Being able to expand your sound and effects library is an important aspect of any FL Studio Producer. Thankfully this can be done very easily with VST Plugins. VST plugins come in two flavors, effects and instruments. Each serves a different purpose. The great thing about VSTs are that you can find hundreds of them online that are freeware. This makes it very easy to add new sounds and effects to you library at little to no cost. There are many commercial VST plugins also and many of them are worth the money if you can afford it. The point is, with so many freeware options out there, it's a shame if you don't know how to use them in FLStudio so I'm here to tell you how.
You will have to have some background knowledge to get the most from this article. You will need to know how to do the following:
- Download a program from the internet.
- unZIP or unRAR a .ZIP or .RAR file.
- Use Windows Explorer to find a folder on your hard drive and create new folders.
Before you can install a VST, you have to be able to download it to your hard drive. For the sake of this tutorial let's start off by downloading the following files:
W1 Limiter - George Yohng's W1 Limiter VST. This is an effect you would use to maximize the loudness on your master track. (more info)
Sonik Synth 2 Free - A free light version of Sonik Synth 2 from IK Multimedia. (more info)
Both files are in .ZIP format.
Setting up FLStudio
Before we start installing VST plugins, we need to know where they will go on the hard drive and we need to tell FL Studio where to find them. The most common location for them to be installed into is: C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins
I recommend you use this location to make your life much easier. If you want you can always put them in another folder or even on another drive. I prefer to install all of my VST Plugins on an external drive so that when I upgrade my computer it's easier to move the files, but for simplicity we'll use the more common location in this tutorial.
Using Windows Explorer, navigate to your C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins. If it doesn't exist, you can create it using Windows Explorer or download this file to make the VST Folder and run the .bat file inside of it.
Now let's tell FL Studio where we intend to install our VST Plugins by opening FLStudio and selecting Options > File Settings:
On the File Settings dialog, notce the bottom section labeled "VST plugins extra search folder". If it's not already set to C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins use the folder button to browse to C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins and set it.
Now whenever FL Studio scans for new VST plugins, it will include this folder.
VST plugins are files that have the DLL extension and there are two ways you will generally need to install a VST. The first way is by copying a DLL file into your VSTPlugins folder. The second way is by running an installer program that will ask you where the VSTPlugin folder is located and it will copy the DLL file there for you.
If you have downloaded the files above, let's start with Sonik Synth 2 since it has an installer. Open the ZIP file that contains Sonik Synth 2 and look for the file named "Install Sonik Synth FREE 2.exe". Run this file and go through the steps. Make sure to tell it you want the VST version. At some point it will ask you where you want to install the file.
Notice in the screen shot, it does have C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins as the destination folder. In this case you would need to use the browse button and find the folder before clicking Next. Complete the installation. You have now installed a VST plugin but before we do anything in FLStudio, lets install the other VST plugin using the other method.
You will find most of your feeware VST plugins will be of this type. It's pretty easy to install these. Find the W1 Limiter file you downloaded, and open it. Inside the ZIP file you should see a single file with an extension of DLL. Extract this file to your C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins folder.
One quick note, if you want to be more organized, you might consider extracting the files into an extra folder level by plugin type or the way I do it, by maker. For example, I might install this particular plugin into C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins\George_Yohng since I know this person makes more plugins that I might install later. This is just a personal preference. Do what works best for you. FL studio will scan all subdirectories for you so you can get as organized as you as long as you keep the folder below the C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VstPlugins level.
FL Studio Scan
OK... That was all simple enough. We now have two plugins installed. Next we need to tell FL Studio to scan for them and add it to it's list of known plugins.
To do this, go to Channels >Add One > More... in FL Studio. You should see a list box with many existing plugins and FL Studio Generators listed. If you scroll through this you will notice that the new VST plugins are not there! No worries, just click the Refresh button and select Fast Scan. This might take a minute or so, but you only need to do this once after you install a new VST plugin.
Once the scan is finished, you should now scroll through the list to see your freshly installed VST plugins listed in red and ready to use!
Be sure to see the tutorials on Adding Sounds, Samples, VST to the FL Studio Pattern or Adding Effects to a channel in FL Studio for more details on using these VST plugins.