Making Tracks: Sound in Motion - EMusician

Making Tracks: Sound in Motion

Advanced automation techniques in FL Studio.
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STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS1.If you''re planning to automate effects for various instruments, assign each instrument to its own mixer bus using the FX parameter (upper right).
2.In the master bus, insert a Fruity Formula Controller as an effect. Right-click on the a knob and select Create Automation Clip.
3.For more control over the wet/dry mix and delay feedback, I''ve routed the snare channel to a send bus and raised the send-bus input level.
4.Right-click on each parameter you want to automate, and choose Link To Controller in the pop-up menu.
5.In the Remote Control Settings box, select your Formula Controller as the Internal Controller input and enter a suitable formula in the Mapping Formula field.
6.Right-click on the b knob in the Formula Controller and assign it to an external MIDI input. Type an equation in the Formula box. The Meter display at the bottom gives a timeline graph of the output.


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Web Clip 1: This sketch in FL Studio contains eight bars of a simple kick and snare pattern. A single Clip Envelope modulates the panning of the two tracks, the filter cutoff and resonance of both instruments, and the delay line output for the snare.

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Web Clip 2: The FL Studio project used to generate Web clip 1.

More Web Clips...

When mixing, I often want to make coordinated changes in several track parameters at once. For instance, I might want to have a track fade out while also increasing the wet/dry mix of a plug-in effect. Recording a bunch of knob and fader moves manually, one at a time, is time-consuming, and if I should later want to change the arrangement, I might have to re-edit all the moves.

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FIG. 1: You can adjust the shape of any envelope segment in a clip, adding S curves and staircases as shown here.

Image-Line FL Studio 7 solves this problem neatly. You can map a single controller movement, either from a real-time MIDI input or from an automation clip envelope, to many different parameters. You can then process the mapping with mathematical formulas to achieve exactly the results you want — range scaling, crossfades, and much more.

Fun with Formulas

The two key components in this process are the Remote Control Settings box and the Fruity Formula Controller. Each of these has a field in which you can type a mathematical formula to describe the modulation shape you want; a small graphic display shows the result.

Here's an example. Right-click on a knob or fader and choose Link To Controller. In the box that pops up, the Auto Detect button will be highlighted. Wiggle a MIDI controller, and the box will close automatically. Now when you move that hardware, the parameter will move through its full range.

Open the same box again, but don't touch any MIDI hardware. Instead, type (Input/2)+0.25 in the Mapping Formula field. Click on the Accept button and wiggle the controller again. The parameter now moves between one-quarter and three-quarters of its range because the incoming value is first divided by 2 and then has 0.25 added to it. (Note that internally, control values in FL Studio always range from 0 to 1, and incoming MIDI continuous controllers are always scaled to that range before the formula is applied.)

To learn more about some of the exotic possibilities for formulas, look up the Formula Controller in the FL Studio manual (the Help file). Here you'll find a long list of functions, including trigonometric operations such as sine and cosine.

Multiple Mappings

The Link To Controller box is not limited to a one-to-one mapping between MIDI sources and parameter destinations. A single parameter can have inputs from several different MIDI sources, but these operate in takeover mode rather than additively. (To see what this means, choose New Link in the top drop-down menu in this box, autodetect a second MIDI controller, and then watch how the parameter responds when you move one MIDI controller or the other.) Also, you can assign a single MIDI controller to several parameters and record your live hardware moves, but you'll find that the data for each controller is stored separately, which makes editing a chore.

The solution to both of these problems is the Fruity Formula Controller. This is not an audio effect, but it's inserted in a mixer bus FX slot as if it were. It has three control inputs (the knobs labeled a, b, and c) and one output, which you can use to modulate just about anything in FL Studio.

To modulate a parameter this way, create a Formula Controller and then return to the Remote Control Settings box for the parameter you want to control. You'll see a new data field, Internal Controller, with a drop-down menu of available sources. Choose the Formula Controller here. I generally leave the Record Automation button unselected because I want to let the Formula Controller run the show each time the song plays.

Mixing Madness

The simplest way to use the Formula Controller is by keeping the default formula (a+b+c). This mixes the three inputs. Another useful formula is a*b, which multiplies the a value by the b value. If you create an automation clip for a, as detailed in the steps on p. 54, and map an external MIDI controller to b, the formula a*b will allow you to scale the amount of clip envelope using the external controller.

As an example, I've used the Remote Control Settings box, the Formula Controller, and an automation clip envelope to crossfade the values of several parameters at once (see “Step-by-Step Instructions” above). Web Clip 1 illustrates the result. In it, you'll hear a single clip envelope being used to control the panning of both kick and snare, the filter cutoffs and resonances of both, and the level of a delay line's output. (You can download the song file I used to create this clip from Web Clip 2.) By editing the envelope as shown in Fig. 1, I can control all of these parameters together over the course of a break or an entire song.

When he's not writing about music technology in his PC-based home studio, Jim Aikin plays and teaches cello. You can visit him online

Web Clips: Listen to audio clips that demonstrate FL Studio

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