5. The Clip Launcher

We have spent the last couple chapters working within the Arranger Timeline. And while the Arranger is absolutely crucial to music creation in Bitwig Studio, it is only half of the story.

The Clip Launcher Panel — also called the Launcher — is the logical Arranger's artistic brother. While the Arranger is an excellent way to lay out the fixed "story" of a song, the Launcher allows you to freely improvise with your clips. More on that soon.

We will start by getting an overview of the Clip Launcher Panel and its constituent elements. Next we will revisit some of the same concepts we saw with Arranger clips as they apply to Launcher clips. We will then investigate how Launcher clips relate to the transport and Arranger clips and see how Launcher clips are triggered. Finally, we will record Launcher clips and learn to capture the Clip Launcher's output on the Arranger Timeline.

Bitwig Studio is just one DAW, but it is the two sequencers within that provide limitless musical possibilities.

The Clip Launcher Panel

Charting out music from beginning to end is the way nearly all productions take place. But even from the earliest music, improvisation has been an important source of variation, inspiration, and life. Balancing these two poles — the programmed and the spontaneous — has been a central concern, all the way from Bach's time and his (literally) sacred music, up to the present day and our attempts to make electronic music engaging from the stage.

Aside from its unique perspective and purpose, the Clip Launcher Panel is also the only panel that loads directly into another panel. In this chapter, we will be learning about the Launcher within the Arranger Timeline Panel, but it can also be called up inside the Mixer Panel of the Mix View (see Clip Launcher Panel).

The key difference between Arranger clips and Launcher clips is their purpose. Arranger clips are played back precisely at the designated time. But Launcher clips must be available whenever you want them, either for section-based composition (verse, chorus, bridge), or as pieces for a live performance, or however else you might use them. Arranger clips must be rigid, and Launcher clips must follow your whim.

Clip Launcher Layout

Let's begin by examining the Clip Launcher Panel beside the Arranger Timeline that we were just using.

What we see here is the same Arranger Timeline Panel as before, but now the view toggles for both the Clip Launcher and the Arranger Timeline are engaged. As a result, we see these two sequencers side by side within the panel.

The Clip Launcher Panel appears as a series of slots that are arranged across each track. Since tracks in the Arrange View are oriented horizontally, the Clip Launcher Panel is also arranged from left to right. In case more slots exist than can be shown at one time, the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the panel allows you to scroll to view all the slots.

The slots are made to house clips and have no functionality of their own. Whenever we refer to a "Launcher clip," we mean a clip that is housed within this Launcher sequencer.

On each track before the clip slots begin is a Stop Clips button. Each of these buttons halts all clips that were playing on its track. And on each track after the last visible clip slot is a Switch Playback to Arranger button. Each of these buttons restores the Arranger as the active sequencer for this track. The last section of this chapter will explain this relationship in detail.

Each vertical column of clips is a group called a scene. These groupings can be used for triggering or working with the constituent clips all together. If additional slots are needed, additional scenes can be created to provide them. Also note that each scene can be resized horizontally, providing more space to show the contents of its component clips and their playheads.

Similar to each track, the displayed scenes begin and end with the Global Stop Clips button and the Global Switch Playback to Arranger button, respectively. Each global button is the equivalent of triggering all track buttons of that kind. Again, the last section of this chapter will cover these functions in more detail.

Finally, various Clip Launcher settings are grouped within the Play menu.

  • Automation Write: Enables automation recording to the Clip Launcher Panel.

  • Overdub: Merges incoming notes onto active clips the Clip Launcher Panel the next time the transport is started. Otherwise, note data is overwritten.

  • Record as Comping Takes: Enables "cycle recording" on empty launcher slots at the defined Take Length (set within the Play menu). This begins writing comping data after the first cycle completes.

  • Record on scene launch: Causes a scene launch to trigger recording into empty slots on all record-enabled tracks.

Within Launcher Clips, Scenes, and Slots

As for the appearance of Launcher clips themselves, there are only a few things to note.

The crucial item within each clip and scene is the play button. This is the means by which you trigger the clip or scene. These play buttons also serve as indicators of which clips are active.

The top of each clip and scene also leaves space for that item's name, which is optional. As can be seen in the image above, scenes without names may be given automatic ones which you can always replace manually. And the color stripe at the top of the scene reflects the scene's color, just as the background of each clip shows its set color.

Below the play button and name of a clip may be a preview of the clip's contents. Clips that contain either notes or audio events will always have a preview, but the preview can be shown only when the track height is set to normal. When the Arranger Timeline Panel has tracks set to half size (as shown below), there is no room for the preview.

Finally, a couple of different buttons can appear within empty slots.

If the track is record-enabled, a slot record button will appear about where the play button would within a clip. Clicking this record button activates recording within the clip.

If the track is not record-enabled, a slot stop button will appear instead. This button is just an alias to the track's Stop All clips button, performing the exact same function.

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