Singing Melodies with Pitch Bend

3 min read • Aykan Esen • 10th Aug 2021
Two of the latest videos we released on our Youtube channel have been about Dubler’s Pitch Bend feature that allows you to sing expressive melodies when active. This is a great technique for recording and live performances as it allows for precise control over pitch.

Be sure to check out our ambient cover of Muse’s Starlight using pitch bend-style singing below:

What Exactly Does Singing Melodies With Pitch Bend Mean?

Normally, while performing melodies with Dubler you need to pronounce each note clearly with a strong syllable and clear transient. This results in the software converting each note you sing into a MIDI note, recorded into a MIDI clip in whichever DAW you are using. Here’s an example with Logic X’s native synth Alchemy’s Retro Space Lead preset:
singing melodies with pitch bend
With Pitch Bend active (and set to a range that matches the pitch bend range of whichever synth you have loaded up) you can sing one note, sustain it for as long as you want and use your voice to bend the pitch without having to hit another transient note:
The software will follow your intonation’s exactly allowing for singing of faster, complicated and truly expressive melodies.

Setting Up For Performance

The ideal pitch bend range setting for this is -+12 because this will let you glide across the full range of notes available. As mentioned before, it is crucial that your synth’s pitch bend range also matches this setting because if it does not the pitch will be all over the place!
singing melodies with pitch bend
Another important parameter is your synth’s sustain (or the ’S’ in the ADSR envelope). If the sustain is too low the note will get quieter and quieter as you hold it while singing, making it harder for you to use a sustained note while singing a melody. Below is a picture of Logic's EXS24 Sampler's ADSR envelope with Sustain at its maximum value:
singing melodies with pitch bend
One disadvantage of performing melodies with pitch bend is that being able to sing in key plays more of a role than it would with pitch bend disabled. This is because Dubler normally locks every note you sing to the key you have selected, but with this technique you glide between all twelve notes and even the pitches between notes.

This is why it takes a lot of practice and it really helps to sing over chords or pads or drones that will provide a musical context and help you stay in key while singing.

Recording and Editing

The other disadvantage of recording melodies this way is that you will not get a MIDI note in your clip for every note you sing. This is because you will hit one note, sustain it and move the pitch around with your voice, instead of clearly hitting every single note.

For example, below is the recording of another performance again using the Alchemy Synth but this time with a pad part in the background:
singing melodies with pitch bend
You can see that even though we have a busier melody going, our clip only recorded five MIDI notes. The pitch bend information is what is providing the main melody and it is usually hidden in the MIDI clip. Every DAW that can record MIDI will also record the pitch bend envelope and you can access this and edit it to modify your melody.

For example, in Logic X you have to click ‘Region’ in the MIDI clip’s piano roll and select ‘Pitch Bend’ in the dropdown list to see the envelope.

While it is hard to make surgical edits on this envelope, it is useful to select areas where you think you didn’t exactly catch the note you wanted to reach and move all selected points down or up to make the tuning sound more correct.
singing melodies with pitch bend
Be sure to check out the full video tutorial for more audio examples of this technique and if you have any questions definitely leave a comment on the videos on our Youtube channel and we’ll quickly get back to you!
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Aykan Esen

Digital Content Creator at Vochlea Music