You are here

Emagic Logic 2.5

MIDI Recording Environment By Paul White
Published October 1995

Paul White checks out the new features in this latest update to Emagic's MIDI recording environment.

Emagic Logic users should be very pleased with this latest update, because in addition to enhancing the feature‑set and making the program easier to use, the package contains a brand new manual which is infinitely better than the collection of loosely related works that has built up since Logic was first launched. The manual is quite slim (barely an inch thick) and is far more user‑friendly, especially to first‑time users and those with limited MIDI experience. I got my hands on the Mac version, but the other platforms will reach v2.5 very shortly and most of my comments are equally applicable.

The very latest features are described on blue pages at the start of the manual, so that they can be identified and replaced when the next formal manual update is released. The binder is big enough to accommodate double the number of pages, leaving plenty of room for expansion. The introduction page includes the not entirely original phrase 'Don't Panic!' in large, friendly letters. This helps set the tone for the rest of the manual, which makes a good job of explaining a potentially complicated bit of software very clearly.

To make it even easier to get up and running, the program disks now come with an Apple‑style installer routine, and when you boot it up, you'll notice a new title screen which (for no adequately explained reason) resembles a spiral galaxy with a pulsating Malteser at its centre! And so to the upgrade itself...

The Upgrade

So what was wrong with the last version? As a fairly regular Logic user, I feel that there's little wrong with the previous version itself — it's very stable and it lets me do what I need to do — but all software has its own little frustrations and foibles that begin to irritate you when you use it a lot, and Logic is no exception. For example, not being a musically literate person, I use the Matrix (piano‑roll) editor quite a lot and I've always wanted that to open whenever I double‑click on a sequence, rather than the Score editor. Well, my wish has finally come true, because v2.5 has a Preferences option that lets you select your own default edit window.

Once you're in the Matrix window, colour monitor owners will notice that the bars depicting the notes are now in glorious colour. Selecting the crosshair tool and using the mouse to increase or decrease the velocity of any selected notes, you'll also notice that the notes now change colour — the louder they are, the more red they become.

Another welcome addition to this page is the Quantise button, which provides access to the full quantisation menu for selected events. But one irritation that still remains is that you'll often select an event only to find a dialogue box dropping down which claims that the 'Last Operation Exceeds Folder or Sequence Length — Adapt Size?' Once the box is dismissed, you can carry on as normal, but I find it turns up with annoying regularity, even when I'm just trying to move a note to a new pitch. And what's more irritating is that there's no button for me to click that says 'No It Doesn't!'. However, one other major irritation of this page that's now been fixed relates to the way that the Matrix page, if set to Link mode, used to change into some kind of Arrange page once the selected sequence was de‑selected in the main Arrange window. Now the display remains as it was and only changes when a new sequence is selected. Thanks guys — I was getting to hate that one.

And while we're still on the Matrix editor page, you can now access a drop‑down menu of all the more common Transform functions — such as Double and Half Speed, Humanize, Quantise Note Length, and so on — as well as a new Pitch Bend Scaling function. This will be very familiar to Creator/Notator users. A new quantise mode has also been added to the Quantise menu, called Far Quantise. This lets you define a region around each section on the quantising grid, inside which events are left as they are and outside which they are quantised. In other words, tight playing is left as it is, but anything really ropey is hauled into line. I can see I'm going to get a lot of use out of this feature.

Arrange Options

Logic's Arrange window has always been pretty good, though I still think that a lot of credit is owed to Steinberg — Cubase was the first sequencer to use this type of graphic building‑block approach and Steinberg also pioneered the use of the on‑screen tool palette for musical use.

To the left of the main Arrange area are the Track Instrument names. It's always been possible to mute whole tracks by clicking to the left of the Track Instrument, at which point a dot appears to signify the track is muted, but it was all too easy to accidentally mute tracks when you were simply trying to access or change an Instrument. So now the arrow tool turns into a Mute icon when it moves over the appropriate part of the screen, so you know exactly what is happening. If the arrow tool is positioned over the Track Instrument itself and the mouse button is held down, the arrow changes to a hand, enabling you to drag the track to a new location.

Talking of dragging, it is now (finally!) possible to open two different songs at once and simply drag sequences or Environment objects from one song to another. This is a lot faster than copying and pasting all the time, and I for one welcome it wholeheartedly. However, I still find that when copying and pasting Environment objects such as multi‑instruments, they usually arrive with all the parts turned off and the default keyboard icon showing for all 16 parts. It isn't the end of the world having to turn them back on, but it would be nice if they copied across with all settings intact.

Setting a cycle region is now far easier, as the cycle start and end points default to the nearest whole bar and a new Tie option has been introduced, allowing objects to be joined end to end by changing their positions, rather than by changing their lengths. The Alias system has also been expanded and improved, allowing you to select all the aliases of an object via a menu command. You can now identify and remove aliases for which the original object has been deleted (Orphan Aliases), and if you mix a sequence object with another, any aliases relating to this object are also modified in the same way.

One area that could be improved further is the editing of folders: if you cut up a folder that contains loops, the loops stop at the cut point. A dialogue box offering to turn the loops into hard data would be helpful here. How's about it, Emagic?

People working on musical scores for film and video have kept up a relentless insistence for text markers to be added to the program, so now they have their wish. Using this new feature, you can position text messages throughout a recording and also use them as locator points. By inserting a 'Go To Marker', 'Meta' event in the Event List, Logic can be forced to jump directly to the specified marker position. Those users who have nagged for a timed notepad have also been rewarded. Equally, there are a couple of handy additions to the Event List, including the ability to edit 14‑bit Pitch Bend values rather than just MIDI bytes 1 and 2, and you can now also opt to view SysEx data in hexadecimal code.

Transports Of Delight

One of the distinctive features of Logic is its Transport window, which includes all the usual transport buttons, looping icons, punch in/out, sync and metronome buttons as well as display of time, tempo, locators, MIDI activity, timecode and so on. This is incredibly useful, but if you're working on a small monitor, things could easily become rather cluttered, even if you make intelligent use of the Screensets feature. So now it's possible, via a menu, to select only those bits of the transport window that you want to use. There's also a new Relative SMPTE time option, which shows elapsed SMPTE relative to bar position 1111 of the current song.

It is now (finally!) possible to open two different songs at once and simply drag sequences or Environment objects from one song to another.

These new transport features are to be welcomed but I think the transport controls on the main Arrange page should also be floating, so that you can use them regardless of what page you're currently working in and without the Arrange window becoming the active (and hence becoming the topmost) window. The same applies to the Tool palette and Zoom icons on the Arrange window. Many's the time I've been working in the Matrix window and tried to grab a tool from the Arrange window's palette by mistake, only to find the Matrix window being pushed behind the Arrange window. Indeed, as you can only use the Tool palette in the currently active window, why not have just one palette visible at a time and be done with it? The floating palette that materialises when you hold down the Escape button helps, but it isn't the complete answer.

Cleaning Up The Environment

The Environment has now been updated to make it easier to cable objects which reside on different layers. For example, if you're making up a MIDI level mixer using faders, these have to be cabled to objects which are normally located on a different layer, just to keep things tidy. Now you can call up a full list of Instruments on the left‑hand side of the page, scroll through it and hook your virtual cable onto whichever one you like. Perhaps more importantly, it has now been made much easier to copy an Environment from one song to another and to update existing Environments; though, as mentioned earlier, you may find that Multi‑Instruments arrive with some or all of their 16 parts switched off, leaving you the tedious task of reactivating them.

Other notable features include the facility to make custom Bank Change messages, which can include tracts of SysEx data if you need it. With so much MIDI equipment around requiring different Bank Change commands, perhaps this is the only solution? SysEx fader creation has also been enhanced and now there's the option to create a screen fader for real‑time tempo control. Morning Star's MacWavemaker is now supported directly from within Logic's Environment and there are more new features for users of Opcode's OMS system. For example, a complete MIDI Reset message is now only sent if the Stop button is pressed twice in quick succession; important for OMS users as the timing of MIDI Reset messages can cause them problems.

With so much of Logic being mouse‑controllable, it's easy to forget that direct keyboard commands are often faster. The problem is remembering all the different commands. Logic helps you here as, in addition to being able to define your own key command shortcuts, you can now export your key command list into a word processor where you can turn it into a crib sheet (tip: try sticking it under a transparent mouse mat as a permanent reminder).

Again, most of what's been described so far is just tidying up what already exists, but one area that's had its face lifted further than most is Tempo Operations. A new graphic display shows how the tempo changes with time; new tempo changes can be made using predefined smooth tempo change curves, and you can also randomise the tempo within preset limits to create a more human feel. It's also possible to take over control of a song's tempo while it is playing back, simply by holding down the Option key.

Touch Tracks

One brand new feature that will impress those working on dance music is the ability to assign sequences (or folders of multiple sequences), to individual keys for live performance. What's more, when you come to play back these 'Touch Tracks', the performance itself can be recorded, stashed in a folder if need be, and then played back again from just a single key.

The ability to specify your choice of edit page when double‑clicking a sequence is the one thing that will make my sequencing life a lot easier.

There's more to using Touch Tracks than you might first imagine, because you need to consider what happens when one sequence takes over from another or when two are playing at once. To make this easier, you can create Groups of sequences where only one can play at a time, so if you switch to a new sequence half‑way through a bar, the old sequence will stop as the new one starts.

Naturally, you can mix sequences together if you want to and you can also use key velocity to determine how loud a sequence should play. You can select trigger modes (just as you would with a sampler) so that sequences stop and start again from the beginning when the key is released and then re‑pressed. You can also choose one‑shot or gate triggering, and you can specify whether or not a sequence loops when it reaches the end. To help keep the timing tight, you can decide whether to quantise the start time of sequences or not, and you can even programme in a delay just as you can with conventional sequences.

And There's More...

Not every change you make to a song is an improvement, but if you haven't consciously saved your earlier versions, you may have no way of going back. To get around this, Logic now has the option to create automatic backups of earlier versions, and depending on how much disk space you have free, you can choose from one backup to 100. Having the last 100 saved versions of your song might seem excessive, but if you're working on a major project, I can see where it might come in handy. Most users will probably opt for around three backups versions.


Logic 2.5's new manual provides a good introduction to the concept of using computers to produce musical scores, and it also tells how musical scores are, in effect, quantised representations of how the music was really played — real players seldom play exactly on the beat or play notes that are exact multiples of one sixteenth of a bar in length. In Logic 2.5, the score isn't just a representation of what you've played but a fully interactive part of the editing system — if you play in via MIDI, you see the score, but by the same token, if you edit the score then the MIDI data is changed too. Like other leading sequencers, Logic's music notation system has become very sophisticated and is capable of producing very respectable printed scores from a laser or inkjet printer. However, because a computer may occasionally translate what you played rather too literally, some musical skill is required to tidy up the finished scores so that they say exactly what you want them to say. In addition to multi‑part scores, you can now also add guitar chords, lyrics, and cryptic Latin comments — for that really professional touch.

Each version sees a couple of new features added plus a little fine‑tuning of the existing features, and in version 2.5, it's now possible to disable automatic key signature transposition so that when you transpose, the key signature does not change. The space below a single stave or the bottom stave of a score can now be edited by simply dragging a line, while a new Functions sub‑menu provides instant access to commands such as Note Overlap Correction and Force Legato. New commands enable the top and bottom musical lines of a polyphonic part to be mapped to new MIDI channels. Text, Chord boxes and Tempo Events can be moved directly using the layout tool and, apparently, those who have been asking for an Undo function after inserting objects from the Score partbox have now had their prayers answered.

V2.5 Summary

Logic 2.5 is largely good news, with most of the new stuff being in the form of operating refinements rather than flashy new effects or MIDI pyrotechnics. The ability to specify your choice of edit page when double‑clicking a sequence is the one thing that will make my sequencing life a lot easier, as is the better behaved operation of the Matrix page when hopping from one sequence to another. Hyper Draw is also quite wonderful. Of course there are things I would still like to see, and because I know the guys back at Emagic will read this, I'm going to take this opportunity of listing them.

I Wish...

First off, to be environmentally‑friendly, we are told we have to consume less, so why is it that Logic's Environment page takes up about the same memory as a respectable computer came loaded with just a decade ago? My Environment would be hard‑pushed to fit into a Commodore 64's entire memory, and every time you save a song, you save a copy of the Environment with it. With the new auto‑backup facility, this has serious implications for disk space. As most people use the same Environment for many different songs, how about including an 'Alias Environment' option so that you can use a single Alias Environment (or maybe more than one, if need be) for all your work? There'd obviously then need to be an option to make the Alias Environment real, if you ever needed to transfer the file to a different system.

I don't know what can be done to help MIDI guitarists, but there are a few of us still struggling on, and I'm sure there are some things that could be done in software to make the operation simpler and more reliable. For example, guitar synths like a Pitch Bend range of 12 whereas keyboard players tend to use 2 or 3 most of the time. So how about a MIDI Guitar Instrument that automatically sets up the parameters on the receiving synths when you select it, and then returns them to normal when you quit the program?

Other 'nice things to have' would be some way of locking the song start position, so that it doesn't accidentally get moved when you draw in your loop points. And maybe some nice custom buttons on the Environment page to let you hop from layer to layer, without having to use the menu. Talking of customising... why no colour on the Instrument icons on the Arrange page? It would also be fun to be able to import freebie folder icons from magazine cover disks to use as Instrument icons. At the very least, can we please have some means of removing Instrument icons we know we'll never use from the list, so that we don't have to scroll through zillions of them every time we want to define a new Instrument?

Then again, I guess if Logic had all these things, there'd be nothing to look forward to in the next update! Talking of which, I can't wait to give Logic 2.5 Audio a spin — it's due out 'soon'.

Moving Platforms?

For anyone contemplating a change of computer platform, the good news is that Logic can now read old Creator/Notator files more effectively. It can also now read Cubase files saved in Song or Arrangement formats.

Those moving between Atari/PCs and Macs will need a PC Exchange or Access PC type of utility program in order to read the disks, but the operation is otherwise pretty painless. Notator/Creator users will also need to create a tempo map before exporting their files, if their song contains any tempo changes.

Hyper Draw

The changes to the Matrix window are really improvements to what already existed, but one brand new feature is Hyper Draw. This allows you to create and edit Controller data on the main Arrange screen simply by dragging points on a line, rather as you might do with a software synth editor when adjusting the envelopes. It's also very similar to the way level and pan data can be 'drawn' into programs like Digidesign's Sound Tools. A drop‑down menu lets you decide what type of data to create for any selected sequence, then you simply use the Zoom functions to make the Sequence box deep enough to work in. The lower part of the sequence window turns into a blue screen with a straight line in it, and clicking the line at any point adds a line point which can then be dragged with the mouse.

Deleting a point is achieved by clicking it, and unwanted data can be evicted by using Select Similar Events in the Edit List window and then hitting backspace, or by redrawing a flat line in Hyper Draw. A reset button allowing you to do this directly from the Hyper Draw workscreen would be slightly more convenient, but the feature itself is great and lets you draw in things like fades and pans much more effectively than you can in the Hyper Edit window. The use of colour is supported, so that different colours can be assigned to different Controller types, and additional key commands are available for those who feel secure enough to let go of their mouse occasionally!


  • Practical new operating facilities rather than gratuitous tricks.
  • Excellent (though long‑awaited) new manual.
  • Hyper Draw incredibly useful.
  • Very stable.


  • Song file size is starting to get out of hand!
  • Still not enough use of colour.


This program just keeps getting better! (But don't let Emagic grow complacent — keep writing to them about the things that bug you.)