Emagic Logic's Environment

Exploration

Published in SOS April 1997
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Technique : Computers

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Emagic Logic's Environment

 

In the first part of this occasional series for users of popular software packages, we take a look at what you need to do to get up and running using Logic's Environment page, and provide an introduction to the Multi-instrument Object.

 

The Environment is certainly one of the most powerful windows within Logic, yet it is the one that newcomers to the program find most difficult to relate to. It allows you to create, in software, a virtual studio -- but why would you want to do that? Leaving aside for the moment the more advanced features, the main purpose of the Environment is to tell Logic what instruments you have in your system, and to which MIDI ports they are connected. Furthermore, in the case of multitimbral instruments, known in the Environment as Multi-instruments, you have the opportunity to enter your own patch names. You can type these in manually or import a text file from a word processor, though many commonly available instrument definitions, complete with patch names, are supplied in the Environment Support software that comes on disk in addition to the main program.

One big advantage of the Environment concept is that once you've set up your instruments, and whatever other tweaks take your fancy, you can store them as your default song, so that every time you start a new piece of work, your Environment is set up and you're ready to go. Now, instead of the old-fashioned method of calling up a patch -- entering the MIDI port, the MIDI channel and the MIDI program change number -- your Arrange page can provide the facility to select any patch on any instrument by name, rather than your having to refer back to the synth manual with the patch listing in it.

The Environment is presented as an empty white area of screen into which the various virtual representations of your MIDI instruments are placed. Objects are simply chosen from the New menu in the Environment page and, where necessary, wires are created by dragging the connector symbol sticking out of each Object icon and jamming it into the destination object. However, if you just want to set up a basic system, instruments don't have to be connected to anything -- you just need to fill in the parameter details: what they're called, what port they're connected to, what channels they work on, and so forth. No other Environment Objects are absolutely necessary, though you may want to set up an instrument to play your metronome track. If so, refer to the 'Click Track' box.

Unwanted Objects can be selected and then deleted using the backspace key. Whenever an Object is selected, a parameter box relating to it appears at the left-hand side of the screen; if this doesn't appear, it's because somebody has switched off Parameters in the View Menu, so go to View and turn it back on again. For the more adventurous user, there are also facilities for creating virtual mixers, MIDI controllers and editors, or to call up MIDI arpeggiators or delay lines (that's where the virtual wiring starts to become important) but these can wait until another day.

When you first boot up Logic, a default Environment is provided, which allows you to assign each sequencer track to a different single MIDI instrument on the same port, in much the same way as you'd expect to be able to do on any entry-level sequencer. This is fine if you have just a single GM instrument connected, but if you have a multi-port interface or a lot of different synths, you really need to create an Environment specific to your own setup in order to be able to work efficiently. The rest of this article focuses on various aspect of setting up a basic Environment.

OBJECTS: WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Regardless of which window you're working in, any icon or event that you create or that's already there is referred to as an 'Object'. In the Arrange Window, sequences are referred to as Objects; in the Score Window, notes are referred to as Objects, and in the Environment window, instruments and other on-screen bits and pieces are known as Objects. It's useful to keep this terminology in mind, as you'll come across many references to Objects in the various menus throughout the program, and precisely what constitutes an Object depends on what window you're working in.

CLICK TRACK

When you record or play a track with the metronome click enabled, you'll hear the usual one-beep-to-the-beat noise from your computer, just as you did with older Atari sequencers, but sometimes that's not loud enough. It's often better to have your drum machine playing the click on a side-stick or similar sound, and in Logic you can also choose a different MIDI note or velocity, or both, to play each bar, beat and sub-beat if you want to. Even if you choose the same sound, four beats to the bar, it helps if the first beat of the bar is played at a higher velocity so you can hear where the bar starts.

To set up an instrument to play your click, proceed as follows:

• In the Environment page, go to the New menu and select Metronome. A triangular Metronome object should appear in your Environment window.

• Drag the 'plug' part of the Metronome icon and plug it into the Instrument icon representing your drum machine.

• Select the Metronome Icon so that its parameter box appears on the left of the screen, then enter the MIDI channel, MIDI notes and velocities required for the bar, beat and sub-beat (Division) sounds. It is possible to have each bar, beat and sub-beat sent to a different MIDI channel if required, but I feel that's a bit excessive for most people!

• The Metronome is now configured.

ENVIRONMENT LAYERS

The Environment can either be a very simple place or an incredibly busy one, depending on what you want to set up in there. At its simplest, it might contain just two or three Multi-instruments and a Metronome icon, but on the other hand, you might have Logic Audio with its audio input channel, you may have created MIDI faders to edit MIDI synth parameters directly -- you may even have a mixer map set up for a complete digital mixer, or a large-scale virtual control panel for synth editing. All this is possible in the Environment, not to mention the MIDI delays and arpeggiators that come as standard with the software. Obviously, if you try to view all this at once on a small screen (and you can if you want to), things are going to get messy. For that reason, the Environment may be viewed as a series of layers, with Audio Objects on one layer, MIDI instruments on another layer, Mixer Maps on another, and so on. The currently selected layer is shown in a small window beneath the toolbox, and the usual clicking and holding routine brings up a list of options to scroll through.

TOURING THE ARRANGE WINDOW

When you first launch Logic, you're greeted by the Arrange Window, which includes transport controls in the top left-hand corner. A separate transport window can be opened if required. Along the top of the screen are the three main menus: File, Edit, and Windows. Along the top of the Arrange window is a set of window-specific menus -- Structure, Edit, Functions, View and Options. This system is carried through to other windows, where each has its own dedicated set of menus.

Running down the far left of the Arrange Window are three Parameter boxes; in descending order, these are the Object Parameter box (which governs changes to individual sequence or audio objects), the Toolbox (containing the editing tools), and the Track Parameter box (which handles the settings for the selected track and any sequences recorded in it).

To the right of the Parameter boxes you'll find the Track List. If it's too wide or too narrow, you can resize it by clicking in the top right-hand corner (where it meets the time ruler) and dragging it to the desired width. The Track List shows all the Environment 'Instruments' being used in the current song (another feature of the Environment page is that you can choose from a long list of icons to assign to your different instruments or sounds). When the software is first loaded, on version 2.5 and earlier, these instruments are all single (one MIDI channel each), and the default icon is a MIDI connector.

To select a new instrument for any track, simply click and hold the mouse on the icon currently showing for that track, and a whole list of available instruments will appear. Using the mouse to scroll up or down the list, you can select any of the displayed instruments -- so unless you've deliberately hidden some of these, you'll be able to peruse every instrument that exists in the Environment window.

Selecting a patch from within an instrument can be done in two main ways. One is to click and hold the mouse on the currently selected patch number in the Parameter box (after selecting the desired track), and a list will appear, this time showing all the patch names as entered in your Environment representation of that instrument. Scroll up or down, and select whichever patch you like. The other way to select a patch is to click in the top right-hand corner of the Parameter box, whereupon a window will appear showing all the available patch numbers in the currently selected bank of the instrument. Select any patch name with the mouse and the corresponding patch will automatically load. This is a good way to try out different sounds.

Bank selection, where appropriate, may be instigated either from the Bank line at the top of the patch window, or by holding and scrolling with the mouse over the division symbol that comes directly before the patch number in the Parameters box.

EXPLORING THE ENVIRONMENT

The purpose of this section is to enable you to locate Objects in the Environment, change their parameters, and select alternative icons to represent them. When you first boot up Logic, or if you haven't created your own default Autoload Song, you'll find that a very basic Environment has been set up for you. Open the Environment Window, either from the Windows menu at the top of the screen or by double-clicking on one of the MIDI tracks in the track list, and you should see a mostly white screen with some small keyboard icons laid out horizontally, representing the individual instruments. These are the same ones that you can see in the track list in the Arrange Window.

Select one of these Icons by clicking on it with the mouse. Down the left-hand side of the Environment Window you'll see a Parameter box, a Layer box and the Toolbox. Layer tells you which layer of the Environment you're currently working in -- see the 'Environment Layers' box for an explanation. This should be showing 'MIDI Instr', but if some other layer is selected, click on this box, hold the mouse button down, and you'll find that a list appears, from which you can select the desired Layer.

At the top of the Object Parameter box, you should see the name of the selected Object (selected Objects tend to show in black, or at least partially black), underneath which you'll have a description of the type of Object -- in this case 'Instrument'. Underneath that there will be the word 'Icon', to the right of which you'll see two things: a box with a cross in it (a 'check' box that's been checked), and an icon exactly the same as that on the Object you have selected. If you click on this icon, and hold the button down, you'll be presented with a long list of alternative icons: parrots, elephants, guns, mountains, log drums -- don't blame me, I didn't choose them! The check box determines whether or not this object and its icon will be displayed in the Track List, and unless you have a huge MIDI system, you'll probably want to check everything so it all appears on the Arrange page when you come to choose an Instrument.

The next line tells you the channel that's selected (on a Macintosh, the choice of output port is also displayed here: M0 is the modem port, P0 the printer, and so on). If you have an 8-port interface plugged into the modem port, as I have, the instruments are set to ports 1 through 8, depending on where they're plugged into the interface. Interfaces with up to 32 ports are supported.

The next line down (PC Windows version only) tells you which output driver you're using; for example, LOG2PC is the Emagic Log 2 PC, SB16MIDI out is the Soundblaster MIDI port, and so on. The next three lines, Prg (Program), Vol (Volume, Controller 7), and Pan (Controller 10), are used to change Program, Volume and Pan for the selected objects. The next two, Transpose and Velocity, can be used to increment or decrement transposition and velocity if you click and hold the button down just to the right of the words and move the mouse up and down.

Towards the bottom you can see parameters for Lim (Note range limitation -- lower and higher), VLim (Velocity limitation), and Delay (positive or negative delays can be applied to objects either in note values or milliseconds, depending on your preference). Most people would tend to leave these at their default settings to start with. If you check the No Seq Trp (No Sequence Transpose) box, this function is applied -- handy for drums, because when you transpose, you don't want the drum sounds to be affected. The No Reset function disables the transmission of reset messages to that object. The word AUTO refers to the current score style selection for the selected instrument. This box as a whole will completely change depending on the Environment Object that you select, but I hope I've gone into enough depth for you to fathom out what the other Parameter functions do. For a step-by-step guide to setting up a Multi-instrument, see the 'Setting Up a Multi-instrument' box.

SETTING UP A MULTI-INSTRUMENT

One of the more useful Environment Objects is the so-called Multi-instrument, an icon able to represent a single MIDI instrument with from 1 to 16 parts operating on up to 16 separate MIDI channels. As the majority of modern synths are multitimbral, this is a useful Object to get acquainted with. Even if you have some monotimbral instruments, you may still want to represent them using a Multi-instrument (with only one channel active), because Logic doesn't allow you to name patches in single instruments. For example, I have a Matrix 1000 on channel 13, so my Matrix Multi-Instrument only has channel 13 turned on. What's more, the support files included a ready-made instrument including a list of all 1000 Matrix 1000 patches, which saved me hours of typing.

• Step 1: Click on the 'New' menu at the top left of the Environment screen and choose the second option, 'Multi-instrument'. You should now be able to see a kind of square box with the numbers 1 to 16 written in it -- it looks rather like a 4x4 block of grey chocolate. This is a Multi-instrument, as shown in the Environment screen shot.

• Step 2: Using the Text tool, you can click on the name beneath the Multi-instrument to change it. Type in the name of your chosen synth. Alternatively, you can rename the instrument directly via the Parameter box to the left of the screen by clicking on the current name. A dialogue box will open up for you to type into.

• Step 3: On the Multi-instrument itself, you'll notice that all 16 number buttons have diagonal lines crossing them out, indicating that the parts are not active. Clicking on each number button in turn will remove this line and thus activate the channel that the number represents.

• Step 4: You will see an Icon at the top of the Multi-instrument (and in the Parameter box) which looks like a MIDI Socket. If you want to, you can change the icon from the Parameter box as previously explained. Specific icons exist for many common synths, so check these out before going for a cat's head or a Luger pistol! You can also select a different icon for each of the 16 parts of your Multi-instrument if you want to, by clicking in the appropriate numbered square, then selecting the required icon in the Parameter box to the left of the screen.

• Step 5: Double-click on the icon at the top of the Multi-instrument and a window will now appear, with a list of the General MIDI sounds already in it. This is bank 0 of the Multi-instrument. There are four boxes at the top of the window: 'Device name', 'Short device name', '(No bank specified: names of bank 0 used)', and 'Bank Message: Control 32' (see screen).

• Step 6: Click and hold on the box named 'No bank specified...' and you'll see a list of the 15 banks available to you. Select bank 1 by sliding down to it and releasing the mouse button. A dialogue box should appear asking you whether you want to 'Initialise new bank?' Click 'OK'. A new bank will now appear with program numbers from 0 to 127 displayed in it. You can now enter the names of the sounds in the various banks by double-clicking on the bank number and typing in the name. It is also possible to paste in names from a word processor document or to copy and paste an instrument from another Environment. See the manual for more details of these alternatives. Also check out the support disks, as these contain many ready-made Environment Objects for popular synths that you can copy and paste into your own Environment.

• Step 7 (after much typing): You should now select the bank change message that your synth responds to. If it is Control 32, you need not bother, as this is the default setting. Otherwise, just click on the box 'Bank Message: Control 32' while holding the mouse button down, slide to the desired message and release the button. You will notice that there's a number of ready-configured bank messages specific to certain popular synths. If you successfully selected the bank message for your synth, go straight onto step 9. If your synth requires different bank change messages for different banks, go to step 8.

• Step 8: From the bank message list, choose the 'Use custom bank messages' option. From the 'Options' menu at the top of the Environment Window, choose the fifth option, 'Define custom bank messages'. You should now be presented with a list of the banks (see screen). To the right of the list will be the controller number (default 0), and the value that is to be transmitted; you can change both number and value by clicking and holding on the current digit and moving the mouse up and down as required.

• Step 9: As you now have a fully configured Multi-instrument, the chances are that you won't want the original single instruments to appear in your track list any more. You can prevent this by doing one of two things: selecting each one in turn and removing the check from the check box in the 'Icon' parameter, or simply deleting them all with the Eraser tool in the Toolbox. But do not delete or disable the 'C Original' Icon -- you may well still want to use this, as it provides multiple-channel output on a single track. If you now close the Environment Window and return to the Arrange Window, most of the Tracks in the List will now read 'No Output' as you've just deleted the single instruments that relate to them.

• Step 10: Click and hold on each 'No Output' Track and slide up or down the list until you find the name of your synth, followed by the desired channel. You should now see a list with the name of your synth written 16 times, followed by the channel numbers 1-16 from top to bottom.

• Step 11: Put a check in the 'Prg' check box. With the track that corresponds to MIDI channel 1 selected, click and hold on the division symbol to the right of the 'Prg' check box and slide up to the '1' position (the Bank number). Now click and hold on the number '0', to the right of that (the Patch Number), and you should get a list of the sounds on bank 1 of your synth. Select the desired sound by scrolling up or down the list. The necessary bank and program change messages are transmitted to your synth. An alternative way of selecting patches is to click on the patch name at the top of the parameter box; a new window will open showing all the sounds in the current bank. Simply click on a sound and the program change will be sent to your synth. This page is a good way to browse the sounds of your synth, as it stays open until you deliberately click the Close Window box.

You have now created a Multi-instrument for your synth. If you want to create more for other MIDI gear, just repeat the above steps, leaving out step 9. For instruments with fewer than 16 parts, simply activate only the channels you want to use. Once you've arranged the Environment as you want it, save the empty song as your Autoload song so that it comes up every time you start work. And save a copy on disk too, in case you accidentally change or overwrite it!

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