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Logic Tips & Techniques
By Dot Bustelo

Need to give your productions a shot in the arm? Here are 10 ways to make a beat in Logic Pro X.

Logic's earliest adopters often praised the software for the way it 'grooves'. Many of the early editing and quantisation techniques that made it so popular are as valid today as ever, but Apple have steadily introduced more tools that evolve the beat‑making tradition. So, here is a compilation of 10 favourite techniques for making beats with MIDI and audio samples.

Time‑stretch: Time‑stretching MIDI is easy in Logic Pro X. Hold the Option key then hover in the lower-right corner of a region until the playhead turns into a bracket‑shaped tool. Then click and drag to the left to time‑compress, or to the right to expand. Try starting with a simple two‑bar 8th-note hi-hat pattern copied three times and time‑compress bars seven and eight in half to one bar in length to create a double‑time feel. You'll instantly build the groove or create an easy fill, making it sound like the drummer got busy at the end of a section. It wasn't always the case, but this also works with audio regions.Separating MIDI Events By Note Pitch can really help your arrangement.

Separating MIDI drum voices: A practical technique while programming a beat is to separate out the voices of the drum performance to individual tracks in order to build the arrangement within a section (verse or chorus, for example). You might record the kick, snare and hi-hat together because that's how you hear the groove, but then want the drum voices separated to build or break down the arrangement. Doing this is easy:

  • Highlight the region, select the Edit menu, and 'Separate MIDI Events'.
  • Choose 'by Note Pitch' from the submenu. The kick, snare and hi-hat are split onto separate tracks as independent regions since drum voices fall on different note pitches.
  • Playing with the arrangement immediately becomes easier. For example, slide the snare region from bar one to bar three so it makes its entrance two bars after the kick.

Drummer tricks: Create a Drummer track and automatically generate performances that conform to your project. Here are a few tricks for 'maximising' virtual drummers:

  • Cut a Drummer region in half to instantly add unique complexity to the performance.
  • Try making a few moves in the X-Y pad or with the fills knob in both regions. Drummer automatically creates a 'human' performance connecting the two drum regions.
  • Switch out the instrument from the default Drum Kit Designer to Ultrabeat, Battery, Machine, et cetera, to apply Drummer's intelligence to your favourite drum sounds.

Slicing samples on the grid: Slice up an audio drum loop on the beat grid to create variations in the groove with the option‑scissors tool combination, trying out these techniques:

  • Cut into the beat with the scissors tool to cut the region wherever you make the incision, but try holding down the Option key while you do it — then wherever you place the scissors tool within the region, equal slices of the same duration will be created.
  • Cut on the first 8th note while holding down Option, and a one‑bar region is sliced into eight equal slices.
  • Mute, copy or rearrange the slices for a natural build or breakdown. It can be helpful to colour slices of the beat so as to remember what's what.

Slicing on the transients: AOnce you've 'flexed' you can get really creative by slicing your beats on transients, rather than on the grid! variation on the above involves slicing your beat by transients instead of on a beat grid. This only works after you flex the audio. Once you've done this, control‑click on the region header — the thin area on top of the region where the region name is located — and select 'Slice at Transient Markers'. Now you can easily mute or cut between transients to create breakdowns in the groove, or even pull out musical elements to create a 'B' section. This works well when you want to bring in and out distinct musical elements in the audio, such as trumpets or sound effects.

Stuttering EDM Samples in Ultrabeat: Create glitchy effects for vocals, drums, synths or sound effects inside Ultrabeat's step grid. The rhythmic possibilities afforded by the step grid make it ideal for experimenting with samples.Using Copy (Voice & Seq) and Paste can help you create glitchy stutter effects.

  • Select Oscillator 2 and switch the oscillator's sound source from 'Phase Oscillator' to 'Sample'.
  • Click the top of the sample editor to load a sample or drag and drop into the sample window area. Use any vocal sample, either from the Loop Browser or from one of your projects.
  • Enable a pattern in the step grid and enter a few steps to trigger the sample.
  • Horizontally drag out a long step on step one or swipe across the numbers above the steps for fast repetitive triggers.
  • Drag the control element labelled 'MAX' to another portion of the sample. This triggers the sample from that point every time you play at maximum velocity. Enter a lower velocity to trigger the sample from an earlier point.
  • Control‑click next to the drum voice and select Copy (Voice & Seq) to copy the sample and sequence data.
  • Control‑click an unused drum voice and select the paste option to paste the voice and the sequence data.
  • For a bit of extra flavour, reverse the sample on the copied voice in Osc 2's sample window. Then pan the original and copied voice hard left and right in Ultrabeat's mixer. Finally, shift the second sequence to the right by Control‑clicking on the numbers in the step grid to access the drop-down menu and select 'Shift Right 1 Step' (see above right).

Stutter effects with Ultrabeat's side-chain:Stagger and stutter your samples in the step grid. You can make stutter effects with Ultrabeat's side-chain, using the drums to control the rhythm of a sample.

  • Create a new Ultrabeat instrument.
  • Set the output of a vocal on an audio track to Bus 1, then mute the auxiliary channel it automatically creates.
  • Set Ultrabeat's side-chain input to Bus 1 (upper right) and enable the step grid.
  • Oscillator 1 is where individual drum sounds can be assigned to the side-chain. Set a few of the drum voices to side-chain mode in Osc 1 to hear their rhythmic effect on the vocal.
  • Input steps in the step grid for individual drum voices or use factory patterns (bottom left).
  • Be sure to hit play in the Logic transport; you won't hear the stutter effect by hitting play in Ultrabeat's step sequencer with Logic stopped.

Beats & Pieces

Flex to lock the feel of two beats: Logic was always famous for its sophistication when quantising MIDI performances. Flex Audio lets you quantise audio with the same swing and feel, though the region parameter box does not automatically show quantise parameters for audio.

  • Find two beats of the same tempo that sound OK together, but could lock tighter in terms of 'feel'.
  • Enable Flex in the Toolbar on one beat so the Flex modes are visible on the track header.
  • Select a Flex mode so the transients are detected. Use 'Slicing' for drums.
  • The quantisation controls in the region parameter box are now available.
  • Apply the same flexing mode to the second beat then quantise it to the same value as the first.
  • Try throwing the two beats into a group to quickly hear different quantise values and swing percentages on both. (Be sure the Editing tickbox is selected in the Group Settings.) The two loops will often sound like one tight, original beat!

Flexing with special effects: Experiment with a few of the Flex algorithms (modes) for very creative beat-making results.

  • Firstly, in Tempophone mode, create an edgy mechanical sound by dragging apart the transients with the Flex markers. The beat speeds up and slows down creating glitchy pitch effects wherever you push or pull the markers.
  • Try increasing the Grain Size in the Instrument Parameter Box (inside the Inspector) for more dramatic pitch effect changes.
  • Also, try Speed Flex mode on a full instrumental music mix then option‑drag to the lower right-hand corner of the region to slow it down smoothly and musically. Try an extreme stretch of 16 bars on a four-bar loop for a seemingly new performance.

MIDI Transform: Here's a classic MIDI technique to humanise and solve problems in your beat.Use the 'Humanize' preset in the MIDI Transform window to randomise note position, velocity and length and create a 'feel' in the performance.

  • Play a steady hi-hat pattern, maybe straight 8th notes.
  • Select MIDI Transform from the Window menu or Piano Roll Editor / Functions.
  • There are two main sections to the Transform window indicated by shaded rectangles. The 'Select Events by Condition' area on top is where you choose the type of events you want to affect. The area below is 'Operations on Selected Events', with a diagram providing visual feedback for the operation. At the bottom (lower right), select to perform the operation.
  • Start with the 'Humanize' preset. Only note events are affected, indicated under the heading 'Status'. Three operations are selected: Randomize Note Position, Velocity and Length.
  • Perform the operation, listen, and re‑select until you're happy!

There are a couple of other interesting things you can try with MIDI Transform, though not necessarily for 'humanising' the feel of your beat. Fixed Note Length, for example, creates a tight quantised sound with matching note lengths, and Fixed Velocity evens out the velocities of a keyboard performance, and can be useful for synth bass lines.

Create your own Transform setting using the Presets menu with 'Create Initialized User Set.' After being prompted to rename the set, you'll see all possible event types at the top and all possible operations below. For example, select Note Data and randomise by three pitch steps. Select the tickbox to 'Hide Unused Parameters' and clean up the view. 

Published September 2014