In music production, Pitch is how you identify the placement of a sound (the key), where it is “higher” or “lower” in the sense of notation. Changing the pitch of a sample is something you will find yourself doing when sampling or resampling audio or MIDI clips. You will find yourself re-pitching your samples to match your production, changing the key of your production, matching the vocal range or vibe of your artist, or creating harmonies to a melody.
There are three ways to change the pitch of a sample in Ableton:
- Using Ableton’s Clip Editor is the fastest way to affect the pitch of an audio sample. It is fairly easy to use f you understand what the parameters of the clip editor do
- Using Ableton MIDI arrangement view – this technique is quick but may need a little knowledge of music theory to successfully change the pitch of a MIDI sample
- Using a plug-in – this technique requires you to use an effect plug-in to affect the pitch of your samples
Ableton’s Clip Editor
This technique only affects audio samples. It is fast and easy to use if you understand the type of sample you are using (percussive, melodic, harmonic etc.) and the parameters of the clip editor. This is how you execute this technique:
Step 1: Record or import your audio sample
Step 2: Double-click on your sample or click on the clip edit view toggle to open the clip editor
Step 3: Use the pitch parameter to change the pitch
Now, remember that the pitch knob changes your pitch by +/- 1 semitone. This means that if the pitch of your sample is in C, it will mean that moving the knob up to the right by 1 unit (+1) will change the pitch to C#, in turn turning the knob left and pitching it down by -1 pitches the sample down to B.
This sample is pitched up by an octave (+12 semitones)
This parameter will affect how your pitching output sounds like. If you select an algorithm that does not match your sample type, your pitch changes will make the sample sound skewed and digitized. Unless this is your desired outcome, here is what these warp algorithms mean:
- Beats: This algorithm best suits rhythmic samples I. E. Drums and similar percussive sample types
- Tones: this algorithm is best suited to monophonic (melodic) audio samples, where there is a clear pitch I. E. Vocals, guitar solos, bass lines etc.
- Texture: this algorithm best suits harmonic but still simple samples I. E. chords of a single instrument
- Re-Pitch: this algorithm is rather complicated, as it re-pitches an audio sample by first analyzing the difference between the tempo of the project, and the tempo of the sample and synthesizing the output to match the relationship between both
- Complex & Complex Pro: finally this algorithm suits best, samples that have complex elements in them. These can be full songs or specific portions of a song sample.
Tip! You can also change the pitch of a sample using Ableton’s primary sample editors
- Sampler or Samper in the Drum Rack – the parameters are similar to the clip editor, and this makes re-pitching easy. the pitch shift here is renamed to transpose. Keep in mind the warp algorithms
- Sampler- the pitch change parameter here is renamed to ‘detune‘
Ableton MIDI Arrangement
This technique is fairly straightforward. It is especially useful because you can affect the pitch of a specific chord, note or musical passage. This is how you do this:
Step 1: double-click on your midi sample clip, open the clip editor view
Step 2: select the note or notes that you would like to re-pitch, and drag them up or down to the correct pitch, or use the up/down arrow button on your keyboard to move them up or down in pitch
Using a Plug-in
Ultimately, you can use a plug-in to re-pitch your samples. This technique is fun and intuitive as you can be as creative as you want, to achieve desirable results. Keep in mind that these are effects plug-ins and will normally come in after your instrument plug-in if you are re-pitching a MIDI clip. This is how you execute this technique:
Step 1: Simply load in your plug-in (in this case I will be using the iZotope Nectar plug-in)
Step 2: use the plug-in’s native re-pitch parameters to change and affect the pitch of your sample
Changing the pitch of a sample is an extremely fundamental concept in music production, especially when sampling or resampling. You can use this technique to make samples truly your own. You can match sessions, or accommodate the artist, style or mood you are going for. During composition, I recommend using both clip and MIDI editor tools, and in arrangement, once your ideas are flowing and you are looking for ways to enhance your production, use the plug-in technique. Have fun!