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Customising Multi Instruments

Logic Notes By Paul White
Published December 2000

Paul White looks at how to customise Multi Instruments for a faster and more creative sequencing experience.

The Multi Instrument within Logic's Environment is designed for addressing the different parts within multitimbral sound modules. Having a central command base for controlling such tone generators can avoid confusion within the Environment window, but there are also other reasons why the Multi Instrument Object can save time when sequencing.

One of the major advantages of working with these Objects is that they allow you to select between different sound‑module patches directly from the comfort of the Arrange window. What really makes this useful, however, is that you can customise different Multi Instrument Objects for working with different sound modules.

Cool Customiser

When a new Multi Instrument is created it shows a four‑by‑four matrix of boxes, each of which represents one of the 16 different MIDI channels addressed. The patch assigned to any given channel within your sound module can be changed by tweaking the Prg fields in the Parameters box — you may need to make sure that Parameters is selected in the View menu, and that the box to the right of the 'Prg' is checked.

However, by default Logic refers to the different programs either numerically or in terms of GM assignments, and if this was the only viewing option then you'd often have to have your synth patch lists open in front of you — hardly ideal! Fortunately, it's easy to insert the names of patches into each individual Multi Instrument Object yourself, simply by double‑clicking on any of the Object's 16 channel buttons to bring up a patch list. Though this list will initially be filled according to the default setting, the names assigned to any of the program numbers can be edited by double‑clicking on them, allowing you to enter the patch names from your sound module. A pull‑down menu allow you to create new banks and to switch between them as appropriate for the module in question.

Although the ability to call up sounds by their names (rather than by number) was one of the things that attracted me to Logic in the first place, the software can't directly read patch names from your synths. Luckily, particularly for owners of sound modules such as the Oberheim Matrix 1000, this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to type hundreds of patch names into the sequencer by hand. Pre‑programmed Multi Instrument Objects are available for many popular sound modules (and even for their expansion cards), either within the support files that come with the Logic install disks or on the Emagic web site. These template Objects are stored within otherwise empty Logic songs. Logic can open two songs at once, so all you need to do is use the conventional keyboard commands to cut, copy and paste the Objects from the dummy song into your own.

Another time‑saver when configuring patch names is the text‑tools menu, which can be accessed from the triangle at the top right of the patch‑list window. This allows you to copy all the text from a given bank so that you can paste it into a different one, perhaps within a completely different Multi Instrument Object. This is useful with modules like the Roland JV2080, where not every user has the same expander loaded into the same slots.

Too Many Cooks?

If you have a variety of sound modules, each with its own Multi Instrument Object, there will probably be a tendency for the Instrument list (as accessed, for example, from each track within the Arrange window) to become a very confusing place. The situation can be improved straight away, simply by making sure that you name each Object meaningfully — 'Object 1', 'Object 2' and 'Object 3' are much more likely to be confused than 'JV1080', 'Supernova' and 'Proteus', for example. Colouring each Object differently can also help to differentiate between the different Multi Instruments in your system. One other trick is to select different icons for the different Objects, or even for the different channels within each Multi Instrument. Simply click over the Object icon (or over the MIDI channel's icon in the Parameters) and take your pick.

A number of sound modules, particularly older models, offer less than 16‑part multitimbrality. In such cases, not all the channels of a Multi Instrument Object will be required, so it is worth removing the icons for these unused channels from the Instruments list — just uncheck the box to the left of the icon in the Parameters.

Though Multi Instruments allow lists of patch names to be built, Single Instruments do not, so there is still a good reason to create Multi Instruments within the Environment even for tone generators which are only monotimbral. Once again, it's worth switching off all the MIDI channels which are not required, in order to keep the Instruments list free from clutter.

You Can't Bank On It

Though most manufacturers appear to agree on the implementation of MIDI Program Change messages, sadly there is not nearly the same conformity regarding bank selection. In a fair and just world, every instrument would obey the same MIDI Bank Change messages, but this is not the case. However, Logic helps you to get around this by providing a pull‑down menu within the patch‑list window which allows you to set the type of Bank Change message used for each Multi Instrument Object.

The preset options provided cover most eventualities — even the Matrix 1000, which seems to require you to select a patch number of between 120 and 128 while turning the mod wheel with your left ear, or some similar lunacy... However, at the top of the drop‑down menu there's an entry allowing you to set a custom Bank Change message, just in case you've acquired something seriously weird!

Drumming It In

If you regularly use a GM setup, then you'll be aware that the GM standard specifies that drum tracks occur on MIDI channel 10, and that their patch list differs from that of the other channels. Normally, only one patch list is available to each Multi Instrument Object, but in this special case Logic allows you also to access the GM‑standard drum patch list on channel 10 if you want, by checking the box at the bottom of the patch list window.

At the moment, however, there doesn't seem to be any way to customise drum bank names further, or to select drum channels other than 10, but there is a workaround, which could prove very useful for people with Yamaha XG or Roland GS sound modules. Firstly, disable the Multi Instrument channel on which you wish to address your drum patches. Then create a second Multi Instrument (named something imaginative, like 'drums') with only the drum channel enabled, and route this Object to the same MIDI port. Uncheck the 'Use GM Drum Program Names for Channel 10' box and type in the actual names of the drum programs into the patch list for the second Multi Instrument. All that you have to do then is select the second Object within the Arrange Window for any drum tracks and select the first Object for accessing any other sounds.

Go Your Own Way

Though it might take a little extra effort to customise the Multi Instrument Objects within your environment to suit the MIDI gear you use, the rewards are definitely worth this small initial effort. What's more, with so many template Objects now available, there is little excuse to delay in taking advantage of Logic's ability to integrate your entire MIDI system. After all, the faster your system can respond, the less likely it is to get in the way when inspiration strikes!

Accurate Timing: Priority Treatment

Timing is obviously something that many Logic users are especially concerned with. However, the MIDI protocol itself limits how tight the timing of a sequencer can be, and so many manufacturers have sought to integrate virtual instruments into the sequencer in order to bypass these restrictions. Emagic's EXS24 sampler is one example of such an instrument, but how accurate is it in practice, particularly if your Logic system is already hard‑pressed with running multiple audio tracks and plug‑ins? SOS contacted Emagic's distributors in the UK, Sound Technology (+44 (0)1462 480000), and Marketing Manager Ian Cullen kindly offered to assist us in putting a system to the test.

Ian Cullen: "Professional users of the EXS24 software sampler have been telling us that its timing in conjunction with Logic Audio is beyond anything experienced with hardware samplers via MIDI, so we decided to set up some tests to demonstrate this timing accuracy. On a Mac G4 with a single 400MHz processor, an EXS24 was loaded with two samples of the same kick drum. One sample was inverted and assigned to note C3, the other assigned to D3. Both samples were then programmed to play at exactly the same time and, as expected, total phase cancellation occurred (in other words, no sound was heard), showing the timing of the sampler to be sample‑accurate. Total phase cancellation was maintained even when choosing ridiculously slow tempos (10bpm) and ridiculously fast tempos (999bpm). If either of the samples were delayed by even just one Logic tick (there are 960 ticks per quarter note), phase cancellation ceased to be complete and a kick drum could be heard.

"We then carried out the same test, but this time in a song containing 16 tracks of audio, five other EXS24 samplers and another six MIDI tracks addressing an external synth. Audio plug‑ins were added until the system performance monitor was reading almost maximum. The system performance monitor shows how much demand is being placed on the computer's processor — if the monitor hits maximum Logic stops playback and displays a 'System Overload' message as the computer's processor reaches its capacity. A total of 30 Emagic plug‑ins, including 12 PlatinumVerb reverbs, were applied. Even with this amount of demand on the processor the kick drums remained in total phase cancellation. Again, shifting one of the samples by even one tick made the kick drum audible.

"We even tried this test with 16 samplers simultaneously, alongside 12 PlatinumVerb reverbs, and once again we reached system overload before the phase cancellation failed. Tests such as these work using all versions of Logic, from MicroLogic AV to Logic Audio Platinum, and they show that timing functions are a top priority within the Emagic sequencers — the maximum processing capacity of the computer has to be reached before Logic's timing accuracy is compromised."

All Tooled Up

Many actions within Logic rely on having the correct tool selected, and many users are continually changing tools. As selecting tools is such a basic task, it is easy to do it only in the most obvious way — making sure that Toolbox is selected in the View menu and then clicking on the palette within the active window. However, there are some easy ways to speed this process up, and even a small increase in effeciency with such a common procedure will save you a lot of time in the long run! Note that the following procedures are shown for the Mac version, with the PC equivalents in square brackets.

If you find yourself alternating frequently between two different tools then select one of them while holding down the Command key [right mouse button] to define it as your 'alternate tool'. From then on, it can be accessed simply by holding down this key again. For example, if you were tracking and you wanted to access both the Pointer tool (for manipulating audio) and the Text tool (for naming newly created regions, tracks and objects), then simply select the Pointer tool first and then select the Text tool as the alternate tool. This will then be quickly available whenever you need it.

If you find yourself switching between a larger variety of tools frequently, then you may find it useful to call up a pop‑up tool palette from wherever you're working in the screen — by default this function is assigned to the Esc and Num Lock keys [the same on the PC], but you can reassign it to whichever key you like using the Key Commands window. What's more, once this palette has been summoned, the numeric keys then serve to select from the tools without you even having to click on them — this can really speed things up when used in conjunction with the Num Lock key.

Given that zooming in is one of the most common actions, here's a neat little trick which leads you straight to the Zoom tool. Although holding down the Ctrl key [Alt key] doesn't seem to change the tool selection — the cursor icon remains showing the current tool selection — the moment you click on an empty section of the arrange window and drag, the cursor shows the Zoom‑tool icon and you find yourself selecting the area to zoom in on. Once you've zoomed in the view to have a look around, you can retrace your steps back to the viewing scale you started at by simply holding the Ctrl key again and clicking without dragging.

This trick also works just as well within other windows such as the Matrix and Sample editor windows. In the Sample editor, there is also a further similar trick, this time with the Alt key [Strg key] — hold it down and the cursor transforms into the Hand tool whenever you click or drag. Mike Senior

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