Photo courtesy of Morula
October 21st, 2008 – I’ve been a Logic user since version 5. This would make me a noob in the world of audio. It wasn’t until version 7, that I actually sat down and learned how to use its features properly. Even now, I don’t use all of its functionality (there’s a lot), but I know enough to get stuff done. This post will be not so much a review, but a brief look into my history at using such software, why I chose Logic, and why I am considering moving away from it.
I wouldn’t say I’m new to the world of music production, but I wouldn’t say I’m an old hat either. Like most wannabe rockers, I was part of a garage band in high school. It was the grunge era, but we were heavily influenced by our parent’s music. The mix was pretty eccelectic; imagine Nirvana, but with a hint of the Doors. Equally odd was our recording gear. We tried using cassette 4-track recorders, and at times we recorded with Fostex tape-reel recorders.
I got away from music for a while, but when I returned a few years later I knew that I wanted to be able to engineer everything myself. Back when I was in the band, recording on computers wasn’t something that was really available to the hobby engineer, but I had gotten to try the Cakewalk series in the early 90’s. Fast-forward to 1999, and the rise of the mp3 opened up music on the computer. Suddenly there were a lot of recording choices, but none as good as Protools, which was unaffordable to me at the time.
One of the programs I liked and could afford was Acid, now owned by Sony. The reason I liked it (aside from the great time and pitch stretching), was that I could create a song easily; there were loops there to get my song ideas going. Sure, some may debate the creativity of loop-based music, including me occasionally, but there’s nothing like hearing the start of something to kick off a completely new song. While loop-based music is cool, it doesn’t necessarily work all the time for rock bands. After researching some of the options out there, Cubase was one of the programs that stood out. After trying it out, however, it was clear that I was in way over my head. Even though I had patched together various gear in an analog setting, I couldn’t figure out how to do it properly in the virtual world.
I decided to go to music school where I learned how to use analog gear, Protools, and Logic. Out of all the options out there at the time, it was Logic that caught my attention. I had tried to use it when it was in iteration five, but like Cubase, I wasn’t able to get into it. But now it was in version six and transitioning to seven. Apple had bought the Logic franchise and seven was the first Logic that it released after the merger. What made Logic stand out at this point was that it included everything. While programs before had included additional plug-ins, it was always an EQ here, or a sampler there. Sometimes stuff that was included wasn’t even the full version, and could expire.
Logic was really the first program to include everything you need to take a song from idea to mastered product. Sure, it doesn’t include the best of any one thing, but the whole package makes up for it. With Logic 7, I could record live instruments along with sampled instruments (a huge library is included in the EXS24 sampler), mix them and route them in any way I saw fit, apply FX, and then master with a suite of included plug-ins. Logic 7 included a huge library of Apple Loops (which beat a lot of the Acid loops I hear out there) that were a carry over from Garageband, and a full library of sounds in the EXS24. As well, you received quite a few extra plug-in instruments like synthesizers, and modelers. One of the things that helped me the most was that everything had presets. You could start with a preset for any plug-in and then tweak it to your taste. Imagine what a help that was to a musician like myself who isn’t necessarily a gear savant?
Compare this to Protools which, at the time, had extremely poor MIDI support (a deal breaker for a songwriter who uses MIDI to trigger samplers), had very few included plug-ins, and an utter lack of included loops or sampled instrument content. One thing that Protools had over Logic, though, was it’s audio editing. Logic was extremely weak in the audio editing department. Creating new audio regions and applying certain processes like reverse on the regions is a pain in Logic. Protools edits audio easily and how you’d expect it to. That’s why my choice in the studio when recording artists was always Protools. At home, when writing a song, Logic had everything I needed. Until recently that is.
Logic Studio (which Logic 8 is a part of) was released last fall. On the surface, the changes appeared to be minor. Aside from newly bundled software and better compatability with newer hardware devices, the UI was updated to better match Apple’s universal software designs, and workflow was supposedly simplified. I say supposedly because, while simplifying the routing for new users to Logic, Apple changed channel routing so that some more complex mixes I had would no longer work. Finding a work around was a challenge that I wasn’t particularly thrilled about.
The biggest gripe I have with Logic Studio, is what they didn’t upgrade. I am surely not alone in wishing that the audio editing be upgraded to spec with the industry standard, Protools. Apple has been positioning Logic as a professional solution, but no one is going to switch to it completely in a studio setting unless editing is more precise, and more intuitive. Yes, Logic is great for writing songs, but I only put up with it’s poor audio handling when I’m recording a rhythm guitar, and not when I’m recording a vocalist. I hate having to use two programs, it takes attention that I should otherwise be putting towards the music. My workflow has been (because of the previous defecencies of both Logic and Protools), write and produce the music for a song in Logic, record the artist and lead instrument parts in Protools.
Enter Protools 8. As I’ve posted before, it is going head to head with Logic with a plethora of included content and (fracking finally) proper MIDI support. One of the features that had me pleasantly surprised was the score editing; Digidesign’s aquisition of Sibelius sure paid off big time. New plug-ins including a decent sampler and an impressive looking (if minimal) sample library, are a pretty big carrot. Supposedly their hardware (which I have never been a big fan of), has been updated as well. I’m still not too crazy about using their proprietary hardware but I could certainly work around it if the software is as promising as it sounds.
These days, I find myself doing more remixes, and being interested in recording other artists again. This new Protools may have everything I need to record more hiphop-centric or singer-songwriter/band-type music. Unlike Logic, which I use to record mostly solo stuff, instrumentals, and sound track work, I will need to run Protools again, and with the upgrades that Protools 8 has, I may just be tempted to use Logic less and less. That’s too bad for Apple, because they have a great product that’s getting left behind.