In this article, we’re going to be learning how to create automation clips in FL Studio 20, automate any parameter and knob, automate the mixer and effects, and how to create automation clips for third-party plugins in FL Studio 20.
By the end of the article, you’ll know how to use automation.
Automation allows you to automatically adjust parameters in your song, which you set up beforehand.
For the most part, it’s just a matter of right-clicking on a knob, selecting Create Automation Clip, and you’re good to go.
However, like most things in life, there’s always a few quirks to you have to learn to really understand what you’re doing.
I’d highly recommend using VST3 versions of your plugins with FL Studio. These allow you to right-click inside the VST itself so you can copy values, create automation clips, and treat the third-party plugin as if it were a native FL Studio plugin! (VST2 versions do not allow you to create automation clips through right-clicking. You have to go Tools -> Last tweaked -> Create automation clip.)
Make sure to test that VST3 does not crash FL Studio. Sometimes you’ll have to use VST2 versions if that’s the case!
In addition, how FL Studio creates automation clips is it literally takes a snapshot of your parameter at that moment in time.
So if you’ve tried to create an automation clip, then adjust the parameter differently at the beginning of the automation clip, you’ll notice it defaults to what you originally created, not your new adjusted value.
It’s confusing when just starting out, I explain how it all works below.
So let me break down everything you need to know about automation tracks in FL Studio, and talk about using them in the playlist, a step sequencer pattern, and piano roll.
How to Create an Automation Clip in FL Studio
Now, a lot of tutorials will show you to just create an automation clip. Cool, right?
Yet, that automation clip will extend for the full length of the song; I find this pointless, unless you’ll be effecting that parameter all throughout the song.
I personally like to just highlight the area BEFORE I create the automation clip.
This allows the automation clip to be the length of the area I’m wanting to automate.
So here’s how you do that.
(I’m going to show how to create an automation clip in the playlist first; later in this article, I’ll break down other areas of FL Studio where we can use automation.)
Within the playlist, hold down CTRL and Left-Click + Hold near the top of the playlist, on the Timeline. (This is where you can see your song’s bars.)
From here, you can now automate any parameter you’d like!
Let’s say we want to automate the attack knob under the Envelope / instrument settings:
Once the clip is created, you can then Right Click anywhere within the automation clip, and it will create new points for you to increase or decrease the value:
Two extra pro-tips after the automation clip is created:
You can Right Click on any automation point, and change it’s curve-type for more creativity, such as single-curve or stairs for example. (Covered a bit more later in the article.)
You can also Left Click + Hold in between automation points to increase/decrease tension. This allows you to fine-tune an automation’s sound, molding it exactly how you’d like.
And that’s the most simple way to create an automation clip in FL Studio.
But, as I mentioned earlier, there’s quirks to FL Studio, and simply creating the automation clip is the easy part.
Actually editing and maintaining it is where it gets tricky, and where you have to have knowledge of how automation clips work within FL Studio.
That leads us into Initialized Controls.
Snapshot and Initialized Controls – Automation Clips
It’s very important to understand how FL Studio creates automation clips, because it can get really confusing once you’re starting to build your track.
So read closely, okay!
FL Studio literally takes a snapshot/picture of the parameter when you create an automation clip.
It stores this state inside of FL Browser -> Patterns -> Initialized controls -> [Your Event/Automation Clip].
There’s two ways you can actually control the automation’s state.
First, you can Right Click on the same knob you’ve automated, and you’ll notice there’s an option to Init song with this position:
Init song with this position is probably the best solution, and what I use and recommend. (More info below.)
Or, you can delete the event within Initialized controls.
Deleting the event doesn’t reset the state to the new value; here’s how it works.
When you create your automation clip, FL Studio saves the state of that automation clip; we already know that now, right?
But, FL Studio is tricky in how it approaches changing the BEGINNING of your first automation point.
If you adjust the automation clip’s beginning point differently from how you’ve originally created it, and you put your play position on the playlist BEFORE the automation clip, you’ll see the original value is shown on the plugin, even though you’ve changed the automation point’s beginning position!
If you then put the play position on the first automation point, you’ll see the plugin’s state quickly adjusts to your adjusted value. (I’ll explain more below.)
First, create an automation clip like I showed you above.
Next, drag a new value for the beginning point on the automation clip.
Put the playlist cursor BEFORE the automation clip (not at the beginning of the automation clip, put it a full bar behind it).
You’ll see that the state of the parameter goes back to the ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT of when we first created the automation clip.
If you then put your playlist cursor ON the beginning of the automation clip, you’ll see it INSTANTLY switches to how you’ve dragged the first automation point when compared to that default snapshot value.
If you select Delete event, it deletes this snapshot, but it doesn’t fix the problem.
If you delete the event, the automation clip will stay in the state it was last played; which is typically at the end of the automation clip, because your song has played through to the end of that automation clip.
But, if you’re in the middle of mixing, and you’re constantly playing over this section, sometimes when you hit play, the automation clip’s state will be out of position, and it’s just annoying!
So the best way to fix this issue if you want the beginning of your automation clip’s value to be DIFFERENT from the original value of the parameter when you first created the automation clip is selecting Init song with this position.
This will now save your new state (taking a new snapshot), and when playing the song BEFORE the automation clip, the parameter will be at the automation clip’s beginning point value.
Kind of confusing, but that’s how it works!
Where to Find Created Automation Clips in FL Studio
Within the step sequencer, you have access to one-shot sounds, audio clips, and automation clips from the Channel Filter Groups drop-down menu.
Just select Automation from this drop down, and then you’ll find the automation clip you’re looking for.
Advanced Automation Parameters/Properties
What you may not know about automation clips is that there are some advanced properties and quick ways to copy whole automation clip states between automation clips. (Sort of like using automation presets.)
If you click on an automation clip, a window will pop-up:
You’ll see two knobs at the top: MIN and MAX.
You can adjust these to control how aggressive your automation clip is. What they really do is limit how low or how high your automation clip can go; it just makes your adjustments less sensitive.
You’ll also see an LFO section. Click the button to enable it, and you’ll be able to effect your sound repetitively by dialing in the knobs to your desire.
Now, what a lot of people don’t know, is you can click this top left arrow and a drop-down menu appears!
If you hover your mouse over Articulator, you’ll see it opens a window of opportunities for you!
This is how you can copy one automation’s state to another automation clip.
Another pro-tip is using Shift and CTRL to lock vertical and horizontal movements. When you’ve dialed in the sound almost perfect, and you want to just move the automation point up and down, or left and right, you can use these hotkeys.
If you Left Click + Hold and hold down Shift, you wont be able to move up and down, you can only move left and right.
If you Left Click + Hold and hold down CTRL, you can only move up and down, not left or right.
Holding down ALT allows you to override the snap, allowing you to place your automation point anywhere you’d like.
Another pro-tip I’ll share with you is within the playlist.
Near the top left of the playlist, there’s an option to select Audio Clips, Automation Clips, or Pattern Clips:
If you select the automation clip tab (the middle one), you’ll see an option called Slide.
This is a really useful option. If you were to drag an automation point that’s in between your beginning and end automation point without slide enabled, it would either grow or shrink the size of your automation clip. (Annoying for workflow purposes.)
I like to have Slide enabled, as you can move automation points freely inside the automation clip without it constantly growing/shrinking on you.
For workflow purposes, if I did want to extend this automation clip by dragging a middle point, I would then disable Slide, and the automation clip would grow to my desired size.
Playlist vs. Pattern vs. Piano Roll Automation
FL Studio allows you to automate through the various sections of the DAW’s software, from the playlist, to the step sequencer, to the individual pattern you’re on.
Within the playlist, it’s called automation, but within the piano roll/pattern, I believe it’s called event data/properties.
Let’s cover each one-by-one.
We’ll start with the playlist.
Automation Clips – The Playlist
The playlist is where you’ll spend most of your time when it comes to arranging your song, and using automation clips.
If you’re not aware of Audio Painting, you can check out my book. (It breaks down arranging your beats.)
I just showed you how to create an automation clip in the playlist in FL Studio, but I’ll quickly repeat the main points here:
- I like to select the area on the playlist first with Right Click + Hold, rather than the automation clip be created for the whole song (unless it’s a parameter I’ll be adjusting throughout the whole song.)
- Right Click on the parameter you want to automate, and then select Create automation clip. It will now be the length of your highlighted area on the playlist.
- You can add in a new point by using Right Click.
- For fine-tuning, you can Right Click on an automation point to select a different curve type, or, Left Click + Hold in between automation points to increase/decrease tension.
And then again, since FL Studio takes a snap shot of the parameter’s state when you create the automation clip, if you want to reset the beginning point’s default value, you’ll have to Right Click on that parameter and select Init song with this position.
That will get you up and running with automation clips in FL Studio’s playlist.
Automation Clips – Piano Roll
The piano roll allows us to control events on individual notes. This allows for FULL flexibility on how a sound was played.
Within the piano roll, this automation is called event data.
You access this at the bottom of the piano roll.
You have to make sure to Right Click the grey box on the bottom left (see the red circle) of the event editor to make this pop-up menu appear:
Now, you’ll notice there’s two columns here. They allow you to edit the notes in a similar way, but just with a different approach.
There’s Note properties and Channel controls.
I personally like to use the Note properties, as it’s a bit easier; but the Channel controls does allow for more precise control, but I feel gets a bit messy.
With Channel controls you can actually pan a sound halfway of when it’s played, where as Note properties only allows you to pan the whole sound, not anywhere in between.
Pro-tip: you can get even more precise with your channel controls by selecting a finer snap setting such as 1/4 beat or even 1/2 step, for example.
The reason I say the Channel controls is messy is because once you add in event data, it’s tricky to delete.
You have to select the delete tool from the top tool bar in the piano roll.
If you’ve accidentally adjusted your event data past your pattern’s MIDI notes, it will extend the pattern’s length within the playlist on you. (Annoying!!)
So at the end of the day, Channel controls adds more precise editing, but at the cost of being finicky.
I just stick with the Note properties, and automate the sound on the playlist if I’m wanting to do anything technical.
Here’s a screenshot of how Note properties look:
A couple shortcuts when working with Note properties:
- Hold ALT + Scroll Wheel over a single MIDI Note (Adjusts event data up or down)
- Select multiple sounds to adjust values at once through ALT + Scroll Wheel
- Left Click a single note’s event data
- Hold Right Click and drag in an up or downward motion to create a diagonal rising or falling pattern in the event notes
Automation on the Step Sequencer
Here’s how to create an FL Studio automation clip for a pattern.
So, FL Studio doesn’t actually create an automation clip for patterns. You create automation clips to automate certain parameters, like volume, panning, EQ filters, or any other various knobs for a particular sound.
Within a pattern, you can adjust individual notes from sounds through the Graph Editor.
Now, FL Studio actually removed this option in FL Studio 20, but brought it back because of community feedback in later versions of FL Studio 20.
You first want to select the sound you want to control. In our example, I selected a kick drum.
I then selected the Graph Editor in the top right of the Step Sequencer.
From here, a window will appear just below the sound you’re working on, and you can adjust various aspects of each individual hit such as velocity, release, pitch, panning, and even shift (note nudging/swing!).
This opens another huge opportunity for creativity.
Now, this is a quick and dirty way to tweak your sounds, but it’s really easy to forget you’ve adjusted your sounds within this Graph Editor.
If you load up a older project you haven’t worked on in awhile, you may hear something in a sound that you want to tweak, but forget you’ve worked inside this Graph Editor.
(Something I’ve experienced many times, haha!)
Common Uses of Automation Clips
Let’s talk about some popular uses of FL Studio automation clips.
The most common way is probably using a low-cut or high-cut filter with an EQ to build tension and emotion in a song.
For more info on building tension and emotion in your arrangements, view my Song Structure and Arrangement course!
This is how to automate EQ in FL Studio 20, plus other effects/filters.
Let’s work with the Fruity Parametric EQ2 for example; we’ll create a high-cut filter.
To do that, you’ll want to Right Click on band 7, hover over Type, then select Low pass.
Note, a high-cut filter and a low-pass filter are the same thing. I feel a high-cut filter is easier to understand, and less confusing.
Within the playlist, I’ll Right Click + Hold at the top of the timeline (bars), and select the area I want this automation clip to be created:
I’ll then go back to the Parametric EQ2 and Right Click on the top blue circle on the bottom right corner of the EQ (see red square on picture).
Create the automation clip, and now you can filter out the highs of your song.
This is a popular use for a transition, which builds tension and emotion for your listener. If you want more information on transitions, emotion, and song structure, I’ve written a book on Amazon called Audio Painting!
Now, when you’re working with these types of effects on your MASTER channel, I’d suggest you automate the MIX knob to turn on only when you want to use the effect:
Now, don’t automate this mix knob halfway. I make it either 100% ON or 100% OFF.
Another popular use of automation in music production is volume automation. This is a good example of how to automate mixer faders in FL Studio.
If we’re working with a vocal, you may think you have to compress the vocal really aggressively to make it stand out.
Well, a compressor can be used for audio leveling (learn more about compression with my course), or compression can also be used to mold/shape a sound, or to add a certain sound characteristic.
But sometimes compression can have negative artifacts.
This is where we can use both volume automation to level out a sound more naturally, then apply compression to our desired amount, without it sounding too aggressive.
I typically don’t like to automate the mixer’s faders:
This is because once you create the automation clip with the mixer fader, what I said before about FL Studio creating a snapshot starts to happen, and it makes mixing become a big mess.
If I want to automate volume for a vocal, or any instrument where I’m trying to level it out, I’d personally open a plugin like the Fruity Limiter, then just simply automate the gain knob. (I’d put the ceiling all the way to the top so no limiting would happen though, just use it as a gain plugin.)
This way I have full control over the mixer fader, but still have my automation taking place without handcuffing my control over the mixer fader.
I hope those are some ideas to get you going with automation!
Commonly Asked Questions About Automation Clips in FL Studio
Let’s cover some popular questions about automation clips in FL Studio.
If you have any questions, you can reach out to me and I’ll answer the question by adding it to this article!
How to Create Automation Clips with Third-Party Plugins in FL Studio
As mentioned above, you want to use VST3 third-party plugins with FL Studio where you can.
This allows you to right-click within the plugin itself to copy parameters and create automation clips.
However, if you’re stuck using a VST2 third-party plugin in FL Studio, here’s how to create an automation clip for third-party plugins and automate ANY parameter.
First, move the knob/parameter you’re wanting to create an automation clip with.
Next, you’ll go Tools -> Last tweaked -> Create automation clip:
And then it’s just a matter of adding in your points, selecting curve-types, and increasing/decreasing tension between automation points.
Automation Clip Not Turning Off
Now this relates to what I was talking about with FL Studio creating a snapshot when you initially create the automation clip.
There’s also a difference between BEFORE and AFTER an automation clip.
If your problem is AFTER an automation clip, simply just make sure the last point is at 0%.
If the problem is before the automation clip, you’ll again want to put the automation point’s first point to 0%, then right click on that parameter of where you’ve created the automation clip, and then select Init song with this position.
This will reset the initial automation beginning point’s state, allowing you to reset how the automation clip was created.
Tricky stuff until you get your head wrapped around FL Studio’s automation clips!
So if your FL Studio automation clip is not turning off, just make sure to set the beginning point’s value to 0%, Init song with this position, and then you can adjust the beginning point’s value to whatever you’d like!
Automation Clips in FL Studio 12 – Wrap Up
And so there you have it.
That is pretty much everything there is to know using automation in FL Studio 20.
From working with the playlist to the piano roll to the step sequencer, each one gives you a different approach to a similar task.
If you have any questions about adding automation clips into FL Studio 20, please contact me.
I can add your question into this article to answer your question.