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Exploring Modular Synthesis with Bitwig Studio

Tutorial | Jan 20, 2021

I tried out the sign mod in Bitwig, which is a modular approach to making music. It is possible to use the grid for traditional music production, but the grid is where most of the modular magic happens. I experimented with the sign mod to create a melody, and I used the modulation capabilities to add some variations. I also experimented with using a wave table to shape the sound, as well as using an AD loop and random modulators. I concluded that the grid is a lot of fun to play with, and that the team behind Bitwig needs some time to focus on certain sections of the application in order to make it more feature-rich.

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Questions & Answers

Maybe you dont watch the video, here are some important takeaways:

What is the Bitwig Grid and how can it be used?

The Bitwig Grid is a powerful modular environment within the Bitwig Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). It allows users to create complex sound designs and experiment with sound by connecting virtual modules together. Modules can range from oscillators, filters, effects, envelopes, and more. The Grid can also be used to generate melodies and rhythms, sequence sounds, and automate parameters.

What are the advantages of using the Bitwig Grid compared to other Digital Audio Workstations?

The Bitwig Grid is an incredibly powerful and versatile tool that allows users to create complex sounds and experiment with sound design. It provides users with access to an extensive library of modules that can be used to create unique sounds. Additionally, the Grid is a great way to learn about sound design, as it allows users to quickly and easily connect various modules to create new and interesting sounds.


This is what im talking about in this video. The text is transcribed by AI, so it might not be perfect. If you find any mistakes, please let me know.
You can also click on the timestamps to jump to the right part of the video, which should be helpful.

[00:00.000] I'm someone actually made some kind of notes with the sign mod here, I want to try this.
[00:25.000] On the audio output, we can add this R of course, and we get it.
[00:40.000] I'll be not going to rock this any time, which is a game I have.
[01:00.000] Actually, I see maybe this face.
[01:24.000] Yeah.
[01:34.000] I see you get basically a predictable melody out of it.
[02:01.000] At every state of the snob.
[02:21.000] And then we can use the sign mod.
[02:43.000] What delay and blend.
[03:06.000] Last as arrived, I'm back too nice. Have a good one.
[03:19.000] So if you don't like the melody, we just have to turn the snob here and get a different one.
[03:41.000] Maybe change the speed of the melody.
[03:55.000] Just lower sections in the melody itself.
[04:18.000] Okay, and this is now probably totally off the grid.
[04:36.000] Of course, we changed the face signal, so we probably have to quantize this to the 16th grid.
[04:57.000] Let's get this into here and this into there.
[05:27.000] I'm a bit big since the very first release years ago, but now I'm stuck in version 2.5,
[05:37.000] because I just don't see a reason to switch to three.
[05:40.000] If I want the modular synth, then there are more than enough available VSTs out there,
[05:45.000] but since 2.5, no new features came to be because real though.
[05:49.000] It's more like the reason history.
[05:53.000] Yeah, I see what you mean. I mean, I wasn't the modular person before the grid,
[05:59.000] but I tried to embrace the grid and try new things.
[06:04.000] And it can be helpful sometimes for every workflow,
[06:12.000] and you can get something out of it in every genre.
[06:17.000] It's not only for ambient writing, randomized melody lines or something like this.
[06:25.000] There's also, you can learn a lot if you use the grid actually.
[06:33.000] If you just want to use a DA in a real, like in a traditional sense,
[06:42.000] where you just have your audio tracks want to record something or want to edit everything on audio tracks,
[06:49.000] then you're probably not right with Bitwig, right?
[06:53.000] So the modular approach is everywhere.
[06:58.000] You find the modular approach everywhere in Bitwig from the device chain to the grid.
[07:08.000] I see the greatest of modular, but for me, they spend too much effort into it and forget about the other features.
[07:14.000] Yeah, you have to see it's a small team, right?
[07:17.000] There are just, I don't know, 12 people or something like this,
[07:20.000] so they have to focus on certain sections in the application,
[07:24.000] and they can't develop everything at the same pace.
[07:29.000] So they have to go into each section of the DA, make it better, update it, and then release it.
[07:37.000] So it's not like there are a super big team like Abel Live, where they have 200 or 300 people,
[07:44.000] or 300 developers, and you know, scale everything at the same time.
[07:53.000] So maybe you have to be a bit patient and when 4.0 hits,
[08:00.000] and you have all the traditional features in there you want, and you upgrade,
[08:06.000] you also get the grid, you also get 3.0 with it, which is pretty nice.
[08:11.000] So all you have to do is basically to wait, wait it out.
[08:21.000] So you are not really stuck on 2.5, you just have to wait a bit longer.
[08:31.000] Yeah, they also have to try to implement some features that are a bit different than the competition.
[08:40.000] So they have to distinguish them a bit on the market with stuff like this.
[08:46.000] You make basically all the same like everyone else, then that's not a good thing to do, I think.
[09:01.000] Maybe I use a wave table to shape the sign, or maybe I use a wave table for this one here.
[09:25.000] Let's go with the random modulator here.
[09:54.000] Change the pitch, just touch.
[10:24.000] Yeah, let's use an AD here.
[10:50.000] And use the looping function, the looping feature.
[10:57.000] And I want to trigger this when the transport starts, transport playing, triggers this, and it's looped.
[11:15.000] So now I get this loop here, AD loop.
[11:22.000] This one modulates this one.
[11:51.000] And this one modulates this one.
[11:58.000] And this one modulates this one.
[12:24.000] Thanks for your tutorials on site, and it was very helpful and inspiring, I need to go and buy.
[12:31.000] Thanks for tuning in, man.
[12:37.000] Nevertheless, you are creating great music and content.
[12:40.000] Yeah, man, keep patient.
[12:43.000] I think there are some improvements coming to 4.0 or whatever the next version is.
[12:50.000] I'm pretty confident with it, and think about it, it's a small team, right?
[12:55.000] They need their time to focus on certain parts, and the grid is pretty great, actually, for a modular tool.
[13:01.000] It's pretty hands-on, and if you try it out, it's fun to play with.
[13:06.000] So it needed a lot of work and time, development time, I think.
[13:11.000] What the next version will be pretty feature-rich on traditional features, I think, a lot of people actually want it.
[13:21.000] I don't need myself for myself too much, and what I see that people need it.
[13:34.000] I feel like anytime they add something small, you get to think, how can I use this in other places?
[13:40.000] Yeah, that's a benefit of the modular approach, right?
[13:43.000] You put in a small little detail in an ecosystem, and then you can combine it with all the rest of the stuff
[13:50.000] and have a lot of multiple things you can do.
[14:05.000] Like the polymer device itself, it's nice, but nothing crowned-breaking, but you have that now as mod 2,
[14:12.000] that you can modulate anything else with it.
[14:15.000] Yeah, if you take, for instance, VST, like 0, and remove all the audio effects out of it, and all the modulators out of it,
[14:24.000] you're just left with a wave table editor and a wave table oscillator, basically.
[14:37.000] And you could, if you have basically 0 with all the audio effects and modulators in Bitwig itself as a native device,
[14:45.000] you can add all the modulators and radars created for your own.
[14:52.000] But basically, most of the audio effects in VSTs and modulators in VSTs are useless in Bitwig, more or less, not really, but.
[15:05.000] I switched to Bitwig because of the great modulation possibilities, it's a good day and a lot of fun.
[15:10.000] Yeah, and the modulation is basically the key to nice sounds, how a sound evolves over time.
[15:41.000] So maybe I can use these two here also to change the AD of this one.
[15:55.000] So these two ADs looping are basically generating some kind of polyrhythm or polymeter, playing in different speeds, repeating in different time frames.
[16:09.000] And giving me kind of an, yeah, rhythm, different rhythm every time, yeah.
[16:19.000] Maybe you can also use your signal generator by the sign mod or something to modulate.
[16:49.000] Okay, maybe we can smooth this out here with an average.
[17:08.000] So the signal is a bit more, you know, transitioning between the phase is a bit smoothed out.
[17:20.000] And we can use this with the modulator now to modulate something.
[17:30.000] So you can see in this patch already I try to reuse some signals, modify these signals and reuse them to modulate something different.
[18:01.000] Okay, just down here, I will see what kind of signal we have here, this is also some kind of ramp, average.
[18:23.000] Like this pretty long, and they used this to change here the pitch or the timing of the delay to get some pitch effects.
[18:53.000] So maybe you can also change this gate here for probabilities.
[19:22.000] So we can draw in certain probabilities.
[19:25.000] The first note I want to have first note always playing and then maybe these not so much.
[19:35.000] Maybe this one in the middle like this.
[20:01.000] And the more you add, the more devices you add or modules you add, the more you need to change all the settings and see how it sounds and how it evolves.
[20:23.000] And find all the little sweet spots and decide in which direction you want to go.
[20:38.000] So the complexity increases and also the combination of parameters of course.
[21:05.000] Okay, so maybe add a second oscillator here to this and maybe I play the same melody here.
[21:28.000] I'm on my mom on my mom.
[21:48.000] Maybe add a volume slider here.
[22:09.000] And if this delay, maybe I use the mod delay here and switch it to milliseconds.
[22:30.000] Radia, thanks for following.
[22:51.000] Okay, I need a small LFO here.
[23:12.000] I'll try to replicate here a little bit.
[23:33.000] Oh, this is super massive. Right, you have this delay time here and this is my delay time here.
[23:46.000] And then there's a feedback here with just this feedback and I have the time modulation here, the delay time which gets some nice pitch which affects.
[24:06.000] Maybe I should use mod delay for the left and the right channel.
[24:28.000] I need a stereo split and the stereo merge and different time settings for left and right just a bit.
[24:55.000] Let's play a few more options here.
[25:07.000] It's basically a poor man's, poor man's reverb.
[25:34.960] That's too much.
[25:44.960] Oh boss, I want to change the pitch but not too much.
[26:08.960] Maybe you can use the sound from above, yeah?
[26:26.720] Too face modulates the sign here.
[26:42.720] A bit metallic.
[27:05.720] Or maybe I am.
[27:25.720] Maybe I can use the sound from above.
[27:45.720] Starting the sound like, as a super berry pokey delay.
[28:13.720] And if this is actually super nice, if you get annoyed with the melody, right?
[28:31.720] But hearing this melody over and over again, you just change the sign mod here and get some kind of different melody.
[28:55.720] I could be interesting to change this actually on the beat credits here at the delay time.
[29:15.720] And of course failing to get that sound from above.
[31:09.720] like this.
[32:09.720] I think we also need something more powerful in Bitwig, something like Max MSP, but it's
[32:37.720] now. Just to create some nice instruments, more powerful stuff. I mean, the
[32:47.600] create is pretty nice for what it is. It's super hands-on and with 3-4 modules you
[32:56.640] can create a lot of nice things, but sometimes you want to have more.
[33:26.640] It's possible.
[33:54.640] Yeah.
[35:34.640] The containers in the face design would be a really nice step.
[36:04.400] Sometimes I think interfaces are super important actually for an instrument, not so much the
[36:18.240] internals right.
[36:20.240] It would be nice to create for all these Poly-Grids here some kind of dedicated interface
[36:30.800] just for it so you can perform it.
[36:33.280] I mean the remote controls are nice to have, but you know what I mean, just a dedicated
[36:40.920] maybe even a touch screen in the face.
[36:46.600] I don't know.
[36:49.600] So you can perform a bit and then maybe record something you like and then load with
[36:57.720] that.
[37:09.200] Okay.
[37:55.800] Music
[37:59.800] Music
[38:05.800] Music
[38:09.800] Music
[38:13.800] Music
[38:17.800] Music