In this series of tutorials, I will show you how you can create sounds and soundscapes common in Chill Out and Ambient music using FL Studio.
Download the FLP below to follow along…
First sound will be a lush pad. Listen to the example below:
I created this sound using three instances of 3xOsc’s which I then layered together and I’m going to show you the exact settings I used to create this sound. Remember that you’re free to experiment with the settings to develop your own original sounds.
First, set the project tempo to something slow – 100bpm for example. This is because many of the plugin features used in this example sync with the tempo and slower tempo is preferred for creating that relaxed feel which is characteristic for chill/ambient style music:
Next, load the first instance of 3xOsc to the project. It will be used for creating a “soft pluck type” sound with the arpeggio.
So, assign it to a free mixer track, select sine as the oscillator shape for each three oscillators (selected by default) and set the Coarse tune to 0 Semitones for each oscillator (Osc 1 is 0 by default). Also, set the root key to C6 (now even though setting the root key is not necessary for replicating this exact sound, it might come useful if you use a small MIDI keyboard which has only few keys or computer keyboard and you want to play low octave notes. The higher you set the root key, the lower the pitch for the key you press):
Head to the INS -tab and from there to VOL -tab and enable the volume envelope and tweak the AHDSR controls as follows:
Short Attack and Release time is the key for a pluck sound.
Now, for arpeggiating the sound, go to the FUNC -tab and set the Arpeggio direction to up-down, Arpeggio range to 3 octaves and Arpeggio time to 4:00:
Open the Mixer, and drop Fruity Delay 2 to the 3xOsc’s effect slot. It’s needed for making the pluck sound ‘etheric’ and widening the stereo atmosphere. Set it like this:
Setting the signal delay time (TIME) to 5:00 gives a little more ‘odd’ – and not too four-to-the-floor – feel for the echoes. Decreasing the cutoff frequency (CUT), smooth out the echoes nicely.
Add Fruity Reeverb next to the effect chain. The reverb needs to sound big so set it like this: Decay to 12.0 seconds, Reverb signal level to 48%, Color to Warmer and RoomSize to 84. Leave the other parameters as is:
Ok, the first sound is now ready and here’s how it sounds:
Next, load another instance of 3xOsc to the project. This is going to be a saw wave pad sound.
Start by assigning it to a free mixer track, select saw wave as the oscillator shape for each three oscillators, set Osc 1 & Osc 2 coarse tune to 0 semitones and Osc 3 to -12 semitones, Osc 1 fine tune to -20 cents and Osc 2 fine tune to +17 cents and Osc 1 stereo detune to +10 cents for widening the stereo image. Set the root key to C6:
With these settings, we get a wide, detuned saw sound.
Now, go to the INS and VOL -tabs, enable the volume envelope and edit the envelope curve as follows to give the sound a character of a pad sound:
Slow Attack and Release time is the key for a pad -like sound.
Next, smooth out the sound a bit by decreasing the Filter cutoff amount:
Next, we are going to use the LFO to modulate the filter cutoff frequency to make the pad sweep so head to the CUT -tab and under the LFO, click on TB to make the LFO Delay, Attack and Speed tempo based, turn on the Global -mode to apply the LFO settings globally instead of making them restart in the beginning of each note (this gives a more ‘free’ feel to the modulation), turn the Attack all the way to left to let the LFO modulation kick in right away, turn the Amount knob slightly to left for a delicate and not so radical modulation effect and make the modulation slow by decreasing the LFO speed value (right click on Speed knob to choose from pre-defined tempo-based lengths – select ‘128 steps’):
Here’s how it sounds:
Now, open the Mixer and drop a Fruity Chorus to the 3xOsc #2 effect slot. Chorus is here to thicken the pad and making it sound a little ‘warmer’. Set the Chorus like this: Depth to 2.4, Stereo to 119, LFO 1 Freq to 0.5, LFO 2 Freq 2.4, LFO 3 Freq to 1.9. Leave the other parameters to their default settings:
Next, add Fruity Phaser to the effect slot. Phaser is here for an additional sweeping effect. Set it like this: Sweep Freq to 0.2 (that’s for slow sweep), Min depth to 0, Max depth to 0.7, Freq. range to small, Stereo to 1.0, Nr. stages to 11, Feedback to 0.2, Dry-wet level 90% wet, Out gain to 0dB:
These kinds of settings add a slow and subtle sweep to the sound.
For some dense, drop Fruity Delay 2 to the effect chain, tweak as follows (and in the Mixer, drop the delay mix level a bit):
Next, add Fruity Reeverb and program it like this: Decay to 8.7 seconds, HighDamping to OFF, Color to Warmer, HighCut to OFF, LowCut to OFF and Reverb signal level to 14%.
This is a kind of big reverb as well. Turning LowCut and HighCut off ensures that no frequencies won’t be attenuated from the input signal (as that kind of cutting isn’t needed in this case) and disabling HighDamping disables the damping of the high frequencies in the reverb signal (yeah, I actually want those high-frequency reverb signals to existing in this sound example).
And finally, drop another instance of Fruity Phaser to the end of the effect chain. Idea is to try to reduce those slightly metallic tones (caused mostly by Reverb) with a fast (but subtle) phasing effect – almost like vibrato. Set the Phaser like this: Sweep freq. to 0.9 (that’s fast), Min depth to 0.03, Max dept to 0.4, Freq Range to Large, Stereo to 0.5, Nr.stages to 12, Feedback to 0, Dry-wet level to 95% wet, Output gain to 1.0dB:
Ok. Sound #2 is ready and this is how it sounds:
Now, the final sound. This is going to be a pad sound as well. So, load a third instance of 3xOsc, assign it to a free mixer track, choose rounded saw as the oscillator shape for Osc 1, triangle for Osc 2, and rounded saw for Osc 3, set coarse tune to 0 semitones for each oscillator, root key to C6, Osc 1 fine tune to -14 cents, Osc 2 fine tune to +22 cents, Osc 3 fine tune to -10 cents and increase the Osc 3 volume a bit (all the way to 54%):
Enable the volume envelope by going to the INS and VOL -tabs and tweak the AHDSR controls like this:
Next, LFO modulate the pitch to add some vibrato (for adding more color to the sound) so head to PITCH -tab, and under the LFO, enable tempo-based time, set the Global -mode on, drop the Attack to zero, increase the LFO speed to make it sound like a slow’ish vibrato and turn the LFO Amount subtly to right:
Modulate the stereo panning via LFO as well (for making the stereo image sound bit more interesting) so go to PAN -tab, enable the tempo based time and tweak the Amount like shown in the pic:
This’ll make the sound pan from left-to-right. Listen to this:
Now, open the Mixer, Drop Fruity Delay 2 to the 3xOsc #3 fx slot and tweak it like this:
Next, load Fruity Reeverb to the effect slot and set it like this: Deacy to 12.5 seconds, Predelay to 100 ms, HighDamping to OFF, RoomSize to 88, Reverb signal level to 14%:
And finally, drop Fruity Parametric EQ 2 to the effect chain and set it like this: choose filter type as High Pass for any of the bands (most likely for token number 1 like I’m using in the picture), set the Filter Slope to Gentle 8, Bandwidth to near 90% and frequency to 180-200Hz:
This kind of EQ settings cuts frequencies below 200Hz and make the instrument sound thin which – in this case – makes it sit better with the first pad sound – and also damps some of the ‘ringing’ frequencies which might get annoying. Listen to the end results:
Now, layer all the three sounds together: add a Layer channel to the project and in the Step Sequencer, right-click on the 3xOsc channel selectors to select them all and click on ‘Set children’ in the Layer channel settings:
Open the Mixer and set the volume levels between the sounds in balance. Use the following volume settings: 3xOsc to -8.3dB, 3xOsc #2 to -2.7dB and 3xOsc #3 to -1.7dB:
Also, it might be a good idea to route all the 3xOsc mixer tracks to one insert track. This way you can control their volume level as a group via one fader:
And we are done! Here is the end result:
This is the end of part one. Stay tuned for more Chill/Ambient sounds on part two!
Watch the video below if you’re more visual