Adding Random Chaos to your Tracks in Bitwig Studio

Give your tracks in Bitwig Studio some variety with random chaos. Gary Hiebner shows how to introduce some unexpected nuances using Bitwig's built-in tools.  

I'm a big fan of adding forms of randomization into music productions. By adding in slight variations of your instruments and playing into your songs can really give them some life and sound less static. Bitwig Studio has some nifty features to assist with this when you take the time and hunt around for them. I found a great way to add in some variation and randomization through the one feature. Let's call it the chaos box. I'm not too sure what the actual name for this feature is, but let's stick with this name because as you'll see, it can add some interesting randomization and chaos into your productions. Let's see how its done. 

Making a MIDI Selection

Let's first take a look at how to use this feature with MIDI. I'm going to use a hi-hat pattern as an example. I'm sure you all remember the first time you programmed in a hi-hat pattern but after listening back it sounded like the hi-hats had no life to them. They probably had the same velocities for each MIDI note and sounded quite robotic. Let's take a look at how you can use the chaos feature to inject some life into your MIDI programming. Use the E-Hat as your Instrument. Create an instrument track (Command-T on a Mac or Control-T on a PC) and drag the E-Hats instrument from the Browser panel onto it (Browser > Devices and Presets > Instruments). 

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Choose the Pen tool and draw in an empty region on this track in the arrangement area. You can jump back to the selection and then drag out the top right corner to increase the size of the region. I'll stretch mine out to one bar. 

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Double-click this region to open up the MIDI editor panel below. Now write in a simple 16th note pattern with the Pen tool. Select the Pen tool, make sure the grid is set to 16th notes, and then draw in a 16th note pattern on C3. The pen tool will assign a fixed velocity to each note. You'll see soon why I want you to do it this way. Now select all these MIDI notes by lassoing around them or by using the shortcut Command-A (Mac) or Control-A (PC)

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Opening the Chaos Box

To add some realism, let's edit the velocity, but I'm going to show you how these can be edited in a different way through the randomization feature. Toggle the button to show the note expression values.

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And make sure the Velocity lane is selected. Now navigate over to the Note Panel on the left. You'll notice that next to each of these boxes is an arrow. This arrow will open up the chaos box. Go down to the arrow next to the Velocity box and click it. Now the Chaos box will open. It doesn't look too exciting it's just this simple box with an orange horizontal line in it, but just wait!

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How to Add Chaos to Your MIDI

You have three parameters in this box: Mean, Spread and Chaos. You'll notice that if you tweak the Mean and Spread controls nothing happens. That's because you need to set a chaos amount before you can adjust the Mean and Spread controls. Increase the Chaos amount and notice how the visual in the graph changes. Increase the Chaos by 60%. Then increase the spread and see how this increases the distance or spread between each note.

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Also take note of how it effects your MIDI velocities in the MIDI editor. If you increase the Mean it increases the overall velocity of the notes (the horizontal change in velocity amounts). After some tweaking, take a listen back and hear how that adds some realism into your hats performance, with a less robotic feel. This can also be a much quicker way than going into the velocity lane and tweaking each MIDI velocity point.

How about randomizing the Pan values for your MIDI notes? Select all the MIDI notes again, go into the Chaos box for the Pan, add some Chaos and then tweak the Spread and Mean.

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You can even add some variance into the timbre of the MIDI note. This will produce different sounds for different instruments. Most of the bundled Bitwig Studio Instruments have timbre functionality that can be edited. Timbre is known as the 'color' or tonal quality of an instrument of sound and tweaking this can really change up your instruments tonality. Try this out with some of the Bitwig synths instruments like the Polysynth and hear how it changes the sound.

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Chaos with Audio

The same randomization and chaos technique can be applied to audio as well. Let's see how this is done. Pull an audio loop onto an audio track, and slice it up with the knife tool. Make sure you select all the audio regions first. Let's try randomize the pitch of these audio events. Go across to the audio events panel and click on the arrow next to the Pitch box. The pitched changes will be in relation to each audio slice. You can go wild with this and create an interesting re-pitched audio loop.

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How about randomizing the pan and the gain on the audio events as well. By using this Chaos box you can quickly introduce some randomization into your audio and create unique new audio events for your music productions.


That's how you can add some interesting realism and expression into your MIDI and audio through this chaos feature. I find it works really well to humanize your programmed MIDI, and it works just as well to manipulate audio loops. Try it out on some of your MIDI and audio and see what results you get. So make sure your MIDI or Audio events are all selected and then look across on the Event panel and see where you can add chaos with the arrows next to the dialog boxes for the parameters.

Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More


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