How to Automate Pitch in Ableton Live

You can automate pitch in Ableton Live by enabling the Automate Arm button and then choosing the Transposition envelope from the Clip view window for the audio track you want to automate the pitch on. 

I’m Donovan, and I’ve spent the last few months learning the ins and outs of Ableton Live. I have worked with pitch automation in several of my projects and know through direct experience how to enable this useful feature. 

This post will show you how to automate pitch in Ableton Live. I’ll show you the quick steps to make this happen in your Live Sets, tell you why you might want to use this feature and provide you with some other related information. 

Let’s get rolling. 

A Quick Guide to Pitch Automation in Ableton Live

Knowing how to automate pitch in Ableton Live is a great skill to have in your tool belt, and it’s a feature I often use when I’m producing. I think it’s a solid way to build momentum and interest in a Live Set, and it has a lot of other valuable applications. 

If you already know how to set up automation in Ableton, the process for doing this with pitch is essentially the same. If you don’t know how to do that, check out my post on How to Record Automation in Ableton for a quick reference. 

Follow these steps to automate pitch in Ableton Live: 

1. Open a new or existing Live Set. 

2. You need an audio track to manipulate and automate the pitch on, so record one or use an audio sample in a track. You can’t really set up pitch automation unless you have something to work with in the first place. 

3. Once you have an audio clip to work with, double-click the clip to open up Clip View at the bottom of your set. 

The Clip View is the window with the Waveform at the bottom here.

4. Select the Automation Arm button to turn the automation feature on. It will be highlighted, indicating that it’s on. 

The Automation Arm button is two circles with a line connecting them at a diagonal and is turned on when highlighted like the image above.

5. Click on the Envelopes tab from the Clip view. 

6. Select Transposition from the Control Chooser drop-down. You’ll see the transposition breakpoint envelope appear as a blue line in the middle of your audio track. 

The blue line here is the Breakpoint Envelope for the pitch of my audio track. 

7. Arm the audio track you want to automate for recording. 

8. Press the Session Record button to start the automation record. This will start automatically playing back your clip if you have that feature set up, so be ready to adjust quickly. 

Press record on the clip directly once you have the Session Record button on if you don’t have automatic recording enabled. 

9. Use the Breakpoint Envelope line to make any adjustments to the pitch you want. You can increase pitch the entire way or make finite adjustments to various notes. 

10. Repeat for any other tracks you want to put pitch automation on.

Pro Tips

You don’t necessarily need to record pitch automation if you don’t want to. You can make adjustments to the Breakpoint Envelope right within the clip view, and this will install those automation changes right on the track. 

In my experience, it’s a bit easier to get things dialed in by doing the method I described above with recording pitch automation. It allows you to hear the track in action as you make changes, rather than needing to play everything back to see what you did. 

A slow build in pitch automation – meaning starting at a low pitch and going higher and higher – is a great way to build energy in a track. You are probably familiar with this production technique if you listen to a lot of electronic music.

There are plenty of other ways to utilize pitch automation besides building energy. You may just want to tweak a sound or adjust elements of your track slightly. Remember that you can automate the pitch of samples as well. 

Final Thoughts

Automating pitch in Ableton Live is easy to accomplish and can add a lot to your projects. It’s a great way to build energy and depth in a Live Set. I often use this feature as a go-to production tool in many ways, and I’m still learning how to harness it. 

Using the Transposition Breakpoint Envelope is an easy way to modulate pitch, but you can also adjust the pitch fader when you record automation. Just ensure that you have the Arm Automation and Track Arm buttons enabled for this. 

How do you use pitch automation in your Ableton sets? Let me know in the comments below.

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