Having grown up with the music of New Orleans, Grammy-winner PJ Morton knows good sounds—and how to create signature patches in Apple Logic for such artists as India.Arie and Jermaine Dupri. His own album Walk Alone is available now.
Miking Acoustic Piano We usually put two mics on a piano, but the music I’m working on right now is kind of retro, so we use one mic—a ribbon. It doesn’t capture as “sophisticated” a sound, and it takes off some of the piano’s prettiness, which is what I’m going for.
Urban Strings When I’m trying to make the string tones in Logic [soft synths] sound authentic, I roll off the high end. When I’m going for more of an urban, synthetic sound, I go with the high end.
Real and Virtual Rhodes When we record the real thing, we go direct out and put two mics on the [Suitcase] speaker so the tremolo sounds true-to-life. In EVP88, I mess with the tremolo, tweaking the speed so it sounds just right. I don’t like the tines too bell-like, so I roll that off as well. I love playing a real Rhodes, so I adjust the sound close to what I’m used to.
Virtual B-3 For my demos, I use EVB3. I control it with a Yamaha Motif, set my mod wheel to affect Leslie speed, and set the sliders of the Motif to act like drawbars. The way I play organ, I’m changing drawbars all the time, so it’s good to control that from the keyboard.
Synth Bass There’s a new kind of bass sound on records by artists like Kanye West. The bottom has a feel like a Roland TR-808 drum machine, but it has pitches. I start with a factory synth bass in EXS24, then add a lot of low end to get the boom—an important thing about the 808 is how long it booms, so you want the release time a little longer. Set it to monophonic, since you don’t want notes to overlap. It’s a very muffled type of bass.
Snakey Lead In the late ’60s, Stevie Wonder had this cool lead that was sine-y, warm, and high, with some glide. I program my version of that on Logic’s EFM1. I pick a sine wave that’s close—I’m going for warm, so I don’t want a lot of high end. I take the release all the way off and set the attack a little late, for a sneaky kind of lead, not one that hits right when you trigger the note. I don’t detune at all, and I put the octave up and set it to monophonic.