Bitwig has posted some really useful deep-dive tutorials lately. That includes building up your own from-scratch tools in the modular environment The Grid – and working with integration with Maschine+/MK3 and NI keyboards.

Choice isn’t worth much in music software if everything is … the same. Believe me, I know, as I’m regularly trying to juggle tools at least a little to stay up to date. So what is especially refreshing about Bitwig Studio is when it does things a bit differently.

Get hands-on control with NI hardware

First off, some quick tutorials if you’ve got the hardware. There’s nothing worse than “unitaskers” in music gear, especially for those of us with hybrid studios. And Maschine MK3 / Maschine+ in particular have great 4×4 pads, when you want that instead of an 8×8 grid (like Push and Launchpad and monome).

So it’s nice to see this kind of integration. It proves it’s possible, and it’s the kind of thing that can make users very happy.

The pads from Maschine and keys from Komplete Kontrol will work with any software. The integration here, though, allows more – navigation, browsing, scales, step sequencing, clip launching, note repeat and arpeggio. It even uses the displays:

On the Komplete Kontrol keyboards, you also get mixing, navigation, and still all that automation and plug-in remote control.

Now cool as that is, you just need an integration on the Linux side. (That’s actually probably Ableton Push, then!)

Learn modular

The modular patching environment The Grid is something unique to Bitwig Studio. It’s got some really friendly modules – high-level enough to be approachable, but with basic building blocks that allow a lot of variety. And it’s uniquely integrated with Bitwig Studio as host.

Bitwig have posted an extensive tutorial series on working in modular, and it’s elemental enough that you can also apply what you learn to other environments (like Reaktor, Max, and software and hardware modulars).

I love working through stuff like this, and I do find that these kinds of skills prove transferrable, too. The more you do them, the easier they get, and the more musical you can become with them.

See the full series:

Modular Concepts & Let’s Build an Everything…

So you learn:

Make your own synthesizer, which covers basics of synthesis from the start (even for beginners), plus waveshapers

… and your own sequencer

… and arpeggiator

… and distortion

… and repeater

Basic modulations and an introduction to the environment, plus a pitch LFO / vibrato

An introduction to phase, an essential concept in synthesis

My personal favorite, a full guide to math in signal processing – which is a tough notion for many folks to grasp in modular at first. (Don’t think, like, that course you were falling asleep in after lunch on calculus. More like modular functions as ways of handling signal, filters, feedback, envelopes – musical stuff with signal.)

Plus some notes on pitch and frequency (not microtuning or different tuning traditions – that’s a separate topic, but this will help you out, too)

And feedback – essential stuff, and one of the ones you may most need specific to an environment since different tools do tend to manage feedback differently

In the latest episode, they dig into Polymer, their new synth – and one that bridges the world of modular and the other instruments/effects you see in Bitwig Studio as an end user:

It’s all great stuff, and I can say pretty absolutely having come from time in Reaktor, Max, and Pd, The Grid is a different working experience and its relationship to the host is unique, as well.

But you know, I can also say – wow, is this an affordable solution. Bitwig Studio is rock-solid for me on Linux, and The Grid will keep you busy without even a single third-party tool. So on a fairly mid-spec PC, you could go far with just this tutorial series and have loads of sonic freedom and possibility.

That would be my answer to anyone who insists you need tons of expensive hardware to get expressive. And I don’t say that to win an argument or something – I’m excited knowing people will invent stuff with this.

Hope you have fun with this one, if Bitwig Studio is your tool of choice.