Tommy Taft is a student living in the Boston area of Massachusetts. After hours of staring at his computer screen, he finally considers himself somewhat proficient with FL Studio. You can find his music at modtrax.bandcamp.com or at soundcloud.com/modtrax.
As a student interested in the technological aspects of music production, I’ve been overwhelmed by the dozens of professional DAWs which are now in existence. Like many young musicians, I had a limited budget and was trying to avoid spending money. However, I knew that Garageband was no longer going to be able to cut it as my only means of making music and I wanted to find a new DAW which was easy to learn, inexpensive, and professional. FL Studio was the answer.
While DAW shopping, I had heard from many musicians that FL Studio (or “Fruity Loops” as they referred to it) was a piece of software solely for beginner musicians. Whilst this may have been the case in its early days, FL Studio has become an extremely versatile software platform and has come a long way since its initial release in 1997. Rather than writing about the software user interface, I’ve decided to focus on three plug-ins which are included with the software in a series of three reviews.
At first glance, 3xOSC is exactly the kind of plug-in my musician friends warned me would come with FL Studio. It has an extremely simplistic look to it and surely doesn’t appear to be the powerful subtractive synthesizer that it is. However, a few minutes with this synth and you will never look back. In order to demonstrate how awesome it is, I’m going to show you how to throw together a powerful sounding lead, a pad, an even a simple wobble bass. If you want to follow along, download the demo version of FL Studio here.
Let’s start by choosing our waveforms. You’ll be able to choose between sine, triangle, square, saw, rounded saw, noise or custom. For starters we’ll set the first oscillator to triangle, the second oscillator to square, and the third to triangle. In order to increase the depth of the sound I’ve adjusted the “SD” knob (Stereo Detune) as well as the “SP” knob (Stereo Phase). A small adjustment of the “PR” (Phase Randomness) knob can also increase the quality of the output. Adjusting the pan is crucial as well. I’ve panned Oscillator 1 to the left and Oscillator 2 to the right so as to make the sound wider. As you can see, the simplistic layout of 3xOSC is already starting to be beneficial.
Once you’re past the initial sound design phase, you can begin to explore timbre by adjusting the envelope. 3xOSC allows for very easy adjustment of the delay, attack, hold, decay, sustain, and release. The envelope can be adjusted by either dragging on the yellow points or adjusting the knobs below the display. When making a lead for most electronic music, it is crucial to create an envelope with a quick attack and a brief sustain and release so that the note is distinct. You can accomplish this easily by turning all the knobs all the way down except for decay which should be set at about 25%.
If the sound you desire is a pad rather than a lead, the envelope can be used to your advantage. Set the delay minimally along with a long attack and a slow release. With a quick adjustment of the CRS back in the plug-in window you’ll have a spectacular eerie sounding pad. Combine this with the blur tool in Edison and you’ll have an excellent blur pad.
Below the envelope settings is the LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator. This is the tool used when creating most wobble basses used in dubstep or progressive house. By turning the “AMT” (Amount) knob all the way up and playing with the SPD (Speed) knob anyone can quickly assemble a wobble bass. This is awesome for musicians on a low budget who feel morally obligated not to get the torrent for Native Instrument’s Massive. Adjusting the filter just to the right of the LFO window will further increase the wobble’s quality. You can try various filter types but I’ve chosen to use the standard Low Pass. I have the Modulation wheels at roughly 20%. Of course, a full wobble bass requires lots of automation (also easy in FL Studio) but you’ll get a rough idea of what it will sound like based off these settings. The filter can also be used in order to quickly cut the low or high end off a synth lead. Try playing with the various filter types along with the MODX wheel.
One of 3xOSC’s greatest perks is the included arpeggiator. It’s extremely easy to use and a great way to add rhythm to your music. After designing a synth lead to your liking, look under the FUNC (Function) tab of the plug-in. The arpeggiator controls are in the middle of the page. Start by choosing the direction you want the arpeggios to go. I’ve selected them to go up but you have a variety of options I would recommend experimenting with. After selecting the direction, click where it says “Auto (sustain)” and select the chord by which the arpeggio will follow. I’ve selected the “tri” setting because I believe that augmented fourths are under-appreciated (sorry guys). Adjusting the “Range” amount will determine the length of the arpeggio and adjusting the “Time” knob will determine its speed.
Because of its simplicity, ease of use, and solid sound quality, I would have to say that I am a pretty big fan of the 3xOSC synthesizer plug-in. Although it looks rather unprofessional at first glance, 3xOSC sufficiently proves itself to be a powerful, functioning synthesizer. If you find yourself satisfied with this plug-in, FL Studio 10 is probably the right software for you since 3xOSC trait’s are reflected frequently in various other plug-ins that are included with the software. If you’re interested in a more in depth demo of 3xOSC’s potential you can go to my website for some original music made using 3xOSC.
If you are looking for a DJ in the Boston area you can reach Tommy at email@example.com