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How to Setup a MIDI Controller in FL Studio (Transport Buttons)

How to Setup FL Studio Transport Buttons

This FL Studio Tutorial shares how to setup and use a MIDI Controller in FL Studio (MIDI Keyboard or Drumpad).

You’ll learn how to install a MIDI Keyboard in FL Studio, and setup Transport Buttons for the Play, Stop, and Record buttons.

You may also like how to map knobs and sliders in FL Studio.

How to Setup a MIDI Controller (Keyboard or Drumpad) in FL Studio

LISTEN: What Makes a MIDI Keyboard Good?


What You Will Learn:

  • How to Install a MIDI Keyboard in FL Studio
  • Setup MIDI Controller Transport Buttons
  • Installing a MIDI Script in FL Studio
  • Setup MIDI Controller Port Numbers
  • MIDI Channels and Note Colors in Piano Roll

How to Install a MIDI Keyboard in FL Studio

How to Install a MIDI Keyboard in FL Studio
How to Install a MIDI Keyboard in FL Studio

A MIDI Keyboard is a type of MIDI Controller.

Setting up a MIDI Controller in FL Studio is super simple.. however, depending on the MIDI Device, things may not work as expected. Thankfully, FL Studio MIDI Scripting has allowed any MIDI Controller to work good in FL Studio 🙂

Here’s the step-by-step, then images are shown below.

STEP 1: Install MIDI Controller Drivers from Manufacturer Website.

Install MIDI Keyboard drivers first BEFORE plugging it in for best results.

STEP 2: Open FL Studio, and Enable the MIDI Controller.

With FL Studio open, go Options -> Settings (F10). The MIDI tab is where we access all MIDI Controller settings like enabling a MIDI Keyboard, Port Numbers, and selecting a Controller type (this is also where we add a MIDI Script).

STEP 3: Select a Controller Type for Transport Buttons.

Your MIDI Keyboard or MIDI Drumpad is now setup in FL Studio! 🙂

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What are Transport Buttons on a MIDI Controller?

What are Transport Buttons on a MIDI Keyboard
What are Transport Buttons on a MIDI Keyboard

Transport Buttons are what we use to control our DAW’s audio. They are quick buttons to stop and play the music quickly.

Before FL Studio introduced MIDI Scripting in FL Studio 20.7, sometimes Transport Buttons did not work good with certain MIDI Controllers..

I teach you how to buy a MIDI Keyboard for FL Studio, but quickly, you want to have these transport buttons:

  • Play
  • Stop
  • Record
  • Forward
  • Back
  • Loop

I really like to have LOOP in a FL Studio MIDI Keyboard to switch between Song and Pattern Mode quickly!

Setup MIDI Controller Transport Buttons

How to Setup FL Studio Transport Buttons
How to Setup FL Studio Transport Buttons

Here’s step-by-step installation pictures for installing a MIDI Controller in FL Studio:

Enable MIDI Keyboard and Transport Buttons in FL Studio
Enable MIDI Keyboard and Transport Buttons in FL Studio

YELLOW BOX #1 – Selecting the regular MIDI device name gets the piano keys, knobs, and sliders working (but not transport buttons).

YELLOW BOX #2 – Enable the highlighted MIDI Device.

YELLOW BOX #3 & #4 – Select MIDIIN3, enable it, and choose a Controller Type to setup Transport Buttons in FL Studio.

(For making the transport buttons work on your MIDI Controller, this will heavily depend on your MIDI Controller. The video used the M-Audio Oxygen Pro MIDI Keyboard, which uses MIDIIN3 to trigger Transport Buttons.)

For a basic MIDI Keyboard setup in FL Studio, we just focus on the Input area.

Just enable the regular MIDI Device (Oxygen Pro 49 in the image) for our piano notes, and MIDIIN3 for our transport buttons.

For MIDIIN3, you will have to select a Controller Type for FL Studio to assign the transport buttons properly.

Most often the M-Audio Oxygen 49/61, or Mackie Control Universal, can work.. but often a button doesn’t work properly with these Controller Types..

That’s why I wrote my FL Studio MIDI Scripts to make the Transport Buttons work for my FL Studio MIDI Keyboard Reviews.

Installing a MIDI Script in FL Studio

I’ve created a video for how to install a MIDI Script in FL Studio.

LEARN: How to Load a MIDI Script into FL Studio

You can find tons of free MIDI Scripts on the Image-Line Forums.

Setup MIDI Controller Port Numbers

If you want to work with hardware synths and outboard gear in FL Studio, then you can assign port numbers in FL Studio.

I normally do not like sharing others videos on my website, but steevm did an incredible job explaining working with port numbers and hardware in FL Studio.. something I NEVER do because I strictly work in-the-box (Virtual Instruments):

MIDI Ports in FL Studio (Route MIDI Between Plugins + Hardware)
Please Subscribe to steevm on YouTube!

Normally, we do not assign a port number, which means we have to highlight a Virtual Instrument in the Channel rack, then play MIDI Notes to hear it.

In short, you assign a port number to Input or Output of a MIDI Controller to send and receive MIDI data. You can route MIDI to and from Plugins in FL Studio, or Route MIDI to and from Hardware with Port Numbers.

On a plugin, if you click the cog wheel (Detailed Settings), the MIDI section is where to assign an Input port and Output port for a VST.

Assign Input Port and Output Port in FL Studio Plugins
Assign Input Port and Output Port in FL Studio Plugins

You can also use the MIDI Out Plugin when mapping MIDI Notes across different plugins, or sending MIDI Notes to hardware from FL Studio:

MIDI Out Plugin sends MIDI messages to internal VST plugins or external MIDI hardware
MIDI Out Plugin: This plugin sends MIDI messages to internal VST plugins or external MIDI hardware

MIDI Channels and Note Colors in Piano Roll

A MIDI Controller has the ability to switch between 16 channels. (Most often we just use Channel 1, then highlight a Virtual Instrument in the Channel rack to trigger it).

Using different MIDI Channels in FL Studio is useful for certain plugins that are CPU Heavy. This allows only one instance of a plugin to be open, but trigger different instruments based on your MIDI Channel, which is controlled by selecting a note color in FL Studio’s Piano Roll:

Different MIDI Channels Triggered by Note Colors in Piano Roll
Different MIDI Channels Triggered by Note Colors in Piano Roll

For example, MIDI Channel 1 could be Piano, MIDI Channel 2 could be Guitar, all from only 1 instance of the Virtual Instrument (not all plugins work like this.. and computers are becoming so powerful nowadays that creating multiple instances is probably not an issue anymore).

I shared what steevm said here, as he has much experience regarding FL Studio and using MIDI to control hardware controllers.

In short, steevm mentioned that sometimes using MIDI Out Plugin instead of note colors is easier, as you can visually see the Instrument within the Channel Rack like normal, rather than remembering the note color to trigger the MIDI Channel (it is also less clicks, too!)

I know it goes beyond the scope of your article (although you alluded to it), but MIDI ports are quite useful in some cases, even without hardware. Back in the day, my friend always used to add his instruments to the mixer directly (which was easy in old versions of FL, things are a little stricter now) and then use MIDI Out and MIDI ports to control them. While I personally don’t see a huge advantage in doing this, I do find myself sometimes using MIDI Out to control multi-timbral instruments like Kontakt rather than using the note colours to set the MIDI channel. Personally, I find it a lot easier to navigate the project if there’s an entry for “violin 1”, “violin 2”, “cello”, “viola” etc. in the rack rather than having to remember which MIDI channel/note colour controls which instrument. The other obvious use case is MIDI plugins, though I have never managed to be able to route CCs between them. I think this is because FL isn’t actually MIDI-compliant and the whole CC thing is a mess as a result. Works fine for notes though.

MIDI ports definitely fall into that category of things you don’t need 99% of the time, but that 1% of the time, they’re really useful

steevm (Subscribe to him on YouTube!)

Common Questions MIDI Setup in FL Studio

These questions may help you along your way if you’re struggling to setup your MIDI Controller in FL Studio.

Before You Launch Your Music Career

5 Tips I Wish I Knew.. Before Using FL Studio

MIDI Controller Not Working in FL Studio:

First make sure the MIDI Controller has power.

Second, press notes to see if FL Studio recognizes any buttons. (Explained in Project Links vs. Global Links).

Project Link (Orange Knob Color)
FL Studio’s Hint Panel shows you detailed information about your MIDI Controller’s activity!

If there’s no activity in FL Studio’s Hint Panel for any MIDI Notes pressed, then you have to enable the MIDI Controller.

Do this by hitting F10 (Options -> Settings), and in the MIDI Tab, under Input, select your MIDI Device, and press Enable.

Most often the regular MIDI Keyboard name just does the piano keys. To get the transport buttons working, you’ll have enable a MIDIIN option with a controller type (each MIDI Controller is different).

You have to select a Controller Type to make the transport buttons work! The video showed the M-Audio Oxygen Pro, which uses MIDIIN3 for its transport buttons.

FL Studio Transport Buttons Not Working Properly

To repeat, you have to select a Controller Type to get the transport buttons to work in FL Studio.

The Transport buttons are Play, Stop, Record, Forward, Back, and Loop.

Very often these Controller Types only get a couple of these buttons working.. but thankfully FL Studio introduced MIDI Scripting, which allows us to setup the transport buttons with a python script.

Very often there’s free MIDI Scripts like my Oxygen Pro MIDI Script.

How to Map MIDI Controls in FL Studio?

Please view my video: how to setup knobs and sliders in FL Studio.

Wrapping Up: How to Connect Your MIDI Controller to FL Studio

A MIDI Keyboard uses a USB Type-A to USB Type-B cable, which is a standard printer cable! However.. we may start seeing “USB Type-C” MIDI Controllers eventually here.

So that’s the MIDI Setup in FL Studio for your Keyboard, Controller, Drumpad, or Synth. This was a general how to connect your MIDI Keyboard to FL Studio, but it should at least guide you to your answer.

If not, just use the comment section below!

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GratuiTous (Riley Weller) is a Recognized FL Studio Trainer with over 30 Beatmaking Courses. He writes Beatmaking Books, hosts the Music Production Made Simple Podcast, and helps students with FL Studio Lessons. He also makes lots of his own music!

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