Bursting with features and plugins and offering lifetime free updates, FL Studio has become one of the most popular Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and it is particularly loved by hip hop and dance music producers thanks to its incredibly powerful step sequencer and piano roll.
Does FL Studio have a drum machine?
FL Studio features several different drum plugins to make beats. In terms of value for money and ease of use, FL Studio is a fantastic choice for musicians and producers looking to make beats on their PC or Mac and in today’s article I will guide you through all of FL Studio’s stock drum plugins.
Fruity Kick is a simple kick drum synthesizer with minimal controls that can easily create a wide variety of kicks. The Fruity Kick plugin gives you 5 controls with which to tweak a sine wave (max, min, decay, amp decay, click) and you can also add some distortion to apply hard clipping to the kick sound to make the kick more punchy. Of course you can also route your kick sound to any FL Studio (or third party) effects plugins such as distortion, delay, reverb and saturation plugins for further sound manipulation.
Because Fruity Kick is such a simple synth, without a fancy interface, it’s easy to neglect this plugin but fire it up and you’ll find its kicks are capable of laying the foundations of tracks.
(FL Studio Tip: The FL Studio stock plugin 3xOSC synth is equally capable of generating a wide variety kick sounds and offers more controls and fine tuning than Fruity Kick. This simple synth is also perfectly capable of generating snares, hats and tom sounds too!)
Fruity Pad Controller (FPC)
The Fruity Pad Controller (FPC) is inspired by Akai’s classic MPC drum machines. The FPC is a self contained, multi-layer/velocity drum machine with 16 pads which can you can program to set up to trigger your own samples.
The FPC is a powerful beat making plugin with plenty of features to keep experienced producers and sound designers engrossed although setting up your own kits does take some time and effort depending on how deep you want to get (luckily, FPC comes with plenty of preset kits to start you off).
The FPC is divided into 3 main sections: 16 velocity sensitive pads on the left of the unit (with the ability to switch between two banks of 16 pads), individual pad settings across the top of the unit and pad layer properties on the right of the unit.
Each of the FPC’s 16 pads can store several samples in ‘layers’ so that different samples are triggered depending on where a pad is struck so you can set up realistic sounding acoustic drum kits or set up the FPC to play various electronic one shots.
Left clicking a pad allows you to hear the samples loaded on that pad. The vertical position of your mouse pointer determines the velocity of your “hit”with the tops of the pads representing lowest velocity strikes and the bottom of the pads representing the highest velocity strikes.
Each pad has individual controls volume, pan, pitch and you can easily set up cut (aka choke) groups and route individual pads to their own mixer channel
Fruity DrumSynth Live
Fruity DrumSynth Live is a really useful source of Roland TR-808 and TR-909 type sounds although it is capable of so much more. Many people seem unsure of how to use this synth properly and it has perhaps fallen out of fashion but this is a powerful drum synth plugin that is more than capable of generating tasty electronic sounds for your beats. DrymSynth Live gives you access to 120 different drum parts (or patches) at a time each of which is assigned to its own MIDI note on the keyboard/piano roll. You can dynamically morph from one patch to another by using the bend wheel.
I mainly use DrumSynth Live as a handy source of TR-909 type preset sounds but this is a fully functional drum synth so every part (kick, snares, toms, hats etc) can be tweaked to taste.
To get started with this synth, and learn the basics, fire up an instance on a new channel, select the ‘Default’ preset and then check out the piano roll for that channel. You’ll see the piano roll are labeled with drum parts for both a 909 kit and an 808 kit.
Using the pencil tool draw in four 909 kicks on A3 and press play. You should now be hearing your 4 kicks looping. Switch to the DrumSynth Live GUI view and make sure the selected part says 909 Kick (A3). Now you can tweak this synth part to change the sound of the 909 kick (on A3 only). By tweaking the various parameters a huge variety of different drum sounds can be created. For example, with your kick drum pattern playing, try adjusting the Harmonics Knob (HARM) to apply waveshaping distortion to the kick.
Each drum part is created by two noise generators which are filtered by a bandpass filters. The first oscilator can act as a swept frequency sine wave generator making it ideal for creating kick and tom drum type sounds while the second oscilator has parameters which make it useful for snare and hi-hat type sounds.
You can use the Wave Panel section on the left of DrumSynth Live to mix in drum samples with the noise generator.
Tip: at the bottom of DrumSynth Live is a handing “testing keyboard”, you can right click on the key here to copy and paste patch settings from one key to another.
When you have created a unique kit you can save it as a DrumSynth preset for instant recall in any future projects.
There are several third party dedicated kick drum generator plugins on the market but FL Studio comes fully supplied with its own in the form of the handy BassDrum synthesizer. A big step up from the basic Fruity Kick plugin, the BassDrum synth gives you two oscillators (‘Main’ and ‘Slave’) plus a sample layer to create your kick sound and then you can further shape your kick sound using the various parameters to adjust the click, add saturation, increase sub-bass and more.
BassDrum comes with plenty of presets you can load up and tweak to get started quickly and it only takes a few minutes of experimentation to learn what this nifty little plugin is capable of.
Drumaxx is a powerful, physical modeling based drum synthesizer featuring 16 drum parts, step sequencer, EQ and a limiter.
Drumaxx boasts a huge collection of preset sounds and kits covering everything from dance orientated house and techno style sounds, lo-fi and 8 bit sounds and “realistic” acoustic kits and percussion tones.
Drumaxx comes with 130 varied drum kits and 900 individual drum patches plus hundreds of step sequencers patterns.
Going beyond the standard TR-808 and 909 sounds, Drumaxx is great for cooking up unique sounding electronic kits. Start with one of the included presets and then dive in to change the sounds of individual pads.
Drumaxx works especially well when creating softer and more gentle percussive parts for things like ambient music, tribal and ethnic percussion loops and mellow music beds. If your current drum machine plugin is proving to be just a bit too powerful, too punchy or too brutal for your latest project then it could be Drumaxx can come to the rescue.
Each of the 16 drum pads to be routed to its own output in your DAW mixer for further processing.
Note that Drumaxx is only included with the ‘All Plugins Edition’ of FL Studio. If you purchase a cheaper version of FL Studio you get a demo version if Drumaxx and can opt to upgrade it to a fully working version at anytime.
Fear not if you’re on a tight budget as even the basic version of FL Studio comes with Drumpad which takes some of the key sound sculpting features of Drumaxx and packages them into an instrument that can be quickly loaded into any channel.
Us producers are constantly on the look out for new flashy toys to make noise – both software and hardware – so Drumpad is perhaps an unfairly overlooked tool. This plugin is actually an incredibly powerful drum synth in its own right and a useful way to quickly get your own original drum sounds into your tracks without having to buy additional plugins or sample packs.
Another great benefit of Drumpad is that it is quite light on system resources – especially if your PC is a modern machine – so don’t be afraid to create 8 or even 16 instances of Drumpad as a starting point for your own drum tracks.
If you have not tried Drumpad yet then don’t neglect this powerful tool – fire it up, give it a try and see what it is capable of (it also has hundeds of ready to go presets you can use).
Fl Studio Channel Sampler
OK so FL Studio’s Channel Samplers, as found in the Channel Rack, aren’t actually a plugin but they are a key part of what made the orginal Fruity Loops – as FL Studio used to be known – such a massive success, back in the day, and remain a core part of the FL Studio workflow process to this day so they are worth a mention here.
Fire up FL Studio for the first time and you should see the default set up with kick, snare and hats on their own sampler channels ready to go – over the years millions of people must have made their very first beats with these stock sounds!
For many years I tried pretty much every other DAWs stock drum machines plus other music and beat making software and plugins in the hope of finding something could compete with the ease of use and speed of the Channel Sampler and step sequencer combination but I always ended up returning to FL Studio.
The Channel Sampler is an integrated, single-sample player instrument that is perfect for playing back one-shot samples such as kick drums, percussion, sound effects and vox samples. The channel sampler can also handle longer sounds and loops.
What really makes the Channel Samplers such a pleasure to use is the ease with which individual samples can be edited and modulated “on the fly” via various envelopes, time stretching, pitch shifting and more.
Channel Samplers are worthy of an article in their own right and a topic I will cover more indepth in the future.
Which Version of FL Studio for Making Beats?
FL Studio comes in three different versions starting with Fruity (the cheapest), Producer (the most popular version), Signature Edition and the All Plugins Edition (the most expensive and complete version of FL Studio). All of the drum machines and plugins on this page are available in all editions of FL Studio with the exception of Drumaxx which is only included with the All Plugins Edition.
Summary: With even the basic verison of FL Studio musicians and producers certainly have enough tools to create beats and complete tracks from the ground up and then process, mix and master to their hearts content.
Is Drumaxx Free with FL Studio?
You’ll need to purchase FL Studio All Plugins Edition to get Drumaxx. Other versions of FL Studio feature a demo version of Drumaxx only which you can upgrade to the full version at anytime.
What is Fruity Slicer?
Fruity Slicer is a stock FL Studio plugin that uses beat detection to slice a wave file into pieces and make them independently playable from the Piano roll or from a controller.