Logic Pro X Automation & The Option Key
In one of my recent, not infrequent, Skype calls with my Groove3 colleague Doug Zangar, a couple of interesting little-known tips involving the Option key and automation came up. I’d like to share them with you here.
Making non-contiguous selections is usually associated with the Command Key in macOS.
Of course, this doesn’t work with Logic Pro’s automation control points, since the Command Key brings up the alternate tool.
Non-contiguous selections of automation control points are made with the Shift Key. However, the Option key has secret hidden powers for those times when you wish to select a range of automation control points while excluding others, all in one swipe.
A good example of when this might be useful is if you’ve created stepped automation and wish to select only the high, or low control points.
Simply hold down the Option key while swiping with the regular Pointer Tool. The control points you touch will become selected, while those untouched, even though in the same time range, will remain unselected.
Creating Stepped Automation
This brings me to a recent addition to Logic Pro’s arsenal of hidden modifier functionality: the use of the Option Key in conjunction with the Pencil tool to create stepped automation.
The Pencil tool functions in one of two modes when used to create automation control points. Either it will draw freely, based on the curve you draw in. Or it will draw stepped control points.
The behavior is set in the preferences and can be temporarily set to the alternate behavior by holding down the Option Key.
The grid value used for the generated steps is set in the Snap Automation settings in the main Snap menu.
Hidden Option Tool Selection Technique
The third Option Key/control point tip is, for me, probably the one I will use most often.
One of the techniques I love and use all the time is dragging with the Marquee Tool to create two control points on each side of a selection range.
The two at each end are set to the same position, with the bottom ones selected. This makes it perfect for dragging the automation line within the boundaries down or up to offset the automation value by a fixed amount throughout the entire range.
Most of the time, however, I’ll still need to do some tweaks within that generally reduced or boosted range.
So, what started off as an initial broad stroke automation tweak, as shown above, might end up looking something like this:
Now here is where the Option key selection technique comes in.
Let’s say I like all of these automation tweaks I’ve made within this broadly altered range, but want to raise or lower them all together while still retaining the control points at the outer boundaries.
In other words, I want to select all the nodes to edit them together, except for the outer most ones at each end of the range. I want them to act as anchors, protecting any outlying control points outside the time ranged being worked on.
Doing a swipe with the Shift key won’t work; it will result in all the nodes at the boundaries being selected.
However, if I swipe with the Option key; it will omit the outermost “anchor” control points. This allows me to shift the entire selection within the boundaries together; resulting in something like this:
This hidden Option key selection technique, to me, is really valuable. It may not happen every day, but when I am deep into automation editing, making micro tweaks on each syllable of a word for example; it is extremely valuable to be able to offset a group of nodes without concern for accidentally shifting outlying control points.