How To Pitch Bend In Ableton (4 Methods With Pictures)

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Ableton contains many features that allow you to take your music composing and production to the next level. While some concepts can be advanced and complex, performing them is relatively easy, thanks to Ableton’s user-friendly software.

Whether you are experiencing audio issues like your compositions not playing any sound, the audio is clicking and popping, you want to delete content or mute a track quickly, you can do so easily in Ableton.

Once your music is recorded and uploaded into Ableton, you can edit, mix, and often add effects to your music, such as Reverb or delay. Another effect that can be applied to your music is pitch bending.

So how do you pitch bend within Ableton?

Using a MIDI controller, you can pitch bend while recording your MIDI by operating the pitch wheel. You can pitch bend by selecting the audio track and using the warp feature. For MIDI, try utilizing the MIDI control feature, or the warp feature for audio. Lastly, try using note expression to pitch bend the MIDI.

Let’s look at what exactly pitch bending is and the ways that we can apply this to our music within Ableton.

What Is Pitch Bending?

A pitch bend occurs when one note slides into another note. When we hear the term “pitch bending,” we often think of blues or rock guitarists bending their strings to reach a higher note without moving up the fretboard. While this is certainly a way to bend to a different pitch (or note), it is not exactly what we are discussing here.

Instead, we are focusing on pitch bending once notes have already been established within Ableton. Often, in Ableton, MIDI is what we will be working with to pitch bend. However, you can pitch bend recorded audio as well.

MIDI, short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is essentially, according to Wikipedia, digital data that is converted into music. Initially, this was accomplished with synthesizers and other instruments but is now often performed with a MIDI controller keyboard, such as my Arturia MIDI controller pictured below.

Midi Keyboard Controller

What is cool about MIDI controllers is that it does not produce any sound on their own. They must be connected to a sound source; from there, your recorded notes can be turned into whatever sounds you want. We can also pitch bend at this point as well.

Similar to what guitarists will do, pitch bending in Ableton involves sliding one note, or pitch, into another. This can be accomplished in a few different ways within Ableton.

How To Pitch Bend In Ableton

There are a few different ways that we can pitch bend within Ableton. Let’s take a closer look at how we can accomplish this beneficial technique that can help make your musical compositions much more interesting.

Method #1: Using A Pitch Wheel On A MIDI Controller

In the picture above of my Arturia MIDI keyboard controller, there are two wheels on the left side; one of those is a pitch wheel. The pitch wheel accomplishes what guitarists do when they bend the strings as you are playing. The pitch wheel provides a lot of precision and control over when and how much pitch bending you want during your recording.

I love using the pitch wheel when recording music within Ableton as it gives me much control over what I am bending. It also makes the pitch bending sound really authentic within the recordings as I am controlling the pitch bending in real time as I record.

To use this method in Ableton, you must ensure that your MIDI controller is plugged in (mine is via USB) and selected as an input control. To find this, open the options tab and scroll to preferences at the bottom.

Where to locate the preferences option under the option tab.

From there, click on the “Link, Tempo, MIDI” tab and ensure your MIDI controller is selected as the control surface and input. As you can see below, mine is connected, which means I can control the MIDI (and many other features within Ableton) from my keyboard.

After ensuring your MIDI controller is selected, open up a MIDI track and start recording. After choosing whichever sound you want, as you record, you can operate the pitch wheel to control the pitch bend in real-time as you record.

Location of external MIDI keyboard controller input.

Method #2: Using The Warp Feature For Recorded Audio

A lot of pitch bending within Ableton revolves around MIDI, but that doesn’t mean that recorded audio can’t also be used. While I don’t use this method often, it can be beneficial in certain situations.

To use this method, highlight the audio track you wish to pitch bend. Ensure the Warp feature is selected. From there, choose complex or complex pro from the dropdown menu, as I they are the best options for pitch-bending audio.  Imaginary World, as stated in the video below agrees with this and also shows you some of the concepts I am talking about in this article.

You can choose other options here, and I encourage you to experiment with the different options to see which you prefer.

Location of the warp feature for audio pitch bending.

After selecting either complex or complex pro (or other options), open up the tab to the right and make sure transposition is chosen. Gain will often be the default option here.

Location of the transposition feature to pitch bend audio.

After selecting the correct settings, you can start adjusting the line as seen below, which will pitch bend the audio to whatever desired note you want the sound to bend to.

Depiction of audio that has been pitch bended.

Method #3: Using The MIDI Control Option For MIDI

Method three is almost identical to method two, but we are pitch-bending MIDI this time instead of recorded audio. Like before, select the section of MIDI that you wish to pitch bend by double-clicking the desired section.

The selected section will appear below. To find where to pitch bend, select the correct tab and choose “MIDI Ctrl” from the dropdown menu.

Location of MIDI control option for pitch bending.

This will then open up the pitch bend option (usually the default option), and from there, you can alter the line to the right like it was changed in option two (shown below).

Depiction of MIDI after pitch bending.

Method #4: Use The Note Expression Option For MIDI

The fourth method is very similar to method three but easier and faster to operate. To access this option, again double-click on the desired section of MIDI.

From there, select the third tab, click on the desired note that you wish to pitch bend, and then create the dots to alter the pitch just like before.

Location of note expression feature.


There you have it! Four ways to pitch bend within Ableton. While most of the ways are used with MIDI, it is possible to pitch bend recorded audio.

I hope you have found this article beneficial and if you’re new to this system and you’re looking for more Ableton tips and guides you can also check this article on “how to copy and paste automation in Ableton

I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors in producing music within Ableton!

Until next time, stay creative and keep on playing!