Logic Pro Automation: Turning Your Mix into a Performance

By Graham English

Every track, channel strip, and plug-in is capable of being automated in Logic Pro X. Automation is best to add after the mix is stable. If you’re still arranging or editing your project, having automation on a track can get in the way of your workflow because you have more things to focus on as you edit. And if your mix isn’t stable, the mixing you do affects the automation as well. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to use project and track notes to jot down any automation ideas you may want to try later.

After your mix is stable, take a pass through the project, focusing on each of the core mixing concepts. Automate the levels, panning, EQ changes, effects, and dynamics. If you plan your automation this way, the final result will be an elevated and interesting mix.

Choosing your Logic Pro automation mode

To automate a track, you need to display the track’s automation in the tracks area. Choose Mix → Show Automation or press A. The track headers will display automation parameters. To enable automation for a Logic Pro track, click the left side of the automation button in the track header. Using the automation button, you can choose between two types of automation:

  • Track: When track-based automation is enabled, you can view and edit automation on the entire track.
  • Region: When region-based automation is enabled, you can view and edit automation on the track’s regions.
Logic Pro track automation
Track automation in the tracks area.

 

After you’ve enabled automation on a track, you can choose between the following four automation modes on the menu:

  • Read: Automation is played back but not recorded.
  • Touch: Automation is recorded during playback while the parameter is being touched; when the parameter is released, it returns to the previous value. Touch mode is useful when you’re automating a temporary change in the parameter that you want to return to the previous value.
  • Latch: Automation is recorded during playback while the parameter is being touched; after the parameter is released, automation stops at that last touched value. Latch mode is useful when you’re automating a parameter to a new value that you want to keep.
  • Write: Automation is recorded during playback, and existing automation is erased as the playhead passes over it. Write mode is useful when you want to simultaneously record and erase automation.
  • Trim: Automation values are offset by the amount you move the control.
  • Relative: A secondary automation curve is added to offset the primary automation curve.

You can also turn on automation and select the automation mode from the automation mode pop-up menu in the mixer.

Adding automation to your Logic Pro tracks

After you enable automation, adding it to your track is as simple as clicking a location on a Logic Pro region with the pointer tool. A control point is added with the current parameter’s value.

Logic Pro track automation control points
Track automation control points.

 

The parameter you automate is chosen in the automation parameter drop-down menu on the track header. You can display multiple lanes of automation by clicking the disclosure triangle to the left of the automation parameters. You can quickly add an automation point at the playhead position for the volume, pan, and sends by choosing Mix → Create Automation → Create 1 Automation Point Each for Volume, Pan, and Sends.

If you know that the parameter value you’re automating will return to its original value, you’ll save time by creating an automation point at the beginning and ending of regions. Choose Mix → Create Automation → Create 1 Automation Point at Region Borders.

Adjusting Logic Pro automation points

The fastest way to adjust automation points is to select them with the pointer tool and drag them up, down, left, or right. You can select multiple points by Shift-clicking them. You can delete selected points by pressing Delete.

To create smooth curves between automation points, use the automation curve tool. Drag left, right, up, or down on the automation line with the automation curve tool to create automation curves. You can temporarily switch from the pointer tool to the automation curve tool by holding down Shift-Control while dragging the automation curve.

Moving regions with or without automation in Logic Pro X

You may end up needing to make an edit to a track or to your song arrangement after you’ve started automating your mix. Moving regions with automation can cause complications if you don’t do it right. That’s why Logic Pro’s default state is to ask you whether you really want to move regions that have automation. You can change this behavior in the automation system preferences. Choose Logic Pro X → Preferences → Automation to open the automation preferences, and then choose the default behavior from the Move Track Automation with Regions menu. You can choose the default behavior also on the Mix → Move Track Automation with Regions menu.

Logic Pro X automation preferences
The automation preferences.

Recording live automation in Logic Pro

The most precise way to automate your mix is by inputting automation data in the tracks area. But when automation was created on hardware mixing consoles, the automation was performed in real time as the project was playing. Recording live automation is an enjoyable experience because you get to perform along with your track, and perhaps create some magic along the way. Here’s how to record live automation:

  1. Choose an automation mode on the tracks you want to automate.

    You can choose Touch, Latch, or Write.

  2. Play your project and adjust the parameters you want to automate.

    Automation data is added to the tracks.

  3. When you’ve finished automating, stop the project and set the track’s automation mode to Read.

If you want to speed up the automation process, you can combine it with smart controls. You can use the smart controls to record live automation, and you can also automate the smart controls from the tracks area. Because smart controls can control more than one parameter at a time, you can build some dynamic mixes quickly.

Automation is the tool you need to keep your mix dynamic. As song sections change and the intensity of the music changes, automation helps you adjust your mix to keep it balanced and interesting. When your mix automation is complete, you’re ready to master your track. It is sometimes hard to know exactly when your mix is complete, so keep this tip in mind: Think like a pro and set deadlines. There’s no such thing as a perfect mix. Do your best, mix a lot, and you’ll continue to improve.