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Quick Tip: Using the External Instrument Plugin in Logic Pro

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In this quick tip I'll show you how to set up the External Instrument plugin. This handy little plugin allows you to integrate hardware synths into Logic and treat them just like a software instrument.

Introduction

As we move further into the depths of computer land it's easy to forget about all those great hardware synths that are now probably gathering dust in the corner of your studio. There's a great little plugin in Logic Pro called 'External Instrument' that allows you to integrate an external hardware synths outputs (say a Roland XV-5080 or something) straight into the Logic mixer.

The plugin also lets you transmit MIDI to the device and record it, all on a single channel. You can use a single MIDI channel or multiple channels depending on how you choose to set this up. All you need is a multi channel audio I/O box and a MIDI I/O port.

So dust off that Korg M1 and lets get going!

Step 1

Yep, you guessed it! Create a new Logic project and create a Software Instrument track.

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Step 2

Open the Environment (Command+8), select the 'MIDI Instr.' layer and create a new Instrument object from the New menu. Once you've done this name the object by double clicking the name in the Inspector. I'm going to call mine Virus TI as thats what I'm going to connect.

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Step 3

Make sure the MIDI in on the hardware synth is connected to the MIDI out of your interface. I'm using the MIDI ports on the MOTU 828mk3. Assign the port your going to use from the 'Port' drop down in the Inspector.

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Step 4

Go back to the Arrange page and on the Software Instrument track choose 'External Instrument' from the Instrument slot where you would normally load an ES2 etc. Make sure you have a Stereo instance.

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Step 5

This is a pretty bare bones arrangement with only three parameters. From the 'MIDI Destination' drop down choose the Instrument object you just created. In my case it's 'Virus TI'.

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Step 6

Next up, from the 'Input' drop down choose the inputs that the external device is plugged into on your Audio I/O interface. My Virus is plugged into 'Analog 1-2' which is '3-4' on the input list.

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Step 7

If I play some MIDI with the track armed you can see I have the signal coming in from the Virus.

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Step 8

The great thing about this is that I can now process the external synth with lots of lovely plugins in the Logic mixer as well as automating too!

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Considerations

Multiple MIDI Channels

If your dealing with a multi channel device like an Roland XV-5080 just create a 'Multi Instrument' in the Environment. Give it a name and assign the Port. Make sure all the boxes for the channels are activated by clicking on them.

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Follow all the steps above as usual, in the 'MIDI Destination' box choose Channel 1 of the Multi Instrument. To get 'MIDI Channel 2' just create a new External MIDI track. Check 'Open Library'.

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In the Library just choose 'Channel 2' from inside the Multi Instrument folder.

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If you need more MIDI channels just repeat the process.


Bouncing the External Device

You can't Bounce offline as the real world device is not squashable! If you want to render the hardware synth just create an audio track with the correct inputs and record your synth to disk.

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Hope this brings some new life to your hardware synths. Till next time!


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