Smart Strings: Who Needs a Stradivarius When You Have an iPad?

Monday, May 5, 2014 22:22

In the following article, I take a look at the “Smart Strings” patch in Logic Pro X, and how it can be played by utilizing the multi-touch gestures on an iOS Device.

A Library full of Patches

Did you ever browse through Logic Pro’s Library Window to explore all those Patches that come pre-installed with Logic Pro? There is one specific Patch I want to point out in case you haven’t noticed it yet: The “Smart Strings” Patch. It is located in the Orchestral category under the Strings sub-category (make sure that you have a Software Instrument Track selected in the Tracks Window). This sub-category contains 14 Strings Patches and there is no indication that the Smart Strings Patch is any special, let alone, any smarter than the others.

Borrowed  from GarageBand for iOS

So what’s up with the Smart Strings? If you ever used the GarageBand for iOS app, then the term “Smart Strings” might sound familiar. When Apple released this app in 2011, it introduced a new type of MIDI Instruments, Smart Instruments.

Instead of using a standard MIDI Controller, these “Smart Instruments” provide a unique and innovative interface to play Software Instruments by utilizing the multi-touch gestures on an iOS Device. Once you played with that interface, you realize that this is not just a toy for iPad users who want to take a break from playing Angry Birds, Flappy Birds, or any of those productive poultry games. These different interfaces would be also pretty useful for recording serious tracks on a serious DAW like Logic Pro. There was only one problem;  Smart Instruments were iOS only and were not available for Logic Pro.

Logic Pro & Logic Remote

Fast forward to mid 2013, the release of Logic Pro X. No, Logic Pro was still not available for iOS, but the capability of playing Smart Instruments in Logic Pro sneaked into the app. This was made possible with the help of another amazing new little app, the “Logic Remote” app, also released in 2013. In addition to all the cool features to control Logic Pro (and now also GarageBand and MainStage), the Logic Remote app turns the iPad into an external MIDI Controller that you can use to play your Software Instruments in Logic Pro over Wi-Fi (or Bluetooth).

However, you are not restricted to the layout of a conventional keyboard or pads that you tap on on your iPad. Logic Remote also provides some of the Smart Instrument interfaces from the GarageBand for iOS app that you can now use as an alternate MIDI Controller with playing techniques not possible with a standard MIDI keyboard.

Notes Layout and Chords Layout

The Smart Instruments interface on the iPad provides two different Views: “Notes”, for playing individual notes and “Chords” for playing, you guessed it, chords or some type of chord related playing styles.


In the Notes View, you can use the following multi-touch gestures on your iPad to play the Smart Strings Instrument

  • Tap or tap-hold on a string to play that note (up to four notes simultaneously).
  • Slide along the the strings to play portamento. You can slide each string to a different value like polyphonic pitch bend (good luck trying that on a MIDI keyboard).
  • Tap or double-tap the Articulation Button ➊ to switch the playing technique. Now, you can hold a string and slide up ➋ and down faster for a crescendo effect or slow down your up-down movement for a decrescendo (this creates Expression data CC11 in Logic Pro)
  • Choose from a Scale menu to restrict the playable notes to one of 16 scales.


The Chord View displays eight Chord Strips:

  • Each strip has four segments ➍ that represent four inversions of that chord.
  • Tap on a segments and slide up-down for crescendo (faster movements) or decrescendo (slower movement).
  • You can mute ➎ any of the five instruments “on stage” by tapping on it to have the chord played without that instrument in that section.

You can even customize each Chord Strip in the Custom Chords View ➏ (Settings ➤ Edit Chords)

Smart Instruments for Everybody

Please note that the target, the actual instrument in Logic Pro, is just an ordinary EXS Sampler Instrument (with the same IQ as always). The Controller on the iPad itself is the “smart” one by providing that unique multi-touch interface. In the case of the Smart Strings Patch, the EXS Sampler Instrument is specially configured to respond to the controller data sent from the iPad. However, you can use the Smart Instrument Interface with the Notes and Chord Views on regular Instruments Patches too. This is especially useful for playing Guitar and Bass Patches on those strings and strips on the iPad interface (with amazing single-note picking and strumming techniques ➐ and bending strings ➑) . Also, try it on Piano Patches to experiment with their special Chord Layout ➒ or playing on the Keyboard Layout when it is restricted to a specific scale ➓ to avoid “wrong” notes


Although playing the Smart Strings with your Smart Instruments on your iPad doesn’t replace a Stradivarius (yet), it provides techniques and expressions that are not possible with a standard MIDI keyboard.

If you are getting curious about this free Logic Remote app and want to integrate it in your Logic Pro X workflow, I explain all its features in great detail in my manual “Logic Remote – How it Works”. In case you find yourself often in line at the post office and need GarageBand on your iPad or iPhone to keep on working, you can check out my manual “GarageBand for iPad – How it Works”.

Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)

Please check out the other books in my best-selling series “Graphically Enhanced Manuals” (GEM) , available as PDF files, interactive multi-touch iBooks on Apple’s iBooks Store, or as printed books on Amazon.


Thanks for your time and interest,

Edgar Rothermich