In this article, we’ll take a look at what MIDI is and get you started using some of Logic’s built-in software instruments. If you’re an old hand at MIDI, feel free to skip the introductory sections.
MIDI? What’s that and why do I need it?
Do you remember when Steve Jobs launched the iPad? I remember him saying “iPad is magical”. At the time, I thought, “Come on Steve, it’s just a big iPod isn’t it?”. But, iPad has changed the world, so, I guess it must be at least a bit magical wouldn’t you say.
Well, I’m not going to boor you with a dry history of MIDI, but I am going to tell you why MIDI is magical.
It was our school summer concert, All the parents and governors were there. I was the last act on, playing a show piece, Chopin waltz #14. It was flawless, up until the penultimate chord, when I misplaced my right hand and played the howler with all the panache I could muster! Mercifully it was not being recorded. But imagine for a second that it was. There’s nothing that could have been done to correct that mistake after the fact.
However, Using MIDI would have enabled me to correct just those wrong notes and release a flawless recording – Magical.
Or imagine, You’ve recorded a backing track for a song and your vocalist says,”It’s just a little too high can you make it lower?” With MIDI, you can, without having to record it all again and without having to learn how to play it in a different key – Magical.
And, my favourite, if you’re ever so slightly click-track challenged, you’ve basically got 2 choices. Practice until you can play perfectly in time with the click or, through the wonders of MIDI, have logic put your performance perfectly in time for you quicker than you can utter the word quantise!
So how does that work? When you record from a MIDI keyboard, you’re not recording the actual sound of the keyboard. You’re recording which keys you pressed and when you pressed them. That’s just digital information and can be changed by Logic after the fact. The easiest way to think of a MIDI recording is like writing a document with a word processor. Everything about that document can be edited before you go to print and with midi you can change absolutely everything about your performance after you’ve recorded it and That’s why MIDI is magical, whether you’re a keyboard player or not.
What do I Need to Use Midi in Logic?
In this tutorial, we’re going to talk about how to play the Logic content from your MIDI keyboard. Getting the sounds of your keyboard into Logic will be covered later on. So, here’s the scoop on getting MIDI in to Logic enabling you to play all those glorious instruments.
There are basically 2 types of MIDI keyboard, keyboards which have sounds within them and keyboards which do not. Keyboards which have no sounds are called MIDI controller keyboards and are usually used to play software instruments such as those found in Logic.
Both of these types of keyboard work with logic. They come in all different sizes and price-points. However, if you’re just getting started with MIDI particularly if you’re not a keyboard player, I’d recommend that you buy a MIDI controller keyboard. Have a look at some reviews online or grab one from Ebay. If you already own a keyboard, then you can just use that.
You will next need to connect your keyboard to your Mac and there are 2 ways of doing this. Most of the newer keyboards enable you to use MIDI via USB. If your keyboard can connect via USB, then all you need is a USB cable from your keyboard to your Mac and you’re all set and ready to go. However, you will need to check the manual of your keyboard to make sure that it is sending MIDI through the USB socket and not through the standard MIDI sockets you’ll find on all keyboards and make sure you select the USB setting. I would recommend that you just try a USB cable first, but if that doesn’t work, it’s probably because you’ll need to change a setting on your keyboard to make it send MIDI via USB.
If your keyboard is not capable of sending MIDI via USB, , it will have MIDI ports on the back, look for 2 or 3 circular sockets on the back of your keyboard right next to each other. In this case, You will need a MIDI cable and a MIDI interface to connect to your Mac. If your audio interface has MIDI built in, you will need to connect a MIDI cable from the MIDI out socket on your keyboard to the MIDI in socket on your audio interface, then you’re ready to go.
If your keyboard does not have a USB connection and your audio interface does not have MIDI built in, you will need to get a MIDI interface for your Mac. Just search for Mac MIDI interface on Amazon and get one. In this scenario, again, you’ll need a MIDI cable connected from the MIDI out socket of your keyboard to the MIDI in socket of your MIDI interface, then you too are all ready to go.
Creating Software Instrument Tracks
A software instrument track is very similar to an audio track. However, it enables you to play the instrument from your MIDI keyboard. Once you have connected your key board to your Mac, Logic will automatically see that it’s connected.
You create a software instrument track in much the same way as you create an audio track. However, in the New Track dialog box, you will need to select the Software instrument radio button and, for the purpose of this tutorial, make sure that the Open Library checkbox is not checked.
If you need more information about the New Track dialog box, check out the Projects and Tracks tutorial in this series.
Go ahead and create an empty Logic project with a single software instrument track now and then play your keyboard. You should now be hearing the sound of an electric Piano. If you’re not hearing this sound when you play, you’ll need to check your connections and then check the manual of your keyboard to make sure that you’ve set it up correctly.
Try recording your playing, you’ll find that it works exactly the same as recording on to an audio track.
Instruments and Patches
What you’re hearing right now is Logic’s Vintage electric piano instrument. Logic has lots of different kinds of instruments, Basses pianos, drums etc. However, each of those instruments is capable of making a variety of different sounds. The B3 organ serves up rock organs, gospel organs etc.
Each different sound that an instrument makes is called a patch. So more accurately, you’re now playing the Classic Electric Piano patch of the vintage electric piano instrument.
Now, at present, we’ve not covered enough of logic to fully explain how instruments and patches are setup on software instrument tracks. However, there is a quick and very handy way of choosing instruments and patches without going into all the detail about channel strips, which we will cover later on. We do this via Logic’s Library.
The Logic Library
Logic ships with a very extensive library of preset patches all arranged nicely in categories and ready to use with a minimum of fuss.
You open Logic’s library by pressing the letter y. Pressing Y again will close the Library.
When you press the key command Y to open the library, The library will appear but you will still be in the Tracks group. To get into the library, you need to press the tab key. When you do this, VoiceOver will say “library browser. Patch category, choose a category to reveal patches.”
You’re now basically in a table. The left-most column holds the main instruments such as Bass, Drum Kit, electric Drum Kit etc.
VO to the leftmost column and then VO down to piano.
Now, VO across to the right and you’ll be in a list of piano patches. VO up and down in this list to choose a patch and as you move to the different patches, you can play them immediately on your keyboard. Try the grand piano and pad patch for example.
Now, depending on the type of instrument you choose, there are further
columns to explore, for example, Vo+left arrow once. Now you’re back
at the Piano category.
Now come down to Synthesiser and go across to the right. Now you’ll
hear VoiceOver say Bass because you’re in a column of types of Synth
sound and you can pick your category and then move across to the right
to browse those sounds in the category you’ve chosen.
Searching for patches in the library
if you prefer to search for patches instead of browsing through categories, you can use the library’s search feature. there are two ways to get to the search box from the browser.
The first way is to uninteract with the browser and then VO left one time and you’ll be on it.
The second and quicker way is to press command+shift+VO+J to move to the previous control. When you arrive there, VoiceOver will say “Search sounds, search text field”, and you can type your search.
Once you’ve typed your search, theres no need to press return, just VO-right to the table of results, interact and try them out.
When you’ve found the sound you want, press Tab to get back to the tracks group, then press Y to close the library.
Downloading sounds for the library
When you install Logic, it comes with a set of “Essential” sounds but there are many more. If, like me, you decided not to download all the content when you first installed Logic, then now’s a good time to do that.
To download the remaining sounds for the library do the following:
press VO-M to get to the menubar and open the logic Pro X menu
Next, come down to the sound library submenu, open it and choose download all available sounds.
In this article, you’ve learned how to hook your MIDI keyboard up to logic and how to make use of the sounds in Logic’s extensive sound library.
the only key command we’ve covered is the Y key which is used to open and close the library.
Next up, Tracks and channel strips