How To Program Drums In Logic Pro | Using The Drum Machine DesignerOct 19, 2023
Drums and percussive instruments are among the trickiest tracks to compose in a digital audio workstation (DAW). Drum tracks create a rhythmical structure and play a major role in shaping the atmosphere and mood of a song.
If you’re producing music with Logic Pro, you have the advantage of using many high-quality stock virtual instruments, and the Drum Machine Designer (DMD) is one of them.
Logic’s drum machine designer is a powerful tool that allows you to create your drum kit from scratch. What’s more, using the DMD makes production, audio processing, and mixing much more efficient compared to other methods, even though other methods (such as using Logic’s built-in “Drummer” track) can give you quicker results.
In this post, I will guide you through everything you need to know about Logic’s drum machine designer and programming drums.
Getting Started: Setting Up The Drum Machine Designer In Logic
Generally, there are two types of tracks you can use in Logic: audio and virtual instrument (MIDI) tracks.
Since we want to use Logic’s drum machine designer, we should add a new software instrument track:
- Click “+” from the top-left corner of the track header area.
- Choose “Software Instrument” and click “Create.”
By default, Logic boots up the “E-Piano” virtual instrument. Here’s how to change that to the drum machine designer:
- Press “I” on your keyboard to open the Inspector channel strip.
- Click on the right corner of the instrument slot and choose “Drum Machine Designer” from the list.
Now, you have access to a drum machine designer track with empty slots for adding kit samples.
Looking at the DMD’s interface, you’ll see the dedicated key and kit piece written at the bottom of each pad. By default, the tiles are not in chromatic order. You can change that by opening the settings menu from the top-left and clicking “Reorder Pads Chromatically.”
Also, you can drag each of the pads and move them around to create any order you like. Hovering your pointer on a pad allows you to manually assign MIDI input and outputs for further customization.
Essentially, you can drag and drop any audio file to the drum machine designer, and it will be automatically opened in a quick sampler on a dedicated pad. Moreover, you can open a specific virtual instrument from Logic’s library to play on one of the pads.
There are two ways to use Logic’s stock samples: Logic’s library or the Apple Loops library. First, look at Logic’s library by pressing “Y” and navigating to “Electronic Drum Kit.” Scrolling down, you’ll see “Kit Pieces” at the end of the list. You can find samples for kicks, snares, cymbals, and many more drum kit pieces there. Click “+” on one of the drum machine designer’s pads and click on one of the samples from the library.
The lower portion of DMD’s interface opens the virtual instrument used on a selected pad, which is the quick sampler in this case. Click here to learn more about using the Quick Sampler In Logic Pro.
You can also open the Apple Loops library and find samples there. Press “O” on your keyboard, choose instruments from the top of the list (in this case, “All Drums” and “Kits”), and use the search bar to look for samples.
see the list of all samples and instruments you have used. You can click on each track and add audio effects from the inspector menu to adjust the smallest details of each sample.
Sequencing A Drum Track In Logic
Once you’ve laid out samples within the drum machine designer, it’s time to use those samples to create a drum track. Again, you can approach this through multiple methods. Personally, I prefer to use Logic’s built-in step sequencer to create patterns for my drum track. Control-click anywhere on the main grid in front of your DMD track and select “Create a Pattern Region.”
By default, Logic gives you 16 tiles to create your drum pattern. You can increase it from the top-right corner of the editor menu to create more complex patterns. Moreover, you can click on the arrow next to each sound from the left side of the window to adjust velocity and note repeat. In another post, I’ve extensively covered how to use the step sequencer in Logic Pro.
Another way to create a drum track is by using a MIDI region. You can use a MIDI keyboard or a launch pad to trigger and record notes in real time. Another way is to use MIDI editing tools in Logic from the editor menu.
- Control-click on the main grid and select “Create MIDI Region.”
- Press “E” on your keyboard to open the editor menu.
Since we’re working with drums, I recommend checking “Drum Names” from the “View” drop-down menu to have better visual cues regarding where each sample lies on the piano roll.
Now, you can use the pencil tool to add new MIDI notes on the grid within the editor menu. Moreover, you can change the length, pitch, and velocity of each note within this window. Learn more about editing MIDI in Logic Pro here.
Even if I’m working with the step sequencer, I often convert it to a MIDI region to have more flexibility in messing around with notes and their parameters. One of the ways to make MIDI sound more natural is to make some notes ever-so-slightly off-beat to give a human feel.
Final Thoughts On Programming Drums In Logic Pro
Using the drum machine designer is only one of the ways to create drum tracks for your projects in Logic. Although many professionals criticize using Logic’s “Drummer” tracks, they can be excellent for giving you inspiration and creating a groove to test different ideas.
Other than that, Logic has multiple acoustic drum kit samples that sound impressively good. You can use them for country or rock songs and get really good results.
If you need more help regarding music production, mixing, mastering, and songwriting, check out my Free 6 Pillars To Learn Logic Pro Faster guidebook.