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Getting Around in The Grid

Modules and Cords Make The Patch

In this tutorial we take a look at the basics of The Grid, the modular sound design environment new in Bitwig Studio 3.

Topics covered:

  • Adding a Poly Grid device to your project and opening the editor
  • The initial patch and patching basics
  • Pre-cords
  • Inspector panel and help resources
  • Stereo and polyphony
  • Module palette
  • Adding, inserting and replacing modules
  • Port types and colors
  • Watch the video and keep reading for further Grid details. Happy exploring!

 

 

GRID DEVICES

There are two Grid devices in Bitwig Studio 3: Poly Grid, an instrument device that generates audio, and FX Grid, an effect device that manipulates audio.

Both devices can be found in Bitwig Studio's browsers.

After inserting a Grid device, click the device's overview display to open the Expanded Device View. This larger, detachable view serves as your Grid editor. 

PATCHING 101

 In ports are always on the left of modules, and out ports are on the right.

 

  • To create a patch cord: click and drag from an out port to an in port, or vice versa.
  • To move a patch cord: double-click and drag a cable from one of its ports to a different one, and then release.
  • To disconnect a patch cord: double-click and drag a cable from one of its ports to an empty area, and then release.

The module palette allows you to navigate the available modules by category. (You can also right-click the background of the Grid editor to insert modules via menu.)

 

  • To insert a module: drag it from the module palette into the Grid editor.
  • To delete a module: select the desired module, and then press [DELETE]. If signal was running thru the module, that signal path will be reconnected. 

The Grid also has gestures and a particular awareness for replacing and inserting modules.

 

  • To replace one module with another: drag the new module from the palette to the center of the module to be replaced, and then release. Any similar parameters will be preserved. 
  • To insert a module with patch cords: drag the new module over the port where you want it connected, and then release. Dragging over an empty in or out port will connect a corresponding port to it. Dragging over a port where a patch cord is present will run the signal path thru the new module. 

PORT COLORS / SIGNAL TYPES

Logic. [   ] A bistate signal, often for triggering an event or setting a state. For in ports, any signal level at or above 0.5 is treated as high logic, and anything below is assessed as low logic. Logic in ports are only sensitive to these state changes so jumping from 0 to 0.5 will register, but a slow ramp from 0.5 to 1 means nothing. For out ports, a high-logic state is expressed as 1, and a low-logic state is transmitted as 0.

For short, we may sometimes refer to a trigger, which is the transition from a low-logic state to a high-logic state. This signal is often used to start a function.

Phase. [   ] A unipolar signal from 0 to just below 1, often for driving data lookup. For in ports, signal are wrapped into the range. For example, a value of 1.02 would be used as 0.02, and a value of -0.3 would be treated as 0.7. 

Pitch. [   ] A bipolar signal used by Bitwig for specifying pitch. 0 represents "middle C" (C3) with each change of ±0.1 representing an octave, so a typical signal range of -1 to +1 represents twenty octaves. 

Untyped signal. [   , most often.] The most common signal type, of unspecified range and function. Inputs of mixers or filters or math modules, virtually all outputs that aren't implementing either logic, phase, or pitch signal characteristics — they are all most often untyped and thereby follow the color set for the module they are on.

Note: Generic signal modules are normally red, with typical control modules defaulting to turquoise. So ports of either color are untyped signal ports. And when a module has multiple untyped in ports, those ports will adopt the color of an incoming patch cord. 

Secondary untyped signal. [   ] When a module has two kinds of untyped signal in or out ports, the secondary port is shown in blue. For example, a merge module might have multiple primary in ports (using the module color) for the various signals to route and one control input (colored blue) for selecting which input is passed thru. 

OTHER DETAILS

At the top of the Inspector Panel for Poly Grid is the number of Voices. (All polyphonic instruments in Bitwig Studio now share this inspector section on voices and voice stacking.) 

As in the rest of Bitwig Studio, look to the window footer for hints on port/parameter names, parameter values, etc. 

Note that many modules have parameters in the Inspector Panel, and all modules use the inspector to display scopes for their connected in and out ports. With the Inspector Panel open, select any module to see these elements. 

Numerous modules have pre-cords. These are clickable icons that appear beside in ports, allowing common connections to be made wirelessly. They include pitch on oscillators and gate on envelopes (both coming from the device's incoming notes signals), and phase on data sequencers (using the device's phase settings from the inspector). 

To control parameters that don't have in ports, you can use modulators. Many typical "control" devices — LFOs, envelopes, the Steps Data sequencer — have onboard modulation routing buttons

Regular modulator devices can also be used, or any signal in The Grid can be run into the Modulator Out module (in the I/O category). 

A WORD(S) ON STEREO

Every signal in The Grid is stereo. This means that whenever you see one patch cord, you are actually seeing a stereo pair. So yes, every audio cable is stereo, but so are all pitch, phase, and trigger signals as well. Altering any of these various control or timing values will affect the corresponding audio.

A number of modules are configured to make working in stereo easy and interesting:

 

In the Mix category, Stereo Split and Stereo Merge allow you to separate and reconstruct a signal as left–right and/or mid–side pairs. 

Also in the Mix category, LR Gain provides independent level controls for the left and right channels of any signal passing thru. 

In the Level category, Value, Attenuate, and Bias have an Inspector parameter called Stereo-ize, which inverts the value used for operation on the right channel. 

Most Oscillator modules have frequency offset values, set in Hertz (Hz). When this value’s polarity signal (± when the value is positive, ∓ when it’s negative) is clicked, the frequency offset is inverted for the right channel.

The LFO module (under LFO) and S/H LFO (under Random) both have a purple phase parameter, which defaults to 0 °. And to the right of that phase control is an offset control for the right channel, which starts at +0 ° and is thus grayed out by default. Both parameters are visualized on the LFO module. 

In the Random category, Noise also has a stereo option (via the clickable on-panel stereo icon). This creates independent signals for the left and right channels. 

WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD

That wraps up our walkthrough of The Grid. To get started, open some Poly Grid presets (after Bitwig asks to update your sound content) and play around. The Remote Controls provide high-level controls, but now that the Grid editor is familiar, you can dive into the patch and enter new worlds of sound.