This is about workflow. When you’re first learning a piece of software, maybe nothing is easy. Some tasks will seem awkward because you haven’t yet learned about the hidden tools. But after you spend the time to learn a program pretty well, you may still find that its workflow doesn’t mesh with what you’re trying to do.

Right now I’m working on a new piece of music in FL Studio. I like this program a lot, for various reasons. It has some unique tools, and I’ve used it enough that I’m pretty fast on it. But even so, the workflow just isn’t as natural for me as using Cubase.

FL Studio is designed around the assumption that you want to build your composition out of short patterns, each of which very likely repeats a number of times. If you repeat a pattern six times in the Playlist, all six repetitions use the same underlying data, so if you edit one, all of them will change.

Conversely, if you only want one of the six to change — possibly because you need an extra kick drum hit somewhere — you can’t simply insert that one hit where you want it. You have to go through a four-step process. First, you clone the pattern. Then it’s a good idea to change the color of the clone, as that will make it stand out in the Playlist. Then you insert the clone into the Playlist, replacing one of the repetitions of the original pattern. And now at last you’re ready to add that extra kick drum hit.

In Cubase, the repetitions are all separate data. Just double-click on the clip where you want the extra kick drum and pencil it in. You’re done. Sure, you can rename the clip if you want to — I usually do — or even give it a different color. But the process of editing the underlying music data is simply easier.

Composing music in FL Studio is a bit too much like writing a novel on PostIt notes, if you can imagine such a thing. FL does a lot of things really well, but laying out a linear compositional structure is not one of them.

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