In this week’s episode of The Logic Pros, we are taking a look at one of Logic’s most prized possessions. A mainstay since, well, almost forever, the EXS24 sampler may seem basic and over-looked simply by virtue of being around for so long, but it might be one of LPX’s most useful musical instruments.
Not only does EXS24 come with hundreds of GBs of samples and the instruments they are made up of inside LPX (for free), but it can also be used to create our very own sampler instruments. For those just getting into Logic for the first time, EXS’s true potential can be somewhat hidden behind the wealth of instruments you’ll find in your library after installation, so we thought a rundown of how to create custom instruments and its additional features was in order. We will also be covering some alternate options for doing so that more experienced users may find helpful:
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For those who may not know, EXS24 is indeed a virtual sampler instrument. It uses audio files (just like those you find on your computer) and organizes them in such a way that we can trigger and sequence them with our MIDI keyboards inside of LPX (or any other DAW for that matter). This is a technique that has been used in music production off all kinds for some 50 years in one way or other, and made extremely popular in electronic based music production with the Akai MPC hardware samplers.
Fortunately for us, EXS24 is packed inside of LPX for free, along with the massive sampler library that we mentioned earlier. Not only can we tweak and access those preset library instruments, but we can also load up audio clips of any kind to create our own instruments, whether it be clips of already existing songs in your iTunes library, samples you dug up online or bits of tracks you previously created on your own.
Today we will take a look at how to create our own custom instruments, what we can do process them on EXS24 after the fact and some of the various parameters and options that control the way EXS24 handles your audio files. But first, we have a few administrative tasks to talk about:
OK, I know this is boring stuff. A necessary evil I’m afraid. Every EXS24 sampler instrument is made up of two things: a (.exs) sampler instrument file and an accompanying instrument sample folder containing the samples (audio) it is made up of. Before starting to create your first sampler instruments it is always a good idea to create a dedicated “SAMPLES” folder that you will use to store all of you samples (instrument sample folders). Remember, in order to have it so that all of the sampler instruments you create are always accessible to you in all your projects, DO NOT move or rename the “SAMPLES” folder after the fact, otherwise you’ll end up with some messy reassignment tasks (not the end of the world, but super annoying. Hit us up in the comments below if you need a hand with anything like this).
Note: When saving our LPX sessions, Logic always gives an option to copy the “EXS instruments and samples” used in that particular project to its session folder. While you do not need to do this if you are using the above “SAMPLES” folder method, it is always a good idea (necessary) if you’re planning on opening that session on other computers (that don’t have access to your master “SAMPLES” folder).
Creating a Custom Sampler Instrument:
1. Open a new Software Instrument track (option + command + N) and then load up an EXS24 from the Input section of the channel strip.
2. In most cases, EXS24 will open up with no sound loaded in the form of a basic sine wave-like sound. Hit that little “Edit” button to the right of the filter section.
Note: If you do not see the above mention “Edit” button on your EXS24, you’ll need to quickly make an adjustment to your LPX preferences. Hit the Logic Pro X menu up top > Preferences menu > Advanced Tools… (or push command + , and select the Advanced tab). From here we can choose to turn on/off various advanced controls throughout Logic. I suggest just hitting the first “Show Advanced Tools” checkbox to get the works.
3. The sampler instrument editor opens up so we can tweak existing instruments, or in this case, create our own. Along the top of the window, hit the pull down menu labeled “Zone” and then the “Load Multiple Samples” option (or control + o, once the editor is open).
Note: You can also drag and drop audio files directly from the Finder onto this window to create instruments. Quick and easy, but not quite as organized and controlled of a set-up in my opinion, which is generally preferred when creating instruments for your personal library.
4. A familiar looking Finder window will appear, allowing us to navigate to the samples (audio clips) on our computer or hard drive we would like to load up. As previously mentioned, it always a good idea to place the samples in their own folder inside of your master “SAMPLES” folder. You can either manually select individual files or just one in the folder and then choose the “Add All” option seen above. Once your desired audio clips appear in the queue at the bottom of the dialog window, hit the “Done” button in the bottom right corner.
5. Once you hit “Add”, Logic will bring you back to the sampler instrument editor and present you with three options:
a. For drum, percussion or anything that doesn’t require chromatic tuning, the “Drums” or more likely the “Contiguous Zones” option will do the trick just fine.
b. If you have a series of pitched or Chromatic notes from a sampled instrument, for example, the “Auto Map” can be helpful: When purchasing sample libraries or even creating or own from recordings, the way the files are named in the Finder allows EXS24 to map them to your MIDI keyboard correctly, saving you the hassle of manually moving the samples to the proper keys yourself. The root note of the sample, followed by the incidental (sharps and flats) and then the octave represented by a number. For example, a file in the Finder named “C#1.wav”, will be placed on the C# key in the first octave of your keyboard. A file named G#5, will be placed on the G# key in the fifth octave on your keyboard, and so on.
6. Optional. The sampler editor window gives us a host of different options on how EXS24 treats each sample in our newly formed instrument. Along the top of the list you see a series of options including tuning, volume, pan, key range, pitched 1Shot, Reverse and more. Many of which are self explanatory, for example, Reverse will indeed reverse the sample, playing it back to front when it gets triggered. Key Range will determine which key or range of keys that particular sample gets played back from. You may need to disable the 1Shot option if you’re creating non-chromatic samples that aren’t drums, so the sample ceases playing when you lift your finger off the key (uncheck the 1Shot to disable, or hit command + A first to deselect them all at once).
Note: You’ll also notice the small graphical keyboard along the bottom of the editor. We can choose to extrapolate the pitch of a particular instrument by dragging the right or left corner of the samples here. For example, if you have a sample that plays the note C, you can drag the right and left corners of that sample to pitch it chromatically across the keyboard (same as Key Range).
7. Now, in order to save this newly created instrument to our permanent custom sample instrument library, all we need to do is save it. Hit the “Instrument” menu along the top and hit save, or just cancel out of the editor and Logic will prompt you to save it. Logic will automatically understand that this instrument sources the folder we created that resides in our master “Samples” folder, so let’s just choose a place for the .exs part of the puzzle. Feel free to store them where you like, but I personally like to use the folder Logic provides me, as it keep things neat, tidy and reliable for future sessions. Now just play some keys on your MIDI keyboard and bamm, you’re all set.
Now you’ll find that newly created instrument will appear in the instrument/preset menu inside of EXS24 in every session you open on your computer, new or old. It works just like any other Software Instrument in terms of sequencing and processing from this point on. Once a sample instrument is loaded up on EXS24, its full suite of synthesis controls are available to us including the multi-mode filter, envelopes, pitch/glide controls, 3 LFOs and a full modulation matrix.
The 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.
More The Logic Pros:
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- How to control anything in Logic using your hardware MIDI controller
- How to create multi-layered synth patches & drum sounds with Track Stacks
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