If you’re a musician, or if you ever tried to record yourself singing, playing or just trying to bang out “Happy Birthday” to add to that cool video you made, you’ll be familiar with the First Law of Recording Music: Your best ever performance will be the practice run right before you press record.
No matter how many takes you do, the best one will always be the one that you didn’t record. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a way to go back in time, and record the one that got away? If you’re using Apple’s Logic Pro X software, you can do just that — with both audio and built-in software instruments (MIDI).
How to capture MIDI after you played it in Logic Pro X
Logic Pro X sometimes feels like an entire computer operating system all of its own. You could have used the program for years, and never know that this feature existed. It’s called capture recording, and you activate it in the recording panel itself. What this does is run an always-listening buffer of the notes you’re playing. Then, when you hit the Capture Recording button, it pastes that buffer into your timeline.
If you want to read an in-depth explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes, check out Edgar Rothermich’s excellent post for Logic Pro Gem.
To set this up, open up an existing project in Logic, or create a new one. Then, mouse up to the transport controls — the play/record/etc. panel. Then right-click (or Control-click) on any of the controls, and choose Customize Control Bar and Display. You’ll see this panel:
Now, just play your built-in software instruments, and whenever you come up with a cool line, hit the button to save it. There’s one big caveat, though. The transport must be running for this to work properly. That is, you must be playing the song. If the transport is stopped, then the notes will still be pasted in, but they’ll be pasted at the same time, like one giant-ass chord.
That’s no problem, really. I like to put a section of the song on a loop, and play along with it. Then, when I play something I like, I hit capture.
How to use Quick Punch-In in Logic Pro X
In Logic Pro X, audio recording after the fact is called Quick Punch-In, and it works a little differently. Unlike MIDI capture, which just drops your notes into a new region — as we saw above — Quick Punch-In requires a little more digging. You know when you record audio in Logic, and you see the region in the timeline? And you also know how when you shorten a region by dragging in its beginning or end, you’re not actually cutting any audio off? You’re just hiding it?
Well, now imagine that you made a recording, and the part you like came before you hit record. If you go ahead and drag the beginning of that clip to the left, you will reveal any audio you played before you pressed record. Yes, Logic was listening the whole time. It just didn’t tell you. I love this feature, because it takes the pressure off.
Usually I practice a part, and when I get it how I like it, I press record. Then, I screw it up. With Quick Punch-In enabled, I can skip the last part, and just keep the best practice version. Or the latest one, at least.
The finicky setup
Setup for the audio version of this trick is harder than for MIDI. You have to have things set up just right for it to work. First, you must have the target audio track selected. Second, it must be record-enabled, with the R button flashing red. Third, Quick Punch-In must be enabled. Then, you have to actually hit the record button to capture some audio. I just tap the R key on my Mac’s keyboard.
You can do this right after you played the perfect take. It may seem like you just captured the silent aftermath of your best performance ever, but go ahead and drag back the beginning of the clip to reveal your glory.
I really, really like this feature, and there’s no downside to using it. Check it out, and never miss your best take/idea ever again.