So you’ve discovered FL Studio.. and now you want to learn how to make beats! Well, that’s awesome, because I started just like that, too!
And 10 years later, guess what? I’m now an approved FL Studio Trainer!!!
Do You Like Podcasts?
Checkout my FL Studio Podcast called Music Production Made Simple!
You can listen to music production tips on the go.. a great way to learn and stay updated.
Simply visit the podcast page here.
Learn From My Mistakes!
I’ll be sharing some incredibly valuable tips in this article.. so if you’re new to the world of beatmaking, make sure to read closely.
I will save you A LOT of time, and save you A LOT of money when it comes to buying the right equipment for music production.
I speak strictly from an FL Studio point-of-view! Just a heads up!
Sticking to One Music Program for Beatmaking
It’s really easy to get overwhelmed with what DAW you should use..
(A DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] is the music program producers use to make beats).
You will see many different tutorials, and think you may need to use another DAW because you see them using a DAW like Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools, or something similar.
Don’t fall for this trap! You just need to learn ONE DAW, and you are set.
Otherwise, you will be wasting your time learning the program, and NOT LEARNING HOW TO MAKE BEATS!
Learning how to make beats is the end goal, right!?
Nowadays.. most music programs are quite similar.. it truly comes down to the music producer’s skills and abilities to make a catchy beat.. the DAW is just where we make the beat!
FL Studio is the only music program I use because I love its workflow and lifetime free updates.
Don’t overcomplicate things.. and if you want to learn fast, I advise you to listen to this point.
If you use only one DAW:
- You will save money (by only buying one quality music program)
- Learn A LOT faster (as you’re learning how to make beats, and not so much learning how the music program works.. which means you can get your ideas out of your head faster while making beats!)
A DAW [Digital Audio Workstation]
To make beats, every producer needs a good music program.
Music programs for beatmaking have a special name called Digital Audio Workstations (DAW).
There are TONS of DAWs out there.. but if you want some REALLY good advice.. stick to one DAW. And I recommend FL Studio.
I have to repeat things, because when I tell people to stick to one DAW, they never seem to listen.
By sticking to one DAW, you will learn A LOT faster, save money, and become a much better music producer and beatmaker.GratuiTous
What DAW Do I Recommend for Making Beats?
It doesn’t matter what genre of music you want to create.. rap beats, dance beats, trap beats, hip-hop beats..
You will be using MIDI a lot.
MIDI is the best way to make beats, because you have FULL CONTROL over your entire song!
Now FL Studio specializes in MIDI usage, so that’s why making beats is so popular in FL Studio!
Other music programs also offer the ability to use MIDI, but FL Studio just makes it easy!
So FL Studio is the DAW I Use and Recommend.. they offer LIFETIME free updates!!
(Producers use MIDI to create original compositions with the most flexibility.. but another way to make beats is called sampling. It is an art, and is something you’ll want to learn to be a versatile music producer!!!)
Here’s some more examples of beats I’ve made in FL Studio!
FL Studio is fully capable of making radio-ready music.. it all comes down to the music producer’s skills and abilities! (Not the DAW!)
So How Do DAWs Work?
We make a beat by creating one Pattern (Loop) at a time, and each Pattern is a different part of the song.
Let’s say we create two Patterns..
One Pattern is a drum loop, and one Pattern is a piano melody.
These music programs allow us to listen to a Pattern by itself, or we can play these Patterns at the same time by adding them into the Playlist, which is how we start to build and arrange our song.
The Playlist is where the actual song happens.
By adding and removing these Patterns in the Playlist is how we get Verse 1, Chorus, Bridge, Verse 2, etc..
Once a song has lots of instruments is when the Playlist gets really interesting because we find different combinations between the instruments that go well together!
And that’s how a DAW works!
We make Patterns, which are just loops that repeats over and over, then the Patterns get added to the Playlist.
Once the beat is made and arranged, we move onto what’s called mixing and mastering.
The mixing stage is where you make your instruments sound good together, and mastering is where you make the final song sound better with subtle techniques. They are two separate stages. The mixing comes first, then the mastering!
What Equipment Do I Need for FL Studio?
Because music production has recently become more popular, it’s made beatmaking equipment affordable to put together a bedroom studio!
YOU DO NOT NEED THE BEST.. middle of the road equipment will give you a great experience.
See my recommended equipment on my LEARN YOUR GEAR page.
List of Essential Equipment for Making Beats:
- A DAW (Already covered.. I suggest FL Studio!)
- MIDI Keyboard
- Audio Interface
- Reference Monitor Speakers + Audio Cables (if your living environment does not allow speakers, then good headphones)
- High-Quality Sounds (Drum Samples and Virtual Instruments)
- A half-decent computer (when you get better, you will need a new computer)
A MIDI Keyboard for Beatmaking
In order to play beautiful melodies, you will need to have a MIDI Keyboard.
It’s important to understand that a MIDI Keyboard has no sounds in it by itself!
You play the sounds inside your music program.
It’s important to understand that a MIDI Keyboard has no sounds, because when shopping, just remember, why are you paying $1000 for a keyboard with no sounds in it, when a $100 keyboard would do the same thing!
But remember, I said you don’t want the cheapest.. we want middle of the road.
A middle of the road MIDI Keyboard will usually give you better quality piano keys (which is totally worth it in my opinion, as when you get better at piano, you’ll be grateful your piano keys are enjoyable to play).
I want to give you an analogy about a MIDI Keyboard, and why it’s so important for a music producer.
In terms of how many keys do you need on a MIDI Keyboard, I’d say a minimum 49 key.. and no bigger than a 61 key..
If you go too small, you won’t be able to play with both hands.. and you’ll be restricted.
I personally suggest a 49-Key, as it gives you a great workflow, and doesn’t take up too much space on your desk.
You can see my recommended MIDI Keyboard to Buy for FL Studio.
An Audio Interface for Music Production
An audio interface seems really complicated, but it’s not if you understand what’s going on!
First, it’s important to understand the problem of why you need an audio interface.
Music producers need to connect special speakers and microphones into their computer.. but the problem is that this special music gear requires different types of connections like XLR and 1/4″ TRS jacks as shown below!
In addition to plugging in special equipment to hear the music better, an audio interface is similar to that pilot comparison when they are in the cockpit flying a plane.
An audio interface allows us to easily adjust volume on our speakers, headphones, and microphones, so it’s important to have an audio interface close by when sitting down to fine-tune levels for convenience.
Buying an Audio Interface Tips
When you are wanting to buy an audio interface, there are a few keys things you want to look for.
First, how many connections do you need, and what equipment will you be connecting into the audio interface?
If you’re a beatmaker.. better known as a “bedroom producer” nowadays, you’re probably just plugging in your speakers, and maybe one microphone.
If you are recording a band.. well, things get a little more technical, as you’ll need to plug in more microphones to record the band members, which increases costs from all angles. (More microphones, more microphone cables, and more connections that the audio interface needs.. gets pricy!)
I’m just speaking as a beatmaker in this article though.. so you just need a simple audio interface, from a reliable company.
I’ve been through quite a few audio interfaces over my years..
What Makes Reference Monitor Speakers So Special?
The problem with normal speakers, headphones, and earbuds is that these are for non-producers.
These are called consumer audio devices, which often boost or reduce frequencies to make the music sound more “pleasing”, but often it’s enhancing the bass, as everyone loves bass, which may make it sell better.
Once you get into pro-audio gear, we are looking for as much truth as possible to the audio.
This means hearing the audio for what it is, and not allowing the audio device we’re listening on (speakers or headphones) to skew the judgement of our song.
Our goal as music producers is TRANSLATION in our music.
If your music is played on a TV, headphones, an alarm clock, ear buds, speakers, or even out of a cellphone speaker, your music will sound very different!
But if you have a good mix, it will translate across all listening devices, and sound very close to what you created or mixed in your bedroom studio.
What Size of Speaker Should Beatmakers Get?
Honestly.. I like an 8″ speaker.
I’ve tried a 5″ speaker.. and it had NO BASS!
A 5″ reference monitor speaker and a subwoofer are a nice combination!
Beatmakers NEED to hear their bass.. it’s absolutely crucial to the groove of our music.
You can learn what reference monitors I’d pick up if I were starting.
And.. What About Good Quality Audio Cables for Speakers?
Alright.. audio cables are a touchy subject.
For years companies have tried to prey on their customers “promising” better quality because of their special innovations to the technology.
Simply put, copper is copper (what audio cables are made of, and what your audio flows through).
There are things we can do to improve noise not getting into our audio cables, which would damage our audio signal, like twisting a pair of wires to prevent interference, or putting some type of shield in there, but not improve the audio that actually goes through the cable.
When we are selecting audio cables for reference monitor speakers, we are using balanced TRS or XLR cables.
You can learn what audio cable company I recommend.
Here’s some examples from above:
What Sounds Do Producers Use?
One-Shot Drum Samples, and Virtual Instruments (other known as VSTi) are the sounds music producers use to make beats in FL Studio.
It’s important you know the difference between them, and how to use them properly, in order for you to get the best results out of your music.
CAUTION: I do not recommend Construction Kits. They have emerged in popularity, but I do not consider this making your own music, and there is no feeling of true reward and accomplishment. It is pre-made loops made by someone else, which they allow you to use.. (NOT YOUR OWN MUSIC!)
One-Shot Drum Samples
Audio quality has not changed in many years. So when we talk about “Hi-Fi” music.. it’s simply just a .WAV file.
Your whole life you may have used .MP3 or .AAC to listen to your music.. but this is low quality because it has been compressed (reduced in size) so that when you stream and download the music file, it’s smaller and easier to access without taking up too much bandwidth (cellphone data when downloading), and storage on the device itself.
So, when we purchase one-shot drum samples, we must have .WAV files (16-Bit or 24-Bit – 24-Bit offers less “noise”, but has a bigger file size). At the end of the day, our music gets listened to in low-quality .MP3, or whatever your favorite streaming platform uses, but it’s important our initial song is in the highest format we can make it, so that when it gets converted to a lower-quality format (.MP3), that it can retain as close as possible to the original .WAV MASTER.
Let me explain further how One-Shot Drum Samples Work. And if you are looking for high-quality drums that hit hard, definitely checkout the store.
How Drum Kits SHOULD Be Organized
If you buy from a reputable sound design drum kit vendor, they will organize your sounds for you.
They will create a different folder for:
- Percussion (Bongos, Shakers, Tambourines, etc.)
- Vocal Hits
And when you buy quality, the majority of these sounds are super usable, hit hard, and allow you to make high-quality beats much easier.
In recent years, companies like Splice have allowed the sale of single one-shot drum samples. I see benefits to this (save money, get the sounds you want), but I ultimately think this is a super negative way to make music. You are spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME looking for “the right sound”, instead of learning how to make beats properly.
I personally like purchasing a drum kit. It allows you to be way more creative, as when you go through your high-quality sounds, you can quickly find the right sound for your beat. (Every beat is different, and having variety and spontaneity like this is the secret to being a well-rounded producer.)
Let me give you an example of how One-Shot Drum Samples work.
Now each sound above is considered a “One-Shot Drum Sample”.
By them self, it doesn’t make a drum loop. So we add them into a Step Sequencer (FL Studio calls it the Channel Rack), which is where you add in drums, snares, and hi-hats to program your drum loop.
By the way, if you like this article, check out my FL Studio Books!
Now let’s continue on.. I put those drum samples above into a drum loop:
To complete our discussion on sounds, we need to talk about the instruments producers use for their pianos, guitars, basslines, pads, you name it.
We call them Virtual Instruments, and no matter what industry you’re in (beatmaking, or making music for films), there’s a VSTi (Virtual Instrument) out there for you!
To complete that drum loop, here’s what it sounds like with a virtual instrument over top!
Good Virtual Instruments for FL Studio (VSTi)
A Virtual Instrument is known as a VSTi in the industry. (i stands for instrument)
Mainly you will hear just “VST” as a blanket term for instruments and effects. (VSTs are also called plugins).
However, the term VST is intended for EFFECTS.. like Equalizer, Compressor, Reverb, Delay, Gates, you know.. for mixing. VSTi is for instruments, which we use for our melodies!
Now I warn you! DO NOT JUST USE ANY VIRTUAL INSTRUMENT.
It’s important you understand about Selecting the Right Plugins as a Producer.
The problem is when you use a plugin on a serious music project, you are stuck with that plugin for life! Yes, LIFE! What if you find out that plugin has an annoying bug in it, or you simply don’t like it anymore.. you have to keep it around with you. Again, watch this video before proceeding.
What are the Best VSTi Virtual Instrument Plugins
The answer isn’t a simple answer.
You have to be careful out there because there’s a lot of recommendations in regards to affiliate links which makes the reviewer money. But they often do not educate you on the pros and cons of having lots of plugins, and if that plugin is a good plugin to keep around for the long-term.
My answer to the best plugins for music production is this:
The best plugins are the ones you learn well, know in-depth, and want to keep around.
The reason is when you learn a tool well, you not only know how to use it good, but you also know how to break it, too.. you know how to push its boundaries to get a unique sound.. that only you know. That’s how you become a producer with their own sound… and that’s the end goal of being a producer.. finding your own sound.GratuiTous
Here’s some examples of popular virtual instruments out there:
Now, when we built our drum loop, we did that in a Step Sequencer (the Channel Rack in FL Studio).
When we program our MIDI Notes to make our melodies with these Virtual Instruments, we do that in the Piano Roll. Now, in FL Studio, the Piano Roll is actually a part of the Channel Rack.. it allows you to enter notes in a more advanced view than just the basic Channel Rack (which isn’t very basic.. it has lots of features, too!)
Here’s what the Piano Roll looks like!
You can also click in notes into the Piano Roll, which is also very powerful once you’ve already recorded a little idea to fine-tune your melody exactly how we’d like!
But we use this Piano Roll to play notes and chords within our Virtual Instruments.
We again, create Patterns, and we add these Patterns into the Playlist, which will allow us to build our song’s arrangement.
Here’s a picture of the Playlist in FL Studio with a bunch of instruments and one-shot drum sample patterns! (I also color-coded them, as organization is super important as a music producer to know exactly where all your instruments are while mixing and arranging..)
You can listen to all of my music here! I release many beat tapes and albums.. lots of people have liked them over the years, they are free to listen to/download!
What Kind of Computer Do I Need For Music Production and FL Studio?
At first.. any computer or laptop you have will work to make beats in FL Studio.
(And yes, FL Studio works on both windows and mac!)
But as you advance, you will need to upgrade to a better computer.
You can learn how to build a custom computer for music production.
Music production is one of the hardest things on CPUs to date, as the computer has to process all the information IN REAL TIME! Other industries can often pass some of the load off to a video card (GPU), but not audio!
That’s why you need a good computer, as when your projects start to grow (which they will), you will experience underruns! This is your computer telling you, “I CAN’T KEEP UP!”.. you will experience glitches, pops, and you may think your computer is about to break. 😂
You can remedy this if you’re still on your old computer by “increasing your buffer size”, but eventually, you’ll need a new computer.
What to Look For in a Computer for Music Production?
The Processor (known as a CPU) is the most important piece of hardware in your computer for making music in a digital audio workstation (DAW).
CPUs have become EXTREMELY powerful, and have advanced quite a bit in technology.. However, it’s still important that you select the right CPU for music production to get the best experience.
Basics of Buying a CPU for Music Making on a Computer
For many years, there were only two main companies that sold CPUs. (Some other companies are starting to enter the game, but I’d be cautious for now).
Intel (for many years was the strong winner), and AMD (which has rapidly advanced their technology, and is now a fair direct competitor).
But regardless of brand, CPUs are sold the same way.
They offer Low-Performance, Mid-Performance, High-Performance, and ULTRA-HIGH-PERFORMANCE.
For music production, we just need High-Performance, as the cost isn’t worth the 10-15% increase you may see from an ULTRA-HIGH-PERFORMANCE CPU.
Low-Performance CPUs doesn’t mean they are bad, as they operate cooler, and draw less electricity. (If you just use your computer for Business Emails.. no need for a High-Performance, as you’ll kill your battery from just using email! Lower-quality CPUs will actually have a longer lasting battery on a laptop, so you can be WAY more productive! – See why knowing the basics allows you to make wiser purchasing decisions?). But.. they aren’t fast enough for heavy music projects (but you can still make music with them!)
Mid-Performance CPUs would be an okay choice for music production. CPUs nowadays in this range are more powerful than High-Performance like 5-6 years ago, so you can easily make mid-to-large size music projects without too much of a hit, if your budget doesn’t allow a High-Performance CPU.
High-Performance CPUs should see no hiccups at all in your music. It should handle whatever you throw at it for quite a few years after your purchase as well, so it’s not like your computer will become dated in 2-3 years.. you’ll get at least 4-5 years without noticing any weakness from software or programs. This is what you want for the most enjoyment.
What About Cores?
I don’t want to go too much further into computers in this article, so make sure to read the best computer parts for making a custom computer for music production.
But I will quickly cover computer cores, as this is a further advancement in technology.
The more cores your computer has, the more “hands” it has available to do certain tasks.
If your computer has two cores, that’s like saying, “I only have 2 hands!!!”.. which is a common thing people say when someone is trying to hurry them up lol
But if your computer has 4 cores, or 8 cores, or now even up to 16 cores, it allows your computer to react quicker and handle more tasks at the same time, instead of waiting for one-hand to free up!
Now in music production we are focused on the SINGLE-CORE SPEED..
That means if there are 8 cores on your CPU, we need to look at just 1 core, and see how fast it can perform.
There’s computer software that tests this stuff.. and there’s a huge website directory of CPU test results.. (these tests are called benchmarks in the CPU testing world).
You can see for yourself on the CPU Benchmark website about Single Thread Speed!
Simply see what CPU has the fastest single thread speed (this is similar to that single core I mentioned), and see the cost vs. performance. That’s all you need to do to pick out a High-Performance CPU for music production!
Wrapping Up How to Make Beats in FL Studio Article
Yeah, there’s a lot to it. But.. once you understand the basics, beatmaking really starts getting fun.
If you take it seriously, and are trying to make it in the music business by either selling beats, as an independent artist, or like I did (on the education side of music production), you will never be bored with your time.
You can make music whenever you want, make great connections, learn about a websites and marketing (which I recommend you do.. don’t just hire this stuff out!), and you’ll never be bored a day in your life if you keep trying to better yourself with your music..
It’s totally worth it if music is something you truly would like to do with your time as a career.
So let me know how I can help you learn beatmaking with FL Studio..
For beginners: Book + Course to Learn Basics
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See my recommended equipment: LEARN YOUR GEAR Page
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