I am currently editing this post from years ago and converting it into a step-by-step guide with updated FL Studio 21 screenshots. If you happen to stumble across this page, don’t fret. The producer series is getting a complete makeover!
Now for the fun part. What’s the fun part you ask?
It’s banging away on the drum pad, of course!
Think of all the other stuff as foreplay, whereas banging out the sample on the pads is getting closer to the climax.
In this post, I will be going into some philosophical ramblings about beats and sampling including knowledge, impressions, and wisdom I’ve accrued since I began making beats in 2007.
If you’re interested in reading that, it will be at the end after everything else.
For now, let’s get into making a song.
So the chops are programmed into your drum pad, and you’ve banged out for a while having the time of your life.
Now it’s time to lay down a sequence.
Let’s dive in.
To Record Or Not To Record?
There are many ways to lay down a pattern inside FL Studio.
To start, you can do it manually (using your mouse to paste chops) or you can actually record it.
I’ve done it both ways, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
The first thing you’ll want to do is find the BPM of the sample.
There are a few ways to do this:
Detect Tempo Method
Perhaps the easiest way is to simply drag a sample into the Playlist, right-click it, and hit “Detect Tempo.”
A dialog box will pop up asking you to essentially guesstimate the BPM range.
Click the one you think is best and it should match up. If it doesn’t, finagle with it a bit more until it’s right.
You can also right-click the sample and hit “Edit Sample”.
This will bring up Edison.
Now right-click the title (of the song/sample) > Auto Detect > Detection For Songs With Constant Tempo. Tap Method
This is probably the most accurate way because you can simply use your ears.
For this, just right-click the Tempo box at the top and then hit “Tap”.
Now play the song and physically press the tempo tapper with your mouse to find the BPM.
You can basically just do this until you’re satisfied.
Now that we have the BPM, let’s lay down a pattern.
Method 1 – Recording
For those who like a more hands-on approach, the record method is great.
Before I start, I typically use step mode and 1/2 Beat. This ensures that the notes will snap to the grid and quantize automatically after I’m done recording.
Alternatively, you can also hit Alt + Q.
Next, set your bar length. Right-click and drag until it looks something like this:
My beats are usually 4 bar variations but it really just depends on the sample. Because I tend to chop really fine, some can be as little as 1-2 bars!
If the chops are longer, perhaps I will go 6 or 8 bars. Again, it’s all based on the sample for me.
Now we’re ready to record.
Head on up to the… you guessed it, record button, and press it.
If you have the FL key, you can also press record on the drum pad to arm the track.
From here, a dialog box will pop up asking what/how you want to record.
Choose “Notes and Automation”.
Before you hit play, bring up the Piano Roll and choose whatever pattern you want. Unless you’re a weirdo, just start with Pattern 1. xD
Now simply hit play and make sure your metronome is on as it will give you 1 bar (4 clicks) to get ready.
If you’d like an additional bar, just head up to the top and look 2 to the right of the Metronome where it says 3.2.1.
Right-click that and select 2 bars.
From here you’re pretty much set. You can edit the chops with your mouse and arrange them how you like.
Speaking of the mouse, let’s get into a simpler way to lay down a pattern.
Method 2 – Use Your Mouse
While you’re waiting, here’s some backstory.
Sampling has always been quite interesting to me, both my own perception of my music as well as how others looked at it.
Though I started making beats in 2007 using Reason and the Korg padKONTROL, I didn’t start sampling until 2009.
The rest is history as they say.
I’ve always had a true passion for it, but I suppose it’s waned somewhat over time as I’ve gotten older. When I was living with my parents, I had all the time in the world.
Fewer obligations and pressure to make ends meet = a lot more time to bang out samples.
Even so, I’ve really been getting back into it lately because it’s something that’s always been important to me.
It was an amazing time in my life.
Looking back, my hunger was much greater than it is today, though I’m still making beats and rapping. I just don’t do it as much.
The sentiment still holds true.
In 2021, I decided to refresh a couple of old posts that I had made around 2015 and convert them into this guide.
If you’re reading this in 2023, this is actually the 3rd revision.
In the second one from ’21, I was still using FL Studio 9, but I’ve since upgraded to 21 and also bought an FL Key Mini.
If you’re looking for the best pad to pair with FL Studio, look no further. The FL Key is incredible and was made specifically for FL Studio.
In any event, redoing this guide had been on my to-do list for quite a while, but I could never find the time.
When I first wanted to get back into making beats, I needed a refresher course myself as I had kind of forgotten the ins and outs of FL Studio.
Fortunately, it’s similar to riding a bike. Once you get in there and start messing around, it all comes flooding back. You never really completely forget.
As I was editing the pages, I decided that chopping up a sample from scratch would help out in conveying the process and organizing my own thoughts in such a way that I could ultimately sit down and feel confident about showing you.
Innocently enough, I started making a beat and it was like old times.
Both the passion and those amazing feelings came flooding back. I felt like I was transported back to 2010.
I felt like I was in my 20s again. The excitement of staying up late and banging away on the padKONTROL almost felt better than before.
I knew at that moment that my love for sampling would never truly go away.
Beatmakers who read this will know exactly the feeling I’m talking about. It just feels right.
I remember one year back at the old house I grew up in.
It was Christmas day and we were having family over for a big get-together.
On such occasions, my dad always fired up some music to get the mood going, either from CD, vinyl, or one of those stations they had on DirecTV (as in this case).
I was upstairs in the bonus room playing video games or something when a song came on that completely blew me away.
I immediately got up and ran out of the room towards the balcony and roared with delight at the same exact time as my mom!
Yes, she literally ran into the living room, just as excited as I was.
Mind you, my mom has never been into beats at all, but she recognized the brilliance of the song right away and knew how passionate I was about making music.
“Wow!” she exclaimed ecstatically. “That would make a great sample for one of your beats!!”
“I was thinking the exact same thing!”, I yelled uproariously over the stairs to the living room below.
It was a moment I will never forget. Unfortunately, I lost the sample and never was able to use it.
Perhaps someday I will stumble across it again. To this day I have no idea why we didn’t write it down or something.
Back then, the song would play on one of DirecTV’s music stations and there was really no way you could go back to see what it was.
There’s nothing quite like listening to music and being inspired to make something fresh and new out of an old classic, but not every beat becomes a masterpiece, and that’s okay.
It’s something you have to accept, and you will the more and more beats you create.
There are times when you’ll feel like it’s not worth your time and energy. That’s the dark side of it.
Those days when the sample is just not coming together at all.
The times when you start to feel depressed in the middle of making a beat – because it sounds like poop or the sample is super hard to flip, or you’ve adjusted and tweaked it so many times that it starts to sound like something totally different (and not in a good way).
Or simply, the times when you know for sure a sample is going to turn out amazing and it just doesn’t for whatever reason.
There are times when you will feel like you just made the best beat ever and hear nothing but crickets when you show it to the world.
This doesn’t mean it’s bad; quite the contrary. It just means that the right person hasn’t discovered it yet.
It could also mean that it’s not quite as good as you thought, but that really just depends.
The former has happened with quite a few of my own beats. It wasn’t until years later did someone use them, and it was well worth the wait.
There will also be times when you make a beat and think it sucks, but others think it’s amazing.
I can specifically remember this happening with one that I completely forgot about.
I sent a bunch of tracks to my friend Eric Lake (whom I met at my old job) and he (as well as his friends) used quite a few of them.
When he informed me that he and the guys would be rapping on a particular one, in my head I was like “Really?”
The beat just wasn’t that good to me.
This goes to show that it doesn’t really matter what YOU think of your beats. Someone else may fall in love with ones that you don’t even like!
The track that he and 2 other guys (CodE Immaculate) made from it ended up being a classic, and one that I’m proud to have been a part of.
Then there is the other side of it.
The days when you sit down and churn out a beat in no time at all. The one that sounds so good it makes you want to slap someone.
That’s what we as beatmakers live for. The feeling you get from an incredible loop is like no other feeling in the world.
It’s like when Arnold was relating the “Pump” in the gym to an orgasm – equating it to cumming.
That’s kind of like how beat-making is. Sorta. xD
In any event, my passion for beatmaking will never truly fade and for that, I’m eternally grateful.