Recording and Producing for Creative Musicians
Logic Pro X Tips and Tricks for Beginners
Technology has made it possible for every musician (from newbies to seasoned pros) to fully realize the songs, ideas, and arrangements that are in our imagination, and produce professional-level recordings right from our own computers. The problem that I’ve experienced and helped others overcome is the how-to-get-started phase followed by the how-to-sound-good phase. Especially for technophobes.
Some years ago I was contracted by one of the national chains to conduct weekly production clinics for beginners. There was a team of us and we divided our duties: the Reason and Ableton guru, the Pro Tools specilist, the DJ whiz and I was the Logic, GarageBand and Cubase guy. Every week we would pick a topic and offer a free workshop based on that concept. The participants covered every demographic that you could think of:
- Aspiring singer/songwriters (tattoo girl)
- Weekend rock dads (doctors and lawyers with $3000 guitars)
- Pop-singing housewives (your friend’s cool mom)
- Semi-pro musicians (40+ with playing and teaching gigs)
- Gigging indie artists (20 and 30 somethings playing coffeehouses and clubs)
- Teenagers honing their craft (outsider kids channeling their creativity)
- And, everything in between
They all had mixed levels of experience, different hopes and aspirations, varying comfort levels with computers and technology, etc. The workshops lasted one hour and, after the awkward getting-to-know-each-other introductions, I would speak briefly and demonstrate the topic at hand. It was an uncomfortable setting for 20 or so individuals huddled around a 27-inch monitor. The session would close with a brief Q and A.
It was during this Q and A period that the magic happened—and what I learned that I’d like to share with you. People became more engaged and forthcoming with their concerns, needs, and expectations. And, with all of their differences—we didn’t even discuss their preferences in music styles—they all had the same problem: I want to record my music but…
How do I get started?
We need to take a few things into account before we begin, you have:
- Logic installed and running on your computer
- The ability to record audio and/or midi
- Ideas that need to be recorded
The focus of this and future articles is to maintain that oh-so-elusive creative zone while learning and solving technical issues that arise in the recording, editing and mastering process. In addition, whether you play an instrument, sing, or write songs (or all of the above), I’ll be addressing you as creative musicians.
Learn Your Instrument
I come from a music teaching background and have used this philosophy to teach almost anything. For example, while traveling abroad, I taught English to make some extra money and meet people. I’m not a master of grammar and syntax but I began with simple conversation. Their needs were to simply communicate—much in the same way that not every student wants to play Bach Inventions. I’ve also had music students that, after learning a few chords, just wanted to write and sing their own songs.
This is the approach that I’d like to share with you. Some of you may go on to become master engineers and producers, while others simply want to “learn a few chords and sing your own songs”.
Tip 1: Treat Logic as you would learning a musical instrument
Learning an instrument takes time and practice. It’s part of the journey and it’s the enjoyment of this process that makes it fun. So, make it part of your routine: Practice a few minutes each day. Before you know it, things that were difficult become second nature.
Tip 2: Look at these articles as lessons
Those of you that have taken lessons remember the once-a-week lesson at the music store or teacher’s home. Then, along came the internet, Skype and YouTube lessons, subscription sites, et al. The information is out there; however, it’s all over the place and many lessons assume that you have an intermediate level of recording and producing chops. These articles/lessons/tips are for those:
- New to computer-based recording
- Returning to home recording
- People who want to brush up on the basics
Lesson: Launch the Program
Let’s jump in and get familiar with Logic. The trickiest part is finding your way around.
Again, we’re taking into account that the software (the Logic program) is installed. Then, this may be your first window. “What do you want do?”
The last project that I worked on, “Revo-Blues Chords”, is automatically selected. I have it setup this way and you can change it in the “Preferences” but we’ll get to that in a future article. For now, we’ll check the Create a new project from template… checkbox.
That will launch the Template Window:
Let’s select “Songwriter” and note that at the bottom it has a description, “An ideal writing studio with drums, bass and premium amps together with vocal tracks”.
That will open the Main Window of a Songwriter Project:
The main window is broken up into a few different areas. The first is the Library.
The next is the Dual Channel Strip:
Followed by the Arrange Area:
And, finally, the Editing section:
This first lesson is simple. Launch Logic and begin by checking out each of the templates. Chances are, one of the templates will speak to you more than the others. Get familiar with the layout and don’t be afraid to poke around. Soon we’ll begin delving deeper into each area and learning how to use it. Some functions will be lifesavers and become immediate favorites, while others are “good to know” but not immediately necessary, and still others that will fall into the “I don’t think I’ll ever do that” category.
In the next installment, we’ll take a closer look at these areas. Thanks for checking out this article and I’ll see you next time.