What Every Logic Pro User Ought To Know About Synthesizers

Logic Pro X Synthesizer Cheat Sheet

[UPDATED] New in Logic Pro 10.2: Alchemy Sample-Manipulation Synth

Why is Logic Pro X a music producer's dream?

Because it comes with every synth sound you'll ever need.

In fact, the authentic-sounding vintage instruments included in Logic Pro might make you want to put drink rings and cigarette burns on your laptop...

...Don't.

Instead, rip some funky vintage synth riffs! This guide will show you which synth is right for the riff.

Let's rip...

You've got 3 major categories of software instruments to choose from:

  • Vintage Instruments
  • Synthesizers and Samplers
  • Drum Synths

Vintage Instruments

Logic Pro X gives you 4 virtual vintage software instruments:

  • Vintage B3 Organ
  • Vintage Clav
  • Vintage Electric Piano
  • Retro Synth

Vintage B3 Organ

The Vintage B3 Organ is modeled from a Hammond B3 organ and Leslie speaker:

  • The Hammond B3 is an electric organ that generates its sound from tonewheels, spinning discs that determine the pitch and transmit the signal to a magnetized rod and coil.
  • The Leslie speaker contains two speakers: The top passes the sound through a rotating horn, and the bottom passes the sound through a rotating drum.
Hammond B3 is my thing. You can download these Hammond B3 settings of the best organ players on the planet.

Vintage B3 Organ

Vintage Clav

The Vintage Clav is a modeled after a Hohner Clavinet D6 keyboard.

The Clavinet (Clav for short) has guitar-like strings that are struck by a hammer. Magnetic pickups transmit the signal through a filter section to shape your sound.

Vintage Clav

Vintage Electric Piano

The Vintage Electric Piano is a simulation of three famous electric pianos:

  • Fender Rhodes
  • Wurlitzer
  • Hohner Electra-Piano

These electric pianos have hammers that strike metal tines or reeds. All three electric pianos are similar in sound and have metallic bell-like qualities.

Vintage Electric Piano

Retro Synth

The Retro Synth is four vintage synthesizers in one:

  • Analog: The classic synth sound. It’s great for leads, basses, and pads.
  • Sync: A more aggressive synth sound. It’s less suitable for pads and just right for leads and basses.
  • Table: Wavetable synthesis is used to emulate real instruments as well as create new synthesized sounds. It’s perfect for synth/acoustic hybrids. (Like synth voices - check out the "Synthesized Voice" patch in the Library)
  • FM: Frequency modulation (FM) synthesis creates classic digital sounds. It’s excellent for bells, electric pianos, and bass sounds.
Choosing Retro Synth from the Library can be tricky because all synthesizer patches in Logic Pro are grouped into a single "Synthesizer" menu. It’s faster to select Retro Synth from the software instrument slot in the track inspector or mixer channel strip.

Retro Synth

Synthesizers and Samplers

In addition to the vintage keys, you have 10 more ridiculously good sounding synthesizers (some that need a retina-display makeover - proving even software synths need regular maintenance):

  • EFM1 FM Synth
  • ES1 Subtractive Synth
  • ES2 Hybrid Synth
  • ES E Ensemble Synth
  • ES M Monophonic Synth
  • ES P Polyphonic Synth
  • EVOC 20 Poly Synth Vocoder
  • EXS24 Sampler
  • Sculpture Modeling Synth
  • NEW: Alchemy Sample-Manipulation Synth
Discover how to design amazing keyboard sounds that make your tracks stand out from the crowd! HD videos, project templates, presets, and cheat sheets: Logic Pro Keyboard Mastery

EFM1 FM Synth

The EFM1 FM synth uses FM (frequency modulation) synthesis to get digital sounds such as electric pianos, bells, organs, basses, and other cool and complex sounds.

EFM1 FM Synth

ES1 Subtractive Synth

The ES1 synthesizer creates sounds by using subtractive synthesis (you subtract parts of the sound to shape it). The ES1 is modeled after classic analog synths and is great at creating basses, leads, pads, and even percussion sounds.

Every synth comes with a menu of presets at the top of the interface. Load a sound you like, twist some knobs, and have some fun. You won't break anything.

ES1 Subtractive Synth

ES2 Hybrid Synth

The ES2 is like you combined the EFM1 and ES1 synths and added another type of synthesis called *wavetable synthesis. The ES2 shines at creating pads, sonic textures, and synthetic sounds that evolve over time.

* A wavetable is made up of many different waveforms that evolve from one to another or blend at once, creating complex digital sounds.

ES2 Hybrid Synth

ES E Ensemble Synth

The ES E synth is a lightweight (eight-voice polyphonic) subtractive synth. It's great for warm pads such as analog brass and strings.

You don't always need to grab the most powerful synth for minor parts. Synths like the ES E, ES M, and ES P, don't require as much processing power but still give you excellent sounds. Plus, they're easier to program than the ES1 or ES2.

ES E Ensemble Synth

ES M Monophonic Synth

The ES M is another lightweight (monophonic) subtractive synth. Since you can play only one note at a time, the ES M is perfect for bass and lead sounds.

ES M Monophonic Synth

ES P Polyphonic Synth

The ES P is another lightweight (eight-voice polyphonic) subtractive synth. The ES P does a great job of creating analog pads, bass, and brass sounds.

ES P Polyphonic Synth

EVOC 20 Poly Synth Vocoder

The EVOC 20 poly synth is a vocoder (voice encoder) and a 20-voice synthesizer. A vocoder takes an audio signal (usually a voice, but drum loops and other instruments work too) and applies the signal to the synthesizer. The result is a hybrid vocal synthesizer, as in, "Luke, I am your father."

EVOC 20 Poly Synth Vocoder

EXS24 Sampler

The EXS24 sampler plays samples (audio files). Samplers are perfect for recreating acoustic instruments since you’re playing back recorded audio files. But you can also sample synthetic sounds or mangle acoustic sounds.

You can create your own sampler instruments from audio regions in your project. For example, you can slice drum loops or instrument riffs into several pieces that you can play with your MIDI controller. Control-click the region and choose Convert > Convert Regions to New Sampler Track.

EXS24 Sampler

Sculpture Modeling Synth

Sculpture is a component-modeling synthesizer, which creates virtual models of the components of acoustic instruments (like the strings, necks, and bodies of string instruments). While it's really good at emulating physical instruments, Sculpture can synthesize brand new sounds like the other synths.

Sculpture Modeling Synth

Alchemy Sample-Manipulation Synth

Alchemy is brand new to Logic Pro 10.2 and one of the most powerful software synths in existence. It's a sample-manipulation synth that includes several types of synthesis and powerful performance controls.

  • Includes a 14 GB sound library with organized keyword browser and the ability to rate sounds (over 3,000 presets).
  • Advanced synth engine: Combine up to four types of synthesis, including additive, spectral, formant, granular, virtual analog, and a robust sampler that can import EXS24 instruments.
  • World-class sound design with flexible filters (38 different filters) and modulation routing (over 100 modulation sources), various LFOs, envelopes, and step sequencers.
  • Built-in arpeggiator and effects, including reverb, modulation, delay, compressors, EQ, distortion, and more.
  • Tightly integrated with Logic Remote App.
Like the other synths, finding Alchemy patches in the Library can be difficult because it doesn't separate any of the patches by instrument in the Synthesizer menu. Either save your own patches for quick access or select Alchemy from the software instrument slot in the track inspector or mixer channel strip.

Alchemy

Drum Synths

Drum machines count as synths too. Here's 2 more software instruments to add (plus a new and weird special exception)...

  • Drum Kit Designer/Drummer
  • Ultrabeat Drum Synth
  • Drum Machine Designer

Drum Kit Designer/Drummer

New to Logic Pro X is the Drum Kit Designer software instrument and Drummer track type. Here's the difference between the two:

  • Drummer: This is a special track type does all the drumming
  • Drum Kit Designer: This software instrument provides the drum sounds

As I describe in Chapter 4 of Logic Pro X For Dummies, a Drummer track is a special MIDI track that provides virtual session drumming (without waking the neighbors when late night inspiration strikes).

Every time you create a Drummer track, Drum Kit Designer is automatically loaded. However, you can play different software instruments on Drummer Tracks (a drummer playing a piano, for a not-so-great sounding example?) and you can load Drum Kit Designer on any software instrument track, not just Drummer tracks.

Drum Kit Designer has so much functionality and so many amazing kits that it requires its very own cheat sheet: Drum Kit Designer Cheat Sheet

Drum Kit Designer - Drummer

Ultrabeat Drum Synth

Ultrabeat is a 25-voice drum synth and pattern sequencer. It operates like a traditional hardware drum machine. The first 24 MIDI keys (C1 to B2) are dedicated to drum sounds. The 25th voice can be played chromatically on up the scale, making it ideal for bass or synth sounds.

Ultrabeat Drum Synth

Drum Machine Designer

Drum Machine Designer is the weird and special exception. It's NOT a software instrument. It's a special "summing track stack" and instrument interface. Drum Machine Designer includes:

  • Ultrabeat Software Instrument
  • 24 Aux Channel Strips
  • 7 Additional Aux Channel Strips

Weird, I know. It's almost like a macro instrument with a fresh retina-ready design. Maybe we can expect new interfaces for more software instruments in the future.

Drum Machine Designer

With all these stellar software instruments, you can have an endless amount of fun.

One of the big reasons I love playing synths is because they can surprise you with their unique personalities. It's just like getting to know a good friend. But they're more like family members.

Give some love for YOUR favorite synth in the comments below. 🙂

Discover how to design amazing keyboard sounds that make your tracks stand out from the crowd with Logic Pro Keyboard Mastery! More than 6 hours of HD video. Includes project templates, presets, and cheat sheets: CLICK HERE
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9 Responses to What Every Logic Pro User Ought To Know About Synthesizers

  1. geoff protest June 11, 2015 at 3:01 PM #

    Thanks, just discovered the Drum Machine Designer!!!

  2. Peter Middleton July 17, 2015 at 4:33 PM #

    Thanks for the Hammond presets - please how does one instal them?

    • Graham English July 20, 2015 at 9:34 AM #

      You're welcome, Peter! The Hammond B3 drawbar settings are listed in a spreadsheet so you can set them up yourself. There aren't any presets to install.

  3. [email protected] November 29, 2015 at 3:17 PM #

    Thanks Graham for this very clear explanation of the synths. Which one(s) would serve me best if I tend to use orchestral instruments?

    • Graham English November 30, 2015 at 5:20 PM #

      Almost every Logic Pro X orchestral patch (except the pipe organ) uses the EXS24 sampler. That's going to be your best instrument to get realistic sounds. 🙂

  4. Russell Douglas December 2, 2015 at 3:08 PM #

    Thanks, Graham. I've only had Logic Pro X a few months and I keep discovering new elements, now a few more...thanks to you.

    My main question: If you compose a track with all virtual instruments, which method gets the best sounding bounce? Would you bounce each MIDI track to individual audio tracks, and mix the audio from there before the final bounce? Or, will you get the same quality audio by mixing the MIDI instruments and then just bouncing the master/output track?

    Thanks again.

    • Graham English December 3, 2015 at 9:34 AM #

      Awesome, Russell! Both techniques you mention will get the same sound. Bouncing to audio will conserve CPU (but increase disk usage). I usually bounce software instruments as soon as the I get the instrument sounding how I want and the parts are arranged and edited so the project will be compatible with other DAWs and future updates.

  5. David June 12, 2017 at 9:33 PM #

    This is freaking awesome. Thanks.

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