In today’s Logic Pros Live Loops diary, we are taking a look at the process of introducing this new workflow into our day-to-day recording sessions along with some quick Novation Launchpad tips. The potential of these repurposed controllers has just been getting even more intriguing with every Logic Pro update and after discussing the the pros and cons of the current-generation lineup, we are diving into to some tips and quality of life reminders for making the transition a smooth one.
Implementing a new Launchpad Live Loops workflow
Starting with Logic Pro 7 nearly two decades ago now, right through to last year’s massive 10.5 update, Apple’s has presented a mostly consistent music creation workflow with a focus on incremental updates, powerful new instruments, best-in-class composition companions, and all-in-all, modernizing a generally familiar experience. All of which has been a mostly successful endeavor as far as we are concerned, much like the game-changing updates it injected into the system through the last half of 2020.
Moving over to something like the wildly new, non-linear Live Loops lifestyle can be a bit jarring to say the least. While all of the usual suspects are still at play in Logic Pro, new possibilities have entered the fray vying for our creative attention. Colorful blinking light Launchpads to dig our fingers into bring a kind of expressive physical connection to Logic Pro for what feels like the very first time. Not just in terms of app control and original composition — playing notes with your keyboard or wiggling some faders with a control surface — but also over complete vertical slices of our work. Presenting direct access to every riff, motif, harmony group, drum groove, vocal sample, and horn blast in our composition like the notes of a keyboard, this effectively allows Logic Pro to provide its users a modular approach to song creation and musical performance-based song arrangement it simply never could before — and unlike like any other DAW can. So different, and powerful, and impossible to ignore, it’s time to go over some quality of life tips and reminders, when integrating Live Loops and Launchpads into your day-to-day workflow.
We have discussed the general potential of the Logic Pro hardware control in question, along with some brief installation tips, but it seemed like a fitting time to lay down some basics for folks just starting down their journey with us here. If you’re anything like me at all, finding time away from typical recording sessions, and your day-to-day composition/audio work routine — your EDR or every day rig, if you will — isn’t the easiest. But here are a few things that I have found particularly helpful to remember each time I get started on a new Launchpad Live Loops project, or when transforming those old timeline Regions into non-linear Cells.
Learn from the Templates
Learn from the Live Loops Logic Pro templates. It’s easy to quickly rip through a few of these and toy around for a bit, and then proceed to completely ignore them from that point on — it is for me anyway. But there are a few basics or quality of life Live Loops tips we can glean, and hopefully remember, from them that are particularly helpful when using Launchpads: Using an empty Scene to our advantage and creating a cycle area (loop) on the timeline.
Having an empty Scene in our Live Loops Launchpad projects can be particularly helpful as it will allow us to effectively stop playback without touching the keyboard or mouse — if that’s your kind of thing anyway. I found this to be quite useful in live performance-type situations, some arrangement sessions, and when performing arrangements to the timeline.
You can control-click one of the Scene Triggers at the bottom of the Live Loops window and choose Insert Empty Scene (choosing the scene to the far right creates one at the back end of the project, choosing one in the middle creates the empty scene directly to the left of the trigger you clicked on). But I like to just click and drag the right most scene trigger’s edge to the right (highlighted in red above), which will automatically throw an empty Scene at the far end of your project.
Ensuring you have a short loop in the cycle area of the timeline page in your Live Loops sessions is a helpful thing to remember. This is just sort of to keep the timeline playhead from running amok while you’re focused on the Live Loops environment.
You can learn more about what Scenes, Cells, and the rest of the basics are, along with a general breakdown of the user interface, in our initial coverage of what Apple’s Logic Pro Live Loops is all about right here.
Launchpad loops in view
Inside of the Logic Pro’s Control Surface Setup window we touched on a couple weeks ago ( Logic Pro menu > Control Surfaces > Setup…), we can choose a general color for our control surfaces, including the Novation Launchpads. This color is reflected in the Control Surface Bar on the left edge of the Track Headers. It also indicates which of the tracks in our Live Loops project are currently visible in the main Cells/Scenes view on the Launchpad.
I find myself at times needing a quick reminder during a performance or arrangement session as to which tracks are currently viewable on the Launchpad. Keeping in mind, not all musicians use Apple’s perfectly cascading color collation for their songs — and unfortunately so in most cases — even with a perfectly organized project, it can and has come in handy several times for me.
The Control Surface Bar will light up eight tracks on the Launchpad Pro models, while only seven on the Launchpad X (and some of the other smaller models) due to requiring the bottom set of the 8×8 pads to be used as Scene Trigger buttons. You can however, inside of the aforementioned Control Surface Setup window, revert back to the 90-degree left or right orientation for your Launchpad X to regain the full 8×8 Cell grid. While this is at the expense of more direct access to other hardware features the Launchpad X provides if you ask me, it is something to keep in mind if you ever require the full-size grid for certain projects/scenarios.
Sometimes a light touch will do it
Nothing new or overly exciting here, just one that tends to slip my mind while getting busy. Not only are the velocity sensitive Launchpad controls great for actually recording instruments like a MIDI keyboard, but remember we can also use its soft touch/hard touch for smooth fader volume fades in our Live Loops sessions and performances. Hitting the Volume page on your Launchpad will bring up the fader volume mixer controls for the tracks in your session. Hitting the pads hard will immediately raise or lower the volume of the track, but a soft touch will slowly fade the volume up or down. This can always be good to remember while you’re in the heat of battle, performing arrangements or live DJing some compositions, and can make for some interesting musical results.
Quantizing your Start position
Quantize Start and Playmode settings will be something we dive into far deeper down the line — seemingly simple user options, they can be used in particularly customizable and powerful ways to transform vertical slices of your songs into instruments of their own — having a basic understanding of what’s going on with these can save some headaches in the early days.
The mini Quantize Start menu atop the Live Loops window is our immediate getting started focus here today, and where you choose the start time for the Cells and Scenes in your grid. Some folks and collaborators have had some questions about getting Cells and Scenes to start playback faster, or immediately when hitting its corresponding pad on the Launchpad, or on the next beat of the song, and so on. If your Cells and Scenes aren’t reacting the way you need them to for a particular song or reason, try adjusting the Quantize Start setting from this menu. You can turn the quantize option off if you’re particularly gutsy or swift of hand, or just among the many quantize or grid-synced options here — one of them will almost certainly be what you’re after in my experience.
And some final thoughts…
It can be understanding and remembering these little things — the things we take for granted after making a particular workflow environment such an integrated and normalled part of our day-to-day musical existence for so long — that make implementing Launchpads or any other new hardware/instruments a more natural experience. Whether it’s having full understanding of our musical hardware interface at a moment’s notice, that perfectly placed piece of silence to set the big drop off, or a smooth fade to end the perfect arrangement, some simple reminders to help file the basics away into the second-nature section of your audio engineering memory can be invaluable.
Dig into our overview of Apple’s Live Loops right here as well as this breakdown of what each of Novation’s Launchpads bring to the table. Then let us know if you have any starter or quality of life tips to help keep myself and other folks on the right track int he comments below.
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