"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Sounds
September 23, 2011

Logic Pro 104b

I’m regularly asked to offer tips on using Logic Pro. Typically I don’t think of myself as “good with software” so I resist (same is true when I’m asked for ideas on using Lightroom for photography). But, I keep being asked and to be honest, we all need a little encouragement and left field inspiration […]

I’m regularly asked to offer tips on using Logic Pro. Typically I don’t think of myself as “good with software” so I resist (same is true when I’m asked for ideas on using Lightroom for photography).

But, I keep being asked and to be honest, we all need a little encouragement and left field inspiration from time to time.

So, in no particular order, here are ten suggestions. These are ideas that feature regularly in my work and lessons I’ve learnt “the hard way.” I hope you find them useful.

1. Use templates that pre-load instruments

If you want to be more productive, then work hard at cutting the time between getting an idea and capturing that idea in Logic. A well designed studio will help, as will creating Logic templates for each kind of music you create.

I have templates for orchestral music, that pre-load sample players and libraries, templates for funk music, that layout a virtual band (with spare tracks for recording guitars) and so on. In each, I have plugins and presets loaded (usually bypassed). So, instead of reinventing the wheel with every new song and project, I have a head-start.

2. Use multi-out on drum tracks

Logic’s drum machine plugin, Ultrabeat and drum plugins like EZDrummer give you the choice of either sending their output through one stereo pair, or via a multi-output. Always use the latter if your system can handle it.

Multi-output allows you to EQ, compress and effect each sound in your percussion groove individually, which is an extremely powerful tool for making your beats pop, jump and sing.

3. Try reverse

Paul Stavrou’s Mixing With Your Mind is one the best books I’ve read on studio-craft. One of the doors it opened for me was applying effects (like reverb and compression) in reverse.

Take a track, like an acoustic guitar part, reverse it in the sample editor, apply compression, bounce in place, then reverse it back. Now listen. Kind of amazing! Try this approach with a range of effects (I love it with things like flange modulations, or the Grooveshifter plugin).

4. Record your silence

Here’s a tip from the world of sound design. Whenever you set up a mic in your studio, record a few seconds of silence and save that on a spare track.

The problem you’ll find when you start editing vocal tracks, or anything recorded with a microphone, is that there is an inconsistency between silence with “air” (the silence in between words or notes) and absolute silence (the sound of an empty track in Logic). One of the ways to smooth out a heavily edited track and make it sound more natural is to mix (or edit) back some room sound.

5. Try subtractive only EQ, especially when stuck with a mix

I love digital EQs and the ones that ship with Logic are pretty powerful – maybe too powerful at times. It’s easy to get carried away (and some projects people have sent me have crazy EQ on them).

If you get stuck making a mix gel, then try this. Duplicate all your eq plugins on each track and bypass the ones you were using. Now, on the new eqs only use cuts (subtraction). Don’t boost any frequencies, only make cuts. You’ll find that this approach makes less of change to each sound, but often it does a better job of getting tracks to work together.

6. Learn about latency

I spent a lot of time getting my head around the technical setup issues in Logic Pro – probably too much time. But, if there is one essential technical issue to think about it’s latency.

Latency is the delay, in your system, between sounds in the machine and sounds in the real world. It’s much less of an issue these days, with faster machines, better interfaces and easier to use software. But, you will one day have to get your head around it. MacProVideo has an awesome tutorial on latency and most books on using Logic Pro address the issue. Make some time, do some research and figure out your solution before it kills you mid-project.

7. Create a sample instrument

It’s surprisingly easy to create a sample instrument in EXS24 and it can sometimes come in really handy for doubling parts. A few notes from a bass, or a few hits of percussion and you can have a basic sample instrument.

8. Use guitar sims – on everything

One area where Logic has improved a lot in recent versions in the guitar amplifier and effects simulations. To be honest, I don’t use these much on my guitar parts, because I have a lot of great amps and analogue effects in my studio.

But, I do love to use them on everything else – especially on virtual instruments. Obviously they can bring sample organs and electric pianos to life. And, they can do wonders on drum machine or drum sample parts and even soft-synths.

9. Use memorable names and pretty colours

When I started using Logic, I used default names for each track and take. Then, after a while, I had a hard drive full of files called Guitar1.1, Guitar1.2, etc.

Take the time to devise a track and part numbering system that makes sense to you (and while you are it, think about how colours could make your projects easier to navigate).

10. Drop your levels and use amazing monitors

Every project I’ve been sent or asked to look at in recent years has been way too loud. Often individual tracks are clipping and almost always the final mix is clipping and distorted (in a bad way).

Learn to work with your levels lower and your final mix in a safe rage. Buy some decent monitor speakers (perhaps the most important investment in any studio) and use them to bring your levels up.

Of course, there is more (like parallel effects, assigning busses and side-chaining). But, this is a decent start. If you’d like more Logic/DAW related posts, please let me know.

Responses
Mike Mahoney 10 years ago

Some great tips here, Fern. I’ve learned the hard way the lessons of subtractive EQ, and leaving headroom in the mix.

I really like the idea of recording ambient silence and using that instead of a dead track. I can see where that would make a world of difference. And I’ll have to give that reverse thing a try.

    Fernando Gros 10 years ago

    Mike – I think we all go boost & drive crazy at first in the DAW world.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for adding ambience to our recordings. When I listen back to my earliest recordings I’m taken aback at how good the “room” sound is. I played, at the time, in a room in my parent’s house that was wood lined, with thick carpet and heavy furniture. It was far from neutral, in a studio-sense, but a really nice warm sounding room.

Can'Tell 10 years ago

Great tips right there! Point number 1 is really essential in my opinion. It saves a lot of time. I too created my personalized template, ever since I started working with Logic, cause I basically work with at least 24 tracks for vocals alone.

Point 2-10 are new to me, very interesting. I need to try them out when I get the chance. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Peace out
Can’Tell

    Fernando Gros 10 years ago

    Can’Tell – good to hear from you. You are welcome. I suspect you may find some of the reverse compression effects really useful for your vocal work.

Steven White 10 years ago

Fernando,
Thanks for all the tips! Especially the multi-out tip. I’m looking forward to you blog entry describing how to then create separate mixer channels for all the tracks Ultrabeat & MOTU Symphonic Instrument (my go-to orchestral library, acually, my only one other than Logic’s) open up.

Happy trails,
Steven

    Fernando Gros 10 years ago

    Hey Steven, thanks for the kind words. I’m finishing up a post on Ultrabeat and EZDrummer. I might also do one a little later on Kontakt, which would be similar to what you would probably be doing with MOTU Symphonic. The cool think with Kontakt is assigning arrange regions wto different MIDI channels, routing those to separate instruments in one Kontakt rack, then running those out to separate mixer channels in Logic. So one plug in instance does a lot of virtual work!

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