FL Studio’s live performance functionality has been teased for some time online, attracting enraptured eyeballs and plenty of discussion online. Now, you can give it a try for yourself in the new FL Studio 10.5 beta. My prediction: it’s definitely huge for FL Studio die-hards, but it could also attract some “lapsed” FL users back to the fold, and it’s almost certainly a reason to fire up a copy of Windows. (That’s the sound of a bunch of Boot Camp installations.)

The best way to see what the performance mode is about is in the video above. It’s actually a bit more basic than some of the teasers we’ve seen – there isn’t quite as much fancy trigger-mode action – but it’s easier to follow how the software works.

I’m of the mind that music and music technology alike benefit from a range of ideas, even conflicting ideas. What I like about FL Studio’s approach to performance is that it isn’t exactly like what you get with Ableton Live. It’s not unrelated – we’re looking at several controllers designed for Ableton, and there are certainly noticeable similarities in the ability to trigger blocks of time, some owed to Ableton and some more generally attributable to loop and sample tools over the years. But you get some new angles, and there’s really no mistaking this for anything other than FL. A few highlights, evident in the video:

  • Audio, automation, and pattern clips in any combination
  • Move directly from a linear arrangement to live triggering – something unique to this tool.
  • Combine a bunch of controllers – and use a range of stuff (Akai APC, Novation Launchpad, and Korg kontrolPAD make appearances)
  • Slice clips horizontally into more clips (that’s definitely not possible directly in Ableton’s Session View)
  • Novel triggering modes and arrangements – a bit like Follow Actions, as some Ableton users have noted, but with some unique twists, and again, all in a linear arrangement view.

More videos in Image-Line’s development series, or read the manual.

I love this slicing workflow, too, using Slicex and not just the Playlist:

It’s really that moment where you take your finished, linear arrangement and start remixing it in non-linear fashion – without having to switch software modes or resample the content – that I think is a big deal. (It’s especially nice when you slice up existing bits of that arrangement even further.) This is not only something you can’t do directly in Ableton Live, but it’s distinct from live performance workflows in a lot of other hardware and software.

Now, whether that’s actually musically useful is another question, and certainly the musical result in these videos is not distinguishable from what people are doing with Ableton – for better or for worse.

But, then, that’s really down to you, the users, as much as the tool.

FL Studio 10.5 is, according to developer Image-Line, a step on the way to the finished FL Studio 11.

This should also tantalize some users (and, I hope, attract some of our cleverer CDM readers and FL users):

We are looking for input from iOS (iPad/iPhone/iPod touch) and Android users to help with touch-based support/scripting/ideas for Performance Mode (see left).

More on that, in case you missed it in FL’s newsletter.

For working directly on mobile, FL Studio mobile has also gotten an update.

Full details of what’s in 10.5 from Image-Line:

  • Performance Mode – Trigger Clips using your mouse, touch screen, typing keyboard or MIDI controller.
  • New controllers supported – APC20/40, Launchpad, Block, MASCHINE / MASCHINE MIKRO, padKONTROL
  • Unique controller MIDI input port – Controllers can now be assigned unique input & output ports for feedback.
  • Linking includes MIDI input port – Links now use MIDI input ports to avoid conflict between controllers
  • New Content Library – The content library has received a complete overhaul based on user input.
    Options > Project general settings > Play truncated notes in clips – Restores notes overlapping slice points in Pattern Clips.
  • Horizontal/Vertical movement locking – Shift (horizontal lock) & Ctrl (vertical lock) when moving items.
  • Piano roll click & hold functions – Glue notes, Mouse wheel velocity change, Mouse wheel tool select.
  • Piano roll – Brush tool: Monophonic step mode (hold shift for old behavior). Chop chords: Strum & Articulate tools.
  • Improved Tap Tempo & Fine control – Updated algorithm + nudge control for Performance Mode.
  • Instrument Channels – Ctrl+mouse wheel on Channel button to change the mixer track.
  • Stay open sub-menus – Right click to check several menu items without closing them.
  • Plugin Picker – Start typing plugin names to highlight entries.
  • Right-click data enter – Most controls now allow a Right-click option to type in values.

10.5 Beta [Image-Line]