Another gear review for you. This time I’m looking at Logic 9. I have Logic Studio but, to be honest, I never use MainStage, WaveBurner or any of the other doo-dads that come in the package (though I probably will in the future). You can make of that what you will. This review is so big I’ll have to break it down into sections. Today I’ll give you an introduction into the workspace.
Logic 9 is one of the major DAW (digital audio workstations) that are available for computers, though in this case, Logic is only available for Macs. The other major DAWs are Cubase and ProTools. There are plenty of other options (FLStudio, Ableton, Propellorheads Reason and Record to name a few), and whilst Ableton has had a meteoric rise in popularity, Logic, Cubase and ProTools still own the lion’s market share of professional and project studio users.
I’ve been using Logic myself for about a year and a half, having migrated from a PC setup with Adobe Audition to a Mac setup. Given that I’ve got a background in audio engineering and sound production, I was able to pick up the workflow and concepts inherent in Logic pretty quickly but, don’t be fooled by pithy advertising, this is a beast of a workstation and will blow the minds of most beginners in the field. The only advice I have for those who have picked up Logic as their first DAW is this – read the manual. Twice.
Rather than try to take you through the ins and outs of every available feature in the program, it’s probably going to be more enlightening if I run you through the process (or processes) that I go through when I’m producing a track. I’ll comment on the various pros and cons as I go.
When you first load Logic 9 you’ll get a page that looks like this:
Of course, your desktop will probably be cleaner and void of any copyright issues with George A. Romero.
The New Project page allows you to begin from preset templates which will automatically load a range of instruments and settings. Personally, I find these to be pretty useless, though the ability to create your own templates is good. I always click on the Empty Project template and start from scratch. If you had a bigger desk than I with a number of predetermined inputs, you could easily create a template to load all the tracks you will need with their assigned audio inputs – that would be useful.
If you click Empty Project the next screen you see will look like this:
Logic 9 asks you to create a track (since it has no tracks at this point and a DAW with no audio or MIDI tracks is pretty useless). You have three options: a stereo/mono audio track, so you can record live instruments and microphones; a Software Instrument track, which will allow you to record MIDI information for the virtual instruments that come with Logic or from third-party manufacturers; and an external MIDI track, which allows you to use Logic to control external synthesisers or drum machines or any other MIDI enabled hardware you have. I’ll load an audio track. What you see next is this:
Lets have a closer look at what we’ve got.
1. The Audio track
The Channel Header acts as your link between the tracks (think of them like the tracks on a cassette tape) and the channels on your mixer (think of that like a… err… mixer). It has a few options such as the ability to arm a track for record (the R will glow red), the ability to monitor the input for that track (the I will glow orange), the ability to Mute the track (the M will glow blue), and the ability to Solo a track (the S will glow yellow). You can add more options (such as the ability to Freeze the track and, thus, save RAM) but I get by fine with the four options I’ve mentioned.
The Playhead scrolls when you click play to show you where you are in a particular arrangement. This is handy if you set up your system like mine so that whenever you hit “\” a selected piece of audio or MIDI will be sliced at the point where the playhead is currently located. This can make chopping samples pretty quick.
The Track is where any recorded audio will be seen.
And the Locater Bar (though I’m sure that’s not what it’s really called) shows you in Beats and Bars where you are in an arrangment. If you hit “U” on your keyboard it will also show you your location in Minutes and Seconds, which can be handy.
2. The Channel Strip
This is the Inspector window/frame which also gives you access to the individual channel strips for the selected track. Again, let’s take a closer look.
The Inspector Frame
The contents of this box varies depending on whether you’re looking at the MIDI controls or the Audio Region controls. It allows you to make adjustments to individual Regions within the track (that is, discrete sections of audio or midi). You can adjust the level of a specific region or affect it’s MIDI data (swing, quantize, transpose etc).
The Channel Strip
This is a mirror of the channel strip that you will (later) see in the mixer window. It allows you to insert audio effects (delay, compression, phasing etc etc) from Logic’s inbuilt effects plugins or any third-party plugins. These are called up by clicking on the Insert boxes. Although there are only two boxes, more are added as each one is filled. I’ve probably had as many as 12 effects on a channel but I’m not sure if there is a maximum number. I know, 12 effects inserts is excessive and probably unnecessary. Sometimes I get carried away.
There are also auxillary send busses, which allow you to send pre/post fader audio to a separate channel where you can apply more effects and include them in the mix.
You can also adjust the levels via the Level Fader. Duh.
The second channel strip (on the right) is for your Stereo Mix output. You can treat this as a Master channel and are able to do anything with it that you can do with a track Channel Strip. Except ofcourse send it to a buss – that would create an infinite loop which would undoubtedly destroy the fabric of space-time and take us to a land where dinosaurs ride humans and drink no one drinks beer.
3. The Library Frame
On the right of the screen, a frame with tabs pops up that, whilst innocuous, is crucial to a speedy workflow. It contains a number of useful tools.
The Snapping settings tab allows you to vary the way Logic interprets your movement of audio regions and midi notes. Smart snapping tries to keep a region in the same position relative to where you moved it from (i.e moving a region from Bar 1 Count 2 to Bar 3 would mean that the snapping would lock it to Count 2 of Bar 3). It also allows for find movements if you’re insistent with it. However, you can make it snap to bars, beats or even MIDI ticks.
The Project bin is where all the audio that you have used in a project is stored (even if you have deleted it from the main window). This is great for those times when you delete a horrible section of audio, save a few times and then realise that the “horrible audio” is in fact your lead singers trademark howler monkey impersonation. You can then go and dig the deleted audio up from the Bin.
The Loops tab is perhaps the most useless tab in Logic 9. It is where they file all the Apple Loops that come with the software. Unless you’re making advertising jingles – stay away from this. But it is easy to sort through if you do use it. And, theoretically, you could use it a little bit like a REX file tab if you wanted to spend some time converting your samples into Apple Loops.
The Library tab is very useful. Through here you can quickly sort through the presets and options for whatever software instrument or plug-in you have selected. Since you will generally start with a preset of some sort (unless you’re a synth-Nazi) it can be a quick way of zipping through the options until you find a good starting point for the sound or effect you want.
The last tab is your Browser tab. This gives you direct access to your hard drive so you can rapidly find the drum hit or break that you’re after. It has a preview button at the bottom of the frame which allows you to hear the audio file you have selected in the browser. There is a bit of a delay to the preview, though, if you are simultaneously playing tracks in the Arrange window (by the way, the main screen shot is the Arrange window).
There are a couple of useful buttons at the bottom of the screen. One button increases the visual size of the waveform (not it’s actual volume) which is useful when you’re editing an audio region. The two sliders allow you to zoom in or out on the screen. Zooming is easier to do, however, by holding Alt and sliding your finger up/down/left/right on your magic mouse or mouse scroll-wheel.
Okay, that’s way to much information for one post so I’ll stop there. Next post we’ll look at recording and importing audio files and then editing them in the Arrange window. After that we’ll look at effects and Software Instruments, then MIDI, and then I’ll sum it all up in a general review.
See you then!