I had a member ask a question about volume inside FL Studio.

Should you use the Channel Rack or Mixer to control a sound’s volume inside FL Studio?

After a couple tests, I think I figured out how FL Studio’s audio flow works, and it gave me a different perspective on gain staging. (Gain staging is when audio flows from one plugin to the next.)

As mentioned in the tutorial, if using Analog Emulation Plugins, which mimic hardware, you must pay attention to how much gain (volume) you are sending into these emulation plugins. If too much gain, they’ll distort! But normal plugins do not distort if you send too much gain into them!

How does FL Studio’s Signal Flow Work (Gain Staging in FL Studio)

Here’s a link to the interview with Michael.

Channel Rack vs. the Mixer Vs. the Piano Roll

To answer the question quickly..

I try to do EVERYTHING inside the Mixer when it comes to volume. This means volume and panning and automation. It just makes everything easier in the long-run.

I say that as a “best practice” kind of thing, but controlling volume any other way IS NOT WRONG!!

So I have to explain how things work in order for you to understand what’s going on.

Now your audio first starts at the Channel Rack. This is really important to know, because as you progress, you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Think of the Channel Rack as the audio BEFORE Slot 1 on any mixer insert.

Think of the Mixer fader as AFTER Slot 10. (There’s also the plugin Fruity Send if you’d like to do Pre or Post fader.)

A Walkthrough of FL Studio’s Audio Flow from Beginning to End (Channel Rack to Your Mixer.)

Alright, so you gotta read this one closely.

1. This is where it seems your audio starts in FL Studio.
2. If you turn down #1’s volume, you are sending less GAIN into Slot 1, which is Red Circle 2.
3. This is your audio AFTER all of your effects.
4. This turns down your audio AFTER your audio has gone through ALL your effects.

Let me just clarify things further, just so we’re on the same page.

These red circles are numbered from 1 to 4, and go in that order.

Your audio begins at Red Circle 1. This is your Channel Rack’s volume for that INDIVIDUAL sound.

If you turn this down, it actually reduces that volume going into Red Circle 2.

Your audio begins it’s journey at Slot 1, which is Red Circle 2.

This is important to understand, because if you feel like you’re ever sending TOO MUCH audio into your mixer insert, this is a really cool way of just turning down the volume going INTO the insert.

This is not something I do often, but as you’ll see in the video, the original question stemmed some of those tests I did to see.. just how does FL Studio’s audio flow work from the mixer to what you hear on out of your speakers?

Your audio will then go through all your effects, and end up at the bottom of Slot 10, which is just your last effect for your insert, where Red Circle 3 is.

And Red Circle 4 is simply just turning down your audio AFTER all of your effects. And that’s it!

So How Do I Personally Approach Using Volume In FL Studio?

I only use the Channel Rack for a “quick and dirty” decision.

Notice I said decision.

If you watch the video, I said “I’ll turn down this first drum at the Channel Rack..” because.. why?

Because the sound only played once inside the loop!

If the sound played multiple times, well then you’d want to approach that by going into your Piano Roll or the Graph Editor areas. These areas allow you to adjust an individual note! (Images below and labelled.)

The Graph Editor is on the left.
The Piano Roll is on the right.
Noticed how the Graphed Editor and Piano Roll single note’s velocity are linked! (Red Circle 1 – Yes, it adjusts the exact same thing in the piano roll!)

But at the end of the day, I personally prefer to send all my audio to the mixer, and adjust all my volume, panning, automations, and any of that stuff there.

I think it’s the best way to stay organized, knowing everything is being controlled from your mixer.

If you want to adjust a single note in the Piano Roll, then that’s totally cool, and that gives you the ultimate flexibility of fine-tuning your sound’s loop perfectly.