In our first Logic Pros 101, a new series where we teach you the basics of Apple’s professional audio production suite, we gave you a tour of the interface to get you started. This week, we step into recording basics and get your feet wet with creating tracks, recording, and some simple editing and arranging fundamentals.
Track Types/Creating Tracks:
Now that you have a handle on the Workspace and where things are located after the first installment of Logic Pros 101, creating Tracks is one of the first things you’ll need to do to get your song off the ground. Tracks are essentially the horizontal lanes on our Workspace timeline that contain the information for each part/instrument in your song. So if our song has a vocal, a guitar, and a virtual instrument, for example, we’d need to create 3 tracks, one for each of those. Each track is represented by a Track Header along the left side of the Tracks Area of the Workspace and a corresponding “channel strip” in the Inspector and Mixer. A channel strip houses some basic controls like volume levels for your track and lets you add FX and more.
Logic supports all of the major track types along with a few special to LPX:
Audio Tracks are for guitars, vocals and other physical instruments plugged into your audio interface and computer. These tracks allow you to set the input to correspond with the physical input– for example a mic or guitar plugged into input 1 on your interface– and record audio.
Software instrument Tracks are used for all your virtual instruments and samplers, including the ones that come up with Logic and any third-party ones you might install down the road.
External MIDI Tracks are basic MIDI tracks that you can use to send riffs, patterns, beats and more to your external MIDI and USB MIDI devices like modern synthesizers and sequencers.
Guitar or Bass Tracks are essentially the same as Audio Tracks but with pre-loaded effects specific to recording guitars and bass. They will also automatically show you all the effects chains (or channel strip settings) for various guitar/bass sounds in the Library when created.
Drummer Tracks are special to Logic Pro X. This is how we load up Logic’s Drummer tracks. Drummer is like an auto-virtual drummer for your session that can be customized to play grooves particular to the vibe you’re after with quite a large selection of drummers, grooves and kits to choose from. You can more details in our previous Logic Pros episode on Drummer and we will be touching more on this down the line.
There are several ways to add new Tracks to your session either one at a time or multiple tracks at once:
- Click the small Add Tracks button (+) located in the area directly above your Track Headers (like we do in the video below as part of today’s exercise)
- Or press Option + Command + N
- Or, navigate to the top macOS menu bar > Track > Add Tracks… to open the New Tracks Dialogue window.
From here we can choose the track type, input/output settings and how many of a particular track to add. The Input and Output settings are simply a quick way to make those adjustments before adding the track. Those changes can also be made at any time once a track has been added via the Input and Output slots on that track’s channel strip.
Alternatively, there are a few even quicker ways for adding tracks I personally couldn’t go without:
- Simply double click the empty space in the Track Header section directly below the bottom most track header in your session. This will automatically create another track of the same type as the one above it.
- Or, Control + Click (or Right Click) any Track Header in your session to bring up a shortcut menu. From here we can choose to add any one of the aforementioned track types directly below the Track Header we clicked.
- Or trying using some of these awesome shortcut commands for various workflows:
- Create a New Audio Track: Option + Command + A
- Create a New Software Instrument: Option + Command + S
- Create a New External MIDI Track: Option + Command + X
- Duplicate the selected Track: Command + D
Preparing Tracks for Recording:
Preparing a track for record varies slightly depending on which of the above track types you’re using. But generally speaking, a quick 3-step process is usually the best way to make sure you’re ready to go for your selected track: From the inspector, select the Input for your track to correspond with your instrument, adjust the gain/volume level to your liking, and then ensure that ever-important Record Enable “R” button is engaged on the Track header you want to record with and not any others.
Input: We will need to set the Input slot to correspond with the physical input in our studio, as mentioned above. For example, if you have your guitar or mic plugged into “Input 2” on your interface, than ensure the track in Logic you’re recording to is also set to “Input 2”.
Gain/Level: When recording audio tracks it is important to set the gain or volume with which the instrument will be recorded to your computer. Your interface will allow you to adjust the gain or signal strength for each input available to you and then Logic will give a visual representation of the gain value on the track you are recording to. In this day in age, theres no need to record your instruments at the loudest possible volume, as long as you see the level on the fader as you’re playing/singing, you’re good to go. But somewhere around -12 or so on Logic fader is a good place to be.
Track Record Enable: Make sure that red “R” is lit up and ready to go!
Software instrument/Drummer Tracks:
Input: Software Instrument Tracks and Drummer Tracks have pre-routed MIDI settings upon creation, so you will not be required to make any adjustments to the Input setting. However, they do have an Instrument Slot where we can load up any of the available virtual instruments on your computer/that come with Logic Pro X.
Gain/Level: You shouldn’t need to worry much about this at this point, this is something we will be touching on in more detail later on. But for those interested, every virtual instrument you can use in Logic will have a virtual Output or Master Output gain control somewhere on the interface. This is where we adjust the Gain/Level on virtual instruments.
Track Record Enable: Just make sure the red “R” is lit up on Software Instrument Tracks, and you’re ready to go!
External MIDI Tracks:
Input: Just like Audio Tracks, your external gear will need a physical input on your interface to plug in to Logic Pro X. So we will need to follow the same steps in terms of Input selection as above.
Gain/Level: The same goes for the Gain/Level. simply use the same steps as you would with a Guitar input to set the level of external gear. Additionally, the Master Output on the external instrument itself can be used to adjust the Input Level going to its track in Logic.
Track Record Enable: You guessed it. Make sure sure that “R” button is glowing fiery red.
After recording something on a Track we get a visual representation of what we just played known as a Region. We can then organize or arrange these Regions across the Tracks Area in Logic Pro X’s Workspace to create a song arrangement. These Regions can each be moved around the session, copied, cut (shortened) and edited individually or in groups in various ways using Logic’s Inspector parameters, Tools and Editors:
Logic Pro X provides a number of Tools that will change the behavior of our mouse clicks and aid in the editing and altering of regions after they are recorded. For now we will be focusing on the main three: Pointer tool (your normal mouse pointer– Logic will automatically default to this option), the Scissors tool and the Glue tool. These tools are accessed via the small Toolbox found in the middle of the thin menu bar along the top of the Tracks Area (or just press T on your keyboard).
The Pointer tool is your default option but it is actually quite powerful when it comes to editing regions. It allows you to select regions (or multiple regions while holding Shift) with a simple click to drag and drop around the Workspace. Its main function is to allow you to freely move regions around or copy and paste them along the timeline or even between tracks. Simply holding Option on your keyboard while you drag and drop a region in the tracks area of the Workspace will create a copy of it instead of just moving it.
There are also contextual options. If you click and drag out the top right corner of a region it will automatically begin looping that region for as far as you drag it out (represented by a slightly greyed out-looking copy). And if you click and drag from the bottom left or right corner of a region it will change the length of that region but will not copy the notes it contains.
The Scissors tool is a handy way to split regions up into pieces, which can then be copied/moved to another part of your song, or even just deleted.
The Glue tool joins selected regions into one region. This can be very handy when you want to combine a few regions on a track to create a larger loop, editing multiple regions at once, or just for keeping things organized.
Today we are taking a closer look at a couple main features found in the upper Region portion of the Inspector (known as the Region Inspector) that will help get our first recordings/arrangements sounding right: Quantize and Mute.
Quantize is where we can ask Logic to automatically put the notes we have recorded on beat or in time. For now, this option will only apply to Software instrument Tracks and External MIDI Tracks, but we will touch on Audio quantization down the road.
In the Quantize field there are two pull-down menus side-by-side. The first of which allows you to select between one of the two types of quantization in Logic Pro X: Classic and Smart. To keep things from getting overly complicated at this point, let’s just say the Smart option is usually best on performances that need some timing correction, but still require a more human feel (like say a Live Drummer part with subtle fills or a realistic MIDI piano performances). Where as Classic will simply bump your notes to the nearest beat, resulting in a (usually) more rigid, or electronic feel.
The next pull down menu is where you set the quantize division. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to set your quantize division at around “1/8 Note” or so at first. But you’ll have to use your ear to listen to the way Logic treats the particular part you’re using it on. The various quantization divisions can be used to both make your performance more “correct” or the way you originally intended, but also for creating additional “groove” and unintentional “feel”. So it is always a good idea to experiment with the options here to understand the way they treat your performances. Everything from the BPM of your session, to how the part was recorded in the first place will come into to play here. If your piano part is a bit out of time, for instance, a quantization setting can usually help out.
Quantization settings, like just about all of the Region Inspector parameters, can be turned on and off at any time. In other words, you can audition all of the quantization options or go back to the original performance by switching the Quantization parameter back to the “Off” setting. And remember, we can choose to set the quantization rate for each Region in our session individually, or any custom selection of Regions by Shit clicking them first.
While a mute button represented by an “M” on the track header lets you mute the entire track, the Mute checkbox in the inspector is where we can mute just a specific selected region on a track without muting the track itself (or select the region and press Control + M).
Audio Track/Piano Roll Editor:
Now that we have some tracks recorded, it’s time to take a look at the editors. One thing to keep in mind is that both the Audio Track Editor (for audio regions recorded on Audio Tracks) and Piano Roll Editor (for MIDI regions) are simply a zoomed in view of a selected region from the tracks area.
First up is the Piano Roll Editor. When you double-click any MIDI region you have recorded in the Tracks Area, you’ll get a zoomed in view of the region in the Piano Roll Editor (as pictured above). This is the first of Logic Pro X’s bottom-panel pop-up windows we will be exploring.
Now we see a close-up view of the MIDI notes recorded in the selected region on a grid.
From here we can see which pitch the note is at using the handy vertical keyboard along the left. In other words, dragging the notes up and down will move them up and down in pitch. You can also see where they sit in your song arrangement along the horizontal timeline that corresponds to the timeline in the Workspace. Moving the notes left and right move them along the timeline/bars of our Workspace, allowing you to correct a note that is a bit off time, for example. The colors simply represent the velocity or perceived volume of the particular note, which can be a handy way to create grooves in hi-hat patterns and the like (more on that in a future 101).
Along the left hand side we see what is known as the Piano Roll Inspector. From here we can choose the scale quantization (more on this later), quantization parameters (these are the same settings seen in the Region Inspector mentioned above, just a handy way to make adjustments while editing) and a Velocity control. Each of these parameters can be applied to each note individually or any custom selection of notes (Shift Click, Click and Drag or Command + A to highlight all the notes in the selected region).
We can move notes or copy them just like with regions in the Tracks Area. We can also shorten or lengthen notes by clicking and dragging the right or left most edge of a note, just like regions in the Workspace. This view can also be a great way to see exactly how Logic’s quantization options are effecting your performances and then allow you to make alterations to taste. In other words, after you’ve quantized a performance, this view will let you see how the notes are moving in the process.
The Audio Track Editor functions in much of the same way as the Piano Roll Editor, but just for Audio Tracks. For our purposes at this point, we suggest doing most of your Audio region editing in the Tracks Area using the Pointer tool. But you can get a nice quick zoomed in view of a region here along with some other editing features we will be touching on in later installments of Logic Pros 101.
Tracks Area Recording/Editing Extras:
Count In and Metronome: Right Click the Control Bar to open the Control Bar Configuration Settings and ensure you have the Count In and Metronome options checked off. This will display the toggle on/off options for both in your Control Bar. It looks like this.
Count In (1234 button in purple above): Engaging the Count In button will give you a quick 4 beat count in once you put Logic in record. I keep this engaged at all times.
Metronome: The Metronome is just what it sounds like. If you toggle the Metronome on or off while you’re recording, Logic will remember your choice for the next time put it in record.
Snap: Along the top right of the tracks area in the thin menu bar, you’ll see the Snap settings. For now, it is a good idea to keep this menu set to “Smart” as it will aid in keeping things on the grid while moving regions around and more. Simply Click and Drag and then hold Control to move a region in between the beats.
Cycle Area: Click and Drag from left to right in the Ruler of the Tracks Area to create a cycle or loop in your session (yellow highlight in image above). Now when you play Logic back it will loop through that section only, which can be very handy when you’re focusing on a particular part of your song.
1. Hit the + button or select the New Tracks… menu to create a new Software Instrument Track.
2. Now enable the red “R” button on its Track Header and engage the Count In and Metronome toggles in the Control Bar.
3. Create a 4-bar Cycle Area length from bar 5 to bar 9. Click and Drag from left to right in the Ruler along the top off the Tracks Area.
4. Now push R on your keyboard or the Record button in the Control Bar to put Logic in record. Play in some notes/chords etc.
5. Select your newly created region and choose a quantize setting (MIDI tracks only) that sounds good to you.
6. Hold Option and then Click and Drag your new region to make a copy of it. Drop the copy so it starts at bar 9 (immediately after your original region).
7. Select both regions by holding Shift while clicking them. Then push T on your keyboard to bring up the Toolbox and click the Glue tool. Now click anywhere on the two highlighted regions to Glue them together (Or press J).
Simply press the T key at any time to return to the Pointer tool.
8. Repeat step 6 with your newly created region.
9. Now we have two 8 bar regions. Double click on the second one to bring it up in the Piano Roll Editor. Now we can make some changes to the original performance in our new copy by lengthening/shortening notes, changing the progression, or, well, anything yo want!
10. And there you have it, we have created our first arrangement! Now add some more tracks and record more parts, melodies, beats and riffs!
Join/Glue Regions: J
Tool Box: T
Mute Track: M
Mute Regions: Control + M
Solo Track: S
Open Piano Roll Editor: Select Region + P
Open Audio Track Editor: Select Region + P
Toggle last created Cycle Area On/Off: C
Create a New Audio Track: Option + Command + A
Create a New Software Instrument: Option + Command + S
Create a New External MIDI Track: Option + Command + X
Duplicate the selected Track: Command + D
Next time on Logic Pros 101 – Channel Strips and the Mixer….
The Logic Pros are: Justin Kahn and Jordan Kahn, who also front Toronto-based electronic/hip-hop group Makamachine.
Want more Logic Pros? Check out the archives here and stay tuned for a new installment each week in 2017.