The electronic musician talks about her technical methods and artistic philosophies.
Yuri Urano has witnessed Bitwig Studio's development since the beginning. The Japanese sound artist was first exposed to our program as a student at a music technology college in Osaka, back when Bitwig Studio was still in its version 1 phase. Over the years she’s become a Bitwig savant and a deft, diverse musician whose output spans serene ambient works and hard-hitting techno like her EP for English label CPU, Autline. Whether she's publishing as Yullippe or as Yuri Urano, her work always belies a thoughtful and patient approach to making music and to sound in general.
You said you've been using Bitwig since Version 1 — How did you first hear about Bitwig, and what made you want to try it?
I went to a music tech college in Osaka, and a teacher there told me about a new DAW that was being released, Bitwig Studio. I was just beginning to make electronic music, and I wanted to make music more intuitively. Bitwig Studio seemed to be able to do that.
How did you get started making music in the first place?
My parents sent me to piano lessons from the age of three until I was 13. But actually I didn't particularly like music in the past. I was living my life as my parents told me to back then. One day, when I was in junior high, I was watching a music program on TV and I saw the musicians smiling and shining. The audience seemed to be very moved. At the time, I thought, "I want to shine like them." So I decided to start doing music again -- this time for myself.
What were you using to make music before Bitwig Studio 1 came out?
Steinberg/Cubase. I still use it along with Bitwig Studio. Before that I used free software, but I forgot its name... It was to do with scoring music.
What do you use to make music today, besides Bitwig Studio? Do you also use other DAWs or any hardware?
In many cases, most parts of my tracks are created in Bitwig Studio and finalized in Cubase. The reason I use two DAWs is because I feel that, by doing so, I can "reset" my ears and brain to listen to the track. I haven't used much hardware lately, but the MS-20 mini by KORG and DFAM by Moog are my favorites. Sometimes I play with them.
What are your favorite devices or features of Bitwig Studio that make you want to continue using it?
I'm addicted to The Grid now -- it helps me make many awesome discoveries. I often use Bitwig's modulation features, too. The Editor Panels are one of my favorite parts of Bitwig Studio, because they allow for easy editing of audio waveforms and MIDI data. On the device side, I often use Bit-8. I use it mostly for noisy effects and for mixing the sound.
You also mentioned making patches, so let's talk about The Grid. First of all, why do you like to make your own patches or design your own sounds rather than using presets?
I tried and studied so many new things last year, and The Grid was one of them. I started to use The Grid because I wanted to do something new. Recently I've been interested in creating "sound." You know, music is a collection of sounds. I wanted to focus on creating each one of them more deeply. I thought that if I used something new, I could have a new vision.
When you start making a patch, do you have an idea of the sound you want to make or your end goal, or is it an open-ended process?
I often start making a patch with a goal in mind. However, I sometimes reach a different goal than the one I originally set. The same thing happens on the knobs: I touch them with some prediction of what will happen, but sometimes the result is unexpected. Even if my prediction was wrong, as long as the result is good, that's success. It's a very exciting part about using The Grid.
Can you tell me about how you learned to patch or how you learned synthesis in general? Have you used Eurorack gear or VCV Rack? How did you learn what each modular device does?
I learned synthesis when I went to a music technical college. One of the teachers there was Kimitaka Matsumae, the master of the MS-20. He taught me the basics of synthesis and patching on the MS-20. As for The Grid, I watched a lot of tutorial videos and built the patches they described. I learned a lot from Polarity's videos, for instance.
“Music is a collection of sounds. I wanted to focus on creating each one of them more deeply.”
Some people get lost in The Grid. How do you "stay on track" while using The Grid in a larger context of making a complete track? Do you have separate sessions for making patches or sound design versus when you're making a song?
Yes, I have struggled with the same thing. I came to the conclusion that I should separate "making patches" and "making a track" in my mind. Earlier I said that I thought making "sound" and "music" are two different activities, and just because we've made patches doesn't mean we have to use them in our own tracks. We can learn something from the process of making a patch, and that knowledge can be used in our next work.
When do you know when a patch is "done"?
When I feel "It's great! Done!" Haha. Or, I often set a time limit for making a patch. It means when the time is up, the patch is done.
You seem to enjoy letting people into your process and sharing some of your knowledge and experience about making music. Some artists are very protective of their knowledge and their methods. What is your philosophy on this?
You're right: It's important to protect our own ideas, copyrights and music. I don't feel good when someone takes my ideas without respect. But I also think that, when I release my ideas, I get space in my brain for new ones. So sharing my ideas means I can create new ones. And I'm so happy to communicate with many people via my creations.
Who have you learned the most about music and making music from? Maybe it's not a "who." What has taught you the most about making music? What are some valuable lessons to you?
I think I learned the most from the school of life while I was in college. My teachers taught me a lot, too. And my friends there also taught me that it's very important to enjoy my life. So in that period I not only learned about music — I also learned about business, communication, mental processes...a lot of important things. I'm still learning a lot. Doing what I want to do every day is a valuable lesson for my music and for my life.
Read Yuri Urano’s Bitwig tutorials here.