It can be all too tempting to cram your DAW with tonnes of external plugins and VSTs. But have you really explored everything it has to offer in terms of its native offerings?
In our DAW battle, Logic came as the winner so, we’ve pulled together some tips to help you get the most out of what comes built into Logic, and hopefully some tricks you might not have discovered yet.
Using Step Sequencer to create dynamic drum patterns
The Step Sequencer that was introduced to Logic in the July 2020 update is packed with possibilities. Replicating the workflow of old step sequencers like the legendary acid-birthing Roland TB-303, it allows you to program and edit individual notes with a huge array of parameters. It can control any VST, and so the possibilities are endless.
One nifty way to use it is to create drum patterns that change over time and have an element of randomness to them to keep your grooves spicy and give them a little bit of that human touch. There are two main ways to achieve this, which can be combined.
First of all, select Create A Pattern Region on the track you want to use in the Arrange view and create a pattern.
You can then choose for the Sequencer to play any (or all) rows in your pattern in a Random order by selecting the crossing arrows on the Pattern Direction menu.
In addition to this, you can also edit the Chance value for individual steps in your sequence. The default value of 100 means that the step will always play — although if you have the row or sequence Pattern Direction set to random, that’s technically not a certainty! Reducing this value means that the step will play less frequently.
By combining these two techniques, you can make patterns that are totally random in their sequencing, or that have certain fixed groove elements paired with other sounds that play variations on a theme. So you could have a straight 4/4 kick and claps on the 2s and 4s, for example, with a hi-hat pattern that continually changes within the parameters you set it.
You can use this technique to create random or semi-random melodic patterns too. You could also record the sequencer playing back by sending its output to a bus and then recording onto an audio channel with that bus selected as its input. You could then let the sequencer play for a while and pick out your favourite sections — just as you might if playing something live or when jamming with hardware.
Create glitchy patterns with Q-Sampler and the Arpeggiator
The Sampler plugins introduced in the same redesign in the same Logic update are another long-overdue improvement, and make working with samples much quicker, more fun and more intuitive.
For a quick way to create wonderfully glitchy sequences, drag an audio file onto an empty track and select Q-Sampler. One of your own vocal stems is a good place to start.
Once it’s loaded, play some notes on your keyboard to hear how it has automatically sliced the file up according to the transients it has detected. Now click the Gate button to shorten the slices to make them more like rhythmic hits.
Now add an Arpeggiator in the MIDI FX section of the channel. Load one of the presets up and hit your keyboard and see how it sounds now. You should have something that sounds a bit ghostly and trippy, stuttering through different segments of your vocal sample. Move the Sensitivity slider back and forth on the Q-Sampler and hear how this affects it (you could even record yourself automating this). Experiment with different Arpeggiator settings, patterns, octave numbers, pattern directions and variations to find something you like.
You could also add the Arpeggiator to a Step Sequencer track to create glitchy or unusual new drum pattern variations from an existing one.
Using Tape Delay as a tape saturator
You’re probably familiar with Logic’s Tape Delay plugin, but did you know you could use it as a tape saturation emulator?
The concept of tape saturation comes from the days when magnetic tape was used in studios as the recording medium. Saturation is the pleasurable ‘warm’ sound that occurred when multiple takes or tracks were recorded one after another onto the same piece of tape (to create a master recording, for example). It’s a mixture of very gentle distortion, phase irregularities and miniscule pitch shifting and it sounds very nice indeed, when used on the right audio sources.
To emulate this effect, open up Tape Delay and apply these settings:
Output Dry: 0%
Output Wet: 100%
Tempo Sync: Off (press the quaver symbol)
Delay Time: 0.0 ms
You can also bring the Clip Threshold level down to increase the intensity of this saturation effect.
Using Flex Pitch to extract melodies from source files
Let’s say you want to take a vocal melody or instrument solo melody you’re working on and have it played by a different instrument, without having to manually play it yourself. There’s an easy way to do that in Logic, although it may need a little fine-tuning.
Add your audio track to a new channel, and click Show/Hide Flex in the toolbar. Then click the Flex button on the audio channel and make sure Pitch Flex is selected from the drop-down menu below.
Double-click on the file header to open up the editor below and select ‘Track’ from the toolbar view. Click the edit menu on the left of the window, scroll down and select ‘Create MIDI Track From Flex Pitch Data’.
Hey presto — you’ve got yourself some MIDI data. This will work best on single vocal tracks (as opposed to harmony stacks) or instruments that have clear transients on individual notes (a plucked guitar solo or piano solo will work better than a string part).
You can use Flex Pitch correction before you extract the MIDI data to simplify the melodic content to get better results, or just move the MIDI notes that it spits out yourself until you hear what you want. Another way to lock it in accurately is to add a Transposer MIDI FX plugin on the MIDI track and switch off any rogue notes.
Using Noise Gate with a sidechain input to create stuttered rhythms
If you want to create a stuttering effect on a vocal sound, the Noise Gate plugin’s sidechain option is your friend. You can use it to switch an audio signal on and off at a rate and rhythm of your choosing by creating a MIDI pattern to drive it, or you can use another audio channel to operate it (like a kick drum, for example).
To create a stutter effect, load up some audio, then on a new instrument track draw in a region. Use the pencil or your keyboard to draw in a pattern of your choosing. In our example, we’ve chosen a straight on-beat 1/8th pattern, but you can draw in whatever you want and see how it sounds.
Just remember that each note in your pattern will open the gate, letting sound through. Once you’re happy with your pattern, switch off the output of the instrument track so that you don’t hear the noise that instrument is actually just making. All we want is the MIDI information to send to the Noise Gate.
Next, add the Noise Gate plugin to the audio track that you want to stutter, and select the instrument channel with the MIDI pattern on it as your sound source.
Then bring the Threshold level down until you can hear the desired amount of audio coming through. You can adjust other settings like attack and release to determine how quickly and for how long the gate is held open for. You can also shorten and lengthen your MIDI notes to alter the pattern, or you could add a quantize shuffle to them.
So there you have it. Don’t go reaching for that new shiny plugin every time. Get to know your stock options inside out first — there’s an infinite number of possibilities awaiting! Check out our blog to see which DAW you should be using and, how to song write using DAW’s. We can wait to see what you upload with us!