Notator Logic v.1.73 for the Mac is a program with some history behind it. Its origins can be traced back to the Atari ST program Creator, first released in the mid 80s, and Creator's successor, Notator, which was one of the most popular professional sequencers on the old Atari platform along with its main rival Cubase. Logic on the Mac is significantly different from its Atari cousin, unlike the virtually straight port of Cubase.
On boot up, Logic displays the standard Mac menu bar and a resizable window called the Arrange page which is the closest thing Logic has to a main window. When you record some music into Logic it appears as a separate rectangular bar here, which is called a "sequence". From the Arrange page you can select which MIDI instruments to use, change their parameters and loop, transpose, quantize, cut, paste, merge, mute, name, create and split sequences.
The Arrange page conforms to the standard Mac interface, allowing you to lasso a number of sequences with the mouse for fast work. The Mac folders principle has also been implemented here, allowing the user to put certain sequences in folders which can in turn contain more folders. This feature could be particularly useful for users with large midi set ups, but folders can also be used, for example, to contain the drum part, each sample with its own separate track.
Each track can have its own graphic icon assigned to it from a list of 256, although many are blank. This is an interesting feature and could have done with being better implemented. A facility to allow you to draw and import your own icons, for example, would have been great.
The Arrange page can also be zoomed in and out. If you zoom out you can fit more music, in terms of time, and more tracks in the window and if you zoom in the sequences eventually become traditional musical staves.
Logic has an independent transport bar which sits on top of all the other windows. From here you can record and play back your song, see the SMPTE and Bar Position, set the time signature, quantize rate and tempo, monitor MIDI activity, and perform other useful functions such as turn overdubbing off, solo a particular track, set Logic to cycle and drop in and out.
Cycle and drop in are particularly powerful features. Cycle allowing you to set a start and end point in the Arrange page and have Logic go from the end to the start point with out and noticeable time delays. This would be great, for example, in a live situation when you wanted to put down a drum loop in real-time.
The drop in/out function allows you to set a start and end time in the Arrange page and then have Logic automatically start and stop recording. I found this incredibly useful, being used to having to get a friend to start and stop the recording on my sequencer.
Logic's Score edit window allows you to edit recorded music or write straight from it. It is well featured, allowing the user to enter nearly all widely recognised musical symbols from two boxes to the left-hand side of the display.
The Matrix Edit window shows the contents of a particular sequence or sequences selected in the Arrange page in a 'piano roll' type graphic display. This a very useful way of editing for those without good knowledge of European musical notation, although, compared to some other sequencers I have used, it is a little simplistically implemented here.
Individual MIDI notes are displayed as rectangles, which can be dragged around, deleted, copied and pasted. They can also be grouped together in a similar fashion to the sequences in the Arrange page, using the lasso method or holding down shift and clicking on each one. Each note can also have its duration and velocity resized from here.
The Event List window allows the user to view the contents of sequences in a list of MIDI data. Certain types of MIDI event can be filtered out to make editing easier.
In the Hyper Edit window you can view and edit user defined types of MIDI data in graphical bars showing their values. This has wide ranging uses, from writing a drum track to controlling pitch bend information, and is quite an original feature of Logic.
However, a far more innovative feature of logic is the environment window, which shows MIDI instruments, computer ports and MIDI controllers as graphical icons. Each icon has a virtual wire which can be connected to any other icon.
The objects are user definable and, when defined here, can be allocated a track in the Arrange page for recording. For example, a slider that controls the volume of midi channel seven can be created in the Environment window, allocated a track and then the movement of the slider with the mouse can be recorded. In this way the environment window can be used as a fully featured MIDI mixer or a real-time analogue synth controller or whatever you require. You can even use it as a monophonic MIDI controller keyboard. The sheer flexibility of the Environment window is impressive to someone like me who is used to more primitive sequencers.
The last major feature of Logic is the Key Commands window, which lets you define which computer keys perform which functions. This could be very useful if you are used to another sequencer, such as Cubase, which has its start and stop keys the other way round from the defaults in Logic.
The file menu allows you to import and export standard MIDI files. There is also a innovative function which allows some windows to be linked together so one displays what is selected in the other. For example, a Matrix Edit window can be set up to show whatever sequence is currently selected in Arrange window.
Another innovative feature is the screen sets function. By pressing the numeric key pad the user may change the window display information so that a new window will come up. Up to 99 different sets can be stored and this is a very useful function. I found it almost essential to use it on the review machine as it could only work in 640x480 mode, just enough for one window with a transport bar sitting on top.
In fact I would have to say that, unless you already have a large screen (say 1024x768) or can afford to up-grade, you should steer clear of Logic because some of the windows don't fit in a low resolution screen and having a low res screen makes the window-linking function virtually useless.
Another problem is the speed at which the slide bars move the windows around, which is painfully slow, but this may be due to the review machine which was a LCIII with 4 Megs of RAM.
The transport, however, was respectably fast, even on an LCIII. The package is very well presented and quite friendly to the inexperienced user. However, the icon system could have been better implemented and there is no colour support which strikes me as strange, considering most people now use colour systems, and is probably a hangover from Logic's mono ST past.
All in all, I preferred Logic to Steinburg's straight Mac port of Cubase. It's been radically overhauled from its last ST incarnation. The Environment window is a definite asset, giving the package a great deal of flexibility which will appeal to control freaks and new users alike, with its easy to use and understand interface and comprehensive features.
Also, the Hyper Edit window is a interesting new way to write and edit MIDI music, which made writing drum tracks fast and editing pitch bend information easy.
Logic is a well realised and very 90's computer sequencer, with ease of use for the novice, good score editing for the composer and great flexibility for the techno head. It well deserves a place on the professional Mac sequencing list alongside Cubase, Mastertracks Pro, Vision and Performer. Logic will definitely take some getting used to, but if you have a fast Mac with a large monitor, my advice is to try Logic before you buy one of the others.
Text and HTML by Dave Allison. Last updated 9/12/2007