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Pitch-Shifting in Ableton Live – It’s This Easy?!

Pitch-shifting means raising or lowering the original pitch of the recorded sound. Here is a short and simple beginners’ guide for doing it in Ableton Live.

1. Where Do I Find It?

The fastest way to pitch-shift an audio sample in Ableton Live is to use the clip view situated in the lower left corner of the screen.

Double-click the sample you want to work on. Make sure that it's warped, so that pitch-shifting doesn’t affect its playback speed. Then simply use the Pitch knob to transpose the sample in semitones.

Remember: 12 semitones = 1 octave.

Please Note! When working with audio samples, you can’t turn a major chord progression into minor or vice versa. You have more options with MIDI files, where you can move notes by using the arrow keys of your computer keyboard (shift + arrow for moving them a whole octave).

2. Using Warp Modes

When pitch-shifting, the formants of the signal might be affected, resulting in a weird-sounding outcome. Use warp modes for fixing the problem.

The fastest and easiest way to automatically smoothen things out is to choose Complex, which sounds good in most situations.

When choosing Complex Pro you will have more options, which makes it an excellent choice for pitch-shifting vocals. The formants slider adjusts the extent to which the formants of the sample are compensated when transposing. Slide it right for higher and left for lower sounds. The envelope slider influences the spectral characteristics of the sample and can generally be left at 128.

Bear in mind that the best result is often found by trying out different options. For that, watch the tutorial below where LNA explains all the six warp modes. She’s using an older version of Ableton, but all the functionalities are the same in Ableton Live 11.

3. Detuning Vocals

Pitch-shifting is a great way to detune vocals without third-party plugins.

If a certain part of your vocals didn’t quite hit the note, just highlight the area and split it by selecting CTRL/CMD + E.

Then detune it by scrolling the cent value on the right side below the Pitch knob. If needed, use warp modes as stated above.

Remember: 100 cents = 1 semitone.

4. Automate in Clip Envelopes

Use the clip envelopes to automate pitch-shift and create a cool gliding effect. Open the envelopes tab, then choose Clip and Transposition. Now you can draw the desired pitch-shift into the sample editor and enjoy the result.

Join the Family! The tips above were given by music producer and Ableton Certified Trainer LNA in a listening party of her Patreon community, playfully known as the Squirrel Squad. It’s a friendly and supportive online group of the kindest producers – and there’s always room for more like-minded members. Check it out here and become one of LNA’s Squirrels!

Cover photo: cottonbro studios / Pexels

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