As a producer we are always looking for expressive sounds that give the music a really unique and human quality. A straight sine wave is cool, but having it become really expressive is a key to a really provocative track.One of the ways I have gone about this is with Vibrato and Pitch Bend. Animus has created a really cool effect rack using Max For Live and some MIDI effects racks to make it really easy to control your midi instrument and add a really expressive touch to the sound.


Animus, a pack creator at PerforModule, hit me up about his new rack and wanted to share it with this community. I of course said yes, because the more awesome resources we can all share the better.


To start, here is the link to the download for free.Just become a member of the site and you will see the link below and have access to all the other amazing resources and premium content in our monthly newsletter.

So now that you are downloading that, Animus has laid out some awesome info on what it is and how to use it. Some really cool nuggets of wisdom in here.

 PerforModulePitchBend Vibrato” midi effect rack

This is a MIDI effect rack to be placed before an instrument which adds Pitch Bend, Vibrato, and Vibrato Rate knobs to your disposal. You can save it at the start of any instrument rack to add the functionality to it permanently.


Macro Controls:

  • Pitch Bend -Bends the pitch up or down, by the amount set by the midi instrument.
  • Vibrato -This knob will add in human vibrato smoothly. At maximum, it has minimal fluctuation, and at more subtle levels the random variation increases. Thus, as you turn it up, the vibrato becomes more “defined”.
  • BPM (Rate) -Set this to your bpm. The vibrato rate will roughly match the tempo and can be smoothly altered in real time.
  • Active -When on, overrides normal MIDI Ctrl Pitch Bend and allows pitch bend vibrato. When off, this rack does nothing and MIDI Ctrl pitch bend resumes normal function.


  1. Drop the “PitchBend Vibrato” rack (after you’ve saved it into your User Library) into a midi track, before the instrument. Generally, you‘ll want this at the very start of the midi track before all other midi fx.This device takes over MIDI CTRL Pitch Bend. Now you can use the 3 knobs (with your mouse, or mapped to a midi controller) to control the pitch bend signal being sent to the instrument.
  2. Set “BPM” (Rate) to this section’s BPM. For tempos above 127, use 50% of the bpm (example: for 160bpm, try setting rate to 80). Test it: play a sustained note, and while doing so use the vibrato parameter to listen.  Adjust the basic rate if it is faster or slower than you’d like on average.
  3. Record or draw Pitch Bend, Vibrato, and Vibrato Rate automation on your track. Remember to return parameters to default after modulations. Fine-Tune the automations, if you need to.
  4. Freeze the track to “seal” the random humanness.   



When combining a pitch bend with vibrato, the vibrato’s ceiling will “hit” the upper (or lower) bend range and not extend beyond it, leading to a “targeted vibrato” sound.


Since randomness is part of the equation, the vibrato variation will itself vary on every playback. When producing, “Freeze” your audio track after tweaking all the parameter automation, to satisfy in order to lock a specific iteration of randomness in time so that every playback is exactly the same.

In general, it is common for notes to start out straight, then as the note is held, the vibrato comes in. You can draw this in with a clip or arrangement automation on the “vibrato parameter”… Leave the parameter at “0” when a note starts, and after the notes are about half complete, ramp up the vibrato.

(Example vibrato automation on a note)

If other things are routed to the Pitch Bend parameter in an instrument (such as you can do with the Operator or Sampler instruments), the Vibrato will affect them as well.

To emulate vocal or brass vibrato, simply use this macro. The center of the vibrato will be the center of the chosen note.

To emulate fretted bent string vibrato (which vibrates notes upwards, but not downward), add in a touch of upward pitch bend at the same ramp as the vibrato automation in such a way that the bottom of the LFO continually lands around +0 cents.

To emulate a fretless instrument’s “quaver” (such as a jazzy upright bass), set “vibrato” to a  low value with slight, random pitch modulation and just leave it there.

To emulate a guitar whammy-bar scoop, start a note with the pitch bent low, then quickly scoop it up to +0 immediately after the note starts (this technique is used at measure 8 in the Guitar Solo audio example). For extreme whammy-bar sounds, you could use an instrument with the PB range set to a larger value than 2, say 6 or 12.

Another common guitar technique is to bend up a note quickly a slight amount right before it ends, as if a player is bending the string a little bit as their finger leaves it (grace note bend).

RATE TIPS: Use the BPM value as a starting point and increase or decrease by ear as desired.

Since the LFO is in free mode, you can use automation on this parameter to vary the speed of the vibrato while it is occurring in a  human manner (example: a guitar note vibrato could start slow, then gradually increase in speed, then slow down again, all as the vibrato intensity increases).

The lower in the range this goes, the more the vibrato strays from the tempo; these ranges are meant for being able to modulate the vibrato speed down on a held note.

The upper ranges are for a “frantic”-sounding vibrato.

When implementing at higher tempos, you will most likely want a lower value than 127; vice versa for lower tempos. Season by ear.

Combining subtle changes of this parameter and the vibrato parameter together can result in very organic results.


PITCH BEND TIPS: A Pitch Bend range of 2 is generally recommended, unless you will need a note bend of greater than that.

Where the PB value is located varies per instrument. Many VST instruments do not allow this choice, but all of Ableton’s built-in instruments do. This image highlights where those settings are on Analog, Collision, Electric, Operator, Sampler, and Tension.

Just like with normal pitch bending, always remember to return any automation back to +0 afterwards, or it might get stuck  at a non-zero value where it’s not supposed to be later on in the track.


Ideally you will want to map this to a physical control that goes back to center when let go of (like a keyboard’s pitch wheel), if you have one, or you could map a button to return the value to the center.


Since this uses the MIDI CTRL Pitch Bend, it is at 14bit precision and sounds smoother than using the detune clip control.

HINT: hit “delete” while this macro is selected to instantly return it to +0 (or type “0” followed by “enter”).


NIFTY TRICK: Aftertouch Vibrato_

Using the MaxForLive “Expression Control” device which comes with “M4L Essentials”, map “Aftertouch” to the “Vibrato” macro to have your vibrato amount controlled by your instrument’s aftertouch.


Use the Subaqueous “Push Pack for Aftertouch” to make this vibrato’s application even more human and natural.


NIFTY TRICK: Automatic Vibrato_

If you’d like vibrato to come in on every note, but only rise gradually to be on the longer notes, you could use the “Expression Control” device to map “Velocity” to the “Vibrato” macro. Then, open “Velocity” under “input modifier” and set “Smoothing – Up” to 1000ms. Now, vibrato will automatically fade in on held notes — the louder the note, the higher maximum vibrato. You could map the smoothing up amount to a new macro to have an adjustable “vibrato onset” parameter.



Background on Device:

Lately I’ve been programming a lot of guitar parts. I’m in the process of making new versions of many songs I wrote on guitar years ago, and I am making a midi version of each guitar and vocal part as closely to what i have in my memory, written down, and recorded as I can. I plan to then re-record all the guitar following the carefully programmed midi. It may seem redundant to make midi parts when I am going to re-record real instrumentation anyways, but having the midi parts is incredibly useful for several reasons, which I won’t get into right now.




In the process of doing this, I became weary of manually inputting vibrato curves; literally sculpting every individual tiny bend up and down with pitch bend MIDI Ctrl automation. It takes time and care to make vibrato sound natural this way, as each breakpoint must be adjusted individually. While the results can be very unique, it can also be very tedious and exhausting to do.




I made a midi effect rack combining a couple maxforlive devices that applies vibrato using an LFO, with a macro control. This in and of itself is not so special, but I also mapped the vibrato to have random fluctuation occur which slopes down as the intensity increases (at subtle levels the vibrato is more random; at higher levels it becomes like a straight sine wave, yet always with a slight amount of variation).


This makes the vibrato sound more “human” as it comes in, and allows me to draw more simple automation curves yet with complex, fine-tuned, and most importantly, great-sounding results. It also makes for great usefulness as a live performance tool, as now high-definition vibrato using pitchbend midi ctrl can easily and nicely be applied to any midi instrument, and it can be mapped to any midi controller, which I guarantee I’ll be using when I play synths in the live set.




Also check out his music at: