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Capture Recording: Logic Pro is Always Listening

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Similar to the NSA (America’s “National Security Agency”), Logic Pro is always “listening”. Without hitting the Record Button, Logic Pro is secretly recording your MIDI and Audio signals that are connected to the application. However, unlike with the NSA, in Logic Pro this is actually a good thing. Even better, I can reveal those Logic Pro secrets in this article without ending up in Russian exile 😉

Capture Recording (MIDI)

Let’s start with the MIDI signal. By default, Logic Pro routes any incoming MIDI signal to the currently selected Track or record enabled Track(s). This can be, for example, a MIDI keyboard connected to your computer, a touch instrument from Logic Remote played on your iPad via Wi-Fi, or your on-screen keyboard in Logic Pro. You only have to press the Record Button (or use a Key Command R) and Logic Pro records the incoming MIDI signals as a new MIDI Region on the Track’s Track Lane. This is standard procedure, nothing earth shattering here.

But what if you have just played your perfect Track, it was your best performance and your producer yells out “Oh my God” with a very satisfied look on his face, and you forgot to hit the Record Button? No problem. You click a button and a new Region with what you have played magically appears … you are safe. This magic button on the Control Bar is the “Capture Recording Button”. It is hidden by default from the Transport Controls section, so you have to make it visible first (unless you use the Key Command shift+R).

  • Ctrl+click (same as right-click) on the Control Bar
  • A popup window shows up: “Customize Control Bar and Display…”, click on it
  • The Control Bar Configuration Sheet slides out that lets you customize the Control Bar
  • Select the checkbox “Capture Recording” in the Transport column
  • Once you click the OK Button to close the window, the magic “Capture Recording Button” ➊ is now visible as part of the Transport Controls next to the Record Button

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Practical Use

You don’t have to use the Capture Recording Button only as a safety net. I use it almost exclusively for any MIDI recording. You just play along with your song as it develops and every time you perform a good pass, you hit the Capture Recording Button and your performance is right there as a new MIDI Region.

A few things to keep in mind:

Recording Buffer

Logic Pro always records the incoming MIDI signal into a buffer (a temporary memory). That is the trick behind the Capture Recording feature. However, that buffer gets reset every time you hit the Play Button again. That means:

  • After you stop the playback, you have to hit your Capture Recording Button before you start your playback again if you want to keep what you have just played.
  • You can even hit Capture Recording during playback and Logic Pro creates the new Region with the recording of what you’ve played so far (what was in the buffer so far).
  • In case you played on your MIDI keyboard while Logic Pro is in Stop Mode and then hit the Capture Recording Button, then all the notes you played are placed in that new MIDI Region as one note cluster at the current Playhead Position.

Record Modes

You might be aware that there are many different MIDI Recording Modes that you can choose from in the File ➤ Project Settings ➤ Recording… (Replace, Merge, Take, Take with separate Tracks, etc.). When using Capture Recording, your options are limited in that regard:

  • The Region that Logic Pro creates after hitting the Capture Recording Button is always “layered” on the Track Lane (if there is an existing, overlapping Region already). No merge Region, no replace Region, and no adding to an existing Take Folder.
  • When you play in Cycle Mode and use Capture Recording, then Logic Pro always creates a Take Folder containing all those passes you just played (regardless of whether you have selected the Merge option or not).
  • The “Create Tracks With Cycling” option will work with Capture Recording.

You have to play around and see if Capture Recording fits into your workflow. If you like it, then you might send a Feedback message to Apple asking to implement the “merge” feature with Capture Recording. This would make it even more useful.

Capture Recording (Audio)

Now that we saw the advantages of Capture Recording with our MIDI recording, let’s use it with audio recording. But, before your try it, let me save you some time and frustration and tell you: “It does not work”. The full name of this feature should be “Capture MIDI Recording”, because the button only works with MIDI.

However, there is a secret, undocumented procedure in Logic Pro that offers you the same magic for audio recording. Most recording engineers found themselves in the situation where the performer (vocalist, guitar player, etc) is giving the performance of his/her lifetime, the producer has already the dollar signs lighting up in his eyes and you look at the transport controls only to realize that you are not in recording mode. Instead of having the end of your career flashing in front of your eyes, relax, Logic Pro might have you covered. Here is how.

Allow Quick Punch-In

The key feature we need to make Capture Audio Recording possible is the often overlooked, but yet powerful mode called “Allow Quick Punch-In”, listed under Logic Pro’s Record Menu.

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Let’s make one more detour to understand another necessary concept:
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Logic Pro is an app that is also referred to as a “hard disk recording system” which means you are recording (writing) onto a disk drive while in Record Mode, but also playing back (reading) from that same disk drive when in Play Mode. Reading and writing is not a problem for a drive, however, we are talking about reading and writing to the same record enabled Audio Track, and that might be a challenge.

Here is a look at the same two record scenarios from a hard disk perspective.

  • Stop Record: If Logic is in Stop Mode when you press the Record Button, then you just start writing to disk and then stop writing to disk.
  • PlayRecord: If Logic is in Play Mode when you press the Record Button, then this is a typical Punch-In scenario. It means that on the record enabled Track, you are switching from reading from disk to writing to disk. This switching needs a fraction of a second (sometimes also “accompanied” by an audible click or short drop out). That makes the Punch-In useless from an audio point of view … unless there is a trick called Quick Punch-In.

The Procedure

Here is how Logic Pro’s clever ”Quick Punch-In” trick works: When you record on a Track in Quick Punch-In Mode, Logic Pro only reads the currently enabled Track and at the same time writes to a different (new) Track in the background. When you punch in, Logic Pro just takes that time stamp and adds it to the new recording as a references. Once you stop the recording, then Logic Pro takes that new recording and places it on the existing Audio Track, the one you thought you were recording on. The whole procedure is transparent and you don’t even notice what happens in the background, unless we look a little bit closer at the procedure.

Here is an example:

Observation 1
Let’s say you started the playback ➋ at 0:00. After a while you realize that you should have recorded that take and you press the Record Button ➌ at 1:00. You stop ➍ at 1:30. This is the important part: You punched into Record Mode only between 1:00-1:30, and, therefore, you see the new Audio Region ➎ lasting only from 1:00-1:30. That’s what you would expect. You have missed the beginning.

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Observation 2
However, Logic Pro recorded the whole time from 0:00-2:00, from the time you hit the Play Button ➋ until you hit the Stop Button ➍.  Open the Project Audio Window. You see one long recording (this represents the actual Audio File that was created). The beginning is gray ➏ and the section where you thought you were recording is blue ➐. The blue section represents the Audio Region ➎ that you see on the Track Lane.

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Observation 3
Now, back to the Tracks Window where you can witness the magic. You can resize the Region to the left ➑ (before the time you hit the Record Button) and magically reveal the full length of the actual (secret) recording that Logic Pro performed.

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Observation 4
Now you have exposed the full recording ➒ from the time you hit Play (where Logic Pro started the recording) all the way where you stopped.

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Observation 5
Now, when you look at the Project Audio Window again, the blue area ➓ extends to the beginning, to reflect the Audio Region that you just resized on the Track Lane.

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Conditions
There are four conditions that have to be met for all this to happen:

  • Enable Quick-Punch-in.
  • Record Enable the Audio Track (not just select the Track, click the Record Enable Button so it blinks).
  • You must hit the Record Button any time before you stop the playback.
  • Optional, enable the “Record Record/Toggle” Mode if you want to punch-in/punch-out multiple times during the playback.

Conclusion

Once you understand the concept behind Logic Pro’s secret recording mode, the “Quick Punch-In” feature, you will not only gain an additional recording technique, but you will also get a much better understanding of what is displayed in the Project Audio Window. The fundamental difference between an Audio File and its referenced Audio Regions, recording with Count-In, Autopunch, and what happens during Cycle recording, that all is related to the underlying Quick Punch-In technology.

Here is a screenshot from my book “Logic Pro X – How it Works”, where I explain all those little things regarding that topic in great detail with my unique graphically enhanced style.
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Edgar Rothermich

Edgar Rothermich

Edgar Rothermich is a composer, producer, educator and author of the best-selling book series “Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)” He is a graduate of the prestigious Tonmeister program at the University of Arts in Berlin where he also was teaching for five years. His musical work in a wide variety of styles includes numerous scores for films and TV shows plus compositions for ballet and sacred music. His recent re-recording of the Blade Runner soundtrack (done exclusively in Logic Pro!) achieved critical acclaim from critics and fans alike. Follow him on Twitter @EdgarRothermich
Edgar Rothermich

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