3. The Arrange View and Tracks

Now that we have examined all the fixed parts and dynamic possibilities of the Bitwig Studio window, let's enter the practical world of the Arrange View. We will start by looking at a few key sections of the Arranger Timeline Panel and their constituent elements. We will then examine the track types used by Bitwig Studio along with basic track editing functions. Finally we will get a brief introduction to the Inspector Panel for current and future use.

The Arranger Timeline Panel

Unlike sculpture, painting, and architecture, music is an art form appreciated over a defined length of time. That is to say, when we listen to a piece of music, either at home or out at a venue, it unfolds over the same amount of time and at the same pace for everyone in the audience. While music can definitely be performed or created with improvisation (see chapter 5: The Clip Launcher), each performance has a rigidly defined structure to us listeners. And as most productions are still based around a fixed song structure, we will start with the Arrange View and its friend the Arranger Timeline Panel, which is made to lay out music arrangements in a precise way.

The Arranger Timeline Panel is unique in Bitwig Studio: it is available in only one view (the Arrange View), and it is available in this view only as the central panel. And as this panel is the only way to create a traditional, linear musical arrangement within Bitwig Studio, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the Arranger Timeline Panel — also called the Arranger — which is seen here after a new file has been created.

We will start by examining various sections of the Arranger Timeline Panel.

Arranger Area, Arranger Timeline, and Zooming

The most important element here is the actual Arranger Timeline, which is currently blank. As you may have seen here in earlier images (or from opening a demo project), this is the area where your song arrangements will take shape in the form of clips and track automation. Whenever we refer to an "Arranger clip," we mean a clip that is housed within this Arranger sequencer.

The Arranger is laid out horizontally, showing time progressing from the left side of the screen to the right. This can be seen in the Beat Ruler at the top of the Arranger. The integers here — 1, 2, 3, etc. — show where each new bar begins.

To adjust the zoom level: place the mouse in-line with the bar numbers inside the Beat Ruler. The cursor will become a magnifying glass indicating that we are in zoom mode. Now click and hold the mouse button, dragging upward to zoom in or downward to zoom out. You can also drag the mouse from side to side to horizontally scroll within the Arranger Timeline.

Other ways to adjust the zoom level include:

  • Press either PLUS or CTRL+PLUS ( CMD+PLUS on Mac) to zoom in and either MINUS or CTRL+MINUS ( CMD+MINUS on Mac) to zoom out.

  • Hold CTRL+ALT, and then click and drag anywhere within the Arranger area. If your mouse or trackpad supports a scroll function, you can also hold CTRL+ALT anywhere within the Arranger area and then scroll up and down.

  • If you have a three-button mouse, click and drag the middle button anywhere within the Arranger area.

  • If you have a trackpad (particularly on Mac), pinch/stretch two fingers diagonally on the trackpad.

As you zoom in on the Beat Ruler, you may notice that the bar numbers start adding decimals. Depending on your zoom level, the timeline values will be represented as either BARs, BARs.BEATs, or BARs.BEATs.TICKs.

And within the Beat Ruler area, you can also right-click to show a realtime ruler, displaying MINUTEs:SECONDs.MILLISECONDs of the project time.

Beat Grid Settings

As you adjust the Arranger Timeline's zoom level, you may also notice that the grid lines within the Arranger area begin to change. This has to do with the beat grid settings, which are found in the bottom of the Arranger Timeline Panel and to the right of the horizontal scroll bar.

Actually, the value shown represents the current value in use. By clicking on that value, the various Grid settings are exposed.

The beat grid resolution (shown above as 1/16, for sixteenth notes) tells us what musical interval is being represented by the grid lines. In a new project, the adaptive beat grid setting (the button at top, with a linked magnifying glass and the word Automatic) is turned on. When adaptive beat grid is enabled, changes to the zoom level also cause appropriate changes to the beat grid resolution. The beat grid resolution setting will update as the value changes.

To toggle the adaptive beat grid: click the adaptive beat grid button within the beat grid settings, or press SLASH .

[Note]Note

On a German keyboard, the key command is HYPHEN .

To manually set the beat grid resolution: first make sure that adaptive beat grid is disabled. Then manipulate the beat grid resolution by setting it with the mouse or by pressing COMMA to lower the grid resolution or PERIOD to raise it.

The beat grid resolution has an accompanying parameter right below it. The beat grid subdivision (shown above as straight) sets the rhythmic grouping used for the beat grid resolution setting. For example, the default straight value means that straight duple values are being used. Other available settings include triole or 3t (triplets), quintole or 5t (quintuplets, or fifth-lets), and septole or 7t (septuplets, or seventh-lets).

To manually set the beat grid subdivision: first make sure that adaptive beat grid is disabled. Then manipulate the beat grid subdivision by setting it with the mouse or by pressing ALT+COMMA to lower the grid resolution or ALT+PERIOD to raise it.

Track Headers

The horizontal lines you see within the Arrange area are the dividers between each track lane. To the left of the Arrange area are the track headers.

Within each header are the following identifications, meters, and controls for that track:

  • Track Color stripe: A swatch of the track's assigned color.

  • Track Type icon: An icon to indicate the kind of track.

  • Track Name: The title assigned to the track.

  • Volume fader: A final level control for the track.

  • Record Arm button: Record enables the track.

  • Solo button: When any track has its solo button enabled, only tracks with solo enabled will output their audio.

  • Mute button: Disables the track's audio output.

  • Automation Lane button: Toggles to reveal the automation lane section of the track (see The Arranger's Automation Lane Section).

  • Level meters: Stereo audio meters that display the track's output level.

Arranger View Toggles

Both above and beneath the track headers are the Arranger view toggles. Similar to the panel icons of the window footer, each of these icons is a toggle that adjusts what is displayed in the Arranger Timeline Panel.

The upper toggles are:

  • Clip Launcher button: Toggles visibility of the Clip Launcher Panel (see The Clip Launcher Panel) within the Arranger Timeline Panel.

  • Arranger Timeline button: Toggles visibility of the Arranger Timeline within the Arranger Timeline Panel

    [Note]Note

    Either the Clip Launcher Panel or the Arranger Timeline must be visible within the Arranger Timeline Panel. If only one of these is visible and you hide it, the other will automatically become visible.

  • Tool Palette menu: This menu allows you to toggle between Bitwig Studio's various editing tools.

    In fact, right-clicking within any timeline-based panel will give you the option to switch tools at the top of the context menu.

    While the Arranger Timeline Panel is the first place we see the tool palette, each timeline-based panel has its own tool palette. This allows us to have a different tool selected for each individual panel.

    • Pointer tool is for selecting and moving events. Clicking between automation points along the current curve will create a new point. And double-clicking in a blank area will create a new event of the appropriate kind. You can switch to this tool by pressing 1, or you can temporarily use the tool by holding 1.

      [Note]Note

      As this is the primary tool in Bitwig Studio, all editing functions described in this document presume you have the Pointer tool engaged. If a different tool is meant to be used, it will be specifically noted.

    • Time Selection tool is for choosing an arbitrary section of time instead of particular events. Otherwise it generally acts like the Pointer tool. You can switch to this tool by pressing 2, or you can temporarily use the tool by holding 2.

    • Pen tool is for drawing new events. You can switch to this tool by pressing 3, or you can temporarily use the tool by holding 3.

    • Eraser tool is for deleting relevant events from the area of time that you select. You can switch to this tool by pressing 4, or you can temporarily use the tool by holding 4.

    • Knife tool is for splitting a continuous event into two. You can switch to this tool by pressing 5, or you can temporarily use the tool by holding 5.

    Finally, the Pointer tool engages in smart tool switching. This is to say that depending on where you hover over a clip or event, different tools will become available. Specific information will be provided within this document, but it is worth mentioning here as your cursor will tend to shift shapes as you mouse navigate around clips.

The lower toggles are:

  • Track I/O button: Toggles visibility of the Track I/O section of all track headers (see Track I/O Settings).

  • Track Height button: Toggles the track height in the Arranger between normal and half size (shown below respectively). In half size, the same track header components are displayed with some minor adjustments.

  • Effect Tracks button: Toggles visibility of effect tracks within the Arranger Timeline Panel.

  • Deactivated Tracks button: Toggles visibility of deactivated tracks within the Arranger Timeline Panel.

  • Follow Playback button: Toggles whether to keep the Global Playhead on screen at all times in the Arranger Timeline Panel or not.

    [Note]Note

    From the Settings tab within the Dashboard, the User Interface page offers two settings for the Playhead follow mode:

    • Scroll by pages will scroll once the Global Playhead reaches the edge of the current display area. This is the default setting.

    • Continuously scroll will keep the Global Playhead centered in each timeline-based panel.

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