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Connecting Bitwig Studio to Other Audio Applications
Gary Hiebner on Thu, February 19th | 3 comments
Just because Bitwig Studio doesn't support ReWire doesn't mean you can't make it play nice with other DAWs. Gary Hiebner shows how to use Jack and MIDI routing between different apps on Mac and PC.

You may be using other audio software and are wondering how you can use this software with Bitwig. For example, maybe you're using Reason or Ableton Live and would like to use the two together. The problem is that Bitwig doesn’t support the ReWire protocol, but there is a workaround to this. Bitwig recommends that you use the Jack Audio Connection kit to route audio between the applications. I'll take this a step further showing you how you can route the MIDI between the applications. I'll be demonstrating this on a Mac, but you can follow along on a PC with the PC equivalent software.

Installing Jack

Before you start, there are some steps required to get everything set up. But once you have configured this it's just a matter of starting up the Jack server. No need for starting your audio applications in specific orders like with ReWire. First download the Jack Audio Connection Kit.

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Download the correct version for your OS, then unzip the package and install it. You'll need to restart your computer when it is done. After restart notice that there is now a Jack folder in your Applications folder. Navigate into this and launch the Jack Pilot. To start the Jack audio server, click on the start button.

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If you go to the preferences, you can specify the amount of virtual audio inputs and outputs in the interface inputs and outputs. But you’ll need to stop the server first and then restart it when you have set the new input and output configuration.

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Setting Up the Audio in Bitwig

Now launch Bitwig and go to the Options menu, and then Preferences. Under the Audio Input and Output Device in the Audio tab choose the Jack Router.

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Then open up the other audio application you want to use, on my side it’s going to be Ableton. Go to the preferences menu. Set the output of the device to the Jack Router.

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Now here is an important step. Go back to the Jack Pilot and click on the Routing tab—this launches a window so you can do your routing setup. I want to send the audio from Ableton to Bitwig. Under the Send Ports section click on the out1 and out2 under Ableton Live. These will now go red in color indicating that they are active. And on the Receive ports section click on the in1 and in2 under the BitWigStudioEngi so that they are active as well. So you are now virtually routing your audio from Ableton to Bitwig. If you don’t see your audio applications here by any chance, then go back to the applications’ preferences window and reselect the Jack Router audio device again. I found this can be a bit buggy. But it’s a quick fix.

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Now the audio is being routed between Ableton into Bitwig. But to hear this in action you’ll need to set up an audio track in Bitwig. On the audio track, make sure the Jack Router is chosen as the input for the device. Then record arm the track, and then if you play back your Ableton song, you'll hear the audio coming through Bitwig. Notice also on your audio track how there is an audio signal on the track’s meters. So you could record audio from Ableton on this track in Bitwig.

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Using the IAC Bus

Now let's look at how you can route MIDI between the two applications. For example let's say you're going to use Ableton's Analog instrument, but you want to program the MIDI in Bitwig. With a Mac, you can use the IAC bus to route MIDI internally. I'm going to demonstrate setting up the IAC bus. You can also use MIDI Pipe or MIDI Yoke on the PC. Open the Audio MIDI Setup (Applications > Utilities). Then open the MIDI Window (Command-2). Double-click the IAC Driver to open up its properties window. Tick the ‘Device is online’ box. And then click the + sign to add Bus 1. 

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Now go back to Bitwig and go to the Preferences, and then go to the Controllers tab. Click on Add controller manually and select Generic—MIDI Clock Transmitter. And for the MIDI output here select the IAC Driver Bus. Bitwig Studio now acts as the master clock for the audio, and any other audio applications with slave to its clock. 

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Next create an Instrument track, and on this track add the Hardware Instrument, located under the Routers section. On the MIDI Output select the IAC Driver Bus 1.

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Now jump across to your other audio application, on my side it's going to be Ableton, and to its Preferences section. Click on the MIDI Tab, and in here make sure that the IAC Driver is enabled for Track and Sync. Then select the instrument in the software, I’m going to select my Ableton track with the Analog synth on it.

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Here’s the true test to see if it’s all working. Go to Bitwig and select the Hardware instrument track and when you hit some keys on your Bitwig instrument track you'll see Ableton pick up the external MIDI signal. Using the Jack and the IAC bus together can really add to your audio skills toolbox. Now I can record my MIDI on the Hardware instrument track in Bitwig and it'll be sent to Ableton and I'll hear Ableton's Instruments audio coming through in Bitwig. This allows me to contain all my MIDI within Bitwig even though I am using two audio applications.

Conclusion

That’s how to be able to use other audio applications in conjunction with Bitwig. Jack allows you to route the audio between the two applications. And the IAC Bus (or MIDI Yoke on PC) allows you to route the MIDI between the two. So you can make use of software instruments in your other tracks. Or you could even pass audio out of Bitwig and into the other software to process it with its effects. This really does open up some extra possibilities for your music production with Bitwig.

For further Bitwig Studio tips and tricks check out the following tutorials:

https://www.askvideo.com/course/bitwig-studio-102-effects-and-processing-explored

https://www.askvideo.com/course/bitwig-studio-103-instruments-and-midi-explored

Comments (3)

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  • pencilcup
    I follow this explanation exactly and it worked perfectly. Thank you! While i'm playing i'm able to send midi from bitwig to reason and have reason send audio back to bitwig. My issues is that while trying to export audio (render the project) bitwig does not seem to send midi out so that tracks with sounds that come from reason are not audible in the final mixdown. Is there a trick to this or just a feature that needs to be added to bitwig?
    • 3 years ago
    • By: pencilcup
    Reply
  • pencilcup
    correction...it appears bitwig is sending out Midi but it is not receiving audio from Reason during mixdown
    • 3 years ago
    • By: pencilcup
    Reply
  • Yo from Paris
    Hello, after this tutorial, I can see all the signal between LIVE and BITWIG (midi and audio) but I have no sound, I don't know how to configure the out to hear the signal. I recorded with BITWIG a sound from LIVE, I saw the meters on the 2 sequencer but without sound. To hear the recording, I was obliged to configure the Audio Out of BITWIG on my Focusrite Scarlett Box. Have you an idea to propose me ? THK
    • 2 years ago
    • By: Yo from Paris
    Reply
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