How to Use Drum Machine Designer in Logic Pro


Logic Pro’s Drum Machine Designer (DMD) allows you to easily assemble and operate a handpicked drum kit. You can source your sounds from the stock electronic drum kit library in Logic, third-party software instruments, and even your own samples to build up the perfect kit for your audio.

Once you’ve become accustomed to the flow and process of creating and refining your drum kits in the DMD, you’ll find little reason not to use it in most of your percussive productions.

How to Navigate the Drum Grid

The top half of the DMD interface houses the Drum Grid with 16 pads on each of its three pages. You can change the page by pressing the arrows on either side of the three central dots. Each of these pads displays its keyboard note position along the bottom, and some of them also include the percussion type usually associated with that key.

Drum Grid in the Drum Machine Designer within Logic Pro

When you click on a given pad, you have the option to Mute or Solo it. In addition, you can change a pad’s input or output note value in their respective pop-up menus. The input note value determines where on the keyboard you play to hear the pad, and the output value determines the pitch of the pad. Select the Learn Note option to assign your pad to the next key you play.

The cogwheel icon in the bottom-right of each pad lets you create an Exclusive Group for certain pads (such as all of your high-hats). You can also choose to Resample Pad, Clear Pad, and some other options within this pop-up menu. Similarly, you can mute, solo, and open up additional global controls by using the buttons in the top-left of the interface.

Now, let’s look at the best ways to fill your drum grid with the sounds you want.

How to Create Your Drum Kit

One way you can quickly establish multiple pads in DMD is to choose an electronic drum kit that’s to your taste from the stock library.

In the channel strip for that track, you’ll notice that the instrument is in fact the DMD. Click on it to open it up, and you’ll find the whole drum kit mapped out onto many of its pads. Then, you can start swapping out certain sounds where you’ve found better alternatives or want to tweak their sonic properties.

You can also build up your drum kit in DMD from scratch. Create a new software instrument track and select DMD in the instrument drop-down menu in the left channel strip. This will give you a blank canvas of pads. Look into how to EQ your Drums to get the best out of their sound.

Electronic Drum Kit in Drum Machine Designer within Logic Pro

To quickly select a sound or swap one out for another, click on a pad while having the library open (keyboard shortcut Y). If the pad you select is usually used as a clap, a list of Logic’s stock electronic claps will appear in the library window; this will speed up your selection of stock electronic drum kit pieces. To further speed up your workflow, check out the best keyboard shortcuts in Logic Pro.

How to Use the Pad and Kit Controls

Pad controls in the Drum Machine Designer within Logic Pro

With sounds that are close to what you envision, you can press on a given pad and select Pad Controls in the bottom-right of the pads section.

The Pad Controls section in the bottom half of the interface gives you a variety of parameters with which to further refine your sound. These parameters vary depending on the drum kit piece. For example, the Kick 1 pad includes Knock and Sub parameter knobs whereas the Crash pad includes a Low Cut and Tone dial instead.

Kit controls in the Drum Machine Designer within Logic Pro

Similarly, the Kit Controls button in the top-right gives you additional parameters to implement global changes across your kit. Most, if not all, of the dials in both sections are relatively simple to understand. Experiment with intensive and subtle use of these parameters, and let your ears judge whether the different knobs improve a given sound.

Bear in mind that for effects like reverb, compression, or distortion, you may want to set up a separate aux channel with the effect plugin for more control and quality.

Use Samples and the Quick Sampler

You can also flesh out your drum kit in DMD with any audio files or samples. If you have an audio region or sample ready to go, whether in your workspace area or saved in your Finder, click and drag it onto a pad to integrate it into your kit.

When you do so, Add Quick Sampler will appear over the pad in question. Once the audio file is imported to that pad, you’ll find Q-Sampler Main and Q-Sampler Detail buttons beside the Pad Controls option. These options also appear for any electronic drum kit pieces you import into DMD.

Q-Sampler Main

Q-Sampler Main window in the Drum Machine Designer within Logic Pro

Q-Sampler Main allows you to edit certain temporal and sonic properties of your percussion’s waveform.

Classic mode plays the sound for as long as the key is pressed. One Shot—the default mode—often works best for percussion as it plays the sample from start to end no matter how long a key is pressed. Slice allows you to slice up the audio into smaller segments. And Recorder lets you record new audio samples.

These modes provide tools to fade your audio files in Logic Pro, loop them, reverse your audio, and alter the start and end points. You can also use Flex Time so the sample follows your project’s tempo at different speeds, and alter the root key of the drum kit piece.

Q-Sampler Details

Q-Sampler Details window in the Drum Machine Designer within Logic Pro

Q-Sampler Details allows you to apply a variety of filters, adjust the pitch and volume levels, and add modulation to your samples. While some drum kits can benefit from simplicity, these versatile tools let you design effects, such as dynamic low-pass filters or stutter effects. This can bring your percussion alive and save you from using automation to generate similar dynamism.

While not every drum kit piece needs multiple modulation routings, the fact you can do so all in one interface gives you all the tools you need to design unique and vibrant percussion.

How to Add Third-Party Instrument Sounds

DMD lets you integrate third-party software instruments into its pads with ease. The first method involves converting the third-party instrument sound you want into an audio file.

To do so, record the sound as normal; then, select it and press Ctrl + B. This will bounce the MIDI region in place and convert it into an audio sample. Now, just like any audio sample or region, you can drag it over to a pad to integrate it into your DMD.

Drum Machine Designer Track Stack and third-party instrument selected

The second method involves opening up the track stack of your principal software instrument using DMD; press on the arrow to do so. This will show all the individual channel strips for each pad. Select the channel strip of the pad you want to change, and select the Instrument drop-down menu (which could read as Q-Sampler). Then, replace what was there with your desired third-party instrument.

How to Save Your Drum Kit

Before you save the DMD of a given project, you may want to change its name by double-clicking on the title at the top. Then, open your library and press Save in the bottom-right. You can then find your saved DMD kits in the User Patches list within the library.

Design the Perfect Drum Kit

Once you’ve got a particular percussion style in mind, it’s time to assemble your DMD kit. Use Logic’s stock electronic drum kits as a base or build up a kit from scratch. Refine your pad sounds with the Pad Controls or Quick Sampler parameters. Then, tweak the overall sound with the Kit Controls.

Add in the use of third-party instruments, and you can quickly design high-quality drum kits for your projects.

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