The following post is excerpted from Soundfly’s online mentored course, Making Music in Logic Pro X.
A large component of our course, Making Music in Logic Pro X, consists of covering the fundamentals of working within the DAW and learning to maximize one’s efficiency and workflow as a producer. But since every working producer will likely have their own unique routines, quirks, preferences, and tricks, we thought we’d ask some professionals in the Soundfly community what they love about Logic in particular, and for their advice on how to get the most out of it.
Here are some excerpts from our conversations with sound designer for theater Enrico de Trizio, songwriter Will Marshall, producer and engineer John Hull, sound designer for film, TV, and radio Kate Bilinski, and composer and multi-instrumentalist Martin D. Fowler. To view the full conversations, and the rest of the course, head here.
Sound Design for Theater – Enrico de Trizio
Enrico de Trizio is a Grammy- and Emmy-Award winning Composer, Producer, Sound Designer, and Music Programmer/Playback Tech for Broadway shows like Finding Neverland, Dear Evan Hansen, and more. He tells us he uses Logic Pro X for scoring to picture and theater, for sound design, and for recording and producing “90% of the music” he works on.
Logic is very cheap compared to its competitors which makes it very popular. It comes with a ton of hi-end sample libraries, and it’s stable and reliable. Every update brings improvements and new features to explore.
I also love the ability to create Track Stacks. When you’re on a deadline or in tech rehearsal and everybody is waiting for you to change something, the last thing you want is to get overwhelmed a million little regions on your screen. Track Stacks help me collapse all the parts from individual songs to a single track so I can collapse or expand them as needed. This is one of those features that I don’t see too many people using, but it helps me all the time.
I also find the compressor to be extremely versatile. Alchemy has a huge sound library — I end up using some of those sounds over [a third-party plugin sampler] Omnisphere.
All the people I work with use Logic to write. Again, I think the popularity is due to its lower price-point. Additionally, I don’t like Live’s summing bus, but I do use Live for its primary purpose, which is live performances and shows. Pro Tools didn’t have offline bounce until recently, needs an iLock, and needed its own interface when I was first getting started. Compared to Logic, Pro Tools is like a needy friend, and Logic is more like an easy-going buddy.
Songwriting – Will Marshall
Will Marshall is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and producer, and currently the driving force behind Brooklyn-based art-rock project noise. Will is also the instructor of Soundfly’s online mentored course, Songwriting for Producers. Will uses Logic at several stages of his process: for recording, for composing and orchestrating, and for mixing. He typically uses Logic alongside Ableton Live, which he tends to reach for when he’s doing electronic music or early-stage sketching but maintains that “Logic is where everything ends up.”
Logic appeals to me because it has the capabilities of a heavy-duty, industry-oriented DAW like Pro Tools, but with a modern, more elegant, less quirky interface. It also has a nice suite of creative tools. I’m a fan of Logic’s excellent built-in effects and instruments, and its powerful MIDI handling, so it’s great for composing as well as recording and mixing. Many of Logic’s built-in instruments and effects are as good as any third-party plugins, so I find myself using tools like Alchemy, Space Designer and their built-in EQs frequently.
It’s easy to put together a song, and it’s easy to keep track of everything that’s going on compositionally, which, for more ambitious tracks, can get tricky. Historically, composers worked mostly on the piano and notated everything using sheet music. For me, Logic takes the place of sheet music and gives me a central location to notate a track, using both MIDI and recordings. Since the stock instruments and effects are so good, Logic also makes it quite easy to put together more impressive demos.
Mixing & Producing – John Hull
John Hull mixes film scores and popular music, and also produces music for artists and commercials. He most recently produced the debut record for composer Bryan Senti’s artist moniker Ex Mykah, and collaborates with Senti in the film composition and popular music realms to make things sound more emotionally intense and exciting. John is the instructor of Soundfly’s free online course series, Making Realistic MIDI Strings.
Particularly in the last few years, it feels endless in terms of what you can do with Logic. They’ve refined some tasks like replacing drums, slicing beats, using true-stereo panners, and other things that I used to turn to other programs for. I don’t really think there’s anything else out there with more powerful and diverse built-in effects.
There’s this Native American Flute sound that I stumbled across during a project once. I ran it through one of the amp simulators and it became my “go-to mellotron thing” for when I was doing more commercial stuff. I also wind up often using staccato clarinets too. They’re great for subtle organic textures. The Drummer Track has become one of my favorite new features. I’m a tinkerer by nature, and being able to just start a track quickly with the right drums for a genre helps me focus on making music and not spending the first two hours of every project designing drums.
My key commands have always been really similar to Pro Tools, because I still have to do projects in that environment from time to time. If I ever update them, I export them and email myself a copy so I can download them on other computers when I’m working in other spaces.
Whenever my sessions start getting bigger with higher track counts, I use Bounce In Place to help turn a software instrument into audio. Then, I deactivate and hide the software instrument track right next to it in case I need to redo anything. In the end, this winds up helping me stay organized and also saves time because my computer crashes less!
Sound Design for Film, TV, and Radio – Kate Bilinski
Kate Bilinski is a sound designer and re-recording mixer for film and podcasts, with notable credits including the podcasts Serial and Reply All. She also does sound design for Emmy Award-winning documentaries such as We Could Be King and The Armor of Light. She most often uses Logic when she is bringing MIDI instrumentation into her in-depth sound design and when she’s called to do voice-over or mix work. She also plays bass (obviously).
Audio is a slow art by nature. You take every fraction of a second and scrutinize them, sometimes for hours, before moving on. Logic’s customizable key commands let me easily switch from one DAW to another with a minimal adjustment period, almost as if I were to switch from speaking from English to Spanish and suddenly found most of the words were the same. It allows me to set functions I use all the time, such as “Forward by Transient” or “Nudging by SMPTE Frame.”
This may fall in the category of both editing and mixing, but I want to stress the convenience of the Channel Strip presets. These allow me to get through tedious session building incredibly quickly so I can get to the fun part. I know the plugins I’m going to want to manipulate when I’m working with particular instruments, but using a Channel Strip preset means I don’t have to go through the process of instantiating and setting each effect every time I need a new one. This can even be applicable to your audio sound effects or dialogue tracks, especially if you are working on a series with the same hosts, to bring you closer to a rough mix instantaneously.
I find that its workflow with MIDI is awesome. I really appreciate the easy access to tools within the Piano Roll, including velocity and automation curves, as well as the MIDI transformation tools. Logic has a very similar layout and workflow to what I’m used to in Pro Tools, so making busses and auxiliary tracks, grouping and hiding tracks, fades, automation, even key commands all still feel like second nature.
This is a bit of an oddball, but as a sound designer, I love the fact that you can group files in the region bin. Often when I’m looking to build a scene or know that I’m going to be dealing with a lot of similar elements throughout a film, I’ll do a big pull of sound effects before I start working so I have a palette already in my DAW.
For example, I’ve worked on a lot of sports documentaries and there are always tons of crowds — some interior, some exterior, with varying sizes. In many DAWs, this gets thrown into one bin with everything else and you rely on searching file names or sorting by date. But in Logic, I can group similar sounds into folders so I can keep track of everything I’ve pulled and easily sample and build with them.
Composing Underscore for Film, TV, and Radio – Martin D. Fowler
Martin D. Fowler composes and produces music for commercial, educational, and artistic media using Logic Pro X, and records and performs internationally with many NYC-based artists such as VÉRITÉ, Arthur Moon, and others. He also produces original music and remixes as WNNR. Martin is also well known for his compositions featured in multiple #1 podcasts such as Limetown, The Wilderness, and This American Life. He is the instructor of Making Music in Logic Pro X.
Many instruments I use frequently come packed with functionality for expression, modulation, sustain, aftertouch, and extensive pitch-bend modulation. I love how easy it is to write these things, perform them, and edit them later so that they perfectly accommodate the moment I’m trying to illustrate, emotionally. While I try to get the best performance I can right out of the gate, I know I’m almost always going to want or need to change something later on. I do a lot of velocity manipulation through the MIDI transform function, and I’m a frequent user of the Humanization setup in that window, as well.
The same goes for the extensive automation capabilities of Logic, which I think of and use in very much the same way, whether it’s opening up a low-pass filter’s frequency knob, automating the wet/dry balance of a reverb, or increasing the depth of a distortion plugin, all of which I do frequently.
The ratio of ease-of-use to cost is just incredible. I’ve used Logic for nearly all of my major composition, production, and scoring projects for the last decade. The built-in samples and instruments are world-class, and I use them all the time. Alchemy’s patches, in particular, are so powerful and brilliant right out of the box, but it’s is such an incredibly versatile and customizable synth, I haven’t tired of it yet.
There are some key commands I’ve become so accustomed to, I barely recall where to find the functions in menu trees — it’s just muscle memory and second nature. Also, I’ve spent so much time developing my own custom set of commands that make sense to me, I’m almost useless on anyone else’s system, or with the built-in key commands. It’s my own custom rig at this point. I love it and can’t live without it!
New to Soundfly?
All of our mentored online courses come with six weeks of 1-on-1 professional support and feedback on your work. It’s like having a personal trainer, but for music! That means you’re not just getting the course content, but a coach to bounce ideas off of! Whether you’re interested in diving deep into a production-related topic like Modern and Advanced Mix Techniques, Songwriting for Producers, or this course, Making Music in Logic Pro X, or just working with a Soundfly Mentor directly to achieve a musical goal specific to you, we can help you get set up!