Apple introduced the incredible new Live Loops in the latest Logic Pro X 10.5 update. The new feature is just that, a fresh way of interacting with your tracks and loops in Logic Pro X that is designed to work in tandem with the existing workflow, not instead of it. Directly integrated with the main Tracks area and familiar left to right timeline workflow, Live Loops provides creatives with a free-form, modular point of view of music making that can then be either performed into or immediately copied over to the familiar timeline where the musical parts can then be fully edited as they always have been. It has been quite a magical experience thus far, and while Apple has made it about as intuitive as it could be, there’s a lot to it, even on a surface level for those just getting started.
It takes Apple about 40-pages to explain what this feature is really capable of, but that’s way to much information to take in at once when you just want to get started making music. So we thought it would be a good idea to focus on some of the most important elements and concepts of the grid-based creative environment so we can all get down to business and learn the intricacies naturally along the way. Explaining every in and out of Live Loops could easily fill a 500+ page manual, if not more, but understanding the basics and letting the rest come naturally seems to be the best way for most creatives to come to grips with a completely new way of working.
Accessing Live Loops in Logic Pro X 10.5:
Live Loops is now just a part of Logic Pro. It is available on all existing sessions that are running on the updated software, or you can choose to ignore it all together. The tracks (lined up along the left hand side of the Tracks area) in your project, as well as the instruments and content they consist of, now appear in both the usual timeline area and Live Loops. It is important to understand, if it wasn’t already obvious, these are the same tracks and instruments you have loaded, not duplicates created just for a Live Loops environment.
Show/Hide Live Loops Grid Button – A small Live Loops Grid button now appears in the Tracks area menu bar in Logic Pro X next to the Tracks Area view button.
Show/Hide Tracks Area Button – The aforementioned Tracks Area button sits next to the Live Loops Grid button and will bring up the main Tracks area.
Both these toggles can be engaged for a sweet side-by-side view, showing both the Live Loops Grid and the familiar Tracks area. Or just use the key command Option-B to automatically bring up the split view.
Option-V will toggle your view between the Live Loops Grid and the Tracks area.
Live Loops UI Basics and More:
Consisting of your usual tracks along the left hand side (software instruments, audio tracks, Drummers, more), Live Loops organizes your content into vertical “scenes” numbered along the bottom of the main grid view and the small squares of content or “cells” they are made up of. A cell essentially carries a loop, either one you have made yourself on the timeline, recorded directly into Live Loops, or even dragged from the Finder/Logic Pro’s loops browser. These cells can then be triggered individually or as an entire vertical scene, completely in sync with one another.
Users can then use the new Live Loops recording feature (more on that below) or manually start dragging content from the Live Loops environment directly to the timeline to begin arranging a song or section there of.
Cells come in three main flavors: Audio for things like guitar and vocal recordings, MIDI for software instruments and Pattern cells housing things like Drum Machine Designer and parts made on the new Sequencer. Each of the cells in your Live Loops grid have a few ways they can be played back, including as part of an entire vertical scene (described below). You can trigger playback of an individual cell simply by pressing the play button in the middle of it, or a custom selected group of cells (Shift-Click) by hitting the Play Live Loops key command (your Return key). The play buttons in the middle of the cells automatically become stop buttons once they are in play.
You can stop playback of cells using the contextual stop button that appears in the middle of them, the space bar, the Stop key command (0 on the numeric pad), or the scene trigger button on an empty scene. Hitting Return again will stop playback of all selected cells or you can use the Divider column stop button to stop at the next loop point (more on that below).
Along the bottom of the Live Loops interface you’ll see a bar housing the Scene Triggers and the Scene names (command-click the existing numbered designation to rename a scene). The Scene Trigger arrows are essentially play buttons that will trigger all of the cells in that scene to being playing back in sync. There are times it might appear to be delayed when you hit the trigger buttons, but this is mostly because of the way Live Loops is integrated with the Tracks area and the way the Scene parameters and Quantize Start points are currently set, and shouldn’t have any negative effect on your experience.
Record Performance button (Control-P) – Hit this button to enable recording of a Live Loops performance as regions on the Tracks area (timeline). One this is engaged you simply hit record in the Control Bar (or push the R key) to begin recording. Full details on this can be found below.
Live Loops grid Quantize Start – you’ll find a Quantize Start pop-up menu in the upper right corner of the grid. From here we can choose the quantize start value for the entire Live Loops grid. When you trigger a scene all the cells in that scene will beging playing back based on the value set in this pop-up menu. If it is set to 1 Bar, for example, the next scene you trigger won’t begin playing back until the next bar after you hit the trigger button. For now, it is a good idea to keep it set to 1 Bar, and then begin to experiment once you’ve got the hang of it.
Just to right of the Quantize Start button you’ll find the Grid Zoom button. A simple click will toggle a zoomed in view of your cells and scenes while clicking and holding will reveal a slider bar for more fined-tuned adjustments.
Live Loops Divider:
The small vertical bar separating the Live Loops grid from the Tracks area is known as the Divider. This handy indicator/tool helps users move back and forth between regions in the Tracks area and the Live Loops content.
Here’s another thing that’s important to understand about Live Loops in general and the Divider bar: On each track in your project, you can either be listening to the content housed on that track in the Live Loops grid or the regions in the Tracks area, but never both. And we use the arrows and buttons in the Diver to control this:
While cells on a particular track are playing, a small indicator circle appears to display at which point on the loop the particular cell is at. This is mostly just a visual indicator for queuing and the like.
Wave your mouse over the indicator circles to display a stop button for the particular cell that is currently in play.
Holding the Option key over the indicator circles will display a pause button. This will indeed pause the cell and you can re-introduce it to the loop by Option-clicking the Divider icon once again or just by hitting the un-pause button directly on the cell in question.
However, if you already have regions on that track in the Tracks area, hitting the pause button in this way will pause the cell in question at the next Quantize Start point and immediately begin playback of the regions on that track in the Tracks area. Repeating this step will return your focus on this track in Live Loops.
While cells are not playing, a small double arrow Track Activation button appears in the Divider. Use this button to toggle between listening to the cells on that track in Live Loops or the regions on that track in the Tracks area. Playback will automatically flip back and forth between cells and regions every time you click this button.
The Divider also houses what you might call global Divider controls that apply to all of the tracks on your project as opposed to each of them individually. The functionality here is essentially the same but with all your tracks. At the very top of the Divider you’ll see the same double arrow Track Activation button that will do same thing as described above, but to all the tracks at once. And you can do the stop and pause trick on the button at the very bottom of the Divider.
Creating Cells and Scenes:
Now that we’ve got a basic handle on the interface and some of the more utilitarian features for Live Loops, the next most important thing is how to create cells and scenes, what content is compatible here, and how to record your own. One thing to keep in mind is that Live Loops tracks work the same as they do in the Tracks area, again, because they are the same tracks. This means you can only put audio loops and audio recordings on audio tracks and MIDI parts on software instrument/compatible tracks, etc.
Create or record a new cell:
Note: To record directly into a cell using the options below, you’ll need to make sure the red “R” record button on the track header is engaged, just like when working in the Tracks area. Forgetting this will almost certainly ruin your day.
For software instrument tracks, right-click on any empty cell to choose between creating a MIDI or Pattern (Sequencer) cell, as well as having the option to “Record Into Cell” (Option-R) which will immediately put Logic in record and ready your MIDI controller to perform.
For audio tracks, right-click on an empty cell to add an audio file (or hit Shift-Command-I) from your system, create a blank audio region cell, or “Record Into Cell” the same you would any other audio track in the Tracks area.
You can’t live record to Drummer or Pattern cells. Although you can convert Drummer content to fully editable MIDI cells by right-clicking on the automatically created Drummer cell and going down to Convert>Convert to Drummer cell. This is a particularly amazing feature also available on the timeline and detailed right here.
There are several other ways to get content into cells, some of which will automatically create the cell or a required track for you:
Create cells using loops from the Logic Pro X Loops Browser: Apple includes a plethora of free loops when you purchase Logic Pro X and all of them can sit inside of cells if you want. Simply drag and drop the loops to compatible MIDI or audio cells and you’re ready to go. As you may have seen in our initial deep dive of the entire Logic Pro X 10.5 update, holding Shift while dragging these loops to the Live Loops grid will automatically align families of loops vertically in the same scene, while dropping them normally will line them up horizontally on the same track.
As you’ll see below, one of the standout features of Live Loops is its ability to allow users to then take all the scenes and cells they have created and record them onto to Logic Pro’s timeline in the Tracks area. However, the same concept also works in reverse, offering users another way to create cells and scenes:
Add a region from the Tracks area to the Live Loops grid: You simply drag and drop regions from the Tracks area directly to a cell or drag a region from the Tracks area to the dead space below the tracks on the left of the grid to automatically create a new track and cell housing that selected region.
You can also use the old Command-C + Command-V to copy and paste one or more regions, but again, you’ll need to make sure the track types (MIDI, audio, etc.) line up properly.
The Copy to Live Loops key command (Command-Home or Command-Fn-Left Arrow) is particularly nice option here as well. While there are plenty of applications, this feature can be great for quickly populating a Live Loops grid with an existing project in the Tracks area:
Simply make a selection of one or more regions using the Marquee tool, simple Shift-clicks, the Cycle range (yellow loop bar in the Tracks area), Markers (Arrange markers will take priority over normal markers), and then hit the Copy to Live Loops key command. The functionality changes slightly depending which of the selection options you used, but focus on Markers or the Marquee tool if you’re looking to make complete vertical scenes in Live Loops and the others for merged cells.
Note: The Copy to Live Loops key command wording may alter slightly depending on what you select (as you can see in the image above), but the functionality is essentially the same.
Cell Inspector Overview:
Much of the additional functionality, record options, loop length settings, and more can be found in the Cell Inspector. Much like the Region Inspector we all know and love in the Tracks area, the Cell Inspector found in the top left corner houses a series of important features you should be at least aware of when getting going. While a simple double click on any cell will open up the corresponding editor window so you can then make fine-tuned adjustments to the notes and more, the Cell Inspector is a great way to access several additional recording and cell creation options. Here are some of the more important parameters to watch out for:
Recording: Unfurl the Recording section via the small arrow. This will reveal some of the more important recording conditions for the selected cell in question.
The Recording pull-down menu gives you three options including Takes (the cell will house a collection of record takes), Merge (it will merge your MIDI performances into one), and Replace (replace the existing record data with the latest take).
The At Rec-End parameter in this section is where we set the end record conditions. In this case, “Change to Play Mode” or “Continue Recording.” If set to “Change to Play Mode” Logic will automatically take the system out of record and continue with playback after your first recording performance in the cell. “Continue Recording” will leave Logic Pro in record mode so you can either record another take, merge the next take with the first one, or replace it completely, all of which are clearly based on the setting you chose in the aforementioned Recording pull-down menu.
There are some other things to keep in mind here, like the set length of the cell (all of those options are also found in the Cell Inspector under the Play From section). Again, things can get particularly deep here with plenty of notable options, but when it comes to getting started and understanding how Logic is treating your recordings inside of cells and scenes, these are a great starting-off point.
Record a Live Loops performance in Logic Pro:
We have a good working idea of how the interface and Divider works, as well as how to create and record cells. And now it’s time to actually record our Live Loops content into the timeline. Apple has made great use of its Logic Remote app here, offering up multi-touch gesture support for controlling Live Loops via the iPhone and iPad (make sure your app and device is updated). While quite an amazing experience overall, just about all of this functionality (barring the multi-touch part) is possible from directly within Logic Pro X on the Mac with your mouse.
Before we dig into the Record Performance feature, let’s look at some of the other ways to get content from Live Loops onto the Tracks area/timeline and subsequently bounced for the world to finally hear it.
Add a cell from the Live Loops grid to the Tracks area: Much like dragging regions from the Tracks area to Live Loops, this works in reverse as well. Again, just make sure the cell type corresponds to the track type you’re dragging it to (MIDI, audio, etc. ). You can also drag a cell to the dead space at the bottom of the track headers on the left hand side of the Tracks area to create a new region and corresponding track for it to sit on.
Apple will create a duplicate of your cell as a region and leave the orignal cell as is. Although, it will will replace or overlap any existing regions you might paste or drag it on top of.
Copy a scene to the Tracks area: There are two options for moving an entire vertical scene to the Tracks area. First set the playhead on the Tracks area at the position you want to paste all the cells from a particular scene. Then right-click on the aforementioned Scene Triggers in the Live Loops grid to either Insert Scene at Playhead (Command-End or Command-Fn-Right Arrow) or Copy Scene to Playhead. If you choose the insert option, your selected scene will get pasted at the playhead and any existing regions that might be in its way will automatically get bumped the right (at the exact length of your selected scene). Opting for the copy scene function will simply copy your scene to the playhead position and all existing regions that might be in its way will get overwritten or overlapped.
Recording a Live Loops performance in Logic Pro X 10.5 is quite simple and straight forward. Again, you can use Logic Remote to perform your Live Loops recording, a Novation Launchpad controller, or a mouse. First, you’ll want to make sure that Cycle mode is disengaged (the yellow loop bar on the timeline of the Tracks area) and that the playhead is set to the point on the timeline where you want your Live Loops recording to begin.
Now, just hit the small Record Performance button (or press Control-P) at the upper-left corner of the Live Loops grid. This will enable Logic Pro’s Tracks area to record your upcoming Live Loops performance. Now just hit the old record button in the Control Bar (or press the R key) to begin recording. Start playing scenes and cells, or a combination thereof and the entire arrangement will magically begin to roll out on your timeline, remaining completely editable in full multi-track form, and ready for your final touches before sharing with the world.
Live Loops side notes:
While I’m still playing around with the way Track Stacks are treated in Live Loops. It appears as though you can’t trigger a single Track Stack cell (housing several audio files). But rather only the individual audio files within.
Despite the view options we mentioned above, cells in Live Loops will keep their square appearance when you vertically zoom the tracks, unlike what we are used to in the Tracks area. However, if you hit the View menu in the menu bar directly above the Live Loops grid (seen above), you’ll see the Try to Keep Cells Squared When Zooming option. Disable this default for thinner, vertical rectangles and a more familiar zooming experience.
One handy quick key that seems to be quite helpful for those just getting going with Live Loops is the Queue Cell/Scene Playback key command. Simply selecting any cell or scene in your project and then hitting Option-Return will ready that scene or cell at the next Quantization Start point. This can also be quite helpful for making “temporary scenes” on-the-fly out of cells in different scenes.
Find any particularly interesting Live Loops features? Let us know in the comments below what you think of the new workflow or if you’re just going to ignore it all together.
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