recording option and click the Record button (Transport controls). Speak or sing or shout in your microphone and Edison should start the recording as soon as the audio signal is received. Once you’re done click the Stop button. You should now see something like this:
You can now playback using the Play/Stop buttons and manipulate the recorded audio using the various Edit functions (not discussed in this tutorial). If you want to save your sample, click the File button (Menu buttons) and choose Save sample as… See below:
I should add that I often use the On play recording option. The reason is that I usually have a composition and simply want to ‘overlay’ the audio while playing the song. On play makes it very convenient to do that.
Multiple instances of Edison
Now, the interesting thing is that you can have multiple instances of Edison in your FX slots. See below:
As you can see in the screenshot I have 3 instances of Edison, separated by a Reeverb effect and Delay effect respectively. If you now record audio, the original signal will be recorded by the first instance of Edison. The signal then passes the Reeverb effect. The output is recorded by the second instance of Edison. Finally, the signal is processed by the Delay effect and is recorded by the last instance of Edison.
Each sample can be edited and saved separately.
Recording to disk
Recording to disk does not involve Edison. See the screenshot below:
What I did is arm recording for Insert track 2 by clicking the Track recording switch (at the bottom). Wheneven you do that the following dialog will open:
In this dialog you can specify the filename of the sample (or accept the suggested one). Click Save when you’re done and the dialog will close.
To start recording, you must first click the Record button on the main transport controls. See below:
You will most likely see the following dialog when you click this button:
If you click the second button (Audio, into the playlist as an audio clip) recording will start immediately. Alternatively, close the dialog (cick the x in the upper right corner) and make sure you have only selected Audio in the Recording filter menu (right click the Record button).
We’re all set now. Press the Play button and wait for the song to start. Scream into your microphone (depending on the thickness of your walls) and press the Stop button when you are done. FL Studio will now automatically place an Audio clip in the Playlist (and in the Step Sequencer). See below:
Note that the length of your recording depends on the length of your song. If you do not have a song yet you can use the Main automation pattern (Playlist) to make sure the recording doesn’t stop already after a few seconds. See below:
One thing that I have a lot of fun with is using effects while I record my voice (for example). This is achieved in a similar fashion as what I showed you earlier. Simply place desired effects in the FX slots for the relevant Insert track. See below:
This will mean that the audio signal will first be processed by the Reeverb and Delay before being recorded to disk. You will be amazed what you can do with your voice (for example) using this! Naturally, you can also record the clean audio signal and simply route the Audio clip to another Insert track with effects when playing your song.
Latency echo (how to eliminate)
One thing that can be really irritating is hearing your own (delayed) voice (or instrument) over the loudspeakers while recording it. This is what is called latency echo and is caused by the fact that it takes some time to process the incoming audio signal before it is send to the output.
A way to eliminate is to ensure that the Insert track that you use for recording the audio signal is not routed to the Master track (use the Send track enable switch as discussed earlier in this tutorial).
Ok, I think I will call it a day. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Do not hesitate to leave comments, remarks, etc. Happy composing!