There's a step‑by‑step guide to creating Groove Templates this month, plus the usual collection of handy tips, including some pointers on making the most of Aliases.
If you're not the world's best keyboard player, getting natural‑sounding MIDI parts can be a challenge. While it's easy to tidy up parts using Logic's basic quantisation and velocity‑manipulation tools, such corrective measures can also iron the life out of a performance. Fortunately, Logic also has some more advanced tools, called Groove Templates, which you can use to tidy up clumsy performances while retaining a natural feel.
A Groove Template can be derived from any MIDI object in the Arrange window which contains MIDI notes. By quantising your sequences to the positions of these notes, rather than to a rigid metric grid, you can correct messy playing while retaining a convincing rhythmic groove. And that's only the start of what you can do. You can also force the note velocities within your MIDI sequence to those of the Groove Template MIDI object, which allows you to make dynamics more consistent, while still sounding natural.
Let's create a basic Groove Template. Make a new MIDI track in your Arrange window, and draw a one‑bar MIDI object into it using the Pencil tool. By default it ought only to last one bar. For the sake of discussion, I'll call this object GrooveBar. Open up the Matrix Edit window for GrooveBar, and create a MIDI note on every beat division used in your song. In Figure 1 you can see how I have done this for a song where the four‑beat bar has eighth‑note triplets as its smallest divisions. Though it doesn't really matter which notes you use, it helps to make a pattern of notes which repeats every beat, simply as a visual aid. Now tell Logic that GrooveBar is to be used as a Groove Template, by choosing Make Groove Template from the Groove Templates submenu of the Options menu.
The next thing to do is to apply the Groove Template to your choice of MIDI performance — lets assume for the moment that this is a sequenced drum part in a MIDI object called TargetDrums. Having highlighted TargetDrums in the Arrange window, open the Extended Sequence Parameters from the Options menu. You should get the window shown in Figure 2. Pull down the menu for the Qua field, and select the entry for GrooveBar, which should appear at the bottom, as shown in Figure 3. The note timings within every one of TargetDrums' bars will now have been forced to match those within GrooveBar's single bar. You can confirm this by examining TargetDrums' contents in the Matrix Edit window.
Now comes the powerful bit of the process. Open up the Matrix Edit window for GrooveBar and, with the song playing, shift the timing of any of GrooveBar's MIDI notes. The Groove Template will update in real time, and you will hear a change in TargetDrums' performance. You'll probably get the best results with only subtle timing changes, so use the relevant modifier keys to edit GrooveBar's notes with the finest possible resolution. If you wish to decrease the overall effect of the Groove Template on the MIDI performance, reduce the Q‑Strength in TargetDrums' Extended Parameters.
Groove timing is a bit of a black art, so it's worth spending time experimenting for the best results. Simon Millward's SOS July 2001 feature deals with the subject in detail, if you feel you could use a few expert tips. However, as a starting point, try out the following general‑purpose trick, which I find useful for giving a nice laid‑back feel. Leaving the note on the first beat division unchanged, delay all the other notes within GrooveBar in proportion to how unstressed they are — shift the main beats only a little, and the offbeats more. The Event List window in Figure 4 shows how I did this.
While changing the timing of MIDI notes can help to enhance their groove, this is only the start of what you can do with Groove Templates. As I mentioned earlier, you can also change note velocities to get even more musical results. To enable the velocities of GrooveBar's notes to control those in TargetDrums, update the Q‑Veloc field in TargetDrums' Extended Parameters — for the moment set the value to 100 percent.
Now to experiment with GrooveBar's note velocities in the Matrix Edit window. The easiest way to do this is to select the Velocity tool, as shown in Figure 5. This lets you alter velocities by clicking and dragging on the notes, while leaving all timing values alone. However, I like to use a different method, because I find it difficult to tell, merely from glancing and the note colours, what exact velocity values are set.
I prefer to open up Hyper Draw in the Matrix Edit window, so that I have graphical control over both note positions and velocities, using only the Pointer tool. You can open the Hyper Draw display from the Matrix Edit window's View menu — choose Note Velocity in the submenu. This will bring up a blue panel below the piano‑roll display, as in Figure 6, with little red lines representing the velocities of each of the MIDI notes. You may have to resize the Matrix Edit window to get both the notes and the Hyper Draw data visible at once. You can alter the size of the Hyper Draw region by dragging the boundary indicated in Figure 7.
You can grab any of the red velocity lines by its left‑hand edge, dragging it vertically to change the velocity value. This setup is great for fine‑tuning the Groove Template, the only drawback being that you can only alter the note velocities in this way a note at a time, so if you want to lighten a group of notes together you'll still need to use the Velocity tool.
So what sort of velocity changes are best to make? Once again, it's a case of 'suck it and see' really, though Simon Millward's groove quantising article gives useful pointers in this regard as well. If you tried the 'laid‑back groove' trick I mentioned above, you can make the effect more musical by lowering the velocity of unstressed notes — this is what I've done in Figure 6. However, your music might want a completely different effect, so take the time to try out several different ways of setting up GrooveBar's velocities. You could always create different versions of GrooveBar and make new templates from each to allow easy comparison of different velocity contours.
There are two ways in which Logic can copy MIDI objects in the Arrange window. If you drag and drop the object holding the Mac's Alt key (or the PC's Ctrl key) you'll get a completely independent new MIDI object, the contents of which can be edited freely. On the other hand, if you also hold the Shift key while dragging a copy, you create what is called an Alias. This looks like the source MIDI object, except that the name is italicised, but it contains no new MIDI data. It is simply used to replay the original object's sequence data on a different track, or at a different time position in the song.
The most useful aspect of Aliases is that they change whenever the source MIDI object is changed, and this makes them useful in a variety of ways. First off, they're well suited for loop‑based composition, allowing you to edit the contents of recurring MIDI phrases while retaining exact control over the placement of each repetition.
Aliases are also great when you want to try out layering sounds from different MIDI sound modules. Create new tracks for each of the MIDI instruments you want to layer, and copy aliases of a single MIDI part onto them. This way you can easily change the musical line as you experiment with your arrangement, while still being able to tweak individual track Parameters. Delay allows you to compensate for the various processing delays of different sound modules; Velocity and Dynamics allow you to scale the volumes and timbres of the different layers; and Transpose lets you double a line at any interval — useful when reinforcing bass sounds with a sub‑bass tone, for instance.
Staggering the Aliases can also create some fun delay‑type effects where the sound changes with each delay. Even if you only use one sound for all the delays, you can still get creative with the relative timings of the objects. And, of course, the playback Parameters can be different for each track as well, providing further scope for experimentation. Mike Senior
One useful little trick for making the most of the polyphony of your MIDI sound module is to remove any overlapping notes in your MIDI lines. Logic makes this easy to do. Select all the notes in a given MIDI object within the Matrix Edit window and then click on Note Overlap Correction (Selected/Selected) from the Note Events submenu of the Functions menu. Mike Senior
If you read Craig Anderton's workshop on matching the phase of mic and DI signals (SOS July 2001) you'll be interested to know that Logic has a built‑in high‑resolution delay line, in the form of the Sample Delay plug‑in. This provides up to 4000 samples of delay (less than a tenth of a second) and is perfect for manual time alignment. Sam Inglis
Although the default view in the Score window shows the notation against an Arrange window‑style time position bar, I prefer to see the notation laid out as it would be on the printed page — that way I don't need to do so much scrolling around. To switch to this view, click on the last of the five round buttons which reside under the menu bar. Mike Senior
- PC: Logic Audio Platinum v4.7.2.
- Mac: Logic Audio Platinum v4.7.3.