10 Tips For Faster And Easier Arranging With Logic Pro

10 Tips For Faster And Easier Arranging With Logic Pro

Logic Pro is the world’s most advanced music production software. Whether you’re new to production or a seasoned pro, Logic is an excellent choice for your next project. You can use it to compose, record, edit and mix professional-quality songs on your Mac. Here are ten tips that will make arranging easier.

1. Move or copy parts of a track

Get good at selecting regions and parts of regions you want to copy or move using the Marquee tool. By default, the marquee tool is set as your Command-click tool. So you can quickly make selections using the marquee tool by Command-dragging across the regions you want to select.

After you select regions, you can drag them anywhere in the tracks area. Remember that you can drag a region to a different track type, but the region will play only if it’s moved to the same track type.

You copy regions by Option-dragging them to a new location. Change the length of a region by dragging its bottom corner to the new length. Loop a region by dragging its top corner to the right as far as you want it to loop.

Copying and pasting work the same as in many other Mac applications. You make a selection and copy it by pressing Command-C or choosing Edit > Copy. You paste your selection on the selected track at the playhead position by pressing Command-V or choosing Edit > Paste.

The marquee tool is also great for setting the playback position because playback always begins from the left side of your marquee selection. Therefore, if your cursor is at the bottom of the main window, it can be faster to make a quick marquee selection to set the playback position instead of moving your cursor to the top of the tracks area and clicking in the ruler to set the playback position.

2. Use the editors to polish your track

Double-click an audio, MIDI, or drummer region, and the corresponding editor will open at the bottom of the tracks area.

  • Audio regions default to the Track editor.
  • MIDI regions default to the Piano Roll editor.
  • Drummer regions default to the Drummer editor.

In the audio and MIDI editor windows, you’ll see tabs for additional editors. For example, the MIDI editor displays tabs for the Score, Step Sequencer, and Smart Tempo in addition to the Piano Roll editor. Likewise, the audio editor shows a tab for the File and Smart Tempo editors in addition to the Track editor.

Like the tracks area, the editors area has a toolbar with edit, functions, view menus, icons, tool menus, and snap and zoom settings. (You find out what the editors can do in Chapters 14 and 15 of Logic Pro X For Dummies.)

3. Rearrange tracks in the timeline

While you’re arranging your composition, it makes sense to have tracks grouped according to function, like melody, chords, bass, rhythm, and extras. It’s easier to make edits to multiple tracks the closer they are to each other. You can rearrange your tracks in any way that works faster for you.

You can move tracks by dragging the track headers vertically. You can also sort tracks automatically according to the track type or whether or not they are being used by choosing Tracks > Sort Tracks by.

4. Add markers to your project so you can jump between sections quickly

You can view and edit markers in several ways:

  • Choose Track > Global Tracks > Show Marker Track or press Shift-Command-K to display the marker track.
  • Choose View > Show List Editors (D) and then click the Marker tab to view the marker list editor.
  • Choose Navigate > Open Marker List to view the marker list in a new window.

To create and edit markers, do one of the following:

  • Click the plus sign icon in any marker editor to add a new marker at the current playhead position.
  • Use the pencil tool in the global marker track and click the location where you want to create a new marker.
  • In the marker list editor or Marker List window, choose Options > Create.
  • At any time, press Option-apostrophe (‘) to create a new marker at the current playhead position.

If you have an extended keyboard with an extra number pad, press the number keys to move the playhead to the corresponding marker number instantly. You can also navigate markers using the Next Marker and Previous Marker key commands: Option-period (.) and Option-comma (,). Whenever you find yourself wishing you could go to the same places in your project over and over again, create a new marker set and create a few markers. Then you can zip to the stored locations quickly.

5. Keep detailed project and track notes to speed up your workflow

I start almost every project by opening the project notes (Option-Command-P). I write a brief sentence about my project goal, sign my projects, and add my URL and copyright notice. That simple sentence alone will save you time as you search through projects for stuff. For example, sometimes I need to find a piece of music or an effects chain to use in a current project, and the search is much easier when each project has a short description in the notes.

Project notes are also an ideal place to list all your deliverables. For example, chapter 16 of Logic Pro X For Dummies lists the fundamentals of mixing; I like to collect all that information in the project notes. In addition, I list reference tracks, effects ideas, track groups, bar numbers, lyrics, and anything else I can dump out of my brain. I also use project notes as a to-do list to keep track of what I’ve done and what’s left to do.

Use track notes to store specific information about the track, such as instrument frequency ranges and effects chains. I also keep a change log of significant edits and patches or channel strip settings. Sometimes, I’ll change the patch or channel strip setting of a track, but I always write down the name of the current patch. Keeping notes saves you from committing anything to memory, so you have more mental energy for the music.

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6. Create custom templates with Logic’s library of sounds and instruments

When you create a project, you see the Project Chooser, where you can begin a project from a premade template. These default templates are excellent starting places. You can also create your project templates.

How can you save time with templates? For example, suppose you’re recording several songs with a band, each song has a similar setup, or you’re a film composer and use identical orchestra setups for all your scores. In that case, you could create a project template once and use it over and over again. (You find out how to create an orchestral template in Chapter 12 of Logic Pro X For Dummies.)

To save a template, set up your project how you want it and then choose File > Save as Template. Project templates are saved in a special folder located at Users > USERNAME > Music > Audio Music Apps > Project Templates.

I love using templates, and I’ve saved dozens of them. I have genre-based templates, templates that include my favorite third-party software, and templates that I’ve created from analyzing popular hits (and not-so-popular guilty pleasures). Templates are excellent productivity tools.

7. Speed up your workflow with Smart Controls

Smart Controls are a gorgeous interface that instantly gives you a customized and dynamic set of controls for shaping the sound of your track. Smart Controls give you the best tools for the job. However, they don’t give you every available parameter — only the most important ones.

Smart Controls are dynamic. The controls you’re given depend on the selected track and the software instrument or plug-in effects on that track. For example, if you have a compressor and EQ plug-in on a track, the Smart Controls will give you a combination of the most important controls of each plug-in. If a software instrument track is selected, the Smart Controls will also include parameters that affect the instrument’s sound.

Click the Smart Controls icon in the control bar or press the key command B to open the smart controls at the bottom of the tracks area. I memorized the smart controls key command by remembering the word best, as in best controls. You can also choose View > Show Smart Controls. To open Smart Controls in a new window, choose Window > Open Smart Controls or press Command-3.

8. Use Logic Remote Chord Strips to add chords to MIDI tracks quickly.

With Logic Remote, you can use Touch Instruments to play software instruments. The type of Smart Control and patch loaded on the selected track dictates what controls are shown. For example, the Guitar, Bass, Strings, and Keyboard Touch Instruments allow you to input MIDI via Chord Strips, where you play chords and bass notes by tapping labeled chord strips. In addition, you can add custom chords to include chord extensions and alternate bass notes. Custom chords are available to all Touch Instruments in the project.

To add a custom chord to the Chord Strips:

  1. In Logic Remote, tap the View button in the control bar, and then tap Chord Strips.
  2. In the control bar, tap the Settings button, and then tap Edit Chords.
  3. Tap the chord strip you want to edit and swipe the Chord wheel to set the root and quality and add an extension. Swipe the Bass wheel to modify the bass note.
  4. Tap Done when you are finished.

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9. Quickly change the pitch of audio with Flex Pitch

You can quickly change the pitch of entire audio regions by opening the Inspector (press I) and using the Transpose or Fine Tune pop-up menus to choose a pre-set value. Click-and-drag in the Transpose or Fine Tune field to choose a custom value.

If you want to change the pitch of a single note in an audio region, use Flex Pitch in the Tracks Area or Audio Track Editor:

  • Tracks Area: Choose Edit > Show Flex Pitch/Time from the Tracks area menu bar (Command-F). Then click the Show/Hide Flex button in the Tracks area menu bar.
  • Audio Track Editor: Click the Track Flex button in the track header. Choose Flex Pitch from the Flex pop-up menu.

When Flex Pitch is enabled, you can edit the pitch of a note by dragging notes vertically, similar to editing MIDI in the Piano Roll Editor.

With Flex Pitch turned on all audio tracks, you can transpose your entire project using the Transpose Global Track. However, audio that is transposed too far can introduce artifacts that sound unnatural.

10. Use the Library to organize your presets

The library is where you load and save settings for recall later, called patches. It’s like having a modular studio where you can save and load entire mixer setups, guitar amp settings, or even groups of software instruments. The key command to open the Library is Y. Patches in your Library are saved in a special folder located at Users > USERNAME > Music > Audio Music Apps > Patches. Back up this folder often.

To save a group of tracks as a patch:

  1. Select the tracks you want to include (hold down the Command key to select more than one track at a time).
  2. Press Shift-Command-D, or choose Track > Create Track Stack.
  3. Next, select a Summing Stack and click Create.
  4. You can now save this track stack as a patch for instant recall by opening the library (press Y or choose View > Show Library), clicking the Save button, and naming your patch.
  5. Click Save again, and your patch is saved in the library.

You can download additional content by choosing Logic Pro > Sound Library > Open Sound Library Manager. Then, select the content you want to download and click Install.

There you have it! Ten great tips for working faster and easier with Logic Pro.

If there are features or tricks you want to know more about, please let me know in the comments below!

Discover how to make your tracks sound even better! HD videos, project templates, presets, and cheat sheets. Click here: Arranging and Editing with Logic Pro X
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