Assign MIDI Controller knobs to plug-in parameters

What’s more fun than playing a software synthesizer from your MIDI controller keyboard? Well, tweaking the knobs on your MIDI controller to manipulate the sound of the synthesizer in real time while you’re playing it, of course!

In this tutorial, you will learn how to assign a knob, slider or wheel on your MIDI Controller keyboard to a plug-in parameter in Logic.

The Basic Setup

To follow along with this tutorial and experiment with controller assignments, you will first create a new project with one synthesizer track, add a new effect plug-in, and choose a parameter to assign to your MIDI controller.

Ringshifter

Drag the Frequency knob up and down to hear the Ringhshifter in action.

  1. Choose File > New to create a new empty project.
  2. Create one software instrument track.
  3. In the Library, choose Synthesizer > Lead > Wormhole Lead.
  4. Play a few notes so you can hear the synth.
  5. On the Wormhole Lead channel strip, click just below the last plug-in in the Audio FX section, and choose Modulation > Ringshifter.
  6. Play a few notes while dragging the Frequency knob up and down in the Ringshifter.

Ok so that’s fun, but the fun is limited: for example if you let go of the mouse, you may not be able to click-hold the knob again without looking at your computer screen. And who wants to do that while playing a riff on your keyboard? Let’s unleash the fun.

Map a Smart Control to the Plug-in Knob

Smart Controls allow you to display knobs and other controls at the bottom of Logic’s main window for quick and easy access to key plug-in parameters for the selected track. By default, the Smart Control pane is automatically populated with some plug-in parameters. Unless you are lucky and there’s already a Smart Control for the parameter you want to control, you will have to map a knob to that parameter.

  1. Choose View > Show Smart Controls (or press B) to open the Smart Controls pane.
  2. In the Smart Controls pane, click the Inspector button Inspector button.
  3. Click the desired knob in the Smart Controls pane. The knob is highlighted in blue.
    Smart Control knobs
  4. In the Smart Controls Inspector, open the Parameter Mapping area, and click its Learn button.
    Parameter Mapping

     If you see more than one mapping listed in the Parameter Mapping area, click the action wheel button next to the Learn button to select all the mappings and delete them.
  5. In the Ringshifter, click the big Frequency knob.
    New MappingThe new Ringshifter ▸ Frequency assignment should now be listed in the Parameter Mapping area.
  6. Click the Learn button to disable it.

Try dragging the new “Frequency” knob in the Smart Controls pane up and down while playing a few notes. The Smart Controls knob now acts as a remote control for the plug-in knob you just mapped.

Assign an External MIDI Controller Knob to the Smart Control.

Now is time to assign a physical knob on your MIDI Controller keyboard to the on-screen knob in the Smart Controls pane.

  1. In the External Assignments area, click the Learn button.
    Learning Controller
  2. Make sure the Frequency knob is highlighted in red.
  3. Turn the desired knob on your MIDI Controller keyboard.
    You should see both the Frequency Smart Controls and the Frequency knob in the Ringshifter plug-in move accordingly. You’re done! You can now close the Smart Control pane and the Ringshifter plug-in window.

Now have fun playing synthesizer riffs while turning the knob on your MIDI Controller to manipulate the synthesizer sound. Try assigning knobs to your favorite stock Logic or 3rd party plug-ins, or even to instrument plug-in parameters. You can repeat this procedure to assign multiple MIDI controller knobs and sliders to different plug-in parameters and manipulate various aspects of the sound at the same time.

David Nahmani

David Nahmani

Music Producer, Guitarist and Singer based in Los Angeles, California

Logic Pro X Author, Consultant and Trainer.

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