FL Studio is a serious player in the DAW scene, evidenced by MusicRadar crowning it the number 1 DAW in the world for 2020. In competition with legendary names like Cubase, Ableton and Logic, that’s no mean feat. Initially launched in 1998, and known as ‘Fruity Loops’ until 2003, it was considered more of a toy than a serious workstation. Yet, its highly visual and simple-to-operate workflow attracted increasing numbers of young, hungry producers. Unencumbered by over-reliance on deep technical know-how, these young producers found FL Studio the perfect platform for adventurous experimentation.
It’s no exaggeration to say that without FL Studio, genres like Dubstep and Trap may never have come to fruition (pardon the pun).
As the music created in FL Studio developed, so did the software itself, and it now boasts an impressive array of in-built VST plugins, excellent MIDI compatibility and enough power to host some serious 3rd-party plugins.
Adam Hignell takes a look at some VST Plugins every FL Studio Producer should lust after.[the_ad id=”8176″]
FabFilter have become one of the most heralded name in VST Plugins. A first-choice for many professionals, their plugins offer an intuitive workflow, sleek design and comprehensive range of applications. Put simply, if you want to create an effect, a FabFilter plugin might be the fastest and most intuitive way to get there.
Rather than attempting elaborate analog emulations, FabFilter focus on sound quality, usability and multi-disciplinary appeal. Their Pro-Q EQ is clean, responsive and easy to use. Pro-R is a reverb plugin capable of delivering a breathtaking range of reverb responses. Saturn is a world-class saturator/distortion effect that can emulate classic sounds or create wild new textures. Meanwhile, Pro-G might be the easisest to use Gate on the market. Add in a world class delay in Timeless, a simple and powerful Limiter in Pro-L and some exciting filter and rhythm tools like Simplon and Volcano, and you have a bundle of plugins that any producer would be delighted to own.
And I haven’t even mentioned Pro-C, their incredible compressor. It’s powerful, clean and has one of the simplest interfaces imaginable. Hitherto complex side-chain and Mid/Side compression operations are a piece of cake!
Suitably befitting a DAW renowned for encouraging modernism over classic emulation, Native Instruments’ Massive X has to rank highly in this list. Now in its ‘X’ incarnation, Massive was a game-changer from the get-go. By simplifying a traditional synth user-interface and focusing on usability, it quickly established itself as a go-to for bedroom producers everywhere. Extremely powerful and capable of monstrous bass, artists like Skream and Skrillex found Massive a perfect weapon of mass dancefloor-destruction.
It’s not just a bass-face, either. A sophisticated and unique wave-scanning engine, 3 oscillators, 16 voices, a one-page visual design and enough patch-points to create any sound imaginable, Massive is a favorite among FL Studio producers. A lynchpin of Dubstep, Trap and Tech-House, it’s a synth you’ve heard in countless bangers.
Bass. Dance music. FL Studio. Peas in a pod, birds of a feather, amigos… and if you want to push the envelope with your bass sounds, you can’t look past Substance. Somehow, Output have managed to give Substance users staggering degrees of sound design control with just a few sliders and knobs. It’s so simple to use, it almost feels like cheating. Married to its brilliant sample-meets-synthesis engine, replete with extraordinary sample patches that intertwine with gigantic synth voices, you’ll be making jaw-dropping bass sounds in minutes.
Unusually, Substance offers filter and FX controls for each voice in the sound patch, giving you plenty of control.
There are additional controls for motion, multi-fx, compression, saturation and more, meaning you don’t need a costly arsenal of plugins to create fully-formed, knee-shaking bass.
Writer’s block? Need to find inspiration? Or simply lack the keyboard skills to play the music that’s in your head? Captain Plugins by Mixed In Key is your new best friend.
You can throw ideas down super fast by selecting chords, generating melodies and basslines, jamming with all out-of-scale notes removed, or crafting beats with per-channel rhythm templates to aid inspiration. Whether you’re a music theory expert or not, Captain lugins is a unique, fun and fast way to improve your workflow, allowing you to spend more time on what matters most, making music.
There are many reasons to love Valhalla’s plugins range. For starters, they’re kind to your wallet: Every plugin is priced at just $50, except for a smattering of equally brilliant ones that they give away for free!
But this is not bargain-basement fare, not by anyone’s standards. Valhalla excel at reverbs and delays, and wild space echoes and crazy modulation. They make fun plugins that do things few others can.
I love their Shimmer reverb plugin on synths – even with subtle settings it adds a dreamy, ethereal sheen to synths and pads, as if you’d draped them in diamonds. Alternatively, you can get experimental with their FreqEcho plugin – it echoes while adjusting the frequency of the resultant echoes in a multitude of tempos and ratios (FreqEcho is one of the free ones too!) And then there’s UberMod, which blends reverbs and delays with chorus and flange until up is down, light is dark and you’re no longer sure which way up your brain goes.
Likewise, their delay game is tight. A simple interface, multiple delay styles, including the oft-overlooked BBD delay, and a broad range of characters – it won’t take you long to find the perfect delay for your sounds. Oh, and ValhallaDelay won Readers Choice: Best Plugin 2019 with MusicRadar.
Check out the range here.
Simple, easy to operate, and capable of anything from stomach-churning sub-bass to wild SFX, soaring leads and thumping percussion. Sylenth is a synth that you could legitimately produce an entire album on. As such, it ticks a lot of boxes for FL Studio users: Simple interface, one-page design, excellent value for money and huge range. If you only buy one VST instrument for FL Studio, it should probably be Sylenth.
Mixed In Key Studio Edition analyzes your sample collection in real-time and enables you to match the perfect one-shot, loop, vocal or any other sample to your music production, remix or mashup.
It will instantly tell you the key, scale and tonality of any audio sample.
With Mixed In Key Studio Edition you can base compositions around a sample with total confidence. You’ll know exactly which notes are already present, giving you a great foundation for composition.
It’s the fastest and most intuitive way of matching incoming samples to your project![the_ad id=”8178″]
Possibly the simplest to use and most intuitive dynamic EQ ever made. Trackspacer is an amazing tool for separating sounds in your mix. Say you’ve got a guitar and synth line that are competing for similar frequency space… tradiotional fixes for this involve complicated side-chain compression, and careful EQ to keep enough of each but give them room to stand apart. With Wavespacer, you simply set the guitar as an input source on the synth channel, set the band-range you want to affect, and dial the knob ubtil it sounds perfect. Trackspacer’s advanced audio analysis means it only reduces the exact frequencies of the incoming signal. To give an even clearer example, imagine your snare is competing with your kick; when the kick and snare play togethr, the snare gets lost. With Trackspacer, simply set the snare as an input signal on the kick channel, and tell Trackspacer to reduce the frequencies of the kick drum, only where they coincide with the snare’s crest, and only when the snare strikes. Voila! Instant clarity with no loss of power.
Eventide make great plugins, from the legendary Blackhole reverb to the equally legendary H3000, H910 Harmonizers and some epic flangers, phasers, reverbs and compressors. Generally, Eventide’s plugins do things other plugins can’t, and ooze with character.
While I could have chosen one of several outstanding plugins, I’ve decided to vaunt Physion with particular gusto. It’s a multi-FX style plugin that boasts a unique Structural Effects processor. By splitting incoming audio into transient and tonal sections, it can work on both using separate effects, chiefly Transient Shaper, Chorus, Delay(s), Phaser, Gate and Reverb. By allowing this independent processing of different parts of the same signal, it’s capable of some fabulous effects on vocals, synths, drums and guitars.
Personally, I love using it on drums, and rarely need to look past the incredible presets. Throw Physion on your drum bus channel and try Sharpening… it’s like a magic trick – suddenly your drums are crisper, tighter, more dynamic and glued tight together.
It’s super easy to create your own ideas from scratch. Visit the official Chords homepage and see how it will help you explore music and write your own original productions.