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Quick Tip: Using Multiple MIDI Controllers in FL Studio 9

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Read Time: 3 min
This post is part of a series called Manipulating MIDI: Setup, Sequencing and Secrets.
Quick Tip: How to Enable the Mod Wheel in FL Studio
7 Ways to Use and Edit MIDI Velocity

Everybody loves MIDI controllers. They're so much fun, some people buy a few of them. Before version 9, FL Studio used all connected MIDI controllers to control only one channel, but now each one can be configured to control something completely different.

Step 1

Plug in and set up your MIDI controllers. Make sure the inputs are enabled in FL Studio's MIDI settings and everything is working properly. I'm going to be using my Evolution MK-449C keyboard and a Korg PadKontrol.

Step 2

Add the instrument channels you want to control with each MIDI controller. I want to control some drums with my PadKontrol and a bass sound with the keyboard, so I've added FPC and 3xOSC channels.

Step 3

Now we can configure the MIDI controllers and the channels in FL Studio so that each channel is controlled by a seperate controller. When multiple channels in the step sequencer are selected, the MIDI channel that each note is sent on determines which channel (each instrument in FL Studio, like the 3xOSC and FPC, is called a 'channel', it's confusing) it controls, from the ones that are selected. So, when 16 channels in FL Studio are selected, the first channel responds to MIDI notes sent on MIDI channel 1, the second on channel 2 and so on.

The MIDI channel is part of the note on and note off messages sent by the controller. When we set up a controller to send notes on MIDI channel 1, it doesn't tell FL Studio that it's being operated on channel 1, each note message just happens to be on channel 1. In the case of the PadKontrol and many other controllers, we can send notes on any MIDI channel we want. Knowing these limitations, we can predict how FL Studio will respond to different MIDI channels.

For example, let's select 2 different channels in FL Studio's step sequencer. FL Studio doesn't know how we've configured our MIDI controllers or what MIDI channels we might be using. Any notes on MIDI channel 1 will be sent to the first channel in the step sequencer. Notes on MIDI channel 2 get sent to the second channel, as do any notes on any of the remaining MIDI channels.

Step 4

Read the manual for your MIDI controller to find out how to determine and change which MIDI channel(s) it's operating on. My PadKontrol sends all notes on channel 10 by default, because in prehistoric times, channel 10 was always used for drums. My keyboard is set up on channel 1 by default, so this works out well. If the keyboard used any other channel, I would have to change it to channel 1, as any notes on channels 2 and above will get sent to the second selected channel in FL Studio. Since the PadKontrol is sending notes on channel 10, the FPC channel should be below the 3xOSC channel in the step sequencer. Selecting it (by clicking the little green light next to it's name) and pressing Alt+ Up or Down Arrows will move it up and down.

Step 5

Now with both the FPC and 3xOSC channels selected by right-clicking the green lights next them, the PadKontrol plays the drums while the keyboard plays the bass. If you have a friend, this is a great way to collaborate.

Extra Step 1

Let's revisit the PadKontrol to do some really amazing things with this. Each pad can be configured to any MIDI channel, so with a bit of planning, multiple drum sounds can be triggered at the same time with just Sampler channels and no FPC or Layers. I've set up 4 pads sending notes on MIDI channels 1-4. To make things a lot easier, I've set each pad's note to C4, which FL Studio sees as C5. This is just so that there's no weird pitching going on.

Extra Step 2

If you're having fun with this, go into FL Studio's MIDI settings window and click the 'Record to step sequencer' button. Now, if you play a cool beat on the pads, FL Studio will record each hit right into the step sequencer and it can easily edited from there. Whoooa!

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