So you want to make EDM on Logic Pro. Not a problem. We’ll walk through how to get started with a look at some of the stock plugins along with some of the 3rd party must have plugins.
Logic Pro EDM – Stock Plugins
Logic Pro X comes with some decent software synths right out of the box.
Alchemy was a popular synth owned by Camel Audio. Apple bought them in 2015 and then integrated the synth in to Logic Pro X. It is often dismissed because it comes stock out of the box. But do that at your own peril. It comes with a bunch of presets, and offers the option of a simple interface, which can be great for playing live. If you just want to use the presets, and do minimal tweaking, this is a great place to start. The perform pad is a great way to get different vibes from the patch by selecting from some “pre-tweaks” that you can always adjust to your liking.
However, you can go into Advanced mode and get your tweak on 😉 Most of the knobs offer modulation with just a right click of the mouse. You can assign an LFO, AHDSR, MSEG Envelop, etc. The morph control is really cool for blending the four oscillators together. It’s great because you can treat it like a ROMpler and just play in Simple Mode, but if you want to do sound design, you can go into Advanced Mode.
The next thing you’ll need is a beat. Look no further than the built in drummer. This is really cool when you are starting out, especially if you know nothing about programming or playing drums. You can use the Drum Machine Designer to tweak the settings of the drum machine, or swap out samples altogether.
So the idea is that you hire one of these “session drummers” to perform on your track. Each drummer has a specialty, and you can see that there are 5 drummers to choose from for the Electronic genre. If you select Magnus, then a bunch of patterns will be made available, the first one is called Anthem. You can move the X/Y pad to make it louder/softer simple/complex, and move the sliders to vary the patterns.
The nice thing with drummer is that it’s pretty simple and you can get something up fast, which is important when inspired. The downside is that it can get kind of old quick (it feels like a great idea that was not finished once the product shipped. Apple needs to hire some professionals to come in and drop about 1,000 patterns and a dozen more genres/sub-genres into it to really make it killer.)
This brings us to the much beloved EXS24. Heralded for its simplicity, this is how you will probably want to handle samples in Logic. If the drummer isn’t doing it for you, building your own beats with samples is probably the way to go. While you can just drag samples and loops onto tracks, EXS24 will allow you to tweak them a bit more. What if you want to do a snare roll that detunes for each step?
In edit mode, EXS24 lets you drag samples onto the keyboard, and select what range they are in. So you can essentially do a traditional type keyboard split. Or you could drag in 12 drum samples, and assign each to 12 different keys, akin to a hardware keyboard. You can also assign the pitch to a key, so that a horn sample playing an E4 isn’t assigned to the C3 key, and then the pitch is all off.
We recommend that if you build your drums with EXS24, that you do it one instance per track. In other words, on track 1 import your snare into EXS24, then on track 2, load another instance of EXS24 for your hi-hats, then on track 3 another instance for your kick, etc. The downside is that now you have half a dozen tracks instead of just one, but the upside is that when you are doing the final mix, you’ll be able to adjust individual pieces without affecting the whole kit.
ES2 is a much fatter analog sound than Alchemy, but complements it nicely. It sports 3 oscillators, but you can turn off one or two of them, and just end up with a 1 oscillator synth. It’s pretty good for an analog bass sound, and while the interface is in drastic need of a Retina update, hopefully that doesn’t mean Apple is going to let this synth expire.
Finally, as an added bonus, is Retro Synth. This is 4 synths in 1. If you don’t have a good handle on sound design, then this is a good tool. Although not necessarily EDM specific, it will give you a good feel for FM synthesis vs more of a Moog analog type synth.
Logic Pro EDM – 3rd Party Plugins
Now that you’ve outgrown what Logic has to offer out of the box, we’ll touch upon the must haves from 3rd party offerings.
The first must have (and probably most affordable) would be Sylenth1. It’s probably the first software synth a lot of EDM producers buy, and with good reason. Many of the big names use it, and in fact it comes with some Steve Aoki designed presets. It’s really good at high quality analog sounds, it’s fairly easy to use, and has some of the best sounding Saws that we’ve ever heard in a soft synth.
The second must have is the much maligned Nexus 2. It’s a Rompler with tons of libraries in multiple genres. You’ll find no shortage of web forums condemning it, but the big boys use, and you should too!
It comes down to this, are you a musician, or a sound designer? You can be both, but if you don’t know sound design, then leave that to others. And guess what, Michael Jackson had a number 1 album called Thriller… it featured a Synclavier …and the intro to Beat It is a default patch…
So don’t be afraid to get Nexus 2. It’s saved our butts on more than a few occasions when deadlines were approaching, and we didn’t decent sounds fast.
This plugin is a one-trick pony, but it’s really good at it. And it’s high on the list because the price is just so darn cheap. Nicky Romero Kickstart basically takes away the need of doing side chain compression to the Kick drum. You don’t need to side chain to anything! The mix knob is great at emulating serial or parallel compression, it comes with many curves (including a few reverse curves) and you can pick they beat from 1 bar to 1/8 note. It’s a quick way to get a “pump” going on a track, and can be used as an effect on vocals, similar to Selena Gomez’ It Ain’t Me.
Logic Fiends recommends renting-to-own Serum for $9.99/month (and if you click that link we’ll get a few bucks to keep the site running.)
Your next purchase should probably be Serum, although there is a bit of a learning curve with this one. It is probably our favorite wavetable synth. You can really automate a lot on this beast. Most of the knobs can be automated, and that automation can be assigned to the 3 Envelopes and 4 LFOs, which really offer a ton of options. Very useful for Dubstep, and it has a decent sound for Future Bass as well. You can rent Serum from the link below if you only need it for a short time or can’t afford to buy it outright.
The next thing to consider is Massive. Serum beat this one on the list because Massive is getting a bit long in the tooth and in desperate need of an update. (Actually, an update is slated for Summer 2019.) This synth is what put Dubstep on the map.
It allows most knobs to be automated with 4 Envelops and 4 LFOs, although the LFOs can be swapped out for Steppers or Performers. The Performers are like the next iteration of Steppers. Rather than just velocity per step, you can have curves for the velocity per step. Performers are also a great way to make risers for EDM.
We’d recommend getting Massive with the Komplete or Komplete Ultimate bundle if you can afford it, as you get the most bang for your buck that way. If you are a tweak head, you can get Reaktor with Komplete, which can be used for EDM, but will require knowledge of sound design. It’ll also come with Kontakt, which is pretty much “the standard” as far as samplers go. And once you are comfortable programming a drum machine, Battery can replace Logic’s built in drum machine.
Not a synth, but kind of the Envelope portion of a synth! A valuable tool nonetheless. Armin Van Buuren uses this often to get his Kick just right. There’s a bit of overlap with the Nicky Romero Kickstart, as this can do what that does, and then some. It has lots of useful presets as well.Expand Your Sound with Splice. Try it for free now!
Next up is the web service Splice. This service offers a plethora of samples. For about 10 bucks a month, you get credits to use to buy samples, although they also have presets you can purchase for Massive. If you are having trouble coming up with a beat, this might be a good way to start. If you are having a hard time getting the kick or the snare to sit just right, perhaps the answer is to just grab a sample from here.
Vengeance Avenger is the next on the list. The creators are affiliated with Nexus 2. Avenger doesn’t seem to be as prominent as the prior mentioned synths for some reason, but does generate really nice sounds. It’s easy to use, but challenging to master, as it offers lots of tweaking options. We don’t recommend purchasing this until you’ve purchased all the others on the list first.
Finally, that brings us to the Arturia Modular V. Just look at it! Who doesn’t want to be a Mad Scientist that has mastered this thing? OK, so you aren’t going to integrate the Keith Emerson sound into your style, but you probably want some unique sounds right? DeadMau5 has a wall of modules just to give himself some unique sounds that other people don’t have. This is going to be good for doing transitions or background sounds.
Look for another Logic Pro X Tutorial if you are interested in learning more about Logic. Now go make music!