Layering Using Environment

Logic Tips & Techniques

Published in SOS February 2012
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Technique : Logic Notes

Lift the bonnet on Logic's Environment and open up some complex layering possibilities.

Geoff Smith

Record-enabling Multiple Software Instrument Tracks: This allows you to layer sounds. You can then audition the product of different channel-strip settings using the Library tab from within the Media area.Record-enabling Multiple Software Instrument Tracks: This allows you to layer sounds. You can then audition the product of different channel-strip settings using the Library tab from within the Media area.

A great way to make synth parts more complex and interesting is to 'layer' them, so that the same MIDI notes play two or more sounds simultaneously. The quickest and simplest way of doing this in Logic is to employ 'alias' regions on additional tracks. Create two Software Instrument tracks and record-enable them both. You can then use Logic's Media Browser to try out different combinations of Channel Strip Settings, to find synth sounds that complement one another. In the Inspector, click the Setting button above the Channel Strip, so that it has a white box around it. Open the Media area and go to the Library tab: you can now audition different channel strips. Repeat this for both tracks until you have found an interesting combination.

With the top track selected and both tracks record-enabled, hit Record and play in some notes. The Arrange page now displays a master region on the selected track and an alias of that on the track below. An alias of a region contains no data; it simply refers to the master region. Anything that you change within the master will automatically be updated in the alias. It's worth noting that you can create your own alias of an existing MIDI region by holding down Shift and Option, then click-dragging a region onto a new track.

Layers Of Complexity

This approach is fine for simple doubling, but Logic's Environment offers huge potential for more complex layering techniques. Press Command-8 to bring up the Environment window. It should, by default, display the Mixer layer. If not, go there now. First let's consider how to layer two instrument channels and transpose the pitch of the second instrument by a user-definable amount:

  • Go to the New menu and choose Instrument, then go to the New menu again and, this time, choose the Transformer.
  • Cable the first outlet from the Instrument object to your first Software Instrument track and the second outlet to the inlet of the Transformer object.
  • Now cable the outlet of the Transformer object to the inlet of the second Software Instrument track.
  • Set the Transformer object up as shown in the 'Layout & Settings' screen. Layout & Settings: Here we can see the Environment layout and Transformer settings for layering two channel strips, with the second transposed down an octave.Layout & Settings: Here we can see the Environment layout and Transformer settings for layering two channel strips, with the second transposed down an octave.
  • Set the Status condition to Note and the Pitch operation to the Add function and, in the text box beneath it, type in the desired amount of transposition.
  • Next, drag the Instrument object onto a blank part of the Arrange page. Logic will prompt you to "Create new tracks for Environment objects”; choose Create.
  • Now record-enable the new track and play a few notes on your keyboard to hear the result. Experiment with layering different Channel Strip Settings and panning them hard left and hard right to create a more interesting stereo image.

Way To Delay

We can also use the Environment to apply other types of processing to our signal chain:

  • In the Environment window, go to the New menu and choose the Delay Line object.
  • Now delete the Transformer object from the previous example and, this time, cable the outlet of the Instrument object to the inlet of the Delay Line object.
  • Now create three software instrument tracks with three different channel strip settings (short plucked house/trance sounds will work well for this example).
  • Pan the first one dead centre, the next hard left and the other hard right and label the channels accordingly.
  • Now cable outlet one of the Delay Line object to the inlet of the track labelled Centre, outlet two to the track labelled Left and outlet three to the track labelled Right (see the 'Delay Object' picture).

Delay Object: This shows how to use the Delay Line object in the layering process to send different MIDI echoes to different software instruments.Delay Object: This shows how to use the Delay Line object in the layering process to send different MIDI echoes to different software instruments.Next, let's configure our Delay Line:

  • Click on the Delay Line object and go to the Object Parameter Box on the left-hand side of the Environment window.
  • Set the Delay to 480 ticks and the Repeats to 2. When the Delay Line object is cabled from multiple outputs, the MIDI echoes are sent sequentially out of each output. Go to the Arrange page and make sure the Instrument object's track is record-enabled.
  • Next, set your sequencer tempo to 135bpm and then hit play; the Delay Line object only works when Logic is playing.
  • Lastly, play some notes on your keyboard. You should now hear the centre track with the left and right tracks each carrying the consecutive repeats.

Delayed Gratification

The Delay Line object has further creative options. Unticking the Thru box results in the object only passing through echoes and not the original signal, which can be really useful when building more complex chains. The Velocity field allows you to change the velocity of the repeats by a plus or minus offset. This lets you configure your delay repeats to increase or decrease in level, within the 0 to 127 limits. The Transposition option allows you to transpose each echo by a user-definable value; try setting it to +12 so your repeats go up in octaves.

We're now going to add to our Environment setup. Let's transpose our echoes up by a fifth for the left channel and down by a fifth for the right channel:

  • In the Environment, add a new Transformer object. Double-click on it and configure it so that its Status condition is set to Note and that the Pitch column operation is set to Add 7 semitones.
  • Hold down the Option key, click on the Transformer object, and drag it to an empty area to create a copy.
  • Double-click on the Transformer and set the Pitch columns operation to Add -7 semitones.
  • Remove any cables between the left and right channels and the Delay Line object.
  • Now cable outlet two of the Delay Line object into the Transformer set to transpose up a fifth, and then cable its outlet to the left channel.
  • Lastly, cable the third outlet of the Delay Line into the remaining Transformer, and cable its outlet to the right channel (see 'MIDI Echoes' screen). MIDI Echoes: This shows a signal chain using the Delay Line object and Transformers to create MIDI echoes that are transposed and sent to different instrument tracks.MIDI Echoes: This shows a signal chain using the Delay Line object and Transformers to create MIDI echoes that are transposed and sent to different instrument tracks.
  • Make sure the Instrument track is record-enabled and hit play.

When you play the keyboard you should now hear that the echoes going to the left and right channels are transposed. Experiment with the delay time and number of repeats and also the transposition values to achieve different effects.

A Feat Of Memory

For the last example, let's do something a little different:

  • Create a new Logic song with a Software Instrument track. Go to the Environment and, this time, go to the New menu and choose the Chord Memorizer object.
  • Drag the Chord Memorizer object onto the Arrange page to create a track for it.
  • Go back to the Environment and cable the Chord Memorizer object into the Software Instrument track.
  • Next, click on the Chord Memorizer object in the Environment and look across to the Object Parameter Box on the left. The Key Limit field allows us to set the range of notes that will be mapped to trigger chords. Notes outside this range will be passed through the object unprocessed.
  • For this example, set the Key Limit to C2-G8 so that the entire keyboard will trigger chords.
  • Now double-click on the Chord Memorizer object to bring up the Chord Memorizer window. You will see two keyboards, one above the other. The top keyboard allows you to select the incoming note that you want to configure.
  • Click C2 and go to the bottom keyboard; this is where you click to input the desired chord that you want to trigger.

The 'Chord Memorizer Window' screen shows that I have set the note C2 to trigger a Cmaj7 chord. Repeat this processing for the 12 pitch classes that make up an octave, then close the Chord Memorizer and try out your new signal chain. Note that you can expand the number of chords you can trigger by using an Instrument object. You'll need to cable this into multiple Transformer objects to divide the keyboard into sections sending specific key ranges to different Chord Memorizer objects. Chord Memoriser Window: This is configured in order that the note C2 is set to trigger a Cmaj7 chord.Chord Memoriser Window: This is configured in order that the note C2 is set to trigger a Cmaj7 chord.

  • To make the end result more interesting, first delete the cable from the Chord Memorizer to the instrument channel.
  • Now go to the New menu and choose the Arpeggiator object.
  • Cable the outlet of the Chord Memorizer object into the Arpeggiator object and the outlet of that into the software instrument channel.
  • With the Chord Memorizer track record-enabled, hit Play in Logic. Now play a note on your keyboard to trigger a chord and you will hear that chord arpeggiated. Click on the Arpeggiator object and go to the Object Parameter Box and experiment with the settings of the Arpeggiator. (For more on the Arpeggiator object see May 2010's Logic column, which can be found online by going to /sos/may10/articles/logicworkshop_0510.htm).

As you can see, there are plenty of other ways to use the techniques I've discussed this month, so open the lid to the Environment and experiment!    .


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