May 12, 2020 at 12:48 p.m. PST
- Apple just released a new version of Logic Pro X with non-linear pattern launching, enabling the software to be used as an instrument.
- Ableton Live is famous for originating similar live performance tools within its audio recording suite.
- Market surveys show that Logic Pro X has a lower adoption rate than Ableton Live 10.
Computers are Instruments Too
Electronic music has been flourishing since the days when Kraftwerk introduced most to the genre. Back in the 1970s, electronic music was limited and difficult to make. It involved intimate knowledge of subtractive synthesis. Groups like Kraftwerk invented some of their equipment — a consequence of the nascent electronic instrument market.
Flash forward to today, where virtually all music is electronic. Yes, even the bearded hipsters playing ukeleles and glockenspiels are making electronic music. Their songs are recorded and manipulated by computers, as organic and twee as they may sound.
Synthesizers used to be an all-in-one affair. After analog modular synths became obsolete, companies like ARP, Oberheim, Sequential Circuits, Roland, Korg, and countless others created completely self-contained synthesizers. Instead of patching modules together and connecting an external controller (usually a keyboard), these models were internally wired and featured built-in keyboards and controls.
MIDI brought forth a whole new world of electronic music. Instruments connected in a more meaningful way, with the ability to exchange virtually all data across devices. This advancement paved the way for external sound modules and better sequencers and drum machines. Many keyboard players opted to connect a MIDI keyboard controller to a computer — usually a Mac. Computers gave musicians many more options and access to powerful new sound generation technology.
Digital Audio Workstations began to emerge in the 1990s, providing computer-based recording. For the most part, DAWs recorded music, but various plugins served as virtual instruments. This trend grew until the DAW itself became the instrument. Computers are so powerful now that they can provide the instruments and recording studio.
In 2001, software developers created Ableton Live, combining live performance tools with classic digital audio workstation functionality. The software enjoys tremendous commercial success and is the market leader. Apple’s newest version of Logic Pro X incorporates Ableton Live’s Session View technology; however, the Cupertino company’s press releases and marketing claim it’s innovative.
Logic Pro X Update Borrows Heavily From Ableton Live
There’s no doubt that the new Live Loops grid in Logic Pro X is a complete ripoff of Ableton Live. Much like with Apple Music (and other services) aping Spotify, Apple will likely get away with it. They’re one of the largest corporations in the world, and Ableton isn’t even close.
Any legal battle with Apple will consume Ableton for years. At best, the developers at Ableton can be flattered by Apple’s imitation and hope to keep loyal customers. Logic Pro X is known to be a bit of a chore to set up, which may keep Ableton Live in the lead. Ableton also offers free and low-cost versions of their software, unlike Apple.
Apple’s latest version of Logic Pro X also copies Ableton Live’s step sequencer; however, this has been a fixture in electronic music for decades. The original sequencers on modular synths used step-based programming. This trend continued until early computer-based sequencers like Cubase emerged. Nonetheless, the way Apple has implemented their step-sequencer is remarkably similar to Ableton’s design.
Recording artists, engineers and producers will use the tools at their disposal. Although Apple’s press release cites positive feedback from Grammy-winning producers, the latest Logic Pro X release seems targeted toward semi-professional users. If you want to lay down some beats, play with possibilities, or do a live DJ set, Logic Pro X has you covered. If you’re looking for originality, superior virtual instruments, and ease-of-use, stick with Ableton Live 10.