How to Automate Pitch in Ableton

Automations in music production are used to create dynamism. This means creating changes that enhance the track, add flavour, or indicate a transition between parts of your songs. When it comes to pitching automation, I use this production technique to create harmonic layers to enrich a performance or to signal to listeners that there is a transition in the song to switch between vibes or genres.

There are two ways to automate pitch in Ableton:

  1. Envelope modulation – this technique is Ableton’s native way to automate the pitch of both MIDI and audio clips
  2. Using 3rd party plug-ins – any parameter in third-party plug-ins can be automated, and these parameters include pitch-shifting controls

This is how you create pitch automation in Ableton Live:

Envelope Modulation

This technique works for both MIDI and audio clips. However, it is a bit limited since you can only automate the pitch of individual clips. If you have multiple clips in your track, you are better off consolidating your clips before you create pitch automation. This is how you use envelope modulation to create pitch automation:

Step 1: identify the clip you want to automate on

clip for pitch automation ableton

Step 2: Open the clip editor by double-clicking your clip or selecting the clip edit view

clip edit view ableton

Step 3: Open the envelope modulation view. this view allows you to automate various parameters, and this includes pitch

envelope modulation view ableton

For MIDI and audio clips, the pitch automation parameters are named differently. Here is how you create pitch automation for both types of clips:

Audio Clips

Step 1: in the first drop-down menu, select ‘Clip’

envelope select clip ableton

Step 2: in the second drop-down menu, select transposition

gain transposition ableton

Note! you will need to have your audio clip warp-enabled

warp enabled audio clip ableton

Step 3: Create Automation

create automation ableton

MIDI Clips

Step 1: in the first drop-down menu, select MIDI Ctrl

MIDI ctrl ableton

Step 2: in the second drop-down menu, select pitch bend

pitch bend ableton

Note! if you record your MIDI clips using a MIDI controller that has a pitch wheel, you can view the pitch automation in your recording this way

pitch wheel midi controller

Step 3: Create automation

Using 3rd Party Plug-ins

3rd party plug-ins usually come with features that are not normally native to Ableton. The benefit of creating pitch automation using plug-ins is that you can create automation in the arrangement view, over multiple clips. You can automate pitch using instruments (some keyboard plug-in emulations have the pitch wheel that can be automated) or effects plug-ins. For this example, I shall use an audio effect. This is how you automate pitch using a plug-in:

Step 1: open the automation view in the arrangement window

automation view ableton

Step 2: Select the pith control parameter

pitch control parameter ableton

You can also select the parameter in the track drop-down menu

harmoney v2 chrom int ableton

Step 3: Automate

automate ableton

Ableton will allow you to create automation in a fixed or dynamic way by simply pressing B on your keyboard. If you are in the pencil mode you can modulate in rapid and fixed values, while in the selector mode, you can create automation nodes, and create gradual pitch automation.

Note! for more accurate automation, you may need to control your session’s grid spaces. Simply right-cling on your clip or arrangement, and go from there, selecting the grid size that fits your production

session grid spaces ableton

Final Thoughts

Automation in general tends to enhance and enrich your productions, whether it is automating tempo, pitch sends, attach, delays, etc. Automation is a tool that you should always keep in mind in the arrangement portion of your productions. If it so happens that your automation is disabled, I cover how to resolve this issue here. Have fun!

Collins K