Tags: posts polarity-music Bitwig Bitwig-5.1.2 Tutorial Modulation

Envelope Followers on Drums in Bitwig

Tutorial | Feb 21, 2024

In this video, I explore using envelope followers in Bitwig Studio to add dynamic modulation to a bass sound based on the amplitude of drums. I demonstrate various techniques such as using audio side chain modulators, working with audio rate modulators, and utilizing the FX grid for more precise control. These methods allow for creative sound design and can bring life and movement to otherwise static loops.

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In this tutorial, I demonstrated using an envelope follower in Bitwig Studio to modulate the frequencies of a filter on a bass, based on the amplitude of drums, aiming to add dynamic variation and prevent the sound from becoming monotonously static. Here are the key points:

  1. Introduction of Side Chain and Audio Rate Modulators: I started by using a Side Chain Audio Modulator to capture the signal from the drum track, specifically focusing on the kick drum with a bandpass filter. This modulator allowed for modulation of synth parameters in response to the drum's amplitude.

  2. Utilizing Different Drum Elements for Modulation: I expanded the modulation setup by duplicating the Side Chain modulator for different drum elements, like the snare and hi-hats, to modulate other synth parameters. I also introduced an Audio Rate Modulator, which acts as an envelope follower, providing fast modulations and potentially adding overtones or texture depending on the modulation depth and filtering.

  3. Creative FX and EQ Modulation: I explored using the modulation techniques not only on synthesizers but also on FX units, such as filters and distortion, and on EQ settings to dynamically shape the sound based on drum hits. This approach included using the envelope follower to control EQ+ bands for selective frequency modulation.

  4. Delay and Oscilloscope for Enhanced Timing and Visualization: To create more groove and a ping-pong modulation effect, I utilized the FX Grid with an envelope follower, a delay, and an oscilloscope. This setup allowed for delayed modulation effects, creating a more interesting interaction between the drums and the synth/bass line.

  5. Node Grid and MIDI CC for Advanced Modulation: I further experimented with the Node Grid and MIDI CC output to achieve intricate modulation setups, allowing for precise control over synth parameters based on the drum track. This method facilitated a modular approach to modulation, enabling reuse and flexibility in sound design.

  6. Final Thoughts on Creative Possibilities: I concluded by emphasizing the vast possibilities in Bitwig Studio for dynamic and reactive sound design. Through the use of envelope followers, modulators, and grid systems, Bitwig offers unique tools for creating engaging and cohesive mixes that react to rhythmic elements.

The tutorial highlighted Bitwig Studio's capabilities for integrating dynamic modulation and creative sound design techniques, showcasing its flexibility and power in music production.

Questions & Answers

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

How can I use an envelope follower in Bitwig to modulate the frequencies of a filter on my bass?

To use an envelope follower in Bitwig, you can utilize the Audio Side Chain Modulator. This modulator allows you to grab a signal from another track, such as the drums, and use it as a modulation source for your bass filter. By adjusting the rise and fall parameters of the envelope follower, you can create dynamic and evolving frequency modulation on your bass.

What are some alternative ways to achieve modulation using Bitwig Studios?

Aside from using the Audio Side Chain Modulator, you can also explore using the Audio Rate Modulator in Bitwig. This modulator calculates the average of the signal and provides a unipolar audio waveform as a modulation source. It can be used to create fast and intricate modulations, adding texture and overtones to your sound. Additionally, you can utilize the FX Grid in Bitwig for more advanced modulation possibilities, allowing you to delay, filter, and feedback the modulation signal.

How can I create a more dynamic and evolving modulation effect?

To create a more dynamic modulation effect, you can introduce delay into the modulation signal. By delaying the modulation by a certain amount, such as two 16th notes, you can create a ping-pong or back-and-forth modulation that adds groove and movement to your sound. Additionally, using feedback on the modulation signal can introduce echo and further enhance the evolving nature of the modulation.

How can I use modulation to affect multiple elements in my mix?

Bitwig offers various ways to apply modulation to multiple elements in your mix. One approach is to utilize the Tool device as a ducking effect, allowing you to dynamically control the volume of different elements based on the modulation signal, such as the kick drum. Additionally, you can use MIDI CC data modulators in Bitwig to send out control data that can be received by other devices, allowing for modulation of various parameters on different channels. This enables you to create cohesive and interconnected modulation effects throughout your mix.


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, one of my patrons asked, "Hello, I want to ask if you could please do a tutorial on
[00:00:04] using an envelope follower in Bitwig on a drum bus, which uses the amplitude of the
[00:00:08] drums to modulate the frequencies of a filter on my bass."
[00:00:12] So, it does not sound so stable and static boring.
[00:00:15] I faced it in the tutorial on this enabled live.
[00:00:17] I tried many times to figure this out in Bitwig without success.
[00:00:21] So, I want to give an answer to that, but I also want to explore this whole topic inside
[00:00:25] of Bitwig Studios because you have so many possibilities in Bitwig, right?
[00:00:30] So here I have some drums, I have some hats, I have a bass sound with a Phase 4 device
[00:00:36] here and check this out, I have a peak limiter on the master.
[00:00:39] This is how it sounds.
[00:00:47] So very static, very boring, just a loop, okay?
[00:00:51] So the first idea is we can just take here on the space synth some kind of modulator
[00:00:58] called Side Chain, Audio Side Chain Modulator.
[00:01:03] So with this one, we can grab some kind of signal from another track, let's say the drums
[00:01:08] post, right?
[00:01:09] And so we get this in here as a modulation signal.
[00:01:15] So now we want to focus only on the kick drum here with this bandpass filter and we want
[00:01:20] to pull down the rise and the fall here.
[00:01:24] And now we can modulate something on our synth.
[00:01:32] Every time the kick drum plays, we have here this smaller knob modulator, right?
[00:01:39] So now we can duplicate this modulator and say we want to grab, let's say the snare
[00:01:45] or the hi-hats here, the top end and then we modulate here this operator or this modulation.
[00:02:04] Okay so we can also use the kick drum of course to duck the volume here of this whole
[00:02:10] synthesizer.
[00:02:19] Nice.
[00:02:20] So we can also grab here, let's say an audio rate modulator and the difference between
[00:02:27] audio rate and the Side Chain modulator is basically that this is kind of an envelope
[00:02:33] follower so it calculates the average of the signal and it's also a bipolar signal and
[00:02:40] this one here gives us a unipolar signal and it's complete at audio rate.
[00:02:45] It's basically the waveform or the wave itself, the audio waveform in itself as a modulation
[00:02:50] signal and we want to focus here on the mono signal and we can modulate something here,
[00:02:56] let's say on the shape.
[00:03:00] Let's actually grab your drums.
[00:03:08] And because it's audio rate, it's pretty fast and with this you get a lot of fast modulations
[00:03:14] which brings in a lot of overtones and sometimes even it sounds a bit like distortion or texture
[00:03:23] depends on how you filter basically here the signal and how much you modulate something.
[00:03:30] It's also great here on the filter itself.
[00:03:44] So we can also, instead of using this on the Phase 4 synthesizer itself, you can of course
[00:03:50] put this here on some random FX, let's say a filter here, right?
[00:03:55] We just clone here the side chain modulator from the device itself.
[00:04:03] So here we have still the kick drum and we can close here the filter.
[00:04:10] So every time the kick drum plays in the first track we close here the filter on the space
[00:04:14] track where we need.
[00:04:17] We can also say we have a lot of distortion on here and every time the kick drum plays
[00:04:21] we want to pull out the bass from the distortion.
[00:04:34] Also something you can do.
[00:04:36] We can also say we have here some kind of EQ, let's say EQ+, everyone loves EQ+.
[00:04:44] So we take here the kick drum and also the snare as modulation sources here and say we
[00:04:51] want to grab on the left side reference here also the drums to overlay this in here.
[00:04:56] So we have the bass and the kick drum in here, right?
[00:04:59] So you can see the bass in the background.
[00:05:02] We can also here to speed different resolution setting.
[00:05:08] You can see we have the kick drum here, right?
[00:05:15] So we select just this frequency and then we select here also the kick drum and then
[00:05:19] we pull just here the gain down.
[00:05:22] We can do the same here for the hi-hats or for the hi-pass.
[00:05:37] It's really just a clap sound here and do the same thing here with this.
[00:05:45] Maybe you need to filter here a bit higher.
[00:05:55] And then if you want and that's what I usually do is here I use a tool device and on this
[00:06:02] tool device I use then the kick drum to just pull down the volume.
[00:06:08] It's ducking so ducking effect.
[00:06:17] And I like this on the tool device itself because you can just grab this tool device
[00:06:22] and put it on different tracks, right?
[00:06:25] Instead of you know fiddling around here with the modulator on different devices.
[00:06:28] So I just put this on the tool in the end of the chain and then I can grab this and put
[00:06:33] this here on the hi-hats, right?
[00:06:34] And then I have the same thing.
[00:06:37] I have basically now the hi-hats reacting to the kick drum.
[00:06:44] Also possible, right?
[00:06:47] So we can do a lot of things here with the audio rate or with the side chain with the
[00:06:53] audio rate itself.
[00:06:54] We can also do something.
[00:06:55] So we bring in here some random frequency and then modulate the frequency number.
[00:07:02] We can do a bit of sound design with this and you can hear it sounds a bit like wet
[00:07:26] or watery sounding.
[00:07:29] That's probably nice for some side-trend stuff, I guess.
[00:07:34] So this is also nice for sound designing, not only to bring a bit of life back into
[00:07:38] your mix.
[00:07:39] Okay, so this is on the EQ.
[00:07:43] I showed you also this here on the tool device for ducking.
[00:07:46] It can be nice on the device itself.
[00:07:50] The only problem that we have basically here with this modulation is that it's instant.
[00:07:56] So every time the kick drum hits, something happens on the synth exactly at the same time,
[00:08:02] right?
[00:08:03] And also with the effects, it's the same thing.
[00:08:06] Kick drum hits, something happens at the same time.
[00:08:08] It's a bit boring.
[00:08:10] So what we can do is we can use here an FX grid and that's probably the better way of
[00:08:16] doing things.
[00:08:17] But you know, sometimes this is quite okay to use.
[00:08:22] It's not wrong.
[00:08:23] It's just a fast way of doing things.
[00:08:26] So here we can grab a side chain, only side chain, and grab also the drums.
[00:08:31] And then we do basically the same thing.
[00:08:33] We use here, let's say an SVF, or let's use an SVF to filter the signal, focus here on
[00:08:41] the kick drum around one and a third.
[00:08:44] Then we use an envelope follower.
[00:08:48] Same thing.
[00:08:49] And then we use a oscilloscope maybe and modulate that out.
[00:09:03] So here we have the kick drum basically running and we have converted this to a modulation
[00:09:08] signal.
[00:09:09] So now we can say we want to use a filter, the low pass filter here, no key tracking.
[00:09:16] And then we want to open this up every time the kick drum plays.
[00:09:21] Maybe bring in some overtones here.
[00:09:31] And you can hear exactly at the same time the kick drum plays, we have this filter opening.
[00:09:37] So we delay this here with a long delay.
[00:09:40] So we delay the whole modulation signal by exactly two 16 nodes, right?
[00:09:45] Sounds like this.
[00:09:48] It's way more groovy, kind of.
[00:09:53] So the kick drum hits, then it waits to 16 nodes and then it opens up the filter.
[00:10:00] And this is more like a ping pong or back and forth kind of modulation, which in my opinion
[00:10:05] sounds much better.
[00:10:15] I really like this.
[00:10:17] So then we can also implement your ducking at the same time.
[00:10:22] So you put the attenuate in that.
[00:10:24] And we don't want to use delayed signal.
[00:10:26] We just use here, let's say the original signal coming from the follower instead of delaying
[00:10:32] the signal.
[00:10:33] And then we use this here to duck the volume out.
[00:10:42] This is delayed and this is exactly when the kick drum hits, we pull the volume down.
[00:10:48] Then we can use an oscilloscope here and just check what's what's going on, right?
[00:10:55] So we can take the output of this attenuate, put this maybe this oscilloscope into fast
[00:11:01] mode, maybe use a trigger, triggers here and trigger this every bar.
[00:11:21] Okay so let's bring in here the follower, what we have here.
[00:11:25] Bring this in there and then use an attenuate so we can change the color here to something
[00:11:31] else.
[00:11:32] Right, so we can check here what is going on with the base, the ducking and the kick
[00:11:42] drum is actually everything aligned and so on.
[00:11:46] So this is a possible way of checking this here just in one FX grid basically.
[00:11:53] So then you can exchange the long delay for let's say a mod delay.
[00:12:00] So the mod delay does exactly the same thing when you have here the feedback at 0%.
[00:12:05] But now we can also increase the feedback which gives you some kind of echo delay on
[00:12:12] the modulation.
[00:12:13] It sounds like this.
[00:12:35] So in my opinion this is pretty pretty nuts.
[00:12:39] I never see this anyone doing in any DAW ever.
[00:12:43] I think this is only possible in Bitwig.
[00:12:45] Maybe I'm wrong.
[00:12:46] But you grab basically the audio signal of another channel filter it, use an envelope
[00:12:51] follower on it, then you delay the signal, put the feedback on this modulation signal
[00:12:55] to create an echo of the modulation and then you use this modulation to modulate a filter
[00:13:01] and at the same time you duck the frequency or the whole volume of this channel down.
[00:13:07] Precisely while analyzing here with this oscilloscope.
[00:13:11] Just with a few modules.
[00:13:13] It's not like it's super, you know, it's rocket science or anything.
[00:13:16] It's just a few modules.
[00:13:18] You can remember this.
[00:13:19] You can save this as a preset and use it every time and you only need to change basically
[00:13:23] the audio sidechain input and that's it.
[00:13:27] Okay, so this is basically the audio FX part here.
[00:13:31] You can also instead of using a filter you can use anything, right?
[00:13:34] There are so many possibilities.
[00:13:35] You can filter this and you can make a band pass filter and then delay different band
[00:13:41] pass filter bands or whatever.
[00:13:44] You can do so many things.
[00:13:46] That's just an example.
[00:13:49] Then we can do something like let's say use here a note grid and then we can take this
[00:13:58] whole phase four device and put it into the post FX thing.
[00:14:02] And I think we need here to let the notes pass and also let the audio pass out of this
[00:14:10] post FX thing here.
[00:14:12] Yeah, it works.
[00:14:14] We can delete this here inside and then inside of this note grid, we kind of do the same thing.
[00:14:20] We grab here basically the audio sidechain, the filter and the follower.
[00:14:24] Put this here in the note grid and we use a modulator out and we are back in business
[00:14:32] here with modulating what's happening on the synth itself, right?
[00:14:40] Maybe delete this here or just remove this here.
[00:14:51] So here we have the kick drum.
[00:14:52] We also want to use the snare maybe on top here, this one.
[00:14:59] Or maybe you use here on the high pass.
[00:15:03] Too much.
[00:15:06] And here I use a low pass, Jennifer Lopez.
[00:15:17] So we have the same situation as before, but now we have the power of the grid, right?
[00:15:21] So we can again use a long delay here, delete this by a certain amount.
[00:15:29] And delete this maybe by six.
[00:15:35] This is here eight notes, three eight notes.
[00:15:46] And the best thing about this is react to the audio.
[00:15:49] So when you change something to the drums, maybe more kick drums or less kick drums or
[00:15:55] a fill or whatever you do to the drums to the audio signal, it changes basically how
[00:16:01] it reacts or how the bass reacts to the drums.
[00:16:03] So it's always reacting to the audio signal, which is pretty great.
[00:16:08] And yeah, you can also apply this not only to drums and the bass, you can also apply
[00:16:13] this to drums and pad sounds or bass and pad sounds and so on.
[00:16:17] So having channels or audio signals or devices, audio FX reacting to other things on other
[00:16:24] channels.
[00:16:25] So also in a way glues the sounds or the channels together in an in a neat and unusual way.
[00:16:34] So here we have some kind of modulation on the phase four.
[00:16:42] And I can also use your feedback.
[00:16:56] Sounds not great, but you get the idea.
[00:17:11] So let's say you don't like that this phase four is inside of this note grid, right?
[00:17:15] You don't like it.
[00:17:17] You want to have this outside of the note grid.
[00:17:20] But when it's outside, you can't modulate here, right?
[00:17:23] With these modulators things on phase four itself.
[00:17:28] Then you have, of course, more options because we use Bitwig, right?
[00:17:33] There are many, many options to do this.
[00:17:35] So now we can say instead of using here modulate out.
[00:17:39] We use a CC out.
[00:17:44] So we put this here to, so the kick drum goes to CC one and the snare drum goes to CC two.
[00:17:51] And then we can receive this here with a MIDI modulator.
[00:17:55] CC one, the kick drums will open up this one.
[00:18:02] Right?
[00:18:03] Then you duplicate this here and say this is CC two.
[00:18:09] This does this one here.
[00:18:14] You can see here the echo, right?
[00:18:26] So when we go in here and loop this here, let's say the kick drum, right?
[00:18:43] Bass reacts to it.
[00:18:44] What happens here in the first channel, which is really neat.
[00:18:47] So with this, we basically send out here control data, MIDI note control data.
[00:18:54] We can also change the channel.
[00:18:55] If you want to, you can use up to 16 channels here.
[00:18:58] You can also on the receiving end here, you can change the channel if you want to.
[00:19:06] So this has the benefit that you can basically detach the modulation from the device itself.
[00:19:13] You can then save this bass as a preset and maybe make a whole collection of synthesizers
[00:19:19] that have MIDI CC data modulators here attached and then react to these kind of things.
[00:19:28] So you can basically base your whole project workflow on this if you want to.
[00:19:36] So you can use this to make nice modulations on things.
[00:19:44] So there's maybe a drawback.
[00:19:47] I don't know how precise these modulations are, but if you just want to use them to,
[00:19:52] you know, make something more natural on bringing some, some small amounts of modulations,
[00:19:58] then it's probably okay.
[00:20:00] But when you need high precision, right, everything needs to be in point, then you maybe need
[00:20:04] to check if these signals are actually not smooth or anti-alized or whatever over sampled.
[00:20:10] I have no idea.
[00:20:11] I didn't check for that.
[00:20:13] I usually I just do whatever I want to do inside of Bitwig and I don't care.
[00:20:18] And then when I have some problems or I see there are some problems and then I try to
[00:20:24] find a solution, but usually I just do whatever I want to do inside of Bitwig and I don't
[00:20:29] care for anything for any precision or for any, you know, phase issues or so.
[00:20:35] I don't care for that.
[00:20:38] That's only a problem when it becomes a problem, maybe in the mixing process or the mastering
[00:20:42] process.
[00:20:43] And then I maybe look into it, but most of the times it's, it doesn't really matter,
[00:20:50] in my opinion.
[00:20:51] So now that we have to see basically as a CC modulation thing or data thing, we can also
[00:21:00] use or base FX on this, right?
[00:21:03] So we can again, go to filter or maybe what's nice.
[00:21:08] Yeah, let's go for filter plus here.
[00:21:12] And then, you know, attach these modulators here also on these FX devices, then react
[00:21:19] with the audio to it.
[00:21:30] So with this, you can basically make your whole project, your whole channels, all your
[00:21:34] audio data, all your devices, everything reacting or reactive to the drums or to whatever you
[00:21:44] want to scan or whatever you want to grab.
[00:21:49] So in my opinion, this is really nice to do.
[00:21:51] I never see anyone do this in any DAW ever, in my opinion, but I could be wrong.
[00:21:59] Tell me in the comments.
[00:22:02] I hope I didn't forget anything here.
[00:22:05] So to recap this, we can just attach here an audio side chain modulator and just react
[00:22:13] to something on another channel.
[00:22:15] But then we have basically no delay or anything.
[00:22:18] There's no delay modulator inside of Bitwig here.
[00:22:22] We need to go through the grid.
[00:22:25] Then you can use the audio rate modulator, which is also neat.
[00:22:28] And then if you want to have more control, you go into the grid with the FX grid, right?
[00:22:33] Use a follower, use an audio side chain input, use a bit of filtering, and then you modulate
[00:22:39] signals.
[00:22:40] You can delay signals.
[00:22:41] You can apply feedback on signals to get some echo effects.
[00:22:46] Then you can use your node grid to control something on a synth.
[00:22:49] You can then also output this as CC data, capture it again with the MIDI modulator.
[00:22:58] And then modulate something on the device itself and also end of X chain here.
[00:23:04] So there are kinds of possible ways to use this, right?
[00:23:08] And in my opinion, you don't need something like these kind of VST devices, what it's
[00:23:13] called naturalizer.
[00:23:16] Usually these VSTs just put some random volume modulation, a bit of delay modulation on the
[00:23:24] audio stream, and that's it.
[00:23:26] So if you use Bitwig Studio, you have much more control and much more power just by using
[00:23:32] here these kind of techniques or workflows.
[00:23:36] So if you have some questions, please let me know in the comments down below.
[00:23:40] If you have some ideas or if you have some questions about some different topics, let
[00:23:45] me know.
[00:23:46] I need content for new videos, right?
[00:23:50] But if you like the video, like the video, subscribe to the channel, and I'll see you
[00:23:55] in the next video.
[00:23:56] Thanks for watching and bye!
[00:23:57] Bye.