Thursday, 1 April 2010

Logic Pro 9 - My Weapon of Choice

The Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW) software you choose is pivotal in how you work. There's a whole bunch of them, so which one is right for you?

Logic is the one I chose, and I love it to pieces. If you're interested in using Logic Pro, read on.

Most of you probably know already that Logic only runs on Macs. Its cheap because Apple know that it'll sell more Macs. So if you don't have a Mac and you want to use Logic, you'll have to shell out for one.

If you already have a Mac though, Logic is pretty much the deal of the century.

I'm not lying when I say that Logic Studio includes literally everything you could even need to make a professional record. In fact, I'm considering embarking on a project where I make a whole album using nothing but what is included with Logic, just to prove my point.

Lets start with a list of what I love about Logic Pro:

Included content

You get every type of different plugin under the sun, more virtual instruments than you could shake a bundle of sticks at and one of the most intuitive and flexible interfaces out there. Theres tonnes of loops for quick music making too.

Not only that, but you get some extra applications too; Mainstage, for using Logics virtual instruments in a live environment on stage, Compressor for burning and mastering, Soundtrack Pro for professional audio-to-video sync and much more.

Once you look at all that, then look at the price, you can see why so many people love it, especially people just starting out.

The Layout

You'll hear lots of people say that Logic is cluttered. I don't think so, personally. Well, on a 13" macbook it can probably get claustrophobic.

I used to work in a dual screen setup, and for any DAW having two monitors makes things a breeze. But recently I got a nice shiny new Dell 24" monitor, and didn't have enough money or space for a second monitor, so left it at that. To be honest, I haven't noticed any lack of workflow speed.

Logics main window is centred on the Arrange page, which is where you edit and move your regions about and can see the general layout of your song. To be honest, I actually spend most of my time in this window, except when it comes to the final mixdown. Selecting tracks in the arrange page brings up the Inspector on the left, which is basically a quick overview of the entire channel strip for that track, saving a trip to the mixer window and a hunt for where the track lies in your mixer. The inspector also brings up the master output or a related Bus for that channel strip right next to it. Nifty, huh?

The MIDI, Mixer, Editor and other important windows pop up from the bottom, or can be dragged out and separated from the main Logic window (you'll be doing this a lot if you have more than one monitor!), but I find that in the majority of cases the popup size is fine for some quick editing, and for more detailed work i can just drag it up larger, which obscures the arrange window but if I'm doing some serious MIDI editing why do I need to see the whole arrange window? And If I want to, its simple to quickly close it, have a peek and then reopen it again.

Notes, media, event list et al open similarly except as a sidebar on the right hand side of the screen. I generally have this closed until I need something, and then its a simple click away. The Notes sidebar is especially useful for project notes, settings to remember or Lyrics.

There can be as many or as few helpful buttons on the top bar as you want - everything is customizable to how you want it to be.

 Hardware choice

You can't really find any topic about DAWs on the internet without its fair share of Pro-Tools bashing. I'm not saying Pro Tools is inferior; in fact, its the industry standard and I really want to learn it. The only reason I haven't done this is because I have to buy a new piece of hardware, and the choices avaliable to me are, on the most part, a downgrade in quality and a surplus on functionality. I have a problem with paying for things I don't need.

As a major player in the DAW market, Logic plays nicely with pretty much any Mac-compatible hardware. Some hardware companies actually state that their Mac compatible drivers are more stable than the Windows drivers, and most Mac drivers are going to be designed to work with Logic, as thats probably where most of them are going to end up.

Then there's Apogee. Apogee have a special relationship with Apple which means that their hardware works perfectly with Logic. Sure, some of them cost a pretty penny, but from experience I don't mind paying that knowing that I'm getting stability and good quality results in return.

As long as its Mac compatible, you're definitely not short of high-quality hardware to use with Logic pro. And thats reassuring.

So what are my favourite things about Logic? Too many to count. But here's a few standouts:

Logic 9 Amp Designer and Pedalboard

I've been a guitarist for many more years than I've been a producer. I've tried all the Pods, digital amp models and plugins, and have never had high hopes.

Logic's Amp designer continues to surprise me. It has its downfalls - you cannot get a good heavy metal rhythm sound, no matter how long you tweak is one. But for a lot of the sounds you need in the studio, it really surpasses my expectations for getting a sound that works in the mix.

I was practising mixing using some material from my friend's last session in the studio with his band. They had mic'd up their amps as usual, but they also had the DI tracks, which I put into amp designer to blend in with their recorded tones and fill it out a little. As I continued to mix, I found myself turning the recorded amps down and bringing up the Amp designer tracks. It kept sounding better.

Then there's the pedalboard. I had the good fortune of demoing Softube's Vintage Amp Room plugin for 10 days (what a plugin! That's a story for another post though) and the Marshall model needed a bit of a boost. Not having a real pedal to plug in, I went to Logic's pedalboard and tried some of the Overdrive pedals from there. There was no point where I thought "That doesn't sound like a real pedal going into an amp". Those pedals work wonders.

Its the same for Amp designer - the pedals in Logic work as boosts and flavours exactly how you'd expect a real overdrive pedal to work. Its really quite amazing. The array of effects on offer is excellent too.

The only gripe I have with the Pedalboard is that you cant select if the effects are pre or post like you can in Pod Farm, i.e. having your delay effects post (in the metaphorical effects loop) or pre (in front of the amp). The only way to do this is to create two instances of Pedalboard, one before and one after the amp plugin of choice.

Tape Delay

Usually when I have a plethora of delay plugins to hand I'll try them all out, but none of them seem necessary with Tape delay. You can have a clean or a very messed up warbly delay sound, high and low pass filters, full control over the delay pattern and even saturation. In fact, you can just turn off all the delay repeats and use tape delay as a distortion plugin. That really blew my mind when I found that out!

Channel EQ

Boo, a stock EQ plugin.

But what is there not to love? Double click the space above the channel strip and BOOM its there, in your face, ready to go. Once you're done, its always there on the channel strip with the curve you set in plain sight so you can see an overview of all the EQ settings you have over all your channels. 4 parametric bands, High/Low shelf and filters. What more do you actually need?

Right Click - open tools menu

People say that editing is easier in Pro Tools becase in Logic you have to keep going up and changing the tool you're using.

No you don't.

In Logic you can set right click to open the tool menu, right where your mouse cursor is. It takes a couple of seconds, maybe less, to get the next tool up and running. You can even just hit the number on your keyboard and BAM you've got the tool. Quick, easy editing. Take that, Pro Tools.

I could go on, and I probably will do in another post. But you can see what I'm getting at.

Take care,

Dreamsilent Productions

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