Tags: posts polarity-music Bitwig Sound-Design Wavetable Polygrid Ambient Tutorial

Creating Interesting Sounds and Soundscapes with Tones and Wavetables

Tutorial | Sep 04, 2023

In this video, I show how to create interesting sounds and soundscapes using tones and wavetables. I primarily use Bitwig Studio and Serum, but just the wavetable editor in Serum. I demonstrate how to manipulate the wavetable by drawing in different wave shapes and randomizing certain partials. I then export the wavetable and import it into Bitwig Studio's wavetable oscillator. Using the wavetable oscillator, I create a motif by randomizing pitch steps and applying pressure and timbre modulation. I also incorporate effects like convolution reverb and delay to enhance the sound. I then explore using the polygrid to create more complex sounds by drawing in sign partials and modulating them over time. Finally, I use the polygrid to create a pad sound by combining sign partials, applying ADSR envelopes and filters, and adding effects like delay and chorus.

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

Questions & Answers

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

Questions and Answers:

Q1: What techniques does the speaker use to create interesting sounds and soundscapes?

The speaker uses various techniques to create interesting sounds and soundscapes. They primarily work with tones and harmonics by manipulating wavetables in Bitwig, specifically using the Serum wavetable editor. They also utilize the Spectrum device to visualize and manipulate the waveform. The speaker demonstrates how to draw partials in the editor to create specific wave shapes, randomize certain bins to introduce variability, and create overtones by mixing different frequencies. They emphasize that most of the interesting sounds are generated within the first window of partials, but higher partials can be used for noise or added effects. By experimenting with these techniques, the speaker is able to create unique and complex sound textures.

Q2: How does the speaker incorporate the wavetable into their workflow?

To incorporate the wavetable into their workflow, the speaker exports the modified wavetable as a 16-bit wave file and saves it in their wavetable folder. They then import the wavetable into the Polymer instrument track in Bitwig. By browsing through the imported wavetables, the speaker selects the desired wavetable and uses it as a source for the wavetable oscillator in Polymer. This allows them to further manipulate and modulate the wavetable using Polymer's features and effects.

Q3: How does the speaker use the step sequencer in creating interesting motifs?

The speaker uses the step sequencer to create interesting motifs by randomizing the pitch frequencies of the steps. They leave the first step at zero and then apply randomization to the subsequent steps. This generates a pattern of varying pitch frequencies. By using the pressure parameter in Polymer and linking it to the step sequencer, the speaker can step through the wavetable and create dynamic variations in the sound. Additionally, they use the sub-oscillator in Polymer to introduce the root frequency and blend it with the partials from the wavetable, allowing for further customization and manipulation of the sound.

Q4: How does the speaker enhance the sounds using effects and modulation?

The speaker enhances the sounds using effects and modulation in Bitwig. They utilize the Convolution Reverb and Delay Plus effects to add spatial and realistic characteristics to the sound. By combining different types of reverbs and mixing them together, they can create a more immersive and layered sound space. Additionally, they use modulation parameters such as timbre and modulation amount to dynamically control the filter and create tonal variations. By combining these effects and modulation techniques, the speaker is able to create more complex and nuanced soundscapes.


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.

[00:00:00] So in this video, I want to show you how I work with our tones to create interesting sounds, soundscapes, and so on.
[00:00:09] Some tips and tricks, how you can look at things, maybe some gotchas in there.
[00:00:14] So I switch it to Bitwig.
[00:00:17] In here, sometimes I use Serum, and I don't use Serum as a synthesizer. I use most of the times just the wavetable editor.
[00:00:27] Maybe use also the Spectrum device.
[00:00:31] So let's go to the editor here, and we have here at the bottom all the indexes or wave shapes of the wavetable.
[00:00:39] At the moment, it's just a saw.
[00:00:42] Looks like this.
[00:00:47] Maybe switch this here to huge.
[00:00:50] Yeah, we can see we have here root, root, root partial and all the overtones, all the overtone partials,
[00:01:01] and so on. So we can clear this here and draw in just one root partial.
[00:01:08] It gives you pretty clean sine wave, sine partial here.
[00:01:14] And you can create overtones with just these drawers here.
[00:01:19] You can say, I want to mix here basically the root frequency with eight times the frequency of this one.
[00:01:29] It gets you this wave shape here.
[00:01:34] And yeah, you can target specific frequencies if you want to.
[00:01:38] But what I do most of the times is right click here and say "randomize low 16 bins",
[00:01:43] which means all these 16 bins here up to here are randomized.
[00:01:48] So we get this outcome.
[00:01:51] Then I go to a different shape or different index here, randomize again.
[00:02:00] Something like this.
[00:02:02] Or maybe I draw something in here.
[00:02:09] So most of the times it's only interesting to change here the lower partials.
[00:02:14] You can go up to 512, but most of the times everything that defines the sounds is within the first window here.
[00:02:25] Everything above is just noise, or you can introduce noise or a bit of distortion to create some interesting things on top.
[00:02:32] You don't need to draw everything in here.
[00:02:37] So create some interesting noises here just by painting and stuff.
[00:02:42] Of course, you can also paint in here if you want to.
[00:02:54] And with all these random partials, we can now move between them.
[00:03:04] Or can say "process normalize each table" and then say "morph crossfade" or maybe "spectral".
[00:03:19] That's cool. Export as 16-bit wave.
[00:03:23] And I put this here into my wavetable folder with all my wavetables in there.
[00:03:30] And I call this here "Chef" maybe. "Chef table". I don't know. Save.
[00:03:38] And we can close this down and create a new track with the polymer.
[00:03:44] And in here we have already a wavetable oscillator.
[00:03:48] And with the browser in here, we have all the wavetables that are in the library, not in this directory.
[00:03:55] So I have to import everything from this directory again. So I right-click here on the empty space and say "Import wavetables".
[00:04:02] I don't know actually why you have to right-click on here. It needs to be a button in my opinion.
[00:04:07] But it is how it is. "Import wavetables". And then you go into this directory here.
[00:04:14] Just choose it. And now when I hit "OK", I copy all these files from this directory into the library.
[00:04:22] And in the background, Bitweek creates this nice little icon here from the wavetable.
[00:04:29] And search for it "Chef table". Nice. And now we have it in here in this wavetable oscillator.
[00:04:39] And we can use it.
[00:04:42] So to create an interesting motif here, I use my step sequencer.
[00:04:49] I randomize here the frequencies of the pitch steps.
[00:04:54] Leave the first one here at zero.
[00:05:05] Get this kind of sound.
[00:05:09] Pretty thin, but it's OK.
[00:05:11] So now I can use pressure, which is randomized here by the step sequencer, and can step through the wavetable here.
[00:05:24] And because I left the root or the fundamental completely at zero, we can dial it in here with the sub-oscillator.
[00:05:33] We can go to zero and use the sign partial and then bring in the partial at the bottom.
[00:05:40] Can I play this actually here? Yeah, maybe bring this down. Use the spectrum here. Open this up.
[00:05:51] So this is here just the wavetable, right? And the root or the fundamental is non-existent.
[00:05:57] And I can bring this in here with the sub-oscillator.
[00:06:02] And the sub-oscillator itself is actually a mix. When you bring this up to 100 percent, you only hear the sub-oscillator.
[00:06:11] So you can mix and match already with the sub-oscillator in the wavetable and come up with some interesting things.
[00:06:19] Because you can also switch this here to a pulse.
[00:06:22] And the pulse itself has some overtones, at least all the overtones.
[00:06:31] Okay, so now we have here used pressure for that. We can use timbre for the modulation here.
[00:06:41] Modulation amount of the filter. Let's go down to zero.
[00:06:46] Oh, that's timbre here.
[00:06:49] You can choose how much you want to dial in the fundamental frequency here.
[00:07:09] In the FXBox, we use a convolution reverb. And I do this all the time to mix basically different reverbs from Bitwig.
[00:07:18] Bring so much more interesting sounds or create so much better space.
[00:07:24] So use a convolution here to bring in a bit of realism. Let's say it.
[00:07:30] Cathedral impulse response here. Then I use a delay plus because I like the space diffusion algorithm here.
[00:07:38] So I combine basically this reverb with this reverb here with a slight mix.
[00:07:44] And then at the end, you also use the delay too.
[00:07:57] It's basically how space is built as VST I showed you on my channel here.
[00:08:02] Where you can use multiple different delays and re-robs and combine them.
[00:08:09] This is also interesting. It's a phase modulation here from the sub oscillator to the wavetable oscillator.
[00:08:31] So we use also a step mod here.
[00:08:35] Speed up.
[00:08:38] And 15 steps.
[00:08:42] And maybe unison.
[00:08:49] I think this already sounds pretty nice and a interesting sound or line or pattern you can use as a backdrop for a track.
[00:09:15] Okay, that's that.
[00:09:26] With the wavetable, we are a bit limited because we are limited to these 256 positions here, right?
[00:09:33] If you want to change certain partials in here, it's not that easy. You can't do it.
[00:09:38] You have to use the filter to amplify or reduce certain harmonics. That's possible.
[00:09:44] But it's also not so fluid.
[00:09:47] So what we can do is we can use instead the pulley grid.
[00:09:52] Of course, we can always use the pulley grid.
[00:09:56] And in here, we can recreate basically the editor of Xeroom where you use the drawers to draw in partials.
[00:10:06] But here we use for every draw, we use a sign oscillator.
[00:10:11] This one is the first one. This is the root partial here. One, one.
[00:10:15] This is the second harmonic here.
[00:10:18] The third harmonic.
[00:10:21] Fourth harmonic.
[00:10:23] Fifth and so on. We don't need to use that much. Like I said, the lower partials define basically the sound.
[00:10:29] Most of the times you are pretty fine with five partials.
[00:10:35] You can use as many as you want, of course.
[00:10:38] We use a SUM device here to summarize basically the output of this.
[00:10:43] And we probably want to use an AD.
[00:10:51] We probably also want to reduce the volume.
[00:10:57] Go to 50 percent because we summarize here multiple partials.
[00:11:02] Maybe 20 percent.
[00:11:05] And then we go here into Out.
[00:11:11] And maybe a filter.
[00:11:14] Sound key.
[00:11:18] And use a second one for the filter.
[00:11:22] You can change that later on.
[00:11:26] And what we also want to do is we want to probably change the loudness here of some of these partials.
[00:11:33] So first I use an attenuate.
[00:11:40] For everything.
[00:11:44] And this is the root one. This one is probably the loudest.
[00:11:48] So keep this at 60 percent. This one goes down. This one goes down.
[00:11:55] And so on.
[00:11:57] And here we can also reduce the overtones, of course, with this.
[00:12:01] But for the moment I keep it completely open.
[00:12:05] I use a spectrum inside here.
[00:12:12] Go in here. Let's see how this sounds.
[00:12:20] So you can see all the partials here.
[00:12:26] So instead of going here, the harmonic series up. So one, two, three, four, five and so on.
[00:12:34] You can just go a bit crazy and leave the root or the fundamental untouched, but experiment here a bit with different.
[00:12:51] It really doesn't matter what kind of thing you choose here, even though it sounds sometimes a bit dissonant.
[00:13:00] But the root frequency is still the loudest, which defines the pitch of the sound anyway.
[00:13:20] And then we can use the filter to bring this out of the filter.
[00:13:31] And maybe use it same step sequencer in front of the polygrid.
[00:13:38] Let's see how the sounds.
[00:13:41] Sounds kind of similar or not similar, but it's a different sound quality.
[00:13:58] So now we can try and make the sound a bit more interesting over time so we can use multiple ways to change this.
[00:14:09] So one idea would be to use a step mode here and with the step mode, we change basically at the partials over time.
[00:14:18] Let's start you with this one.
[00:14:24] We are at 17 here.
[00:14:29] And then right click and I think you can randomize generate random.
[00:14:35] See all the sounds.
[00:14:50] Maybe start you at two or three here.
[00:15:07] Random is actually not that good.
[00:15:17] So we get different or we target different partials here.
[00:15:37] And maybe use a step much here outside.
[00:15:44] 15 steps and we change here the modulation amount.
[00:15:53] So you have Xbox. We can also use the convolution again.
[00:16:02] Maybe a different.
[00:16:05] Oh, we use just use the same space.
[00:16:07] Okay. Maybe reverse here.
[00:16:33] So here we play basically in the same octave as the other arpeggiator. So we use your transpose and pull this down one octave.
[00:16:44] And maybe play a bit slower here.
[00:16:59] We use the second kilometer to bring up the volume.
[00:17:20] And we combine basically this one with this one.
[00:17:43] Okay, so it's a bit longer.
[00:17:54] All we need now is probably a pad sound so we can do the same trick with the pad sound.
[00:18:00] Use a polygrid.
[00:18:02] Let's go to devices here inside of the polygrid.
[00:18:07] We can use again sign partials to create some some interesting pad sounds just with the mixer here.
[00:18:17] So again, we leave here the root or the fundamental untouched and we go for interesting partials here.
[00:18:24] We use an ADSR to slow attack, slow release out audio out, maybe a filter sound key.
[00:18:40] This time we go for bandpass maybe.
[00:18:45] Bandpass 2. Let's see. Output here.
[00:18:55] And use a delay here.
[00:18:59] A bit longer.
[00:19:01] We want to use a blur maybe.
[00:19:10] Maybe chorus.
[00:19:15] Chorus plus just a tad.
[00:19:39] Chorus plus.
[00:20:08] Maybe the tune has some of these.
[00:20:37] I want to add your random mode.
[00:20:45] Pretty slow.
[00:20:49] Bipylon. I want to modify here the pitch.
[00:21:15] Let's change this cue here.
[00:21:41] That's a bit too much maybe.
[00:21:50] That's too much.
[00:22:04] What we can do instead of using just intonation, we can put this to zero and use a quantizer to stay in the scale because most of the times ambient is diatonic anyway.
[00:22:23] And I know my scale here.
[00:22:29] That's probably not needed. And then use a ratio.
[00:22:37] And a pitch in.
[00:22:41] So instead of using the pre-chords, we use this pitch in, then go into that and then we pitch quantize everything that comes out of the ratio.
[00:22:53] Stay in scale.
[00:23:11] Let's see all the sounds here together with.
[00:23:40] Let's try and add here a step modulator and make this one pretty slow.
[00:23:52] I mean, it's too long, five steps down the three and go up to eight, maybe.
[00:24:21] And then we switch to the through the ratios here and get interesting melodies sounds with the pet.
[00:24:31] I don't know.
[00:24:34] Maybe it's too fast.
[00:24:39] I'm going to do that twice.
[00:25:02] So all we need is one note here. So I'm going for a note. I don't want to paint it into the piano roll.
[00:25:11] So I don't need to pitch the pitch is the sharp tool and I trigger this with triggers also pretty slow.
[00:25:28] And we make this really short one millisecond.
[00:25:34] Then we can convert the signal with the not.
[00:25:39] Yeah, nice.
[00:26:03] Yeah, this is something we can modulate here with the random mod.
[00:26:13] So it's not bound to the song tempo. It's also not retriggered.
[00:26:42] It's quiet.
[00:26:58] This is modulated by this random model.
[00:27:06] It's got a 12 here.
[00:27:19] Let's pull this one octave down here.
[00:27:34] And I probably want to have pic limit at the end.
[00:27:42] It your five. Just check.
[00:28:11] I think it sounds nice so far.
[00:28:32] So we can just refer to some basic stuff here.
[00:28:40] Let's completely remove the piano roll from this tutorial.
[00:28:44] There's a note grid.
[00:28:49] Trigger on it this trigger this trigger.
[00:28:56] Go for the sharp zero.
[00:29:14] Yeah, that sounds okay.
[00:29:34] Monophonic.
[00:29:45] Nice.
[00:29:48] Maybe quantize here.
[00:29:53] Into that.
[00:29:56] Only use the bandit tonic notes here.
[00:30:02] And the pitch defined zero.
[00:30:05] The shop zero.
[00:30:14] And then.
[00:30:27] We add the value.
[00:30:33] I pull on.
[00:30:36] Step much here.
[00:30:41] Also bipolar.
[00:30:59] 20% maybe 50%.
[00:31:18] Too fast.
[00:31:25] That's okay.
[00:31:40] We increase the step size to eight.
[00:32:01] Okay, so then you have a base basically.
[00:32:14] So these are basically the techniques I'm using for creating harmonics with the wavetable here serum.
[00:32:22] Yes, serum editor putting all the harmonics in there want to most of the times it's just random.
[00:32:29] Because I know I want to use it for exactly this purpose here.
[00:32:33] Or do you use the grid itself.
[00:32:36] You stack just some sign partials here and then randomized the ratios.
[00:32:43] Or you said again for the pad sounds here.
[00:32:49] And then you add everything together and you have a nice little background for track.
[00:32:54] Okay.
[00:32:56] That's it for this video. That's all.
[00:33:00] Thanks for watching. And as you in the next video, you can like if you like the video, of course.
[00:33:04] Bye.