Modular Concepts & Let's Build an Everything...

Two tutorial series, showing modular ideas and practices in Bitwig Studio.

In Modular Concepts, we will look at universal ideas in sound synthesis and programming.

As The Grid (and Bitwig Studio itself) are good places to try out concepts and see them visualized, this should be helpful to anyone interested in digging deeper, no matter your preferred tools.

Each episode in the Let's Build a... series starts with an idea, and then we make it in The Grid. As with any sound design process, the task at hand provides structure, but creative impulses may lead us off the beaten path. Please put on the goggles; the workbench is ready for action.

 


Modular Concepts: Basic Modulations

This tutorial explores basic control signals, a core building block of patching. Starting from the default Poly Grid patch, we explore using envelopes and LFOs to manipulate pitch, both individually and together. With an understanding of how these generators work, you could apply them successfully to any type of parameter. As in any modular environment, modulations are what make any patch in The Grid dynamic and alive.

  • 0:13 - Default patch at a glance
  • 1:10 - Two basic modulation signals
  • 2:27 - Using a pitch envelope
  • 4:09 - "Attenuator test" when using notes
  • 5:06 - Pitch LFO for trill
  • 6:05 - Pitch LFO for vibrato (and glissando)
  • 8:00 - Joining streams: vibrato that fades in
 


Let’s build a... Synthesizer

This tutorial constructs a basic synthesizer. Taking a classic approach of three mixed sound sources, we explore oscillator detuning, amplitude vs. filter envelopes, waveshaping, modulation, and even injecting audio samples. A good example of turning an idea into a new instrument in Bitwig Studio and The Grid.

  • 0:30 - Just one oscillator to start
  • 1:11 - Source 2: another oscillator and mixer
  • 1:51 - Two sources with pitch & frequency offsets
  • 3:09 - Adding a filter...
  • 3:42 - ...and a filter envelope
  • 5:13 - Source 3: noise generator
  • 5:41 - Separate noise envelope (local vs global control)
  • 7:01 - Source 1 gets a waveshaper (local vs global control) and modulation
  • 8:27 - Crossfading source 1 & 2
  • 9:37 - Source 4 is... a Sampler!
 


Modular Concepts: Phase, a Matter of Timing

This tutorial explores phase for driving step sequencers and animating sound. We start by looking at Bitwig Studio's default tempo-locked behavior and then manipulate phase signals to create interesting relationships. Phase is a uniquely powerful idea, which is why it is central to The Grid and worth getting comfortable with.

  • 0:28 - Pitch, timbre, loudness… and phase
  • 1:19 - Driving the DAW
  • 2:00 - Trigger-driven model via Ø Counter
  • 2:55 - Phase pre-cords make things moving
  • 3:34 - A few phase processors
  • 5:58 - Manipulating a synth sound
  • 7:06 - Going polyphonic
  • 7:38 - Breaking down a phase signal
  • 9:02 - An LFO to drive phase
  • 10:48 - Scaling phase with each note's velocity
Download Project File
 


Let's Build a... Sequencer

This tutorial builds a sequencer. Starting with the idea of a simple drum sequencer, we explore Device Phase and its pre-cords, event sequencing, using a global clock at multiple rates, alternating envelopes, simple phase modulation (with oscillators and noise), light waveshaping, and modulators. Because in The Grid, not all instruments require notes.

  • 0:15 - What is an instrument?
  • 1:15 - Build the first drum element
  • 1:43 - "Device Phase" via pre-cord
  • 3:04 - A second drum element
  • 3:33 - One global clock, plus processing
  • 5:48 - Third element as hi-hat...
  • 6:48 - ...that’s occasionally open
  • 8:47 - Fourth element as bass
  • 10:03 - Plus a Pitch(es) sequencer
Download Project File
 


Modular Concepts: Musical Maths

While math is everywhere in sound synthesis, it doesn't always ask for attention. This tutorial looks at three examples: making a patch velocity-sensitive, seeing how low-pass filters relate to amplitude, and using comparators to make a looping envelope. By lifting the veil on a few simple ideas, take The Grid (and any modular environment) to a new level.

  • 0:08 - Math: it's all around us
  • 1:10 - Logical functions too
  • 2:05 - Task 1: Velocity as an amplitude control
  • 3:24 - Level Scaler for range
  • 4:03 - Using decibels is nicer
  • 4:32 - Task 2: What is a low-pass filter?
  • 5:45 - LPF makes things slow...
  • 6:22 - ...now we can slow other signals
  • 7:20 - Lag is a filter set in time
  • 7:55 - Task 3: building a looping envelope
  • 8:43 - Talk thru how this should work
  • 9:13 - When the envelope reaches zero...
  • 9:48 - ...AND the note is still held, retriever
  • 10:39 - Details, like routing feedback...
  • 11:10 - …merge the triggers with OR...
  • 11:57 - ...and short logic signals help OR work
  • 12:50 - It loops! Go crazy!
Download Project File
 


Let’s Build a... Distortion

This tutorial builds a distortion. As though at the workbench together, we cover various methods of distorting a signal and then combining them in parallel. We explore pre-gain, Audio Out’s clipping options, waveshaping and "Bend"-ing signals, wavefolding and quantization, and splitting signals by frequency and polarity. The options are limitless within The Grid.

  • 0:36 - Time for FX Grid
  • 1:33 - Common distortion formula
  • 1:48 - Audio Out always has clipping settings
  • 2:54 - Start with Clip-ing
  • 4:18 - Shaper time, such as Distortion...
  • 4:59 - ...or even Bend
  • 6:26 - Wavefolder, for extra cycles
  • 7:04 - Quantizer, for reducing resolution
  • 7:51 - Math of a simple crossover...
  • 9:02 - ...for treating lows & highs differently
  • 10:10 - MinMax, for splitting at zero...
  • 11:34 - ...for treating the sides differently
  • 12:14 - FX Grid can use notes too
  • 12:40 - This works for pre-cords...
  • 13:04 - ...or any parameter, with Modulator Out
Download Project File
 


Modular Concepts: Perspectives on Pitch

Describing any sound involves pitch, so manipulating frequency and pitch is critical. In this tutorial, we examine various pitch controls, see how note pitches are used by Polysynth, and create an FX Grid patch that sets the sample rate of audio with incoming note messages. With a solid foundation, you can build anything.

  • 0:08 - On the nature of pitch
  • 1:27 - Pitch ratios, keyboard tracking, and offsets
  • 4:27 - Stereo "frequency" detuning
  • 6:28 - Pitch outside The Grid, by keytracking Polysynth
  • 7:57 - Set cutoff at the 2nd harmonic
  • 8:36 - Filter envelope amount, in semitones
  • 9:33 - FX Grid finale, using note pitch input
  • 10:06 - Keytracking a filter effect
  • 10:36 - Sample rate degrader...
  • 12:16 - ...with note pitch setting sample rate
Download Project File
 


Let’s Build an... Arpeggiator

This tutorial builds an arpeggiator. Starting from the idea of cycling thru each note that is held down, we investigate pitch control via signal, domain scaling, pitch quantization techniques, building a change-detection circuit, and tweaking phase and timing for a stereo arpeggiator. Approach building in The Grid like any sound design task — start with a known target and find unique ideas in the journey.

  • 0:17 - Common arpeggiator controls
  • 1:55 - Controlling pitch by signal
  • 3:27 - Scaling a pitch signal
  • 4:31 - Landing on all semitones
  • 5:46 - Landing on select semitones
  • 7:33 - Landing on played semitones
  • 10:05 - Building a change detector, for discrete triggers
  • 12:18 - Randomizing velocity
  • 14:12 - Twisting phase for a stereo arp...
  • 15:23 - ...or stereo timing and range
Download Project File
 


Modular Concepts: Feedback

It isn't always a "happy accident," but when feedback is done intentionally, rich and changing sounds can be found. In this tutorial, we use Bitwig's powerful feedback options in the regular Delay and Reverb devices, explore oscillator feedback in Phase-4, and then create feedback in The Grid for some creative instability. Processing a signal over and over again without it ever repeating; (can be) a lovely thing.

  • 0:14 - Feedback, a (potential) force for good
  • 0:59 - Delay allows FX/plug-ins into the feedback loop!
  • 1:56 - Changing things each loop makes feedback interesting
  • 2:35 - Stereo delay and feedback sound design example
  • 3:07 - Reverb exposes feedback too
  • 4:49 - Synthesis feedback with Phase-4
  • 6:40 - Per-note modulation of feedback
  • 8:13 - Switching to The Grid
  • 9:06 - Creating feedback connections in The Grid with Long Delay
  • 11:27 - Logic Delay, for time-shifting envelopes, etc.
  • 13:36 - Pressure In, for poly pressure / MPE
  • 14:13 - Modulator Out, to use any signal as modulator

Download Project File

 


Let's Build a... Repeater

Making an audio repeater is so interesting and fun that we build it once in The Grid and once with standard devices, touching off small discussions along the way. Topics include basic delay structure, using Hybrid tracks for notes + audio, turning any Grid signal into a modulator, and the power of Bitwig's Chain and Selector devices. Because making new sounds in Bitwig Studio leaves the power in your hands.

  • 0:29 - Making basic delay architecture
  • 2:15 - The logic of an audio repeater
  • 4:22 - Merge + Lag for crossfades
  • 5:31 - Hybrid tracks allow notes and audio in parallel
  • 6:50 - Using notes (via Key On) to change repeat times
  • 8:58 - N-Latch, for applying one trigger at a time
  • 9:50 - Sum (Σ), to merge signals together
  • 10:41 - Starting over with regular devices, like Delay-1
  • 12:20 - Chain device, for global modulations here
  • 14:09 - Drag-and-drop for modulator routings
  • 14:45 - Keytrack, for pitch-based modulation
  • 16:30 - The Selector devices, with note-triggered modes
  • 18:28 - An FX Selector for the nested Feedback chain

Download Project File


Modular Concepts and Let's Build a... is an ongoing tutorial series, with a new episode dropping every few weeks. Check back soon.

May 27, 2020

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