September 09 saw the release of Logic Pro 9, the latest complete home studio software from Apple. This has everything that a music producer could need to create professional sounding recordings, whether you are a dance producer using MIDI instruments, or you have a live music set up you want to record. Here we look at some of its editing tools and instruments that I have found particularly useful, as well as some of the new features they have introduced for the latest version.
Now its only been a year since they released version 8, so it turns out to be an expensive hobby if you want to keep up to date with their latest software. Apart from forking out £408 for the complete package, you of course need to be a smug Mac user with all the right specifications (click here for details). Now I’m a Logic 8 user and am quite happy with its audio and midi tools for the music I make. But after trying some of the new features of version 9, and being a sucker for new technology, I’m seriously thinking of upgrading. I’d better start saving…
Lets start with some of its audio editing tools. Here we find there are some nice features that can make life a lot easier. Set a loop on the arrange page, plug a guitar or microphone in, press record, and Logic will take multiple recordings of each loop, which can then be edited or copied and pasted throughout your track. This really helps in perfecting your takes and requires nothing more than setting the loop of the section you want to record.
But Logic have taken audio editing a stage further with version 9, and have introduced a new collection of tools that allow you to quickly manipulate your recorded audio. This is called Flex Time, and it allows you to speed up, slow down, stretch and shrink your audio. Logic will detect the correct algorithm to use to change the audio (stretching drums, for example, will need a different algorithm to that of vocals) giving you complete control over the tempos of your songs. You can even quantize your audio if you want it to be tighter, or fit a specific groove. These tools are available in Logic 8, but the new version has its own page dedicated to Flex Time which gives a good visual representation and will cut down the number of clicks it takes to perform a complex task.
Another new feature of Logic 9 is its guitar amp simulation and pedal board. Choose from 25 amp heads, 5 EQ’s, 10 reverbs, 25 speaker cabinets and 3 mics to recreate some classic guitar and bass sounds. You don’t have to use this with a guitar – some of the distortion and effects are great to dirty up your drums, synths or samples for example.
For those that like to use MIDI instruments in their music making, Logic 9 has a selection of powerful synths, a drum machine and sampler built in, and is also compatible with AU instruments, if you are looking to build on your home studio using 3rd party applications. Its drum machine, Ultrabeat, is a beast, and gives you complete control over your sounds. You can select Logics drum sounds, or drag and drop your own samples into the machine, and each hit then has its own pitch control, filter, distortion unit, envelope, noise generator, and all of these can be modulated, and routed to its own mixer channel. Although it looks like the Millenium Falcon (as they have crammed so many ways of manipulating each drum sound into one machine), after a bit of getting used to, you will find this an extremely versatile instrument.
Even if you like to use other software programmes to create your music, by routing your tracks through the mixer section of Logic, you can really bring your recordings to life. The effects that come with it include several delay, reverb, distortion and EQ plugins, as well as all your modulation effects (phaser, chorus, flanger) amp simulations and a host of other nifty units. The Enveloper is one of my favourites, you can quickly change the gain of the attack or delay of a drum hit (for example) to give it some real punch, or to soften it up. It’s compressor is also a favourite of mine, in that it has many features including side chaining capabilities (great for those dance producers who want that sucky volume effect), and a mix dial of your compressed to dry sound, which is very useful when experimenting with compressing a full drum kit. The Channel EQ that is on every channel strip is extremely easy and intuitive to use, and will give you complete control over the shape of your sounds. Of course, you should always use your ears when mixing, but it has become increasingly popular recently to use visual aids to help you in your mixing. Just one click on Logics Channel EQ will bring up its analyser will give you a visual representation of the sound that is being generated, which many find helpful for finding problem frequencies.
Every parameter in Logic can be automated. Just press the A button on your keyboard, and a separate arrange page dedicated to automation is shown for each track. You can easily assign a knob or fader on your MIDI keyboard to a parameter by selecting the parameter you want to automate, press control and L, turn your knob/slider, and its assigned. Keyboard shortcuts I have found to be particularly useful in speeding up workflow, and you can quickly find out and tailor your shortcuts in just a few clicks.
Logic 9 comes with a huge collection (around 37Gb) of loops, sound effects and sampled instruments that you can quickly add to your music, which can be great if you are looking for some creative inspiration even if you end up not using the loop for your final mix. They are filed well under name, category (beats, kits, FX, for example) and its original BPM, allowing you to quickly find what you are after. You can search on a keyword, or scroll through the category until you find what you want. So if I wanted a congo loop for example, I can quickly type congo in the search engine, or scroll through the percussion category.
This is just a taste of what you can do with Logic 9 – its a hugely versatile and powerful programme with a manual as thick as War and Peace. The upgrade from 8 to 9 isn’t a huge leap, and I do wonder whether Apple will release a new version every year, just when the students are about to start term. The new features they have introduced are particularly useful for those that work with audio rather than MIDI. I’ve been a Logic user for a year now, and my only complaint (apart from cost) is that it is not particularly intuitive when compared to something like Reason. But after a bit of time with the manual and with some help online (check out Logicninja on youtube), you will find that Logic can pretty much do anything you want it to.