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The Beat Is On

Logic Tips & Techniques
By Dot Bustelo

Nine more ways to kick off your productions in Logic Pro X.

Here’s the follow-up to last month’s feature on quick techniques for making beats in Logic. Let’s go!

Gating Effects with Slicing Flex Mode: Adjusting the parameters of the Slicing Flex Mode on a beat can quickly create a new section of your track. This Flex Mode cuts the audio and moves the slices around without any time-stretching. Try this:

  • Throw two audio beats into a group to make adjustments together.
  • Enable ‘Flex’ and select the ‘Slicing’ mode in the track header.
  • Experiment with Slice Length in the Instrument Parameter box. This parameter shortens each slice by a percentage value, which can eliminate pre-attack sounds from the following slice, or create a gated effect.
  • Try the Slice Length at 50 percent or 75 percent for a bouncy, pulsing beat.Adjust Slice Length on Slicing Flex Mode to create a  gated effect on a  beat.Adjust Slice Length on Slicing Flex Mode to create a gated effect on a beat.

Making an EXS instrument out of a beat: Turn any beat into an EXS instrument in one step for drum programming. Take any audio file of a beat with a kick, snare and hi-hat. In the Track menu, select ‘Convert Regions to New Sampler Track’ then ‘Create Zones from Transient Markers’ in the dialogue. Logic creates an EXS instrument on the track below with the individual drum voices assigned to different zones.

However, the resulting kit may be sloppy. Logic turns the areas between each detected transient into EXS24 zones and there’s no musical intelligence to the selection process. A tiny noise in the audio may get assigned to a zone, or maybe the kick was hit twice in a row in the beat. In the latter case, both hits become zones so the same drum sound is assigned to two consecutive notes.

This is how to clean up the transient detection before making the EXS instrument:

  • Select your audio file then open the File Editor.
  • Select Audio File / Detect Transients.
  • Click the +/- buttons to adjust the number of detected transients. The minus button thins out how many are detected, which solves a lot of the problems. The button labelled ‘Transient Editing Mode’ enables the transient view.
  • To preview between transients, double-click the area then select the speaker icon labelled ‘Prelisten’, or change the Command-click tool to ‘Solo’ in the File Editor’s tool menu and highlight between two transients while holding the Command key.
  • Double-click to remove unwanted detected transients, drag directly on a transient to change its position, or use the Pencil tool to draw new transients.
  • After tidying up, select ‘Convert Regions to New Sampler Track’ from the Track menu. You should now have a useful drum kit for additional programming.Clean up Logic’s transient detection before creating an EXS instrument from a  beat.Clean up Logic’s transient detection before creating an EXS instrument from a beat.

EXS instruments from regions and riffs: Here’s a great remix technique with a longer sample, maybe even a whole song.

  • Place an MP3 or WAV of a song on an audio track.
  • Add the BPM Counter plug-in from the Metering subfolder to find the tempo of the track. Adjust Logic’s tempo to it so the audio file is on the beat grid when you enable the metronome.
  • For this exercise, cut the track at bar nine to create an eight-bar region.
  • Move the playhead to bar two and select Option-Scissors to make eight equal one-bar regions. Now you’re ready to create the EXS instrument.
  • This time, in the Track menu after selecting ‘Convert Regions to New Sampler Track’, choose ‘Create Zones from Regions’ in the dialogue.
  • The EXS instrument is created on the track below. Hold down different keys to trigger the riffs you’ve isolated.

Beat Happy

Varispeed for fast tempo changes: Quickly experiment with the tempo of your beat with Varispeed. You can’t bounce a project with Varispeed and this feature is taxing on the CPU, but it’s a great way to try out different tempos.

  • Open a project containing audio and MIDI files.
  • In the control bar, enable the Varispeed button (with the plus/minus symbol). If you don’t see Varispeed in the control bar, click-hold in the control bar to enable Customize Control Bar and Display. In the dialogue’s LCD column, switch the pop-up menu to Custom and enable Varispeed.
  • Click-hold the field labelled ‘Percentage’ in the LCD display to see the desired tempo.
  • Change the Varispeed tempo and Logic’s tempo will update. You can adjust between 50 percent to 200 percent of the original tempo.
  • Toggle Varispeed on and off to listen back at the original tempo.Adjusting Varispeed view to tempo rather than percentage.Adjusting Varispeed view to tempo rather than percentage.

Project Tempo change with Flexing: If you simply change Logic’s tempo, the audio in your project will be out of time. Flex all your audio tracks first, then easily experiment with the tempo of your beat until it feels ‘in the pocket’.

  • In the Mixer, click hold and drag across all audio track faders to highlight them, then place them in a group by click-holding in the black pane on any track’s channel strip.
  • In the Group settings menu, make sure ‘Editing’ is ticked.
  • Enable Flex Mode in the Toolbar.
  • Select any Flex Mode on an individual track, which will be applied to all tracks since they’re grouped.
  • Adjust Logic’s tempo and all tracks will play back in time and can be bounced or exported at whichever tempo works best for the beat.

Making Groove Templates: The Groove Template is one of the main reasons early Logic users became such fans. You can create a Groove Template using any audio or MIDI performance file, and then quantise other tracks to it for the same feel.

  • Create a project with some MIDI tracks such as drums, keys and bass. Play a short, groovy piano riff.
  • Highlight the MIDI region of the piano riff. In the Region Parameter box select ‘Make Groove Template’ at the bottom of the Quantize menu.
  • You’ll see a quantise setting in the menu with the region name. You can then quantise any other MIDI or flexed audio tracks to its exact feel.
  • To change the name in the Quantize list, control-click on the region and scroll to ‘Name and Color / Rename Regions’. This works even after you’ve created the groove template. The name will update.

You can also make Groove Templates from audio files if you Flex the audio first. Once you’ve done this, the same ‘Make Groove Template’ command is available in the Quantize menu. These templates live as MIDI files within a song. There is unfortunately no folder on your hard drive where you can point to your Groove Templates. What you can do is save the song containing the Groove Templates as a Song Template (File menu / Save as Template). Pack the MIDI files into a folder and mute and hide them so you don’t have a messy empty project. Any time you start a new track from that project template, you’ll have those Groove Templates available to you.

I Like The Way You Groove

The Groove Track: The Groove Track allows tracks to follow the timing nuances of an entire performance. Even a Drummer performance with all its fills can be used. This lends itself well to a live band, but also provides amazing groove possibilities for electronic producers.

  • Control-click on any track header.
  • Click Configure Track Header and enable Groove Track.
  • On the left side of the track header of any track, hover your mouse over the Track Number.
  • Click the star that appears in a narrow rectangle. This will become your Groove Track.
  • Select which tracks in the project match the timing by ticking the ‘Match Groove Track’ tickbox, which is also in that narrow rectangle now visible on the track header of the other tracks.
  • Give Logic a minute to analyse and apply the Groove Track to any matched tracks.

Keep in mind there can only be one Groove Track per project, and any other quantisation using the Region Parameter box or Piano Roll Editor are unavailable for any track matched to the Groove Track.Logic04

Fatten a beat with drum doubling: This is good for live drum performances that have a great feel but need help sonically.

  • Highlight a kick drum audio track in the Main Window.
  • Select ‘Replace or Double Drum Track’ from the Track menu.
  • Logic creates an EXS24 sampler instrument beneath, detects the transients of the drum hits and creates a MIDI performance on the EXS track.
  • The Library opens, defaulting to Single Drums, specifically a bunch of kicks. In the dialogue, you can switch to another type of ‘single’ drum or select Replace, rather than Doubling.
  • Preview the different kick sounds then make a selection.
  • Experiment with the Threshold to control how sensitive Logic is when determining which hits to create note triggers for. The setting depends on the relative level of the recorded drum and how well it is isolated from other signal sources.

Advanced quantisation: Logic’s Region Parameter box is one of the best collections of quantise tools for subtle fine-tuning of your groove. Here are a few favourites:

Swing letters A-F are Logic’s classic swing options taken from the Akai MPC60 drum machine. The Delay parameter (under the heading, ‘More’) is like telling someone in your band, “Love what you’re doing, but can you play a little behind the beat and a little sloppier?” This delay can be as subtle as a tick. Also, try doubling a keyboard part and delaying the copy by a larger value like a 1/16th or 1/8th note.

Q-Strength softens the quantising so it’s less machine-like. At the default of 100 percent, which is displayed as a blank box, notes are moved to exactly the correct timing. With a 50 percent setting, recorded events are moved half way to the correct position. Try a Q-strength of 90 percent for a subtle, laid-back feel.

Published October 2014