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Mixer Management in Logic X

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:

One of the things many Logic users were hoping for in the Logic X release was the ability to more freely modify channel strip order in the Mixer. This has not yet happened (X.1?), but there do exist a few work arounds left over from previous versions as well as one brand new to Logic X which are worth knowing and utilizing.


A Quick Review

As in all past incarnations of Logic I have been exposed to (7 and up), the Mixer is closely related to the Main Window (previously known as the Arrange Page) in that channels are automatically created and ordered (left to right) in the Mixer as their corresponding tracks are created and ordered (top to bottom) in the Main Window.

The Main Window with a recorded audio track and four instrument tracks, one of which is a multi-output (the Ultrabeat drum track).
The Main Window with a recorded audio track and four instrument tracks, one of which is a multi-output (the Ultrabeat drum track).

The problem with this becomes apparent when auxiliary channels are added to a project. These channels are added to the Mixer in the order they are created and can not be moved independently. This would be fine if a perfectly planned routing scheme could be made prior to mixing, but as it stands, channels are constantly being rerouted, deleted, and readded throughout production and mixing sessions, often rendering the channel strip's placement in the Mixer arbitrary and visually ambiguous in regards to their function and signal flow.

A portion of the Mixer after adding some send effects and drum outputs.  A fairly big mess considering this is the result of just five sound sources (all sound types are color coded and should ultimately be next to one another).
A portion of the Mixer after adding some send effects and drum outputs. A fairly big mess considering this is the result of just five sound sources (all sound types are color coded and should ultimately be next to one another).

By going to Logic Pro X > Preferences > Advanced Tools and clicking the 'Show Advanced Tools' box, Logic X will enable a number of different filtering options in the upper portion of the Mixer to help facilitate navigation. This is really nothing new to Logic X (only the fact that you now have to enable it), so users of past versions should be familiar with these filter buttons.

In short, the central three buttons indicate the range of tracks shown and the eight buttons on the right filter the types of tracks shown within the selected range.

The well known filter options, now repackaged as 'Advanced Tools' for X.
The well known filter options, now repackaged as 'Advanced Tools' for X.
  • Single automatically filters all channels not associated with the one highlighted.
  • Tracks shows all tracks which are currently viewable in the Main Window as well as their auxiliaries.
  • All shows all project tracks, even those currently hidden in the Main Window.
  • The eight toggle buttons to the right further refine the types of tracks shown according to type.
The left image shows the Mixer with audio and auxiliary tracks filtered.  The right shows the Mixer with the piano instrument highlighted and the Single option selected.
The left image shows the Mixer with audio and auxiliary tracks filtered. The right shows the Mixer with the piano instrument highlighted and the Single option selected.

The filter options can be useful in paring down the Mixer to show only relevant channels, but there is still the problem of channel strips not appearing in order according to their signal flow, or any other order the user may wish. Although Logic still does not offer the seemingly easy solution (the ability to drag and drop channel strips in the Mixer), there are a few things we can do to get things in order.


Getting Started

The first thing to do is highlight each of the auxiliary tracks in the Mixer we want to be able to move, and then control-click or right-click in the Mixer and select Create Track from the pop-up menu (or from the Options menu in the Mixer – Create Tracks for Selected Channel Strips).

This creates a track in the Main Window for each one of the highlighted channel strips in the Mixer. Now we can go to the Main Window and move the tracks around and their new order will be reflected in the Mixer (top to bottom equals left to right).

The Main Window after creating the new tracks and ordering them according to signal flow.
The Main Window after creating the new tracks and ordering them according to signal flow.
A sample of the reordered Mixer.
A sample of the reordered Mixer.

As you can see, We've fixed the ordering problem in the Mixer, but created a new problem in the Main Window in that there are now far too many tracks showing than are helpful or necessary. There are two similar yet distinct ways of managing this.


1. The Classic Method

The first is a carryover from previous versions of Logic which many users may be familiar with; namely using Region Folders. This method is a bit ham-handed in that you have to create unnecessary regions in order to clean up the already existing unnecessary tracks.

  1. The first step when using this method is to create empty regions for each one of the tracks and select them.
  2. Secondly, we need to select the menu option Functions/Folder/Pack Folder (Option-P). This action copies and packs the previously highlighted regions within a newly created folder track.
  3. Once this is done, we can delete the now unused tracks to clean up the Main Window.
The Main Window after creating the folder tracks.
The Main Window after creating the folder tracks.
The bass folder contents which are revealed after double clicking the bass folder region.  I can assign each folder view to a separate Screenset (press a number 1-9 [hold the Control key for two digit numbers], set up the view desired, hold shift and repress the number or numbers to lock it) to easily navigate into all of the folders in my project.
The bass folder contents which are revealed after double clicking the bass folder region. I can assign each folder view to a separate Screenset (press a number 1-9 [hold the Control key for two digit numbers], set up the view desired, hold shift and repress the number or numbers to lock it) to easily navigate into all of the folders in my project.

2. The Track Stack Method

A slightly more streamlined approach for cleaning the Main Window which Logic now offers is to use the new Track Stack function. After ordering the auxiliary tracks in the Main Window, shift-click to highlight the tracks you want to stack and right-click on any of the track headers (or go to the Track menu) and select Create Track Stack.

A dialogue box will appear asking what type of stack you want to create. In this instance, the Folder Stack is appropriate as we have already summed our tracks. The Summing Folder option will automatically create a new auxiliary summing track and route all selected outputs to it.

The Main Window after stacking all of the available tracks and relabeling.  The Vocal stack has been exposed by clicking the disclosure triangle to the left.
The Main Window after stacking all of the available tracks and relabeling. The Vocal stack has been exposed by clicking the disclosure triangle to the left.

The possibly fatal flaw to this method of organizing the Main Window is that the track order is not reflected in the channel strip order of the Mixer when the disclosure triangles of the stacked tracks are closed. This can not be remedied through creating dedicated Screensets either, as the current status of the disclosure triangles (open/closed) is not saved within the Screenset.

So, when the disclosure triangles are open in the Main Window, the corresponding channel strips will be shown in the Mixer in the correct order. However, when they are closed, we are right back to square one with a disorganized Mixer.


3. The O.G. Method

The final method for cleaning up the Mixer is to actually not use it at all. With this method we are going to set up the Environment as our mixer, which will give us quite a bit more versatility than the default mixer. As an added bonus, it does not require adding any extraneous tracks to the Main Window as in the previous examples.

To access the Environment, press Command-8, or go to the Window menu and select Open MIDI Environment. In the Environment we can freely add new channel strips (New > Channel Strip > choose type), click and drag channel strips into any order we want, and even create a cascading channel strip view to indicate signal flow hierarchy.

At first, the Environment can be a bit cluttered as is the case here.
At first, the Environment can be a bit cluttered as is the case here.
After some rearranging, I have ordered the instrument and audio channel strips in the Environment in order from left to right as their corresponding tracks appear in the Main Window from top to bottom.  I have also ordered each corresponding auxiliary track from left to right according to signal flow and offset each auxiliary track vertically according to signal chain hierarchy.
After some rearranging, I have ordered the instrument and audio channel strips in the Environment in order from left to right as their corresponding tracks appear in the Main Window from top to bottom. I have also ordered each corresponding auxiliary track from left to right according to signal flow and offset each auxiliary track vertically according to signal chain hierarchy.

The main drawbacks to this method are that the track colors are not visible, and click-dragging the effects inserts does not work as it does in the Mixer. However, the streamlined versatility this method offers makes it the go-to for many producers and mixers.


Conclusion

These methods can do wonders for your productivity in large Logic projects and are a great way to increase their readability and navigation. Hopefully a future Logic update will allow users to freely arrange the Mixer channel strips easily, but until then one of these methods should be able to help you on your way.

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