This post has been updated:
This is how my projects often end up looking in FL Studio:
Here's when using folder tracks in Studio One:
See the difference?
For all it's power, the akilles heel of FL Studio is it's lack of organization. For the average user this isn't necessarily a problem, due to the fact that many place several things in one pattern, and also use a limited amount of tracks overall. But when making very large projects the lack of good organizational tools is very problematic!
Every other daw out there has some form of folder tracks, they all do basically the same thing, all though they have slightly different names. For example in Logic Pro they're called stack tracks.
This means that you can create a folder in the playlis and place several other tracks into that folder. Folder tracks is easy enough. Create a new "folder track" in the playlist, and drag and drop other tracks into that folder.
This is very useful for having all your drums in one folder, all your leeds in one folder etc. Same with your automation. I always find FL Studio very messy when it comes to automation. In other daws you have an option to hide uatomation. This is very usefull as it allows you to view the track structure. You can see where everything comes in etc. But that is made difficult in FL due to the fact that automation clips is always showing as a clip, just like any other clip.
The solution would be to make folders, and sub folders, and place automation in there to get it out of the way when not needed. You would still have the ability to show everything at once, but at least there would be an option to choose not to view the automation for example. You could set it up exactly as you want. That's the beauty of folder tracks. It allows for a wide range of different ways to organize.
Studio one, Cubase, Ableton, Logic etc has this functionality.Check out this video explaining folder tracks in cubase:
I would really like to see this function in Fl studio's playlist. It would be the perfect way to clean up a messy project of say 140 tracks and shrink it down to perhaps 30. Making it manageable.
The way it is now it's hopeless. I simply give up trying to be creative when I pass 100+ tracks. I spend most of my time just trying to figure out where stuff is etc..
Now, someone will probably say: Why not just place several things into one pattern? Of course I do that. I usually place my leeds, basslines etc into the same patterns. Things that are layered work well for that. But not things that come and goes during the track. That would require unique patterns everywhere, and would just create an even biger mess.
The playlist is what is called arrange view in most other daws. It's where you arrange your song. So this should be a place to really focus on the song structure. Unfortunately the structure is difficult to see due to automation clips everywhere, and the lack of folders to sort things into.
The current grouping function is just not powerful enough to keep a large project organized. You can either choose to group a group together, like all your drums, all your bass etc. But you can't choose to group the automation related to separate tracks together within that group (that would be sub groups). Folder tracks are 100 times more powerful and easier to work with. They are more intuitive.
Also, the way to open and close zipped groups in the playlist now is very clumsy. It's difficult to find the "sweet spot" where you will actually open or close it. When zoomed out, it takes several tries on average to hit it and actually open or close it. Far from ideal!
In studio One, which I also use I typically set up my folders within the arrange view (playlist) like this:
Take a look at this project: This picture is just showing half the project, There's about 40 tracks above that's not showing. It's not easy to tell what's actually going on musically in this project. What comes in where? Most of it is automation, which is everywhere. So it looks huge, and messy.
All the automation makes the project difficult to "read". It looks very confusing. This is a good example of how automation clips can make a project appear messy and difficult to read. It's a problem other daws don't have because you can choose to hide the automation when not needed. In FL, sub folder tracks could be used to accomplish the same thing. Just place a pattern in track 1, and create sub folders for track 1 containing all related automation. Now, just close those tracks when they're not needed:
This is how the same project with all the automation removed. Much easier to read (Imagine that all the automation was placed in sub folders linked to individual tracks, which has now been closed):
I'm attaching two videos to show the difference between how I group in Cubase, and FL studio. As you can see, the current grouping doesn't help with large amounts of automation. As I already said, you can only group the entire group, or individual elements and it's automation for example.
Look at hos much cleaner it looks in Cubase compared to FL. The projects are both trance projects, so they are structured simularly. The difference is that in Cubase it's collapsed down into folders, and the automation is hidden, while in FL it's all there in your face all the time, dispite the fact that I've used the grouping functionality for all elements.
The playlist need a real overhaul like the mixer got in FL12. We need Folder Track with sub folders functionality, better freezing (preferably a one click freeze/unfreeze), and a lot more. I just hope these things will be prioritized for a next big release of FL studio as Folder tracks and better freezing is one of the features I miss the most in FL (that and more mixer inserts).
ps: the videos are recorded in low resolution. I had to do that to get the file size down.
Grouping in FL studio:
Folder tracks in Cubase:
There's no denying, it looks much cleaner in Cubase. It also makes it much easier to read the project and figure out what's going on. Organization is key, especially when coming back to an old project when you've forgotten where everything was.
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