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I've been using several Midi sequencers with piano roll editors (Ableton, Reaper) and none of them seem to have a straightforward way to join two or more note events into a single glissando or portamento. I don't see a way to edit pitch bend wheel either

What is the recommended way to create continous note events in these applications? at the moment i'm using Reaper, but i am not attached to any specific application yet

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Those piano roll editors provide a convenient way to sequence MIDI note data. There is not, to my knowledge, any way in the MIDI standard to specify portamento between two specific notes. However, if you're only sequencing for one voice, you can send MIDI pitch bend information, like you have suggested, but this is global to the channel so you can't, say, bend one note while keeping the other at its original pitch (at least, not without duplicating your instrument on another track).

Given that, there are two ways I know of to attack the problem of portamento:

Just use pitchbend

Most instruments I've used that accept MIDI respond to pitchbend information, and so you can program this in your sequencer. You likely won't find it in the piano roll however, you'll have to find it wherever your sequencer stores envelope or automation information.

For Reaper, this is the view at the bottom of the piano roll that by default shows your note velocities. Click on the 'Velocity' chooser and you'll see that you can choose 'Pitch.'

For Ableton Live, this is another overlay in the Clip View (where the piano roll is). Click on the little "E" in the lower-left corner, which will open up your envelope editor. Choose 'MIDI Control' from the first chooser and 'Pitch Bend' from the second one.

Use a clever instrument

Many soundbanks and synthesizers (monosynths, in particular) have an automatic portamento feature. Generally there is a knob, usually labeled 'portamento' or 'portamento time,' which sets the amount of time it takes to bend the pitch to the next note, if that note is triggered before the previous note ends. Again, this only works in the context of single-voiced instruments, since with multiple voices it isn't clear if it should bend the note or play the second voice.

I personally find this to be a useful solution, since I work with largely electronic music and I prefer extending and reducing note lengths to editing envelopes, as I find it more intuitive. Your mileage may vary.

I am sure that many devices and plugins have implemented their own solutions, such as proprietary uses of certain MIDI CCs for controlling portamento behavior, but I don't know of any off the top of my head. Edit: turns out there is a standard set of CCs for portamento control, see Henrique's answer. But it's up to the specific instrument to implement/interpret that, and like pitchbend I believe it affects the whole channel rather than targeting specific notes)

  • it seems that i can only add semitone increments in the pitch events, no way to a a floating point or fractional semitone :-( – lurscher Oct 30 '11 at 15:49
  • "There is not, to my knowledge, any way in the MIDI standard to specify portamento between two specific notes." Any update regarding @Henrique's answer then? It does seem to be supported after all. – Sz. Feb 18 '19 at 22:31
  • I didn't actually realize there were standard CCs for this, thanks for the heads-up! However it's still a CC on a channel, you can't say "of these four notes that are playing, please portamento just this one to this other one" that I know of. I believe it affects all notes. – Warrior Bob Jun 18 '19 at 23:45
  • Thanks for the edit. BTW, pitch-bending is also per-channel in MIDI. I guess the concept was setting up separate channels for everything that needs an effect. – Sz. Jun 20 '19 at 8:28
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You can use

MIDI CC 5 - Controls portamento rate to slide between 2 notes played subsequently.

MIDI CC 65 - Portamento On/Off switch | 0 to 63 = Off, 64 to 127 = On

MIDI CC 84 - Controls the amount of Portamento.

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See this in Mutools Mulab. It's an amazing portamento than I can make with the properties of any note:

http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=5674848#p5674848

(in abscisse the time, in ordinates the frequency)

  • That's a very clumsy way of doing it, even 5 years later (in version 7.7). First, it's track-wise, not per-note. Second, it's (therefore) not anchored to any note, so any shift in note position or change in pitch distance, and you can redraw your control graph "artwork" (or slice + rearrange the automation sub-track, had you been careful enough to at least separate it out from the melody track). Third, the curve editor itself is pretty crude. But otherwise, yes, it's at least often a viable workaround in MuLab. – Sz. Feb 19 '19 at 1:25

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