Logic 8 and the Mac Mini

For the past few months, I’ve been talking about the value of getting Logic 8 and running it on a Mac Mini. This week, actually, last night, I got to test my words because for Valentine’s Day, I ordered one from Apple for my wife Caroline, who earned her Masters in Film Composition at Bournemouth University in England.

My thesis is that Logic 8 and the Mac Mini is a great place to start because of affordability and practicality. Now that Logic 8 is reduced to $495 retail, and the Mac Minis are value priced (since you can get a 2GB unit), this seemed like the right combination, especially for students, churches, and music educators.

I placed my order with the Apple Store for a 2GHz Mac Mini, 2GB of RAM, and the 120GB drive. My only regret was not going for the 160GB drive, but for the cost differential for 40GB, I ordered a 500GB USB Seagate. I also ordered the Mighty Mouse, the Apple USB keyboard, Logic 8 and Apple Care.

Including shipping the entire cost was around $1,700. Apple shipped in three packages. The first arrived practically overnight. Box 1 contained the mouse and keyboard, Box 2 contained Logic 8. Box 1 was very light. Box 2, weighing in at 14 pounds was just plain heavy.

A week later, Box 3, with the Mac Mini arrived, luckily, on Valentine’s Day Eve (which meant that while assembling and installing we had to order Chinese).

So my first review comment is that I was really impressed with ordering from the Apple Store. To get ahead of myself, my only disappointment was not knowing how much hard drive capacity was needed for the OS (Leopard), Logic, and all the software updates that were later added. Had I been aware of that, I would have gone ahead and ordered the 160GB drive.

Opening the Box
No pictures on the Apple website prepare you for how elegantly designed the whole experience is, from opening the Mac Mini, the mouse and keyboard, to final assembly. Even the way the components were wrapped in plastic said, “This is special.” Having shipped dozens of custom-built PCs through TrueSpec, nothing prepared me for the elegant presentation of all the components. To borrow from the culinary world, it’s inviting.

You’re also unprepared for how small the Mac Mini is. Reading that it’s 6” on a side and seeing it is unsettling after viewing the shuttles and big PCs and G5 we have.

Another point worth noting is how it was packaged for shipping. With every computer I ever shipped through FedEx or UPS, I felt the need to pray and fast, because how it would arrive was totally unpredictable from one company to the next. So I wanted to find out how shipping worthy the Mac Mini was, especially being shipped and delivered by FedEx Ground.

If you’ve ever had a concern about shipping from California to you, don’t. The Mac Mini is really well packaged. This goes back to my earlier comments on design. From the box up, from shipping to setup, everything is designed elegantly. Apple has really captured the “entire experience” in their design, and I compliment them on it.

Setting Up
The setup was incredibly fast. Apple even included a smart connector in the event you used a VGA monitor to connect to the Mac instead of an Apple monitor. We connected a 20” LCD NEC we got a couple of years ago from Best Buy. The diagram in the manual was very clear.

Everything fit comfortably with room to spare on a small table measuring 2.5’ x 5’. So in less than 10 square feet on a tabletop, you can have a true, desktop music production studio. Saying that, you still have to factor space for the audio card and monitors and a keyboard (at minimum). Overall, plan at minimum for a 7’ x 5’ space.

For the initial setup, the only glitch was pilot error in not being able to find initially the WEP code for the onboard wireless system. Setting up or not setting up a password could have been a little more clear, as could have the mailing program setup.

For me, the Dock, where you have your icons for quick start, is always in the way, especially when you’re working at the bottom of the screen. I do prefer the Windows design of just having the icons at screen bottom on the left, rather than trying to position the Dock left, right, or center.

I really liked the newly designed Safari, which is much easier to read.

Between corporate and personal experience, I have to say, the Logic 8 installation is a model the industry should examine. The entire user experience is so well designed, that it shames every developer requiring software installation.

What’s difficult to imagine is the length of time required for installation. I installed the entire package from Logic to Loops to Jam Packs and it took 4.75 hours. I started at 10PM and finished at 2:45AM.

The time for install was surprising because I expected a much quicker time since the Mac Mini uses the Intel Core2Duo. But it took about the same length of time as my G5.
Launching Logic

With the PC you get used to having the option of getting the launch icon on the desktop. I didn’t see that option during the Logic installation. Though it’s not difficult to navigate to Applications and drag the icon into Dock, it will be different to people new to the Mac.

Learning Logic
I’ve co-written two works on Logic, one when it was C-Lab Notator and then later for Logic 4/5 as an online course that was very successful.

Because GarageBand comes installed with the Mac OS, by default, GarageBand is the most installed sequencing/digital audio recording software in the world with installs in the millions. While it’s not billed that way, that’s what it does. So if you watch the GarageBand tutorials, you’ll see its influence on Logic and vice versa.

From my past experience in creating training for Logic, including the new book I’m working on, this is really the first time you can look at multiple approaches for training. I see three:

· DJ/Loops/ReMix
· As a direct audio recording program
· Sequencing/Digital audio

Logic certainly has a powerful notation program with it, but few choose to learn Logic by starting with notation.

I bring these three approaches up not as a criticism, but to point out how music instruction is changing, and how Apple is impacting not just our income with digital downloads, but now with music instruction that in many ways is quite profound.

So at the academic level, as long as the notation engine in GarageBand allows for four-voice chorales for homework, that’s all a student needs to produce his homework and learn basic recording.

So in that sense, I stand by my earlier conclusions with the Mac Mini.

When it comes to Logic at the academic level, well, that’s a different story because Logic is a total music production suite. Would that Apple called it that so people would understand better what it is and what it does.

Logic, along with Sonar and Cubase, point to a singular change needed in the music education process that I don’t see happening as long as tenured middle-aged adults chairing music departments don’t want to grow. And with that I include church schools and seminaries with music departments.

I’ve been creating collegiate music curriculum since I was 19 when I had courses I wrote accepted into the catalog at William and Mary.

Simply put, Logic is easily a 4-year program, not because you have so much to learn with Logic, but because you can learn so much with Logic, especially recording, synthesis and sound design. Just learning the synthesis behind Sculpture is easily a semester. Then there’s FM, and sampling, and convolution reverb.

So you have a music production suite that in itself requires a curriculum approach to learn effectively. And we haven’t begun to consider learning remix and loop production, much less MIDI editing.

With teachers concerned about how much money students are spending, the Mac Mini is the most value-priced approach depending on how much you spend on a monitor, and here, there are steals. Check out the HannsG’s at Best Buy.

But the problem with music education is that those teaching composition are happy, if not thrilled, with the advances of Finale and Sibelius. The idea of learning the production demands placed on professionals in the field (what academia defines as “commercial” work), is not likely to be taught for at least one more generation of teachers, maybe two, because of the fear of change and the overall demand placed on us to operate at all levels.

This means that part of the art of music education, is the art of technology and the new inter-relatedness it creates among all the different departments. The Chairman of recording can no longer be concerned with just recording. He has to understand orchestration, orchestral seating plans, sampling and convolution reverbs. The composition and orchestration teachers need to know MIDI editing. The keyboard department needs to have a functional keyboard course that goes beyond the current offerings to include how to play the keyboard to simulate string bowing techniques, and when horn players breathe.

And it keeps going.

So yes, I stand by my earlier recommendations about Logic, the Mac Mini, and music education. But, Will they listen in the halls of academia? is the sales question for Apple. Apple, unlike any other company, is its own alliance. Excluding audio cards and USB MIDI keyboards, it needs no one else.

With the rumors floating around that Apple may sell its Pro Apps Division (which includes Logic and Final Cut Pro) possibly to Thomson of Canada, Apple had better think clearly about such a decision, as should Thomson.

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