You can add depth to your song using pitch bend automation on single notes in your melodies. It could be a fast pitch modulation or a gradual increase/fall in pitch. Whether you want to use the pitch bend wheel on a MIDI controller or create pitch bends with a mouse, there are handy pitch modulation techniques that can certainly improve your style. In this article, I’ll show you a few of my personal favorites.

To illustrate, we prepared a short sequence in SoundBridge. It basically contains most elements in a full mix, including a synth lead sequence. Let’s listen to the synth lead in the context of the full mix and then solo.

 

This is a screenshot of my mix taken before processing of the synth lead sequence

~Full Mix – Synth Lead (Unprocessed)

~Synth Lead – Solo (Unprocessed)

I created this sound with a VST called Vital by Vital Audio. Let’s open its interface and see how we can modulate the pitch of the synth lead.

Pitch Bend Techniques for Better Melodies

For typical pitch bending, we basically need to set the pitch bend range in the bottom right corner of the interface. In this case, I wanted a dramatic pitch slide suitable for the long notes in this synth lead sequence, so I set the up/down pitch bend range to 24 semitones, as shown in the image below.

This is a picture of my mix and a close-up of the Vital interface with the highlighted pitch bend range section

Then I entered the MIDI editor of the synth lead sequence and drew the curves shown in the image below to control the pitch bends. Let’s now hear the synth lead with pitch bends, solo, and in the context of the full mix.

This is a screenshot of synth lead sequence MIDI editor and long pitch bend curves drawn on the pitch wheel line

~Synth Lead – Solo (Long Pitch Bends)

~Full Mix – Synth Lead (Pitch Bends)

Now I’ll talk about another approach to adding pitch bend automation to your melodies. Pitch bends should be shorter when there are more short notes in a melody or sequence. In music, these are often called “Thrills.” “Vibrato” is another useful way to add expression to the pitch of a note. It makes the melody line rich and interesting. Let’s find out how to use it in our synth lead sequence.

Creating Thrills and Vibrato

I composed a slightly different melody using the previous synth lead from Vital. This time, I won’t need as drastic pitch changes as before, but rather something more subtle (Thrills). It would suffice to limit the pitch bend range to 1 or 2 semitones for this purpose. The shorter thrills can be seen in the image below.

This is a screenshot of synth lead sequence MIDI editor and short pitch bend curves drawn on the pitch wheel line

~Synth Lead – Solo (Thrills)

Finally, we want to add vibrato to the melody. To do this, we’d need to modulate the pitch in Vital with an LFO. I’ll click on the LFO 1 tab and drag it into the Pitch section on the top left of the interface. To get a fast vibrato sound, I’ll set the LFO 1 rate to 1/16 and increase the delay value slightly. Furthermore, we need to connect it to the mod wheel to control the amount of vibrato (same as in the previous step). Like with the pitch bends, I will draw a curve for the vibrato in the MIDI Editor.

This is a screenshot of my mix and Vital interface with highlighted paths for pitch band modulation via LFO

This is a screenshot of synth lead sequence MIDI editor and vibrato modulation curve darn on the mod-wheel line

Finally, let us hear how our Synth Lead sequence sounds solo and in the context of the entire mix.

~Synth Lead – Solo (Thrills & Vibrato)

~Full Mix – Synth Lead (Thrills & Vibrato)

If you liked this article on sound design, here are other related articles: