If you´re working on a Logic project with lots of tracks, things can get chaotic before you know it. However, there are ways to maintain control of that Frankenstein monster that started out as a 3 piece acoustic ballad:
Give it a name
- Name every track when you create them. The guitarist can wait 5 seconds (although he´ll try to convince you otherwise). You will thank yourself later on.
- People have different methods to accomplish the same thing. Personally, I use strictly capital letters to name audio tracks, regular ones for Midi/Software instruments. Find out what works for you.
When in doubt, take the bus
- Track stacks are the Logic equivalent to IKEA storage boxes, only cooler. For example: Select all the drum tracks in the mixer window, then press⌘ ⇧ + D or Tracks – Create Track stack, choose Summing when asked. Now all
your drum tracks are inside the track folder, and in effect you just routed your tracks to a bus. Repeat this process for the other instrument groups.
- Now you can just “close” the drums track stack when you want to focus on – say, the guitars. Press the small triangle to close a track stack, press it again to open.This way, you´ll get a tidy track area/mixer without hiding tracks (more about that later), you´ll get a bus fader for each of your instrument groups, and you have the mixer area organized without any hassle at all. Besides, summing (bus) mixing is the only way to go if you have more than a couple of tracks in your project. The last time I had a project with 4 tracks or less was in 1992 or something, but then again my trademark is a wall of guitars and Spector-esque soundscapes.
Another great thing about summing track stacks, is the option to use plugins on the track stack channel strip. Let´s go back to my allegory: A track stack is basically a storage box where you keep your tracks neat and sorted from each other (drum tracks in one box, vocal tracks in another and so on). Those of you who started out with LP9 or earlier, already know that you will get the exact same result mixwise (if that´s a word) if you create one bus channel for each instrument group. Track stacks is just Logic´s way of making bus mixing understandable, in a straightforward and orderly way.
C is for Color
You can color just about everything in Logic Pro X. Press ⌥ + C and a color palette appears. Open the mixer window. Select a channel strip, and proceed to select a color in the palette. Voilá, the channel strip changes color. You can color regions, track notes, tracks in the track area, Markers and clips the same way.
If I have 4 guitar tracks, 10 drum tracks and 2 vocal tracks, I can select the drum tracks in the mixer (select the 1st drum track, press ⇧shift and keep it pressed, then select the 10th track and release shift). Now that you have selected all the drum tracks (which of course resides in perfect order in its track stack :-), you can summon the color palette again and select a color. Select a bright Green or red color, and you will never have to assemble a search party to look for that missing snare drum track again, I assure you.
- Get some fresh air at least once every hour, and do a reality check regarding your production. Do you really need that extra ukulele? The mellotron which sounded great on its own, but drowned in the orchestra? Not everyone is a minimalist, that´s cool, but try to keep the tracks down to the ones that serves your initial plan. If you change your plan, just stop for a minute and try to write it down, or at the very least – be concious and aware of it. This calls for a Alice in Wonderland quote:
“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
Experimenting is also cool, but take it for what it is, and try to remember your steps for later. There will always come a time when you “really need” that guitar sound you spent hours experimenting your way into ages ago – which brings me to the last point:
Save your settings!
Every plugin has a save option. Every channel strip in the mixer has a “Save channel strip settings” option. Click the Settings button on the channel strip in the mixer to access it. There is of course a corresponding “Load channel strip settings” at the same location. You can even save full track stacks with all your plugin settings, in just a couple of steps:
- Select a track stack in the track area (select the “parent track”), bring up the patches library (from the button on the left on the main toolbar, or double click on left boundary of the main window. You can even assign a custom key command to toggle the library)
- Press the Save button in the bottom left corner of the library. Make sure you don´t have the “hide file extension” option checked, just in case. Logic doesn´t play well with files it can´t recognize.
- To load the patch from another project, create a new empty software instrument track, select it, then open the library and choose your saved patch from the “User patches” category. Boom – ye ole track stack is back. You can make your own folder structure within the “User patches” folder, but we´ll deal with that some other time.
It sure is faster (and less tedious) than eq´ing all those drums tracks from scratch every time, or tweaking endless layers of synth sounds for that matter. Saving your patches and custom setups regularely will save you days, even weeks of work in the end.