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Using The Logic Pro X Drummer To Make Great Sounding Drum Tracks
The Logic Pro X Drummer
As a home recording songwriter, I'm always looking for quick and easy ways to add percussion to my tracks. I don't know my way around a kit (and don't really have the resources to effectively mic one), so like most non-professionals in this position, I rely on MIDI to add that special little splash of groove-iness.
The problem? Virtual drums can be a stressful experience. For starters, it's time consuming, especially if you're manually writing MIDI beats. Even the pre-made sample route has its quirks; finding the right balance between "exciting" and "natural" drum transitions can be a study in ultimate frustration. And unless you actually know how to drum, playing on MIDI controllers is pretty much out of the question.
That's where the Logic Pro X drummer comes into this picture. Unlike most virtual drumming solutions, it isn't a plug-in--the Logic Pro X drummer comes built right into the DAW. It's extremely easy to use, relatively quick/non-resource intensive, and it sounds pretty spectacular right out of the box.
The best part, though, is the fact that the Logic Pro X drummer doesn't ask for a lot of compromises when it comes to customization. With just a little bit of know-how, this wonderful little MIDI machine allows you to create drum tracks specifically to your liking--all at a rate that's exponentially quicker than just about any other virtual drummer on the market.
With this short guide, I will show you my quick and easy method to making great sounding drum tracks with the Logic Pro X drummer. It isn't necessarily comprehensive, and I'm going to assume that you understand the basics of home recording/MIDI. But with a little practice and the right amount of honest-to-goodness ingenuity, this information will help you get those pesky drum tracks out of the way so you can spend more time on the multitude of other instruments that your recordings crave oh-so-dearly.
What You'll Need First
Before we continue, it's important to make sure that you've got everything you need.
- An Apple computer. Logic Pro X is Mac-only.
- Logic Pro X. It's available only in the App Store (there are no physical versions), and it runs for $199.99.
- The drummer module. Though the Logic Pro X drummer isn't a "plug-in," per se, it still needs to be downloaded and installed (free with Logic Pro X).
If you don't already have the drummer module installed, here's how to get it:
- Open Logic Pro X,
- Click the bolded [Logic Pro X] tab on the top menu bar,
- Click [Download Additional Content].
- In the Additional Content window, check the "drum kit" option and click "install."
Setting Up A New Drum Track
Start the Logic Pro X drummer track as you would any other track. Hit the [+] button on the top left hand part of the screen, click the "Drummer" button, and then click "Create."
Keep in mind that "Drummer" and "Software Instrument" are two different things. If you don't see a "Drummer" option, then you'll need to install the additional drum modules (refer back to the last section of this article).
When everything loads, you should see a nice little yellow-tinted drummer window occupying the bottom of the screen.
By default, the drummer will create two bars of pre-made drum tracks (highlighted in yellow by default). You can either delete them or use them--they're fully customizable. I typically delete them and start totally fresh (I'll show you why in the next section of this guide).
Taking A Shortcut With The "Arrangment" Tool
All right, now I'm going to let you in on a little trick I figured out that makes the whole process of drum tracking ridiculously quick and easy. The secret weapon we'll be using today is the "Arrangement" global marker.
Ready for the kicker? If you "arrange" a song in Logic Pro X before you implement drum tracks, the drummer creates specifically appropriate parts for each section.
Here's how to do this, step-by-step:
- Click on the "Show/Hide Global Tracks" button on the upper left hand portion of the screen. The button is a little rectangle with a downwards arrow inside of it.
- Hit [ctrl-click] to open up a menu, and then click "Show Arrangement."
(Pro Tip: to get rid of the other "Global Markers," click "Configure Global Markers" in this same menu and uncheck all of them except "Arrangement."
- You should now see an "Arrangements" rectangle just above the track list. Click on the circular (+) button to add a new section. Add as many as you like/need.
- Click the center of a section to bring up the naming option. Rename the "Arrangement" sections accordingly. You have five different options: Intro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, and Outro. You also have the options to rename the section with custom entry, though I don't recommend it for this particular exercise.
- Once you're done arranging your track, hover your mouse above the empty drummer track and press [ctrl-click]. This will bring up a shortcut menu. Click on "Populate with Drummer Regions."
- And just like that, the Logic Pro X drummer will fill each section with an appropriately nuanced drum track. Go ahead and listen to it--if you did everything right, then each section should have its own unique drum pattern that corresponds accordingly to each individual section.
From this point onward, you simply need to tweak each section to your liking--the tough stuff has been effectively taken care of. It's almost too easy.
Adjusting The Drummer To Your Liking
Don't sweat it if the pre-made drum patterns aren't immediately to your liking--each section/bar is fully customizable.
There are a few things we can do right off the bat to change how the drummer sounds. The first one is the most obvious--simply change the "person" doing the drumming.
Logic Pro X divides its drum pattern engine into four genres: Rock, Alternative, Songwriter, and R&B. Each different genre comes with its own specific "drummer." In total, we have 18 different drummers to work with, each having their own unique style of playing and corresponding drum kit.
I'm not going to get into the differences between each drummer here--that would take too long, and honestly, it's more fun on your end to simply play around with the different drummers and explore them on your own. I usually write songs that veer towards the pop/rock side of things, so I typically stick with "Kyle" from the "Rock" style category. Your mileage will vary.
Customizing Individual Bars
Once you pick a "drummer" that suits your song, you can start customizing the individual bars. To do this, simply click on the bar you want to work with. Now every change you make within the drummer window will affect only the bar you've highlighted.
For the sake of simplicity (and both of our respective sanities), I won't go into great detail about how to customize the drum patterns. Don't freak out, though--it's all incredibly intuitive. The big things to look for are:
- The simple/complex/soft/loud parameter box. If you've used Garageband on the iPad, then this should look incredibly familiar. Adjust this box to increase/decrease the busyness of your drum track.
- The kit-part selection tool. You can have three different pieces of the drum kit played simultaneously. SImply click on each part to turn it on/off. Keep in mind that the snare, hi-hat, and cymbals are mutually exclusive--you can only have one of those playing at a time.
- The fills knob. Use this knob to adjust how many fills you want in the selected bar/section.
- The swing knob. This knob allows you to adjust how much/how little "swing" you want.
- The Details menu. You can find this by clicking the [Details] box at the bottom-right section of the drummer window. This allows you to adjust the push/pull feel of each note, the amount of "ghost notes" made audible, and the intensity of the hi-hat (this is usually checked as "automatic," and I don't personally change that).
Editing The Actual MIDI Track
Remember how I said that the Logic Pro X drummer is fully customizable? I wasn't kidding about that. So if the drum track you've made still doesn't sound quite right after you've played around with the surface level user interface, then you probably need to edit the actual MIDI track.
To access the actual MIDI source, hover your mouse over the drummer section you want to work with and press [ctrl-click] to bring up a shortcut menu. From this menu, scroll down to "Convert-->Convert to MIDI Region."
Doing this will turn your yellow drummer section into a green MIDI section. You can now adjust/add/delete MIDI note inside the piano roll.
You also have the ability to revert this MIDI section back to a drummer section (in the same exact way), but doing so will remove all the changes you made.
Changing How The Drum Kit Sounds
Let's say you like the way a particular drummer plays, but don't like the sound of their kit. In cases like this, you need to change how the actual drum kit sounds.
In order to do this, you need to open up the drum kit designer by clicking on the button directly below the "face" of your drummer (on the left-bottom section of the drummer window).
With the drum kit designer window now open, you have two options:
- Change the entire kit. Click the drop down menu at the top of this window and pick a different drum kit. You have 15 to choose from.
- Change/adjust the different parts of each kit. Click on the specific piece you want to change (found on the left of the window) and/or adjust (found on the right of the window).
Using An External VST Plug-In
The built-in drum kits that Apple provides are pretty fantastic, but if they aren't to your liking, then you have the ability to use an external VST plug-in with the Logic Pro X drummer.
I personally use for all my final drum tracks. You can read more about it in EZ Drummer 2this article.
Here's how to do this (assuming you already have a VST drum plugin ready to go):
- Click on the drummer track.
- Click the "Inspector" button at the top of the Logic Pro X window (it's a circle with an italicized "i" inside of it).
- Hover your mouse over the "drum kit" box (highlighted in blue). Click the up-down arrows to the right of this box to open up a menu.
- From this menu, scroll all the way down to "AU Instruments" and then pick the plugin you want to use.
If the plugin is compatible with the Logic Pro X drummer MIDI mapping, then everything should sound great.
On a side note, EZ Drummer 2 works great with everything except the additional percussion instruments (clapping/tambourine/maraca).
So there you have it--a crash course on creating great sounding drum tracks with the Logic Pro X drummer! Play around with it, have fun, and most importantly, make some great music. If you have any additional tips and tricks, feel free to share them in the comments section below!