Live performance DAW Bitwig Studio is now moving forward with their beta, and a video demo this time provides a clearer look at what the software actually does.

Ableton Live users, just be prepared for more of a sense of deja vu all over again:
“Bitwig Studio has two views: the Arranger View, and the Mixer view. Both views share a powerful non-linear environment called the Clip Launcher.”

Let’s talk for a moment about why that similarity has people talking.

How is this any different from other DAWs that share common editing paradigms? Is Bitwig any more a “clone” of something that already exists than anything else?

Well, for one, the set of paradigms seen here, while derived directly from those conventional DAWs, has remained in its particular form something that is ubique to Ableton Live. Other DAWs don’t work this way; Live does. The “non-linear” clip launching, in particular, works in a way that is unique to Ableton. In fact, while it’s Live’s greatest strength, it also contains a lot of Live’s limitations – which means it’s the area you’d be most interested in improving. I hope that we see ways in which Bitwig (or other software) goes beyond that feature, rather than replicate both its strengths and weaknesses; perhaps we’ll see more as we get more information on Bitwig. Lastly, I’m not convinced that the look-alike, leapfrog tendency of DAWs has always been a good thing, either: do you really need eight different DAWs that all work in more or less the same way? Are there really no other ways to make them work?

Having explained that, though, Bitwig in this video do show some things that aren’t in Ableton Live – and that’s welcome news. You see hybrid tracks and multiple selection. That’s a feature seen in traditional DAWs, but blending it with a clip-based, non-linear interface could be really powerful. You also see clip envelopes that can be attached to clips, but that aren’t restrained by the length of the clip. That opens up more creative possibilities that can help users get away from the cookie-cutter, everything-lining-up-on-the-bars, LEGO-style sound that can sometimes infect Ableton sets. Updated: A reader correctly notes that you can get something similar by unlinking envelopes; I’m still trying to work out whether this is genuinely different.

Also compelling is the per-note automation. Envelopes that go beyond clips and automation on each note could make for some really nice, creative sets and granular editing in a clip-style environment. The musical results here don’t quite show that off, but obsessive editors should love this. (Of course, a major caveat: we don’t yet know publicly what’s in store for Live.)

You’ll just have to wait to try the tool, though if you signed up for the beta, it is on its way to you. Bitwig reports:

We just sent out beta invites to our first group of testers and will be rolling out more invites gradually based on the amount of feedback and bug reports we get. This staged rollout process gives us the time we need to address the most urgent issues and will help us avoid receiving too many duplicate bug reports.

I think I’ll otherwise refrain from commenting on this or any future version of Ableton Live until each is done. Certainly, having competition is a good thing, and it’s prompting some interesting discussions. (And, it’s also prompting readers to remind us of the likes of Renoise and Reaper and Ardour and other DAWs that may not be a household name, but offer some striking functionality.)

The most significant element of this video may be the song lyrics it introduces to the world:

I’m a defector from the 80s, sent to the future to save us.

And, of course, channeling die-hards who want the beta:

Give it to me! Come on! Ah….

Excuse me: I may go defect to the 80s to suggest that they please use a different connector for MIDI, if in fact there are limited wormholes opening to previous NAMM shows. (Also, this could mean that Ableton Live is really just a project created in the past by time-traveling Bitwig developers from the future – which is only marginally less plausible than some of the absurd conspiracy theories I’ve heard from readers that Bitwig is a secret Ableton plan. I just hope I don’t run into Bruce Willis at LAX, because that could end really badly. I swear this cough is just allergies.)

  • Tomislav Rupić

    Give it to me! Come on! Ah…. my thoughts exactly 😀
    I use Ableton Live currently, but getting bored with it and would really like something new to play with. Bitwig, for me, is what Live 9 should be, familiar enough but with fresh interface and cool new features. I just hope it doesn’t turn out to miss to many features I like in Ableton :)

    • Stoersignal

       you getting bored with it? really? i`m using it for many years and for me it`s just the opposite. of course there are some things you can`t do, but if you get bored maybe it`s a lack of creativity on your side??? sorry ….

  • Janson Morr

    Mr Kirn, after reading your posts I feel that you are allergic to this soft . It’s clear that you go for Ableton (maybe YOU are the one envolved with that company :-))

    “The most significant element of this video may be the song lyrics it introduces to the world…”

    As a journalist, to focus on that detail sounds a little “Bit Crusher”

    Janson Morr

    • Peter Kirn

      Yes, as a journalist, I’m biased toward wanting something that’s genuinely new and different. So, I’m grasping for an explanation of what Bitwig offers in that regard. I’m not saying it isn’t there, but it’s peculiar, then, to focus half the video on introducing features that not only duplicate functionality available in another piece of software, but do so in the same way. At the same time, I’m writing about this because – as other comments here suggest – readers are *also* hungry for something new.

      So, what you have is everyone rooting for some more solid information on Bitwig. It to me warrants writing about – otherwise, I’d simply ignore it. But I’m going to keep pushing for that information until it appears. And the fact that I’m doing so suggests that my real bias is toward being optimistic that something like that will, at last, emerge.

    • Janson Morr

      Thanks for your comment, the word “optimistic” appears on it!


  • Aaron Zilch

    “You also see clip envelopes that can be attached to clips, but that aren’t restrained by the length of the clip.” 
    How is that different from Unlinking clip envelopes in Live? Add in Live’s “Dummy Clip” capability and it’s quite clear that the “cookie cutter” “Lego” sound is more an issue of user’s lack of creativity, skill, and/or knowledge of their tools *cough* than an issue with the software.

    What is the purpose of having hybrid tracks besides saving controller/ screen real estate? Couldn’t that even that be accomplished by Grouping tracks in Live? Am I missing some practical use? Per-note automation is pretty cool but I’m guessing it will only work on their built in instruments or whatever 3rd party companies willing to risk developing for such a green endeavor.

    Also remember that at the end of the day, we are talking about an upstart company with a BETA of their FIRST product, of which all most of us have seen is screenshots and short video clips. Live has had over a decade to organically mature it’s feature set to where it is today, and even they are still figuring things out. Expecting anything more from Bitwig than a world of bugs, delayed fixes, and weird issues is pretty naive. It’s like some guy nitpicking about his longtime girlfriend and considering ditching her for some 19yo he’s been chatting with on Facebook because she likes more of the bands and movies he’s into and, from perusing her carefully chosen pics, he thinks she might have a nicer body. Most probably she has only heard the singles, thinks the actors are cute, is genetically set to balloon at 23, and has borderline personality disorder. 

    Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Live is the perfect tool for every job, or every user, or flawless. NOTHING EVER IS OR WILL BE. A smart car will be useless when you are moving or trying to ferry around a bunch of friends, and a SUV will cost you an arm and leg in gas going back and forth to work everyday. It’s the way of the world. I just can’t believe all the “grass is maybe greener” press getting thrown at what looks like a blatant rip off to me.

    All just my opinion. Let the flames commence ;o)

    • Oscar

      – the man that yells, “get off my lawn!”

    • Anus Sideral

      Per note automation is a basic functionnality for VST3.

  • Ali

    i would love to know what per-note automation is and how it’s different from… automation. it’s only meaningful if you can automate different parameters for each note when you have two notes happening at once. but guess what? if you’re using a VST you’re not gonna be able to do that because they don’t provide a way for the DAW to change the filter cutoff, for example, per voice. am i missing something?

    • Ali

      oops. just watched the video. but that’s only gonna work with bitwig’s synths… yes?

    • sacredgeometry

      and vst3 synths… I think, as soon as stienberg updates.. Which would be now or soon considering cubase does note automation too.

    • Göran Sandström

      And vst3 but also the synths you make yourself in their Max/Reaktor-ish modular enviroment. 

  • TJ Pallas

    Honestly, if all that comes of this is “drag clips to the arrangement view” over in LiveLand then the entire exercise was worth it.  There’s lots of hidden sexy in there – was he dragging audio into an audio clip? – I’m excited to see workflow enhancements be about making things more human and less “executed techniques.”

    • Peter Kirn

      I’m particularly interested in the instruments and effects section, because of the background of the developers. And that’s been missing, in particular.

    • Göran Sandström

      Well, vember audio merged with some former ableton employees into bitwig so this is really exciting. I think this is a part of bitwig studio that is easily overlooked. Surge is perhaps one of the deepest synths in soft land. You can modulate your modulation of your modulation of your LFO’s etc etc and also the analog type oscillator is beyond any other non-wavetable based oscillator I’ve seen in software land.

      If this type of no-compromise design is also applied to bw studio then I can easily see this replacing ableton. Think about it, apple weren’t the first to make a smartphone, but the first ones were nearly unusable and apple changed that forever. One could argue that clip matrix live mode isn’t really an invention by ableton, it’s just something based of MPC-workflow coupled with some ideas magix had in the 90’s (magix live act if anyone remebers it, it had different clip launch modes even).

    • Bgg

      Dr T’s KCS had a clip matrix midi “open mode” since the early 80s.  You could even setup sample instruments in ‘clip mode’ on the amiga version. 

    • sacredgeometry

      um you can do this in live 😛

    • sacredgeometry

      p.s. for a while

  • elburz

    Wish I got picked for beta. Damn!

  • Glen

    the guy sounds like a flight attendant… 

  • Martin Wheeler

    I really can’t see any avantage of ‘Hybrid’ tracks and I can see many disadvantages.
    However having, and being able to move around, multiple audio regions inside of a clip is fantastic though ( and is something people have been asking for for years in Live) and though It isn’t clear to me exactly what automation you can associate with a note, this sort of thing ( clip based and note based automation) is definitely somewhere where there is much room for improvement in Live.

    So hopefully the existence of this clone might spur Ableton into finally getting around to doing a few things of that type. But given the time since Live 8, and Ableton’s normal release schedule, my guess is that Live 9 is going to be a heavily reworked program that may well address some of that and a hell of a lot more.

    • bumble b. barbrabra

      regarding hybrid tracks, while i am not a power-user of the feature in REAPER:
      a) it certainly adds to the non-linear way of using your daw. e.g. create all your fx chains and automation that process some sampled material. lateron you realize that you might prefer some synth as source instead, so you just drop the synth onto the track. same goes for playing around with the arrangement when exchanging voices. 
      coming back from reaper to live from time to time it is really annoying for me to decide what kind of content the track is about to carry beforehand (before nailing the whole arrangement)
      b) less stupid routing/clutter as they may be used for synths that have audio in (vocoder, live granular stuff…) and of course simple summing
      c) more idiomatic on how the computer processes data… why need midi/wav tracks when in the end the only difference is the signal generator (control data is used for both track types)
      reaper goes a tad further, allowing for example to have several clips in one track and e.g. make more sophisticated fades between audio clips or audio and midi clips. 

    • Martin Wheeler

      Yeah, good point, i can see that ( the first bit) but I would call that more an ‘open’ track than a hybrid track. To me ‘hybrid’ implies having both MIDI / VSTis and audio on the same track, and personally I think the downside of doing that would outweigh the upside, but I do agree that needing to decide what sort of track it is hoing to be beforeyou set it up seems somehow unnecessary … though in practice it is no big deal. MIDI and audio routings quickly get complex in a modern DAW, especially when you have multi timbral, multi channel VSTis, track groups, MaxForLive routing ( well in Live anyway 😉 )etc, I’m really doubting that this is avtually oing to be made easier to get your head around by putting MIDI and Audio on the same track … But I guess it depends on how you like to work …

    • Peter Kirn

      Given the amount of time it typically takes to design, freeze, and implement such a feature, I wouldn’t expect Bitwig to have any immediate impact on Ableton Live. Now … some things do happen quickly. For instance, the crossfader curves showed up in a beta once. But that’s a pretty simple thing (under-the-hood DSP) versus an entire editing feature.

      Now, competition is good, if for no other reason than it prompts discussion — and, indeed, I’m finding the reflections on workflow in this thread to be really interesting. In the longer run, it can have an impact.

    • Martin Wheeler

      > not immediate, certainly, but Bitwig promised clip and note specific automation when they first announced their program, many months ago now, and my guess ( OK, my _hope_) is that, if Ableton weren’t already working on that ( and once again, it has been an oft-requested feature for years, if not millenia) then they might well be now …

  • Young Liver

    well Live for Linux I think is the biggest new feature here.
    I’d say clip automation too.. but that’s probably going to be one of Live9 highlights..

  • Sam Mallery

    Sorry, but too much of that software is a direct reproduction of Live. Watching the video I thought to myself, oh hey, it has Clip View in the Arragement View. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to recognize innovation in the midst of an ocean of imitation. The original Bitwig statement, when the news first broke years ago, was that they were “going to innovate new software for the future of music production…” or something like that. I see nothing like that here. Dom seems like a good guy, and I don’t wish these people ill, but I find their product insulting.

  • KS

    If it’s free and available for Linux, I don’t care what it ripps and what it looks like!

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      99% certain that it will neither be free-as-in-beer nor free-as-in-speech.

  • Grumpy

    Is Bitwig a hoax? I just watched this and it looks like someones got Live changed the colours and moved the stuff that was on the left to the right…

  • YETI

    TBH, it looks like I might be defecting to bitwig.

  • Göran Sandström

    I think they should out-ableton ableton by adding proper video editing and synthesis before ableton figures out that a lot of people want to use live as a vj and av program too.

    • YETI

      if they add in native, quality VJ stuff, i’m going to give them all of my money.

  • YETI

    So, i was thinking. You can modulate pitch, per note, so you can can auto tune… you can better emulate analog/tape warble, you can more easily make quarter tone scale music…

    …And with linux? All that’s left to see is it’s handling of computer resources and the built in stuff. 

    Hopefully I can make the linux lap top finally…

  • CWC

    Can’t wait to try this out.  I’m not sure of the entire drama, but most of the dev’s etc. from Bitwig came from Ableton.  Dom also just joined their team and anyone who’s been around Ableton or their support for long knows him.  

    My 2 pence is that there is a good reason Live 9 is still not here…hmmm, all the Live coding hotshots left?  Maybe.  Like I said, I have no clue about what happened but have been very, very, curious at Ableton’s presence at the recent Boston IT job fairs.  I was somewhat dumbfounded for quite a while that Ableton (once top in the hardware support realm) still had no 64 bit support.  

    Seems to me Ableton was not going in the direction many users wanted and enough people in-house said enough, we are giving this a “Matrix” style linear clip launch, a decent multi track midi editor, etc. etc.  

    I love Ableton and have thousands sunk in Partner Instruments, etc.  But too many of some of the Basics I use in Studio One, Logic, etc. that I’d like to see in a more “Live”, gig ready environment still are not there.. and it’s a CPU hog!  

    I will most certainly be giving Bitwig a try, but there is a lot I love in Ableton currently with the level it’s at.  It will take Bitwig some time to get their own “Partner Instruments” etc. in line  (I’ve already contacted some of them asking them to get in touch with Bitwig for support:)

  • Sonomute

    they open subscription for beta testing, get your mail address,and  then instead of invitation to beta testing you getting ‘exciting news’ about beta testing actually starting, but without you of course, name some ‘well known’ tester who ‘just joined’ mentioned, which they ‘really excited about’,and you get video about ‘exciting features’ of their product….what else is this then shameless marketing trick? would never buy anything from company who using me like this…

  • Raaphorst

    yeah Peter. the 80’s. still doing Cupid & Psyche 85 and pushing everything on cassettes

  • Laurent

    Aaron Zilch wrote
    “”Expecting anything more from Bitwig than a world of bugs, delayed fixes, and weird issues is pretty naive.””

    Sorry Aaron, I’ve been a Live user since Version 1 (V1) and I can tell you that this software was “rock solid” , bug free (almost) from version 1 to version 3.
    When version 3 appeared, Ableton Live became a piece of crap and I left the train.
    It then took years for Ableton to make it work properly.