Wouldn’t it be great if you could trigger different software instruments in the same MIDI Piano Roll window in Logic? Yes, you can shift-click multiple regions for simultaneous editing of existing MIDI, but what about creating grooves from scratch this way? Without having to bounce around between different regions, you can create elaborate MIDI step sequences with notes that change sound at the switch of a channel. Easily create syncopated riffs and even full songs in a single MIDI region. Although this requires a dip into Logic’s Environment, it’s surprisingly easy to set up and use, so read on!
1. Choose Various Sounds/Software Instruments
First, take your time and create several different software instrument tracks with sounds you’ll be using in your groove/song. For my audio example below, I used 5 tracks/sounds. Punchy sounds with short release times work great for this. Sounds effects, pitched percussion, and synth/bass stabs too. Variation is key here …select sounds that are different in frequency, harmonic content, tone, etc.
2. Create a Channel Splitter Object in Environment
Once you’ve chosen your different sounds, open Logic’s Environment window with Command - 0 (Zero). If it’s not already selected, make sure the “Mixer” environment layer is displaying by selecting it from the menu at the top left of the window. From the Environment’s “New” menu, choose “Channel Splitter” and the object will appear in the window.
3. Cable the Splitter to Your Instruments
Now that you’ve made the Channel Splitter environment object, move it near/below the tracks of the instruments you just chose like I did in the example image. The right side of the Channel Splitter object has tiny output triangles. Click the triangle directly below the “Sum” and you’ll be dragging MIDI Channel 1 output to the track of the first sound/instrument you chose. You’ll know when you’ve “hit” the track when dragging because the track itself will highlight (it’s doing this in the image below). Repeat the process until all the instruments you’ve chosen are assigned to independent Channel Splitter MIDI channels. In the next step we’ll be adding the Channel Splitter object directly as a track in the list of the main workspace.
4. Add the Channel Splitter to the Workspace As a Track
Close the Environment, and create a new “External MIDI” track from the new track window. Now press “Y” to open the Library. Here you’ll see all of your hardware MIDI ports. Click the “Other Objects” menu so you can see a list of selectable Environment objects. Select the “Channel Splitter” you added above from the list.
5. Record a Simple MIDI Riff, or Step-In a Part
Record a simple (or not) MIDI riff onto this track now, and quantize if necessary. Most MIDI controllers are set to MIDI channel 1 as factory default so as you play, you’ll be triggering your first instrument cabled to MIDI channel 1. If you don’t play, no need to worry, create an empty MIDI region onto the Channel Splitter track as you would with any track and start stepping in notes.
6. Open the Event List with the Piano Roll
Now open the Piano Roll (if it isn’t already) and press the “D” key to open the “List Editors” window. There’s 4 tabs here, make sure the “Event” tab is clicked on and is visible. Here you’ll see ALL the MIDI note and continuous controller data inside the selected MIDI region. Spend a moment, and create a good zoom around the part you played/penciled in so you can clearly see it and edit it. Click onto any MIDI note in the Piano Roll and it will highlight that same note in the Event list. From the Event List channel “Ch” column, change the value to any of the other MIDI channels you assigned to the various sounds/tracks. When you do this, the chosen note will trigger one of your other chosen sounds!
7. Change Sounds, When Changing MIDI Notes
Cycle the riff and play it in a loop. Get creative now and change various notes to different MIDI channels. If a chosen note is too high or too low, move it up/down an octave easily with SHIFT - Option - Up Arrow/Down Arrow. Expand upon your original riff by drawing in notes directly to the Piano Roll. Adjust note lengths so they don’t overlap, or even create full bass lines like I did in the example below. In my audio example below, I start out without drums, then add a kick and topper to hear it against.
Thanks for reading! Questions in comments are welcome.