Recording software and hardware manufacturers have been courting guitarists for some time, and many have been savvy enough to turn our fickle little heads with uncomplicated features that embrace the way guitar players like to work. While working with Apple Logic Pro 9 ($499 retail) isn’t as easy as kicking on an overdrive pedal, this DAW does offer some fabulous tools for crafting trippy guitar sounds. (And, really, it ain’t that hard to use—especially if you’ve already taken GarageBand for a couple of spins.) Here are three features of this super-powerful DAW that even the most techno-fearful guitarists will applaud.
Back in my analog-tape-machine days, I always rocked the deck’s Varispeed (or pitch control) to add a little zip to a lackluster groove, or slow down the tape to sing parts that sounded like a pixie chorus when the deck was brought back to normal speed, or speed things up to gain 300 pounds and vocalize like a gorilla armed with a chest-mounted subwoofer. Of course, these tricks worked for guitars and drums and everything else, as well. Logic’s Varispeed can work just like the old-school tape versions to create pitch-manipulated madness, and it also has a Speed Only mode that lets you slow down playback without pitch being affected. This is a great option if you need a little help laying down a blazing-fast solo. Just slow down the track until you can perform the part, and then go back to the original speed to hear your supersonic riffing. And, as pitch is magically unchanged in Speed Only mode, you won’t have to deal with your guitar being “sour” to the pitch of the song as you play. You can also use this mode to increase or decrease the tempo of an entire track without also goofing with the pitch. In the old days, manipulating tempo with a reel-to-reel Varispeed meant that you made the track a little sharp or a little flat. Sometimes that was cool—such as the famous pitch-shifted edit in the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields”— and, other times, rocking the Varispeed could make a song a tad too lugubrious, or unnaturally cheery.
Logic also includes the Amp Designer plug-in. Graphically, you’re pretty much in cartoon territory, but the renderings are very cool, and the sounds are excellent. While Logic implies certain classic amps with obvious visual clues, all of the controls are the same for each amp. So you won’t get the precise tweakage options of, say, a non-master-volume Marshall, because every amp offers Gain, Bass, Mids, Treble, Reverb Level, Tremolo Depth and Speed, Presence, and Master. This doesn’t bother me, because the advantage is that the control knobs remain in the same positions when you switch amps, so you can dial in your desired tone, and then critically audition the tonal variations of each amp model with identical settings. As with many amp modelers, you can mix-and-match heads and cabinets. You also get three mic types (dynamic, condenser, and ribbon), and the ability to change mic positions.
Are the digital models accurate to the amps they represent? Who cares? The glory here is exploring unique tones and textures by messing sh*t up. Mate a tiny cab with a Marshall. Mic a pawnshop amp with a ribbon. Go alien with the EQ. As it’s so easy to try different combos and immediately determine whether something brings life—or aural shock value—to a work, why would you even want to go conventional?
Logic also includes Pedalboard, which lets you arrange stompboxes in any order, and, here, the control knobs are different, depending on the pedal you select. There’s also a zany “Complete Pedalboards” menu that serves up Logic’s interpretation of pedal paths for Dub Reggae, Grunge, Jazz Fusion, Funkadelia, and so on. I typically like to choose my own effects chain, but I must admit it was giddy fun calling up, say, the Cool Jazz pedalboard, and then seeing whether I could use it to devise some punk-rock sounds. There are a lot of options in the 30 available pedals, and every one of them delivered something so cool that I only reached into my own bag of tricks on two occasions when I wanted a Mick Ronson wah sound and a more realistic tape delay. Again, half the fun is in cooking up something blissfully horrible, in a good way. If that sentence makes sense to your style of playing and creative concepts, you’ll adore these three Logic features. Far out!