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FL Studio Tutorial - Making a chord progression and lead synth

Blckbxxx | 2:13 AM | 21 kommentarer

FL Studio tutorial explaining how to make a chord progression and lead synth.

Chord progressions are series of musical chords (chords are notes that are played simultaneously) that can give character and mood to a composition. Personally, I find it a great way to get started on a new song – even if I do not actually play the chords in the end. Having a good chord progression is like having a foundation on which to build your new house (excuse me for the metaphor). In this tutorial I will try to explain you a bit more about chord progressions and how they can be used to compose your (lead) melody. It does covers some aspects of music theory - the field of study that deals with how music works - but don’t worry. We will only scratch the surface.

About scales

The western music scale consists of 12 notes, each of them having its own pitch (frequency). The 12 notes are repeated up and down the scale and each instance of such a group of 12 notes is called an octave. See below:


Each note is denoted by a letter: A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Additionally, you find C# (C-sharp), D#, F#, G# and A# – making a total of 12 notes. Also, in the piano roll illustration above you see 3 octaves with a root note of C (this root note could be any other note on the scale).

Note also Db (D-flat), Eb, Gb, Ab and Bb, which are equivalents of C#, D#, F#, G# and A# respectively (so called enharmonic equivalents). Hmmm, why give one note two different names? Good question, but answering that would require us to dig deeper into music theory. Let’s not bother with that now.

Finally, the pitch difference between two adjacent notes is called a semitone (a tone is two semitones). Following this, the interval between C and D is two semitones (a tone). The interval between D and D# is one semitone.

More on scales

We all know that simply hitting piano keys at random does not create a nice sound – usually that is. And then again, every now and then we may hear something that sounds very pleasing to our ears. What does this tell us? It means that some patterns of notes within an octave – sounded at the same time - sound well together. Understanding which patterns ‘work’ and which ‘don’t work’ will be a great help when composing your songs.

Now, I know we mentioned the term scale already – but the term is also used to define well sounding patterns within an octave (what notes are ‘allowed’).

While there are a number of scales, the most basic ones used in electronic music are called Major and Minor (consisting of 7 notes each). See below:


This is a so called a major scale (in the example above it is called C major – as the root note is a C). The major scale is also known as the ‘happy scale’ – compositions based on this scale induce positive and happy feelings in the listener. Sounds interesting isn’t it? So if you want a happy, positive, good sounding song – stick to the notes of this scale (stick to the key) and you are well on your way.

By the way, there is also a more mathematical way (formula) to describe the major scale: Root, M2, M3, P4, P5, M6, M7. Here the scale is described in intervals – but instead of mentioning the number of semitones, each interval has a name. See below:


So, the formula means: root, 2 semitones from the root, 4 semitones from the root, 5 semitones from the root, 7 semitones from the root, 9 semitones from the root, 11 semitones from the root. Regardless of your root note (whether it is C, D, E, etc.) - if you follow the formula mentioned above – you will work in the major scale.C major, D major, E major, etc. Let’s try to find out – following the formula – what notes are in the D major scale.

That must be: D (root), E (M2 – 2 semitones), F# (M3 – 4 semitones), G (P4 – 5 semitones), A (P5 – 7 semitones), B (M6 – 9 semitones), C# (M7 – 11 semitones). See below:


Do you get the picture?

Now, do I really need to learn this formula in order to compose good music based on a major scale? Absolutely not. Personally I created those scales in FL Studio and saved them as score files (.fsc). I just load them whenever I need them and start composing from there – without formulas in my head. But it is good to understand a bit of the background, don’t you think? If something does not sound right - or in fact it does – you will better understand why.

The minor scale follows the following formula: Root, M2, m3, P4, P5, m6, m7. Can you – based on what you have learned so far – tell me what the notes are in the D minor scale? I suggest you give it a try.

The minor scale is most common for dance/trance music by the way. Depending on the structure of your composition, it can sound both uplifting or sad.

What are chords?

Chords are three or more notes that sound at the same time. Any combination of notes? Well, that would be a loose definition, but the point is that not every combination sounds equally well – as we’ve discussed. More strictly defined, chords are created based on the notes of a specific scale. Aha. But we already know everything about scales (major, minor) so this should be easy.

Let’s give it a try based on the D minor scale. If you have done your homework in the previous section you will know that the D minor scale contains the following notes: D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C. Why i say Bb (B flat) instead of A# (A sharp)? Because it is not allowed to have the same note (letter) twice in a scale (therefore, A and A# cannot occur in the same scale).

Have look at the screenshot below:


I’ve simply ‘drawn’ the D minor scale across 2 octaves. The reason I am doing this is that it gives me a good range of notes to work with when creating my chord progression based on this scale. Also, I have given the note events the length I want my chord progression to have.

Now, make sure to check Helpers Ghost channels in the Piano Roll menu. See below:


What this does we’ll see in a moment. Go to your step sequencer and turn down the volume completely.


Next, insert a new generator.


Subsequently, open the piano roll (make sure you are in the same Playlist track). This is what you will see:


The greyed-out note events are the note events from your other channel in this Playlist track. You can now simply create your chord progression by sticking to the grey note events (in this way you stick to the D minor scale). See below for the chord progression that I created:


Go ahead and try to make a chord progression yourself. You will see how easy it is with the scale already on the background.

Now, the next thing I will do is split my Playlist track so the chord progression and the D minor scale are in different tracks. See the screenshots below:



reFX Nexus #2 now contains my chord progression. Make sure to select it and add another generator/channel to the Step Sequencer – one for your lead melody. See below:


Now, open the Piano Roll for the new channel. This is what you should see:


Instead of having the entire D minor scale in the background, I now have my chord progression to work with. This is an excellent way to determine where to put the notes for my arpeggiated lead. See below:


As you can see I follow the chord progression to a large extent. Not everywhere as I wanted to created some nice variations, but if you take a second look you will see that I stick to the D minor scale. Obviously, it takes some trying out before you have a good lead. But one thing you do not have to worry too much about is whether or not the notes sound good together.

I made a little sample based on the chord progression and lead synth shown above. You can listen to it by using the player below:

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. There is certainly more to be said about music theory, chords, melodies, etc. But let’s save that for other tutorials :) Happy composing!

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FL Studio Tutorials - All fl studio tutorials are written by Marc Demar

21 kommentarer

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a nice little tut. Keep it up.

  2. Jurgen says:

    Came across this site on serious sounds, awesome tutorial dude... really awesome.. helped me a lot... thanks

  3. Anonymous says:

    preciate the tuts definitely gonna check out the rest

  4. Systemux says:

    Wow, thanks allot. Didn´t know about the ghostnotes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    thanx for the tuts, you explain it well for a musical neanderthol like myself to understand and i'm also learning so much hidden extras.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Man! Awesome awesome, awesome and then some more er... what's the word? Yes, Awesome!

  7. Anonymous says:

    you really know how to teach...perfect! thanks a lot man ;)

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks man really awesome tutorial.. we need more people like you around :)

  9. Anonymous says:

    My goal has always been to produce a nice euphoric trance thing, but due to my extremely poor knowledge on chords and how to use them, i've been condemned to produce rythmical techno for over 10 years now. Trance got into my head again, and thanks to this tutorial I see a light on the end of this tunnel. Will keep in touch when I finally wrap up this trance puppy.
    Your arpeggio-tutorial is awesome as well. Need more people like you, without that common narcicistic need to keep knowledge to themselves, using answers like: 'keep trying,you'll get there if you have the talent'

  10. Bross La says:

    Thank you for such awesome tutorial!!!
    This start making sense now why some notes don't sound good together :)

    thank u thank u!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    God Bless

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is actually incredibly helpful. Thanks.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Very nice tutorial Sir!

  14. darren says:

    Great tut, was looking for an easy way to learn scale and chord progression, was easier than music class..cheers bro

  15. Unknown says:

    What nexus and vanguard presets did you use for that demo at the bottom. It sounded really good.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Already knew most of the music theory aspect, but I never thought of using the ghost notes to remind me which notes are in the scale! Good read!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, this tutorial has really helped out in creating a unique melody

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