In the Studio: Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller is as versatile as he is virtuosic. Though he’s best known for his otherwordly mastery of the bass, he’s also a stellar bass clarinet player, a sensational saxophonist, a soulful singer, a prolific producer. He has toured the globe, written scores for television and movies, played with the world’s preeminent musicians. And he’s also a maven of Logic Pro — he produced his album “Silver Rain” from start to finish with the application running on a Power Mac G5 and a PowerBook G4.
“I can count the crashes I’ve had last year on one hand. It’s kind of a drag because I used to use the post-crash reboot time to practice my bass. Now I have to find separate practice time.”
“I was on tour when I started the album,” Miller says. “I’d start with some ideas and simply develop them in Logic.” He held impromptu recording sessions in hotel rooms in Europe, laying down the basic tracks on his PowerBook G4 that would eventually end up on “Silver Rain.” The album was later assembled and polished at Miller’s Hannibal Studios in Santa Montica, California, and released in 2005.
Since then, Miller has used Logic Pro for nearly every music project, such as composing music for Chris Rock’s hit TV series, “Everybody Hates Chris,” and for his upcoming album.
“I choose Apple because it’s so cool,” says Miller. “I’m in my hotel in Europe, working on a tune in Logic, sending files through iChat back to a movie director in L.A., checking out possible album cover photos that the photographer sent me in iPhoto, and messaging my daughter about her homework — all at the same time. When I’m done, I pack up my PowerBook and split.”
Miller needed a powerful, portable, and rock-solid, all-in-one system that could handle the rigors of travel and the studio without glitches. “Apple/Logic is very stable,” he says. “Logic uses Core Audio, which is at the center of the Apple system. You no longer feel like you’re working at the periphery of your operating system. I can count the crashes I’ve had last year on one hand. It’s kind of a drag because I used to use the post-crash reboot time to practice my bass. Now I have to find separate practice time.”
His system has allowed Miller the freedom to write, record, and mix music anywhere from London to Paris to Tokyo. The resulting tracks sound great, he says, no matter where they’re recorded: “My music sounds more natural because I don’t have to redo a lot of things in order to improve quality. The quality of the things I record at home or in the hotel are so good that they end up on the record.”
The path from dabbles to demos to record release is long and fraught with twists and turns. By the time a composer reaches the end, the original tune could get lost along the way. “With Logic, that’ll never happen,” says Miller. “You can keep everything right at your fingertips, switching between versions whenever you want. The self-contained keyboards like the ES1, Clavinet, Rhodes, and the sampler allow you to have every instrument you need. And now, when you record guitar or bass, there are amp simulators so that you don’t have to live with a dry sound.”
When Miller needs backup vocals or recording equipment advice, he turns to singer, producer, and technological whiz Gussie Miller. Gussie Miller worked with Marcus Miller on “Every Body Hates Chris” and many other Hannibal projects. He runs his own recording and production company, Artis Musicai, in Los Angeles.
Logic Pro gives both Millers the freedom they need to stitch together some groundbreaking music. “The new sound processing apps are really revolutionary,” says Marcus Miller. “I remember having to wait to hear the sound in my head until I got to the studio or until I could buy a certain piece of gear. I don’t have to wait anymore. If I have a few hours, I can create pretty much exactly what I imagine. And forget editing. I do things now that I would never imagine doing before. It allows you to be so creative. And you can always undo if you hate what you did. I can’t put into words how important that is.”
“Using logic has really opened up a lot of doors for me creatively just because I don’t have to depend upon external reverbs, external equalizers, anything beyond the program at all,” says Gussie Miller. “I haven’t found anything it can’t do.”