How to Quantize in FL Studio (4 Ways)
“Quantize” can mean a few different things depending on who you’re talking to. To mathematicians and engineers, quantization is a process that takes continuous data such as an analog electrical signal and converts it to an approximated digital signal comprised of discrete points at set intervals. This is what’s going on inside the A/D (analog-to-digital) converter of your audio interface. The estimation results in what we call quantization error, and can differ depending on the quantization method used.
Although quantization in signal processing is still very important to understand for anyone involved in digital music production, the type of “quantize” this FL Studio tutorial will cover is not that kind. To musicians and beatmakers, quantization is the process of transforming imperfect MIDI data from a live recording into perfect grid snap intervals. We can do this using either the Quantize tool in the Piano roll or the Quick quantize and Quick quantize start times shortcuts, or by setting up Input quantization during recording. Let’s take a look.
When someone plays an instrument, there is a certain degree of human error in the timing and velocity of each keystroke, pluck, or hit. Usually this is desirable when we want to create something that sounds live and realistic. But sometimes, the error is too much and the piece just sounds bad, or we just really want it to be perfect on purpose! This is where quantization comes in.
Step 1: Record MIDI Data in the Piano Roll
First, add a generator like Sytrus or Harmor to the Channel rack. Then, set your Recording filter to record notes and automation only. Next, turn the metronome on to keep time, and click the Record button. When you’re ready, just hit the Spacebar to start recording MIDI data.
Contrary to what my friends think, I am not a cyborg. Consequently, we can see and hear that the recording above has note starting points, lengths, and end points that are slightly off. It’s a little sloppy. If I had a few beers prior or wanted it to be perfect, we’d use quantization to quickly clean things up.
Step 2: Open the Quantize Tool (Alt+Q)
Make sure the Piano roll window is selected, and hit Alt+Q on your keyboard. Alternately, you can get to the Quantize tool through the arrow at top left of the window → Tools → Quantize.
Step 3: Quantize Tool Settings
We can see that the Quantize tool has drawn in some red lines at perfectly spaced intervals. The tool operates in four modes and has three different knobs that will change the properties of the notes:
- Quantize duration – aligns the note lengths to the red quantization lines, and makes the notes have the same starting times and end times.
- Quantize end time – snaps notes to the red quantization lines and makes the notes have the same end times.
- Leave duration – snaps the start times to the nearest red lines, but retains the lengths of the notes.
- Leave end time – snaps the start times to the nearest red lines, but retains the note end times.
The Sensitivity knob controls how close a note needs to be to a red line for it’s start or end time to snap to that line.
In this example, I used the Quantize duration setting with everything to the max like in the animation above. Here’s what it sounds like now:
Almost too perfect… but OK. Let’s take a look at some other cool quantization features.
Step 4: Choose a Groove Template (Optional)
Groove templates are files within FL Studio that can change how your red quantization lines will look and behave. Groove templates also change the velocities of some of the notes. To access the list of Groove templates, just click the arrow or folder icon at the top right of the Quantize tool window.
I suggest picking a few and experimenting a bit. Some of them can yield pretty interesting effects!
Quantize Faster with Quick Quantize Start Times (Shift+Q)
FL Studio will instantly quantize your recorded note start times and leaves the lengths unchanged. It has the same effect as using the Quantize tool in Leave duration mode with the Start time knob all the way up. Here is what Quick quantize start times sounds like on the same recording from earlier:
This one gives you the best of both worlds. You get the perfect start times with a sprinkle of humanity with uneven note lengths.
Note: Quick quantize (Ctrl+Q) will quantize start times and end times, and alters the duration.
Be the Fastest Quantizer on Earth with Input Quantization
If you’re serious about quantization, you should already know about this. FL Studio allows you to quantize your notes as they’re being recorded for some seriously next-level productivity and workflow. You can even quantize automation clips and events.
- Set your global snap settings to Step, Beat, or Bar
- right-click the record button, choose desired quantization settings
- Record your MIDI data
- Sit and watch in awe – it’s already been quantized!
Wrapping It Up
Quantization is a great way to quickly line things up in your recorded MIDI data. In this FL Studio tutorial, we learned about four different ways to quantize. You can use the Quantizer tool (Alt+Q) for a more refined approach, Quick quantize (Ctrl+Q) and Quick quantize start times (Shift+Q) to save some time, and even quantize instantly with Input quantization.