How To Make A Harder Style Beat In FL Studio
In this tutorial I will show you how I made a bit harder style beat in FL Studio. I’m not hundred percent sure in what specific genre or sub-genre this beat falls in to as everyone has their own opinion, but it does belong to the category of a harder style electronic dance music for sure.
Here’s an audio clip of the beat. Listen and make your own decision:
It’s probably a bit of like old school hard trance maybe.
Anyway. Here’s the exact steps how I made this beat.
First, I set the project tempo to 145BPM.
In the Mixer, I also dropped the Master track volume fader to -6.0dB to leave enough headroom for the mix to be safe from clipping.
Next, the most essential element of this beat: the kick.
I picked a kick sample titled “kick02.wav” (originally from the Prime Loops Drum Sample Tasters 2012 free sample pack, but for this tutorial, I gathered all the sample material to a one single folder which I am also sharing with the FL Studio project file at the end of this tutorial), opened it in a new Sampler Channel, renamed the Channel as “kick” and assigned the channel to a free Mixer track (and left the kick Mixer track volume to 0.0dB).
In the Playlist, I added a new pattern to the Clip Track, renamed it as “drums”, opened the Step Sequencer and placed the kick on each 4 steps and voilà: I got a steady four-to-the-floor rhythm pattern 🙂
Now, the kick was a bit too dry and weak to work in a harder style beat as is so it needed quite a lot processing. Slapback echo came first to my mind when I was thinking how typical harder style kick would sound.
So, I opened the Mixer, loaded a Fruity Reeverb to the kick Mixer track and first set the Predelay to 189 milliseconds. Predelay is the key for a slapback echo effect and with a tempo of 145bpm, 189 ms seemed to be just a right value to make the echo appear exactly on the offbeat after each kick.
The Decay time I set to 0.5 seconds. Short decay time works best when creating basic slapback echo effect with reverb.
Rest of the adjustments are pretty minor: I turned off the LowCut to leave all the low frequencies to the input signal, set the HighCut to 4.6 kHz, RoomSize to 46, Color to Warmer and Reverb level to 30%.
Next, I planned to use compression to shape the kick. My goal was to flatten a little the punch part at the beginning of the kick and bring the kick body (tail) alongside with the slapback echo more “in-yer-face”.
So, I went and dropped a Fruity Limiter to the kick Mixer track.
First, I switched on the compressor mode by clicking on the “Comp” and started by dropping the Threshold level to -28.9dB. I needed to drop the Threshold down to this level to get the desired effect. (Threshold sets the dB level above which the signal will be compressed. If the Threshold is left above the level the incoming signal is peaking at, the compressor doesn’t do anything.)
Then I adjusted the Ratio to 5.1:1 as it sounded just about right to my ears. (Ratio sets how much of compression will be applied once the threshold level is exceeded.)
At this point I also raised the Gain (this is the output gain or make-up gain) to 13.5dB to compensate the volume reduction caused by dropping the Threshold and adjusting the Ratio.
Next, I set the Attack to 2.05ms. After experimenting with different values, I found that 2.05ms gave what I was looking for: it smoothed out the excessive punch part, leaving a tiny snap to the attack part of the kick. (Attack sets the time how quickly the compression starts to affect to the start of the signal. Using slow attack times – something like 30ms and above – is usually the way to go when you want to add sharpness and snap especially for your percussion sounds.)
Release time I set to 147.87ms. (Release sets how quickly the compression effect will “let go” after the signal drops below the defined threshold level. Using too short release time usually causes distortion and pumpiness though the pumpy sound might be a desired effect sometimes. Too long release times on the other hand, will not give enough time for the compression to ever recover before the next peak hits and it will sound like the compression isn’t doing much at all to the signal.) After tweaking a little I ended up using the value of 147ms as it brought out the body part of the kick just the way I wanted.
Compare the uncompressed and compressed kick to hear the difference. The audio example below plays first the uncompressed and then compressed versions side by side:
Ok. The kick was still a bit weak on the lower frequency area so what I did next I loaded a Fruity Parametric EQ 2 to kick Mixer track effect slot and used low shelf filter to boost the 80Hz area and below by 10.8dB with a bandwidth of 26%. This added a serious low end boost to the kick!
Note the order of the compressor and EQ boosting in the effects chain: first compressor, then EQ boost. It does make a difference whether you put a boosting EQ before or after the compression. If you boost frequencies before feeding the signal to compressor, the compressor reacts to these raised levels of frequencies and makes things sound different. So in this example, if I would have put the low frequency EQ boost BEFORE the compressor, the compressor would’ve reacted by attenuating the low end boost and it would’ve caused other unwanted “artifacts” to the signal as well and I would’ve needed to tweak the compressor settings all over again. I wouldn’t have benefited of the EQ boost at all.
Next, I placed a Fruity Fast Dist distortion effect to the kick drum effect chain. I use it to add a very subtle distortion to the kick. I choosed A as the distortion type, leaved the Pre amp as is, adjusted the Threshold to 10 o’clock and Mix level between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock and it was all set.
Now, to develop the sound of the kick to even further, I dropped Fruity Delay 2 to its effect chain. I was going to use it to create another slapback echo effect – this time panned hard to left.
First, I set the Time to 2:00 to make the echo appear on the offbeat between the kicks. Then I adjusted the Input panning all the way to left. I decreased the Input volume to to 11 o’clock to decrease the volume level of the echoes and Feedback level I dropped to 9 o’clock to let the echoes repeat only 1-2 times or so.
And the processing continues.
I added another reverb unit (Fruity Reeverb 2) to the kick effect chain and my aim was to add a small room type of reverb to it so I set the Decay to 0.6 seconds (short). Room size I dropped to 36 (smaller Room size values works usually quite well with short Decay times), High cut to OFF (to leave the high frequencies to the reverb), High Damping to OFF (to not damp the higher frequencies from the fading reverb “tail”), Early reflection level (ER) to 0% (I decided to drop it 0% as I noticed it was causing a tiny overlapping problem with the attack of the kick… it was barely noticeable, but still…) , Wet level to 32% and Stereo separation to -28%.
And finally, a little boost of clarity with another instance of Fruity Parametric EQ 2 by accentuating the 5.5kHz area (using peaking filter) by 3.4dB with a default bandwidth (39%).
The kick was ready:
Next, the open hihat.
I picked a standard 909 open hihat sample (originally from some old free drum sample collection I have had in my hard disk for a very long time), opened it in a new Sampler Channel and renamed it as “open hihat” and placed it on steps 3, 7, 11 and 15 which are the off-beat (in between kicks) section:
I also assigned the open hihat channel to a free Mixer track and dropped it’s volume level to -4.9dB to balance it with the kick:
Now, the open hihats sounded a little plain and boring as is so I was going to use a Fruity Delay Bank to add that busy, rolling feel to them via an echo and the built-in panning control to spread it in the stereo field.
So in detail: after dropping the Fruity Delay Bank to open hihats Mixer track, I enable the first Delay unit (it’s enabled by default) and under the Feedback section, I leave the Time to it’s default setting (3:00), set the Pan to 100% left and Feedback volume to -14%. A time value of 3:00 makes the echo appear in every third beat and Pan to 100% left throws it all the way to left in the stereo field. Feedback volume -14% seemed to give a right kind of volume balance between the echo signal and the dry signal.
Next, I enabled the second Delay unit and under the Feedback I set the Time to 5:00 (echo in every fifth beat), Pan to 100% right, and Feedback volume to 26%.
And here’s the result:
Alright. The open hihats were ready and I moved on to claps.
I went to my sample collection folder again and picked a nice trance style clap sound (originally from the same old sample collection as the open hihat) , loaded it to a new Sampler Channel and renamed it to “claps”. I opened the drum pattern and in the Step Sequener I placed the claps into steps 5 and 13. I also assigned the claps to a free Mixer track and dropped the volume level to -1.8dB to balance it with the kick.
To my taste the claps required a little shaping: I wanted to emphasize the body part of the claps more than the attack part to give it a kind of pushing feel.
So, in the Mixer I loaded Fruity Limiter to the claps effect slot, enabled the compression mode and started the process by first setting the Threshold to -24.6dB. After experimenting a while I ended up using Ratio of 3.8:1, Attack of 1.6ms and Release of 146.26ms. Output Gain I set to 3.9dB to compensate the gain reduction.
Compare the difference: first (in solo), uncompressed and then compressed:
And next, compressed claps with the kick and open hihat:
I also dropped Fruity Parametric EQ 2 to the claps Mixer track and using a peaking filter boosted the 9.6kHz area by 5.8dB with the default Bandwidth to give the claps a bit clarity and also attenuated the 850Hz area (with a peaking filter as well) by -3.4dB and a Bandwidth of 44% to get rid of the boxiness.
And here’s the end results:
Next, the closed hihat.
I picked a closed hihat sample titled “Hat03_PL.wav” (originally from the Prime Loops Drum Sample Tasters package) and loaded it in a new Sampler Channel. After renaming it as “closed hihat” I created a rapid sequence to the drum pattern by placing the closed hihat to every step in the Step Sequencer and using the Graph Editor I added a little variation to the Velocity values:
I wasn’t totally happy to the sound of the closed hihat so I assigned it to a free Mixer track first for some further processing.
First, I dropped the volume to -7.0dB as it was way too loud compared to other drum sounds. Equalizing was also required as there were some frequencies in it that didn’t seem to fit so well to the mix.
With that said, I dropped Fruity Parametric EQ 2 to the closed hihat effect slot and after fiddling a while I ended up using following settings: low shelf filter to roll off everything below 2.3kHz (and I mean -18dB cut) and high shelf filter to attenuate 7.5kHz area by -2.9dB. This’ll sculpt the hihat to something very thin and “small” and not soo sharp in the high frequency area.
And with the beat:
But I wanted to process it a little more: I dropped Fruity Blood Overdrive to it’s effect slot and ended up using following settings: x100 mode ON, PreAmp to 0.19, PostGain to -0.65.
I also used Fruity Stereo Shaper to spread the sound a little in the stereo field. So in detail, after dropping the Fruity Stereo Shaper to the closed hihat Mixer track, I simply set the Delay parameter to 3.2ms left.
And with the beat:
Ok. The closed hihat sounded allright.
Next, the crash cymbal.
I loaded a sample “Bh_Hit_Crash_0003_PL.wav” (originally from the Prime Loops Drum Sample Tasters package as well) to a new Sampler Channel, renamed it to crash and placed it to the first step in the drum pattern Step Sequencer:
I also assigned it to a free Mixer track and dropped the level to -8.5dB to not let it poke through too loud.
The drums were ready so my next step was to build an 8 bars long drum loop.
Building A Drum Loop
So, I went to the Playlist and copy/pasted the drum pattern. Then I cloned the pattern via the “Make unique” -function (right click on the pattern top left corner and choose “Make unique” from the menu). It got automatically renamed as drums #2.
Then I opened the Step Sequencer and deleted the crash cymbal from the step 1 because I didn’t wan’t the crash cymbal to get repeated on every pattern.
Next, in the Playlist, I copy/pasted the drums #2 pattern all the way to bar 9.
I also wanted to create a little fill/build up to the last bar of the beat to add a slight variation to the loop so I made it unique (it got renamed as drums #3) and in the Step Sequencer, I simply added the claps on step 9.
Here’s just the fill:
And here’s the drumloop as in whole thus far:
To give more weight to the build up/fill, I planned to add a reverse crash cymbal and I was going to use the crash cymbal I already had in my drum sequence.
Reverse Crash Cymbal
So first, I opened the Step Sequencer and crash Sampler Channel Settings panel and dragged the sample from the Sample View to the Playlist.
In the crash sample Channel Settings window, under the “Precomputed effects”, I enabled the reverse. I also slowed down the sample a bit by setting the Pitch Knob Range to 6 semitones and dropping the Channel Pitch Knob to -200 cents. I often do this with reversed crash cymbals as it adds more contrast and depth when moving from the build up to the following section.
In the Playlist I aligned the reveresed crash sample so that it ended exactly where the last bar of the drum loop ended (holding down ALT while dragging bypasses the snapping for fine tuning the position of a sample in the Playlist grid).
Then I assigned the sample to a free Mixer track, renamed the track to “reverse crash” and dropped the volume level to -17.1dB to make it sit better in the mix.
Now I had a simple 8 bar drum loop starting with a crash cymbal and ending to a simple fill/build-up.
Obviously I was going to use 3xOsc for the bass sound so after loading it, I renamed the Channel to “bass” and started to test different combination of oscillators and tuning settings and ended up using following:
- Osc 1 shape: sine, Coarse tune to -12 semitones, Fine tune to 0 (default)
- Osc 2 shape: square, Coarse tune to -24 semitones, Fine tune to 0 (default), Volume to 63%
- Osc 3 shape: square, Coarse tune to -24 semitones, Fine tune to 0 (default), Volume to 25% (default)
Basically, these settings provided a sharp square wave bass (Osc 2 & 3) with an additional bass tones from a sine wave (Osc 1).
I assigned the bass (3xOSc) to a free Mixer track and fattened it a bit by loading a Soundgoodizer to it’s effect slot and leaved the “soundgoodizing wheel” as is (1 o’clock) and dropped the track volume level to -5.6dB.
The sound was ready and my aim was to use it as a offbeat bass meaning it would pulse in between the offbeat of the kick. I also wanted to make it sound like it’s reversing or sweeping.
So first, I went to the Playlist, added a new pattern there, renamed it as “bass” and using the Piano Roll view of the 3xOsc, I drawed a 1 bar long note of E3.
To make it sound like it’s reversing or sweeping in between the offbeat sections, I could’ve used sidechain compression, but instead, I planned on using Channel Volume automation. So first, I selected an one bar long section in the Playlist (I was going to create an automation clip and making a selection in the Playlist makes the automation clip to be automatically the length of the selection). Then I opened the Step Sequencer and created an automation clip for the bass (3xOsc) Channel Volume knob (right click the knob and choose “Create automation clip” from the menu).
In the Playlist, I zoomed in and edited the volume envelope to look like this:
And as a result, I had a nice sweeping/bouncing bass to go along with the kick.
And with the beat:
Next, I copy/pasted the bass pattern and the volume automation clip all the way to bar 9.
The bass was done and I was ready to move on to the next sound.
Detuned Saw Lead To Air Horn Sound
My next aim was to create a detuned saw lead and process it a bit to make it sound a little like air horn and I was going to use 3xOsc for that.
After loading a new instance of 3xOsc to my project, renaming it to “air horn” and twiddling the parameters a bit, I ended up to following settings:
- Osc 1 shape: saw, Coarse tune to 0 semitones (default), Fine tune to -40 cents
- Osc 2 shape: saw, Coarse tune to 0 semitones, Fine tune to +40 cents, Volume to 50% (default)
- Osc 3 shape: saw and everything else to their default settings
With these settings, I got a basic detuned saw lead, but before the further processing, I created a simple sequence for the lead soumd.
So, I headed to Playlist, added a new pattern there, renamed as “air horn”, opened the Piano Roll view and added couple of E4 notes:
Then I copy/pasted the air horn pattern up to bar 9.
Next, I assigned the air horn to a free Mixer track, dropped the volume level to -3.7dB and added Fruity Stereo Shaper to it’s effect slot to spread the sound in the stereo field: I set the Delay parameter to 17.6ms left.
Now, the sound was too “clean” at this point so I decided to add a little bit of distortion with Fruity Blood Overdrive.
After loading the Fruity Blood Overdrive to the air horn Mixer track, I tested different values and settled on these:
- x100 mode on
- PreAmp to 0.17
- PostGain to -0.69
This was enough to “dirtify” it.
To open up the sound a little (as it was sounding a bit dull), I dropped Fruity Parametric EQ 2 to it’s effect slot and using a peaking filter I boosted the 7.9kHz area by 6.5dB with a banwidth of 31%.
It was still a bit too dry so I added a Fruity Delay 2 to it’s effect chain and set it like this:
I also dropped the Fruity Delay 2 mix level to 72%.
Basically, the sound itself was quite alright:
However, the air horn sequence was a kind of stiff and boring so I decided to add a bit of extra interest via trance gate effect. There’s plenty of ways to create such an effect and I decided to use Fruity Love Philter.
Trance Gating The Air Horn Sound
So in the Mixer, I added a Fruity Love Philter to the air horn effect slot and loaded the Default preset to empty all of it settings to start from scratch.
First, I disabled the Filter by setting it off. Then I set the Editor Target to Volume and Articulator Part to Pattern envelope. Then I enabled the envelope and also set the time to Tempo-based.
Under the Options I choosed “Create Sequence” to open the sequencer:
And in the sequencer window I merged the steps 7 and 8 by left clicking the step 7 two times. I also set the Time Multiplicator, Decay, Sustain and Gate as shown in the pic below:
After clicking Accept, I fine-tuned the envelope by deleting the second-to-last envelope point and the gating effect was ready.
While the gating effect was nice, I wanted it to appear only on certain sections during the air horn sequence. There’s a couple of ways to do this and I decided to use the Mixer effect slot Mute/solo switch button automation.
So in the Mixer (in the air horn Mixer track effect slot), I created an automation clip for the Fruity Love Philter effect slot Mute/solo switch button.
And in the Playlist, I edited the Love Philter Mute/solo automation envelope like shown in the pic below:
This switches the Love Philter effect on/off according to the envelope.
Here’s how it sounded. In solo first:
And with the beat:
Not bad, but the air horn sequence was still lacking something extra and I decided to create occasional pitch slides by automating the Channel Pitch.
Pitch Sliding The Air Horn
So, after opening the air horn Channel Settings panel, I set the Pitch Knob Range to 6 semitones and created an automation clip for the Pitch Knob.
In the Playlist, I edited the pitch envelope like shown in the pic:
And here’s how it sounded so far. Solo first:
And with the drums:
Ok. The basic elements of this beat were fine so next I started to work with the arrangement.
I was going to make the beat to start with drums and bass so what I did next I copy/pasted the drums and bass patterns and automation all the way to bar 25, moved the air horn sequence to right by eight bars and copy/pasted it up to bar 25 as well:
At bar 25, I planned to have a short break and then drop back the beat, but before that, I wanted to create a little build up from bar 17 to 25 and I was going to use a rising pitch effect on the air horn sequence. I decided to create another Channel Pitch automation clip for that.
So: in the Playlist, I deleted the first air horn Channel Pitch automation clip, made a selection from bar 17 to 25 (the automation clip needs to be eight bars long). Then I opened the air horn Channel Settings panel and created a new automation clip for the Channel Pitch Knob.
In the Playlist, I edited the pitch envelope points to rise from 50% (starting point) to 100% (ending point) during the eight bars long section (starting from bar 17, ending to bar 25).
And with the beat:
I also created a little variation to the gating effect automation: first, I cloned the Love Philter Mute/solo switch envelope that was between bars 17 and 25 via the Make unique -function. Then I edited the envelope so that it keeps on the Love Philter gating effect for the last three bars (22, 23 and 24).
Furthermore, I created a little variation to the drum sequence as well. First I cloned the last drum pattern (at bar 24) via the Make unique -function, opened the Step Sequencer and added the claps to step 1.
Here’s the last two bars:
Also, I wanted to end the beat to a kick and crash (in the break section) so I copy/pasted the drum pattern to a bar 25, made it unique and via the Step Sequencer placed kick and crash on step 1 and emptied rest of the steps.
Here’s the last two bars again:
In the break section, I wanted to create a pitch drop for the air horn.
First, I made the last air horn sequence pattern (between bars 23 and 25) unique and opened it’s Piano Roll view and extended the last note by two bars.
Now, in the Playlist, I extended the rising air horn pitch envelope by two bars, and created a drop from 100% to 0%. I also edited the Love Philter Mute/solo switch envelope so that it switches it off at bar 25.
I was thinking an automated volume drop on the air horn sound would work well with the pitch drop so I went on and created one: first, in the Playlist, I made a selection from the bar 25 to 27, opened the Step Sequencer and created an automation clip for the air horn Channel Volume knob.
In the Playlist, I edited the air horn volume envelope so that it drops from 78% (default value) to 0% (with a tension of 12% between these two points) during this two bars section (25 to 27). I also extended and edited the envelope so that it restores back to the default value of the volume (78%) at bar 27, beat 03 as that was the point where I planned to end the break and bring back the air horn, beat, bass and everything.
This is how the drop sounded:
Allright. This is how the arrangement sounded starting from bar 17 and ending up to the break:
Now, after the break, I was going to make a slight addition to the drums: ride cymbal sequence.
So, first I copied the drum pattern from 17 and pasted it to bar 27:03 and made it unique. Then I opened the browser and picked a ride cymbal sample (from some free sample collection pack I downloaded from flstudiomusic.com), loaded it to a new Sampler Channel, opened the Step Sequencer and placed the ride cymbal to steps 1, 5, 9 and 13, assigned it to a free Mixer track and set it’s volume to a -8.6dB to compensate with the other drum sounds:
Then I copied the drum pattern, pasted it to 28:03, made it unique, opened the Step Sequencer, removed the crash from step 1 and added the ride cymbal to steps 1, 5, 9 and 13. After that, I copy/pasted this pattern up to bar 35:03 (that’s eight bars).
For the last drum pattern (bar 34:03), I wanted to add same kind of simple clap fill as I had in the previous drum patterns so first, I made it unique and via the Step Sequencer added claps to step 9.
Next, I copied the reversed crash, bass, bass channel volume automation, air horn pattern, love philter mute solo automation and air horn channel pitch automation clips to 27:03.
I also made a slight change to the air horn Love Philter gating effect: I wanted it to be switched on continuously from 27:03 so I deleted the Love Philter Mute/solo automation clip from between 27:03 and 35:03 and extended the one that was on between 17 and 25 and edited it so that it keeps the Love Philter switched on from 27:03.
Furthermore, I made a change to the air horn pitch envelope: I cloned it via the Make unique -function and edited it so that it rises from point 50% to 100% during the last two bars section:
Next, I copied everything between 27:03 and 35:03 and pasted them on 35:03 up to 43:03. I also extended the Love Philter Mute/solo automation clip up to 43:03.
For the air horn sequence I was planning to add a little variation starting from 35:03 so I made the pattern unique (the one that is on 35:03), deleted the remaining patterns, opened it’s Piano Roll view and in the Piano Roll I copy/pasted the notes and transposed them one octave up (to E5), copy/pasted again and transposed one octave down (to E3). Now I had the same sequence playing on three different octaves.
Now to my ears, the notes in the highest octave (E5) were playing a bit too loud so I dropped their velocity values. I used the mouse scroll-wheel method: I first zoomed in so that I could see the velocity bar, selected all the E5 notes and while holding the ALT key, used the scroll-wheel to lower their velocity values.
Check. First solo:
And with the beat:
And in the Playlist, I copy/pasted the modified air horn pattern up to 43:03.
The beat was starting to sound alright now, but the break section sounded like it needed a some sort of quick build up before going back to the beat.
After testing different kind of sounds and ideas, I found something that sounded pretty good: I took a kick drum sample, destroyed it with a distortion fx and made a quick roll with it.
So in detail, I picked a sample “PL_Future_BD46.wav” (again from the Prime Loops Drum Sample Tasters sample pack), loaded it in a new Sampler Channel and renamed it as “kick roll”. Then I added a new Clip Track to the Playlist (right click on the Clip Track labels and choose “Insert one” from the menu), a new pattern and placed it at the start of the bar 27, opened the Step Sequencer and placed the kick to steps 1-4, 6 and 7. I also edited the Velocity values via the Graph Editor to make the velocity rise gradually.
Next, I assigned the kick roll channel to a Free Mixer track and loaded a Fruity Blood Overdrive to it’s effect slot and dialed in the following settings:
- x100 mode on
- PreAmp to 0.50
- PostGain to -0.57
- PreBand to 0.51
- Color to 0.0
I also needed to drop the kick roll track volume level to -5.3dB.
Here’s how the whole break sounded with the kick roll:
One more thing: using the same distorted kick sample, I wanted to add a sort of like countdown to the beginning of the whole beat.
So, in the Playlist, I first selected the whole arrangement and moved it to right by two beats so that it started from 1:03. Then I added a new pattern and placed it to bar 1, opened the Step Sequencer and added the distorted kick to steps 1 and 5.
And the beat was ready!
Alright, that’s about it. Check the video version of this tutorial below: