Tags: posts polarity-music Bitwig Chords Note-FX

Creating Chord Progressions with the Circle of Fifths in Bitwig Studio

Tutorial | Mar 23, 2022

In this video, I show how to use the Circle of Fifths in Bitwig Studio's Note Grid to create interesting and complex chord progressions. I demonstrate how to set up the Note Grid, activate trigger buttons to send out the chords, and adjust the settings such as adding a seventh or ninth to get different chord variations. I also show how to record the chord progressions in an instrument track. Finally, I explain why this device is useful for those who don't know how to play the piano and how it can be used to jam with a rhythm to create interesting chord progressions.

You can watch the Video on Youtube - support me on Patreon

Questions & Answers

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

What is the circle of fifths and how is it used in Bitwig Studio?

The circle of fifths is a tool used in music theory to help identify the relationships between notes, chords and scales. In Bitwig Studio, it can be used to create chord progressions by creating nodes and connecting them in the Note Grid. The nodes represent the different notes in the circle of fifths, and when connected, a progression can be created.

Can I use the circle of fifths in Bitwig Studio to record audio?

Yes, you can use the circle of fifths in Bitwig Studio to record audio. To do this, you can add an instrument track to the project, connect the output of the circle of fifths to the input of the instrument track, and then hit record. This will record the chord progressions you create with the circle of fifths.

Are there any limitations when using the circle of fifths inside Bitwig Studio?

Yes, there are some limitations when using the circle of fifths inside Bitwig Studio. For example, when you open the Note Grid, Bitwig Studio tries to find the middle position of all the modules, which makes it difficult to access the interface


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] So this is like a special implementation of the circle of fifth inside Bitwig Studio
[00:28.000] inside the Note Grid. And we have this window here, which is basically this Note Grid here
[00:33.360] down on the left corner. And this one is on this track here on the first track on the
[00:37.920] Polysand. After this, we have an arpeggiator here and a Polysand playing the nodes and
[00:43.360] some reverbs and some delay. So this one spits out quartz. This is the main function of this thing.
[00:51.840] And I light all the quartz here inside the circle. And if you know the piano, if you can't
[00:58.640] play the piano, then this is for you like, you know, piece of cake. This is beginner stuff.
[01:04.560] But a lot of people can't actually play the piano and they don't know how the relationships
[01:10.560] are between the quartz. And I think this is a pretty nice use case for the grid here to show off
[01:18.880] what you can do or what you could do if it actually implemented some better
[01:28.960] yeah user interface things. So what I'm going for here is trigger buttons. If you push these
[01:38.080] trigger buttons, it spits out the quartz and it holds this quartz until you hit kill. Or you hit
[01:43.840] another node. So when I push here, they're a minor. Place an a minor quartz. If you want to stop,
[01:51.440] you just press kill. We don't have actually no button with the push and hold state. We only have
[01:59.200] a button that you can switch on and switch off. Or you have trigger button here, which just sends
[02:04.560] out the pulls, which is okay. But I think this is the best implementation for that. Just push
[02:09.840] and then it holds the quartz and then you press another quartz or another. If you want to stop,
[02:20.400] you just press kill and then it stops. So it spits out quartz from the circle of fifth and how
[02:28.000] this is layout here is basically super simple. All these quartz are just a fifth apart. So a minor
[02:36.480] is just seven semi tones apart from E minor. It's just seven semi tones apart from B minor.
[02:43.840] And you have on the outside the yellow triggers are only minor quartz. So yeah, you can play
[02:54.160] all the minor quartz here. And inside you have all the major quartz. And if you disable the seventh
[03:01.600] and the at nine, you have just basic tritones. You can also disable base one and base two, which are
[03:06.880] just root note one octave lower and two octave slower. And so now we just play on the super simple
[03:14.800] tritones. So the root, the third and the fifth. Easy. And if you want to add some base, then you
[03:36.720] activate or enable your base one. That's one base note. We actually disable the episode you can
[03:45.520] hear it's basic quartz. Base two is a second base. You can see our minus two octaves.
[03:56.560] There's another lower note spitting out from this device here. Then you have the seventh here. So we
[04:04.240] can add, I think it's 11 or 10 semi tones up from the root note, depending on which kind of
[04:12.560] chord type you play minor or major. And you can also add nine here or add an add nine.
[04:24.160] It makes it makes it a bit more lush. We activate this here. It might be better.
[04:41.840] So you can choose a lot of options here. We also have a rap option, which means like
[04:45.920] everything is centered around C3 or kind of tries to keep the notes within the C3 and C4
[04:55.600] note range within this octave. So you get also, if you exceed this octave, you get kind of
[05:04.320] inversion of these quartz automatically. And super nice and easy to play. You can also disable this
[05:10.800] if you don't want to have this. And it's a nice device to actually
[05:18.880] spit out a nice chord progression that's not diatonic. So you can play of course diatonic
[05:25.360] quartz. You have to go in a special path through the cycle here. But it's much easier to just play
[05:33.680] some notes that are some quartz that are close together. So this one here sounds always good with
[05:39.600] this one. But you can also skip one step. So from here to here. Okay. So you can also skip
[05:50.320] sometimes just one fifth step. And you can also switch between minor and major chords at every time
[05:57.920] as you can say you go from here. Instead to here you go to here. And then you go back to minor.
[06:05.280] Back to major. And then you go back up in a different path, for instance.
[06:24.880] And then you are back on your root, in your home, in your home chord.
[06:29.120] So yeah, this kind of works pretty nice. You can also record this to a different instrument track.
[06:36.720] And I'll show you this at the end of the video. But first I want to show you some short
[06:42.560] comments because this is obviously a heck here inside the grid. And we can see we have a lot of
[06:48.000] lines here which are basically the cables going through the heart of this chord thing here.
[06:56.400] It's probably not the best implementation you could do this probably a lot better with a lot less
[07:01.760] modules. But I just said, you know, an evening, nerding time, and I tried all different
[07:09.920] bunch of stuff. And then I came up with this implementation. It's probably not the best. It's
[07:14.160] just straight forward. But yeah, don't look at that. It's basically just, you know, making this
[07:22.880] on possible. So there are some shortcomings, of course, you can see we have here this circle
[07:29.840] on the left side and this one on the right side. So every time you open the Note Grid here,
[07:35.120] Bitwig basically tries to find the middle position of all these modules. So it throws you
[07:41.120] in the middle of this year and you have to scroll to the interface, basically, which is, yeah,
[07:46.560] yeah, I can't change this. This is basically a bit of a thing. Also, when you bring this back here
[07:55.040] into the, into the main view, you can't obviously do something in here. Maybe you want to start
[08:04.080] record or you want to activate something and want to switch back to this one here. You always
[08:09.040] land in this viewpoint. You always have to scroll to this. So what I did most of the times is activate
[08:17.360] here the single window or this extended window, this pop up. And the problem here is that you can't
[08:24.720] disable this area here. It's always here. At least I haven't found a way to disable this.
[08:30.080] But in this pop up view, you can kind of, let's listen to this kind of here in this area and then
[08:40.160] you can switch here between different tracks, record something and do your thing. But here's
[08:47.280] another problem. If you actually enable the browser, like you click on this plus button here,
[08:53.520] yeah, obviously this window is going away. And if you go back, it's, which is back to this
[09:01.200] center view here, which is unfortunate, but I can't change it really. It's, it's a bit
[09:06.800] big thing, right? Maybe they changed this in the future or maybe we get some kind of special
[09:13.280] interface view where we can lay out your different things and hide away some of these mechanics
[09:19.840] here, but I don't know, maybe we get this, maybe we don't get this at all, but would be nice.
[09:28.480] Okay, so now that we have this here, we can record something by adding an instrument track here.
[09:36.880] And just grab from the Poly center after the circle of fifth here the input.
[09:41.040] And enable this and then we can hit record.
[10:11.040] And then we go back to a minor here. Yeah, you can see we can record to see we have a lot of
[10:34.080] different chords here. And maybe we start here and end here.
[10:44.400] So we can bring this down here and can use the notes we just created here.
[11:14.400] And then it loops.
[11:44.400] So I think this would be much, much better with some interface changes here in Bitwig,
[11:50.720] but for now, it still works pretty great, I think, to spit out some chords with the circle of fifth
[11:57.680] tool here. And like I said, all these chords here that are close together sound nice or well
[12:04.000] together, you can also skip some steps, you can skip steps and then go to major here or to minor back.
[12:10.800] So there are a lot of different paths through the circle and you can experiment with this a lot
[12:16.480] just by clicking around and finding your path through the circle, finding new nice chord progressions.
[12:24.320] And also just maybe record everything inside your clip and just, you know, click around and then
[12:30.240] when you find new nice progressions, then you just cut it out here from your note clips
[12:37.680] and then use it in your tracks, for instance, right. So this is available on my Patreon.
[12:44.960] I think it's available on some higher level tier, but it's not more expensive than probably five
[12:52.880] bucks. And I probably also add here also some more of these chord shapes. We have only have
[13:01.840] seven and at nine, maybe I do also suspended and augmented things in here, but the more you add
[13:09.680] basically the more complex it gets while you're playing and I really enjoy the simplicity of
[13:15.200] this here by just clicking these things and spitting out some regular chord shapes.
[13:21.280] You can still go in here and make some adjustments to some of these notes, make maybe
[13:26.640] suspended or augmented chord out of this or maybe add another note on top.
[13:33.040] But for now, I think it's a great tool to actually spit out some chord progressions, okay.
[13:39.200] So yeah, if you're interested in this preset, then you can find the download link below.
[13:44.000] It's on my Patreon. I think it's, yeah, like I mentioned, it's some of the lower tiers,
[13:49.200] probably five bucks or something. And also, when I post something like this on YouTube,
[13:57.920] a lot of comments from people saying, yeah, why do we need this? And if you just learn the piano
[14:03.520] to play it and you don't need this at all. And yeah, I get this. If you can't play the piano,
[14:09.040] then this is like a set piece of cake. This is like beginner stuff. But for me, it's like fun to do.
[14:15.600] These kind of devices in Bitwig, trying to figure out what's possible to do inside the grid.
[14:22.640] Also, having small little presets that are easy to use for beginners. And also for me,
[14:29.920] it's super easy just to click these buttons and spit out some good harmonic chord progressions
[14:36.080] that you can later on change if you want to. It's super easy. I don't need the piano to play this
[14:41.440] actually. You can use it on a laptop without the piano at all. You just click the buttons
[14:47.120] and you have chord progressions. And you can also jam a little bit with the rhythm and find a
[14:52.480] nice rhythm for the chord progression. So why not do it? It's fun to do. Okay, so that's it for this
[15:00.720] video. Subscribe to the channel, leave a like if you like the video, comment if you have some
[15:04.960] questions. You can also join my discord and ask me if you have problems with this or if you have
[15:10.160] some, I don't know, feature requests or something like that. Then yeah, you can do that too.
[15:16.960] Thanks for watching and I'll see you in the next video. Bye.