Learn to customise Channel Strip Settings and stamp your own sound on Logic!
For years, when people have asked me what instrument I play, I've said Logic, and meant it! Alhough Logic is many things to many people (including a full recording studio), if you treat it right it will be your favourite instrument too. But mastering this colossal instrument involves the art of creating, tweaking and organising your Channel Strip Settings in the Library.
A Channel Strip Setting contains the entire routing configuration of a single channel strip, including all loaded plug-ins and their settings. It can be created for the chain of plug-ins loaded on an audio track, or the entire configuration of a virtual instrument with plug-in effects inserted on a software instrument track. The more time and attention you give to designing Channel Strip Settings, the more you will create your own sound in Logic and truly make it your instrument.
These settings are a Logic mixing feature that has sped up the production process for every Logic user who has discovered them. If you're loading your Logic instruments the old way —from the input on a software instrument track — you may come to the conclusion that the factory instruments are thin and boring. Logic instruments come to life when you load them as Channel Strip Settings, whether ones you've designed yourself or from the factory. It's really no different in theory to patches inside a Motif, Phantom or Triton keyboard that are heavily layered at the factory with effects.
There are tons of fantastic preset Channel Strip Settings for specific mixing purposes on audio tracks, whether for problem-solving or for creating a particular sound, such as the Clean or Warm Acoustic Guitar settings. They are grouped into categories by instrument (Drums & Percussion or Electric Guitar, for example) or voice. There are also highly creative Channel Strip Settings in the folders labelled Spaces, Warped and Surround. What's fantastic is that if you're new to mixing and have never recorded an upright bass or R&B vocal, for example, there are Channel Strip Settings for these specific situations, and more, to get you started.
Channel Strip Settings are available for the main output too, in effect mastering and analysis settings. Most of them will include Logic's AdLimiter and Multipressor, with great preset chains designed for particular genres of music: from pop to hip-hop and rock. I've seen the Logic sessions of more than a few hit songs that use Logic Channel Strip Settings straight from the factory on the output channel.
To create your own Channel Strip Setting, click and hold on the pane at the very top of the channel strip labelled 'Setting'. A menu opens with the Save Channel Strip Setting option.
That slot also reveals a hierarchical system for selecting Channel Strip Settings. While you can scroll through all of them from this pull-down menu, I recommend developing the habit of shopping for Channel Strip Settings in the Library tab of the Media area on the right-hand side of the Arrange window, which we'll look at later. The Library gives you a much fuller view of all the subfolders and remains visible without clicking and holding with your mouse.
Admittedly, it is a bit confusing that you can't save a Channel Strip Setting within the Library itself. Once you understand the workflow, it becomes quite natural to save on the left of the Arrange window on the channel strip itself, then 'shop' for sounds in the Library on the right.
So here are the steps: modify a preset Channel Strip Setting or create one from scratch by inserting a few plug-ins strategically, maybe for your guitarist or singer. After you tweak a plug-in chain on an audio or instrument track, save it as a Channel Strip Setting. What's key is naming it so that it's easy to find the next time your guitarist or singer is in the same mood, working on another ballad or dance track, for example. Try using a keyword from the song or project name and place them in a folder specifically for that artist, project or music genre. Think of your saved plug-in combinations as great starting points for when your artist approaches the microphone, so that he or she immediately sounds 'good'.
A word of advice is to think carefully when naming these settings and folders. While you can create and name folders from the Save Channel Strip Setting menu, if you want to rename or delete a folder, you have to do that from the Finder view.
The Library is the best place to access Channel Strip Settings, even though you can't create or edit them here. It's one of the four tabs in the Media area of the Arrange window. Understanding that the Library is 'contextual' is the key to navigating quickly to the setting you're looking for. What this means is that a different menu of presets (or 'settings') is revealed depending on what insert you select on the channel strip. When you click on the Channel Strip Setting pane at the top of a channel strip, a white halo will appear around that pane. All possible Channel Strip Settings are now in view in the Library.
The Library is not just invaluable for searching Channel Strip Settings. Click once on any plug-in inserted on the channel strip and all the presets for that particular plug-in will be in view. Click on a Space Designer you've inserted on a channel strip, and all its presets and subfolders of presets are revealed in the Library. The same goes for the software instrument input pane lower down on the channel strip: click on that and you'll see the presets of that instrument, whether EXS24 or Sculpture. Also keep in mind that, depending what type of track you highlight in the Arrange window, you will either see Library settings for audio tracks or software instruments.
There are a couple of Library power tips it's good to know about:
Logic instruments not only sound authentic, especially when treated with effects, but also perform with very low latency and maximum CPU efficiency, thanks to how tightly they are integrated into Logic's audio engine. This is the blessing and the curse of them being dedicated to Logic, rather than being Audio Units available to other Mac-based DAWs. Many musicians felt it was a bit unfair for Apple to pioneer the Audio Unit plug-in format for OS X but not make their own Logic virtual instruments and effects plug-ins available as Audio Units. That's old news now, of course, and it's just lucky we're all Logic users here!
The good news is that third-party plug-ins can store a Channel Strip Setting as well. Any instrument or effect in the Audio Unit format can be part of your monolithic Logic instrument. Sweetened Battery, Trilian or Omnisphere patches can live side by side with EVP88 and ES2 patches in the Library. Get into the habit of tweaking a chain of plug-ins on top of either Logic or third-party instruments, save in Channel Strip Settings folders relevant to you — Fav Synths, Dot's Basses, Secret Sounds, for example — and you'll have a palette of sounds like no one else in the world. Your folders will appear directly above the factory folders, which are numbered and labelled '01 Logic Instruments', '02 Acoustic Pianos', and so on. Up to 16 plug-ins can be loaded on a software instrument track or audio track. If you need more processing than that on a single track, you just might want to start from scratch.
Channel Strip Settings you create are saved to your Home Folder in this file path:
Home/ Library/ Application Support/Logic/Channel Strip Settings
You'll have to navigate here if you want to rename or delete a Channel Strip Setting, or any of your subfolders. This entire folder should be backed up regularly to another hard drive. If you have this Logic folder saved to a portable drive, you've got your palette of plug-in and Channel Strip Settings that can be your creative arsenal as a professional Logic user in any studio where you work. Get to grips with this and you'll always be able to carry your instrument with you!