If you’re looking for a way of triggering sounds in live performance, but you want to meld that notion with the sequencer rather than play a drum machine-style sampling instrument, your commercially-available options are limited. And it seems, in particular, new creations simply work the way Ableton Live’s Session View does. Bitwig, a new DAW, struck many observers (myself included) to be strikingly close to Ableton’s Session View. More recently, a homebrewed effort for the tracker Renoise also aped Ableton’s interface.

Today’s appearance of the much-anticipated (well, by FL Studio users, anyway) Performance Mode is something different. Seen in a new alpha of the Software Formerly Known as Fruity Loops, Performance Mode builds on FL’s existing metaphor for queuing up samples, the Playlist. A few observations:

You can go directly from FL’s Playlist into this performance triggering mode. There isn’t a separate interface metaphor; instead, choosing Performance Mode unlocks new interactive playback options.

The triggering and position options aren’t quite like what we’ve seen before. Ableton Live provides the ability to quantize triggers and has long allowed interactive clip behaviors so that clips trigger other clips (Follow Actions). But FL has some new options. Triggering – first getting a clip playing – and position – have independent quantization options, for more complex rhythmic options. “Motion” options let you play through and then stop and perform other behaviors.

By the time the Novation Launchpad is controlling the action, FL resembles mlr and its descendants, the unique family of Max patches originated by Brian Crabtree on his monome project, more than they do Ableton Live. Now, arguably, you could rotate your head ninety degrees and look at Ableton, so that clips in Session view proceeded in time from left to right rather than top to bottom. But because all of this lives in FL’s Playlist, the workflow certainly feels different, and that detail of moving from left to right is pretty fundamental. While the results here seem very much like the monome, I could also imagine someone using the same features to go in a different direction. And all of this looks very, very fast.

The push to escape the shadow of Ableton Live – and even the monome – seems to be a difficult one. What’s your take: is this a new direction, or more of the same? Die-hard FL Studio users, are you interested? And will this interest anyone who isn’t a die-hard FL fan?

Not really directly on-topic, but for anyone who thinks FL Studio is entirely for people making 90s-style trance or something, here’s a pop-sounding Russian tune, and behind-the-scenes with the artist on how it was made, by Andrew Maze. It’s not really the sort of music I typically listen to – but that’s my point; it really doesn’t matter. (And it is nicely produced, in a way that fits its idiom.)

Thanks to Dario Lupo and Giuseppe Sorce for discussing this functionality on Facebook with me, and to Dario for the tip.


  • Plauto Camargo

    Like to see a random function intelligent (programmed by the user) that would facilitate the relocation and reorganization of the clips, and facilitate all work, it would be sensational.

    sorry for english.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      That could be a lot of fun! I do see a random feature in FL here.

  • kent williams

    Premature sentence abort alert: “The biggest difference in all of this is”

    is what?

    Not teasing, just noticed this loose end — not something you usually leave in a live post!

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I know a secret reason this is amazing that I can’t share.

      Ha! Whoops… no, revision mistake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vladimir-Sedykh/699694743 Vladimir Sedykh

    it’s like Live’s follow action function, but rotated on 90 degrees :)

  • Aaron

    No a huge fan of FL, but that’s a great approach they’re going with. Will be interesting to see what they add to it in the future.

  • gunboat_d

    this kind of performance mode is what i’m hoping Reason 7 includes.  Blocks is a totally useless feature.  I’m jealous of FL users.  although i’ll still laugh that their software is called Fruity Loops.

  • http://warriorbob.myopenid.com/ Warrior Bob

    I think Live-style triggered-looper interfaces are getting commoditized and it won’t be long before we just think of them as standard performance-DAW features.

    I love Love, so I hope Ableton tries to keep a leg up on the competition by leveraging their other nice features, such as their pretty-convenient MIDI mapping. A few tweaks to that and I’d be happily married to their platform for another year or so.

  • Richard

    I don’t get the accusation that this is a copy of ableton live. I, like many I’m sure, arrange my songs in fl in the playlist window. Allowing quantised spot tiggering means that, for me, I can arrange my full song just how I want it, then take it in a live situation and rearrange it if I wish, play it back exactly how it was as I play with the synths, or launch off new and interesting modulations. That’s another thing ableton needs imo launching clips specifically for modulation(with out a workaround *cough dummy clips cough*)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I don’t think anyone said that it was a copy; the argument I heard was that it was technically *possible* to replicate the behavior in Live. That’s a reasonable point to make.

      But obviously, my personal argument is that it isn’t a copy at all, so I’m otherwise with you. 😉

    • Richard

      Oops I should have been more clear. I didn’t mean that this article or Peter were accusing fl of being live. I meant just in general from a lot of forums and other sites. 

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Strange. I was going to say maybe Ableton is all they’ve ever seen, but to me that makes it look even *more* different. I wonder if the same people have seen mlr? (This doesn’t otherwise work at all like mlr under the hood, but what they’ve done is exactly mimic the way mlr functions, and has done for many years.)

    • http://profiles.google.com/trebtid Polite Society

      Read it again, i thought Peter was saying that it *wasn’t* a copy of Ableton.

      Though it is a ripoff of the popular monome grid style. Though i’m pretty happy about that!

    • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.zilch Aaron Zilch

      I think dummy clips work fine for modulation. Yeah it’s a workaround, but I don’t find it particularly clumsy. Clips on return tracks would be really nice though…

    • Richard

      I’d have to agree that it isn’t really clumsy, but the immediacy of fls way just gets me all giddy. This may be nooby of me but what would be the benefits of clips on return tracks? Besides an obvious space saver I guess…

  • Apoclypse_2001

    As great as FL Studio is the interface is what makes people think of it as non-professional. Image-Line should really think about redoing the interface and while they are at it they should work on a Mac version.:)

    • Jim Aikin

       Having used FL Studio for years, I’m curious what you see as the “non-professional” aspects of the interface.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.sparks3 Chris Sparks

      Why is it that people who don’t like FL Studio call it unprofessional, yet people who don’t like Cubase, just don’t like Cubase. I seriously discount anything anyone else says after they say ANY tool is unprofessional just because they wouldn’t be caught dead using it in some hoity toity “we only use industry standard” promotional video.

      I have used Vegas Video as well to cut video because it’s always been light on hardware and does all the things an NLE should be, but I’ve had serious knockdown dragout arguments over calling it a toy because some wanker users Premiere, as if some other wanker isn’t calling Premiere a toy because he uses Final Cut or an Avid.

    • Pborah88

      I think you better check out some ratings, FL Studio is rated as the best DAW for 2011 and hopefully for this year too. And all that aside, the sheer number of options you have to create music in there is astounding. Maybe tht is what scares off the first timers. I mean its total support for VSTi plugins, the options to make a library of tonns and tonns of effect and instrument plugins, the things you can do on the mixer alone are limitless. Even the factory default instrument plugins are far superior in sound quality compared to Ableton, Cubase or Reason. And I say this cos I have used all of those 3. In contrast Ableton comes with crappy instruments and FX with shitty quality. Reason’s drum rack sucks balls, Cubase is hopeless except when it comes to live recording.

  • Blob

    I’m happy with my current Ableton Live workflow and I don’t think I’ll
    switch to FL Studio – but I’m definitely curious about this new version.
    When I started out making electronic music, FL Studio was one of my favorite tools, but I left it behind precisely because of its lack of proper features for live performance – Ableton Live filled that void. This new performance mode seems to integrate well with FL Studio’s native interface, so I’m guessing they will win back a lot of users.

    Indirectly (and this is just subjective futurology), this might benefit Live in the sense that the increasing competition (also from Bitwig and Renoise) will drive Ableton to innovate and make the program more stable and effective for future releases.

  • http://profiles.google.com/trebtid Polite Society

    Fuck. Yes. That just cemented my purchase of one of those novation monome thingoes. I’ve been wanting an excuse to get one. Thanks image-line!

  • JimmyPop

    I dig it. Now port it to Mac!

  • Johan H Friis

    I am personally incrdible excited and thrilled about this. I was looking into learning Ableton, but maybe I can staty in the DAW I’m comfy in after all.

  • http://rekkerd.org Ronnie

    Sweet! FL Studio just doesn’t stop getting better (for me). Best purchase I made for my music yet.

  • Pierlu

    the same concept I’ve been using for a live performance patch i did in pure data to play live with the launchpad, like two years ago. If I had release it, I’d thought they had stolen my idea. 😀

  • Typarks

    Haven’t we been able to do all of this in Ableton using Launch Groups and Follow Actions since before the Monome and MLR became public?  Sequences just cascade vertically instead of horizontally…

  • Tom

    I’m alpha testing this and I’m a Live user. The comparison is superficial – you don’t end up making the same kind of music on FLS, it’s much more like an “intelligent” multitrack timeline than Live’s grid. Yes you can fire it off with a LaunchPad (and it’s very fast at that, jumping around large slabs of audio) but this tends to invite melodic arrangement ideas over rhythmic ones.

  • http://twitter.com/kaiataris Laurence Willis

    I think this is a huge feature for long-time fans and users of the software. It looks to be very fast and a good ‘scratchpad’ to throw some samples/loops in and just work out ideas in a more tactile way.

    I always was a big fan of FLStudio, I really liked the interface and workflow compared to other DAWs. I ended up moving away from the program due to wanting more control over live sampling and sequencing (with midi controllers) than the program allows. I ended up having the same limitations (in different ways) with Ableton Live and moved on to building patches with PureData in order to do what I want.

  • banginclude

    Finally someone had the intelligence to copy MLR – well, minus the loop recorder. Def looking forward to checking this out. MLR change the whole game for me.

  • leakeg

    FL studio performance mode looks like it could be great, but oh lord, the track you picked to show the versatility of FL couldn’t have been more poorly picked! MY EARS!

  • Dim9th
  • http://www.facebook.com/david.brymer David Brymer

    It seems like a version of MLR with a simplified interface. I like it

  • http://www.citrusburn.com/ Malachi

    I recall seeing mention of a performance mode several iterations back, but having no need of it at the time never did anything with it.  So I don’t know how it compares to this, though it does show that Image-Line have long aimed for FL to be used as an instrument.

    This idea that FL is “non-professional” and is “just a toy” has often perplexed me, as well as the persistent notion that it’s only useful for dance music.  I find most detractors have never actually used it.  That’s the way of things; people big themselves up by dismissing the popular targets.  Meanwhile, I’ve done every type of music I enjoy with it, from jazz to death metal and even a few I don’t even like, such as trance.  It’s also part of my live rig, extending the FX of my guitar and manipulated via a combo of automation and TouchOSC on my iphone.  Indeed, unprofessional.

    Incidentally, everyone going on about top to bottom flow reminds me of the old Fruityloops, where the playlist pane ran this way.  Am I ever glad they changed it.

  • http://twitter.com/fl_studio_10 FL Studio 10

    Hopefully we will see a mature performance mode as well as a properly ported FL Studio with version 11.