I found an AWESOME article in Future Music magazine on 10 power tips for using the newest release of Logic Pro. After reading, check out their website in my blogroll to show ‘em you love ‘em!
Before I share these tips, I wanted to go off on a little tangent. I hear the debate going back and forth all the time regarding whether to use Logic or Pro Tools. For most of my readers, this decision is a no-brainer. I’m sure there are those of you that use other software as your DAW – Ableton, Sonar, Cubase, Nuendo, Acid (I don’t know many Acid users but it IS a great little program). But, those of you who ARE Logic or Pro Tools users, you are more than likely die-hard to your software. I know of a top producer who uses both.
I believe Logic is a fantastic all-around DAW. It is best used, though, in certain genres. Logic comes pack-full of virtual instruments, synths, sampler, drum rack…basically everything you need to make music out of the box (of course you need a controller for all those instruments but you get the point). Therefore Logic is best suited for electronic music (trip hop, techno, electro rock even). Pro Tools doesn’t have as many instruments bundled with the software but it is THE best recording and editing software you can buy. This is why Pro Tools is industry standard.
Anyways, if you have been weighing this decision in your mind about which DAW to center your musical production prowess on, first consider what you’ll be making the music WITH. Live instruments? Virtual instruments? It’s your choice….
Without further ado, here are the 10 power tips for using Logic Pro created by Jono Buchanan:
1. Vocoded Chords
It’s easy to think of vocoders as one-trick ponies. While it’s certainly true that vocoders are the tools producers turn to when they need robot voices or sci-fi choirs, there are certainly other musical uses for these clever little pieces of technology. And Logic’s EVOC20 polysynth can work either as a pure synthesizer or as a vocoder.
I imported an Apple Loop on to a spare audio channel and then, once I’ve opened the EVOC20 on a new audio instrument track, I fed the loop to it via the sidechain routing. Once this is done, I’ve selected a pad sound from the long list of sidechain input sources, created a musical part for the EVOC20 and pressed play.
You’ll see and hear the loop triggering the pad. I’ve had to adjust the volume to set the correct balance between the layers but if you decide you want the loop to act as a trigger only, simply turn off its output routing in its mixer strip.
This leaves just the vocoded signal. If you want to use another audio instrument as a trigger, just send its output to a spare bus and then select that bus as the sidechain source.
2. ES2’s Vector
Most producers I know use Logic and most of those in turn have no idea what the ES2’s vector does and what it’s capable of. They might go as far as loading one of the Vector patches from the preset list but that’s as far as it goes. Programming it? No thanks.
But there’s no need to be scare – the ES2’s vector is capable of some phenomenal results, despite a slightly fiddly interface. Vector points can be assigned a range of parameters from either or both of the oscillator triangle and the X-Y axis.
Effectively this means that snapshots from both areas can be captured at each vector point and the sound will morph from one vector point to the next in one of three user-defined ways. The X and axes can both be assigned one parameter each and an amount for how extreme that parameter’s response will be can also then be set.
Once you’ve set up the points you want, you can then select how the vector points will morph and set the speed for this ovement, either sync’d to tempo or left free via an LFO-style ‘rate’, or across specified times in milliseconds. Create morphing pads or Dance-y, rhythmic sequences. Just don’t panic.
3. ES1 Sidechain Options
Sidechains again, but this time relating to Logic’s ES1 synthesizer. This mean, green machine allows you to use an incoming sidechained signal in two specific ways.
For starters, once you’ve specified where the sidechain is coming from in the usual way, you can set the second oscillator to ‘External’. This routes the sidechain source through as a rogue oscillator, meaning that you can send vocals, guitars, drums, or anyother audio material into the synth at the oscillator stage.
The slider to the right of the oscillator selector then allows you to select a blend between the ‘pure’ synthesized oscillator and your incoming sidechain source.
Of course, if you just want the sidechain, set this slider all the way to the bottom. You can then filter it, set up envelopes…whatever you like. The second way in which this signal can be used is as an LFO waveform. Again, an ‘Ext’ option is available at the LFO stage, and selecting this, picking an LFO target and setting an amount, allows you to use the incoming waveform as a trigger for, as an example, vibrato. If you’re making dance music and are looking for new ways to combine rhythmic material and beats, this could be for you.
4. Enverb snare drum ‘lengthen’
Plenty of mix engineers reach for reverb when they’re treating the individual drum parts in a mix. Such treatment helps tie the sounds together and provides a little decay to sounds which are frequently very short.
If you create Electronic music and fancy something a little different, I’d highly recommend Logic’s Enverb to you. This plug-in allows you to fashion an envelope for the sound over which it’s placed, but rather than getting into the nitty-gritty of sound synthesis, instead you’re setting a reverb shape with traditional envelope controls. To lengthen the sound, the most important of these controls is ‘Hold’ which sets a time for the sustain portion of the envelope. In other words, when the reverbs sustains, this determines how long the sustain will stick around. The result, at high sustain level, presents something like gated reverb.
In modest amounts, this can provide ambience, but used more aggressively, the result is positively industrial. There are a range of tools available for shaping the sound of the reverb itself too – in particular, lower the density for some bespoke grit.
5. Automation Parameters
Most DAW-based musicians inevitably find themselves creating many of their automation rides with a mouse. If you want a filter to open in a linear way, it’s much easier to create a ramp with two points than it is to draw a smooth curve in real time.
Logic’s automation menu, built-in to each individual track, allows you to choose a parameter from any objects assigned to that track by default. So, if you have an ESM, feeding into a delay for example, once you’ve activated Track Automation mode, you’ll find all automate-able parameters for the ESM and the delay listed at the top.
Both these plug-ins have relatively few parameters, so finding what you’re after is easy. For more complex modules, you’re better off selecting ‘Latch’ mode from the automation options and drawing a small amount of data for the parameter of your choice. You don’t need to worry if your changes aren’t ‘right’ at this stage. Once you’ve introduced that parameter, it’s listed in ‘bold’ at the bottom of the automation parameters list. You can then draw over your written data and create the accurate points you need.
6. Bus Automation
Continuing the automation theme, what if you want to automate or modify parameters relating to an effect assigned to a bus? As with audio and instrument objects, you’ll find that the bus strips have an automation mode toggle selector just above the fader and again, it’s best to select ‘Latch’ here. As before, simply write a little data for the parameter you wish to automate, or perform the ride you need in its entirety.
As soon as you press ‘Stop’, Logic will automatically create a track in the arrange page for the bus you’ve been working on. You’ll find this underneath all the other tracks in the arrange page. Open up ‘Track Automation’ mode from the ‘View’ menu and sure enough, there’s your ride. In order to move this around or copy it, you’ll need to tie it to a region.
Grab the Pencil tool from the Toolbox, and create an object around the automation data you’ve written. Then, you can easily copy it or move it, just like any other arrange page region. If you’re likely to automate lots of parameters from separate bus effects, it’s good to rename these regions and move them up next to the instrument to which they relate.
7. Ultrabeat Sequencer basics
Ultabeat is another seemingly complicated Logic instrument plug-in, It allows you to create a number of sampled or synthesized drum sounds and combine those into a single instrument, with each drum mapped to a single key. In terms of flexibility, this is phenomenal, as you effectively have 31 separate synths waiting in line to modify each sound in turn.
But after creating bespoke kits, most producers long to get back to the arrange page and understandably end up playing in the notes they want, or creating them with the Pencil tool.
Ultrabeat’s sequencer, however, also lets you create a pattern in the classic 808 drum machine style, with notes assignable to a a sequencer grid with a running light. The height of each note you input represents its velocity and its width relates to its length, assuming the sound in questions has a sustain portion.
You can assign an accent to each note, or dial in a swing value. Once the pattern is ready, simply drag and drop it from the dedicated ‘Pattern To Track’ button into the arrange page. If further tweaks are required, these can be made in the Matrix editor, where each event appears in MIDI.
8. ES2 Randomizer
There’s nothing worse than those days when you’re excited to make new noises of your own, but all of your ideas end up lacking. If only you could wave a magic wand and have fate make a sound for you…
Good news: ES2’s Randomizer (directly below the filter section) allows you to choose the area of the sound you want to randomize – simply pick a synthesizer section from the drop-down menu. Using the slider to the left, you can then select a percentage change of randomization, so each parameter within that section will either shift a little (small percentages) or wildly (larger ones).
If you want to cut loose altogether, you can choose to randomize ‘All’, which means that, with a high random percentage, you’ll get a completely unpredictable, often barmy noise. This feature is certainly fantastic at showcasing how powerful and flexible a synth the ES2 is, but it’s also nice to let the technology freak out on your behalf from time to time.
9. ESP White Noise
With the more powerful synths in Logic often seeming to blow all in their path to one side, it’s often great to return to the more basic instruments for tips and tricks. When it comes to white noise effects, my weapon of choice is Logic’s ESP.
The white noise generator is the last oscillator type and it’s good to use it in isolation. The ESP’s built-in cheesy Chorus effect is great as a kind of auto-Flanger. Once you’ve created any note to your chosen duration, it’s time to get automating.
Start with some filter cutoff changes. Add in some resonance. Increase the Chorus amount, or for more choppy results, dial in some wah and slowly increase the speed over the duration of the note. How it evolves is up to you, but it’s nice to be faced with a few common or garden choices and not every possibility under the sun. If you want to complicate the sound, try throwing your white noise at an effect or two.
10. Ultrabeat Variation
One aspect of real drumming that’s usually worth trying to replicate when working with programmed patterns is that of timbral variation. It’s pretty hard to hit a drum with a stick in exactly the same way – even the most consistent players producer very subtle timbral differences. If you’re working with samples, it’s not always easy to build in similar kinds variation but Ultrabeat makes this surprisingly possible, if you’re prepared to sacrifice the odd sound or two.
With the bass drum and snare I’ve created three variants from each core sound. I’ve copied the default bass drum from C1 to C31, D1 and D31 and I’ve done the same with the snare an octave higher, replacing the default sounds for those locations.
As these sounds are initially identical, it’s possible for you to create subtle, or radical variations of them on each key, so you can create longer, shorter, brighter, duller or any other versions you fancy. Then, either using the Ultrabeat sequencer, or the Matrix editor, you can create a bespoke pattern with the timbral variations of of your choice. I’ve used a core sound and three variations but there’s nothing to stop you creating 31 slightly different sounds and saving these as a group, for the ultimate construction kit.