The Logic Pros-Track Stacks-01The Logic Pros is a new regular series exploring all of the most interesting gadgets and software for making music on your Mac/iOS devices. If there is any gear you would like us to take a closer hands-on look at, let us know in the comments section below or shoot us an email.

In this week’s edition of The Logic Pros, we will be sticking with the basics to highlight one of Logic Pro X’s most helpful additions: Track Stacks. It is mainly used for organizational reasons and to provide a simple way to create sub-mixes inside your DAW, a technique that has been used by recording engineers/song makers for decades, and previous to Track Stacks, required a number of clicks to get up and running.

Most tutorials and articles online that showcase Logic’s macro, auto-grouping feature focus on the track management abilities and the ease with which Track Stacks allow not-as-experienced users to group tracks together in sensible ways. On top of all that, we will be exploring some of the more creative ways to use the feature, including the creation of fat, multi-layered synth patches/drum hits, and the streamlined editing there of:

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Track Stacks come in two flavors: Folder Stacks and Summing Stacks. Both types have a main track (or stack master) and as many subtracks as you desire. Simply shift click a group of tracks on your arrange page to set them in a Stack. The newly created stack master will have a disclosure triangle which allows you to show/hide the subtracks it now contains. Subtracks can consist of just about any kind of track you may have in your project, from audio instruments and typical audio tracks, to MIDI, aux and multi-output instrument tracks.

Folder Stacks:

Folder Stacks are the more basic of the two. They simply organize your chosen subtracks without altering the audio routing settings within. The stack master’s channel strip in a Folder Stack gives you basic control over the subtracks within, including volume, mute and solo. There are no global Smart Controls in Folder Stacks, but you will still be able to access the individual Smart Controls for your subtracks.

Note: the individual parameter states of the subtracks are preserved, regardless of the changes made on the stack master’s controls.

Folder Stacks are essentially a quick way to organize tracks together, especially on projects with a large number of elements, offering quick muting and soloing. Helpful, but generally basic stuff, where things get more interesting is with the significantly more powerful Summing Stacks:

Summing Stacks:

We will be creating Summing Stacks the same way we create Folder Stacks, but there is a lot more going on under the hood here. In one fell swoop, Logic Pro X will automatically create an aux track, set up a bus, and then route the output of your selected subtracks to the newly formed aux track or stack master, in this case.  While we could have done this previous to the addition of Summing Stacks, it required us to manually route the output of the tracks to a bus, and lacked the organized approach Stacks take to the way tracks are laid out on our arrange page.

Not only do we get volume, mute, solo and send level control over the whole group of tracks on the stack master channel strip, but we can also treat the group like a typical sub-mix and apply audio effects (plug-ins) that affect all of the tracks in the Stack collectively.

Even better, the stack master in a Summing Stack can also handle MIDI performances, essentially acting as a master track for all of the audio instrument tracks inside. With this, we can trigger several (any number of) audio instrument tracks with a single MIDI performance via the stack master to create lush, multi-layered patches for our projects. We can also save the entire Summing Stack as a “patch” and store it in our Logic Pro X library to create our very own archive of monster synth stacks, lush pads and massive drum hits:

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Here’s how to set it up:

1. First let’s create 2-5 audio instrument tracks to source our multi-layered sounds from. Feel free to spend some time choosing/creating some sounds that you like.

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2. Click the track header on the top most track, and shift click the others so they are all highlighted on the arrange page. Then hit shift + command + D or right click/control click on one of the selected track headers and choose “Create Track Stack…”.

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3. In the dialogue menu that pops-up, choose Summing Stack. Now we are left with the tracks/sounds we created earlier all neatly tucked inside the newly formed stack master.

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4. Any MIDI that is recorded or placed on the stack master, will automatically be routed to all of the instruments in your stack. And of course, when the stack master is in record, any MIDI data sent from your controller or keyboard will send to the subtracks. This can be great for writing new parts or designing new sounds before actually recording.

Normally we would need to arm all of our tracks to trigger them all at once with our MIDI keyboard or an already recorded MIDI region, but now all we have to do is put the stack master in record. We can also easily edit and copy/paste those regions, without worrying about the need to select multiple MIDI regions, across multiple tracks at once.

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Smart Controls and Summing Stacks are friends. The Smart Controls for the stack master on a Summing Stack can be mapped to individual channel strip and/or plug-in parameters on any of the subtracks as well as the master. This effectively provides a (fairly) simple way to control customized parameter changes on any one of the instruments on your stack from a single (hardware or on-screen) control.

One track at a time. We are also able to record and edit MIDI performances on the subtracks themselves in addition to the stack master, which can he helpful for adding flourishes and harmonies to our parts from a specific instrument only.

Experiment with octave settings. Tuning one of the instruments on one of the subtracks down (or up) an octave (or even a fifth) or two, for example, can help to make the sound even bigger.

Create your own library of Stack patches. Hit “Save Channel Strip Setting As…” in the menu found by clicking and holding on the “Setting” box on your stack master’s channel strip to save your patch to the library.

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About the Author

Justin Kahn

Justin is a senior editor covering all things music for 9to5Mac, including our weekly Logic Pros series exploring music production on Mac and iOS devices. Justin is an audio engineer/producer with over 10 years experience in the music industry.