If you have just picked up Bitwig and are planning to take your initial sketches through to the mixing stage, you will need to know a few things about the app to ensure you get the best results. Here are 10 tips that will help you hit the ground running. They aim to represent a good balance of workflow and technique…
1 - Using Hybrid Tracks
Most DAWs are pretty strict with the way they deal with audio and MIDI. If you import an audio file into Logic Pro for example, it will tell you that it needs to go on an audio track, and the same goes for MIDI. This absolute approach is repeated across most of the DAWs out there.
This always made sense to me until Bitwig came along and introduced the concept of ‘hybrid tracks’. These startlingly simple tracks will quite happily accommodate both audio and MIDI, allowing you to edit, play back and arrange literally any clips you like. Try this out yourself to create the perfect streamlined mix.
Hybrid Tracks can hold both MIDI and audio clips.
2 - Switching Sequencers
Bitwig contains two sequencers: a traditional linear offering (think Logic, Cubase, etc.) and a clip-based launcher similar to the one in Ableton Live. These can be used exclusively throughout your project, or a mixture of the two can be employed.
You can mix your sounds using the same channel regardless of the style of sequencer you opt for. Boost your creativity and workflow by using the best tool for the job without affecting your mixing technique.
You can view both the clip launcher and the standard arrangement view at the same time.
3 - Working With Multiple Mixes
In many DAWs, switching between mixes can be a bit of a pain. It usually involves loading up a separate window or project and enduring a number of progress bars. Often this whole process can ruin any creative flow. Thankfully, in Bitwig things are rather more streamlined.
Bitwig uses something similar to browser tabs to organize open mixes. Switching between the open projects is as simple as selecting the appropriate tab. Once selected, you are free to inspect the project and its contents. To play back the project, just activate the audio engine in the currently open tab. Easy!
It's easy to switch between projects in Bitwig.
4 - Easy Trouble Shooting
There is nothing worse than your DAW crashing halfway through a busy mixing session. Not only will this kill your flow, but you can be in very real danger of losing work. Most of the time, these random crashes are down to third-party plug-ins. The clever folks at Bitwig have come up with a cool way of combatting this issue.
When a plug-in crashes in Bitwig, it simply stops working and displays a warning symbol. The rest of your project (and playback) remains unaffected. You can then identify the culprit and relaunch it. The whole thing is perfect for busy sessions and live mixes.
Bitwig continues to run when a plug-in crashes…
5 - Simple Sidechaining
Sidechain compression in Bitwig is a breeze. No complex routing and no hidden menus to deal with here! Simply insert the Dynamics plug-in into your chosen track and lo and behold you will be presented with a sidechain function. Once you have chosen your source, you are good to go. It's that simple.
Because the feature is built into the Dynamics device, you can use just about anything as a source including instruments, inputs and sends. The results also seem to be glitch free and lightning fast.
Sidechain compression couldn't be easier.
6 - Modulating Effects Parameters
Most of us are used to modulating synth parameters with LFOs and envelopes and mix parameters such as effects processors with good old fashioned automation. In Bitwig, effects units that are nested with instruments and instrument layers can be modulated with any LFO or envelope available.
This means reverb, chorus and delay effects can get twisted along with synth parameters. This isn’t all! Bitwig promise that in a later update, this will be extended to the entire app giving us a totally ‘universal’ modulation system.
Bitwig Studio is a modulation paradise!
7 - The XY Effect And FX Layers
If you like morphing synth patches or mixing soundscapes, then you’ll love Bitwig’s X/Y devices. There are two of these little gems that allow you to place four instruments (or effects) units on an X/Y pad and move between their output in varying amounts. This can be achieved using a controller or mouse/trackpad.
This is the ideal way to get the perfect balance between multiple devices in your mix. Using automation, you can achieve sounds that genuinely original. Be warned though this is addictive stuff!
The X/Y devices are addictive!
8 - Tweaking The Layout
If like me you switch between computers/setups to mix and master, then you will probably move from laptop screens to dual monitor setups, and back to single screens. With this in mind, Bitwig allows you to customize your environment to the screen layout you are using.
They have provided a few templates to suit different needs, and switching between them gives you instant customized layouts to fit a laptop screen and larger dual screen systems. This won't just improve your workflow, but allows you to view your entire mix on larger screens. Nobody would say no to that!
Bitwig lets you choose between different display profiles.
9 - Integrate Your Hardware
Some of us still like to integrate hardware instruments and processors into our mixes. If this sounds like you, then Bitwig is still certainly an option as it has built-in plug-ins for both of these tasks.
By adding the Hardware Instrument or FX plug-in to your project, you can route both audio and MIDI to all the right places to get everything working nicely. I have tested this with everything from analog synths to valve compressors in my mixes and wasn't let down.
Bitwig Studio plays nicely with external gear.
10 - Supersize Your Mix
Bitwig is great at letting you view very specific parts of your project at any one time. When mixing, you will spend quite a lot of time in the mix view (surprisingly!). Not only can you show and hide key data but you can also expand the metering. I have found this to be indispensable when attacking a challenging mix as good metering is key.
We all love big meters!