A while back I touched upon Transient Markers in my Logic Quick Tips tutorial. Transient Markers play a big role in many of Logic's new features. In this tutorial I'm going to show just how important a good set of Transient Markers are and how many cool things you can do with them. Hopefully this should give you some creative ideas and also speed up your workflow too.
What are Transient Markers?
Transient Markers in Logic are similar to other 'recycling' markers found in apps like Recycle, Live and iZotope's pHatmatic Pro. Essentially they are a timing reference within an audio file referring to a start and end point within the audio file. Transient Markers in Logic don't actually destructively split the file into 'slices' they just point to where the 'slice' should begin playing and where it should stop.
They are generated in all of these apps by algorithms that detect the transient peaks in a waveform effectively splitting the audio into it's individual elements.
This concept of Transient Markers has been around for a while at Apple in the form of the Apple Loops Utility which is the application that is used to create (yep!) Apple Loops. Although similar in concept to the REX file format created by Propellerheads, Apple Loops work in a different way as they essentially 'stretch' the slices defined by the transient markers whereas REX files simply play back the slice at its original pitch independent of tempo.
Notice anything similar?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both formats which both offer the same result. Playback of a sample at a different tempos independent of pitch.
Recycle was a breakthrough piece of software and the REX format is now a standard in audio production. Logic has been able to import the REX format for some time now. The only disadvantage was you had to own Recycle as well to actually create the REX files. This is now a thing of the past and Apple have sort of cut out the middle man with it's Transient Marker technology. So how does it work?
Creating and Editing Markers
Markers are created in the Sample Editor window in Logic 9. This function is not available in previous versions. This process is basically the same as in Recycle.
I've loaded a WAV file of a loop I made with some noise in Metasynth. Here's what it sounds like.
To add the Transient Markers to it. Activate 'Transient Editing Mode' by clicking this icon in the Sample Editor window. The icon will turn orange.
You will see that Logic has automatically created the markers based on the waveform transients. Logic will generally do a good job at this provided the audio file has clearly defined transients and is a good quality recording (lots of background noise will yield less successful results). You can always normalize your file to ensure, or at least help Logic out a bit! Also sounds with minimal transient information like distorted guitar, or in fact any distorted sound will require some work.
To add or subtract markers using Logic's algorithm you can use the + and - buttons located beside the 'Transient Editor' button. This does the same thing as the sensitivity slider in Recycle.
To manually edit the markers use the following commands.
- Add a marker: Press 'Command' and click where you want to place the marker.
- Move a marker: Click on the marker and drag it.
- Delete a marker: Double click the marker.
Once you have all the markers you need, save your work and let's see what uses we can put them to.
Flex Time and Transient Markers
Flex Time as you probably know was introduced in Logic 9 and enables you to stretch audio on the fly (similar to Melodyne). This is the coolest feature yet in Logic and works really well. It essentially makes editing audio files by cutting them a thing of the past.
When you enable Flex Time on a track and select a setting like 'Rhythmic' Logic will create Transient Markers for all audio regions on that track based on an optimal algorithm for the Flex Time setting.
When Flex mode is enabled the Transient Markers appear in the region.
This produces some varied results and you invariably won't end up with a definitive set of markers but it will be pretty close. So how do you edit the results? That's right in the Sample Editor! Just enable the 'Transient Editor' button so you can see them and fine tune the results. Here's an example on a vocal take.
Flex analysis can give you some random results.
Now, I've found that creating a good set of markers before you enable Flex Time can be more beneficial in the long run as there's so much you can do with them. It can also prove to be a big help further down the line when editing your audio.
I ended up making a decent custom set of markers making sure each word is separated.
Also I made sure that the silences are in their own slice. This prevents the preceding word from being effected by any Flex stretching.
Notice only the gap is squashed, and not the word before it.
It's a good idea to differentiate between Flex Markers and Transient Markers. Flex markers are mostly created at Transient marker points, especially when creating multiple Flex markers (made with the Flex tool by clicking in the lower half of the region). This will create three Flex markers. One where you click and two either side at the closest available Transient Marker.
Unfortunately creating Flex markers in a wide open space doesn't create a Transient Marker as well, something Apple should take a look at.
Transient Markers and Audio Regions
Transient Markers are really handy for editing audio in the Sample Editor. Because the region is separated by these markers I can select parts of the audio file by simply double clicking on the 'slice'.
This now makes it super easy to perform edits on any part of my audio file. You could say 'Silence' the gaps, or do a 'Change Gain' on separate words, even use the 'Pitch and Time' to even out the tuning if need be.
Another nice feature is 'Slice at Transient Marker'. This can be found by 'Control' clicking on the audio file to bring up the pop up menu.
Your audio file is now split up into separate regions.
You can now easily clean up silences, reshuffle regions or drop single words down onto FX tracks if you like.
Transient Markers and Apple Loops
Now that the Transient Marker technology is native to Logic there is really no need to use the Apple Loops Utility anymore. As I said in the Quick Tip tutorial once you have a good set of Markers in your region, it's a cinch to create an Apple Loop from inside Logic. It's also possible to tweak any pre made Apple Loop imported into Logic.
Lets quickly make an Apple Loop from our Metasynth Loop. Just 'Control' click on the region and select 'Add to Apple Loops Library'.
You'll now be presented with a dialog box. Name your Apple Loop and give it some search parameters.
Go to 'Loops' in the Media browser and refine a search using your tags. You should see your loop.
Your now free to use that loop in any project at any tempo. Cool!
Extracting Quantize Templates from Apple Loops and Audio Regions
This is really cool! Every Apple Loop already has Transient Markers built in. You can use these to extract a Groove Template from the Loop. This also goes for any audio region you've added Transient Markers too manually, or by enabling Flex mode for it.
I'm going to drag in an Apple Loop called 'Effected Beat 3'. Here's what it sounds like. You can hear it has a swing feel to it.
If I open it up in the Sample Editor and turn click the 'Transient Editor' button I can see all of the pre defined Markers in the Apple Loop.
To extract the timing information I have to turn on the Flex mode for the track. It doesn't really matter what setting as the Markers are all ready in place.
Now go to the Inspector on the left (make sure the region is selected) and in the Quantize list choose 'Make Groove Template'.
Select the loop you want to transfer the groove too. In my case the Metasynth loop with is totally straight 16th's. Make sure Flex mode is enabled on this track.
With the new region selected choose the groove template you made from the Quantize list.
My loop is now perfectly in sync with the Apple Loop I bought in.
This means you can also re-Quantize any Apple Loop too. The creative possibilities of Groove Templates is enormous! It can come in handy for tightening/syncing BV's to a main vocal. Just create your markers for all the parts ensuring they have the same structure (this is what I mean about creating custom Transient Marker maps) and extract the template from the main vocal. Then quantize all the BV's to that template.
It doesn't end there folks! Now let's look at all the cool thing's we can do using the EXS24.
Transient Markers and the EXS24 Sampler
REX files need a 3rd party player to use them. Good examples are Reason's DrRex and Stylus RMX. These players allow for precise control over every slice in the REX file. This included Transposing, filter, envelopes and more.
Well the EXS24 can also play REX files using the Recycle Convert option inside the EXS24 editor. It will do all the things that Stylus and Dr.Rex can do including exporting the MIDI file for you.
More importantly it can make Apple Loops (and any audio region with Transient Markers) behave like REX files. Now the Apple Loop format is great. You can have tempo independent from pitch, Transpose independent from tempo and re-Quantize their groove.
The trouble is you can't do this on individual slices with Apple Loops....that is until you load them into the EXS24.
I've brought in an Apple Loop called 'Folk Mandolin 02'. Here's what it sounds like.
I like it but I want to mess it up a bit. Instead of chopping it up manually I can now using Logic 9 turn it into a EXS24 Sampler Instrument using the new 'Convert to New Sampler Track'.
You'll see a dialog box with the option to choose 'Transient Markers' as a basis for zone creation. Since it's an Apple Loop the Transient Markers are already set for you. Select the key range for the instrument and hit OK. That's it!
You'll now have that Apple Loop converted to what is essentially a REX file, it's now split into it's component parts that are mapped to your keyboard complete with MIDI file. Note it will have lost it's Apple Loop stretch qualities because it's no longer on an audio track.
Your now free to go mad with it! Change slice pitch, add FX's, add envelopes, assign slices to outputs. Basically any thing you can do in Stylus.
60 seconds later you have something different!
One thing to bear in mind is that some Apple Loops have really shoddy split points that will generate pops and clicks when converted (move the marker to a zero crossing on the waveform). It maybe worth you checking before you create the instrument.
Quick and Dirty Instrument Samples
A great use for this is doing Sample Instruments of stuff that's laying around you. I have a plastic box in the studio that's full of bits of junk like dongles, allen keys, metal finger picks, coins etc. I quickly just recorded myself hitting it about 25 times in different places.
I did a quick sweep of the file by enabling the 'Transient Editor' button and cleaned up some markers by deleting them.
Control clicked the region, chose 'Convert to New Sampler Track' and created the Instrument.
Then I just programmed a beat using the hits I had recorded.
A new and unique loop made in about 3 minutes start to end! Just add some effects if you like to mangle it.
For the stutter effect I used Audio Damages cool Automaton plugin.
Hopefully this has shed some light on how useful Transient Markers can be. And I hope it's opened up creative possibilities for you as well. Leave a comment if you have any questions and I'll do my best to check in and answer them. Till next time.