How to Add a MIDI Controller to Logic Pro X

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Struggling with restrictive mouse and trackpad input for your Logic Pro X projects?

Adding a dedicated MIDI controller like a keyboard, pad controller, or modular system opens up more creative possibilities through customized hardware control of Logic’s software instruments and DAW functions.

Let’s dive in to properly connecting and configuring an external device to work its magic on your musical compositions.

How Can a MIDI Controller Improve Your Logic Pro X Workflow?

Modern studio with MIDI controller and Logic Pro X on screen.

By adding a physical MIDI control surface like a keyboard, drum pads, or modular components to your Logic DAW environment, you enable more hands-on manipulation of software instruments, mixing parameters, and overall workflow.

Instead of excessive pointing and clicking with a mouse, you can play virtual instruments, tweak FX, trigger screensets and more.

This tactile feedback inspires creativity, boosts productivity, and makes music production more enjoyable.

Now let’s explore setting up your own MIDI controller with Logic!

How To Choose Which MIDI Controller You Want to Use?

Array of MIDI controllers with Logic Pro X on display.

When deciding which MIDI controller you want to add to your Logic Pro X setup, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind.

The first aspect to think about is what type of controller best fits your needs and production style – for example, do you want a full-size MIDI keyboard with keys and controls, a compact mini controller focused mainly on drum pads and faders, or a modular system that allows you to mix and match components?

You will also want to research compatibility and reviews of the specific MIDI controllers you are considering, as some work more seamlessly with Logic Pro X than others.

Browse online forums and user reviews to get a sense of the pros and cons of each controller option based on real-world experience.

Factors like build quality, responsiveness of pads and keys, available connections and killer features will impact your workflow, so choose wisely! If possible, test MIDI controllers in person at a music equipment retailer as well.

Ergonomics and playability tend to be subjective, so get hands-on with a few different models to determine what feels best for your needs.

Connect the MIDI Controller to Your Computer

MIDI controller connecting to computer with Logic Pro X logo.

Once you have selected the right MIDI controller for your creative goals, it is time to get it physically connected to your computer.

For the majority of modern MIDI controllers that utilize a USB connection, this part of the process is quite simple – just plug the controller directly into an open USB port on your computer using the included USB cable.

The computer should automatically recognize the MIDI controller as a new device, but we will cover additional configuration shortly.

If you plan to use an older MIDI device or instrument that utilizes a standard 5-pin MIDI cable, you will need a MIDI interface adapter in order to connect it to your computer’s USB ports.

There are many MIDI interface options available from music equipment manufacturers like Roland, Yamaha, and others that will convert the MIDI signals into a format your computer can understand.

Using the MIDI interface device’s connections and software, identify the MIDI input and MIDI output ports that your MIDI controller is sending and receiving data on.

Open Logic Pro X and Set Up a Software Instrument Track

Logic Pro X showing software instrument track setup.

With your MIDI keyboard, drum pad controller, or other device now physically connected to your computer via USB or MIDI interface, launch your Logic Pro X digital audio workstation (DAW) software to begin the MIDI controller configuration process.

The first step here is to set up a software instrument track, which is the destination where the MIDI note and controller data from your hardware device will be sent to generate virtual instrument sounds within Logic.

Click the “Track” button in the top left corner of Logic Pro X, then select “Software Instrument” from the pop-up menu.

Logic will create a new software instrument track lane populated with a default virtual instrument plugin like ES P, ES M, EFM1, and so on.

You can leave the default plugin in place for now, or select another virtual instrument from Logic’s library that you want to map parameters for with your new MIDI controller.

With your software instrument track created, any MIDI notes, knobs, faders or other data from your controller will be routed to generate sound from this track.

Configure Logic Pro X to Recognize the MIDI Controller

Logic Pro X Control Surfaces setup window on screen.

Before your physical MIDI controller is able to communicate properly with Logic Pro X, the DAW software needs to be set up to recognize the device.

Logic handles this MIDI controller configuration via the Control Surfaces preferences pane.

Go to Logic Pro X > Preferences > Control Surfaces tab, then click the “Setup” button.

In the MIDI Controllers box, click the checkbox next to your connected MIDI controller’s name to enable it.

This will make your MIDI controller visible to Logic Pro X.

Some devices may have additional parameters like MIDI Input and MIDI Output ports that need to be specified – if you had to identify special ports during the MIDI interface configuration process above, enter them here.

With your MIDI controller now recognized, close Logic Pro X’s preferences pane.

Back on the main screen, open the Mixer by clicking “Mixer” in the top right corner.

Confirm that input signal is now registering from your MIDI controller when playing keys, pads, sliders, etc.

This means data is flowing successfully from the hardware into Logic software.

Assign Controls and Test the MIDI Controller

Musician customizing MIDI control assignments in Logic.

Now that your MIDI keyboard, pad controller, or other hardware device is properly connected and visible to Logic Pro X, the fun part begins – customizing what functions its various controls will perform! The process of routing MIDI control and note data to parameters in Logic is known as MIDI mapping.

For example, you could map your MIDI keyboard’s pitch bend and modulation wheels to control Logic software instrument track parameters like Anima’s bend and vibrato amounts in real-time. The possibilities here are endless.

Start by ensuring the software instrument track you want to control is selected.

Open the Smart Controls window if visible (top right area of Logic screen).

Now move a physical knob, fader or other control on your MIDI hardware – you should see the corresponding onscreen control in Smart Controls move.

Click the “Learn Assignment” button at the top of Smart Controls, then twist your desired hardware knob again to assign that MIDI CC message to the target parameter.

Repeat this process to assign other elements like sustain pedal on/off to control parameters, drum pads to trigger MIDI note input, and so on.

Get creative with your MIDI mappings to optimize the hands-on control your external controller offers! Once set up, play your MIDI controller and observe how it manipulates the software instrument’s sound in real-time based on your custom assignments.

Tweak settings as needed until the response feels accurate to your playing style.

Set Up Key Commands for Your Workflow

Logic Pro X saving MIDI mapping as a default template.

Beyond influencing virtual instrument parameters, many producers also like to customize their MIDI controller to trigger useful Logic Pro X software functions directly.

Logic refers to these mapped shortcuts as Key Commands, found by going to Logic Pro X > Control Surfaces > Custom Assignment tab.

Here you can manually assign different keyboard keys, MIDI continuous controller messages (CC), MIDI note numbers, program change messages (PC) and more to trigger various commands like Play, Record, quantizing options, screenset selection and many other actions.

Map buttons, faders or pads on your MIDI hardware to key command shortcuts you perform often in your daily music production workflows.

This helps keep your hands on your hardware controller instead of having to mouse around Logic’s software interface as much.

For starters, consider assigning MIDI note triggers to key transports like Play and Record for easy DAW control while crafting beats on drum pads.

Frequently used edit functions like Quantize are also handy candidates for MIDI controller mapping.

Set up key commands however best fits into your personal Logic Pro X workflow!

Save Controller Mapping as Default Template 

Saving MIDI mapping as a template in Logic Pro X preferences pane

At this point in the MIDI controller setup process, you have likely invested quite a bit of time into making a customized MIDI mapping schema tailored specifically for your hardware controller’s integration with Logic Pro X.

Fortunately, Logic allows you to save all the MIDI assignments you created as a template that will automatically load each time that MIDI controller is connected.

No need to manually remap every device parameter each new Logic session!

To save your MIDI mapping, head to Logic’s Control Surfaces preferences pane and click the “New” button near the bottom left.

Give your template a descriptive name based on your MIDI controller model, then define whether this applies to MIDI inputs, MIDI outputs, or both.

Last, click the “Save” button and Logic will index your custom mapping as a reusable template associated with that MIDI controller.

Now whenever you connect this specific MIDI keyboard, drum pad controller, etc.

to your computer to work in Logic, your saved mappings will load automatically.

The external hardware and internal software control assignments will be consistent and ready to play each time.

What a workflow enhancement!

Conclusion

In summary, adding a MIDI controller can greatly improve music production workflows within Logic Pro X.

Carefully selecting the right hardware controller that matches your needs, properly connecting it to your computer, setting up assignments in Logic, and saving custom templates ensures seamless integration.

Implementing an external MIDI control surface enhances the tactile, hands-on experience while creating beats, manipulating software instruments mixes, and triggering DAW commands.

Dominic

Dominic is the chief editor of the Burton Acoustix blog which writes about acoustics and soundproofing to help readers with their queries and questions they might have with regard to improving any sound or noise issues that they faced in their life.