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First look: Logic Pro X 10.1 brings it to beatmakers

Christopher Breen | Jan. 22, 2015
Tune into just about any Top 40 radio station these days and it becomes evident that a producer has as much (or more) to do with a song's arrangement and presentation as the recording artist. While this has long been the case with hip-hop and electronic tracks, even the music performed by such mainstream artists as Taylor Swift would have far less impact without the ministrations of the behind-the-scenes producer.

The editor now includes a Brush tool that, when selected, lets you "paint" in notes much like you'd splatter drops of paint on a canvas. This could easily result in chaos except for the tool's ability to constrain notes by scale. You can, for example, brush in just those notes that make up a C minor blues scale. You can then select a group of notes, define them as a brush pattern, and then brush in that same pattern elsewhere. This can be an easy way to create rudimentary harmonies when brushing over a group you've already created — say by starting the second brushed pattern from a note a third above the original. Then just edit our or adjust the pitches that don't harmonize well.

Making it Mello(tron)

The latest Logic isn't entirely about drums and beats. For those from the Old School (or who simply want to emulate it) there are the new Mellotron instruments. Popular in the late '60s and early '70s (Paul McCartney opened "Strawberry Fields Forever" with a Mellotron part), this was a keyboard instrument that played short tape loops of flutes, strings, brass instruments, and voices. It's a distinctive (and, for some of us, familiar) sound that's now part of Logic Pro X. With this instrument you can blend two different Mellotron sounds — Boys Choir and Flute, for example.

There are over 200 new synth instrument sounds in this release as well. Many of them use MIDI plug-ins and track stacks to create rich (and sometimes rhythmic) sounds. You'll find them largely within the Synthesizer and Arpeggiator groups.

Bucket list

And then there are the "I wish it did..." features that not every musician or producer absolutely requires, but make for less tedious work. For example, there's region-based automation. You've always been able to automate an entire track — record a track's volume change over time or record the motion of a modulation wheel to increase the speed of a Leslie effect to an organ part, for example. But you can now embed automation into individual regions within a track. If you move that region to a different part of your track, the embedded automation moves with it. And you can do this for multiple regions throughout a track. This doesn't preclude you from also adding automation to the entire track, as that feature remains.

Logic Pro also includes a new Time Handles feature that affects MIDI notes. With it you can select a group of notes in the Piano Roll editor and expand or compress them to take up more or less time, respectively. You might, for example, have a percussion pattern that takes up one measure. On second thought you decide that you'd like it to run at half that speed for two measures. Rather than rerecord it, you can instead switch on Time Handles, select the notes within the pattern, and then drag a handle that appears on the right border of the selection to drag it to the end of the next measure. The pattern expands and slows to half its original speed, but the relative rhythmic relationship between the notes doesn't change. The second note will still be half the duration of the first, for example.


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