Recording Vocals in Logic Pro X

Recording vocals in Logic Pro X is relatively straight forward. Here’s the part where I make a joke about the first thing you’ll need is a microphone 😉 However, that’s not true!!! You can use the built in mic on your Mac. It’s obviously not the way to go for professional level recordings, but it works in a pinch (I’ve even done in on occasion for quick and dirty vocals.)

If you are looking for quality vocals though, you’ll need a decent mic and recording interface. These can be pretty expensive when starting out, so you may want to look at something like the Focusrite Package. (It is the most cost effective in that it gives you a mic and headphones along with the audio interface.) The interface can be used for recording a second source, and it has outputs for monitors, which you’ll certainly need in the near future. Apogee and PreSonus are other options, but the 2i2 seems to be the most popular option when starting out. Check out our review of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.

Setting Up Your Recording Interface

Under the Logic Pro X Menu, select Preferences, Audio. If you don’t have an external audio device, then your Mac’s system speakers and microphone should be listed. This menu is useful when you want to toggle between external monitors and your built-in speakers. Why would you want to do that? To check your mix on small computer speakers! Many of your listeners will be listening that way. You can record using your Mac’s built in mic if you don’t have a mic and interface available.

Logic Pro X Audio Setup
Logic Pro X Audio Setup

After launching Logic Pro X, go to File, New, and this screen will pop up asking to Choose a track type.

Logic Pro Choose Track Type
Logic Pro Choose Track Type

Select the option with the microphone, under Audio. The only difference between “Recording using a microphone or line input” and “Connect a guitar or bass” is that the guitar setting will add a bunch of Apple plugins, like an Amp emulator and Pedalboard.

You probably want Input 1 as the option. This could be different depending on how you have the interface configured, but most likely it’ll be the first input.

It’s a shame that Apple didn’t put a Compressor on the Vocal track in the same way that they put plugins on the Guitar track. It’d make Logic recording much more efficient. Most modern channel strips that are used to record vocals will have a compressor built in. This is not only great for taming your vocals to keep them from clipping, but is almost an essential part of the sound if you are looking for that “radio hit” type vocal. (Check out our article on Apple’s Compressors.)

When you’re recording vocals in Logic Pro X, it’s important to consider putting a compressor on your vocal track. You probably don’t want to “slam” it, but a gentle amount of compression can save your take.

On the Channel Strip for your Mic (probably called “Audio 1”) click on Audio FX, and then select Dynamics, Compressor, Mono. It’ll default to Platinum Digital. Click the button for “Vintage Opto”. This is Apple’s emulation of an LA-2A, a legendary optical compressor which is commonly used on vocals. There may be a better compressor for you based on your vocal style, but this is a decent place to start.

Apple's Vintage Opto Compressor
Apple’s Vintage Opto Compressor

Turn off the Compressor for now, and make sure your fader is set to 0. The one in the diagram below is pulled down slightly to -0.1 . You want to avoid clipping, which the channel strip will show as red. In the image below, the signal peaked at 0.2. When it does clip, this will turn red and the highest value will be stored there. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for a peak of -6 db.

Audio Tracks Clipping
Audio Tracks Clipping

If you are using something like the 2i2, each channel has a gain knob. Adjust that while you’re singing to set the level, and NOT the fader in Logic Pro. You want to make sure the input level is set correctly on the way in, and only adjust the fader down to avoid clipping if you have no other option. Remember, shoot for -6 dB as your peak and avoid the “red”. As you do this, you’ll appreciate the value of a recording engineer. It’s not easy to sing and adjust the level at the same time, is it?

If you are doing a pretty good job, but it’s still clipping, that’s where the Compressor can help. Even if you aren’t clipping, the compressor can help level out the peaks to give a more polished sound.

You’re probably better off just using one of the Vocal presets to start. But as a general rule, turn the threshold until the needle is just hitting -1 dB, and set the ratio to 2 or 3. Set auto gain to “off” and adjust up if the meter on the channel strip dropped too much. If the signal is still too hot, adjust that down. Another option would be to turn the Limiter “ON” (on the right,) and move that Threshold down -1 dB. That will force the signal to not go over -1 dB and you should see (in the meter on the channel strip) that it never goes above that.

TIP: Click on the value in red over the meter to reset it. Now if it turns red again, you know what you did didn’t work, and you need to make more level adjustments. As a last resort, slide the fader down until it doesn’t peak.

Many vocalists like some reverb on their vocals, so let’s add a bit of that in. On the channel strip, (underneath where the compressor is,) click and go to Reverb, ChromaVerb. Scroll through the presets until you find one that you like and you can use the slider on the right that says “wet” to adjust how much of the effect is applied.

Apple's Chroma Verb
Apple’s Chroma Verb

When mixing vocals in Logic Pro X, some people like to start with vocals first, others like to do vocals last. Remember that in most styles, the vocals are the most important and need to be “out front” so you are going to want them generally a couple db higher than the rest of the mix. Always use your ears though.

That about wraps up our Logic Pro X voice recording tutorial. If you have any questions about recording vocals in Logic Pro X, then please leave comments, we would love to hear from you.

Here’s a useful list of recording tips from LANDR. Don’t forget to checkout our other Logic Pro X tips and Tutorials.