Dude, where's my keyboard?

GarageBand is fun. Logic is even more fun—yummy inserts and EXS24, much <3—but only after you figure out how to use it. Essentially, GarageBand is a glossy, cut-down, consumerised redux of Logic. I am far from being a Logic expert (or a professional muso), but tonight, I show you where some of the “fun” in GarageBand has disappeared to in Logic, and some reasons why Logic is so much more powerful.

OMG what?

First thing: think before you click. In GarageBand everything is mostly “intuitive”: you can drag notes around, resize and loop stuff, dump stuff onto other stuff, and it all mostly works as you expect. In Logic, pay attention to the shape of your cursor. If you are trying to resize your regions and end up looping them instead, you should have been more precise and checked your mouse cursor didn’t look like a loop before clicking.

Creating stuff

In GarageBand it is really easy to create regions in synthesised instrument tracks, and write notes into the piano roll and score of those regions by using Command-click. In Logic, Command-click is set to the Marquee tool by default—but you can change it to the Pencil tool by using the widgets above the top right corner of the tracks area (they look like this: Cursor and Select tools selected pick “Pencil tool” from the right widget to make Logic use the GarageBand style of editing in the tracks area. You will probably have to do the same thing when you open the Piano Roll or Score panels: the widgets are to the top right of the relevant panel.

So where’s my musical typing keyboard thing?

One of the things I missed—or so I thought—when moving to Logic was this little window that let me use the (alphanumeric) keyboard as a (piano-style) keyboard. This is because I am too cheap to buy a real keyboard like to go to many different places without instruments when making tracks. In GarageBand, musical typing was available under the Window menu or by pressing Command-Shift-K, not the most graceful key combo but it works. I searched around in Logic for ages hoping that they left musical typing in. Eventually I broke down and in frustration I read the manual:

Musical typing in Logic is called “Caps Lock keys”, and is accessed, somewhat unintuitively, by pressing the Caps Lock key. This is a preference you can turn on/off from Preferences -> Global -> Caps Lock Keys. Happy note bashing.

How to change the instrument of a track

One of the most confusing things about Logic that I just didn’t get for weeks is that what appears on the rightmost panel of the window is correlated only to something highlighted way over the other side. I guess that’s just the way it is with prosumer tools. For example, in order to change the instrument of a track, I first thought that all you had to do was pick the track then find the instrument in Media panel on the Library tab where you pick instruments when creating tracks. This is almost true. I got annoyed that the Library often didn’t provide any instruments, sometimes totally unrelated and unhelpful things like reverb settings.

Logic inspector window
Inspector

In the leftmost Inspector panel (paritally pictured above), there is a rectangular button-like thing with the instrument name (“Chamber…”), a graphic EQ display, and several more button-like things with different inserts (things like PtVerb and Chan EQ, i.e. effects plugins). As it turns out, you have to select the top button-like thing, the one with the instrument name, in order to be displayed with the regular selection of instruments in the Media > Library panel. But on discovering this fact, I found that there are library presets for all the inserts as well. These are what I was seeing in the Library after twiddling with insert settings, which you can do by double-clicking the insert. You can also twiddle with instrument synthesiser parameters by double-clicking the one immediately underneath “I/O”.

Changing the tempo & signature

This was my biggest bugbear with GarageBand. GarageBand 3 simply did not have the ability to change the tempo mid-song. Later versions apparently do, but I don’t have any of them. Instead, I have Logic. And in Logic, the tempo can be adjusted at any point in the track by expanding the Global Tracks header and clicking/dragging the curve in (gasp) “Tempo”. Key and time signature are also a global track.

Too many butans for choose

Before buying Logic I had a good read of the feature set, and I couldn’t get over how awesome “Ultrabeat” sounded. What a cool name. What a cool concept. Finally I could be free of those annoying GarageBand loops and create fantastic beats. Then I installed Logic and opened the Ultrabeat panel, and was blown away by the dizzying array of fine-tunable parameters laid out in an admittedly awesome-looking polished UI. (I can’t begin to tell you what I first thought of all the EXS24 parameters when I opened that.. :S)

After getting over the intense urge to fiddle with everything, I found the fastest way of using it was to load some premade kit setting and then switch to “full view”—button in the bottom-right corner. I hit play and hear what sounds the kit had to offer, keeping in mind that each premade kit comes with many different patterns which you select with the pattern-selector-box (pictured below) in the bottom left corner. If I liked most of the settings I’d leave it and tune the others, or change to a different library kit. Then I clear out the existing beat pattern by right-clicking the pattern-selector-box in the bottom left corner, and clicking Clear.

Clearing a pattern
Pattern menu

This way there is a blank slate to get started quickly, without worrying about millions of parameters.

Now actually using Ultrabeat as part of a track…I also didn’t quite twig this one for a while. There are two main ways:

  1. You can just drag the pattern onto the Ultrabeat track in the main window, from the dotty-button-widget attached to the pattern-selector-box. Hooray, instant region with drum beats corresponding to your pattern.
  2. Turn on “pattern mode” at the bottom of the Ultrabeat window. This allows you to control when a pattern is triggered by sending events (notes) to Ultrabeat—for instance to play/stop/start the pattern listed at note G -1, just put a G -1 note of any length in the Ultrabeat track.

Automation

GarageBand 3 had a cute, if difficult to use precisely, feature for dynamically changing ONE AND ONLY ONE of either volume or pan, per track, over a track. This was accessed by pressing the little downward triangle button, the one next to the lock button, in the little widget bar on the track header.

Logic is way more flexible. Hit “Automation” in the toolbar. All tracks expand to show the available automation data.

Automation!
Automation

Clicking and dragging points in the automation view can have different effects (reader may experiment). Aside from any combination of volume and pan, one may also automate any combination of just about ALL the possible parameters in the instrument input AND all the inserts. Keep adding more automation by expanding the triangle in the bottom left.

Now how do I make an MP3?

In Logic this is called by the proper name: bouncing. File -> Bounce… Pay close attention to the start and end locations in the dialog. They may not be quite what you expect.

Goodnight

That’s all folks, hope you had a happy read. Stay tuned for a possible part 2, or maybe a tutorial where you make a whole song. Or I win the lottery and delegate blogging to a lowly minion. Bwah hah hah hah…