Tags: posts polarity-music Bitwig Chords Harmony-Theory

Discovering Chords with Bitwig Studio's Ratio Setting

Tutorial | Jan 25, 2023

In this video, I talk about the ratio setting feature in Bitwig Studio, and how it can be used to create interesting melodies and chords. I explain how it works and how to use it to create chords by modulating simple ratios. I also discuss how to use the ratio setting with equal temperament, just intonation, and how to use the pitch quantizer to correct the frequency. Finally, I demonstrate how to use the ratio setting to create chord progressions and scales that sound pleasing to the ear.

You can watch the Video on Youtube

What are frequency ratios?

Frequency ratios are mathematical operations on frequencies, usually in the form of a ratio, which can be used to create interesting melodies, chord progressions, and even chords. Frequency ratios are typically used in just intonation tuning, which is different from the equal temperament tuning used when playing a piano or keyboard. Frequency ratios can be used to correct equal temperament notes to just intonation, or to create interesting chord progressions by using mathematical operations on frequencies.

Where can you use ratios in Bitwig?

You can use ratios in Bitwig Studio on the Phase 4, Polymer, Grid oscillators and Ratio Module.


If you don't want to watch the Video, or search for a specific topic, here is the transcription of the video with links to video markers:

[00:00.000] So, there are some settings or features in Bitwig Studio don't see a lot of people talk
[00:05.400] about and one of the feature is here the ratio setting on the Phase 4 for instance on these
[00:11.520] operators where you can dial in ratios for the frequencies and we don't only have this
[00:17.680] on the Phase 4, we also have this on Polymer here because we use the grid modules here,
[00:27.120] the grid oscillators.
[00:30.560] So we can also use this inside of the grid.
[00:33.400] So when we use your Polygrid, we have this here of course on the sine oscillator for
[00:40.680] instance or we have even a ratio module itself, right?
[00:46.280] So we can input here and frequency or a node and then the node is converted to frequency,
[00:54.280] we can use the frequency in the ratio and then we can multiply this frequency or we
[00:59.320] can divide this frequency and then we use this frequency as an input for the sine or
[01:06.160] for the oscillator or whatever we want to use it for.
[01:10.360] So I want to talk about in this video about this ratio setting and how it can lead to interesting
[01:16.360] nice notes, melodies and even chords.
[01:21.560] So it's probably a bit longer video and maybe it's a bit more advanced topic.
[01:27.440] But using these ratios is sometimes a nice starting point for a track because usually
[01:38.200] you start right in the piano role, you have this blank page with all these nodes and then
[01:44.840] you start to come up with some chord progressions or melodies on the same blank page every day
[01:52.880] or whenever you want to start the track.
[01:55.680] And it usually leads to the same results because you have your habits, you dial in the same
[02:01.440] chords, you stick to the same scales and so on, whatever.
[02:07.640] So this could be another way of starting off things differently and end up on different
[02:15.000] places.
[02:16.600] So about this ratio setting here, there are some things you have to know.
[02:22.080] When you use the ratio, you work within the frequency range.
[02:27.880] You don't work with nodes.
[02:30.840] Within the grid it's converted at some point to a node or to a MIDI node or whatever you
[02:35.840] want to call it.
[02:38.400] But the ratio setting, it's all about frequencies, which means you basically work within a different
[02:46.880] tuning system, which is called just intonation.
[02:51.160] And when you play a keyboard or when you play a piano, you usually work with equal temperament.
[02:57.600] Equal temperament is basically that certain nodes on the keyboard are a few cents off the
[03:05.320] perfect ratio.
[03:08.600] So you can work or fix that in different ways.
[03:13.360] You can either convert the just intonation ratio setting here to equal temperament with
[03:23.080] the quantizer.
[03:25.520] So you take all these perfect ratios and dump it down or correct it in the right way to
[03:34.200] equal temperament, or you can play completely in just intonation, work with the frequencies.
[03:41.640] And then on a different track, you maybe play along with the synthesizer.
[03:46.520] For instance, here may be a polymer.
[03:48.600] You can use the micro pitch for that.
[03:51.880] Input with your keyboard equal temperament nodes, use here just as a preset.
[04:01.720] And then you convert it to just intonation here.
[04:04.640] And then you play with the polymer, the right frequencies.
[04:07.600] But the micro pitch, I think, in my opinion, or as far as I know, works only with Bitwig
[04:13.240] internal devices because you play certain nodes on a different frequency.
[04:18.320] So the VST, if you want to use a VST, has to support this.
[04:22.440] And as far as I know, most VSTs don't support this.
[04:27.000] So when you use, for instance, a piano sample library or something like that, usually you
[04:33.040] just play an equal temperament no matter what you do.
[04:37.240] So two ways to correct this, basically, convert your equally temperament input nodes to just
[04:42.760] intonation and stick on the polygrid here with just intonation, or correct the just
[04:47.440] intonation in the polygrid here to equal temperament with the pitch quantizer and then
[04:52.120] just, you know, play VSTs in the normal way.
[04:56.240] But just in my opinion, the better solution.
[05:00.160] But you have to look up, actually, if it sounds still nice when you correct this here to equal
[05:05.640] temperament because certain ratios are perfect, right?
[05:10.200] It's just a math operation.
[05:12.280] So certain ratios maybe don't sound that good anymore when you correct the frequencies.
[05:17.720] Okay, that's just a side note so you know what's going up.
[05:24.000] So the ratio thing is in that particular thing very interesting because you work with frequencies
[05:34.480] and mathematical operations on these frequencies, which can lead to nice results.
[05:41.480] So here we have yet, so we have now here a C3 note, we have a ratio of one to one.
[05:47.440] So it stays the same note.
[05:49.440] So we just output this here.
[05:55.200] So it stays the same note.
[05:56.520] It's basically just C3.
[06:00.000] And when you go up here to two, you basically have twice the frequency of C3, which happens
[06:07.600] to be just one octave higher.
[06:09.320] So it's C4.
[06:11.720] And then we go up three times the frequency of C3 is not three octaves higher.
[06:18.080] It's actually, I think, three octaves and a half.
[06:22.800] If I'm not wrong, maybe put on here a keyboard, let's see, virtual keyboard, this one here.
[06:34.360] And output these notes here, where is it here?
[06:41.520] Put this as a note and trigger, so we need the gate trigger, so it becomes a note.
[06:50.120] So you can see here's the C, right, C note, two is one octifier, just the same C.
[07:00.640] Then three times it's just half octifier, right?
[07:08.120] So you step up the keyboard here and the higher the number gets, the finer grained the jumps
[07:15.240] are, or the intervals are.
[07:17.320] And this is really important to know, because when you later on dial in some ratios here
[07:24.160] for chords, when you stick to lower numbers, like one, one, one, two, right?
[07:31.040] So basically two, one is just one octifier, one, two is one octave lower.
[07:37.120] It's a perfect unison.
[07:39.240] And three, it's basically, I think it's a fourth, one, two, three, four, five, six,
[07:47.680] seven, it's a perfect fifth, basically.
[07:50.760] So you stick to perfect unison, perfect fifth, right?
[07:54.640] Then it's another perfect unison, it's four octaves higher.
[08:00.080] And then what's that, it's one, two, three, four, it's a major third higher.
[08:05.360] So that's a major third.
[08:07.100] So when you stick to these lower numbers, to these easy ratios, basically simple ratios,
[08:14.480] you always end up on pleasant notes or intervals for your chords.
[08:22.040] And the higher the number gets and the more fine grained you make your ratio here, the
[08:27.520] more dissonant it becomes and jumps become less and less big.
[08:32.200] So here you can see from 16 to 15, we basically make a semitone jump, right?
[08:39.760] Which is pretty dissonant.
[08:42.480] So that's also important to know.
[08:44.640] If you see simple numbers, the ratios, or the sound, the chords sound more pleasant
[08:51.640] or more simple and yeah, easy to digest.
[08:56.240] And the higher the number gets, the more dissonant it becomes and the jumps between
[09:01.560] notes become less and less big, okay?
[09:05.800] So that's a rule of thumb and I keep in my mind, basically, when I do these things.
[09:13.720] So let's grab here the notes for a moment and just dial in some ratios here.
[09:19.840] So we have the sign here, we have a second one and use a mixer here, of course.
[09:27.720] Let's dial this down and let's use a third one.
[09:33.960] So we basically want to play some kind of chord here and use three different ratios.
[09:50.280] So right, this is this middle thing here plays basically one octave lower, one to two.
[09:57.560] This is now two octaves and a half octave lower.
[10:03.360] So it's a bit more dissonant, probably a fourth down.
[10:14.800] Nice.
[10:22.200] So that's a nice chord, in my opinion.
[10:31.880] And because we know when we just change these numbers and keep it within a certain amount
[10:39.800] of, yeah, keep it in a certain range, it always sounds pleasant.
[10:46.640] So we can take here a step modulator.
[10:51.680] And this one is a bit too fast.
[10:54.400] We could use here a scalar to scale this down, but I just use here the device phase of the
[10:59.760] boolean grid and make the phase four bars long.
[11:03.800] So basically this, this sequence here is four bars long.
[11:08.440] And then I use this to change your certain ratios, maybe go down or see how this sounds.
[11:17.920] It doesn't need to be correct.
[11:26.520] We use this one here, it's only five steps.
[11:42.200] Good settings.
[11:48.200] Now we can also use this bipolar so we can also go down.
[12:06.880] You get kind of okayish chord progressions with that, and it's also how the MOOC subharmonic
[12:15.040] on works.
[12:16.040] You have a main oscillator, you dial in a frequency, and then you have two sub-oscillators
[12:21.840] where you can dial in subdivisions of the main oscillator's frequency.
[12:27.880] And then you have two sequences that operate either on one or two or one of these sub-oscillators
[12:36.800] or even on the main oscillator if you want to.
[12:40.440] And then you get interesting chord progressions and melodies out of that.
[12:47.040] You can see you're just by modulating these simple ratios, you get some kind of interesting
[12:53.280] stuff happening.
[12:56.280] So maybe you can just put on a reverb, let's take the rich one here, chorus, maybe delay
[13:26.240] after that.
[13:40.720] So maybe you can also dial in a bit of stereo feel.
[13:49.600] You can also use more, you don't need to just use three, you can also use four or five and
[13:58.440] maybe even use multiplying things here.
[14:03.080] What you also can do is you can say, I don't want to use the ratio setting on the initial
[14:09.800] main frequency to stay true to a ratio setting.
[14:15.920] You can also say I want to have the same ratio here from the second to the third operator,
[14:24.520] something like this.
[14:25.520] So you have always the same ratio between these two instead of these two.
[14:32.080] So you can do stuff like this or even do something like this and then use four or five of these
[14:37.840] in a row and see what you come up with that.
[14:42.360] So you take the ratio from this, then the ratio from that, and then the ratio from that.
[14:47.200] And it leads to different things, different results and you can go completely wild with
[14:55.800] the math operations on notes.
[15:03.120] Maybe use a quantizer here.
[15:06.560] Use all the notes, bring this in, duplicate this, that's what we don't need here.
[15:22.080] Now you can see which notes are getting selected.
[15:31.040] And if you're not sure in which kind of scale we are, you can do something like note out
[15:42.360] here, use a note out.
[15:48.160] Just take these notes here and output them as note informations after this polygrid here.
[15:57.920] All these ratios and let's use trigger module here.
[16:03.920] Let's go to 16.
[16:06.920] It's not 16 because we changed the device face length there, whatever.
[16:14.080] So you see we get some notes here out.
[16:18.080] And now we can go to a second track here, use a stage piano.
[16:26.640] We dial in here a nice preset.
[16:30.600] And here we can use a note grid.
[16:36.640] And we also switch this to polyphonic mode so we can use multiple notes.
[16:42.320] And here we get the notes from the MIDI keyboard that is connected.
[16:49.520] And I use a quantizer for the pitch information.
[16:53.920] And I'm just selecting this here, go to input, use note input and we use the note output
[17:01.400] of the ratio grid we created earlier.
[17:06.400] So now the pitch quantizer uses these notes and when you play, all notes become corrected
[17:13.000] to the current chord that this thing is playing here.
[17:18.960] So kind of never really that far off and maybe we also use a sample and hold like this.
[17:31.360] So now we can add here supermassive, maybe large delay, maybe a bit too big, but who
[17:48.240] cares?
[18:09.480] We can kind of, let's pull this up to D sharp here.
[18:27.520] So you not only can create a chord here with these ratios pretty easily, you can also create
[18:53.920] chord progressions easily because when you stick to these lower numbers, to these lower
[18:58.960] ratios, you always end up with a pleasing chord in a way, right?
[19:04.320] So and not only that, with the chord progression, you also create a scale.
[19:10.680] So if you use more of these notes, you're like, I do just use three, or if you use four
[19:15.880] or five, you get more and more notes you then can use here for a quantizer in a second track.
[19:23.160] To create some additional lines, melody lines or bass lines or whatever or melody lines
[19:32.240] on top that completely fit the scale of this one and the whole feeling of this one.
[19:40.880] So so you can start basically your track or your backdrop or your idea in a kind of simple
[19:49.840] mathematical way and stack your way up and make the track more complex and more complex.
[19:58.880] But you start with simple ratios, basically some simple mathematical operations, which
[20:04.720] is nice to do sometimes instead of going into the piano role here and doing the same thing
[20:11.040] over and over again.
[20:12.880] So it's just an interesting way of starting things up and getting new ideas or interesting
[20:20.240] results.
[20:22.440] And I really like to do this most of the times because it's highly musical in a way because
[20:28.040] you just stick to your ears, you try to dial in your some ratios and listen to it and when
[20:34.440] you think, oh, that sounds nice, right, you just leave it there and modulate a bit.
[20:40.840] And then you end up with something interesting.
[21:10.840] So we have another note in our chord progression here.
[21:35.840] And if you like the chord progression for this, you can also create an instrument track.
[21:51.360] Put it on record.
[21:52.360] And as an input, instead of using your MIDI keyboard or whatever, you can go to tracks
[21:58.040] here and then you get the ratio output here and grab that and just record it or you have
[22:12.320] some pitch bands, micro pitch bands also in there.
[22:30.960] This is a funny looking chord progression.
[22:39.160] Okay, so that's also something you can do if you want to get rid of these pitch bands.
[22:44.320] I think you have to use your sample and holds.
[22:50.680] And it would be also probably better to use your different speed settings.
[22:57.240] Let's use a scalar.
[22:59.840] So with the scalar, you can also use ratios here for the speed setting, which is kind
[23:08.120] of polyrhythmical with this input here, as a play thing to reset the phase.
[23:22.040] So here we use the original one to one tempo, then here maybe it's half speed, and then
[23:32.120] here's a third of the speed setting.
[23:47.120] Okay, so here's a sample note.
[23:59.840] There's more of these.
[24:02.320] Let's see how this works.
[24:05.240] If this works.
[24:34.560] So there's some repeating stuff in here.
[24:36.960] You maybe could change by changing the speed setting of the scalar.
[24:46.720] I mean, it's okay, but it's repeating, which is maybe something you want.
[24:54.880] But maybe you also want to, don't want to have this repeating.
[25:02.360] So we could maybe this four, five, this is eight, we go to nine here.
[25:28.360] Maybe we had to implement just something when the pitch changes, we want to put out a gate
[25:43.400] signal that would be better, but it's, it takes a while, it's maybe too much for this
[25:48.200] video.
[25:49.200] Maybe a little bit not too long, so I'm sticking here just to a trigger.
[25:59.040] This one's also nice.
[26:03.880] Oh yeah, we don't get all the notes because we trigger not that often.
[26:17.600] So let's implement this delay, this trigger thing.
[26:33.640] Big uneven.
[26:52.600] Let's see how this works.
[27:11.520] That's too much for this video, I think.
[27:14.080] I just keep it at this.
[27:18.280] I probably want to fill it around now for two hours to find the best setting for that.
[27:23.560] But maybe I do a preset for this type of device in the future, or maybe over the weekend,
[27:30.440] so I can serve you with that on my Patreon.
[27:35.000] Okay, that's it.
[27:36.880] So it's a nice way of creating chord progression, starting a track, finding new intervals between
[27:44.000] notes.
[27:45.000] So the ratio setting is highly recommended from my side for you to try it out.
[27:51.440] So that's it for this video.
[27:52.880] Thanks for watching.
[27:53.880] Leave a like if you liked the video, ask me questions in the comments, of course, and
[27:57.800] subscribe to the channel.
[27:59.240] Thanks for watching, and I'll see you in the next one, bye.