Music Production with FL Studio: Compose and Arrange Your Track | Dom McLennon | Skillshare

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Music Production with FL Studio: Compose and Arrange Your Track

teacher avatar Dom McLennon, Producer, Recording Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Breaking a Beat Down


    • 3.

      Defining Groove Theory


    • 4.

      Discovering Harmony and Melody


    • 5.

      Arranging Music


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Elevate your music production game while exploring melody, harmony, groove and a head-nodding beat.  

Dom McLennon’s journey to becoming a musician and producer started out in the same way a lot of other creative’s journeys do: letting passion and curiosity drive his exploration. What started out as creating beats with his younger cousin just for fun turned into a spot in the hugely influential and successful hip hop collective, Brockhampton. Today, Dom’s music has gained him hundreds of millions of plays and over 200K followers across social media. 

Now that Dom has spent years developing his own musical production skills, he can’t wait to share what he knows about musical composition and arrangement. Geared toward  musicians who are ready to dig deeper into music production, this class will take you through the essential components of an intro and verse all the way to a full piece.  

With Dom by your side, you’ll:    

  • Learn to create syncopation within your beat and rhythm pattern
  • Discover the power of groove theory to produce music that makes people move
  • Alter the instruments you use within your harmony and melody as you arrange your song
  • Experiment with fade-ins, delays and bounce while exploring sampling

Plus, Dom provides exclusive, downloadable percussion loop samples, which you can use for inspiration or to sample in your songs! 

Whether you’re looking to take your music production to the next level by creating more advanced tracks or this is your first taste of digital music production, this class will help you create a unique musical composition all while giving you a better understanding of how music works. 

You don’t need any musical experience to take Dom’s class. All you’ll need is a computer and a DAW as well as an audio interface and mini controller if you’d like to push your sound even further. If you already have some of these tools, you can follow along with Dom. If not, you can use this class to decide which digital music production equipment and accessories you might want to use as you refine your sound. To continue your learning about music production, explore Dom’s full Digital Music Production Learning Path.

Meet Your Teacher

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Dom McLennon

Producer, Recording Artist

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Ranging is a really important concept to understand throughout all forms of music, because that's how you get from point A to point B. It's really ultimately the flow of your track, your exposition, your rising action, your climax, your conclusion. My name is Dom McLennon. I am a musician, visual artist, producer, or you might have seen my work from the Boy BrockHampton, have also been behind the scenes, helping all of the musicians and producers learn more about the ways that they can express themselves as creative artists. What we're going to be talking about on this class is how you get from the intro of your song to the outro of your song. Really a central component of your verse in your hook, breaking down and be harmony, melody, and how that all plays a really important part in your productions. After this, you'll have a better understanding of how music works and find ways to, through composition and arrangement, take things that necessarily wouldn't usually work and put them together to make it feel something complete. If you haven't had any musical experience at all, this would be an amazing course for you to be able to understand how this stuff works. I want you to be able to create a loop and then be able to arrange that loop over a playlist so that you can say, hey, I made this beat. Let's get start it. 2. Breaking a Beat Down: To start our class, we're going to start with breaking a beat down. We're going to talk about all the components that go into what you normally would hear as a beat and what you're going to be doing to recreate these things inside of your own digital audio workstation. The first thing that you will hear in your beat traditionally will be either your drum pattern or your base pattern. Your kick track will serve essentially as your backing beat for whatever you're going to be putting on top of it. If you put a kick on the one of every beat for a bar, you're going to traditional form of floor pattern that you'll hear a lot of your traditional. House records, maybe some pop records, things of that nature. That sounds kind like this. [NOISE] Let's talk about how syncopation works inside of a beat to give you a little bit more variation on your rhythm. Traditionally, you may hear a shaker pattern or a hi-hat pattern that will sound like this on a beat. [NOISE] This shaker pattern has no syncopation to it right now, which means that there's no variation in the rhythm. To add a little bit of movement to that rhythmic pattern, I'm going to start moving some notes a little bit. [NOISE] We're shifting that around a little bit. We've already created a little bit of syncopation in our rhythmic pattern. FL Studio and a lot of other programs have a master swim knob that you can alter to be able to get a little bit more variation into your beat. This master swing knob exists on top of your channel rack inside of FL Studio, on the right-hand side, next to your pattern length, your graph editor, and your step sequencer. If you go ahead and start to move this swing knob a little bit, you hear even more syncopation come into your beat. Let's watch what happens. [NOISE] This is no swing. [NOISE] I'm going to start gradually adding more swing to it as it's playing. I'll also add a four on the floor kick patterns that you guys can hear a little bit more how that variation of just throughout the rest of the beat. What we've been able to do here is go into our rhythmic pattern and add things like swing to it and syncopation to be able to bring a little bit more variation to our beat. Another important component of what goes into breaking a beat down is sound selection, is not only the samples that you pick inside of your digital audio workstation to work with, but how you're manipulating them in order to be able to influence the patterns of beats that you're making. Say for example, we go in and we make a new pattern, we're going to do a traditional trap pattern with this one. It'll sound something like this. This sounds like a traditional trap pattern, but it has some of the samples and sounds from our other earlier work inside of it. Because of that, we're going to have to switch the sounds up a little bit to make it conceptualize itself a little bit more for how this beat should sound. I'm going to go in and I'm going to go through my one shots, and I'm going to find a sound that feels a little bit more in tune with the pattern that we're making. I'm going to switch them up a little bit. We're going to listen back to it again and see how it feels. [NOISE] I found some sounds that felt a little bit more at home and comfortable with this rhythmic pattern that I was working with. Then I replaced them, I've pitched them, messed around with them a little bit. This is one of the really cool things about breaking a beat down when you start to listen to other music that you're enjoying and that you're fan of, and you start to have a better understanding of how these different components of music work. You'll be like, wow, I'm really impressed with the way that they arrange that snare drum patterns to be able to make sure that the story is being told in this beat, or oh wow, the way that this percussion is following this vocalists voice is such a special moment that's happening in a song right now. But the more that you can articulate and understand how beats work and break them down, you'll be able to have a better understanding and appreciation of music as a whole while you're learning how to use a digital audio workstation. Now let's move on to group theory. 3. Defining Groove Theory: Now that we've dove in a little bit into breaking a beat down, the best thing for soccer next would be this thing that I like to call groove theory. The way that groove theory works is ultimately the way that your micro adjustments inside of your rhythmic patterns make our bodies move to the music the way that they do and make our heads not the way that they do. A lot of that revolves around little variations in between a high hat, or that late moment before a snare hits, or that early moment when a kick drum comes in. When it comes to adding more intricacy into the production that you're working on, I think that groove theory and the idea of having a little bit more swing and bounce will really give you even more control of how your music feels and sounds. Now that we have a baseline overview of how a concept like groove theory works, Let's watch it in action inside of FL Studio. I'm going to add a new rhythmic pattern inside of FL studio by adding another hi-hat track in. You'll hear how it sounds a little bit straight and how there's not much syncopation going on in the rhythmic pattern. We're going to add a little bit of groove to this by just taking a very normal pattern and shifting it off of the normal grid. We're going to go into Pattern 1 and we're going to open our piano roll up. You're going to go to your snap options, which will be at the top of your toolbar, this green magnet. If you click the magnet icon, you will see all these different snap options. Originally it will be set to step. This is your default. Switch this to none. You're going to use the "Select" option and pick everything inside of your hi-hat track. We are now going to click your "Draw" tool. We can zoom in a little bit to have a little bit more control on this and a little bit more precision. We're he's going to shift this a little bit off the grid. Quantisation is a really important part of groove theory. That's the computer being able to correct the imperfections that normally would exist inside of a human recording, but what we're doing is we're adding that human touch back in by unquantizing and moving things around the grid to be able to give ourselves a different feeling on the track. This adds a little bit of subtle groove. We're going to up the ante a little bit and move some other sounds and other instruments around, and unquantize it a little bit on purpose to add a little bit more groove to our pattern. For example, this chord that has been playing originally that sounded like this. Can be manipulated by taking some of these sounds and just moving them a little bit off of the grid so that you almost get like a flam effect. This versus this. Just adds a little bit of variation to what you're doing. Now, when I move that around a little bit on this grid, this starts to sound like this in context of the rest of our beat. You can move things a little bit ahead of the beat. You can move things a little bit behind the beat. It's just a matter of using a little bit of touch and feel to see what sounds right to you and what feels right to you. This is one of the cool things about groove, it's pretty subjective. You know what I'm saying? You can go as left to the grid as you want to or as right to the grid as you want to. All that matters is that you feel good about how it sounds. I added a little bit more syncopation to this percussive sample that we have and it adds a lot more bounce on the first pattern. That has a little bit more swing and bounce to it on that little popping sound or tom sound, or percussive sound if you want to, then this pattern. That really is what Groove Theory is all about. It's just finding those little accents and those touches and those little moments where you can move things a little bit behind the beat or a little bit ahead of the beat to give yourself a really cool feeling. We're going to take this traditional form of floor pattern that we were talking about before in our last class. We're going to add a little bit syncopation to this as well, a little bit of groove to it by messing with the shaker sound. When you add that clap in, having a little bit of syncopation and delay on that shaker, it just brings a little bit of more groove to this more traditional pattern. Then when you start to add more and more intricate layers into it, you have more syncopation going on inside of those intricate layers, that's when you really get to explore how the stuff feels and how it sounds. Now that we've talked a little bit about how groove theory works and how syncopation and how quantisation can work inside of programming your drums, programming your rhythmic patterns and your melodies, I would love to see some of the grooves that you guys come up with if you want to share them in the project gallery below. Next up, what we're going to be talking about as harmony and melody inside of your digital audio Workstation. 4. Discovering Harmony and Melody: In this lesson, we'll be talking about harmony and melody. Melody will be the sequence of sounds that comes together to create a flow inside of music. Harmony would be a blend of sounds, so harmonies consist of chords and chord progressions. The way that this works inside of your digital audio workstation is you'll be programming chords and you'll be programming melodies to be able to sequence how all of these things come together. Let's open up our studio and go to what we've been building so far. If you look at some of our patterns, they include harmony and melody together inside of one track. What we're going to do is separate these harmonies from these melodies so that we can have more individual control over each component of the musical elements of our song. For example, let's check out pattern 2 and solo out our musical instrument that's playing a harmony and melody together. I'm going to duplicate our sound. I'm going to put the melody on a separate track from the harmony. Inside of our piano roll, I'm going to select the notes that consist of our melody. I'm going to cut that out of this piano roll and put it on a new piano roll so it's on its own specific place. I'm going to rename each of these checks as harmony and melody. I'm going to do the same thing and pattern four as well. We're going to select our melody. We're going to cut it out of the harmony track, open up our melody track, and paste it inside of there. What this does is it gives us individualized control over the components of our music. Say, we're looking at this melody and we say, I want to add more to this. Now, we have more freedom to, because it's independent of the harmony. You have a little bit more room to play with it. I'm going to pick a note, a root note from here. We just see. And I am going to show you a little harmony and melody trick that I've picked up over my experience that I use when it comes to basic melody making and basic melody understanding as well as harmony understanding. We've taken this C, what I'm going to do is I'm going to add a note that is a whole step above. So let's hear. One more whole step, a half step, and a whole step, and what this creates is called a tetrachord. This tetrachord in basic music theory are the components that make up a major and a minor chord. So if you take out the second and the fourth note of a tetrachord, you get a major chord. Now, if you take your second note in that major chord and bring it down a half-step, you get a minor chord. With those two simple tricks, you can go in and find harmony and melody on a basic major and minor scale throughout any note, if you know the root node, you just add a whole step, a whole step, a half step, and a whole step. I'm going to use the same principles to add a little bit of variation to the harmony and melody to the beat that we've been making so far and I encourage you to do the same with the beat that you've been making as well. Another trick that I use for melody sometimes is I will write tetrachords at the beginning of my pattern. That will tell me what notes that I'm able to use that are in key that I can use for really, really basic melody production. Now, that we've separated our harmony and melody, we can create new instruments for our harmony and for our melody so that they are not in the same sonic field. Another fun thing that you can play with that revolves around melody a little bit, specifically pitch, is you can alter the pitch inside of all of your specific samples, as well as the pitch inside of your VSC. There's a couple of different ways that we can do this, but what I'll be focusing on specifically is the channel pitch knob, which alters the pitch of the entire channel that you're operating in. We're going to go into our contact melodies and harmonies. We're going to switch the range of our pitch so that it goes up a couple more semitones and then I'm going to bring this up on both of them the same way just to see how it sounds when these instruments are playing four steps above where they currently are right now. Now, that we've added a little bit of variation with the harmony and melody, I'm going to encourage you guys to go ahead and give it a try yourself. See if you can come up with some little variations and additions based off of our understanding of how harmony and melody works, we're going to talk about arrangement next. 5. Arranging Music: Now that we've broken beats down, talked a little bit about group theory, and harmony, and melody, now the question might be, I have this beat or this little four-bar loop that we've made, but how do I turn it into a song or how do I turn it into a section of a song? We'll be covering that with arrangement. As we're going through the different patterns that we've been building, what I would like to do is to start separating some of the individual components of these patterns so that we can have those serve as different sections of our arrangement in our composition as a whole. I'm going to take some of our harmony and melody components and isolate them, create their own separate patterns for them. I'll place them inside of the playlist so that they become our intro for the rest of our beat. What I'm doing now is I'm cloning each individual pattern inside of FL Studio that we've made so far and then in those cloned patterns, I'm removing all the drum components so that our harmony and melody exists isolated in its own separate patterns. Once we've finished that, I'm going to put this in our playlist and then the sections that I have isolated these melodies and harmonies out of specifically will become the intro for our beat. Now I'm opening our playlist up, going into our arrangement, and taking everything that originally existed in our current song mode and I'm shifting it over four more bars, which is going to give me the chance to go ahead and bring those new patterns in that I was just talking about that just have our chords, our harmony, or our melody. Looking at this interim, I think that it can be a little bit longer. I'm going to duplicate the intro and make sure that that gives us enough time to add a little bit more variation before we get into the drums, what I would consider the verse of our song. Let me duplicate the introduction one more time. I'll start adding a couple of different components inside of there and then I will also duplicate our verse so that both of them have the same amount of time and structure in them right now. We built an eight-bar intro and we bought 16-bar verse in our composition through arrangement. One of the cool things that you can do is, say you want to do a little keyboard solo or you wanted to add a little extra lead synth in something like that, now with this introduction, you've been able to create the space to play on top of it and add more context to your musical story that you're telling. I'm going to go make a couple of more changes and additions inside of the intro to give it some variation and some additions onto the verse that we've built so far. I'm going through some things that are less rhythmic and less melodic and more textural. I'm going to start adding some of those textures into our intro and maybe adding a little bit of stuff into the background of our verse as well, just give it a little bit of depth and ambiance. [NOISE] When you're getting into this element of arrangement, what you can start exploring with as well is your mixer. With this new texture that we've added, we're going to assign a free mixer track to it by hitting Command L or clicking the track button underneath its channel. You have all these options for different plugins to add more textures and depth, things like reverbs, equalizers, compressors, limiters, distortion. This massive world gets opened up to you the more that you start to dive into sound design. I won't be talking too much about sound design in this class because I would consider that a more advanced music production technique, but I'll be showing you what sound design can do in arrangement to be able to give you a more expansive soundscape. I'm just going to be a couple more ambient moments into the production. Now that we've explored a little bit of what arrangement can look like, what I would like you guys to do is take what you've been composing so far inside of FL Studio in your individual patterns, your four-bar loop, and turn it into something that has an introduction and a verse, and then if you're feeling really ambitious, go ahead and try exploring that hook as well too. Now that we've talked about arrangement for a little bit, breaking down what goes into it, talking about the introductions, the verses, hooks, what we're going to do next is talk about sampling inside of composition to give you even more variation in your music production experience. 6. Sampling: Continuing our exploration into composition and arrangement, I feel like a really cool thing for us to dive into next would be sampling inside of Composition. One of the questions that you might ask even is, what is sampling as a whole? Sampling would be re-contextualizing one one of work that has been recorded and then utilizing it inside of your composition to create more variation, to create more authenticity, more originality. I have a couple of different pre-built percussion loops from myself and a couple of friends that I'm going to be throwing into the composition that we have so far. Just to give you guys an idea of how these different variations can work inside of your beats, and how you can use this to create variation between your introduction, your hook, your verses to make things sound really big and expensive or make things sound a little bit more subdued. In another one of our classes, we'll be diving much deeper into the world of sampling and exploring how sampling works, specifically things like manipulating and time stretching, chopping, all that different types of stuff. It gets really fun. But what we're going to do right now is we're just going to take a couple of different samples that I've grabbed to just add some variation into the composition that we've been building so far. Right now, I'm testing out some samples inside of our arrangement, seeing how I feel about them. Seeing if they're the ones that I really want to use or not. Sometimes you have to have a little bit of trial and error when it comes to this side of the production. It can be fun and sometimes it's a little bit tedious, but it's okay, the tedium is part of the process when it comes to using a digital audio workstation. As I'm auditioning all these different loops, seeing how things feel and sound to me inside of this composition. When I find one that I like, that's when I know, okay, cool. I'm sampling this. We're going to throw it inside of here and then give ourselves more room to play with the production that we've been building so far. I'm going to keep building off on this a little bit more. This is part of my favorite component of sampling inside of a composition is just the experimentation side of it and being like, I wonder what will happen if we stretch this out and make this double the time or triple the time, or let's get this perfectly on beat, but then cut half of it so that we're only going to use part of it. We're just going inside of this sample that we've picked right now, doing a little bit of sound design inside of it to get a little bit more manipulation on the stereo field. I added a little bit of a fade-in and then delay on this specific sample that we're working with right now so that it just brings a little bit more variation, a little bit more bounciness to our production. Having some things pinging back and forth in the stereo field, almost doing a little bit of a call-and-response with the rest of the instrumentation. What I'm doing now is inside of the verse, I've added another percussive loop that I'm going to bring a little bit of delay in variation into as well because the sample is coming in every other third bar in the composition, it just brings a little bit of variation into the mix. Gives you something that puts you on your toes a little bit or maybe it's like something that you want to hear more often, just bringing these different types of moments into the music that the listener can spend their time with and enjoy. Also, you can enjoy making as well too as the creator. Add a delay, a phaser, and the chorus to some of the other sounds that were inside of our introduction, just to like I said, give a little bit more variation, some more stereo variety in that stereo field that we're working with. I think that we're at a pretty cool place with this right now. I'm pretty happy with it. I'd love you to take some of the loops that we've added from here into the class resources and throw them into your own productions, see See you can mess around with sampling and composition together inside of your DAW and what magic you can make happen. 7. Final Thoughts: We've learned so much today about what goes in the composing and arranging inside of a digital audio workstation. I would really love to hear some of the compositions and arrangements that you guys are building, add some contributions inside of the project gallery. If you have something that you think could be a really cool intro for a song or a cool verse for a song, really excited to see what you guys have for us. I'll see you in the next one, till next time.