Of all of the great new features included in Logic Pro X, Flex Pitch is a real game changer. Many companies have come before with offerings for time and pitch manipulation, so it’s interesting to see how Apple was going to change the game. There are many details that many may miss on accident if they weren’t looking closely. Apple put their thinking cap on to make this, and came up with something powerful, flexible, and... well... slick.
Starting Flex Pitch in Logic Pro X
We’ve got some vocals to tune! To get them ready, we need to turn on Flex mode:
Turn on Flex mode by clicking the Flex mode button in the main window
Turn on Flex mode on the tracks to be flexed
Choose Flex Pitch from the list of available algorithms
Flex Pitch is separated out from the rest of the algorithms, because we can mess with pitch as well as time. Instead of giving us Flex and transient markers, Flex pitch will be using notes. Here’s how everything looks in the Main Window:
Working with Notes in the Main Window
The notes Flex Pitch has detected show up as very thin blue lines within the region we wish to edit. In the Main Window, we are able to do global changes to the pitch of our audio region. Flex Pitch is pretty good at detecting the correct pitch, and we may be able to edit all of the notes in the Main Window and be done! (If only we were so lucky.)
Hold Shift, and lasso the notes within the region in the arrange window that are to be tuned.
Click inside the shaded area of the note, click and hold, and pull down￼.
You’ll hear the pitch being changed, and when the pitch comes close to the center of the region, the notes should lock at their perfect pitch.
Have a listen to your work.
With Flex Pitch in the Main Window, we are offered very sweeping changes. Flex Pitch is pretty good at finding the pitches, and the correction is usually pretty good, but to get the job done properly, we are going to need to use the Audio Track Editor.
Working with Flex Pitch in the Audio Track Editor
The Audio Track Editor is new to Logic Pro X, and is a wonderful way to do fine editing of Flex Pitch. To open the Audio Track Editor, simply double-click at the top of an audio region that is to be flexed.
The Audio Track Editor has an inspector on the left side, and the notes show in a grid on the right. The inspector is used for changing the pitch and time of several notes at once, and the grid to the right of it is where notes are meticulously edited individually.
Using the Inspector for Flex Pitch
To use the inspector, simply select whatever notes you wish to edit, then choose one of the following actions:
Time Quantize - This takes notes and quantizes them to a grid, similar to MIDI notes in the Piano Roll editor
Scale Quantize - This will confine the note pitches to a specific scale
Pitch Correction - This will try to change all pitches so they are closer to their ‘perfect’ state. With a slider, this can be done in degrees
Gain - This will adjust the gain of any selected notes
￼The inspector is more discerning than the Main Window, but for detailed work, it’s advised to get inside the region and work with individual notes.
In the region area to the right of the inspector, we have notes. These notes have six hot zones on them. They are on the left and right upper and lower corners, and they are also found midway across on the top and bottom of the note.
These hot zones perform the following functions:
Pitch drift in/out - For sliding from one note pitch to another
Vibrato - Performance a little shaky? We can fix that.
Fine Tuning - In cents, (100 cents per semitone)
Gain - Increase and decrease gain, and watch the waveform change
Formant - Make you voice sound natural when higher or lower in pitch. (Can also be dastardly turned into the Mickey Mouse or Frank Zappa tool).
Finding Creative Uses for Flex Pitch
So we know the basic anatomy of Flex Pitch. Creatively, what can we do besides tuning vocals?
A nice place to start is copying regions with Flex Pitch data and then tuning them up or down to create backing vocals.
Another good creative use of Flex Pitch is to take instruments that have no (or dubious) pitch, and forcing them into line.
There are also other features built into Flex Pitch that take advantage of the detected note data. MIDI can be generated from this powerful tool and reused in other areas.
Create new notes in the Audio Track Editor that allow you to create alternate melodies.
Radically alter formants to give a vocal an extremely freaky vibe. Artists to listen to for inspiration are Grimes, Fever Ray, and CocoRosie. Interesting and weird.
Flex Pitch is not just a tool for out of tune singers. It can be used to greatly change the timbre and emotional feel of not only a vocal, but any other instrument that is put under its influence. Copying and pasting several regions of Flex Pitch data will help create iterations of melodies and motifs that quickly spin into insanely creative territory.
The fact that all of these techniques are extremely intuitive gives users a big leg up over programs like Melodyne and Auto-Tune. In these programs, you had to first write the audio in real time into the plug-in, where the content stayed, even when a region in the Main Window was deleted. I don’t know how many times I ended up with a vocal on my percussion stems because of this. Thanks to Logic Pro X’s new Flex Pitch, I don’t believe that is going to be a problem anymore.
There is a potentially useful undocumented feature hiding in the Audio Track Editor’s Flex Pitchmode. It is possible to assign notes to pitches entered by your MIDI controller. Below is how it’s done.
You need to do two things to make this tip work:
1) Enable the MIDI In button. It’s found in the local menu bar. It has three modes: Off, Step Input and Overwrite. The default is Off, a single click toggles Off and Step Input, a quick double click puts you in Overwrite mode. The mode we want for this is Step Input. The MIDI icon will turn red.
2) Place the playhead anywhere on the note box of the note you want to re-pitch. It can abut or be on top of the note box.
That’s it! When you hit a note on your controller, it will pitch shift the audio to that pitch, and advance to the next note, ready for pitch entry.
One caveat: Undo doesn’t seem to work on Apple Loops, at least in 10.0.7, so be careful on your edits if you work with loops.