Thursday, December 26, 2013

Getting Lost in the Mix

About a month ago I decided to give Logic Pro X a try after four years of using Ableton Live. At first Logic felt incredibly limiting. Both digital audio workstations (DAW) have fundamentally different approaches to making music and I was quite used to composing in the “scene mode” unique to Ableton. It wasn’t until last Saturday when my friend Ryan, a very talented musician whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last two years, came over to my place. He brought over his guitar and mandolin to record a song he wrote. I told him I was experimenting with Logic and any kind of patience he could afford me as I poked and prodded the DAW would be appreciated.

We have a pretty standard method of recording, laying down the guitar track first alongside a metronome. After that, I recorded the bass track and his vocals. The first guitar track we had recorded sounded like butt, though. It was tinny, had lots of feedback and sounded generally terrible compared to the tracks we were used to working with in Abelton. After about 20 minutes of tinkering and thinking about abandoning the project to restart it in Ableton, I realized that we recorded his track into a modeled “British Invasion Vox-like” guitar amp! I had no idea I was recording into a patch; there wasn't any buffered delay between the input and the output. I usually could tell in Ableton if the software was actively processing the inputs because there was a noticeable delay (about 300ms) between playing an instrument and what we heard in our headphones. I was really impressed that Logic could process seemingly in realtime. All said and done, we put down seven tracks (guitar, mandolin, bass and four vocal tracks) and called it a day.
Today, about a week later, I opened up Logic to start mixing the song since I only have two classes and five hours at my desk. I sat down at 8:30 and suddenly it was 10:45 and my coffee remained cold and untouched on my desk. I had completely lost myself in mixing the song! It’s an amazing feeling, being in that zone where everything seems to melt away and there is a beam of focus between my face and the computer screen, as if communing with the computer.
There are enough people debating technical limitations and proficiencies of various DAWs on the internet, pros and cons, which is better for what kind of music, etc. Whatever. I think I’m going to stick with Logic, for a while at least, because I haven’t had this much fun mixing music in ages! After all, this is not my career. It’s a hobby and Logic was delightful. It seems to me that Ableton can be performed, played like an instrument itself while Logic can better manipulate full-form music derived from real instruments. That said, nothing can beat Ableton’s splice to MIDI function and there are still projects I’ll sometimes open up in Ableton.
There is nothing finer than getting lost in a project, losing sense of self and time. Logic Pro X was fun and engaging and based on that alone it will be my DAW of choice for the foreseeable future.
Update: Complete Mix. Have a listen?