Tags: posts polarity-music Bitwig Bitwig-5.1.2 FM-synths Tutorial Sound-Design

Bitwig Studio is great for Sound Design

Tutorial | Feb 19, 2024

In this video, I explain how to use frequency modulation (FM) synthesis in Bitwig Studio, showcasing different and unusual ways to apply FM. I demonstrate how to modulate the frequency in a linear way using the speed knob in a sampler, creating harmonic and disharmonic sounds. Additionally, I explore FM techniques using wavetable LFOs, feedback modulation, and modulating the delay time.

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This video offers a comprehensive tutorial on FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis within Bitwig Studio, emphasizing its utility for sound design and understanding sound synthesis beyond Bitwig users. It begins with a query from Reddit about FM synthesis using a sampler, leading to an exploration of various FM techniques, including:

The tutorial highlights Bitwig Studio's versatility in sound design, demonstrating unconventional FM synthesis methods through the sampler, modulation devices, and the Poly-Grid. It concludes by encouraging viewers to explore these techniques and share questions or feedback, emphasizing the creative possibilities with FM synthesis in Bitwig Studio.

Questions & Answers

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

How does frequency modulation synthesis work in Bitwig Studio?

Frequency modulation synthesis in Bitwig Studio involves using an LFO to modulate the pitch or speed knob of a sampler. By altering the speed knob, you can simulate phase modulation and achieve more harmonious results compared to modulating the pitch. This technique is useful for creating tonal sounds, melodies, and chords.

How can I apply frequency modulation in unusual ways?

In addition to modulating the pitch and speed knob, frequency modulation can also be applied to other parameters like filters and delay times. For example, modulating the delay time can create live frequency modulation by feeding one audio stream into another and using an audio rate modulator to change the delay time and disrupt the phase.

Can frequency modulation be used in polyphonic settings?

Yes, frequency modulation can be used in polyphonic settings in Bitwig Studio. By putting the modulation source, such as an LFO or wavetaper LFO, into polyphonic mode, each key can have its own modulation frequency and ratio. This allows for the creation of complex tonal sounds and the application of modulation to specific voices in a polyphonic context.

How can I create an FM synthesizer in Bitwig Studio?

You can create an FM synthesizer in Bitwig Studio by utilizing the sampler and modulating its speed knob or delay time with an audio rate modulator. Additionally, you can use Bitwig's Poly Grid to build a monophonic patch and make it polyphonic by multiplying voices and applying modulation to each voice individually. This allows for more detailed control and differentiation between voices in your FM synthesis.


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] In this video, it's about FM or frequency modulation synthesis inside of Bitwig Studio
[00:00:05] and it's not only interesting for Bitwig Studio users.
[00:00:09] If you want to know why Bitwig is great for sound design or learning how sound synthesis
[00:00:14] works, this is the video for you.
[00:00:17] Because I show you how to apply FM in all kinds of different and unusual ways.
[00:00:23] And it all started with this post on Reddit here.
[00:00:27] I was wondering how can I FM into audio like this and he linked to some kind of video where
[00:00:32] the producer used Ableton Live to LFO modulate a sample inside of a sampler.
[00:00:39] So basically FM frequency modulation in the sampler.
[00:00:44] So I replied to you with some kind of brief answer and he came back with I would love
[00:00:48] to see a video of yours explaining this.
[00:00:50] So this is the video and we start by using a sampler here.
[00:00:55] Of course, this was the initial question.
[00:00:58] I remove all the default modulators here and then we start with the test tone and we just
[00:01:05] sample here a very simple sine wave.
[00:01:10] Just this one.
[00:01:11] Bounce, postfader, no dither.
[00:01:14] Okay.
[00:01:15] And then we put this into the sampler here.
[00:01:20] And to use frequency modulation, all we have to do now is to actually use an LFO here.
[00:01:27] LFO goes up to audio range, kilohertz, hertz.
[00:01:31] It also features here some time based options, but we want to use your kilohertz.
[00:01:36] So let's say we have your one kilohertz and we want to modulate the frequency, right?
[00:01:40] So the first idea you have is probably to modulate your pitch.
[00:01:44] Sounds like this.
[00:01:45] I put this on loop here.
[00:01:56] So this is exponential frequency modulation because we actually linear modulate the notes
[00:02:04] and the notes relate to frequencies in kind of an exponential way.
[00:02:08] So when we modulate the notes, we get an exponential frequency modulation response and it sounds
[00:02:15] very disharmonic and it's not really usable for tonal sounds or when you want to play
[00:02:23] melodies or chords or something like this.
[00:02:25] It's more like something you want to use for percussion sounds, right?
[00:02:30] If we put this here, this amplitude envelope makes this very short.
[00:02:46] Get a very disharmonic sound out of this.
[00:02:52] So if you want to do percussions, then this is fine.
[00:02:54] If you want to do melodies and chords and real tonal sounds that relate to a key, that's
[00:03:01] not the way to go.
[00:03:03] So instead of modulating the pitch, we have no access to frequencies, right?
[00:03:09] Because we want to modulate the frequency in a linear way and that's not possible.
[00:03:14] But what we can do is we can modulate the speed knob here.
[00:03:18] The speed knob actually changes the speed or the playback speed of the playhead inside
[00:03:22] of the sampler.
[00:03:24] And when we alterate modulated speed knob, we kind of simulate some phase modulation
[00:03:29] with that because we disrupt the playhead, we disrupt the phase in a way.
[00:03:35] Sounds like this.
[00:03:36] I actually put this here back to you.
[00:03:48] You can hear we get overtones but the pitch stays the same.
[00:03:52] It's still the same fundamental pitch so we stay in key.
[00:04:07] So modulating the speed knob here without you rate, very harmonic.
[00:04:11] Modulating the pitch knob, very disharmonious.
[00:04:15] Exponential FM, linear FM or phase modulation simulated here by disrupting the playhead
[00:04:21] of the sampler.
[00:04:22] Works pretty well actually.
[00:04:25] Okay so the next problem we have is that we want to use different keys.
[00:04:35] And every time we use a different key, it sounds kind of off.
[00:04:39] The problem is that the LFO is actually playing or modulating at the same fixed frequency.
[00:04:46] Which is cool but we want to stay in the same ratio.
[00:04:50] So if the frequency changes of the fundamental sampler here or sample, we also want to change
[00:04:57] the fundamental frequency of the modulator.
[00:05:00] So we do this by going to pitch mode here.
[00:05:04] So now we stay basically in pitch.
[00:05:24] So now we want to play multiple keys.
[00:05:27] So we have to put the LFO here into polyphonic mode so we can play it actually multiple
[00:05:32] times at the same time.
[00:05:39] Still sounds a bit off because this here is not pitched to the right now.
[00:05:44] It's a right click, detect root key.
[00:05:48] So now the ratio fits basically.
[00:05:51] One time the frequency, one time the frequency.
[00:05:54] Now we can go up here to let's say two times the frequency or three times.
[00:05:58] So now we have a ratio three to one.
[00:06:06] We can also dial down the amount of frequency modulation here with the snob.
[00:06:11] And then we can apply here ADSR curve.
[00:06:17] Something short.
[00:06:18] It's also polyphonic.
[00:06:19] So we have this part note.
[00:06:21] And then we modulate here with this ADSR the amount.
[00:06:24] Now it sounds like this.
[00:06:30] We have only in the attack phase of the sound is frequency modulation.
[00:06:34] So we have this typical FM piano sound.
[00:06:39] We can also create just some kind of belt sounds by going higher.
[00:07:00] You can also apply here an expression modulator where we get the velocity.
[00:07:05] So how hard we press the key on the keyboard.
[00:07:08] And with this we change the ADSR modulation amount here.
[00:07:13] We go down to zero.
[00:07:15] Then we apply here the velocity to it.
[00:07:18] So the pressure we apply to keys on the keyboard change the amount the ADSR modulates the modulation
[00:07:27] amount of the LFO modulating the speed knob.
[00:07:32] So if I press soft I get only a sine wave and the harder I press the more overtones I get.
[00:07:42] I can also use the velocity here to change actually the decay time of the ADSR.
[00:07:51] Put the reverb on that.
[00:08:08] So we get this typical FM piano bell sound out of the sampler.
[00:08:26] So we transform the sampler basically into an FM synthesizer kind of.
[00:08:35] Instead of using now here this LFO we can also replace this with let's say a wavetable LFO.
[00:08:43] It works in the same way.
[00:08:45] We put this here in the pitch mode but now we have a wavetable.
[00:08:48] So we can change here the wave shape from a sine to a saw.
[00:08:54] And it sounds kind of different.
[00:08:55] So let's apply here modulation to that.
[00:08:58] Pull this down and then use the ADSR for the amount.
[00:09:02] Let's go to 3 here.
[00:09:16] So each key now gets a different...
[00:09:18] Oh we have to put this in the polyphonic mode.
[00:09:26] So each key gets its own wavetable LFO with the right frequency and so on.
[00:09:33] We can also now apply here a random modulator and put this into hold mode and note.
[00:09:40] So every time we trigger a note we get a different random value for each voice because it's polyphonic
[00:09:45] mode and then we apply this here to the index.
[00:09:48] So each key gets a different index in the wavetable LFO.
[00:09:57] You can see this here.
[00:09:58] The graph each key gets a random position in the wavetable.
[00:10:10] You can also choose your very complex wave shape.
[00:10:26] So everything is possible.
[00:10:29] Instead of using a wavetable LFO we can also rely on let's say feedback.
[00:10:36] So if you maybe remember the FM8 here, let's go to FM8 as in the matrix some kind of feedback
[00:10:47] setting.
[00:10:48] So we have all the operators or oscillators here and then you can instead of frequency
[00:10:53] modulate your F with E you can also say F should modulate itself with feedback.
[00:11:00] So if you like this, you get a lot of noise then but it kind of works.
[00:11:05] So you have feedback modulation.
[00:11:06] You can also do something like this here in the sampler with the audio rate modulator
[00:11:12] and then grab the output of the sampler and put it back into the front with the modulator
[00:11:19] here.
[00:11:20] So we go here back to the output of this of the sampler.
[00:11:23] Maybe call this here sampler out.
[00:11:29] Okay, you get here the output of this in front of that as modulation signal.
[00:11:36] Then you can apply this here to the speed knob.
[00:11:52] So what here happens is basically we create a lot of overtones by modulating the sine
[00:11:57] wave.
[00:11:58] These overtones go back into the audio rate modulator, add more overtones, more overtones
[00:12:04] and so on.
[00:12:05] And because of the feedback you get a lot of noise pretty fast.
[00:12:14] And because people or the developers of Bitwig Studio are actually smart, they know that
[00:12:19] if you use audio rate, you use probably complex signals to modulate something.
[00:12:24] So they added here some low pass to it so we can cut out some overtones of the modulating
[00:12:32] signal to only stick with some lower frequencies.
[00:12:52] So yeah, this is feedback modulation basically inside of the sampler with just a simple sine
[00:12:57] wave here.
[00:13:00] We can also do some very unusual things with the delay.
[00:13:04] We modulated the speed knob which kind of disrupts the playback or the playhead.
[00:13:10] You can also play around here with the delay.
[00:13:14] And just let's delay this here by just a 160 note and then you see an LFO on that.
[00:13:25] Use kilohertz here or maybe pitch and then modulate here the offset.
[00:13:37] I think I see some similar results sometimes.
[00:13:55] Maybe modulate here the time directly.
[00:14:09] There's the pitch here.
[00:14:16] It gives you also sometimes these typical overtones but it works much better inside
[00:14:24] of the sampler.
[00:14:26] So you can also modulate the delay times here or audio rate modulate delay times and it
[00:14:31] gets you also this kind of phase modulation thing.
[00:14:36] So sometimes if you have some audio streams where you don't have access to the frequencies,
[00:14:41] you can just frequency modulate them by using one signal and modulating the delay offset
[00:14:48] of the other.
[00:14:49] It's also some kind of phase modulation.
[00:14:53] So this is the delay here.
[00:14:56] Then we can do something like let's say we put here a reverb on that and we create some
[00:15:02] kind of signal with this.
[00:15:03] So using supermassive here again and then I'm using here again an LFO.
[00:15:13] Put this into pitch mode.
[00:15:14] Go to 7, I want to have some kind of bell sound modulate at the speed.
[00:15:28] So I make this pad sound here and I bounce this.
[00:15:45] And then we put this here into let's say a layer by using control and G and we put this
[00:15:54] sample here on the second layer.
[00:15:59] We have the initial sine wave here, sine partial on the first sampler.
[00:16:03] Second sampler here we have this pad sound.
[00:16:06] So now we can mute the second one here and use this as a modulator inside of the first
[00:16:12] one by just using an audio rate and then calling this here maybe modulator and then
[00:16:22] grabbing this here instrument chains modulator pre.
[00:16:30] So now I play and I get here the signal from the second layer and then I can use this.
[00:16:36] Where do you put the sound loop?
[00:16:42] Use this to modulate the speed knob.
[00:16:55] Increase the amplitude.
[00:17:07] And because the second one also receives the keys it stays basically in the same pitch.
[00:17:12] The only drawback of this is it's not polyphonic because when you play multiple keys the output
[00:17:18] of this sample here mixes basically with multiple keys.
[00:17:22] You have like one note and then the other note and then it becomes just one audio signal
[00:17:27] and then you feed this audio signal here to each voice when you play multiple keys.
[00:17:32] So it mixes basically up the voices.
[00:17:34] It's not like Bitwig knows exactly oh this voice is this audio signal that goes to this
[00:17:38] voice on the sampler.
[00:17:40] So it doesn't work in this kind of setup here.
[00:17:44] Just so you know it.
[00:17:47] But what we can do is we can put this into a grid and inside of the grid we can completely
[00:17:52] build our own monophonic patch and then make it polyphonic.
[00:17:56] So use a Poly-Grid here.
[00:18:01] That's a Poly-Grid here it is.
[00:18:03] With that Poly-Grid we can use here this bounced sample.
[00:18:08] And then we use here our first simple sign and then use an AD here and output.
[00:18:19] And then we enable here our keyboard.
[00:18:22] Put this on.
[00:18:26] And then we can use here a modulator out.
[00:18:30] You can use the audio signal and just modulate the speed knob.
[00:18:36] Maybe also put this here on loop.
[00:18:43] And then we can put the Poly-Grid into polyphonic mode here, 12 voices.
[00:18:48] Then we can play multiple voices of this.
[00:18:57] We can say we want to put this here maybe one octave higher.
[00:19:00] So it's a ratio 2 to 1.
[00:19:04] If you don't want to use the pitch knob for that you can use the pitch in here.
[00:19:12] Disable this and use a ratio in front of that.
[00:19:15] You can say here this is now a ratio of 4 to 1 or 7 to 1.
[00:19:24] If you don't want to modulate this all the time you can use an AD here in front of that.
[00:19:33] And now we basically only have in the attack phase.
[00:19:41] Nice.
[00:19:47] Supermassive for that.
[00:20:01] Let's play this a bit lower.
[00:20:06] Okay, so this kind of works.
[00:20:22] Instead of modulating the speed knob here like I said we can also use the delay.
[00:20:27] So put the delay on the end here then just modulate this.
[00:20:37] It's maybe too much.
[00:20:41] So let's reduce the amplitude of the second one.
[00:20:52] And because this is just in one patch inside of the grid we can multiply the voices and
[00:20:58] have perfect distinction between the voices so we can apply also delay on each voice.
[00:21:10] Yeah.
[00:21:34] So this is how you do it basically inside of the grid where you use here one sampler
[00:21:40] and modulate the other sampler the speed or the delay.
[00:21:44] You can also do this here with exponential of course, exponential modulation.
[00:21:50] So instead of the delay here we go directly here into the pitch of this.
[00:22:09] Which is not really great.
[00:22:11] But maybe for purposes for sound design it's probably nice.
[00:22:17] Also we have a dedicated exponential FM oscillator in here which is this one here called byte.
[00:22:29] So here with this one we have basically two oscillators here.
[00:22:38] The first one is assigned.
[00:22:39] The second one is also assigned.
[00:22:41] And the second oscillator is offset by 17 semitones.
[00:22:48] And then we only want to play the second oscillator here and then we modulate the second one
[00:22:52] with the first one exponentially.
[00:22:55] Sounds like this.
[00:22:57] It's also great for percussion sounds.
[00:23:14] It's not really great because you can't change it or offset for the first oscillator inside
[00:23:22] of this here.
[00:23:24] But I think it's great for what it is.
[00:23:26] I mean it's not made for being an all-round FM kind of sound type of sound.
[00:23:39] But it's a nice oscillator you can still use.
[00:23:42] But I want to give you basically here this idea that's actually an exponential FM synthesizer
[00:23:48] in here hidden kind of.
[00:23:51] Then we have here the phase one.
[00:23:59] You can also do something like I showed you with the feedback.
[00:24:04] You have this feedback knob here and you can basically phase modulate its own output.
[00:24:11] You can add some formants.
[00:24:25] So this is basically the oscillator of the phase four.
[00:24:30] You can use this here to phase modulate the second one and then get some nice tones out
[00:24:37] of it.
[00:24:57] So it's also kind of an FM type of sound with this phase one here.
[00:25:05] You have this feedback knob and you can use both these oscillators and then just phase
[00:25:09] modulate them.
[00:25:11] You also can use here exponential FM by just using the pitch input of course if you want
[00:25:15] to.
[00:25:24] Again highly disharmonious.
[00:25:26] If you like this kind of sound then it's probably for you.
[00:25:31] You can also do some kind of FM by using a filter using let's say low pass here.
[00:25:41] It's probably more interesting by using a complex waveform sawtooth and then modulating
[00:25:52] this here.
[00:26:03] It's kind of exponential FM-ing here, this low pass filter.
[00:26:08] It gives you also sometimes some interesting sounds.
[00:26:19] Also some kind of watery, wet kind of sounds.
[00:26:34] Very nice for side trends or whatever.
[00:26:53] Sounds like a formant filter.
[00:27:15] Reminds me a bit of deaf punk but yeah whatever.
[00:27:18] So you can also frequently modulate the filters and you get some kind of FM sound out of this.
[00:27:24] So I just want to show you this basically here to make this kind of complete.
[00:27:29] There are probably also a lot of different other ways like I said with modulating the
[00:27:36] delay time.
[00:27:37] So if you have multiple audio streams, you know just one track here and then you have
[00:27:43] another track playing some music and then you just use one track and feed it into the
[00:27:50] other track and use an audio rate modulator to change the delay time or more like mess
[00:27:55] with the face and then you get also some kind of live frequency modulation in a way.
[00:28:03] Okay I think that's it.
[00:28:04] There are probably some more ways I have forgotten but maybe it's enough for this video.
[00:28:11] I mean it's already 28 minutes.
[00:28:13] So that's it.
[00:28:15] If you have some questions, please leave the questions down in the comments.
[00:28:19] Leave a like if you like the video of course.
[00:28:22] Thanks for watching and yeah keep asking questions.
[00:28:26] Thanks for watching and bye.
[00:28:27] Bye now.