Logic Pro's Link Modes Unchained: Part 2

In the second part of this Hub series, Peter Schwartz removes the shackles of confusion that many Logic users still have regarding Link Modes. Learn how to make the different link modes work for you.  

In my previous article on link modes in Logic Pro we explored their function in the Piano Roll, Score, and Sample Editors. Now let's take a look at how useful they can be in other areas: plugin windows, the Event List, and the Environment window, with a bit of the Arrange window and Mixer thrown in. Let's start with...

Plugin Window Linking

The default link mode for plugin windows is no link (link = gray), and in this mode every plugin opens in a separate window. But when the link button is activated (link = purple), the window will update its display and change its size as needed to present the GUI of whatever plugin you select from that point forward! This window behavior is particularly useful for musicians running Logic on laptops, where screen real estate is limited. But it's also a great way to work even if the monitors you're using are the size of Jumbotrons, as we'll see shortly.

Activating the link in a plugin window officially puts it into same level link mode. And similar to what we explored in the previous article regarding the Sample Editor in same level link mode, there aren't actually any "levels" to navigate when it comes to plugins, either. So don't let the name of this mode confuse you. Think of it this way instead: when the link is purple, that window is in "one window for all plugins link mode".

This behavior isn't limited to effects plugins. A plugin window in this mode will adapt to display the GUI of any type of plugin that you select, whether it's an effect or a virtual instrument, Logic native or a third party plugin.

Plugin window in same level link mode

Plugin window in same level link mode.

Arrange and Mixer Windows, Plugin "Scanning"

This is neat… Let's say you wanted to examine the settings of a particular plugin that you've instantiated in a whole slew of channels, as we see above with my repeated use of the Direction Mixer. Start by double-clicking on the Direction Mixer on any channel to open the plugin window, and then turn on the link (purple). Now each time you select a new track in the arrangement, or select a channel in the mixer, the plugin GUI will update to reflect the Direction Mixer for the selected channel strip! Note that this operation will only work consistently if (in this case) the Direction Mixers are loaded into the same insert slot for all channels.

Environment Window Linking

Many people, myself included, prefer to work with the environment's display of channel strips, instruments, etc. as opposed to using the mixer window. (In my two-monitor setup I view the arrange window in one monitor and the environment window in another one set up to its right.) When you create a new environment window, its link mode is set to same level link mode (purple) by default, though I tend to think of this simply as "linking is on", and here's why... With link = purple, the environment window will automatically bring into view whatever channel strip or instrument is associated with the track you select in the arrangement. The environment will also switch layers, if necessary, to bring that object into view. For example, if the current view of the environment displays an audio channel that lives in the Mixer layer, selecting a MIDI track assigned to a MIDI instrument will cause the window to switch to the environment's MIDI layer—and select the instrument as well. But occasionally this wonderful switching behavior can get annoying, as in the case where you want to switch tracks in the arrangement but not have the environment display go along for the ride. At that point, you'll want to simply turn off the link (gray).

The environment window showing the mixer layer, shown here with same level link mode active

The environment window showing the mixer layer, shown here with same level link mode active.

Event List Window Linking

So far, the windows we've explored in this article have only two link modes:  purple (same level link) and gray (off). Now let's look at the Event List, which features the full array of link modes as I described in the first article:  link off (gray), same level (purple), and content link (yellow).

Link off mode (gray) causes the event list to persistently display whatever it was showing before the link was turned off. That's pretty straightforward, and is the same behavior for the Piano Roll and Score Editor. Moving on…

When the Event List is in content link mode (yellow) it will display different things depending on what we select in the Arrange window. This takes a bit of explanation, but once you get the hang of things I think you'll discover how useful the Event List can be in (yellow) content link mode! Here's the setup…

In the following screenshot we see that the arrangement contains a green 'Solo Cello' folder (which itself contains a few MIDI regions), an audio region called Piano (red), and some yellow MIDI regions of flute parts. Here's a breakdown of the different behaviors you can expect when selecting these different kinds of items in the arrangement while in content link mode (yellow):

  • Selecting a MIDI region causes the editor to display the MIDI events it contains: notes, controllers, etc. And when a MIDI region is indeed selected in the arrangement, the hierarchy arrow in the event list is black (as opposed to gray), indicating that we are "down a level", meaning that we're viewing the contents of the "container of MIDI data" that is the MIDI region itself.

The Event List showing the contents of the selected MIDI region

The Event List showing the contents of the selected MIDI region.

  • Selecting a folder in the arrangement causes the editor to list the name, position, and length of each region contained within the folder. As before, we are "inside" a  container (the folder) and looking directly at its contents (the regions) so the hierarchy arrow is black. And double-clicking on any region's name in the editor causes the Event List to then reveal the actual contents of that region in the same window!

At this point we are down two levels: arrangement (top level), folder (down one level), MIDI region (down another level) and we can navigate back out of the rabbit hole by clicking repeatedly on the hierarchy arrow until we arrive at the desired level.

The Event List showing the contents of the selected folder, here being several individual regions each with the same name but different lengths and positions

The Event List showing the contents of the selected folder: 6 individual regions with the same name but different lengths and positions.

  • Now let's see what happens when we select an audio region in the arrangement. The event list—still in same level link mode—will now display the name, position, and length of every region or folder in the entire arrangement! (See Figure 5). Note how this time the hierarchy arrow in the Event List is grayed out, indicating that we are viewing regions at the "top level" of the arrangement.

The Event List showing the names of all regions contained in the arrangement

The Event List showing the names of all regions contained in the arrangement.

Here's another neat behavior:  double-clicking on the name of an audio region in the Event List will open the sample editor for that region! This is handy for rapidly examining the contents of audio regions in the sample editor.

TIP: when region or folder names are displayed in the event list, you can rename them with the text tool!

To wrap things up, let's visit the behavior of the event list when it's set to same level link mode (purple). Or maybe, let's just say "why bother?" Because many of the same behaviors I described for the Event List in content link mode (yellow) are the same. But for sake of being thorough…

Same level link mode is useful if your main reason for using the Event List is to view the names, positions, and lengths of all regions or folders in your arrangement. And because those behaviors are available in content link mode (yellow), I rarely activate the purple link. In fact, if I see that the Event List window is showing the purple link icon, I start to wonder if someone hasn't sneaked into the studio and changed something around as a practical joke. You know, the kind of joke without the humor…

Practice, Practice, Practice

Not only is this the tried and true method for getting to Carnegie Hall, it's also the best way to learn about how link modes work and, ultimately, how you can use them to enhance your workflow. My sincere recommendation is for you to set up some of the scenarios I've illustrated and explained over this series of articles and experiment!

Want to learn more? Then check out these practical Logic Tips N Tricks

You can follow Peter Schwartz, your guide through the entertaining and informative world of MIDI in his MIDI 101 - MIDI Demystified Tutorial-Video.

Peter Schwartz, composer, orchestrator, arranger, pianist, synthesist, and musical director, began piano studies at age 5 and went on to earn a degree in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music. It wasn't long afterward that he began working as a product specialist for New England Digital (Synclavier) and also as a sound progr... Read More


Very helpful Peter. Thanks!
Peter Schwartz
You're welcome! Thanks for your comment.

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