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One Hour Lesson: Learn to Record MIDI in Logic

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In this hour-long lesson excerpted from Apple Pro Training Series: Logic Pro 8 and Logic Express 8, author David Nahmani explains everything you need to know to record MIDI in Logic. If you want to follow along on your Mac, however, you'll need to buy the book to access the related lesson files.
This chapter is from the book

MIDI (the Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was created in 1981 to standardize the way electronic musical instruments communicate. Today, MIDI is extensively used in the music industry, from cell phone ringtones to major-label albums. Most TV and film orchestra composers use MIDI to sequence large software sound libraries, getting ever closer to productions that sound like a real orchestra.

MIDI sequences can be compared to piano rolls, the perforated paper rolls once used by mechanical player pianos. Like the punched holes in piano rolls, MIDI events do not contain audio. They contain note information such as pitch and velocity. To produce sound, MIDI events need to be routed to a software instrument or to an external MIDI instrument.

There are two basic types of MIDI events: MIDI note events that trigger musical notes, and MIDI continuous controller (MIDI CC) events that control parameters such as volume, pan, or pitch bend.

For example, when you hit C3 on a MIDI controller keyboard, the keyboard sends a Note On MIDI event. The Note On event contains the pitch of the note (C3) and the velocity of the note (which indicates how fast the key was struck, measuring how hard the musician played the note).

By connecting the MIDI controller keyboard to Logic, you can use Logic to route the MIDI events to a virtual software instrument or to an external MIDI instrument. The instrument reacts to the Note On event by producing a C3 note, and the velocity determines how loud the note sounds.

Recording MIDI

In Logic, the techniques used to record MIDI are very similar to the techniques you used to record audio in Lesson 2. When a MIDI controller keyboard is connected to your computer, and its driver is properly installed (some devices are class-compliant and don’t require a driver installation), you can use that keyboard to record MIDI in Logic. Logic automatically routes all incoming MIDI events to the record-enabled software instrument or external MIDI track.

To record a MIDI performance triggering a software instrument, you need to create a software instrument track, insert an instrument plug-in or choose a channel strip setting from the Library, and click Record.

  1. Go to Logic 8_Files > Lessons and open the 04 Funky Groove_start project.

    That project has a single audio track with a drum loop, which will provide a timing reference to record your new instrument.

  2. At the top of the track list, click the New Tracks button (+) (or press Option-Command-N).

    The New Tracks dialog appears.

  3. In the Number field, enter 1. Select Software Instrument as the Type. Select the Open Library checkbox, and click Create.

    A software instrument track is created, and it is automatically record-enabled. The Library opens, displaying software instrument channel strip settings.

    By default, audio tracks have a blue icon and audio regions are blue. Software instruments have a green icon and MIDI regions are green.

  4. Choose a channel strip setting from the Library.

    For this exercise, choose 04 Keyboards > 01 Electric Piano > Suitcase V2.

    In the Inspector, the software instrument channel strip loads the necessary plug-ins. In the Arrange area, the name Suitcase V2 is displayed on the Inst 1 track header.

    While audio channel strip settings contain only processing plug-ins, software instrument channel strip settings also contain the software instrument plug-in. On the channel strip, the software instrument plug-in is loaded in the Instrument slot of the I/O section.

  5. Play some notes on your MIDI controller keyboard.

    You should hear the electric piano. In the Transport bar’s MIDI In display, the incoming MIDI note events are displayed as notes are played. If you play a chord, the display shows the chord name.

    You are now ready to record, but first open the Piano Roll Editor so that you can see the MIDI notes appear as you record them.

  6. At the bottom of the Arrange area, click the Piano Roll button.

    The Piano Roll Editor opens in the editing area.

  7. Go to the beginning of the project.
  8. In the Transport bar, click the Record button (or press * (asterisk) on the numeric keypad, or press R on a laptop).

    The playhead jumps back one bar, giving you a four-beat count-in with an audible metronome click before recording starts. The Bar ruler turns red to indicate that Logic is recording.

  9. When you can see the playhead, play some notes.

    Play a simple bass line in an eight-note pattern (try a melody in the key of A minor). You will record more notes in that region later in this lesson.

    When you play the first MIDI note, a new MIDI region with a red halo is created on the record-enabled Suitcase V2 track. The region’s length constantly updates to include the most recent MIDI event played.

    The MIDI notes appear in the Piano Roll Editor as you record them.

  10. Stop recording.

    In the MIDI region, the notes are displayed as small beams. As in the Piano Roll Editor, the vertical positions of the notes indicate their pitches (with the high pitches at the top).

  11. Go back to the beginning and listen to your MIDI recording.

    If you are not happy with your performance, you can undo it (Command-Z) and try again.

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