In this tutorial I will show you how to sync vocals in FL Studio. I will be using a full length acapella sample from LL Cool J’s song “Mama Said Knock You Out” as a example. I will cover two different approaches for syncing vocals:
1. How to detect the original tempo of a vocal sample and use that as the basis for a song (whether it’s going to be a remix or re-make or whatever)
2. How to fit vocals to an existing tempo
With method 1. we go by the terms of vocals: we don’t alter the vocals in the syncing stage, instead we change our DAW tempo settings to make our working environment fit to the vocals.
With the method 2 we DO alter the vocals. We’re going to speed up or slow down them via time stretching to make them fit to the tempo we want.
When syncing vocals, it will help a lot to know how the original song goes (assuming you’re using full vocals from some complete song which have a somekind of beat): you can hear instantly how the vocals play with the beat – which word or vowel matches with the beat in the chorus or verse section. It’s also easier to detect the tempo.
Alright, let’s get this thing going!
First thing to do is to import the vocal sample to FL Studio Playlist and turn on the Song Mode via the Transport Panel.
Next, listen the vocals and locate either the verse or chorus section (if you’re using full length acapellas from some mainstream song, there’s usually at least one verse or chorus). Use your ears. If it’s pop/hip hop/rock/etc, it’s pretty easy to tell what is verse and what is chorus. Use your eyes as well: watch the waveform peaks as they can help you to figure out where the chorus or verse section starts. In many cases, there’s some sort of gap (silence = no peaks) in vocals separating the verse and chorus section from each other.
I’ve found it’s usually best to work with the chorus as there’s usually that certain type of repetition that makes syncing easier.
Ok. When you have found it, leave the Play Position Marker approximately to the beginning of that section.
You can see an example below: I have located the chorus from the “Mama Said Knock You Out”:
Next task is to detect the tempo. For this, use the Tap Tempo feature. You can find it in the Transport Panel: right click on those Tempo (coarse) digits and choose ‘Tap…’ from the menu. Small Tap Tempo -window will appear.
Now, play back the vocals (press Spacebar) and either use left mouse button and click repeatedly on that faucet icon OR use any key of your MIDI keyboard and try to tap in sync with the verse or chorus vocal lines. Try to tap a steady beat that matches with the vocal performance. Tempo will update in real time as you tap.
When you feel you’ve found somewhat a correct tempo, click Accept and the FL Studio project tempo will update automatically according to the Tap tempo.
Next you need to align the vocals with the Playlist grid. But before that, it is a good idea to move the whole sample few bars to right just to leave some space to move it around.
Now, choose a grid line (let’s call it an align line) somewhere in the Playlist. Think of this as the point where the first beat of your possible drum sequence or drumloop hits. And maybe drop a Time Marker into that position (ALT + T).
Next you need to locate what word or vowel actually starts the chorus or verse section (let’s call it a “starting vowel”). The thing is, many chorus or verse vocal sections doesn’t start straightforwardly with the first vowel. If you listen just the vocals of any song, in many cases the vocalist/rapper sings or raps word(s) or vowel(s) before the actual section starts. So you see, it really helps to know the original song so you can check what is actually the starting word or vowel that matches with the first beat of the chorus/verse section… but if you don’t know that, just start with the first vowel.
So, Zoom in and align the vocal sample so that the beginning of the first vowel (this depends of the vowel/word of course) in the verse (or chorus) section lines up with your align line (hold down ALT to bypass the snap-to-grid settings).
Now, turn on the Metronome (press CTRL+M or click on that little ‘stick’ -icon in the Transport Panel) and press play. Listen carefully – 4-8 bars at least: does the vocals play in sync with the Metronome click for that whole period or not? How does the waveform peaks look like? Do they match with the grid lines? If not, align the sample either a little bit of left or right and play again. How does it sound now? If it’s not in sync, align again. Try aligning second vowel or word with the align point. You may also need to finetune the Tempo: 1-(?) beats up or down and after that, align the sample again. It’s just a matter of finetuning with the Tempo and re-aligning to find the sync.
Here’s a tip I’ve found helpful: make a selection of 4-8 bars starting from the align line. This’ll loop the selection and when you can make the vocals sound like they’re looping smoothly and seamlessly, it is a pretty good indication that the sync has been found.
Ok. After you think you’ve found the sync, listen a longer period with the Metronome on. Listen all the way to the next verse or chorus section and the sections before them and all the way to the end. Does the vocals still stay in sync? If not, you need to fine tune with the tempo and align again. If it keeps getting only slightly out of sync in the end of that longer period, you most likely only need to do some minor finetuning by aligning and you don’t necessarily need to touch to the tempo.
Of course, one thing that will affect to the syncing is how well the vocals are performed during the recording session. Vocalists aren’t machines and if he/she keeps getting out of sync, it is naturally harder to match it with anykind of beat. For example, the vocalist could stay in sync in the verse but not so well in the chorus or vice versa.
In a situation like this (assuming you’re using full length acapella) you can separate the verse and chorus sections by using the Slicing Tool and then align each slices separately.
When you have found a sync that satisfies you, you can move the sample anywhere in the Playlist, chop it, etc. and it will stay in sync AS LONG AS YOU REMEMBER TO KEEP THE SNAP-TO-GRID- ON (use the LINE -setting).
Ok. Now I’m going to show you how you can make vocals fit to an existing tempo & beat.
Again, I will be using “Mama Said Knock You Out” -vocals as a example.
Let’s say you have a house beat and your project tempo is 128bpm. You have a hiphop style vocals (like “Mama Said Knock You Out”) which you want to sync with your house beat. How do you do that?
By time stretching.
First, import your vocal sample to a Playlist and set the FL Studio to Song mode.
Again, choose your align line (most likely it’s the point where your beat starts?), listen the vocal sample and locate a spot where the verse or chorus section begins and align the starting vowel (or word) of that section with your align line.
At this point – assuming you’re using a full length acapella sample – I recommend to SLICE the sample: pick up the Slice tool and CUT just before the starting vowel of your chosen section, delete the sample material before it and align the vowel with your align line (I also apologize for repeating the word ‘align’… lol!):
Why you should do the aforementioned? Because everytime you change the time stretch settings, the length of the sample changes as well thus moving the sample in the Playlist so you need to re-align it again and again and again… It’s just extra work. But when you slice it (just before the starting vowel you want to align with the align line), it will HOLD it’s position and you can tweak the time stretching settings freely without the need to re-align. After you’ve made the section to fit to the current tempo, you can delete the slices and drop the full length acapella again to the Playlist (but of f course you need to align it again, but only for once).
Ok. Moving on. 🙂
Use the Select -tool and make a selection of 8 bars starting from your align point to loop the selection. Also, if you don’t have a beat in your project, turn on the Metronome.
Netx, doubleclick the vocal sample to open it’s Channel Settings. Under the ‘Time Stretching’ -section, choose ‘Resample’ as the Stretching Method. This is only temporary and we are doing this just to speed up the syncing process as adjusting time stretching settings using pitch-preservation Stretching Methods such as Pro Transient with long samples requires some processing time.
Now, start tweaking the MUL (Time stretch multiplicator) -knob. In a situation where the vocals are slower than your project tempo (like in this example), you need to tweak the MUL to left (lowering the value). This’ll speed up the sample and raise the pitch as well because we are using Resample as the Stretching Method (yeah, chipmunks, but don’t worry it’s only temporary). You can see in the Playlist that the voal sample is getting shorter as you lower the MUL value.
Now, Play back and listen carefully. Does the vocals sync with the beat? If not, tweak the MUL some more (hold down left CTRL for finetuning). Also, watch the waveform vowel peaks: how do they match with the gridlines?
After you’ve found the sync, select ‘Pro Transient’ as the Stretching Method to get rid of the chipmunks and wait till the processing ends.
Now, if you want, you can delete the sliced samples and drop the full length acapella to the Playlist. You do that by double clicking the vocal sample to open it’s Channel Settings (or open it via Step Sequencer), and drag the sample from the Sample View to the Playlist (of course, you need to align it again).
Happy vocal syncing! 🙂
Watch the video version of this tutorial below: