Introducing to you the final installment of my Logic Pro mini-tutorial series, taking a look at some of the advanced features within this powerful DAW.
You may also be interested to check out these other articles in this series:
1. Introduction and Contents
2. Recording Audio
4. Pitch Correction
- Recording Audio
Recording audio is not quite the same as recording MIDI, although the process of recording audio in Logic has been vastly simplified over the years, thanks to the way that audio is handled both within the application and also within the file hierarchy of the Mac OS.
To start with, I will assume that you have an audio interface (with a microphone) connected to your Mac and that you have created a song with at least one audio track available, which you will now need to select. Next you should record ‘arm’ your track by clicking on the little ‘R’ (fig. 1) button on the track list, which should start flashing red. If you then sing or play into the microphone, you should now see the level going into Logic on the ‘VU’ metering of the channel strip.
Fig. 1 - Logic Pro 'Record Arm' button.
An important point to make, is that for a successful recording to be achieved, you must first plug in your microphone (or directly input your instrument, if you are recording a guitar or bass) into your audio interface and then adjust your levels to suit your performance style via the trim controls on your audio interface. Many people make the mistake of just talking into a mic to get a level, but you will probably find that when you start singing, you are twice as loud, so set your levels by playing or singing as you intend to do for your track.
Once you have set your levels, have a rehearsal by pressing 'Play' and practicing what you are about to record. This will also allow you to see if your level is peaking. The metering display (fig. 2) shows a number that displays how much headroom you have before the signal peaks, so make sure the signal isn’t peaking! If the signal is peaking then the number will be displayed in a red box. However, you should also make sure that the level isn't too low either! You need to have a reasonable signal of at least 50-75% on the signal meter for best results later on.
Fig. 2 - Logic Pro metering display.
Once you are happy, hit the main 'Record' button (in the transport bar) and you are away! You can also hit 'Record' from a point half way through the song and just record a small part of your performance.
Logic will store the audio files that you are recording in the Logic Project folder, which is created automatically when you save the song for the first time. If you want to delete or move files later, do this from within the Logic ‘Audio Bin’ (fig. 3), rather than the Mac OS. It’ll help Logic keep on top of where your files are and what you want to do with them.
Fig. 3 - Logic Pro Audio Bin.
Compiling takes, or ‘comping’ as we call it, is the process of making one recording after another, of the same part or track so that you can decide later which one you want to keep, or so that you can edit different recordings together to form the best take. Logic has the facility to comp takes very easily and then allow you to view each one and seamlessly join them together.
In order to achieve this, you need to make your first recording. If there are elements of the first take that you don’t like, re-record the sections that you think can be improved and you should see your recording ‘drop down’ in front of you, revealing the 2 takes you have recorded, but they should both be routed to a single track.
Now you can drag across the area that you would like to hear, swapping from one take to the next completely seamlessly and best of all, Logic will automatically put cross fades in place as you switch between takes, so you will get no glitching problems! fig. 4 shows 2 recordings with sections used from both takes.
Fig. 4 - Comping in Logic Pro.
It’s important to consider the implications of this process. There was a time when this form of comping was more difficult to achieve and some artists still aspire to try and get that ‘perfect take’, but in this tech-fuelled world of pop, you will often hear hundreds of edits from one take to another... sometimes even every syllable in a vocal line could be from a different take!
For me, by far the most important point is to always strive to get your absolute best performance. Don’t rush it! Once your work is ‘out there’ there’s no pulling it back and do you really want that dodgy take all over the internet?
4. Pitch Correction
Some years ago now, Cher sang a song called ‘Believe’ which had a curious vocal effect on it, which started a mad craze, with seemingly everyone wanting to emulate it! This sound was actually created using an Autotune device from Antares and a Vocoder pedal made by Digitech! Since then, Autotune has become a verb and as a product it has been used by most artists at one time or another, sometimes very subtly to fix tuning on the odd note and other times set ‘to the max’, to stylistically get the right sound, such as in modern R’n’B and Hip Hop. Either way, the process of using it is the same, it’s merely the amount you deploy it!
Essentially, Autotune can add a quick fix to tuning problems within a track, and thanks to Apple, a similar device to Antares Autotune is part of Logic as standard.
Firstly you’ll need to plug it in on a track with an existing vocal or performance, which must be a single monophonic line - no chords (it doesn’t work on chords.... yet!). You’ll find ‘Pitch Correction’ lurking in the ‘Pitch’ folder of your plug-in FX. Once the plug-in has loaded, you’ll need to decide whether the track is High or Low in pitch. For a female vocal, this would usually be high and for a male vocal, predictably low... then click the appropriate setting on the left of the plug-in window (fig. 5).
Fig. 5 - Logic Pro Pitch Correction plug-in.
Now you need to set your scale type. If you know which key your song is in then set the ‘Root’ note (i.e. if you are playing in E Major, the root note would be E) and also set which scale it is in. Alternatively, you can also select ‘Chromatic’, which essentially means that each note will be tuned to the nearest semi-tone. This can work quite well, but you can also switch notes on or off, to make the pitch correction more appropriate to your requirements. Listen to your track with the correction applied and if required click on the notes you wish to remove from, or even add to, the scale. The notes that aren’t in use become less bright on screen, so you can essentially build your own scale or tuning template.
For that infamous R’n’B vocal effect, decrease the timing control to its minimum setting (0ms) and all your notes will be quickly tuned to give you that Kanye West vs Cher vocal sound.
Before automated mixing consoles and computers became the norm in recording studios, it would be a real case of ‘all hands on deck’ during a mix. It was very common for several pairs of hands to be required to push the faders up and down while the track was being mixed. Neve put an end to all that with the advent of the automated console and built into Logic you have the next level of automation.
The best way to think of automation is as an aid to mixing or for creating a specific FX change in real-time. Anything you can click on within the mixer section of Logic can be automated, so that means faders, stereo or surround pans, pots and any parameter on a plug-in, whether it be an instrument plug-in or an FX plug-in.
There are two ways of programming the elements you want to automate, so let’s start with the ‘click’ and ‘record your mouse movements’ approach.
On the channel strip, directly above the VU meter, you will see a section that probably reads ‘Off’. If you click and hold here, you can change the ‘Off’ to ‘Touch’ which means that when you next press play (note ‘play’, not ‘record’!) any movements you make to the fader on that channel using the mouse will be accepted as automation data and that goes for anything that you click and change on that track! To reveal your automation data, press ‘A’ on your Mac keyboard and you will see it all displayed in the Arrange window (fig. 6).
Fig. 6 - Logic Pro Automation View.
In ‘Touch’ mode, when you play your track back, those movements will also play back and you can even dip in with the mouse and tweak any movements you aren’t happy with. Once you have finished tweaking your automation, set ‘Touch’ to ‘Read’, as it then won't allow you to accidentally make any changes.
As you will now have seen, the automation data is enticingly displayed as a series of lines on the track you are working on within the Arrange Page area of Logic. You can then take the mouse pointer and start tweaking your movements to make them more accurate.
Personally, I prefer programming my automation with the mouse by clicking on the automation data line from the outset, which is the second way of entering data. You don’t have to record any automation prior to this, just click on the automation line of your track and you can create the changes you want, quickly and easily.
To choose the parameter you wish to program, click on the Automation selection box in the track list (fig. 7) and you can select any parameter you like. Notice that the Tape delay is plugged into the channel strip, allowing me to access ALL of the delay’s settings for automation. Very powerful!
Fig. 7 - Logic Pro plug-in automation.