Learn how to import and combine Environment layers to create new MIDI facilities for your projects.
In this month's column, we're going to look at expanding Logic's MIDI processing capabilities by importing and combining Environments. Although this may seem daunting, it's actually quite straightforward — but first you need to know how to do some basic cabling, and for this 'training session', we're going to start with Logic's templates...
Load Logic and go to File/New. This brings up the Templates dialogue box, which is split into two areas. The left-hand column organises templates into a series of categories, including factory templates and those you've created. The right-hand column shows the templates in the selected category. Let's take a look at one of Logic's factory templates.
From the left-hand side, choose the Compose tab and then, from the right-hand column, choose the Electronic option. Logic loads a new session with a selection of software instruments and other content perfect for creating electronic music. Go to the Classic Acid Bass track and record-enable it. Now move across to the floating window and, from the top menu, choose the 'MIDI Effects On' option and hit Play. Play some notes on your keyboard and you'll hear a 16th-note arpeggiator effect added to your playing. Now, in the second menu down, choose '1/16th — Up 2 octaves'. Again, hit play in Logic and hold down a chord. You should now hear a two-octave, 16th-note arpeggiator effect.
The MIDI Effects floating window you've just used was actually created using Logic's Environment. Let's take a closer look at it.
In the Window Menu, select Choose Environment, or press the shortcut Command-8. On the left-hand side of the Environment window is the Inspector and, within it, the Layer menu. Layers are display levels of the Environment, and they allow you to conveniently see groups of objects rather than the entire contents of the Environment. Go to the Layer menu and choose the MIDI Effects layer. This displays the schematic for the MIDI Effects floating window.
Now go back to the Layer menu and choose Clicks and Ports. This layer displays the signal flow from the physical inputs of your recording system through to the sequencer input. Notice that, unlike the default template, there is no direct connection between the Sum outlet at the top of the physical input object and the keyboard object labelled Input Notes. There's only a short cable in the Sum outlet, indicating that its output is routed to another layer in the Environment. This is because the MIDI Effects layer has effectively been placed between two objects. In this setup, your MIDI input signals flow from the Physical Inputs Sum outlet in the Clicks and Ports layer to the Separate Notes TOP object in the MIDI Effects layer. Your MIDI data is then passed through the processing chain of objects in the MIDI Effects layer. It then travels from the To Sequencer Input object at the right-hand side of the MIDI Effects layer and back to the Input Notes keyboard object in the Clicks and Ports layer. It's important to be aware of the connections between these layers, as later we'll be importing the MIDI Effects layer into a new project and will have to reinstate them.
Importing the MIDI Effects layer into a new Logic session will allow us to use it in different sessions at our convenience. Here's how:
Now you should see the contents of the MIDI Effects layer in your Environment window. As we have only imported that layer, we will need to reinstate the connections between the Clicks and Ports layer and the MIDI Effects layer:
We can also recreate the same convenient visual interface for the MIDI Effects processing that Logic's original Electronic Template had. In the 'MIDI Effects' layer, Control-click on the empty background and, from the menu, choose Protect Positions and Hide Cables. Next, to create the appropriate window type, Control-click again and choose Frameless Floating Window.
Finish the job by resizing the window so that it is the size of the small box that held the menus before, and then move down the background of the MIDI Effects layer until the MIDI effects drop-down menus are in view. The setup is now complete and the MIDI Effects should work as before.
Now that you know how to import an Environment, you can cast your net further afield. My favourite web sites for free third-party Environments are www.swiftkick.com and www.logicprohelp.com. In the forum section of the latter, there is a section called 'Logic & Mainstage Templates & Environment', which contains all sorts of useful free goodies that generous forum members have created and shared. Search the forum for the 'Scale Remapper' Environment, created by Jordito. Once you have found it, download it. This Environment transforms any notes that you play on your keyboard so that they conform to a specific scale in a chosen key signature. This is particularly useful if you're not an accomplished keyboard player, and even if you are, it can force you to write using different modes/keys than you're used to.
We'll now have a look at how the MIDI Effects and the Scale Remapper Environment layers can be combined together inside a single project.
Start with the project you were just working in. Once again, go to the Environment and select Options/Import Environment/Layer. Navigate to the Scale Remapper project and import the Scale Remapper layer. We're going to cable the Scale Remapper so that it comes before the MIDI Effects layer. We'll be able to force keyboard actions to a specific scale and key, and then pass the result through the MIDI effects we were using before.
Go to the Click and Ports layer and Option-click on the Sum outlet. As the destination, choose the Scale Remapper layer, then the Scale Remapper macro. Now go to the Scale Remapper layer and Option-click on the outlet of the Scale Remapper macro. From the menu, choose the MIDI Effects layer and then the Separate Notes TOP object. Lastly, on the MIDI Effects layer, Option-click on the outlet of the 'To Sequencer Input' object and choose the Input Notes object from the Click and Ports Layer. Once again, you can create a frameless floating window to surround the Scale Remapper macro. Now hit play on Logic and try out the Scale Remapper and MIDI Effects together.