Why Logic Pro X Is the Right Choice for Professional Music Production
Whatever your needs are as a music producer, Logic most likely fulfills them. Logic can record the highest quality digital audio, and provides an expansive set of tools to edit the recordings. You can record, program, and edit MIDI data, which then triggers the included virtual instruments. You can then mix both audio and software instrument tracks in Logic’s mixer, using the built-in audio effect plug-ins, to produce a professional-quality final master, ready to be released and distributed on your desired platform such as iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube.
But how can Logic possibly cater to all producer types? After all, everyone has their own way of doing things, and not all producers are trying to reach the same result. After decades of tweaking the code to add new features and revamp existing ones, it seems like the software developers have succeeded in pleasing just about everybody. Listen to any Top 40 radio station today, and chances are you’ll hear hip-hop, dance music, punk, pop, or rhythm and blues songs that were produced in Logic. Switch on your TV, and the score of the movie or show you’re watching was probably composed in Logic.
For example, the singer/songwriter may want to quickly lay out a song structure made of an intro, verses, choruses, and a bridge; create a virtual drum performance that follows that structure; record accompanying bass and guitar parts using the built-in bass and guitar amplifier modeling plug-ins (see Figure 1); sing into a microphone to record their vocal parts; and later edit the pitch and timing of the recordings to tighten their performance.
Figure 1 Amp Designer, Logic’s guitar amplifier modeling plug-in.
The orchestral film composer, on the other hand, might first import a movie file, call up a cello sound, pencil in the melody onto a staff within the score editor, and orchestrate that cello with additional string, brass, wind and percussion instruments; if the budget allows, he can later print the individual parts, give them to real musicians, and record them.
Whatever your workflow, and independently of the genre of music you’re producing, Logic Pro X provides you with a vast array of tools that facilitate the metamorphosis of your idea from that initial melody in your head to the complete resulting piece of music.
The Price Is Right
About a decade ago, Logic was an expensive software application that came with many optional add-ons sold separately, such as instrument plug-ins or Apple Loops (small pre-recorded pieces of music meant to be repeated seamlessly to help create a song). Some people had spent several thousand dollars on their Logic studio when in 2002, Apple purchased Emagic and repackaged Logic as a $999 software suite that included all the previously optional add-ons.
Today, Logic Pro X contains more plug-ins, loops, and instruments than ever before, and it is sold for the incredibly small sum of $199. Apple can afford to sell quality software at low prices because they also sell you the hardware to run its software. But once you own a Mac, paying $199 for a complete music production suite is a decision that shouldn’t require much thinking.
You Don’t Need Much Else
Before the intrusion of computers in the recording studio, producing music often required using expensive, large mixing consoles that involved cumbersome cabling. Tape recorders were slow to react and needed regular maintenance, which took precious time and effort, and rooms were quickly filled with large instruments such as grand pianos, drum kits, guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets, and collections of synthesizer and sampler keyboards.
Fast-forward to today, and nearly every step of the music production process can be completed on your computer. With Logic Pro X, Apple provides you with a workstation that becomes the core of your recording studio (see Figure 2), replacing the tape recorder and MIDI sequencer, the mixing console, and a vast library of effect processors and musical instruments. You can start producing music with only a Mac, a copy of Logic Pro X, and a pair of headphones. In fact, that’s still how many professionals get work done when on the move.
Figure 2 Logic’s Mixer window.
You Can Add More When You’re Ready
If you don’t need more than a computer and Logic Pro X to get started, you can certainly add more elements to your studios as your needs grow:
- Core audio compatible audio interfaces add various sorts of analog or digital audio inputs and outputs to your Mac, allowing you (for example) to record more simultaneous microphones, or to create more monitoring mixes for musicians who may need to hear different things while they’re recording.
- A MIDI controller such as a keyboard with optional rotary knobs, drum pads, or sliders (see Figure 3) allows you to play and record the virtual instruments included with Logic from a hardware keyboard. Most MIDI controllers today are USB and connect directly to your Mac, without needing a MIDI interface. Many of them are class-compliant, which means you won’t even need to install a driver: They are plug-and-play.
- Plug-ins created by third-party software manufacturers can add more instruments and effects to your Logic Pro studio. Logic natively supports 64-bit Audio Unit compatible plug-ins, and most plug-ins today can be found in that format. There are a few “wrapper” software packages on the market that allow you to use plug-ins in other formats with Logic, although you then run the risk of making your Logic studio less stable.
- Music producers are notorious gear addicts, and there’s no limit to the number of microphones, speaker monitors, instruments and amps, effect pedals, hardware audio processors, or other gizmos that can equip a studio. While most of that equipment can be emulated with the tools included with Logic, it’s easy to incorporate hardware and analog gear into your Logic studio if you choose to go that route.
Figure 3 A MIDI controller keyboard with drum pads, rotary knobs, and faders.
It Yields Professional Results
The quality of the audio that can be produced in Logic Pro X is on par with the most expensive equipment found only in professional recording facilities. If you record acoustic instruments, then the weak links in your recording chain are going to be the acoustic of the room where you’re recording, or the mic and mic preamp you’re using. If you produce music based mostly on virtual instruments, then you’re limited only by your skills as a producer and a mixing engineer. Walk into a professional recording studio, and you may see a producer hooking up his laptop to the large analog SSL console in the studio to further work on a song he or she started at home or in another studio.
Even Apple Loops can provide a quick path to getting a beat started. And because they’re royalty-free, you can use them in music you’re later going to sell without having to worry about copyright infringement. In fact, some songs based primarily on Apple Loops (such as Rihanna’s “Umbrella” or Usher’s “Love in This Club”) achieved great commercial success.
It’s Easy to Get Started
Apple knows we no longer have time to crack open a manual to learn how to use the products we purchase. So they put a great deal of effort into making their products self-explanatory. Ideally, the tool should just be transparent (see Figure 4), so that you can use it instinctively and focus on the task at hand.
Figure 4 Logic with all advanced tools turned off.
That’s why Logic was designed to look familiar to any GarageBand user – down to the wooden side panels on either side of the interface when Logic’s advanced tools are turned off. At the heart of Logic is the Tracks area, where you arrange building blocks called regions. Regions can contain either audio data, such as a recording of your voice with a microphone, or MIDI data, which can trigger virtual instruments. Tracks are associated with channel strips in the Mixer, where you can adjust levels and stereo positions, and add virtual instruments and audio effects plug-ins.
You can then edit the data contained in MIDI and audio regions using various editors. The beauty of computers is the depth of the extent to which they allow you to edit, tweak, process, and otherwise manipulate your audio recordings. Is the timing of your performance slightly off? Flex Time allows you to automatically detect the individual notes in the performance, and reposition the notes on a grid, either manually, one by one, or all at once, automatically. Was the singer hitting some of the notes sharp? Flex Pitch (see Figure 5) analyzes the exact pitch curve of each note and lets you adjust not only its tuning, but also the way the pitch drifts at the beginning and end of the note, or the amount of vibrato.
Figure 5 Flex Pitch editing.
You Can Create Virtual Drum Tracks
One of Logic Pro X’s newest strengths is the Drummer feature. In many modern productions, drums are the backbone of the song. They are normally recorded first, so that they can be used as a time reference when recording the other instruments. However recording real drums requires skill, patience, a large room, and multiple microphones. Enter the Drummer feature, Logic’s virtual drummer, which can generate Rock, Alternative, Songwriter, R&B, Electronic, and Hip Hop drum performances. And depending on the style, you can choose between the virtual Drum Kit Designer plug-in for acoustic performances, or Drum Machine Designer for electronic music.
Drummer works much like a human drummer, except better. You give the virtual drummer a set of broad instructions, regarding your song and the different sections, and then you let him play. Unlike with MIDI programming where you have complete control and responsibility over each individual note, the drummer brings his own musicianship to the plate. You may tell him how many fills you want, or how complex you want his fills to be, but the drummer decides which exact notes to play. If you’re not happy with his choice, you can refresh the performance to create a new one.
Amongst the instructions you give your drummer are how loud/soft and simple/complex you want him to play during a specific section, which drum kit pieces he will use for the main groove, how many fills you want him to play and what amount of swing he should be using (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 The Drummer editor.
Because you can use only one set of instruction for one Drummer region, you will need to create new Drummer regions every time you need the drummer to change his playing (for example play louder and more complex, or switch from the hi-hat to the toms). The Arrangement global track can help you lay out the song structure elegantly, and the Drummer track can then be automatically populated with one region for each section.
In January 2015, Logic Pro X version 10.1 was released along with new Electronic and Hip Hop drum programmers playing the new Drum Machine Designer plug-in, so electronic music producers can now enjoy all the capabilities of the Drummer tracks to quickly lay out a professional-sounding drum track.
If you have an iPad, you can download the free Logic Remote app (see Figure 7) created by Apple to control the Logic Pro file open on your Mac remotely from your iPad. The multi-touch screen of your iPad can become a control surface that helps you mix or even play instruments using a variety of controls.
Figure 7 Logic Remote App
Logic Remote can be used for functional applications. Say you are recording your voice from a record booth. You make a mistake and want to quickly restart the recording. You can use the iPad to relocate the playhead and start a new recording without having to get out of the booth.
The iPad app can also be used for plain fun. After all, it’s the first MIDI keyboard I own where I can hold down a chord, trigger an arpeggiator to play the notes of the chord I’m holding, and slowly swipe one of my finger from one key to another so that the pitch of that notes glides to different pitches... try that with a hardware keyboard.
Whatever the style of music you’re working with, producing music involves transferring ideas from your brain into a support that you can share with your listeners. Logic Pro X offers a dizzying array of tools that are meant to help you do just that with speed and ease, your ideas are still fresh when you capture them, and the results are on par with the professional music productions that inspired you in the first place.