How To Easily Get Started In Logic Pro X With Your First Song
After countless nights finding the right lyrics, recording numerous voice memos on your phone, and testing different melodies for verses, you finally have a finished song and you’re ready to begin the recording process. Odds are you have an Apple computer and maybe you’ve dabbled with Logic Pro X or its little brother, Garage Band.
Thanks to modern technology, anyone with a digital audio workstation (DAW), computer, and microphone can get their song recorded and released without breaking the bank in a fancy studio or overpaying a producer. Here’s how to get started in Logic Pro X with your first song.
Set up the Project Details
First things first, open up a new project from templates and choose the one that best suits your style. Depending on your music genre, you may have a different creative process for how you write and produce a song. For example, beat makers like to create loops, and acoustic artists will need more audio tracks than midi instruments. You’ll notice the different project templates designed for singer-songwriters, beat makers, or composition artists. Alternatively, you can open up an empty project.
The next thing you’ll want to do is set up the global settings for your track. You can set the song tempo in the top bar as well as the key of the song. If your song is in 6/8 or a different time signature, you’ll want to change this too. Setting these parameters will streamline your creative process and make it much easier to get down to the gritty work of production and recording your track!
Recording with a Mic
It may sound overwhelming to navigate the software, microphone, cables, and routing, but it’s actually pretty simple to set up a microphone and lay some tracks down. First, connect your audio interface to a computer via a USB cable. This interface is what processes your microphone and instrument which gets converted to a digital signal. You’ll find an input on your interface (most beginner ones have 1-2 inputs) and plug in an XLR cable into the input. If you’re tracking guitar, you can record with the mic or plug “directly in” through a line cable. Actually, don’t even plug in a microphone before you finish this process.
Back to microphones. From here, you’ll plug in your mic to the other end of the XLR cable. Depending on your microphone, you may need phantom power which your interface will probably supply. Check out your microphone settings to see if this is needed, and press the 48v button to power the mic. Once the mic is powered, you’ll click the plus sign and add a new audio instrument. In the channel strip, you can then “arm” the track for recording. Press “R” to start tracking or the button up top and voila – you’re tracking! Remember that you can virtually have as many takes as needed to nail the part. Just record over the same section and Logic will put your takes into a folder where you can choose, mix, and fade together. This is known as “comping” and is great for tracking lead vocals and guitars.
This tip is more about the process of recording your song than a technical one, but consider laying scratch tracks. Scratch tracks help you get down your ideas (with all their imperfections) down faster. This helps you map out a song and hear parts as a whole. Once you’re satisfied with your arrangement, you can then go back and lay the final tracks. Having the “rough draft” of the whole song will help you focus on the big picture, so you can focus later on specific parts or outsource to other musicians who can nail the part.
Loading Virtual Instruments
Thanks to computers and software, it’s never been easier to arrange an entire production on your own. You don’t need to buy a Rhodes electric piano, Moog synth, or hire a full orchestra….because Logic Pro X has everything you could possibly ever need! Start by clicking the “plus” sign in the window and choose a virtual instrument.
By default, Logic loads a vintage electric piano. You can go through the main browser window to look at other instruments and groupings to find the sound you’re going after. Logic has an impressive library including synths, basses, drum kits, guitars, keyboards, orchestral sounds, and even sound design VSTs. In addition, you can always bring in your own plugins and VSTs if you can’t find the sound you’re looking for.
Know Basic Keyboard Shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts will save you time and help you get your song down faster. Logic Pro X actually offers different mappings if you’re used to Pro Tools’ workflow, or you want to custom map your commands. If you’re just starting out, it may be best to learn the important ones like R is for record, T brings up your tools, A brings up automation, etc. It’s worth looking at Apple’s list of key commands.
Use Songwriter Tools
Logic Pro X has some hidden features that many artists have used when producing music. In the right-hand corner of the arrangement window, you’ll see 4 tabs: the List Editors, Notepad, Loop Browser, and Browsers button. The notepad and loop browser are powerful tools to tap into when creating your first song. The notepad can serve a number of ways. Some artists use this to write lyrics, while others jot down mix notes and things to address in the virtual pad.
The loops browser is even more powerful for the up and coming artist. Apple has supplied gigabytes of samples, loops, and sounds that are all at your fingertips. Need a great trashcan beat? Looking for the perfect “snap” sample? Logic’s loop library is surprisingly massive and offers a lot of inspiration and creativity. Don’t pass this one by! Bonus: all loops are royalty-free, so there’s no need to worry about licensing if you use any samples or loops in your track.
Using Effects, Mixing, & Mastering
This is a ton of information! The best way to learn is to get your hands dirty and just start recording. Eventually, you’ll hit a wall and start to learn what you should or shouldn’t use, and how it affects your creative process. After a couple times of recording your guitar or vocals, you’ll start to realize that it doesn’t “sound” like your favorite records. This isn’t something to be alarmed by. All famous songs go through a rigorous mix process where tracks are leveled, blended, and effected to form a final, radio-ready track. It’s usually best to hire a professional mixer and masterer to handle this, but oftentimes artists will “produce” the sounds they’re hearing in their head before they hand off to the mixer. Here are some tricks and plugins to try on your recordings:
- Compression – helps control peaks and smooth out your signal, glues tracks together
- Reverb – adds space and distance
- Delay – adds space and distance
- Saturation – adds distortion, harmonies, and overall sweetener
- EQ – helps cut out bad frequencies and boost good ones
Think of plugins as tools that help you get your song to sound the way you want it to. As you become more advanced you can definitely try out these effects. A typical chain of plugins on a track might look like this:
The recording process is a journey and an experience. Lose yourself in the process and keep experimenting, perfecting, and honing in your skills and sound. The best way to do this is to simply start. Open up Logic Pro X, pull out your guitar or keyboard, and start laying some demo tracks. In no time you’ll have your first song finished in Logic Pro, and you’ll get even better at recording and producing for your follow up singles and maybe even an album!
Only you can create your song, so what’s stopping you from jumping in? The world’s waiting for your hit song – start recording now.
Charles is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheGuitarJunky.com. He helps aspiring musicians get started at becoming real musicians by providing expert insights and guides on music instruments. He’s more into jazz, rather than rock, and more of a guitar guy, than a piano guy. A fan of chromaticism technique, he’s fascinated by the musical works of Stevie Wonder and George Harrison. Follow Guitar Junky on Instagram, and Facebook.