Tags: posts polarity-music Bitwig Note-FX Chords

Creating Dynamic Non-Diatonic Chord Progressions with Bitwig Studio

Tutorial | Mar 15, 2022

In this video, I show how to create non-diatonic chord progressions that rotate around the circle of fifths with the help of the note grid in Bitwig Studio. I also explain how to follow this workflow to create bass lines and melody lines. I demonstrate how to use the pitch signal and multiply it with seven to get nice patterns. I also explain how to use the note wrap tool to keep the notes within a certain octave range. Finally, I demonstrate how to use a polysend and note quantizer to make sure the notes fit the chords.

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Questions & Answers

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

What is the note grid in Bitwig Studio?

The note grid in Bitwig Studio is a tool that allows users to manipulate their notes to create different chord progressions, melodies, and rhythms. It provides a way to easily experiment with different pitch classes, as well as enabling the user to create non-diatonic chord progressions and melodies.

How can I use the note grid to create dynamic and interesting chord progressions?

The note grid in Bitwig Studio can be used to create dynamic and interesting chord progressions by using the pitch signal and multiplying it with seven to create intervals of fifths, then using the note wrap tool to keep all notes in the same octave range. Additionally, using the channel 16, users can switch between major and minor chords, as well as using an arpeggiator to create rhythmic variations.

What is the circle of fifths and how does it relate to the note grid?

The circle of fifths is a musical concept that helps to visualize the relationship between different keys and scales. It shows how each key is related to the other keys through intervals of fifths. In relation to the note grid, it


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] Hey folks, in this video I'll show you how you can create nice out of the scale non-diatonic
[00:19.720] chord regressions that just rotating around the circle of fifth with a note grid and some
[00:24.920] bit with magic, also how to create bass lines for it and some melody lines on top. And I know a lot
[00:30.840] of people are criticizing this kind of workflow, you know, they think you need to actually paint
[00:36.760] everything in specifically into the piano roll. I think this way of working is much more fluent.
[00:44.520] You can save it as a preset, you can start from something and then you can tweak it further
[00:49.080] down the line and make it more fleshed out to something. But I really like this workflow of having
[00:54.280] everything dynamic play around with the keyboard, you know, with the rhythm and also with chord shapes
[01:01.400] and trying out everything as much as possible. And then when I'm happy with it, I just bounce
[01:07.240] down to note clips or audio clips and then I can tweak it further. So I just like to have this
[01:14.920] kind of workflow and I use it a lot actually in a daily basis. So let's start and I show you how it
[01:21.640] works. Okay, so, you know, most people don't like the piano roll in Bitwig Studio because it lacks
[01:32.040] some features, right? It doesn't have the chord shapes of FL Studio, it doesn't have the scales
[01:37.320] of able to live, yada, yada, but we have now the note grid. So I show you some tricks with the
[01:42.840] note grid. Actually, if you paint in a note here and you have select maybe here with the right
[01:50.920] click on the empty note clip, you have selected the pitch class. You probably saw that each of
[01:56.680] these notes have a different color. And what these colors mean is basically that when you have
[02:03.320] the same kind of color, these notes are sound harmonic together. You can see a C3 and F3
[02:11.800] have kind of the same color because this is actually a fourth apart and also G3 here, which is
[02:19.800] a seventh apart. So one, two, three, four, five and six, seven, semi-tones, okay? So what if we actually
[02:31.080] scale the keyboard so that each of these notes are closed together? So let's say we go for seventh,
[02:37.560] right? And here are now seven semi-tones between them. But I want to have like this note,
[02:45.000] this seven semi-tones note here. So instead of one semi-tone up, I want to go up seven semi-tones
[02:51.960] up each time I increase here the note. So this was the main idea behind this. So I took the note grid.
[03:01.080] This one here. And I just say you use here the pitch signal and use multiply and just multiply
[03:16.280] everything with seven. So every seven tone is time seven. So one semi-tone up is actually seven
[03:28.120] semi-tones up and two semi-tones up is actually 14 semi-tones up and so on. So this gets you
[03:36.280] instantly nice interesting patterns. So let's go for this one here. Maybe this that
[03:47.640] don't need that. Maybe a reverb on this one. Let's go for supermassive. Of course.
[04:04.280] And use delay here. So let's see how this sounds. We have now here C3,
[04:12.280] which is still C3. But this one is not C sharp 3, it's actually G. So I show you this here with
[04:20.920] a MIDI keyboard or MIDI chord analyzer. You can see this is C, but this is G. This is actually here.
[04:33.720] And this one is D, but it's not that D here. It's basically one octave higher. And this is A
[04:43.560] two octave higher. So you get instantly kind of a fifth melody line. And the problem here is that
[04:54.920] we are pretty easily pretty fast up here in the higher octaves. And at some point right we are out
[05:04.840] of the scope of the notes. So turns out just going up seven semi-tones is actually pretty bad at
[05:17.240] some point because we exceed the range of the keyboard. So we use here my note rap tool. I created
[05:24.040] it in the recent video, which you can rewatch. There's a link in the description probably.
[05:30.520] And now this one here keeps everything in this octave between C3 and C4. Now this sounds like this.
[05:43.720] Okay, so this is this sounds much better in my opinion. Now when we scale this up
[05:49.480] 100%. And of course you can also go down. You don't want to.
[06:08.520] So this is not a problem at all. Okay, so now that we have this we know that each note basically
[06:16.600] close to another note is instantly harmonic because it's just one seven semi-tones up,
[06:23.720] a fifth up, which is pretty nice. We can do now something like let me see.
[06:31.960] Can use a moody note and say this is a major chord.
[06:36.520] Now it's like this. Or actually make this a bit longer, yeah.
[06:52.440] And this is all major chords and they sound nice together. It's basically just rotating around
[07:08.760] the major chords on the circle of the right. It's just rotating just round and round.
[07:14.200] And what I found interesting is that you can now put this moody note here into a layer,
[07:21.640] note FX layer by hitting Ctrl and G. And then right click on this and say convert a note FX layer.
[07:30.200] And we call this here maybe major. And do a different just duplicate this here with Ctrl and D
[07:40.040] and call this minor. And here we just use a minor chord. And to use the, I don't know,
[07:48.840] it's relative or the parallel minor of this major chord. You also need to switch down
[07:56.040] three semi-tones. You can show you this on the circle of fifth is basically when you switch from
[08:02.600] the major to the minor that is close together that you go three semi-tones down.
[08:08.680] Okay, so now that we have this we put this here into the post FX and we also put the note
[08:14.760] wrap into the post FX box here. So we can save this as a preset if we want to. And in front of
[08:22.360] the note grid we can now use channel 16 here, like to zero. And we use the channel 2 to switch from
[08:31.960] major to minor. So every note on this thing here when you select one note and say this is channel 2,
[08:40.440] this is now a minor chord. Okay. So this is interesting. Yeah, you need to know this.
[08:50.360] Yeah. So and maybe also we use here an arpeggiator. I'll put it down in. So
[09:01.080] we can rotate around as far as we want. We can also pitch this down here the whole thing.
[09:24.200] And it still stays harmonic. So we just start at a different note but it's just rotating around
[09:32.280] the circle of fifth. So we can say for instance we are here at which is this, this is
[09:45.960] the sharp major. You can pull this down and say this one here is a minor chord now.
[10:02.440] Okay. And then we can go down but here in the minor chord.
[10:08.040] So let's see how this sounds.
[10:14.120] And maybe even more down. And then
[10:44.680] maybe switch your back to major at some point. I don't know where.
[11:00.280] And then we can go back basically to the first note.
[11:07.000] Maybe you have to spread this a bit more out here and more rhythmically. The rhythm is actually
[11:12.280] pretty important. Let's see. Kind of a drum loop.
[11:42.760] Maybe you duplicate here the minor thing and you suspend it out of this.
[11:55.880] I think it's just two, right? I'm not sure. And use three here, channel three to get a
[12:04.840] suspended. Maybe you can. Sneak a suspended in here.
[12:34.840] And I could be something, I don't know.
[13:04.760] Maybe it does also two steep here. Okay. So now that we have your kind of non-diatonic chord progression
[13:15.400] that rotates around the circle of fifth, maybe we can bring here some bass in it.
[13:21.800] Maybe we can say major chord. This may be a seventh chord. And this is also a seventh chord.
[13:31.080] And this too. Maybe we have a bass.
[14:01.240] Okay. So I would say this is okay. EDM chord progression. It's maybe not the best one,
[14:09.720] but you can bounce this out to maybe to an instrument tracker and say I want to tweak this even further.
[14:19.640] But we can do as an input here for this. So we can grab here everything, not after the
[14:31.960] aperture. We take everything after the note grab. Okay. So let's record.
[14:39.720] Actually from the start.
[15:00.520] So now that they have basically this here, you can tweak the set even more if you want to sneak
[15:05.160] in some more notes, but you have something you can start from pretty easily without actually knowing
[15:11.320] the circle of fifth and trying out a lot of different combination of chords. You can just rotate
[15:18.440] here around the circle of fifth and maybe sneak in some minor chords, some suspended chords here
[15:23.800] and there, some augmented chords. I mean you can put in all the chord shapes you want in here
[15:29.560] and switch between them. You have 16 channels. You can choose from and have fun with this basically
[15:37.240] using the rhythm of the operator from above here. So now we are playing basically chords here.
[15:46.920] But that's not what we want because we want to play one note. So we can use a note grid again.
[15:52.440] Make this monophonic. It's monophonic. Nice. Call this poly to mono device here and feed
[16:04.280] our note signal through that and select your lowest signal level is used, which is probably
[16:10.680] the lowest note in our chord progression or the bottom note, which is the base note. And we just
[16:16.680] select this and pass this through here to our device. So now we get only the
[16:25.960] the lowest note of the chord progression here.
[16:31.880] So we transpose this down on octave.
[16:35.080] And maybe we change here the gate signal a bit so we use a trigger.
[16:50.680] Now trigger and another trigger and the clock one ties. You know the old trick.
[17:04.760] Pull this out. So in this place now all the time, which is not what we want. We want to of course
[17:26.040] only play when there's a note coming in. No, I'll do it this way. So now we need to play.
[17:45.640] Yeah, fine. So now we only select here the lowest note from the chords above and we play
[17:51.000] a different pad on for the bass line here.
[18:21.000] We need only monophonic voices.
[19:51.560] Okay easy peasy. So maybe we add some kind of melody line to it. So we do the same trick
[20:02.600] on not really the same trick we use actually a polysend.
[20:07.560] And the problem that we now have here with the polysend is that when we want to play a melody,
[20:13.080] all these chords here are basically non-diatonic. So they go across all the different scales.
[20:18.920] And we can use this quantized trick. Note quantized trick. I'll show you in a minute.
[20:34.680] So instead of using here a diatronic transposer, I'm using a note grid.
[20:39.960] And I'm using here quantizer, note quantizer, and switch this one to use note input here.
[20:53.160] And select again our chord track here. Instead of the arpeggiator, I'm selecting again the note
[20:59.640] rep, note in, note out. Okay so now we get the chords here from above and the pitch quantizer uses
[21:09.080] the chords to constrain our notes we are inputting from the MIDI keyboard. So now I can play on the
[21:15.400] keyboard. And the quantizer quantizes the notes to the chords that are currently playing.
[22:15.400] So I have no idea which kind of scale I'm currently playing. I'm just
[22:30.360] passing some notes on the keyboard and then you start recording some point and get some interesting
[22:36.760] results out of it. And it's non-diatonic. So it's maybe a contrast to using the diatronic transposer
[22:43.640] all the time and stay diatonic and maybe sounds a bit too boring all the time.
[22:49.240] But a lot of possibilities at certain points in here. You can see we just have four tracks and it
[22:55.720] already sounds okay. Maybe record something here. Oh this is one.
[23:25.960] And this is what I played on the keyboard. It's probably completely wrong. But the quantizer,
[23:35.560] quantizer here actually looks for the correct chords and the correct notes in the chords.
[23:42.040] And the more or at least if you go here up to the chord track and use more notes in one chord shape,
[23:50.360] you have more possibilities for the melodies of course than in down here. So I would suggest maybe
[23:58.040] start with at nine or seven chords or something like this. So add notes in here and you have more
[24:04.040] possibilities than for the melody.
[24:35.000] I mean we could here also dig in some rhythm elements. We could do the same like above using
[24:47.400] triggers here and the clock one times. But we also interesting.
[25:05.240] We use eight notes.
[26:05.240] I would say it's an easy starting point for us from EDM tracks like I said. So in Bitwig Studio
[26:24.680] we don't have these nice little FL Studio chord shape tools or scale tools but you can do a lot
[26:32.760] of the note grid in Bitwig Studio and even make it more dynamic. You can play around with the
[26:39.880] keyboard. You can quantize the notes to the correct scale to the current chord. You can bring in
[26:46.120] or sneak in some different rhythm variations. So there's a lot of possibilities and it stays dynamic
[26:52.440] and live and you can tweak everything until you like it and then just record it.
[26:57.880] That's it. Don't forget to subscribe, leave a like if you liked the video, ask
[27:05.320] questions in the comments and I'll see you in the next video. Thanks for watching and bye.