Bitwig Studio has some neat MIDI features to help give your beats and MIDI programming more groove. You can tighten up your MIDI events with quantization, and you can add more groove by using the Shuffle and Humanization functions. Or you can completely change the MIDI by using triplets, and scaling functions. Let’s take a look at how you can use these MIDI functions with your MIDI events.
First, let’s look at how to quantize your MIDI. Select a MIDI clip (or Instrument clip) and double-click it to open it in the Detail Editor. Now select all notes in the clip by using the shortcut Command-A (Mac) or Control-A (PC). Look over to the left, and you’ll have an option called Quantize Time. Click on this to show you the extra quantize options. If you have it set to Grid—Editor mode, it’ll use your project’s settings to quantize the MIDI. So if your project is set to 1/8 notes, then it’ll quantize your MIDI to sit on the 8th notes of the grid.
You’ll see what your project is set to by looking to the bottom left. This will show your quantize settings. You can drag either up or down to change the quantize setting.
Click Apply to apply the quantization settings to your MIDI.
If you click custom you can choose your own quantize grid setting for the selected MIDI event. So maybe your song is set to a16th note grid, but you want to use a 32nd note grid for a particular MIDI event. Then select Custom, choose 32, and then select your MIDI notes and click apply to apply the quantize grid settings to your MIDI.
You can add also some shuffle to your MIDI notes. Make sure the MIDI notes are selected then dial in a shuffle percentage. Try 30%, then click Apply to hear how this has changed your MIDI. How shuffle works is that it takes every second measure of your grid setting, so if you’re using a grid of 1/16, then it’ll take every second 16th note and slightly move it off the grid by a percentage. When you apply shuffle to your MIDI, notice how it pushes your alternate MIDI notes later. This is a great way to add some groove to very static on the grid MIDI patterns. Try it out with your drums and bass parts and hear how it imparts a groove to them.
Humanize is a feature that works with a bit more randomness than Shuffle. It’ll move each MIDI note by a very small amount but different to each note. This slight randomness will impart a human imperfection element to your MIDI performances. Sometimes when you hard quantize your MIDI performances they can sound a bit too perfect. The Humanize function is a great way to add slight variances and inaccuracies to them. Let’s try this out. Record in a MIDI part, then select all the MIDI notes and click on the Humanize function and add in a 60% value, then click Apply. See how it every so slightly moves the notes around. Zoom in closer to get a better look if you don’t notice anything.
I often will record in a very straight drum pattern, and then decide later to give it a triplet groove. This can be very easily done in Bitwig Studio. Select your MIDI notes, and then from the Quantize menu options, click on Triplet. This will take the MIDI notes and then align them on the triplets between the bar. Instantly you have a triplet feel to your MIDI event. Try this out with some of your drums it really works well. Some notes may be pushed over other notes, and will be overlapping. So you may need to get in and do some quickly editing to delete the overlapping parts. But this function really helps speed up the process on changing your part from a straight to triplet groove.
Another neat feature is to use the MIDI scale functions. The Scale /2 will scale the MIDI selection to half its time. And The Scale x2 will scale the MIDI selection to double its time. These functions are great to use to create half-time and double-time sections in your songs. For example you could select your drum parts and use the Scale /2 function to create a half-time groove in you song arrangement.
That’s how to use Bitwig Studio’s MIDI functions to change the groove of your MIDI parts, or to impart a groove on your MIDI that may have been a bit too static on the grid. Try these techniques out in your next music production and hear how it changes up your grooves. For some further tips and tricks check out the following tutorials: