Ableton's Frequency Shifter Device. What is it and How Do I Use it?

Simple can be super, as Ableton's Frequency Shifter Device proves. In fact, it's often overlooked for sound design purposes... when in fact, it could be exactly what you need. Rory Dow demonstrates.  

The Frequency Shifter is a small, innocuous looking device from the standard Ableton Live Library. It's easily overlooked but can be a powerhouse when it comes to sound design.

Frequency Shift vs. Pitch Shift

Often confused, and similar in nature, it's worth knowing the difference between Pitch Shifting and Frequency Shifting.

Pitch Shifting: Shifts the incoming signal by musical intervals. This is done by multiplying or dividing all the frequencies within the signal. To pitch shift a signal by +1 octave, we multiply each frequency by two, thereby preserving the harmonic relationships within the signal. Pitch shifting is the classic sound of speeding up or slowing down a tape, or playing a sample away from its root note in a sampler.

Frequency Shifting: Again, this involves changing the frequency content of a signal, but in a very different way. Frequency Shifting works by moving each frequency in a signal by a set amount. For example +1000 Hz. Every frequency within the signal is shifted by the same amount and this means that the harmonic relationships within the signal are broken, resulting in a very different sound. Some describe the sound as metallic or similar to ring modulation.

The Frequency Shifter is a great sound design tool.

The Frequency Shifter is a great sound design tool.

The Frequency Shifter device is super simple. There are Coarse and Fine knobs to set the amount of frequency shift. There's a toggle button to change from pitch shifting to ring modulation and a '

Rory Dow is a musician, sound designer and writer. He spent 15 years as a freelance musician writing for television before side-stepping into music software production. The majority of his work is taken up as a trainer and sound designer for London-based software company FXpansion but he also likes to write music and articles and is a ... Read More


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