9. Working with Audio Events

We spent a healthy amount of time in the early chapters of this document talking about clips and their centrality to music production in Bitwig Studio. Even as the last few chapters have focused on other facilities of Bitwig Studio, clips are still a central part of the conversation. They are the vessels which hold our musical ideas, allowing us to manage, manipulate, copy, and vary these fragments into something greater.

And while we can call the clip our "musical atom," science tells us that atoms are made up of even smaller pieces and particles. In this chapter and the next, we will discuss the audio events and note events that clips are made of. (Whenever we refer to the "musical content" of clips, we are referring to the same audio events and notes.)

We have already examined the various capabilities for manipulating whole clips, whether they are Arranger clips (see The Inspector Panel on Arranger Clips) or Launcher clips (see Launcher Clip Parameters). By using the Detail Editor Panel, we will begin working at the event level and seeing what tools are available to us at this deepest level of musical arrangement. And once we couple that interface with the Inspector Panel, most of the editing options and optimized workflows offered by Bitwig Studio will now be at our fingertips.

So let us begin the detail work of creating and preparing music. Next stop: audio events.

The Detail Editor Panel, Audio Clip Edition

All music is assembled in clips in Bitwig Studio. Just as a primary purpose of the Automation Editor Panel is to work with various kinds of clip automation, the purpose of the Detail Editor Panel is to work with the musical content of clips.

As you engage with the Detail Editor Panel, remember the subtle note earlier that every timeline-based panel has its own tool palette menu (see Arranger View Toggles). This allows each of these panels to have its own tool selection. This may seem like a small gain, but it really adds up. For example, if you find yourself making selections in the Arranger Timeline Panel and then going straight back to the Detail Editor Panel for making fine touches, you could be saving several mouse clicks (and a modicum of sanity) per edit.

Layout of the Detail Editor Panel

By double-clicking a clip, the Detail Editor Panel will be called up with its focus on that clip. For the examples in this chapter, we will use audio clips, and we will start by double-clicking an audio clip from the Arranger Timeline.

After working with the Arranger Timeline Panel and the Automation Editor Panel, many of these interface elements should be familiar, including the Beat Ruler (see Arranger Area, Arranger Timeline, and Zooming), and the clip aliases (see Track Editing Mode), as well as this panel's own beat grid settings (see Beat Grid Settings), snapping settings (see Moving Clips and Snap Settings), and Follow Playback button (see Arranger View Toggles). Even the currently inactive Clip Editing button (see Clip Editing Mode) is here, indicating that we are starting in track editing mode.

But as with the previous timeline-based panels, the sections that have changed are substantial and unique to the operation of this panel.

The central Audio Event area is where all audio events are displayed in this panel. Audio events that appear here have their own headers, which can look redundant right below the clip's alias.

One example will illustrate the relationship between the clip and the contained audio event.

To adjust the length of a clip: mouse over the top right edge of the clip alias so that a half-bracket cursor appears. Then click and drag the mouse horizontally.

By shortening the clip, you can see that the audio event is also shortened. The clip is the parent in this relationship, and the children (audio events, in this case) can exist only where the parent is there to allow it.

To adjust the length of an event: mouse over the top right edge of the event so that a bracket cursor appears. Then click and drag the mouse horizontally.

By shortening the event, you can see that the clip itself is unaffected. You can do anything you want with this empty clip space: insert a short audio event/sample, duplicate as much of the previous event as will fit, or leave it blank as a rest. Nothing placed in the clip will be allowed to go beyond its boundaries, but all the available space can be used.

As you may also have noticed, no looping cursor appears when navigating the audio event's header. Clips are the smallest units where most arranging tasks are carried out. Accordingly, looping can be applied as an arrangement gesture for clips, but not for audio events (or notes). But fades can be applied to individual audio events, just as they were applied to audio clips (see Applying Fades and Crossfades to Audio). And event stretching also works the same as it does for clips (see Free Content Scaling).

Audio Event Expressions

To the left of the Audio Event area is a space for specifying which audio event expression is being displayed — and potentially edited. The images shown a moment ago displayed a menu in this area. But if you prefer a list of all available audio event expressions, drag the top border of the Detail Editor Panel so that it grows.

Audio event expressions — also called expressions — are parameters that can be set within each individual audio event. Several of these parameters can change over the course of the event, making them like specialized automation curves. Others are a series of location markers that are used to affect the playback of the audio event.

Only one expression can be focused on at a time, and you pick which expression to view by clicking its name in the list. We will examine them in order, starting at the top of the list. We will then see how programmable expression points can be given a random Spread range, and finally look at comping in Bitwig Studio.

[Note]Note

Two expression are not covered here as they are not always available.

When in track editing mode, a Clips expression view is available first, which is largely similar to working with clips on the Arranger Timeline (see Inserting and Working with Arranger Clips).

When in clip editing mode, a Comping expression view is available second. This unique mode for weaving a pile of takes into the perfect performance is covered in its own section (see Comping in Bitwig Studio).

Event Expressions

Audio Events presents a simple display of all audio events.

No actual expression curve or other data is shown here. This allows you to freely move and edit the audio events themselves without inadvertently changing other values.

Audio events are moved and adjusted in the same way as clips (see Adjusting Clip Lengths) except that the range of motion is limited to the length of the parent clip. When compared to the Arranger Timeline Panel, all tools function equivalently in this panel except for the pencil tool. And a quick sliding gesture is also available.

To slide the content of an audio event: mouse over the bottom edge of the waveform and drag horizontally. Or hold ALT and drag horizontally from any point on the waveform.

You can optionally add the SHIFT key while dragging to toggle the snapping behavior.

Stretch Expressions

Stretch expressions determine how the playback speed is altered, thereby stretching the audio file.

[Note]Note

This expression will take effect only with certain audio event playback modes (see Stretch Section).

The stretch function of this expression is achieved by inserting beat markers, which dictate the points in the audio event that are locked to their position. The playback speed of the area between beat markers is then altered to ensure that those beat markers occur at their assigned times.

By default, only the start and end times of each event are given beat markers, but the stretch expression makes it easy to create a beat marker where an onset already exists.

To create a beat marker: double-click any area of the event. Or mouse around the bottom of the event, and then single-click any white marker that appears.

To move a beat marker and its surrounding audio: along the bottom half of the event, click and drag a beat marker with the simple, double-arrow cursor.

To keep a beat marker in place and fine-tune the position of the audio around it: along the top half of the event, click and drag a beat marker with the radiating I-beam cursor.

The combination of moving beat markers and then "sliding" them precisely will speed up any workflow involving audio stretching.

To convert a trio of onsets to beat markers: hold ALT and mouse around the bottom of the event until the desired three white markers appear. Then click and drag the mouse horizontally.

This allows you to stretch a particular area of your audio event while keeping the rest of the event unaffected.

To freely stretch the size of a region:ALT -click a region while in Stretch view and drag horizontally.

And note that just as with clips, ALT -dragging a border of a time selection will scale the entire selection, and ALT -dragging an event edge will scale that side — the start or end — of all selected events (see Layout of the Detail Editor Panel).

Onsets Expression

The Onsets expression represents locations in an audio event where the sound's envelope substantially changes, often where individual sounds occur.

Onsets are used both as data to help preserve the sound quality of single audio events, and as demarcations when splitting the component parts of one event into multiple, individual events.

When a sample is initially dragged into a Bitwig Studio project, it is analyzed for its tempo, its musical length, and where onsets occur in the file. Each onset is represented by a vertical blue line that reaches a small blue triangle at the top of the event.

You can also manually insert or manipulate onsets, either because the automatic results were imprecise or to manipulate how stretching is done during playback (see Stretch Expressions), etc.

To insert an onset: double-click any area of the event away from a current onset.

To move an onset: click and drag the point with the mouse.

[Note]Note

Onsets are colored blue. The more vivid the shade of blue, the stronger the onset. Selected onsets are tinted white.

To delete an onset: double-click it. Or single-click the point to select it, and then press DELETE or BACKSPACE.

Gain Expressions

Gain expressions represent a level control for the audio event.

This expression can be made up of a series of points that are created and edited in the same way that automation points are (see Drawing and Editing Automation).

The gain expression is measured in units of decibels with the center line representing zero decibels of change (unity gain).

A gain expression is identical in function to volume automation. The difference is that the expression is applied to the audio source itself, and volume automation is applied as the last stage of a track's signal flow (after the track's device chain and everything else).

Since the gain expression affects the source material, the waveform is helpfully redrawn to show the effect of this expression.

Finally, you can also quickly access a gain handle when working with Audio Events in the Detail Editor Panel by mousing just beneath the event's title and then clicking and dragging up or down. This handle is also available when working with Clips either in the Detail Editor Panel or directly in the Arranger Timeline Panel.

Pan Expressions

Pan expressions represent a stereo placement control for the audio event.

This expression can be made up of a series of points that are created and edited in the same way that automation points are (see Drawing and Editing Automation).

A pan expression is measured as a bipolar percentage with the center line at 0.00% (center placement, or no panning adjustment), 100% for hard right, and -100% for hard left.

As with the gain expression, the pan expression is applied to the audio source itself. This has no direct interaction with pan automation, which is applied by the track mixer after the device chain.

Pitch Expressions

Pitch expressions represent a frequency transposition control for the audio event.

[Note]Note

This expression will take effect only with certain audio event playback modes (see Stretch Section). When an incompatible playback mode is selected, any expression data will be stored but shown with very small dots, to indicate it is not currently being used.

This expression can be made up of a series of points that are created and edited in the same way that automation points are (see Drawing and Editing Automation).

A pitch expression is measured in semitones (or half steps) with the center line at 0.00 (zero semitone shift for no transposition), a maximum of 24.00 (two octaves up), and a minimum of -24.00 (two octaves down).

[Note]Note

Unlike the other expressions, the pitch expression's vertical axis is scrollable and zoomable (by clicking and dragging it). Because of this, it will not automatically compact itself to fit a small Detail Editor Panel.

The semitone snapping option causes pitch point changes to snap to whole number semitones. As with the position snapping options (see Moving Clips and Snap Settings), holding SHIFT will toggle this behavior.

Formant Expressions

Formant expressions represent a shift of the formants in audio event via the selected playback mode. Like Pitch, it is set in semitones and has a scrollable editor.

[Note]Note

This expression will take effect only with certain audio event playback modes (see Stretch Section). When an incompatible playback mode is selected, any expression data will be stored but shown with very small dots, to indicate it is not currently being used.

Expression Spread

The Spread option offers randomization of expressions points, so it is available for those that are programmed like automation — for audio events, this includes Gain, Pan, Pitch, and Formant. This turns any defined point into a range of possible values.

For this example, we'll start with some pitch expression points in a single audio event.

To define a Spread range for any expression point: ALT-drag the expression point up and down.

Note that the POINT section of the Inspector Panel allows you to see and type the Spread value, or to use the Histogram when multiple values are selected (see Using the Histogram).

While interacting with expression points, the black horizontal dashes are shown above and below, clearly indicating the extremities of the range. When no points are selected, the highlighter-style gradients remain.

When the parent clip begins playback, the values selected for playback during that cycle will all be visualized immediately.

And new random values will be selected for the next cycle (assuming the clip loops), or the next time the clip starts to play again.

Finally, a few notes on the nature of random playback.

  • Randomized expression points are traveled to smoothly, as if they had been drawn manually with a slope connecting it to the previous and following points. So even in the pitch examples at the top of this section (which look like a flat line), the slope value between sections is still used.

  • As these values are randomized, they are tied to the clip's Seed setting (see Seed Section). If Seed is set to Random, then new values will be selected each time the clip restarts, which includes each loop cycle. If a Seed value is set, then the random pattern produced will repeat for each playback.

  • If you want to print the randomness into a clip, you could try the Consolidate function (see Consolidate). And if you want to generate new and/or longer clips from the original, you could try the Expand function (see Expand, from the Clip Launcher).

Comping in Bitwig Studio

When in clip editing mode, audio clips offer a Comping expression view. If you are recording audio, you can "cycle record" takes straight in, whether working in the Arranger (see Comp Recording in the Arranger) or in the Launcher (see Comp Recording in the Launcher). The material may look flat at first, but after a few swipes, drags, and arrow key taps, the composite will clearly and pleasantly indicate the source takes used.

The following sections cover the expansive workflow for comping, as well as some ways to insert and work with takes themselves.

Comp Editing Workflow

Comping in Bitwig Studio is based on the idea of defining comp regions, and then selecting which of the available take lanes (if any) is played within that region.

When using "cycle recording" to create takes, newly recorded comping material will tend to look like this at first.

To define a comp region: click and drag over a portion of any take lane.

Once the click is released, the region will be shown as active in its take lane and painted into the composite lane at top.

To slide a comp region: mouse over the bottom of the region's waveform in the composite lane. Then click and drag left or right.

To change the gain of a comp region: mouse over the top of the region's waveform in the composite lane. Then click and drag up or down.

To adjust a comp region border: mouse over the boundary and then click and drag. This moves both adjacent regions together, and it can also be done on the edge of a region in any take lane.

To point a comp region to a different take lane: click on any inactive portion of a take lane.

Or when a comp region is already selected, you can press the UP ARROW and DOWN ARROW keys to activate one of the nearest take lanes. The LEFT ARROW and RIGHT ARROW keys also move selection to the previous or next comp region. So once your comp regions are defined, a lot of auditioning and editing can be done with just the arrow keys.

To adjust a comp region border in one direction: mouse near the boundary so that a one-sided bracket cursor appears, and then click and drag.

When the click is released, the excluded portion will be deleted from the composite.

All comping gestures can be applied to multiple comps, keeping them in sync. This is available in layered editing mode (see Layered Comping).

Adding and Working with Takes

Some comping functions are provided within the take lanes.

While slide is available for single comp regions, it is also available for a full take, or even to shift all takes.

To slide a take: hold ALT and drag any part of the take lane horizontally. In this example, the red take lane is being dragged to be later.

To slide all takes: hold SHIFT+ALT and drag any take lane horizontally. In this example, all take lanes are being dragged to be earlier.

To copy the current composite as a unique take: click the plus (+) button.

To add an audio file to a comp as a new take: navigate to the desired audio file in the Browser Panel, and then drag it into the comp.

And finally the Fold to Takes… function for wrapping an audio clip into successive take lanes (see Clip Menu Functions) is available on take lanes as well. Start by right-clicking on the take you want to divide.

After selecting Fold to Takes… and filling out the dialog as desired, successive takes will be placed at the top of the comp.

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