Pitch-shifting can be a great way to add some interesting sounds to your tracks. You can do it quickly for a wobble effect or slowly for a pitched fade-in. There are plenty of ways to achieve these sounds using Ableton Live using both MIDI controllers and the controls in your DAW. Let’s look into them.
How Do I Pitch Shift in Ableton Live?
The quickest way to pitch shift using Ableton is with a MIDI controller with a pitch-bend wheel, as it will automatically be linked to the MIDI mapping on Ableton. If you don’t have one of these controllers, you can use some of Ableton’s stock plugins, the pitch automation available in the piano roll, and the warp function for audio files.
Some of these options are quick and easy to use, while others require some digging. We’ll take a look into each one so you can use pitch bending as a creative tool on your next song. All of these controls are available on the latest version of Ableton Live (11).
Before we jump into post further, here is a Hyperbits Masterclass music production course. Consider checking it out!
How Do I Pitch Shift Audio Files in Ableton Live?
Once you have your track recorded or a sample loaded into an audio track, double-click on the file. This will open the waveform at the bottom of the screen.
The controls will appear on the left side of the screen. First, make sure that the Warp button is enabled. It will show in yellow. If this isn’t enabled, the pitching will also affect the timing of the audio. The warping function will keep the audio in place and only affect the overall pitch.
Below the Warp button, you’ll see the Pitch control, which can be turned to the left and right. This lets you pitch down (left) and up (right) in semitones. For smaller increments, you can use the button below for detuning in cents. There are 100 cents to a semitone, so you get lots of control over the pitch.
Pitch Automation for Audio
A fantastic addition to Ableton Live 11 is the possibility of automating pitch bending. In older versions, you would have to cut the audio into sections that you wanted to shift the pitch, and it would have to be done in increments.
The latest version lets you alter the pitch without altering the overall file and in steady changes. You can do this by opening the Envelopes tab. You can access it by clicking on the button above the Warp option (which is in the Sample tab).
Once on the Envelopes tab, select Clip and then Transposition. A blue dotted line will appear over the waveform. You can add a breakpoint by clicking on the line. Once you’ve added a few breakpoints, you can automate how the pitch will be shifted over time. When you do this, the audio will shift steadily rather than in strict semitones.
How Do I Pitch Shift MIDI in Ableton Live?
Unlike with audio, there are a few ways to bend the pitch of MIDI tracks in Ableton. We’ll take a look into each one individually so that you can choose the ones that best suit your workflow.
Pitch Shifting with a MIDI Controller
Using a MIDI controller is probably the quickest way to alter the pitch of your MIDI track. Many of them come with a built-in pitch bending wheel or ball which will automatically be set up when you connect the controller to your computer. You can start playing and pitch-shifting right away.
If you’re recording with your controller and using the wheel as you play, the shifts in pitch will be recorded along with the notes. But there’s another way you can use this tool if you have trouble playing and using the wheel simultaneously.
At the top of your DAW, you’ll notice a + symbol. This is the MIDI overdub button. When it’s activated and you hit record, you can add MIDI information to the track you have already recorded. So, let’s say you already have your chords in place but no pitch shifting. With this tool enabled, you can just use the pitch wheel and the existing track will be altered in terms of pitch and nothing else. All the notes you played before will still be there.
If you don’t want to use the pitch wheel, you can alter the MIDI mapping on your DAW and select another fader or knob for this function.
Pitch Shifting with Envelope and Expression Controls
Some of the controls available for audio are also available for MIDI. The power to alter a track’s envelopes can be really useful, especially for pitch shifting. When you open the piano roll of a MIDI track, you’ll have three tabs instead of the two you get with audio. These are:
Once you’ve recorded into a MIDI track or added notes on the piano roll, you can open the Envelope tab and use the Pitch Bend control. The blue dotted line over the notes can be altered using breakpoints. Using these points, you can bend the pitch of the overall track.
You can use the Draw Mode if you want to add breakpoints quickly. This will automatically create points according to the grid that you have selected. So, for example, if you’re working with an eighth note grid, each breakpoint will be added an eighth apart.
Another incredible tool is the Insert Shape option. You can select a wave shape for the shift by right-clicking the grid. So, for example, if you want to pitch bend in a saw tooth form, you can choose from the different saw tooth options for an automatic bend that can later be fine-tuned to your taste.
While the Envelope tab lets you alter the overall pitch shift of the track, the Expression tab has the possibility to adjust each individual note. This is a great tool for altering chords, as you can pitch bend each note in the group.
After opening this tab, just click on the note you want to shift. A dotted line will appear through it. You can add breakpoints to alter the pitch, just like on the Envelopes tab.
This can be a really creative tool, as you can make smaller shifts to the pitch of the overall sound. For example, with a three-note chord, you could leave the lower two notes unaffected, giving a stronger base, but have the pitch of the highest note fade in from a higher level.
Pitch Shifting with Ableton’s Pitch Plugin
Another way to pitch shift MIDI is with Ableton’s stock Pitch plugin. It has a lot less maneuverability than the tools we’ve seen so far, but if you want to bend the pitch of your track in a few quick steps, it’s a great choice.
You can find it in the MIDI Effects category. It only has three controls: one for pitch, one for the range, and another for the lowest note the plugin will play. The most important is the Pitch toggle, which raises or lowers the pitch by semitones.
You can automate each of the controls using the standard automation tools rather than the Envelope tab. This can be done on the Arrangement view. Above the tracks, there is the Automation button next to the Lock Envelopes button. Click here, then add or draw breakpoints over the track like with the Envelopes tab.
Are There Other Tools for Pitch Shifting in Ableton?
So far, we’ve looked at the ways to change the fundamental pitch of a track (audio or MIDI) in Ableton Live. Now, we’re going to look into a few stock plugins that can creatively alter the pitch. These include:
- Frequency Shifter
- Grain Delay
The Frequency Shifter plugin has a few tools for bending the pitch of your track. There are two frequency controls in the center of the plugin: one for coarse tuning and another for fine tuning. If the Dry/Wet knob is set to 100%, the shift in pitch will be applied to the entire signal. However, as you lower the value, you’ll notice a different balance between the dry signal and the newly added shift.
The Grain Delay plugin samples the signal you apply it to and breaks it into grains. By dividing a signal into these smaller parts, it can easily alter certain parameters, including the pitch.
Although it is a type of delay, you can adjust the delay time to a minimum value so that you only notice the change in pitch, not an echoing effect.
There are various ways to use a vocoder, and Ableton offers different carrier types so that you can alter how the plugin affects the signal. One of these carrier types is pitch tracking. This parameter allows you to alter the pitch using one simple control. You can then choose between different oscillator types and other tools that can give you interesting results.
Ableton Live is a fantastic DAW for manipulating MIDI and audio signals. If you’re looking for pitch-shifting abilities, then it’s a great choice. You can use a MIDI controller for quick pitch control using the designated wheel or by editing your MIDI mapping to assign a new knob or fader. You can also use some of the superb plugins that are included in Ableton, like Pitch, Grain Delay, Frequency Shifter, and Vocoder.
Live 11 gives you even more power with the addition of MIDI control in the Envelope and Expression tabs so that you can automate the pitch of individual tracks before even adding any effects. Bending an audio track’s pitch is done similarly, using Ableton’s warping capabilities to avoid changes to the timing of the signal.
Readings that you may like:
Best DAWs For Musicians Available (With FREE DAWs)
What’s The Most CPU Efficient DAW? – 5 DAWs Compared
How To Make Music Without Using A DAW?
Pro Tools Guide: How To Use AutoTune & Pitch Correction?
Ableton Review: Is It Worth The Money? (Cons & Pros)
Logic Pro X Review: Is It Worth It? (Cons & Pros)
How To Use Auto-tune & Pitch Correction In Cubase?
How To Fix Ableton Crackling, Crashing & Freezing? Step By Step
What Are Audio Plugins? Different Types of Plugins Explained
What Are The Best Tools To Develop VST Plugins & How Are They Made?
Cost of Developing Audio VST Plugin: Several Factors (With Table)
VST, VST, AU and AAX – What’s The Difference? Plugin Formats Explained
Complete Guide To Noise Gate – What It Is, What It Does & How To Use It?
How To Clip My Drums? Here Is How & Audio Teasers (Before/After)
Complete Guide To Limiter: How To Use It (+ Best Plugins & Analog Limiters)
Mixing With Reverb: How To Add Life To Your Mixes
Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ – Full Guide
Difference Between LUFS, RMS & True Peak Loudness Meters
How And When To Use Algorithmic And Convolution Reverb In Your Mix?
Difference Between Active EQ, Passive EQ and Dynamic EQ
Headphones & Studio Monitors:
Do headphones get worse with age?
Monitors vs Studio Headphones For Mixing & Mastering
Top 10 Room Calibration & Headphones/Speakers Correction Plugins
Are Noise-Canceling Headphones Good For Music Production?
Can Headphones Break in Cold Weather?
Why do headphones & cables get sticky?
Can Wearing Headphones Cause Hair Loss?
How Do I know If My Studio Monitor Is Blown?
Side Effects Of Sleeping With Your Headphones On
Do You Need Music Amplifier For Studio Monitors or Studio Headphones?
Do Headphones or Earphones Damage Your Brain?
Can Headphones or Earphones cause Deafness or Toothache?
FarField, MidField & NearField Monitors – Their Uses, Pros & Cons
MIDI & Synths:
Should I Buy A MIDI Keyboard Or Synth? (Are Synths Worth It Anymore?)
Why Is Audio Gear So Expensive? (Especially Synths)
Top 12 Synth Brands – Analog, Digital & Modular Synth Manufacturers
11 Tips How To Choose MIDI Keyboard
Should I Buy MIDI Controller Or Keyboard? Cons, Pros & Tips
Can I Put Nylon Strings on a Steel-string Guitar?
Do Electric Guitars Sound Good Unplugged?
Buying Your First Guitar: 2 Things To Know
Are Tube Amps Worth It? (Tube vs Solid-State Amps)
How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup?
Can I Play Classical Guitar On A Steel-String Guitar?
How often guitar necks need reset?
Can You Play Two Guitars Through One Amp?
Can a 6 String Bass Be Tuned Like A Guitar?
Can I leave My Guitar Tuned Down a Step? Yes, But Is It Safe?
Should I Learn 4, 5 Or 6 String Bass Guitar & Why?
How To Know If your Guitar Amp Is Broken?
How To Fix Distorted Bass Guitar Sound?
Do Fender Guitars Appreciate In Value?
Should You Put Stickers On A Bass Guitar?
How Acoustic And Electric Guitars Are Made?
Is Electric Guitar Too Loud for an Apartment?
Does a Preamp Improve Sound Quality?
If I Learn Acoustic Guitar Can I Play Electric Guitar?
How Many Hours A Day Should You Practice Bass Guitar?
Do I need an AMP/DAC To Run Bookshelf Speakers?
How to Record Electric Guitar Into Logic Pro X?
Do headphones get worse with age?
Top 12 NearField Studio Monitors On Any Budget
Top 10 Midfield Studio Monitors For Home Recording
Best Biggest Studio Monitors (FarField Monitors)
Top 10 Guitar Pickups for Low Tunings
Top 10 Analog Compressors For Mixing & Mastering (On Any Budget)
Top 12 USB Audio Interfaces Under 150$, 200$, 300$ 400$ (Any Budget)
Top 12 Hardware Equalizers (Analog EQs For Mixing & Mastering)
Top 6 Analog Hardware Limiters
Top 6 Solid State Bass Amps (On Any Budget)
Top 6 Ribbon Mics On Any Budget (For Vocals, Drums & Guitars)
Top 6 Cheap Dynamic Mics For Vocals Under 50$, 100$, 200$ & 300$
Top 6 Chorus Guitar Pedals (On Any Budget)
6 Best 61-Key MIDI Keyboards (On Any Budget)
9 Best 49-Key MIDI Keyboards Under 100$ & 200$
Top 5 Best 25 Key MIDI Keyboards (On Any Budget)
Top 12 Acoustic Drums (Best Kits/Sets On Any Budget)
Top 10 EDM Plugins (And 10 Best FREE Plugins For EDM)
Top 10 Plugins For TRAP Beats (And 5 Best FREE Trap Plugins)
20 Best Plugins For Rock Musicians (+ 6 FREE Plugins)
Top 14 Trance Plugins (Uplifting, Tech, Progressive, Vocal, Dream, Hard)
Top 10 GOA & PsyTrance Plugins (Best Psychedelic Trance Tools)
Top 7 Plugins For Dubstep (With 10 Best FREE Effects & Synths)
Top 20 Synthwave Plugins (+ 11 Best FREE Plugins)
Top 15 Plugins For Techno, House, Electro, Tech House, UK Garage
Top 6 Plugins For Latin Music (And 4 FREE Tools)
Top 12 Plugins For Hip-Hop (+ Best Kontakt Libraries)
Top 7 Plugins For Game & Film Scoring (+ 6 Best Kontakt Libraries)
Top 10 R&B And Pop Music Plugins & KONTAKT Libraries
30 Best Free Plugins For DnB, EDM, IDM & Experimental Music
Top 12 Free EQ Plugins For Precise Mixing & Mastering
Top 9 Mid/Side EQ Plugins For Mixing & Mastering (+ 2 Free Tools)
Top 7 Graphic EQ Plugins (With 3 Best Free EQs)
Top 7 EQ Plugins For Mastering In | And Best FREE Mastering EQs
Top 6 Passive EQ Plugins (Klevgrand, SPL, UAD, Waves, IK Multimedia)
Top 11 Plugins For Making Metal (Best Guitars, Drums & Effects)
Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak)
Top 6 Spectrum Analyzer Plugins – Spectral Analysis Tools
Top 6 Oscilloscope Plugins To See The Waveforms
Top 5 Key Detection Plugins & Software (+ Best FREE App)
20 Best Kontakt Libraries For All Categories (Synths, Drums, Vocals)
Top 7 Drum Libraries For KONTAKT (And 4 Freebies)
Top 7 Trap Music Kontakt Libraries (And Best Lo-Fi Kontakt Library)
Top 7 Metal & Rock Kontakt Libraries (Best Guitars & Drums)
Top 10 Guitar Libraries For Kontakt (Acoustic, Electric, Bass & Freebies)
Top 7 Trailer Scoring Plugins & Kontakt Libraries
20 Best Free KONTAKT Libraries For Various Instruments
Top 9 Piano Kontakt Sample Libraries (And 5 Best Free Pianos)
Top 10 Percussion KONTAKT Libraries (And 3 Freebies)
Top 7 Kontakt Libraries For Horror & Thriller Scoring (No VSTs)
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Top 6 Noise Reduction Plugins (And 3 Best Free Tools)
6 Best Audio Restoration Plugins & Software
Top 7 Phase Alignment Plugins To Fix Your Bass & Drums
Top 10 Room Calibration & Headphones/Speakers Correction Plugins
Top 6 Vocoder Plugins (Effects & Synths + FREE Vocoder)
11 Best Rhodes VST Plugins (AND 5 Free Rhodes Plugins)
Top 12 Randomizer Plugins Including FREE Plugins
Top 6 Kick Drum Plugins (Best Kick Designer Tools)
Top 12 Woodwind Plugins (And KONTAKT Libraries)
Top 10 Double Bass Plugins (Best Upright Basses)
Top 5 Strings VST Plugins (AND 4 Best Free Instruments)
Top 6 Sampler Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Plugins)
Top 6 Classical Guitar Plugins & Kontakt Libraries (And FREE Guitars)
Top 12 Sub Plugins (Best 808 & Bass Tools For Massive Low End)
Top 10 Plugins On PluginBoutique (And 7 Best Free Plugins)
Top 11 Plugins On Plugin Alliance
Top 7 Acoustic Guitar Plugins (And 4 Best Kontakt Libraries)
9 Best Bass Guitar Plugins (And 2 Best Freebies)
Top 6 Electric Guitar Plugins (Best PAID & FREE Picks)
Top 10 Arpeggiator VST Plugins (Best Synths, MIDI Effects & Tools)
Top 10 Modular Synth Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Plugins)
Top 6 Choir Plugins & Sample Libraries (And 3 Best Free Plugins)
11 Best Percussion & Drum VST Plugins (And FREE Plugins)
Top 8 Piano Plugins (Best Sounding Pianos & 5 FREE Piano Plugins)
Top 6 Organ Plugins Ever Made (And 3 Best Free Organs)
Top 14 VST Plugins For Beginners (And 9 FREE Plugins)
Top 9 Drum Machine Plugins (And Groovebox Plugins)
4 Best Banjo Plugins (Best Banjo Instruments)
The 5 Best Ukulele Plugins & Kontakt Libraries
Top 13 Synth Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synths Plugins)
Top 13 Sequencer Plugins (Synth, MIDI & Step Sequencers)
The 10 Best Multi-Effect Plugins (And 3 Best Free Plugins)
Top 12 Plugin Bundles For Musicians (Synths, Mixing & Mastering)
Processing & Sound Design:
8 Best Lo-Fi Plugins (PAID & FREE)
Top 11 Plugins For Mixing Vocals (For Home Studio)
Top 12 Saturation Plugins (Best Mixing & Mastering Tools)
Top 6 Pitch Shifter Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Pitch Shifters)
Top 6 Chorus VST Plugins For Musicians (And 3 FREE Plugins)
Top 6 Limiter Plugins For Precise Mastering & Mixing
The 8 Best Filter Plugins For Precise Cuts & Boosts (+ 5 Free Filters)
6 Best Autotune Plugins To Improve & Enhance Your Vocals
Top 10 Transient Shaper Plugins (VST, AU, AAX)
Top 7 Enhancer Plugins (For Bass, Drums, Vocals & Harmonics)
Top 6 Flanger Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Flanger Emulators)
Top 7 Phaser Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Phasers)
Top 10 Plugins For Mixing Drums (And 3 Best Free Plugins)
Top 7 Bitcrusher Plugins (And 4 Best FREE Bitcrushers + 3 Bonuses)
Top 6 Plugins For Voice-Over & Dialogue Cleaning (Post Production)
Top 10 Stereo Imaging Plugins (Best Old & Modern Picks)
Top 5 Multiband Limiter Plugins
Top 7 De-Esser Plugins For Better Vocals (And 4 FREE Plugins)
Top 7 Clipper Plugins (Best Limiter Alternatives)
Top 6 Chord Generator Plugins That Inspire Melodies (+ FREE Tools)
7 Best Exciter Plugins For Mixing & Mastering
Top 7 Channel Strip Plugins (And 2 Best Free Plugins)
Top 11 Distortion Plugins (And 4 Top Free Plugins)
Top 5 Comb Filter & Resonator Plugins | Melda, Kilohearts, Tritik
The 7 Best Vibrato VST Plugins | Audec, Audiority, Melda
The 7 Best Tremolo Plugins | Eventide, Melda, SoundToys, Kuassa…
The 7 Best Harmonizer Plugins | Eventide, Melda, Aegean Music
7 Best Sidechain Plugins (VST, AU, AAX) | Xfer, Cableguys..
Top 10 Noise Gate Plugins (And 6 FREE Free Gate Tools)
The 6 Best Ring Modulator VST Plugins | KiloHearts, Melda
7 Best Autopan VST Plugins | CableGuys, Melda, Waves, Soundtoys
The 6 Best Frequency Shifter VST Plugins
Top 11 Granulizer Plugins For Future Sound Design
29 Best Sound Design VST Plugins
Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital)
Top 7 Multiband Compressor Plugins (And 4 FREE Plugins)
Top 5 Diode-Bridge Compressor Plugins
Top 6 Mastering Chain Plugins: Complete VST Solutions
The 7 Best VCA Compressor Plugins (VST, AU, AAX)
Top 11 Mastering Compressor Plugins (And 2 FREE Plugins)
Top 10 Opto Compressor Plugins For Transparent Sound
The 7 Best Vari-Mu Compressor Plugins (And 2 Best FREE Tools)
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Top 12 Reverb Plugins (And 5 FREE Reverb Plugins)
The 6 Best Spring Reverb VST Plugins | AudioThing, GSi, u-he, Eventide
Top 12 Delay Plugins For Music Production In (VST, AU, AAX)
Top 10 FREE Delay Plugins (VST, AU, AAX)
The 10 Best Convolution Reverb Plugins
Amps & Preamps:
Top 10 Guitar Amp Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Simulators)
Top 10 Bass Amp Plugins (And 5 Best Free Simulators)
Top 9 Preamp Plugins (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamps
Irish-Portuguese writer and musician. Experience in producing, recording, and mixing, as well as writing reviews and how-tos on plugins, gear, and software.