(sonicArts) midi recording in logic pro x

Logic Pro X allows for MIDI recording in the expected ways – live input, step input, and drawing with the pencil tool – but it presents a few quirks. This post will go over the basics of MIDI recording, using our ever-present Retro Synth software instrument.

some basics before starting

Now is a good time to add one more keyboard shortcut to our collection, and to review a couple of handy tool assignment shortcuts.

  • < cmd > + < 4 > opens the piano roll editor for the selected track. (new shortcut)
  • < t > then < t > assigns the left mouse button to the pointer tool.
  • < t > then < 2 > assigns the left mouse button to the pencil tool.

Assigning mouse buttons to tools only works when in the main tracks window.

No matter which way(s) you plan on recording MIDI, you should always plan on starting your MIDI note data in measure two of your project. Keep the first measure open to insert initial synth automation settings.

midi recording using live input

Recording a live MIDI performance is the simplest approach, but it does require you to be a somewhat competent keyboardist. You can adjust tempo to record at a slower speed, then adjust the tempo back to your desired playback speed. You can also quantize your recorded MIDI data after recording to make it seem like you can play in time. Still, if you are a really lousy keyboard player, the difficulty of playing the piano keyboard outweighs the simplicity of the recording method.

Select and record enable a software instrument track. (If you are able to play and hear the synth while the transport is stopped, you have likely already done this.) Click the record button and start playing at the appropriate time. Remember that the default option is for Logic to add one measure of pre-count before starting the recording. You will also let it count through the first measure before you start playing. You will see notes being added to the track as you play. These notes will appear inside a MIDI region, which is similar to the audio regions that you have worked with before.

While recording, the counter will appear shaded red, as well as the MIDI region that is being created by the recording.

If you want to add new MIDI data at the end of what you have recorded, you can place the playback head at the place you want to start and click record. Recording will start immediately at the playback head position, without any pre-count.

step recording 

I like to modify the approach to step recording from what is outlined in the manual. In the track window (click on the track window header to make sure it is active), start by switching to the pencil tool and inserting a blank MIDI region with a click. Switch back to the pointer tool. Moving down along the right edge of the MIDI region you can extend the empty MIDI region using the edge edit tool (or crop, adjust, whatever you want to call it). Open the piano roll editor for the track, and open the Step Input Keyboard (Window > Show Step Input Keyboard).

The Step Input Keyboard shows rhythmic values across the top, with the ability to create chords, dotted rhythms, and triplet rhythms. It also shows dynamic values that correspond to key velocities, and includes a piano keyboard. We’ll only use the rhythmic values. We can play in notes, with velocities, from a MIDI keyboard.


In the Piano Roll window, you want to turn on MIDI input. It’s enclosed below in red:


Make sure that Scale Quantize (on the left) is off.

In the Piano Roll window, drag the playback head to the point you want to start recording. Select the duration/rhythmic value in the Step Input window, then play a note on your MIDI keyboard. Try to think about key velocity, but you can edit those values later. The playback head will advance the duration of the entered note.

If you want to enter chords, press keys simultaneously or press a new key before releasing the previous key.

using the pencil tool to draw notes

In the Piano Roll you can use the pointer tool to edit notes (move them to new pitches, new start times, adjust their length, adjust their key velocities), and you can use the pencil tool to add new notes. You first select a durational value in the Step Input window, then click with the pencil tool at the pitch and start time to insert a note.


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