Apple Logic Pro for iPad: Five cool new ways to make musicReading Time: 5 minutes
Logic Pro is finally touch-friendly
Apple’s Logic Pro is an app that’s permanently on my ‘learn how to use properly’ list. I’d like to get into it more and start really using it to make some music, but I can never find the time.
Fortunately, Apple has just made it a little more user friendly with an all-new version that’s tailored to the iPad. It’s still very powerful and can get very complex, but being able to manipulate tracks and sounds by using my finger(s) and Apple Pencil just makes it easier to dive in. And while it’s a subscription based software, the starting price of $4.99 per month isn’t very prohibitive, especially not for an app that’s as powerful as Logic Pro.
Apple let me use the Logic Pro on iPad a few days ahead of the official release to get a feel for it. What I was looking for, mostly, were new experiences that make the music-making process a bit more fun. I’ve found that Logic Pro for iPad hasn’t been dumbed down – you can essentially do everything you can do on the desktop version, with the biggest omission being support for certain third-party plugins. But I did have a couple of moments in which I thought, oh, this is fun; I could be doing this all day.
Some of these features aren’t completely new; Apple’s GarageBand has been available on the iPad for years, and it comes with virtual keyboards, drum pads and other touch-friendly options. But GarageBand, while fairly capable in its own right, is still a very light version of Logic Pro, and the two are only partially compatible. Pro and even semi-pro musicians and producers will eventually graduate to Logic Pro, and now they can do it on the iPad, too.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Logic Pro for iPad features I liked the most.
Touch to play
Typically, if you’re even a little bit serious about making music, you probably need a MIDI keyboard or a drum pad of some sort. But the iPad and its large touch display can serve those purposes pretty well, too.
If you have a hardware iPad keyboard, you will find that, when playing the virtual instruments, you’ll want to detach your iPad from the keyboard and set it down flat on the table or in your lap. Once you do, the experience becomes enjoyable. You can stretch the keyboard upwards to get as many as three rows of keys spanning six octaves. Instead of keys you can have drum pads, fretboards, and chord strips, to name a few options.
Sure, playing on a virtual keyboard on the iPad’s display isn’t as good as doing it on a hardware keyboard, and it never will be. But if you need to quickly whip up a bass line or a melody, the iPad will do fine.
It’s worth noting that I tested the Logic Pro on the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro with an M2 chip, and I’m quite sure this is the combo that offers the best experience. An iPad with a smaller display wouldn’t work as well.
I normally don’t use Apple Pencil too often, but with the Logic Pro on the iPad, it’s a must. I’ve found that it’s difficult to precisely grab and adjust certain elements of Logic Pro’s interface with my fingers, and this is where the Pencil steps in.
For example, I’ve used the Pencil to adjust the length and position of the sound bits in Logic’s Piano Roll Editor. After I got the hang of it, I actually preferred it over doing it on my Mac; there’s just something about manipulating little nuggets of sound with the Pencil that makes me feel so much more pro (trust me, I’m nowhere near pro).
Recording right there and then
The iPad Pro has a set of fairly capable microphones, which you can put to use by recording music directly, no other equipment needed.
I used this to record a guitar track over a bass and drum track I’ve previously put together, and the result sounded decent.
This, of course, won’t cut the muster when you need a high quality recording, but it’s more than usable for putting together a quick demo or recording a tune that you just know you’ll forget if you don’t record it right now. I used to do this with the Voice Memos app on my iPhone, but here you can actually whip up together an entire tune with bass and drums, for example, and quickly record some vocals over that to see how it sounds.
Of course, you can also record audio this way on a MacBook. But the iPad is still a more portable device, and (in my case) more likely to be with me on a trip, always accessible when that moment of inspiration strikes (it never strikes, folks).
Breaking up the beats
One new feature that’s exclusive to the iPad version of Logic Pro is an audio effect called the Beat Breaker. It lets you chop up a track into shorter bites which you can then manipulate by changing their time, speed, volume, and a bunch of other parameters on the fly.
The cool thing about this is that the process is extremely fast and seamless on the iPad’s touch display. I certainly wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but whatever I did, it sounded pretty cool, and it was extremely easy to do.
A new software instrument called Sound Alchemy lets you create custom instruments out of audio samples. You also do this by adding control points onto the sample’s waveform itself and move them around with your fingers. Sure, all of this could be done with a keyboard and mouse, but doing it directly on the touch display just feels very intuitive.
Turning those knobs for real
There’s something about manipulating the multitude of knobs and sliders you get in Logic Pro with your fingers. It just feels more natural, given that these are virtual versions of actual knobs and sliders you get on hardware music-making equipment.
And there’s an actual benefit to turning those knobs and sliding those sliders up and down on the iPad: Multi touch. You can grab several knobs at once with several digits and move them all at the same time, and you can hear what effect this has on your tracks right away.
After playing with the Logic Pro for iPad for a few days, I decided to fire up Logic Pro on my MacBook Pro to see how the transition feels. And on several occasions, I futilely reached up towards the MacBook’s display to turn a knob.
Unfortunately, Logic Pro for iPad still doesn’t have all of the features that the Mac version has; most importantly, not all third-party plugins are supported, and the iPad itself is problematic as it only has a single USB-C port, so you’ll need some kind of hub to connect to, say, a MIDI controller and wired headphones at the same time. But Logic Pro on the iPad is so good that I wish, perhaps for the first time, that my MacBook had a touch display, too.
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