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The Logic Pros: Getting the most out of Logic’s built-in MIDI Arpeggiator

In this week’s episode of The Logic Pros, we are looking at one of LPX’s most over-looked features, the MIDI FX Arpeggiator. A somewhat new option for Logic users, these FX offer a number of interesting ways to create patterns, sounds and more on any Audio Instrument in your library:

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MIDI FX are essentially a group of plug-ins, not unlike your typical Audio FX, that can alter our MIDI patterns, among many other things. Highlighted by the Arpeggiator, the list of options is generally split into creative options and those that serve a more utility type of role like for example, the Transposer. For today’s purposes we will be focusing on some of the more common (and fun) uses of the Arpeggiator.

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MIDI FX are loaded onto a track from just below the graphic EQ readout on Audio Instrument tracks. Just click and hold on an empty MDI FX slot and you will be presented with the list of available options. They appear in green on your channel strips once loaded and can be altered and bypassed just like any Audio FX plug-in using the the mouseover-overlay controls.

For those that may not be aware, basically speaking Arpeggiators create arpeggios, or rhythmic patterns made up of a defined sequence of notes, or chord. While some instruments, like Logic’s new Alchemy sample-synth, have an arpeggiator built right in, Logic’s MIDI FX Arpeggiator adds the very popular production tool to any instrument you choose. Simply load it up and then play/record any series of notes, or chord(s), and you will be arpeggiating all over the place.

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In the Note Order section found along the middle of the UI, we have the basic rate knob on the left which determines the speed at which the notes of our chord/pattern get played: 1/1 …1/2….1/8…1/16 notes etc.). Next we have the large white Note Order option buttons which determine the order in which the notes of our pattern are played back: ascending, descending, ascending/descending repeating the first and last notes and random (more on these below). To the right of those, we have the Variation and Oct Range/Inversions sliders. The Oct Range slider increases the range of the arpeggio up an octave (up to 4 octaves) based on your initial pattern (more on this below). The Variation slider is where things can get really interesting, as each of the  Note Order options having 4 variations available increases the possibilities here exponentially.

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Down below we have the Pattern, Options, Keyboard and Controller panels. The pattern section is where we get a readout of our patterns and the ability to edit them. Grid mode is where we will be spending most of our time editing, but we will talk more about Live mode below. The Keyboard tab, allows us to lock our patterns to a particular scale or even set the range of the keyboard so that only certain octaves will trigger the Arpeggiator.

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The Options panel has the Note Length knob which allows us to determine how long each of the notes in the pattern rings out, from very long to very snappy and percussive. Velocity determines the dynamic range of the loudness of each note in the pattern making it pretty useful for locking all notes to the same value. Swing alters the groove of the pattern as you would expect and Cycle Length will determine how much of the particular sequence set in the Pattern panel will be played. Personally I spend most of my time in this bottom section in the Options panel playing with the Note Length and Swing to get the groove just right.

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We won’t spend much time on the Controller section, but we can basically control the the main Option panel controls with hardware controllers from here. Sometimes I like to control the Note Length using hardware controllers on my MIDI keyboard to slow turn choppy rhythms into legato melodies. Just select Note Length in one of the empty Destination slots, choose -Learn- from the corresponding MIDI Controller slot above, then wiggle the hardware knob of your choice and your done.

It is always best to experiment with these features and use your ear, but here are a few of our favorite tips for using the Arpeggiator in Logic Pro X:

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Even more pattern options. When you click the Oct Range heading, it switches over to the hidden Inversions slider. This actually offers even more pattern options for each Variation. In fact, not only do we get 4 Variations per Note Order type, but now we have 4 Inversions for each of those Variations. Okay that sounds a little bit ridiculous in a sentence, but either way, that is a whole lot of options. Sometimes, when trying to get an arpeggiated part to fit in with a pre-existing groove, these additional options can come in very handy when it comes to creating tightly locked in patterns and interesting syncopation.

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Live step recording. First give that last big white button to the right in the Note Order section a high-five. This will essentially allow you to step record, or play in each of the notes of your pattern one at a time, and is one of our favorite ways to use the plug. Once engaged, you can use that tiny pull down arrow in the bottom left hand corner of the Arpeggiator UI, and turn on “Silent Capture” mode. This will allow you to play in notes on your keyboard to create patterns. Sometimes this kind of step recording can result in some pretty creative patterns, outside of your typical chords.

While Logic can be a little finicky when it comes to creating Live patterns this way and then implementing them into your project, the next tip will solve all of that for you:

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Own your patterns. Sometimes you get a pattern just the way you like it, but wish you had the MIDI for it. No worries. Just click and drag that funny looking pyramid icon next to the giant play button on the Arpeggiator UI right onto a MIDI or Audio Instrument track and the current pattern will appear before your eyes. Quite possibly one of the most useful tips here for my workflow, it allows you to implement the pattern into other parts on different tracks, and get a much more fine tuned look at it via Logic’s Piano Roll.

While we are certainly just scratching the surface of what can be done with Arpeggiator, this should give some newer users a good head-start and maybe even teach some old dogs a few new tricks. If you have any questions or interesting uses for Arpeggiator or MIDI FX in general, be sure to tell us about them below. We will be adding some video elements to upcoming episodes as well, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions there, let us know.

The Logic Pros is a regular series exploring all of the most interesting gadgets and software for making music on your Mac/iOS devices. If there is any gear you would like us to take a closer hands-on look at, let us know in the comments section below or shoot us an email.

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Avatar for Justin Kahn Justin Kahn

Justin is a senior editor covering all things music for 9to5Mac, including our weekly Logic Pros series exploring music production on Mac and iOS devices. Justin is an audio engineer/producer with over 10 years experience in the music industry.