One of the quickest ways to get a melodic idea going is by using arpeggios, AKA arps. Arps are repeating melodies that are built out of the chords in a song. This will allow you to make basic melodies from the chords you’ve already input into the piano roll.
In FL Studio, there are 3 ways to create arps from your chords. You can use the stock arpeggiator, which is built into the channel settings in each channel, the piano roll arpeggiator, which is accessed through alt+A, or use Riff Machine, which also has an arp section, built into it.
The most common option is through the channel settings.
This is located under the wrench tool in each channel. In the image above, you’ll see how it looks with it turned off. Select any of the options to the right of the X to arpeggiate the notes in your chords. The direction of the arrows will tell you which direction the notes will arp as it plays one at a time. To arp the notes randomly, select the “?” option.
The first knob labeled time will adjust how fast the notes play. It moves faster to the left and slower to the right. Remember to either play this with your metronome or a drum pattern, so that you can match this up with your project tempo. The second knob controls the note lengths. Moving the knob to the left will shorten your notes, which can be useful in creating more of a plucking sound that might be useful for stringed instruments, like guitars.
The range dictates the number of octaves the notes will arp into. You’ll likely want to stick to 1 to 3 octaves, but explore the full range to see how far you want to go. The repeat option controls the point at which the arp will start over. Typically, the more notes you have in the chord, the higher you’ll want to set the repeat to. Leaving the repeat set to 0 will simply loop the entire arp as is.
The slide option is meant to blend the notes into each other as they play, but this option only works with FL native instruments.
The chord section will allow you to use a single midi note to arp into the notes of any of the chords or scales you apply in this section. Remember to use single notes, instead of chords when doing this.
The second most common option for arps in FL Studio is with the piano roll and selecting alt+A.
This actually offers more flexibility than the channel rack arpeggiator. The biggest feature is the option of presets by selecting the folder on the top right, which you can quickly access through the drop down arrow next to the folder. FL Studio comes with a great variety of arp presets to choose from. You’ll notice that as you change these arp presets and settings, you’ll actually change the midi information in the piano roll. Now, you can change the individual notes in the arp to your liking if you want to add your own style and also save these as new presets in your arppegiator preset folder for later use.
You can also flip or alternate the arp pattern or range. The sync option will snap the midi to the tempo, the grid, or the chords you’ve played. The “time mul” and “gate” knobs are the same as the time and gate options in the channel rack arpeggiator.
The levels section actually won’t be active. However, you could access them through the Riff Machine by selecting alt+E and going to the levels section in Riff Machine.
Here you’ll have the added option to randomize the settings and of course, apply the other features of Riff Machine. You can learn more about Riff Machine and its features in one of my previous blog posts Defeating Beat Block With FL Studio’s Riff Machine.
One final trick I have for you would be to combine the arpeggiator in the channel settings and the arp in the piano roll. Lay down your chords, arp them in the piano roll and then apply the arp in the channel settings. Hit ctrl+L to lengthen the ends of the notes to the beginning of the next note to get more use from the channel arpeggiator. You’ll end up with some results you probably wouldn’t have come up with on your own!