Logic Pro From A to Z – F is for Flex
Figuring out what to focus on for the letter F was difficult. Folders jumped out as the obvious choice, since there are now several different types of them. Finally though, I settled on Flex. It is one of the great under-hyped features in Logic Pro. And now with Logic Pro X, we have Flex Pitch as well as Flex Time. For this post, I used a couple of Apple Loops to demonstrate a few of my favourite Flex functions.
For those of you who may want to try and follow along, I am using the vocal loop called Bailey Melody 03 and the groove Percussion Combo 39. The tempo is 120 bpm. We all know the intended use of Flex Pitch, correcting the tuning of out of tune notes. And we all probably know the basic drill by now: Turn on Flex view, select flex pitch, and then either drag the vertical rectangle on the out of tune notes to centre position in the Tracks Area, right click on them in the Audio Track Editor and choose “Set to perfect pitch”, or move the pitch correction slider in the Audio Track Editor’s local Inspector.
Fortunately, Flex pitch affords us the opportunity for some creative applications as well. One of my favourites, is to simply alter the timing of the phrasing of some notes. Sure, we can do this with flex time, but often some subtle Flex Pitch timing adjustments in the Audio Track Editor can alter the feel in nuanced ways that don’t require the full force of Flex Time.
Fixes to timing are one thing, but quantizing the notes in the Audio Track Editor’s Inspector can yield some nice subtle shifts in phrasing, and sometimes some nice unintended serendipity. In this example containing the original loops, you can hear that the phrasing of the vocal and drum groove together is fairly sloppy sounding.
First thing I did was enable flex pitch, selected all notes in the vocal phrase and quantized them to eight notes with strength set to 100%. This helped tighten up the timing, as expected, but also created a really interesting behind the beat type of phrasing at the ed of the second bar. Of course I can easily exclude those notes, or use less strength; but I really like the feel of it in contrast to the rest of the phrase.
Faking doubled vocals is the oldest trick in the book. Flex Pitch provides a new chapter in the storied history of techniques used to accomplish this. What I like to do is use the “new track with duplicate settings” button at the top of the track header to create an additional track for the doubled vocal. Flex pitch is already enabled. I can drag down my original region and the timing alternations I did on the original are copied to the duplicate. Now in the AudioTrack Editor’s Inspector, I can use the Pitch Correction slider to tune all the notes of the duplicate. The contrast of the tuned notes with the imperfectly sung vocals on the source track is great for creating a doubled effect. It really sounds like the same singer sang it twice.
Finally, to really get a true doubled vocal effect, ease back on the quantize slider so as to introduce some subtle timing discrepancies between the two tracks to the tuning offsets the Pitch Correction slider created. Mix the level of the duplicated track down, and you’ve got some nice natural subtle sounding thickening.
Forgetting about harmony would be a mistake. Flex Pitch is very versatile, and perfectly suited to transposing a few notes a third higher or lower where necessary to create some harmony notes to blend together with the melody. After creating another duplicate track and copying the flexed region down,I used the Gain slider in the Audio Track Editor’s inspector to effectively mute the first few notes of each of the two phrases. I dragged the remaining notes at the end of the phrases up a third, making sure the notes conformed to the key centre (C in this example). A couple of tweaks with the gain slider helped a few of the harmony notes blend a bit better.
Finessing vocals with these subtle techniques can really enhance a production. There’s lots more that can be done with the Pitch drift and Vibrato nodes to really colour a vocal and make it nice and unnatural sounding in very interesting ways. For now though I’m going to sign off here. And start thinking about the letter G!
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