Peter Alexander has just completed writing The Street Smart Guide to Logic 8. Going back to the Atari days, he co-wrote the book on C-LAB Notator (the forerunner to Logic), and in 2003 co-wrote the Logic 4 online course. He has previously written help books on Cakewalk, Cubase, Finale, Performer and Vision. Additionally, Peter has the added vantage point of having been the North American distributor of Notator during which time his company developed the first certification program for it. In this week’s column he shares his perspective on the Logic along with insights for educators looking at Logic for their school’s vs. a traditional notation program. SPECIAL INVITATION: If you’ve authored a third-party support book on a comparable program, you’re invited to share your experiences by writing in the Comments box below this article.
A Degree in Logic?
I’m not overexerggerating when I say that Logic is so complete, that if the coursework were available, that Logic could easily be the centerpiece of an associate arts degree program for music production and film scoring. That’s because with Logic as the centerpiece of the curriculum, the following can be taught:
- MIDI sequencing/editing/recording
- Audio Recording
- Audio Editing
- Effects/Effects Programming
- Synth Programming
- OS 10/Leopard instruction
- Film/TV/media scoring
- Rap/HipHop Production
To this, Logic can easily be used in Piano lab, harmony and composition classes on which to produce and record homework.
When looked at from this perspective, it’s easy to understand why Logic has such a deep learning curve. The Street Smart Guide to Logic 8 came in at 330 pages with a focus on sequencing and recording. But, any other aspect of the program could easily be a 250-500 page book especially if you start from the beginning assuming no prior sequencing or recording experience.
Whether adult or student, before any beginner approaches a sequencing program, it’s clear to me that we’re at the point where the prospective customer needs to have spent some time learning both MIDI and recording basics to fully grasp and appreciate what’s included in the program. At one time, you could cover a lot of MIDI basics in a sequencing book, but now, thanks to miniaturization and the integration of audio recording, that’s not really possible. In fact, it bogs down the learning flow when you try inserting MIDI basics into the Logic instruction set.
Thus, a primer is needed to lay the MIDI/recording foundation so that before the student/end user has bought and installed Logic, or any sequencing/digital audio program for that matter, their expectations are set for the learning curve.
Simply put, the more the end user brings to the table knowledge-wise with even the most rudimentary level of MIDI/recording basics, the faster Logic (and yes, the other programs, too) can be learned and mastered.
One example that illustrates my point are the effects. Starting with SilverVerb and ending with PlatinumVerb, you work your way up in complexity for each reverb. This doesn’t factor in AVerb or Space Designer, Logic’s convolution reverb, which is, as they say among New England fishermen, a whole nuther kettle o’fish. With Logic’s depth of completeness (I haven’t even talked about EQ and all the other effects), there’s a genuine need for an engineer who can teach to write a beginning audio curriculum.
As I see it, there are three different approaches for teaching Logic:
- MIDI/Sequencing recording
- Audio Recording
Of these three, a film/TV composer needs to take all three, based on the industry’s current climate.
Before writing, I did read other Logic books based on 7 and 8 to see how my colleagues approached it.
Some tried to shortcut the learning curve by blending audio and MIDI instruction at the same time. For me, I find it takes longer to learn a program with that kind of approach since audio and MIDI, while similar, are still very different from each other. Trying to do/learn two things at once is a trend in some circles, even with some employers! But I think the ability to focus and learn one thing serves the student better then trying to get everything at once. One significant end result of this kind of focused training is that it builds student confidence. Having conquered one discipline, how difficult can the next one be?
At the same time, the learning path also depends on how you want to use the program.
Others put things in an advanced manual that I felt were important to learn early.
Some began teaching Logic from the perspective of loops.
So many teaching approaches demonstrate the number of different uses and potential customer bases for Logic!
My approach was distinctly different.
Because I have some training in quality control, especially in an area called Lean Six Sigma, I focused my instruction around this question: How do I use Logic today to run my music production business? So by the end of the book, the reader knows how to sequence, use loops, apply effects, record audio, and do sufficient work in the Score editor to produce lead sheets for copyright and homework assignments. I wrote in a strictly procedural manner with each chapter dedicated to a specific operational task. I also dealt with two important studio uses: setting up audio MIDI and Multi Instruments in the Environment, and setting up External MIDI hardware. I also looked at specific issues involving K2 players, PLAY and the Vienna Instruments.
Easy to Learn
My opinion after writing/producing three works on Logic (including this one) is that Logic, contrary to what’s said about it on the street, is very easy to learn if you teach it procedurally and with the Key Commands. This not how the manual teaches Logic, and frankly, I found that getting to simple was a real chore because of how the program is presented.
Speaking as an end user who paid cash for two copies of the program, one for myself and one for Caroline (my wife who is also an excellent media composer), I honestly feel that Apple’s teaching approach is so dysfunctional, that if Logic 8 were a person it would find itself at home in a Twelve Step group.
This poor program!
(I don’t mean to be caustic. But there are marketing reasons for my comments which I’ll cover at the end of the column.)
Logic comes with two manuals, one for the program and other for the plug-ins. Combined, they’re just under 2000 pages. The learning problem with the manuals is that they give you a definition of the feature, but often, not enough of an explanation to understand how to use it and apply it. In other words, like a typical manual, it doesn’t connect the dots. If the end user is new to all this, connecting the dots doesn’t come easily, unless you want to pay $1200 for Logic training, which I didn’t.
The Lean Six Sigma approach I wrote about earlier was also the basis for how I taught Logic 4 as an online class in 2003.
Egotistical me, I thought I’d be able to update the instruction from that class in a couple of weeks. Three weeks tops.
Ho ho ho!
No way. Even with having produced a class on this material, some days it took 4-6 hours to write a single lesson, and in some cases 2-3 days.
Talk about being humbled!
I’ve done so many of these books, usually I can do them in one draft, sometimes one and a half. This was not the case with Logic 8. Each chapter averaged three drafts. Some four.
Separate from the Logic manuals, one issue that drove me wild was not having a screen capture program on the Mac that was the equal of the one I use on the PC, Snag-It from Techsmith. The problem with the Mac screen capture programs (I ultimately settled on Snapz thanks to a reference from the NY Times’ David Pogue and the folks at VSL), is that they only do 72DPI which is a lower DPI than what you need for physical printing (our printer wants a minimum of 300 DPI).
Snapz has two advantages. First it does screen capture, and second, you can do video capture to which you can add audio commentary.
With Snapz, unlike Grab which comes with the Mac, I was able to shoot more meaningful screenshots so that each action was clearly stepped out visually. With Logic, showing a picture vs. trying to describe it in prose makes for a much effective learning curve. So, thanks to Snapz, we’ll be releasing a second work on Logic 8 cued to the book which will be a supplemental video manual.
Here’s the teaching advantage of applied video.
Logic is so feature rich that trying to explain something that’s really very simple to do can take several paragraphs and a number of screen shots. For example, setting up a new project in Logic is extremely simple and fast. But to explain it, especially for those who are more visually driven, is to be longwinded. However when the same move is done with video capture, you see that the setup task takes under 25 seconds to do.
Just sitting and watching the video capture teaches an important lesson to both the sales prospect and the end user – Logic is really easy to use. In fact, in most things, I found Logic 8 to be blazingly fast to use once the various procedures were stepped out.
Looking back, I’d have to say that the most difficult thing to explain was setting up external synths and computers. Here, you must first set up the external instrument in the Mac audio MIDI section. Then within Logic, you setup what’s called a Multi Instrument. This can go one of two ways depending on where you click the mouse. After that, you can then setup an external instrument with the same speed as setting up an internal Software Instrument. To explain that was about 28 pages. Making the video demonstrated that the entire procedure takes under 2 minutes to do.
With Logic, it’s not text or video, it’s text and video to best demonstrate the procedures.
Once you’ve setup the external MIDI instrument, working with players like K2 and PLAY are really easy. It’s really a very well thought out approach.
Logic 8 Score Editor
The notation program was a bit of a disappointment to me. Compared to Finale and Sibelius for notation, I think it’s fair to say that you can do 65% in Logic’s Score editor of what you can do with the other programs.
Before I go further, I need to give credit to Johannes Prischl who wrote the 200-page Logic Notation Guide way back in 1998, which you can still order online. Johannes is the only individual who’s put the time into such a worthy project and I salute him for his work. Thank you, Johannes!
For the teacher/composer wanting to compose in Logic for one instrument per line (as can be done in Finale and Sibelius), Logic’s Score editor can be reasonably comparable today with Finale and Sibelius if Vienna’s Special Edition, or any member of the Vienna Instrument library, are used with Logic. I would say that as well for Cubase, DP and Sonar since all three have notational ability.
But at day’s end, if you look at professionally marketing your music in different venues, then at some point your career will demand that you learn either Finale or Sibelius.
You can do a lot with the Score editor, and having access to Adobe’s Sonata font is a real bonus because the printed output looks very professional. But if you agree that time is money, then you have to determine for your career where your time is better spent – mastering the Score editor, or mastering a full fledged notation program.
I think, however, that four features need to be reviewed for Logic notation that are found in other comparable programs.
Add Guitar chord position symbols – you can do tablature and create chord symbols, but no guitar position chord symbols. At least, not that I could find. As a result, Logic users can’t create their own P/V/G (piano/vocal/guitar) lead sheets or songbooks.
Fix the bloody MIDI import – really! With MIDI import, similar to Sibelius, Logic now assigns sounds to each track. This is totally obnoxious especially if you’re bringing in a file from Sibelius or Finale that you want to assign to programs like QLSO or Vienna. Sometimes you can work around it with a drag and drop approach, but like the Borg, Logic seems to adapt! Please! Where’s the OFF switch!
Improve the MIDI Meanings – Many musical performance symbols are graphic only. I think it’s time to relook at this area compared to other programs and see what can be improved.
Simplify bars per line – This is much easier in other programs.
For recording your MIDI sequence to an audio track, I must confess, I found the procedure easier in Cubase SX 3. I thought that setting up a bus in Logic before you set up your audio track was a little clunky, especially when working with software instruments.
For the audio mixing board, I’d like to see Apple go back to 2003 so that you could setup a channel strip that also included a visible parametric EQ. Hardware mixing boards are still with us. I think whenever the virtual version looks comparable to the hardware version, instruction is both simplified and multiplied because you’re not creating a double learning curve of virtual vs. hardware.
For the mixing board, I’d like to see a discussion about effects chaining, especially when building an eletric guitar sound. Here I think is a real opportunity to offer some preset solutions not unlike the older Korg A3 which was a chain effects reverb heavily used by guitarists in its day. For the record, you can set up an effects chain, but it starts from the top of the Insert area and works its way down.
My Own Feelings
Overall, I’m still glad I made the transition from Cubase SX 3 to Logic. And frankly, I’d have a hard time going back to the PC for sequencing because I enjoy working with Logic so much. But I’m also glad I won’t be writing another book until Logic 9!
Why Sequencing Education Is Important to Music Technology Sales
Here I want to explain why I’m being so harsh on Logic (I’d be just as harsh if I were doing a book on Cubase 4).
Because our industry is built of artistisans not marketers (like myself from a previous life) it’s not really understood that as go sequencer sales, so goes much of the industry. Consider the types of products that follow sequencer sales (meaning until the sequencing program is sold, the end user has no need for the product):
- software instruments/VSTi’s
- audio cards
- MIDI interfaces
- software audio programs like Altiverb, Waves and others
What I’ve continued to find over the years is that the very people the industry needs, newbies, are the ones they least want to deal with because their knowledge level is at ground zero. Take a look at this chart I created showing the Rogers Curve of Technology Adoption. The Innovators represent 2.5% of the market. We call them peers. And they tend to learn without instruction. They’re the sales guys who say a Korg Triton is so easy to learn you don’t need a manual.
Now, here’s reality: the remaining 97.5% do need a manual, and one that’s easy to understand, too. This is critically important to the industry because when sequencing sales falter and slide, so do all the support products.
Once a newbie is brought in and trained for results, that newbie becomes a repeat customer.
For the industry to grow, it has to reach out and tap into this curve of newbies. And for some manufacturers of support programs like VSTI’s and virtual samplers, there exists the sincere need to package a sequencing/digital audio recording program with cogent instruction with their software to eliminate their need of being followers of sequencing sales.
Here’s what I find so interesting about Apple. In 1985, Apple’s marketing guru, Regis McKenna, wrote a book entitled The Regis Touch which outlined Apple’s word of mouth strategy which took into account the Rogers Curve of Technology Adoption. When I look at Logic, I wonder where that thinking has gone. Or has it been applied to GarageBand?
Just a reminder to those fellow authors who’ve also written books on Logic or other programs, chime in with your experiences. Not many of us are doing this kind of writing so I think it would be a great thing to hear from all of you.