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In Logic Pro 9 Essential Training, Scott Hirsch explains how to harness the power and flexibility of Logic Pro, Apple’s popular songwriting software, to record, edit, and mix music. The course includes instruction on how to compose in Logic Pro, and spend more time being creative and less time dealing with technical uncertainties. Scott focuses on setting up a workspace, recording with both live performers and digital instruments, editing and arranging, and mixing and mastering a composition. Exercise files accompany the course.
Once you have all your volume levels, panning, processing, and effects in place, it's time to give your mix a little life. The thing that separates a good mix from a great one is a little movement. Automation refers to any mix control that moves automatically during the course of the song. It refers not only to fader volume, but panning, plug-in parameters and even software instrument controls. Automation can be written and recorded in realtime or drawn in and edited by hand. Let's see how to use it in Logic. Automation controls are not seen by default.
To see the Automation controls, you can go the View menu and click Track Automation or just type the A button on your keyboard. You'll notice the track size automatically compensates and all tracks now show the first Automation type, Volume. You can click in this Automation parameter pulldown menu to choose Automation type, which, for now, is set to Volume as we can see, because it's checked. You also notice, in yellow, a guide in decibels that tells us the current volume state that we are at. Right now, the fader is set to -2.2 dB and I can see that's reflected on the Channel Strip.
We also have a yellow column that represents the fader position here. We can click on this and drag up or down to change the fader position. Currently, all tracks are in their initial state, meaning no Automation has been written. This initial state is also signified by the Automation status button, which is currently set to off. If we want to write Automation and commit some moves, we'll change this state to Touch. Just click where it says off and you get a pulldown menu. We'll choose Touch. Touch Mode allows us to write any parameter we are currently controlling with the mouse, or touching if you have a touch-sensitive control surface.
This means that if you are moving the fader during playback, it'll write that move as Automation into the track. If you're touching the panner and moving the panner, Logic will write that information into the track. As we start to write Automation, the gray line running horizontally across the track will start to contain Automation nodes, which are Automation data point that tell the parameter where to be. This singer has a tendency to fall off at the end of phrases. So, I am going to use Automation to lift up the end of his words. I am going to hit Play and start moving the fader. You'll see the nodes written as I go.
(Music playing.) Now that we have written Automation, we can go into a Safe Mode, Read Mode where the Automation parameters can follow what we wrote.
In Read Mode, nothing can be written, but as we play it back over this section, you'll see that the fader will automatically follow over the nodes we wrote. (Music playing.) See how the fader in the Channel Strip is automatically moving up and down according to the moves we just made. If you want to rewrite something, we can always pop it back into Touch and revisit a move. (Music playing.) As soon as you are in Touch Mode and you start moving the fader, it'll write that move until you let go of the control.
Latch Mode is like Touch Mode. It will write data only when you're touching that control, except it's different when you release. When you release, it latches onto the last setting and continues to write at that level. I'll demonstrate this. (Music playing.) I let go of the mouse when the fader was at 3.7 and in Latch Mode, it continued to write that point out until I hit Stop. At any time, during Automation, you can always hit Command+Z to undo the last Automation pass you did.
The last mode, Write, ignores what you were touching altogether and writes Automation for all parameters at the current state they are in. Because Write Mode is potentially destructive, meaning it will write over stuff you aren't even currently touching, Write isn't used very much. Okay, now that you get the swing of how Automation works for realtime recording, let's talk about editing and writing it in by hand. Let's zoom all the way into the vocal track to see our Automation's move. With the Pointer tool, Automation nodes can be clicked and dragged on to make adjustments.
When you drag to the left or right, over other nodes, they go way. But if you drag back, it will reveal what was left behind. If you hold the control key after starting to move a node, it restricts your move vertically and makes the adjustment finer. I can't move left to right when I am holding Control. A quick single-click on a node erases it and a quick single-click on the line creates a node. Just like regions, Automation can be copied and pasted. To do this, choose the Automation Select tool.
Now we can drag to make a selection, and we can use Option+drag to move this selection somewhere else. Curves in Automation may be made with Automation Curves tool. Click on a line between two points and drag left or right to make an S shaped curve and drag up and down to make a normal curve. You can also use the Pencil tool to freely draw points. And you can use the Eraser tool to erase points.
You can also view more than one Automation type at a time. If you wanted to view Volume and Pan for the vocal track, just click the disclosure triangle on the left-hand side. Change this Automation parameter to Pan and we can view Pan and Volume. I'll write in some pan moves. Notice it color-codes it. So, Pan is green and yellow is volume. When you are done using Automation, you can hit the A key to go back to normal view. Once you hit the A key, you enter a whole new level of Logic you may not have known it existed, but if you master working with Automation, you'll be able to breathe new life into your mixes, making the mix process as much of a performance as the recording process.
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