My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

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Logic Pro X: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by muzines »

Logic Pro X

So, let's have a look at a few of my favourite workflow features in Logic.
(There are plenty of others, of course, but these are the ones I choose to highlight here - in no particular order.)

1: Track Assignment

Logic has an unusually flexible track assignment concept, which differs from most other DAWs, and even many Logic users don't quite get the concept.

In most DAWs, when you add a track, say an audio track, the track appears in the arrangement view, and a channel strip for that track appears in the mixer.

Logic isn't limited to this fixed 1:1 relationship. When you create a new audio track, usually it's assigned to the next free audio object, which is also displayed as a channel strip in the mixer - so far, so normal.

But you can have multiple arrange tracks, all with the *same* object assigned. So you can have ten tracks, all playing to your audio channel 1 object, which is very flexible when in comes to editing. Or five different tracks, all feeding the *same* software instrument, maybe with some tracks on different MIDI channels.

In fact, "tracks" in the arrange window are themselves dumb, and it's the playback object assigned to them that gives them their identity (audio track, MIDI track, software instrument track etc), and this can be *any environment object* (which is how you connect the arrange page to the environment if required.)

This also is why some people get confused with the difference between the two "duplicate track" commands - "Create track with same object" (which creates a new track, assigned to the same channel strip object as the selected track) vs "Create track with next object" (which creates a new track, and duplicates the existing object - eg a software instrument channel, with a second independent instance of all the plugins.)

2: Window Handling

Ever since Logic 1.x, Logic has the concept of Screensets, which let you position and save any combination of windows, and switch between them. While many people just use a single screen environment, and open, move and close windows constantly while working, this is really slow, inefficient and clunky.

(I used to watch people in horror as they'd double click a MIDI region to open up an editor, reposition and size the window on the screen to not overlap some important content, set the zoom to where they wanted it to be, edit a few notes, close the window, then select the next region and go through the whole thing again...)

The newer consolidated/integrated window approach added in Logic 8+ was an attempt to help streamline window handling for typical users - so you have one Main window, and can make the bottom section be various different editing windows, pop in other panels on the left and right side etc, which works for many people and can be convenient - but misses some of the power of Logic's window handling approach.

When using Logic, I'm usually in one of a few different "modes' of working - I might be recording/playing, or doing detailed audio editing, or detailed MIDI editing, or doing mixing/automation etc. Of course, we all flit between things as required. But rather than constantly opening, positioning windows or panels to fit the task I'm doing, I have different Screensets set up for just those tasks, which I switch to (top row of the number keys, eg 1-9).

And this means I can use *multiple windows* on those tasks. My MIDI editing screenshot for example opens up multiple editing windows, floating panels and so, in the arrangement I like, so I can use the most appropriate tools from any of the windows to most efficiently make the necessary edits - and this can include multiple windows with the same editor open, with different setings - say zoom settings (having two arrangement windows open, one zoomed out for overview, and one zoomed in for detail, is useful).

To edit, I just select the region I want to edit, press "2", and Logic gives me my complete personalised multi-window editing environment. When done, "1" and I'm back to my default working screen.

Using multiple windows, Screensets, Link modes (which determines what content windows display) and various related features makes Logic a really flexible working enviornment, which can be configured in the way that works best for your needs - without you having to worry about tedious window maintenance.

3: Mackie Control Support

The Logic Control debuted with Logic 5, and it was remarkably well designed, and is still the only fairly universally supported controller standard that offers the majority of things you need to do with a controller, that requires *no mapping*, and just works.

Controller handling is a bugbear of mine. Generic controllers, that require mapping, are so unwieldy to use no one really bothers, and in this regard Logic is generally less good than other DAWs that handle generic controllers a little better (Live does a fairly good job with this, for example.)

Logic added "Smart Controls" to help, but this is only pre-mapped with factory content, and for your own uses, you're back to manual mapping. I don't use them at all (and generally they look pretty cheesy too)

(Ok, in some cases, the ability to manually map a set of controls on an important sound or plugin can be useful, but no one wants to have to map on a regular basis - it's just tedious busy work that interferes with creative work.)

Despite having an MCU+XT system, it's large, and in some ways isn't ideal for my uses (eg a portable laptop system), so I developed a custom controller scheme, based around the MCU standard, as all the MIDI mappings for the MCU are completely open and editable - so you can change how it works if necessary. So I have a little controller that's portable, set up to my (specific) requirements that can do mixing, synth editing, and plugin editing in a really simple and accessible way.

You can even tell Logic to generate parameter listing text files for each plugin, and then go and change the order those parameters are called up on the controls, letting you define consistant handling for all your plugins.

So, the MCU is a great controller, the spec is supported by many hardware boxes and DAWs, it requires no mapping from the user, is well integrated into Logic, but it also sufficiently editable to change the behaviour enough to develop custom controller schemes to help you connect your hardware to your software in a way that's empowering, not frustrating.

4: Plugin Management

With a hardware studio, it's common sense to put the instruments and effects you use all the time within easy reach, the things you use a bit less frequently maybe off to the side, and the things you break out only occasionally can go back in the cupboard out of view.

For a long time (*years*!), Logic made all plugins only accessible with a trawl through large, long-winded multi-level menus, organised by manufacturer only (which doesn't make sense when you want to maybe try out a few compressor choices), and it used to drive me nuts.

After many years, I decided to start developing my own solution to this, as it seemed it would never change within Logic. My app was coming along nicely - and then Apple of course released a Logic update with the Plugin Manager.

But at last you can organise plugins how you like - put in top level menus of "Compressors", "Reverbs", "Delays", and so on, create folders, even rename plugins.

I have categories for selected virtual instrument plugins for example, like:
Synths -> Classic Analog
Synths -> Classic Digital
Synths -> Modern Digital
Classic Instruments
Drums -> Acoustic
Drums -> Beats

I can put my most used/favourite tools at the top level, and then put in some less commonly used items a level down, and keep the stuff I rarely use out of eyesight and not clutter up my choices.

This was a feature I was waiting a very long time for, and it's *most* welcome.

(You still can't select plugins via the keyboard though. Maybe if I restart development on my app, they'll add it in the meantime...)

5: Region/MIDI Thru Parameters

Last up, another long time feature that originated with C-Lab's Creator/Notator, but was good enough to make it through to Logic too.

In Logic, when you have a MIDI region selected, there are a bunch of parameters displayed in the region Inspector panel that let you adjust, non-destructively (they are calculated in real-time on playback), parameters such as quantisation, transposition, velocity modification and so on.

When you don't have a region selected, this panel instead displays the MIDI Thru parameters, which are applied in realtime to the incoming MIDI data as you play. This lets you transpose, shift and compress velocities, compensate for keyboard limitations, limit the keyboard, change MIDI channel all on the fly.

Any recordings you make with those parameters have those same parameters copied to the MIDI regions, so the original played data is still intact, and any modifications to the MIDI data are again just applied on playback.

This is a really fast, flexible approach to making typical MIDI data modifications in a transparent, non-destructive and easily managed way.
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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by CS70 »

Matt Houghton wrote:
CS70 wrote: as this thread shows, the differences are minimal, and mostly cosmetic.

Perhaps I didn't phrase my post about Reaper very well, then. While I agree to an extent when it comes to most DAWs — they've all largely converged on the same basic model, with a few different frills around the edges, and GUI differences — some of Reaper's functionality and approach is very different from that of other DAWs.

Hehe, I said I may have missed some! Mouse modifiers seem interesting, even if probably you can achieve the same efficiency with other ways in other apps (Sonar has smart tools for example which change what click do depending on where in the clip you are).

I simply noticed that 90% of the stuff is plain vanilla - and certainly the top 5 functions are the same for everyone: can record, can edit, can overdub, can add effects etc. :) Basically what a DAW does.
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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by Kwackman »

Forum Admin wrote: having a range of the core DAWs each issue allowed folks to peruse how things are done in a different DAW.

Yup, I read the shimmer reverb article that was shown in Logic's Notes a month or so back , and copied the workflow in Cubase.
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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by blinddrew »

Kwackman wrote:
Forum Admin wrote: having a range of the core DAWs each issue allowed folks to peruse how things are done in a different DAW.

Yup, I read the shimmer reverb article that was shown in Logic's Notes a month or so back , and copied the workflow in Cubase.

Likewise I have a quick scan at each DAW notes article, some of them are very product-specific, in which case I'll probably move on, but some are more concept-based (e.g. the shimmer article Kwackman mentions) and translate easily to other DAWs.
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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by Studio Support Gnome »

1) it records from single to high track count multi-track , through a vast range of interfaces with no stupid restrictions on I/O
2) it plays back reliably
3) it doesn't sound horrid
4) it can do real time processing with sensible latency
5) it'll run on my Laptop

anything else is fairy dust icing on the cake
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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by Dynamic Mike »

This thread has turned out to be quite enlightening. It appears quite a few of us are buying 'full fat' versions of DAW's for one or two features that aren't included in the lite versions. In my case with Cubase there are complex audio options and effects I require, whereas in contrast my midi needs probably wouldn't tax a 48k Spectrum. One basic synth with a few decent pads & a simple grid would suffice for me. On the other side of the coin I'm sure many here would trade a guitar amp simulator they never intend using for an extra synth. Others might never record audio at all & would prefer additional midi features.

I know you don't have to use any features you don't need, but they all add to the clutter & complexity of the layout, making it harder for beginners to find anything. There's also a nagging doubt that maybe you should be using them because you've paid for them. A bit like that Mandolin you bought, used on one intro & then never bothered to learn how to play properly?

Maybe an alternative business model would be a DAW whereby you purchased a basic framework with an audio & midi engine and then just included those features you wanted, with the option to add stuff as you went along. I mean something like those car manufacturers that now allow you to personalise the spec of a new car bit by bit rather than opting for a complete package of extras.
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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by blinddrew »

Dynamic Mike wrote:A bit like that Mandolin you bought, used on one intro & then never bothered to learn how to play properly?

I feel personally attacked here! ;)
Dynamic Mike wrote:Maybe an alternative business model would be a DAW whereby you purchased a basic framework with an audio & midi engine and then just included those features you wanted, with the option to add stuff as you went along.

Sounds a bit like how a guitar or synth selection gets started... :)
I guess the flaw with the modular proposition is that you can get a fully featured DAW like cakewalk for free, or Reaper for not much. I totally recognise the advantages of not getting distracted by features that you don't (yet) need, but I think you're fighting a hard battle against human nature. :)
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Re: Logic - My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by ManFromGlass »

I don’t want to quote the Full Desmond above but he is bang on with my thoughts except -

6 - freely assignable key commands. When the deadline clock is ticking mousing around slows me down and encourages the carpal tunnel.

7 - 1 pass stem bouncing. (Recording multiple tracks with their own outs + fx at once) The flexibility of Logic saves me hours now that I have that figured out. I always have to deliver stems for cues and if a show is wall-to-wall music then I’m not up pulling an all-nighter bouncing and checking stems.
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Reason: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by C.LYDE »

I did a top 5 for Cubase, and now I why I use Reason...

1.Combinators
Simply the most powerful synth creation tool built-in into a DAW... except possibly MAX for Ableton Live. Anything I or others imagine can be created..layered, analogue, sampler, FM mixed and stirred in any way possible with MIDI CC and then some :beamup:

2. Players
So much fun! Love the way noodling can turn into real musical ideas... :bouncy:

3. The Rack
The environment after all these years without equal ... to able to patch & link ...like a kid in a audio toy store...

4, The limited mixer
This may be seen as a "limitation" but sometimes not having too many options is a relief ;)

5. The instruments!
Simply love THOR and EUROPA... truly amazing (somewhat underrated) synths ...

Passing thought ... most of us have more than 1 guitar, synth, mic etc - why not more than 1 DAW... ? :thumbup:
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Re: Reason: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by ConcertinaChap »

C.LYDE wrote:Passing thought ... most of us have more than 1 guitar, synth, mic etc - why not more than 1 DAW... ? :thumbup:


Brainpower undersupply, quite simply. :(

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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by blinddrew »

Also tools for the job. I have a number of guitars that all make slightly different (or wildly different) sounds. You pick the one that's appropriate and sometimes you need something that one of them won't do.
I.e the range of jobs is wider than the practical breadth of the tool.
For DAWs it's the other way round for most folks - Most DAWs can do far more than they are regularly used for, so why use more than one?
Though I did think heavily about getting Harrison Mix-bus just for stem-mixing / mastering when they had that huge discount a while back.
But in the end I decided that my time was better spent learning to get the best out of Reaper rather than learning another DAW.
Hence CC's comment above... :)
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Re: My Top 5 DAW Features & Functions

Post by Sam Spoons »

:thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
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