How To Use The Piano Roll In Logic Pro

Oct 26, 2023
How To Use The Piano Roll In Logic Pro


Apple’s Logic Pro is jam-packed with features music producers can use to create intricate tracks. The built-in piano roll in Logic is a critical tool that allows for creating and editing MIDI for stock and third-party virtual instruments.

Although simple, the piano roll is a versatile tool. The way you approach it heavily depends on your track type, goals, and workflow. The methods you use for creating a drum pattern differ from writing a melody for a synthesizer.

In this post, I will show you the basics of using Logic’s piano roll, go through functions and automation tools, and explore some of the key commands that can streamline your workflow.



Learning The Basics Of Logic Pro’s Piano Roll

You can access the piano roll if you’re using a software instrument track.


  •  Control-click on the main grid in front of your track and select “Create New MIDI Region.”
  •  Press “E” on your keyboard to open the Editor window.



As shown in the screenshot above, the editor window opens a ruler grid based on the selected regions. To its left, you’ll see the piano roll that works as a reference point for your MIDI notes’ pitch.

One of the first things you’d want to look at is your click tools. By default, your primary click is set to pointer tool and your secondary click (Command + Click) is a pencil tool. You can change them depending on what works for you, but for now, I’m going to keep them as they are.



With the secondary click set to a pencil tool, you can hold “CONTROL” on your keyboard and click anywhere in front of the piano roll to add MIDI notes. Each note block carries three critical pieces of information that we can adjust on the grid: pitch, note length, and velocity.

Pitch: as mentioned earlier, the piano roll shows the pitch of your MIDI notes. Dragging notes vertically will change the pitch half-step at a time.

Note length: you can adjust the length of each note by dragging the end of each note block across the grid.

Velocity: velocity indicates how forcefully a key on a keyboard is pressed. Lower velocity often indicates a quieter sound, but it’s more than just a volume meter. A change in the velocity can result in a different sound character. The velocity of a note is a value between 1 and 127. Each note has a color that specifies velocity. The easiest way to change velocity is by using the dedicated fader from the bottom-left side of the piano roll editor window.



Another way is to change one of your click tools to a velocity tool and your pointer dragging up and down to adjust a note’s velocity.

Another important tool you find from the left side of the editor window is the time quantizer. Depending on a selected time division, the quantize tool snaps selected notes to the grid. Select the notes you want to quantize (Press “COMMAND + A” to select all notes), choosse the time division you want, and click “Q.” 



For additional visual cues, you can toggle note labels for each MIDI note that shows the name and velocity value on each block. You can find this feature in the “View’ drop-down menu.




Using Functions And Automation In The Piano Roll Editor

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to learn some of the more advanced functions. Editing notes one by one can be time-consuming. On the other hand, quantizing every note and making everything sound too rigid can make our track sound too monotonic and robotic. Thankfully, the piano roll editor offers invaluable tools that help make MIDI sound more natural.

One of the tools you can use is the built-in velocity randomizer. With this tool, you can set a minimum and maximum value, and Logic will select a random number within that frame for each note’s velocity.


  •  Click “Functions” from the top-left corner of the piano roll editor.
  •  Hover your pointer on “MIDI Transform” and select “Random Velocity.”



Another useful tool you can find in this menu is the humanizer. You can use this to make subtle adjustments to length, position, and velocity.


  •  Click “Functions” from the top-left corner of the piano roll editor.
  •  Hover your pointer on “MIDI Transform” and select “Humanize.”



There are plenty of interesting MIDI automation tools within the piano roll editor menu, including pitch bend. You can access the automation menu by pressing “A” on your keyboard. You can also click the dedicated button from the top-left corner of the editor window to open automations.

You’ll have access to a menu of options on the bottom-left side of the editor menu. In front of that, you can add your automation points for specific values.



Click here to learn more about using automation tools in Logic Pro.


Using Key Commands Within The Piano Roll Editor Window

Lastly, I want to go through some useful key commands that can save you time and streamline your productivity when editing MIDI in the piano roll editor.

Holding “OPTION + SHIFT” allows you to resize selected MIDI notes together. In this way, all of your MIDI notes will have the same length. These key combinations are also useful when you want to use the velocity slider on multiple notes.

If you have different MIDI notes you want to glue together as one, you can select them and press “COMMAND + J” on your keyboard to quickly join them together. Conversely, you can press “COMMAND + T” and split notes at playhead.

Holding “OPTION” while moving a note around on the grid will duplicate it.

Lastly, you can hold “CONTROL + OPTION” and select an area with your pointer to zoom.



Final Thoughts On Using The Piano Roll In Logic Pro

The piano roll editor is a powerful tool to manipulate MIDI and create interesting software instrument tracks in your projects. Make sure to try different methods and workflow techniques to find out what works for you.

For more lessons on music production, mixing, and mastering, check out my Free 6 Pillars To Learn Logic Pro Faster guidebook.

Learn Logic Pro Fast, For Free

Get my 6 pillars to learn Logic Pro, totally free.

Deliver the 6 pillars to my inbox.

No spam. Unsubscribe any time.