14. MIDI Controllers

MIDI controllers — or simply controllers — can be a critical part of any production environment or performance setup. Bitwig Studio supports MIDI controllers in general, whether you are playing in notes or you are mapping physical knobs and sliders to the program's parameters.

Bitwig Studio comes with various controller scripts. Each script is programmed for a specific MIDI controller, with a few scripts for Generic controllers of any make.

For the generic controllers, functionality is basic. If the controller has keys, you can send note messages. And if it has assignable knobs, you can map those knobs to any mappable control in Bitwig Studio.

For the controllers that are specifically supported, more functions are allowed. This can include control of track mixer functions, device remote controls and parameters, the transport, clip launching, and more. As each controller can vary greatly in size, shape, and functionality, the built-in mappings supported by Bitwig Studio also vary from controller to controller.

[Note]Note

Anyone with knowledge of JavaScript and the MIDI specification can customize any of the included controller scripts or even write their own. For full details on Bitwig Studio's controller API, go to the Dashboard, click on the Help tab, and then click on the Documentation page. Various Developer Resources can be found here.

This chapter covers how to use both the default mappings for your controller (if supported), and how to manually assign and manage MIDI mappings. It also shows how to achieve simple parameter and controller (or computer keyboard) pairings via the Mappings Browser Panel.

Soft Controller Assignments

For any controller used with Bitwig Studio, certain default behaviors are available. We will start by revisiting the Dashboard for additional controller settings and documentation. Then we will get to know the Remote Controls pane, which is available on every device.

The Remote Controls Pane

[Note]Note

The functionality described in this section will work only with non-Generic controllers.

As we discussed in chapter 7: Introduction to Devices, all actual device control elements are found within the Device Panel. In this section, we will revisit the Device Panel to see how it facilitates soft controller assignments.

"Soft controller assignments" refers to controller assignments that can dynamically shift, following your focus on different tracks and devices within a project. By default, this functionality only targets the currently selected device.

In the example above, the Delay-2 device is currently selected, as its slightly brightened device header indicates. By clicking on the E-CLAP device, it will become the currently selected device and receive focus. If a recognized MIDI controller is connected and set up in Bitwig Studio, the device's interface might even get a splash color.

The colored interface items represent the eight current soft controller assignments. The details of these mappings are available in the device's Device Mappings pane, which is shown when the Remote Controls button (which looks like a group of six controller items) is clicked.

The Remote Controls pane shows the soft controller assignments that come with being the currently selected device. Each assignment is represented here by a color-accented controller. And since your controller's eight hardware controls will be used over and over again, they are always colored in rainbow order (red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, indigo, and violet) to help you mentally connect each particular hardware control with its ever-changing software assignment.

[Note]Note

Depending on the type of parameter under control, either a knob, button, or chooser (a drop-down menu, indicated with a downward-facing arrow on its far right) will be used.

To rename a soft controller: double-click the soft controller's name. If no name is provided, the name of the parameter under control will be used.

Clicking on the Remote Control Pages menu exposes all current mapping pages.

There are three different types of mapping pages:

  • Preset pages are sets of remote controls tied to this particular device instance or preset.

  • Device pages are sets of remote controls linked to every device of this kind across your installation of Bitwig Studio. So any changes made to this particular E-Clap device's device pages would be read by all E-Clap devices.

  • Modulator pages represent remote controls for any modulators loaded in this preset. They are tied to the particular modulator in use and are not editable.

To create a new preset page: click on the Remote Control Pages menu, and then choose the Add New Page option.

The Wi-Fi icons represent controls which are not yet assigned.

To make a soft controller assignment: first click on an available controller's Wi-Fi icon, and then click on the device parameter you wish to assign to it.

We can now switch to other remote control pages (via the Remote Control Pages menu) and then return to this preset page. This new preset page was named Perform by default, but similarly to the soft controllers, you can click on the preset page's name in order to rename it.

Clicking the Remote Controls Editor button causes the Remote Controls Editor to appear in the central panel area.

You will notice that the Remote Controls pane itself is now showing an unassign button (as an x icon) in the top right of each assigned controller.

To remove a soft controller assignment: click the assigned controller's unassign button, either in the Remote Controls pane or in the Remote Controls Editor.

[Note]Note

A soft controller assignment can also be removed directly from the Device Panel either by:

  • Right-clicking in the soft controller's area, and then selecting Delete Remote Control from the context menu.

  • Holding ALT and mousing over the Remote Controls pane will cause an unassign button (the little x icon) to appear in the top right of each assigned soft controller. Continuing holding ALT and click on any of these buttons to remove that assignment.

The Remote Controls Editor is scrollable. Changes made to pages in the Preset Pages section are stored immediately. Changes to pages in the Device Pages section must be saved, either by clicking the Save and Apply button or by using the save dialog that appears when you close the Remote Controls Editor.

To reorder remote control pages: click and drag the pages within their section.

To duplicate a remote control page: hold ALT, and then click and drag the page you wish to duplicate within its section.

[Note]Note

Pages cannot be moved or copied between sections.

To rename a page: double-click the current name of the page.

To add tags to a remote control page: click in the bottom row of the page area, beneath the bottom four soft controllers.

To add a ninth slot to any remote controls page: right-click on the title bar of the remote controls page in the Remote Controls Editor, and then select Allow 9 Slots from the context menu.

This can be especially handy if you are using a MIDI controller with nine faders.

To create a new remote control page: click the Add Page button (the large plus +) icon at the end of the Device Pages section. (The plus sign at the end of the Preset Pages section can also be used to create a new preset page.)

To delete a remote control page: click the Delete Page button (the x icon) to the far right of the page name.

Before we move on, let's consider a use of the rainbow order in another context. Most controllers that support soft controller assignments can also support a "mixer mode."

The following images demonstrate a project in Mix View both without and then with mixer mode engaged:

Notice how the volume and pan knobs for the first eight tracks are using the first eight soft controllers, as shown in rainbow order again.

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