Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials

Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials
Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials, Techniques & Workshops
Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials, Techniques & Workshops
Here's a collection of the most recent 100 Reason Notes
articles from SOUND ON SOUND magazine. The most
recently-published 5 workshops are locked and accessible
only to subscribers, but the others are now free for all to
(Use the SEARCH page to find even more past articles.)
DAW Tips from SOS
100s of great articles!
Digital Performer
Pro Tools
Theory & Practice
Reason Tips & Techniques
We look at how chord generating Rack Extensions in Reason could help you out of a musical rut.
Matrix Tricks
Reason Tips & Techniques
When it comes to step sequencing, Reason 7 has all sorts of tricks up its sleeve.
New Additions
Pre-emptive Strike
Reason Tips & Techniques
A little preparation in Reason should see you ready for anything.
Just Browsing
Reason tips & Techniques
Understanding Reason's Patch Browser can help you to work faster and more efficiently.
Previous 100 Propellerhead REASON NOTES workshops
Sonic Safari
Reason Tips & Techniques
Join us as we explore the unexpected creative possibilities of Reason 7's effects.
Cutting Edge
Reason Tips and Techniques
Get your brain outside some crafty cuts with Reason 7's hot new slicing tools.
Knocking On Seven’s Door
Reason Tips & Techniques
There’s plenty to get to grips with in Reason 7, including external MIDI and Sliced Audio.
Seven Wonders
Reason Tips & Techniques
The landmark Reason v7 is about to arrive. What will it do for you?
The Dark Side
Reason Tips & Techniques
Explore the secret paths to modulation on the dusty reverse of Reason’s cheery fascia...
Synth Showdown
Reason Tips & Technique
Now that Rack Extensions are here, there are lots of Reason synths on offer — but which are the best?
Automatic Weapons
Reason Tips & Technique
Take a guided tour of Reason’s automation armoury.
Untold Glitches
Reason Tips & Techniques
Glitch techniques are common currency in pop production, and Reason can glitch with the best of them...
Master Class
Reason Tips & Techniques
Reason is becoming a much more rounded DAW, and one of the main areas to benefit is mastering.
Reverb Revisited
Reason Tips & Techniques
It’s a Reason reverberation extravaganza this month, as we look at the tools available and how to use them.
Extension Leads
Reason Tips & Techniques
We serve up another smorgasbord of Reason Rack Extensions.
Rack & Roll
Propellerhead Reason Tips & Techniques
Pausing by the buffet, we check out what Propellerhead have brought to the Rack Extension party.
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Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials, Techniques & Workshops
Pausing by the buffet, we check out what Propellerhead have brought to the Rack Extension party.
Rack Extension Shop
Reason Tips & Techniques
Propellerhead’s Rack Extension Shop is filling up with tempting goodies...
Rack Extensions
Reason Tips & Techniques
With our racks about to get even more densely populated by Rack Extensions, we may need strategies for
keeping on top of the sprawl...
Open Borders
Reason Tips & Techniques
New vistas appear for Reason users, with the arrival of Rack Extensions...
Reason Tips & Techniques
Explore the potential of complex sound layering with Reason’s Combinator.
Reason Tips & Techniques
Straight and vintage delays, ADT, psychedelia, glitch... Is there anything Reason's Echo device can't do?
The Echo
Reason Tips & Techniques
Reason 6's fabulous new device, The Echo, makes the creation of sophisticated delay-based effects child's play.
Reason 6: Alligator, Gates
Reason Tips & Techniques
Reason 6 has upped its game on the gating front, adding per-channel gates and the snappy new Alligator...
Reason 6 New Features
Reason Notes
We continue our exploration of the new features and functions in Reason 6.
Mix Tricks For Reason 6
Reason Tips & Techniques
Reason’s new mixer has useful features you may not have noticed...
Reason 6
Reason Tips & Techniques
Version 6 is a new dawn for Reason users. This month, we offer some essential techniques for getting up to
speed with it.
Reason 6
Reason Notes
Reason 6 is probably the biggest update in the program’s history. We give you the lowdown...
Missing DAW Features: Track Folders, Fader & Mix Groups, Markers, Track Freezing
Reason/Record Tips & Techniques
We work around the missing DAW features in Reason and Record.
Neptune Pitch Correction, Part 2
Reason Tips & Techniques
In part two of our short series, we dive deeper into Neptune, the pitch correction device that keeps on giving.•
Read Part 1.
Neptune Pitch Correction
Propellerhead Reason Tips & Techniques
Wetsuits on, as we dive into Record’s new pitch correction device, Neptune. • Read Part 2
Modulation Mayhem
Reason Tips & Techniques
Reason's flexible routing is at the heart of this month's exploration of synth modulation.
Propellerhead Reason Tips & Techniques
Reason's flexible routing makes scintillating sampling simple...
Drum Instruments
Reason Tips & Techniques
Discover how to tackle Reason's over-sized gorilla of a drum instrument.
Introducing Dr OctoRex
Reason Tips & Techniques
Get some 8-way sample action with Reason's new loop player!
Reason Tips & Techniques
Make light work of song arranging with Reason's new Blocks feature.
Time & Tempo Flexibility
Reason Tips & Techniques
We bring you up to speed on tempo flexibility and Reason 5's new transport bar.
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Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials, Techniques & Workshops
We bring you up to speed on tempo flexibility and Reason 5's new transport bar.
Reason | Using Your Own Samples
Reason Notes & Techniques
If you’ve never used your own samples in Reason, here’s how...
Reason 5 Rundown
Reason Notes & Techniques
The SOS spotlight falls on the new toys offered by Reason 5 and Record 1.5.
Reason/Record: Tooling Up
Reason Notes & Techniques
The Tool window is the key to some nifty sequencer manipulation in Propellerhead's Reason and Record.
Building A Multi-Band Compressor In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason doesn’t have a dedicated multi-band compressor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build your own.
Reason / Record: Stereo Vision
Reason Notes & Technques
We show you how familiar devices can be manipulated to create stereo effects in Reason and Record.
Comping Tips in Reason and Record
Reason Notes & Techniques
The ability to quickly create and compare alternative takes is very useful. We look at how it’s done in Reason and Record.
Creating Unusual Effects In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason’s flexible sound-design environment opens up the possibility of unusual and exotic effects treatments.
Reason: Delaying Tactics
Reason Notes & Techniques
Build sophisticated multi-tap and modulated delay treatments using Reason’s flexible devices.
Reason: Productivity Boosts
Reason Notes & Techniques
Boost your Reason productivity with indispensable keyboard shortcuts that make everyday jobs quicker and easier.
Reason To Record
Reason Notes & Techniques
We help you to bring your old Reason songs into the Record era.
Running Reason And Ableton Live Together
Reason Notes / Ableton Live Notes
Reason and Ableton Live work well together — we offer some tips on running the two programs in parallel.
Make A Modular Synth In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Not only can Reason’s Thor synth be used as an effects unit for other signals, it can also act as a hub for combining
instruments and devices into true modular synth structures.
Reason: Parallel Compression
Reason Notes & Techniques
If you want the impact of heavily compressed drums but don’t want to sacrifice your dynamics, parallel compression is the
way to go. This month we explore the best ways to achieve this effect in Reason.
Reason ReGroove: Getting Your Groove On
Reason Notes & Techniques
Think computer music's got no soul? Think again! Join us as we explore Reason's ReGroove mixer...
Side-chain Compression In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Side-chain compression can be the difference between a flat, lifeless mix and an adrenalised floor-filler. Learn how to
capture the French house sound, and add an extra little twist.
Reason 4's New Sequencer
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason 4's overhauled sequencer is now more powerful but has caused head-scratching amongst users. If you're one of
the confused, read on...
Reason 4: Advanced Arpeggiation
Reason Notes & Techniques
Delving beneath the surface of Reason 4's new RPG8 arpeggiator reveals a treasure trove of rhythmic modulations and
More Thor In Reason 4
Reason Notes & Techniques
Following last month's introduction to the Thor synthesizer, we embark on a patch-building project and explore several of
the key features of Reason 4's new synth...
The Thor Synthesizer In Reason 4
Reason Notes & Techniques
There's a lot to get to grips with in the latest version of Reason — but we begin by looking at the basics of the giant new
semi-modular synthesizer, Thor.
DIY Effects In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason 4 may be nearly upon us, but there's still plenty of experimenting to be done in version 3 - creating your own effects
devices, for example...
Reason: Making The Most Of The Mixer
Reason Notes & Techniques
We go back to basics this month, with an in-depth look at how you can get the best out of Reason's Remix mixer.
Reason's Matrix Pattern Sequencer
Hints & Tips
To analogue synth fanatics, the Matrix Pattern Sequencer is one of the highlights of Reason's toolbox.
Exploring Reason's BV512 Vocoder
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason's BV512 is pretty sophisticated as vocoders go, and is capable of much more than Sparky's Magic Piano-style
voice effects. Find out more...
Hacking Remote Files In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
If Remote support has not been added for your favourite MIDI controller, consider doing it yourself.
Using Reason Live
Part 3: Live Looping With Dr:Rex
This month we look at a Combinator building project that allows you to mix and manipulate loops on the fly.
Using Reason Live
Part 2: Live Electronic Performance
In the second part in our series, we're exploring ways to use Reason in a live electronica performance, laptop DJ set or jam
Using Reason Live
Part 1: Replacing A Live Keyboard Rig
In the first part of a series on using Reason live, we look at using the Combinator and MIDI remote control to replace a live
keyboard rig.
Using Mixer Automation In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Mixer automation lets you create more dynamic mixes, but also provides a fast alternative to arranging all your tracks in the
sequencer. We offer a simple guide to making the most of it.
Using Reason's Spider Audio & Spider CV Devices
Reason Notes & Techniques
The grey Spider devices look mild-mannered and unassuming — but they have super-powers that can unlock the hidden
reserves of Reason's sound-making devices, as well as solving a host of more mundane problems.
Refining Rhythm In Reason
Reason Notes & Technique
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Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials, Techniques & Workshops
Last month we took a look at some basic applications of the Redrum module in Reason drum programming. Now it's time
to move on to more sophisticated techniques for your rhythm parts.
Programming Drums in Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Whether you need electronic beats or realistic acoustic drums, Reason is one of the quickest and easiest tools around for
creating varied drum tracks.
Loop-based Composition in Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason is more than just a MIDI sequencing environment; it can also be used for creating new pieces spontaneously from
sample loops. We show you how...
Using Hardware Controllers with Reason 3
Reason Notes & Techniques
In all the excitement about Reason 3's Combinator device, the powerful new Remote hardware control functionality has
been sadly overlooked — so let's remedy that situation with this article...
Using Reason with 8 major Audio Host Applications
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason makes an ideal 'synth rack' for use with a variety of host software. We take you through the steps needed to Rewire
it to 8 popular programs.
Mastering External Audio In Reason 3
Reason Notes & Techniques
Reason can be a simple yet surprisingly sophisticated mastering suite — and not just for audio generated in the Reason
Tuning Drum Loops In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Can't quite get your Reason rhythm section kicking with the rest of the track? If you've never considered tuning your drum
samples and loops to help create a tight and harmonious mix, now may be the time to try it...
ReBirth & Reason
Reason Notes
ReBirth is dead. Long live ReBirth! We discuss the decision to discontinue this pioneering software and discover how
Reason users can keep its spirit alive.
Mastering Reason 3 Mixes
Reason 3 has several new tools for pumping up final mixes and creating that 'finished product' sound.
Beta-testing Reason
Reason Notes
Propellerheads have always had a rather unusual approach to beta-testing, routinely involving thousands of registered
users. We talk to the Props about how it's done.
Reason Mixing Masterclass
Reason mixes can sound superbly fat and punchy, thanks to the array of tools the software puts at your disposal. We adapt
some traditional mixing know-how to the Reason platform and offer device-specific tips to help you improve your mixes.
Reason Notes
News & Updates
We report on a new release of Reason that fixes some bugs but also ups the system requirements for running the
software, and examine the problem of achieving 'exclusive' drum assignments in the NNXT super sample-player.
Making Your Own Reason Refill
If you've never made a Refill from your Reason creations, now may be the time to give it a go. It's an easy process that can
offer various benefits.
Reason Notes
News & Tips
Tiger tussles with Reload, Propellerhead's Akai sample-management software; the excellent free Electromechanical Refill
gets an update to show off the powers of the Combinator... and we've patch browsing and Stereo Imager tips to offer.
Using The Malström Synth In Reason
The Malström device can certainly be used as a conventional synth, but behind its slightly bizarre green front panel there's a
powerful graintable sound engine begging to be exploited to the full. We show you how...
Building Combinator Effects In Reason 3
Reason‘s Combinator device isn‘t all about creating new sound sources and storing live setups — it also provides the way
to build new and imaginative effects units.
Solving Reason problems With Combinator
Reason Notes
The new Combinator device can solve Reason problems you didn‘t even realise you had. We elaborate, as well as offering
news and tips...
Audio Input for Reason
Reason Notes
With some clever programming, an Italian software house have created a program that claims to add an audio input to
Reason. We take a sneak peek, as well as bringing you essential Reason news and quick tips.
Building Combinator Patches in Reason 3
The most exciting addition to the new version of Reason is arguably the Combinator device, which greatly expands the
flexibility and programming potential of everything in the Reason rack. We guide you through the creation of a Combinator
patch to get you started with this great new device.
Reason: New Refills & Tips
Reason Notes
This month: new Refills and tweaking techniques for Reason v3, plus the usual haul of time-saving tips.
Reason: Getting More Out Of v2.5
Reason Notes
We've got a lot to look forward to with the imminent release of Reason v3, but there's still a world of exploration available in
v2.5 - so don't stop creating while you are waiting.
Reason: RV7000 Advanced Reverb
Reason Notes
This month we present a closer look at the RV7000 Advanced Reverb, plus a handful of effect-related hints and tips.
Reasons to be cheerful: v3
Reason Notes
Version 3 of Reason is officially on the way, adding some high-spec new devices and improved operational features.
Arpeggiators & Cool Techniques
Reason Notes
There are more clever tips and techniques than you can shake a stick at in this month's Reason Notes, kicking off with yet
another fun way to fake an arpeggiator effect...
REX Loops: Substituting Sounds
Reason Notes
Ever loved the feel of a REX loop but disliked the drum sounds? Using Reason, you can steal the feel and substitute
sounds of your choice... We show you how.
Reason: Alternatives To 4/4 Time
Reason Notes
Reason seems firmly fixed in a 4/4 time signature — but clever use of the Redrum and Matrix pattern-based devices allows
you to explore more unusual signatures. This month we explain how, as well as bringing you the essential news and tips.
Using Mackie Tracktion Sequencer As A Rewire Host
Reason Notes
Mackie's Tracktion sequencer makes an ideal budget Rewire host for adding audio recording and plug-in capabilities to
your Reason setup, as we explain...
Instant Track Creation
Reason Notes
We explore an advanced technique for creating "instant" tracks using Propellerhead's Reason software.
More Reason to be cheerful
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Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials, Techniques & Workshops
Reason Notes
A new Refill is reviewed and ways around some common Reason problems are offered.
Reason Notes starts here!
Monthly column for Propellerhead Reason users
SOS's 2003 Reader Survey told us that you want our help in getting the best from this popular package — and we're happy
to oblige with a new monthly column.
Propellerhead REASON | SOS Tutorials, Techniques & Workshops
Practical guidance, tips and user advice
5 / 92
Reason Notes starts here!
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason Notes starts here!
Monthly column for Propellerhead Reason users
Published in SOS July 2004
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Technique : Reason Notes
First Principles
Teacher's Pet
Bass Place
Screaming For Bass
Stage, Right?
Sound On Sound readers who use Reason have
spoken: they want our help in getting the best
from this popular package — and we're happy to
oblige with a new monthly column.
Derek Johnson
The results of Sound On Sound's recent readership survey have not yet been
fully analysed, but preliminary results revealed that a decent percentage of you
are confirmed users of Propellerhead's Reason virtual electronic studio
software. What's more, a recurring request from these users is for more
coverage of Reason in SOS. No sooner said than done: welcome to the first
The SubTractor bass patch,
instalment of our new monthly Reason Notes column, which takes its place
after not many knob tweaks: it's
subby, but it cuts through a mix.
alongside our existing columns for the other leading sequencer packages.
First Principles
Where does one start with a program as complex and fulfilling as Reason? The software is actually nowhere
near as obtuse or difficult to learn as some other packages, yet newcomers — especially those with little
experience of the hardware being emulated in Reason's rack — can find it overwhelming. It simply offers so
much. One good guideline is to start small, perhaps by limiting your rack to just a handful of devices. Another is
to direct your attention to any SOS article on analogue synthesis: Propellerhead's design choice means that
such articles can be digested and the techniques applied within Reason. Practically any book on analogue
synthesis and electronic music studio techniques written in the last four or five decades could help you develop
a sound-design and composition strategy.
This column will also try to help: despite the fact that it's accessed by a mouse, Reason is a very-hands on
package that invites tweaking, and that's the clue to really getting the hang of the software. I'll be offering some
ideas about where to start with your tweaking, and exploring sound design with what is, after all, an integrated
electronic music studio in your Mac or PC. We'll also look at lateral approaches to things the software can't, or
appears to be unable to, do.
Teacher's Pet
Propellerhead really pay attention: Reason has become quite an educational tool wherever music technology is
taught, and in response to this they've released the Teaching Music With Reason package. Aimed at secondary
school and higher music technology classes, the course helps to develop musical and composition ability as much
as it does to teach electronic music skills. The integrated approach includes the teaching of mixing techniques,
improvisation and using loops, and finishes with the compilation of a CD of coursework.
Along with the software, the package includes lesson-preparation material, teaching plans, student worksheets,
'How to' guides and assessment sheets. There's apparently enough material to take students through a couple of
terms of weekly lessons. Teachers who are unfamiliar with Reason are supplied with background information so
that they can stay one step ahead of their students!
Teaching Music With Reason: the
Bass Place
The root of most music is the bass, and when I first started working with Reason it was very important for me to
be able to produce bass patches with the SubTractor synth that had a real subby, woofer-shaking low end — I
like to feel bass in my tracks as much as hear it. So here's an approach you might like to try if you have trouble
achieving a full bass sound.
Create a SubTractor, highlight it and create a Matrix sequencer. Now input a simple pattern in the Matrix and
press play. Move your mouse back to SubTractor and start playing with the parameters.
A good starting point for a bass sound is a square waveform selected in SubTractor's Oscillator 1 section.
What you hear if you play the Matrix pattern is a hollow sound, rather like an unfiltered TB303.
The next step is to select the 'x' setting for Oscillator 1's Mode button, which engages Phase Offset
Modulation. This creates a copy of Oscillator 1, and (in this case) multiplies the copy waveform with the
Adjust the offset between the two waveforms by moving the Phase knob slightly to the left (say, a value of 50).
The sound is now a lot more solid and rich, with almost a sub-bass feel, but it doesn't lack definition and
If the sound is too short and blippy for you, move on to the Amp Envelope and adjust the Release parameter.
To add even more definition to the sound — maybe you're after a bass sound that plays a more up front part
— engage Oscillator 2. Set it up exactly as you did Oscillator 1: square wave, 'x' in POM, Phase knob set to
The sound is now using four oscillators, and taking up more of your computer's CPU resources. It should have
a random phasiness, which is interesting, but now try it with Osc 2's Octave setting at 3. The sound is still solid
and bassy, but it has a cutting top note. An even more cutting sound can now be produced by moving Filter 1's
Frequency slider down (to about 45) and the Resonance slider up to about 50. Listen closely: there's still a low
frequency rumble, but with an aggressive filter-led blip to the sound. See the 'Screaming For Bass' box for an
extra bass-boosting tip.
Screaming For Bass
Since V2.5, I often take a cheating approach to adding what night almost be called bass enhancement, by
way of the Scream 4 distortion device, which can be used quite subtly for this task. First, highlight a
SubTractor and create a Scream 4 (it'll be patched in line with the Sub's audio output). Turn the Damage
control down a little so it's not distorting so much, select the 'Tape' Damage algorithm, and tweak P1 (Tape
Speed in this case) fully left and P2 (compression) as far to the right as feels good to you. If you want to
go even further, engage the 'Cut' section, and move the Lo slider up (the section is labelled 'Cut', but doing
this actually boosts the bass frequency of this simple but effective EQ). Even more resonance can be
The settings for a quick Scream 4 bass
enhancer patch: we'll look at using this
versatile device for mix processing in
6 / 92
Reason Notes starts here!
added by playing with Scream 4's Body section (especially Body types D and E). Indeed, tweaking these parameters takes us further into Reason's
potential for integrated sound design: the effect is as much part of the sound as what was produced by the original SubTractor.
Stage, Right?
Reason, as originally conceived, was meant to have more in the way of live performance facets than it did in
the final release. There are a few oddities in its control set that hark back to this, and Propellerhead
occasionally hint about adding the features at a later date.
But perhaps Italian software house Petertools have beaten the Props to it. Their Liveset software aims to be a
configurable link between your MIDI hardware controller(s) (keyboards and control surfaces) and Rewirecompatible applications. Currently, the application in question is more specifically Reason (as Liveset was
developed for it), though other apps will be directly supported in future.
Graphically, Liveset has clearly been inspired by Reason: it's presented as modules
placed in a virtual rack, each device can be named via a scribble strip, and
interconnections between modules are made with virtual MIDI leads. Functionally,
Liveset's modules are rather like MIDI plug-ins — similar in feel to those provided with
Steinberg's Cubase SX, say — that are placed in line between your MIDI controllers and
the Reason rack. Reason has no such data-manipulation tools, so in one way this is a
back-door approach for a third party to add new features to the program. Liveset was
created because one of the developers, who uses Reason as part of his live setup,
wanted the tools it provides.
The Petertools software provides two MIDI inputs, so at least two performers (or one
performer with two controllers) can play Reason as if it were a rack full of real synths, with Liveset aims to
provide Reason
none of the restrictions that would be entailed by playing it directly. Particularly
users with live
conspicuous are the note and controller multiplexers, which each provide eight separate performance tools.
MIDI outs from one MIDI In (or two sets of four MIDI outs from each of two MIDI Ins), so
that many Reason devices can be easily played at once. (Using Reason's Hardware Interface only lets you
play four devices simultaneously.) Easy-to-use key splitting on one MIDI channel — something else Reason
can't do — allows complex splits of multiple Reason devices to be created, and the remaining devices provide
some useful note and data manipulation including note transposition and controller crossfading.
Liveset, in its beta format, is very much a real-time live performance tool — which is highlighted by the fact that
it wouldn't be possible to record a Liveset-driven performance into Reason's MIDI sequencer. As powerful as
Reason is, it can still only record one thing at a time, and in any case there is currently no way to route MIDI
data from Liveset (or any other Rewire application) directly to a Reason sequencer track. The software talks to
Reason devices directly, in the same way that Cubase SX does when it's Rewired to Reason.
Liveset also offers an alternative transport bar, complete with song position, playback loop points and tempo
controls. Usefully, for on-stage use in light-compromised situations, there's a big song position display!
Currently, the software is PC only, requiring a 633MHz P3 or better processor, Windows 2000 or XP, a MIDI
interface and an audio card with ASIO drivers. Liveset is going through beta testing as I write, but progress is
quite advanced and the software should be available later this year, at a price of around 149 Euros (£99). I'll
have another look at Liveset in a future column. In the meantime, check out
Published in SOS July 2004
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
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Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
7 / 92
More Reason to be cheerful
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
More Reason to be cheerful
Reason Notes
Published in SOS August 2004
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Technique : Reason Notes
Strict Tempo
Mechanical Mania
Recycle Path
What Reason Can't Do... And
What You Can Do About It
A new Refill is reviewed and ways around some
common Reason problems are offered.
Derek Johnson
Even though there's no Reason plug-in cottage industry, as there is with other major music apps such as
Cubase, one would hardly say that the program suffers from a lack of third-party support. Extra plug-in effects
might be out of the question, but users can certainly add extra samples and patches. In fact, the growing
number of Reason Refills out there boggles the mind. The selection will continue to grow, too, since any
registered user can download the tool necessary for creating Refills — Refill Packer — free from
Propellerhead's web site. But there are already so many commercial and free Refills that a newcomer would
hardly know where to start.
Strict Tempo
If you're able to link Reason to another sequencer, you'll be able to do something that's currently not possible with Reason alone: create a tempo track.
Sync'ing Reason to another piece of software (or an external hardware sequencer), causes it to follow the tempo map you've created in the other
application. (Note that Garage Band, referred to overleaf as a cheap mixer app for Rewiring to Reason, lacks a tempo track.)
One thing to be aware of, though, is that if you've set up tempo-based delays on the DDL1 device, any sudden tempo changes may cause little hiccups
as the device tracks the tempo. The delays will go momentarily out of time, or wobble strangely off-pitch as they're re-clocked. You may be able to
automate Remix aux sends to minimise the send level at points where you plan to create such a drastic change in tempo, bringing it back up
immediately afterwards. This should help reduce the unwanted effect.
Mechanical Mania
A recent visit to Propellerhead's site in search of new sonic material revealed some brilliant news. The two
Refills bundled with Reason (the original factory sound set and the Orkester orchestral sound collection that
appeared with V2.0), already offering great value, have now been augmented by the so-called
Electromechanical Refill.
On offer is a good-sized collection of NNXT advanced sampler patches created from multi-samples of classic
electric keyboards. If you've just bought a brand new Reason 2.5 package, you have this already, but it's also
available free to existing registered users. Be warned that it's a big download (over 100MB), but if you don't
have broadband Internet access you can buy an Electromechanical CD-ROM direct from Propellerhead for the
less-than-crippling sum of £7.
This package is more than worth the download time — or the £7! Indeed, there
can be no cheaper way to add the sounds of the supplied instruments to your
Reason arsenal. The collection is made up of authentic recreations of a range
of desirable electric pianos: Wurlitzer's '60s-vintage valve EP100 and the '80s
solid-state EP200, the Fender Rhodes MKI tube and MkII solid state models,
Hohner's Pianet T and Clavinet D6, plus a Hammond Model A. The last seems
out of place, but one has to remember that this package is essentially free, and
if Propellerhead want to give us a particularly historic drawbar organ (it was
Hammond's first tonewheel instrument, back in the 1930s), I'm not going to
complain! Besides, it sounds so good.
Just a peek at the portion of
The collection, created on behalf of Propellerhead by SampleTekk of Sweden Propellerhead's web site that's
dedicated to Refills.
and New York producer Chris Griffin, features straight patches of all
instruments, so that you have access to the typical sound of each. Samples were taken direct from each
instrument's main audio output, though the tube-equipped Fender Rhodes MkI was played through a Fender
Twin amplifier — which also features tube circuitry. In addition, a Model A layer, introduced by moving your
master keyboard's mod wheel, was played through a 1946-vintage Leslie 122 rotating speaker cabinet.
Though the basic samples of all these instruments are really high quality, no effort has been wasted in trying to
hide artifacts that are part of a particular sound. Thus, hum and pickup noise will be in evidence when you play
these patches! If I could make one comment (it can't be a complaint considering the price and playability of the
set), it's that the transitions between some keygroups can be a bit obvious, but that's mainly noticeable only
when playing individual notes in isolation.
There's some nice layering going on (the Clavinet D6 has eight layers, for example)
so that velocity-related tone modifications are reproduced fairly faithfully (the organ,
of course, is not velocity sensitive). Mod wheel has also been deployed nicely to add
authentic variations where appropriate — the Model A example is particularly
noteworthy. The sounds are uniformly playable, especially with the benefits of lowlatency audio systems offered by recent computers and operating systems. It's at
times like this that I don't regret selling off my hardware synths and samplers! Some
of these sounds are historic, if not iconic, and you'll be reminding yourself of
performers, songs and soundtracks from Stevie Wonder to the theme from Taxi as The new
you audition each patch.
Electromechanical Refill.
The basic patches have some simple variations that show off NNXT's processing capabilities, while retaining
the character of the original samples. Then there are some seriously tweaked variations that move well past the
boundaries of what the originals were capable of and squarely into the field of serious Reason sound
mangling. A collection of demo songs is there, if you want a quick taster, but of more interest may be the handy
instant multi setups. These are songs that marry an NNXT loaded with one of the Electromechanical patches
to a chain of Reason effects. If you like what you hear, it's simplicity to cut and paste the NNXT/effects chain
into your own song.
In the end, I don't have to sell this set — and nor do Propellerhead! But if I had to pass over £7, which barely
amounts to a handling charge, or even several times that amount, I'd buy Electromechanical immediately.
Recycle Path
Techniques that involve importing samples into your Reason song leave you stuck when it comes to altering the tempo of the host song. The ideal way
around this involves, unfortunately, spending some more money — though I guarantee that you won't regret the outlay. Propellerhead's Recycle offers
a novel approach to slicing up audio to make its tempo and pitch flexible, and its files are, of course, loadable into Reason's Dr:rex device. If you need
more convincing, see the Recycle 2.1 review in this issue, and the June 2004 issue's beat-slicing masterclass, which discusses Recycle amongst a
range of similar tools.
What Reason Can't Do... And What You Can Do About It
8 / 92
More Reason to be cheerful
Reason is a comprehensive virtual music studio, but there are a handful of things it currently is incapable of
doing. Top of the list, obviously, is recording audio. However, if you need vocals and real instruments to play
alongside your Reason opus, there are a couple of solutions. If your computer's up to running two audio
applications at once, the best option will be to use Propellerhead's Rewire protocol to link Reason to a
compatible MIDI + Audio sequencer and record the audio into that as it plays along with Reason. Reason's
audio is streamed into the host application's mixer, and the two MIDI transports are linked. For advice on using
Rewire with specific applications, check out Propellerhead's web site (
The main choice of sequencer app would be something like Cubase SX or Pro Tools LE, but if you're a Mac
user you might want to take a look at Apple's Garage Band. This is part of the iLife suite, and is either free if
you've bought your Mac recently or about forty quid if you buy it off the shelf. Those are prices I like!
Garage Band has Rewire capabilities, and though not sophisticated, they do
the job, allowing you to record audio parts alongside Reason's output and
create a mix of the final performance. The compromises are that even though
Garage Band behaves as a Rewire 'mixer' application in this setup, it has no
mixer channels for Rewired software, so you have to swap between programs
to balance levels, and the slave software is unable to access GB's effects. The
other problem is that, in contrast to the way in which Reason is efficiently
programmed and succeeds in working on less-than-cutting-edge computers,
Garage Band is a bit of a bloater and rather CPU hungry, running happily only Apple's Garage Band being
used as the mixer application
on recent Macs. It's a simple application, yet my now (apparently) ageing
for Reason, which can be seen
450MHz G4 struggles with it, especially with Reason in tow!
in the background.
If your computer doesn't like running two applications at once, try slaving a
simple version of your Reason song (perhaps just a drum track and a guide bass line) to the sequencer.
Alternatively, load in sections of Reason song that have been exported as audio (available under the 'File'
menu) into an audio track of the sequencer. However you do it, you then record the audio you need into the host
sequencer application and export that in evenly-sliced chunks. Import the chunks into a Reason sample player
such as NN19 or NNXT and trigger the audio in Reason's sequencer. Try to cut the audio chunks to a bar or
beat so that you'll be able to trigger the resulting sample exactly at the right place within Reason. Then you'll be
able to treat the audio with Reason effects and so on.
Rewire is also the path to take to get around the other major thing that Reason can't do, but which many of us
wish it would: use VST (or any other format) processing plug-ins. With the new effects devices launched in V2.5
and the ability to process audio with Malström, Reason's processing capabilities are now pretty strong, but if
you really want to use a favourite third-party processor in a track, see the section above: in most
implementations, Rewire allows you to stream the signal from individual Reason devices to the mixer tracks of
compatible MIDI + Audio sequencers. Garage Band is an exception on this front. An alternative would be, as
above, to export audio from Reason, import it into the application that hosts the effect you want, add the
treatment, export that, and load the finished result into a Reason sample-playback device. Once again, be
careful about start points, keeping to the beginnings of bars or beats, so that everything can be sync'd up easily
when the final import process is done.
Published in SOS August 2004
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
9 / 92
Instant Track Creation
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Instant Track Creation
Reason Notes
Published in SOS September 2004
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason Can, Too...
Happy Birthday, Propellerhead!
Into The Malström
Quick Tips
String-Driven Thing
We explore an advanced technique for creating
'instant' tracks.
Derek Johnson
As a reviewer of hardware and software for this magazine, I often examine allin-one workstation synths that try to be attractive to any style of musician at
almost any level. Hence, some preset data is often dedicated to producing the
'one-finger track' effect: press a key and everything — drums, bass line,
arpeggiations, chopped chords, the lot — happens. Very impressive in a demo
situation, and a bit like cheating... but if I'm honest, this sort of thing can be
rather a lot of fun. It's even more fun — and less like cheating — if you analyse
the presets and work out how to create something unique to you, in your style.
One-finger patches can also be useful in live situations, offering an instant way
to vamp through a break while the next song loads or the band changes
instruments, and so on.
The rack you'll need to try out
Reason Can, Too...
the 'instant track' technique.
I wondered how I'd create a layered patch like this in Reason, without any extra bits of software. It's not actually
too difficult, keeping a few issues in mind. Creating a layer of devices that can be played from your master
keyboard is straightforward, but done in the obvious way, via the software's four incoming MIDI busses
accessed via the Hardware Interface, it requires you to copy and paste sequencer tracks to create a layered
performance in the sequencer. This is not quite what we want. Of course, V2.5's Spider CV splitter/merger
devices allow one Matrix step-sequencer to play up to three synth or sampler devices, but that's not 'real-time'
any more. A further issue is that most modern workstations feature some sort of arpeggiator to add instant
sparkly interest to a one-finger performance, and Reason currently lacks one. However, this software is nothing
if not flexible, and we're going to ignore or solve these problems.
The problem of not being able to layer multiple devices in a logical way without external help is solved by using
one device: the NNXT Advanced Sampler. Though this might seem like a restriction, given the correct raw
sample material the synthesis facilities on offer are powerful enough to let you get very creative. The only
problem with making this example for readers of this column to recreate is that I'm restricted to the raw material
contained in the factory Refills, which means selecting single samples from within multisamples. (I have a
collection of looped raw synth-waveform samples that I would normally use for my own purposes.)
First of all, make sure your Reason rack has a Remix mixer and whatever
effects you favour loaded into it. I always start with an RV7000 advanced reverb
and a couple of DDL1 delays (for tempo-sync'd delay effects). Now add an
Load the first sample, by clicking on the 'Load Sample' button. Navigate the
Here's what the connections
Reason Factory Sound Bank Refill, through NN19 Sampler Patches to the
Basses folder and then the AccBass sample folder; choose '011,C1,Med,onG between NNXT and Malström
look like, with all other cables
string.WAV', if you'd like to recreate my layer exactly. You may have to 'Set
removed for clarity.
Root Note From Pitch Detection' and 'Automap Zones', from the Edit menu.
Now go to LFO1: enable Tempo Sync, select the square or sawtooth
waveform, and set the rate parameter to 1/8 (eighth note). Turn the Level knob fully right. Play a note, and the
decay of the bass sample is chopped up into eighth notes. That's one layer.
For the next layer, find the Fretless Bass folder in the NN19 patch collection and load 'FretlessC1,med.WAV'.
We'll leave this for the moment, except to set its pitch and map it. We might also want to just individually
highlight each of our first samples and choose 'Group Selected Zones' from the Edit menu. Each sample thus
becomes its own 'Group', with dedicated sets of synth parameters.
Now we're going to do something a bit different... Load the 'VibraA1.WAV' sample (NN19 Vibraphone patch
folder, Mallet and Ethnic collection). The main thing we'll do with this sample, which we'll also make its own
Group, is add a repeating octave effect. Set LFO1 to Tempo Sync, and give it a square waveform. I set the rate
to quarter-note, but it's your choice. The Pitch amount knob should be tweaked to around 1200; I prefer a
negative value (left), but a similar effect will be produced with a positive value (right).
Happy Birthday, Propellerhead!
This month, the producers of our favourite software electronic studio celebrate their 10th birthday. Yes, it was 1994 that saw the introduction of
Recycle, initially for the Mac only, under the Steinberg badge. The company's still going strong, and even Recycle is still developing — see the review
of v2.1 in the last issue. Who knows what Reason will be like 10 years from now...
Into The Malström
We're going to make a drastic change to the texture produced by this sample, so first set its audio output to 3-4
(use the last knob on the right under the blue display). Next, create a Malström device, patch NNXT outs 3 and
4 to the Malström's two audio ins and enable both filters and Mod B. For Mod B, Select 'sync', choose a rate of
1/4 or 1/8, and select a stepped waveform — curve 23 or 24. Malström is now behaving as a signal processor,
but the modulator (essentially a sophisticated LFO) is adding an arpeggiator-like stepped effect to each filter's
cutoff frequency. You'll have to tweak frequency and cutoff to get the audible effect that's best for you, but start
with frequency quite low (to the left) and resonance in the middle, with LP12 the filter type of choice to start. You
can also turn the Spread control fully right, to create a pseudo-stereo effect.
We're not done with Malström yet. Remember the second sample we loaded — the fretless bass — that we
left alone? Let's go back to it, by clicking on the box in the Group column to the left of the sample. Before we go
any further, I'll just note that I panned this sample (Group) hard left and the first sample we loaded hard right,
and routed NNXT output 1/L to one Remix channel and output 2/R to another, obviously both in mono.
Back to the Malström. We're going to be using its Mod A section, routing the CV output at the back to NNXT's
Filter Cutoff CV input (on the rear of its global controls panel). Due to NNXT's design, this is is routed to the
cutoff frequency of all filters currently in use, but in this case it's not a problem. Set Mod A to tempo sync,
choose a rate of 1/8 and select a stepped waveform. We want to really hear the effect of this LFO on our
fretless bass, so tweak its filter parameters thus: Filter type LP24; cutoff frequency 33Hz; resonance 79
10 / 92
Instant Track Creation
Now we have a chugging bassline, an impressionistic burbling texture created by the fretless sample, and highfrequency movement from the 'arpeggiated' vibe sample.
Quick Tips
When editing an NNXT patch that has more than just a couple of samples in it, remember that each sample can be isolated by means of the 'Solo
Sample' button. Isolating samples in this way is ideal for really focusing on fine-tuning individual samples.
Routing the left and right outputs of a Reason sound-making device to their own Remix channels, panned hard left and hard right, seems to produce a
wider stereo image. Try it!
Mac users, if you're still unsure about the move to Mac OS X, wait no longer: latency — the delay between playing a note on a MIDI keyboard and the
sound coming out of your monitor speakers — in the new OS can be astonishingly minimal. I run an oldish G4, and steadfastly refuse to dump my
Digidesign Digi 001 audio hardware, yet without trying my system offers 2-5ms of latency within Reason. That delay is as good as inaudible in virtually
all circumstances.
String-Driven Thing
The last thing we'll add to the mix is a straightforward two-note string chord. Here I chose a couple of samples
from the Strings folder (that's in the Strings folder — really — in the NN19 Sampler Patches folder). Go for
'Bigsc4.aif' and 'Bigsd#4.aif'. Highlight both and 'Group Selected Zones' from the Edit menu; this way, you can
apply synth and output settings globally to both samples, though you'll still be able to tweak each sample
separately by clicking just on its name.
In my 'patch', I routed these two samples to their own audio output pair — 5-6
— and on to their own Remix channel. Individually, I panned the samples
slightly left and slightly right. Also, I retuned the D# sample to a root note of
G#2, causing it to play a fifth higher than the other sample, producing an instant
chord. I also EQ'd their Remix channel a bit, taking almost all the top off by
moving the treble knob to the left. Add effects to taste
And that's it — almost. Right now, the texture we originally created is completed
by an ethereal two-note top line. Adding drums is straightforward. You could
create a little count-in within Redrum and automate how it plays back, perhaps
Setting Reason to start
giving you a one-bar click followed by one bar of silence before looping the
playback by pressing note C3
desired drum pattern, or you could do the following.
— middle C — on an attached
First, make sure that the Remote Control input in Advanced MIDI preferences is MIDI keyboard.
set to your MIDI keyboard. Under the Options menu, select Edit MIDI Remote
Mapping, and click the green arrow that appears over the transport bar's start button. Enable 'Learn from MIDI'
in the pop-up window and play the first note of your one-finger performance. Close the window and disable Edit
MIDI Remote Mapping, but ensure that Enable MIDI Remote Mapping is ticked. Now when you play the first
note of your sequence, Reason's drum machine, and whatever else happens to be playing in the sequence, will
kick in and all the tempo-sync'd LFOs and delays will play along nicely
There are many ways of extending this idea. In fact, many a similar patch has formed the basis of an entire
track for me — I write and automate a Redrum track, play one-fingered for the desired length of time and then
add some more material to develop the original idea and texture. Have fun!
Published in SOS September 2004
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
11 / 92
Using Mackie Tracktion Sequencer As A Rewire Host
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Using Mackie Tracktion Sequencer As A
Rewire Host
Reason Notes
In this article:
On The Right Tracktion
M-Audio Avidly Acquired
Ever-expanding Patch
Quick Tips
Total Control
Published in SOS October 2004
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Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Mackie's Tracktion sequencer makes an ideal
budget Rewire host for adding audio recording and
plug-in capabilities to your Reason setup, as we
Derek Johnson
What if I told you there was a way to add multitrack audio recording and editing,
plus VST plug-in capabilities, to your Mac or PC Reason setup for the less than
Yes, for a lot less than the price of many commercial plug-in processors or
instruments, these two most desirable facilities can be retrofitted to
Propellerhead's electronic music studio. Admittedly, I'm cheating a bit by using
a Rewire host to do the job, but that host must be the cheapest currently
available that offers all the basic facilities needed for the job — and it's crossplatform. My search for budget Rewire lead me to Raw Material Software's
Tracktion, now being marketed exclusively by Mackie and costing a mere
US$80 as a download from Mackie's web site. British readers may be aware
of the US dollar's current poor performance against Sterling, resulting, as I
write, in a £45 bargain. Mackie provide full support for registered users, and
there's even a handy — and excellent — on-line user forum (
Tracktion shown in the
background, hosting Reason
while playing back some
freshly-recorded audio. You
can just see, to the right, how
plug-ins can be chained after
Reason audio channels.
On The Right Tracktion
Tracktion was reviewed in SOS back in April 2003, in the software's pre-Mackie days. Its Rewire capabilities
seem to have been a little uncertain back then, but no more. This efficient alternative to the high-priced MIDI +
Audio big boys hosts any Rewire-capable application with ease, and is compatible, on both platforms, with
VST plug-ins and instruments. Feel free to import WAVs and MIDI files too. And if that's not enough, Tracktion
actually comes with a suite of its own processors, plus a collection from shareware specialists MDA. A handful
of virtual instruments are also included, and free, shareware and commercial instruments can be added at will.
Tracktion's designer, Julian Storer, wrote the software deliberately to be unlike the competition. He felt other
sequencers didn't work as they should to enable him to record audio (and MIDI) to his computer with as little
trouble as possible. The result is a sequencer with an approach that will feel different to experienced users of
standard MIDI + Audio sequencers, though it's completely logical and friendly. MIDI and audio tracks 'feel'
similar in an operational way, but without confusing the two forms of data as some 'entry-level' music programs
do. Think of how Ableton's Live is different from competing products, and you'll have an idea, remembering that
Tracktion and Live are in no way equivalent products.
As a Rewire host, Tracktion is ideal. It's efficiently programmed — no wizzy
graphics or bloated code — so will run well alongside Reason on a modest
modern computer. It works fine on my ageing G4 and brilliantly on my more upto-date P4 laptop. I'm a long-time user of the Cubase family, but (especially on
my G4) there are times when attempting to run it alongside Reason at the
same time as trying to record anything like a busy audio session results in
It's getting pretty busy back
there, and I've tidied away
some cables for clarity! Here,
Of course, this solution doesn't work from within Reason, which remains as
closed as it ever was, but at least it's cheap. Because of the way Rewire works, some of the parts of last
month's one-finger NNXT patch
you can control the host or slave app from the transport of the other, thus you
are treated by ECF42s,
can create a skeleton arrangement in Reason and go to Tracktion to record
followed by COMP01s to keep
any audio — vocals, guitars, whatever — for the length of the song, returning to filter-induced level problems at
Reason to flesh out the arrangement. When it comes to reorganising and fine- bay.
tuning the tandem result, edits and chops will have to be duplicated in both
pieces of software. But Tracktion is so easy to use (once you've got the hang of how it does things) that this
shouldn't be too much trouble.
Treating Reason audio via VST plug-ins hosted by Tracktion is straightforward. Just create more tracks and
insert more instances of the Rewire 'filter' (Tracktion's generic term for plug-ins, whether effect or instrument),
choosing different audio streams for each one, passing audio out of Reason via the Hardware Interface
device. A final mix can be rendered to disk from within Tracktion. This is a real-time procedure, though mixes
without Rewire slaves can be done in faster than real time.
Tracktion saves all its audio and settings in a self-contained file (audio is data-compressed), but obviously it
won't save Reason's state. So unless you're just using Reason as a sound module (this is possible via
Rewire's MIDI streaming), make sure you save the last version of an edited song before closing down.
So, while Tracktion may not be as cheap (ie. potentially free) as the Mac-only Garageband option I mentioned
a couple of issues ago, it is cross-platform and much more of a serious composition and recording tool than
Apple's offering. If you've come to computer music via Reason and want to add audio recording and plug-in
capabilities cheaply, check it out.
M-Audio Avidly Acquired
As revealed in SOS's main news pages this month, digital video giant Avid have effectively taken over M-Audio, the company which distributes
Reason in most markets outside Sweden. Of course, Avid also own Digidesign, the high-end audio sequencing company, so the move isn't, perhaps,
all that strange: Reason Adapted, a cut-down version of the virtual studio, has even been a part of Digidesign bundles. So far, the move appears to be
having no impact on Reason or other M-Audio-distributed products.
Ever-expanding Patch
Sometimes, a couple of pages just doesn't seem enough for a column about a program like Reason! This
became particularly apparent last month when, for space reasons, I had to lose a few extra bits that took the
12 / 92
Using Mackie Tracktion Sequencer As A Rewire Host
NNXT one-finger performance patch I explained even further.
As you may already know, NNXT is one of the more powerful devices in the Reason rack, and can
accommodate a huge number of samples, each of which has the potential to become its own 'group' and have
its own collection of synth and sample playback parameters. This aspect of the device means that it would
require a MIDI spec the size of the known universe to make it possible to assign a unique MIDI controller to
each NNXT parameter. For the same reason, NNXT only has a small collection of gate and CV control
sockets on its rear panel. But if, when you're creating a layer such as we discussed last month, or something
similar, you'd really like to be able to add MIDI, gate or CV control to a parameter or two of samples or groups
in an NNXT patch — perhaps for triggered gate effects or to add some movement to a filter cutoff frequency —
there's still hope.
Start by making use of the individual outputs on the back of NNXT. There are 16 stereo pairs (or 32 mono
outputs if you use hard panning between pairs of samples or groups), and this facility means that you can treat
almost any NNXT samples with Reason effects. To get the desired effect, why not start with the ECF42
envelope-controlled filter? You could, of course, use the filters of a Malström, as we did last month, but ECF42
uses less space and DSP resources! It's not quite as dynamic a filter as those on the synths or NNXT itself, but
it is still quite capable, and two can be chained in series, or chained with other effects (such as the PEQ2
parametric EQ) to build on the sound. Patch different NNXT layers to their own ECF42, set up the filter
parameters to suit, and assign triggers or variable CVs (and even MIDI controllers) to them. You'll be able to
automate front-panel knobs in the main sequencer: assign each ECF42 to its own rack, then make sure each
is highlighted and its track shows the MIDI icon, as you make the automation moves. And don't forget that
spare modulation sources — LFOs or EG curves — produced by other devices can be routed to ECF42 CV
inputs. As ever with Reason, experiment.
Quick Tips
Last month, I mentioned in passing that any key on an attached MIDI keyboard could be set to start Reason playback. Of course, you can also assign
the transport's 'Stop' function to a key (as well as its Record, Fast Forward and Rewind functions). Choose notes at the highest range of your
keyboard if you'd like to do this, as those notes will tend not to be played too often. In any case, as long as there's no MIDI icon assigned to any
sequencer track during playback, your 'trigger' notes should not end up playing devices you don't want to play.
Here's an easy way to add a sophisticated contrast between low-velocity and high-velocity playing on the Reason synths and sample players. Simply
take your mouse to the device's velocity routing section, and turn the A(mplitude) Attack knob fully left. Now set the Amp Envelope Attack parameter to
mid-travel (a value of about 64). Now, when you play softly, not only does the synth play quietly, but you'll get a gentle bowed effect (depending on
the rest of the patch's parameters, of course). Play harder and the volume rises as the attack becomes more definite. Combine with other velocitycontrolled parameters for a more dynamic-sounding patch.
This isn't so much a quick tip as an observation: it's possible to play Reason on a Mac, under Mac OS X at least, when the computer is asleep. The
software feels even less like software if you can ignore the computer!
If there's one thing I'd recommend any Mac user — let alone the Mac-based Reason user — buy to improve their overall computing experience, it would
be a dual- or multi-button mouse. Simply being able to do the equivalent of a Windows right-click when adding devices to, or customising devices in,
Reason's rack is a revelation when it comes to your average workflow.
Use Reason Songs as patch libraries for the older effects devices that have no saving and loading facilities. If you have favourite effect chains or
configurations, with useful parameter settings, simply highlight the whole chain, copy, paste it into a 'library' rack, and save it. Then just highlight, copy
and paste the chain back to any Song in future.
Under both flavours of MacOS, devices that can save patches give you the option to save with or without a file extender. Choose to save with, if you
think your patches might be imported in some way to Reason running under Windows, since the files won't be recognised otherwise.
Total Control
Another use of NNXT's individual outputs in last month's patch could help keep distortion at bay — and this
technique can be used with other devices. Yes, I know that Reason is technically not capable of distortion, but
overloads do occur!
When designing a heavily-filtered sound with any of the sound-generating devices, you might find that
unpredictable changes in level play havoc with the Audio Out Clipping meter, and the quality of your mix. It will
probably occur with the textures produced by the NNXT technique described last month. Simply place a
COMP01 compressor in line with any instrument or signal path that's causing problems. Even if you don't alter
its parameters, the level will be tamed somewhat and you'll be able to more easily set up a balanced mix that
doesn't blow out. Doing this has the additional benefit, with NNXT individual outs, of naming them sensibly on
Remix mixer channel scribble strips, via the scribble strip of the compressor to which they're connected.
Otherwise, individual output pairs turn up as something like 'NNXT 15-16', which is not always useful during a
big mixing session.
Published in SOS October 2004
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
13 / 92
Reason: Alternatives To 4/4 Time
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason: Alternatives To 4/4 Time
Tempo Trickery
Refill Yer Boots
Quick Tips
Reason Notes
Published in SOS November 2004
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Reason seems firmly fixed in a 4/4 time signature
— but clever use of the Redrum and Matrix patternbased devices allows you to explore more unusual
signatures. This month we explain how, as well as
bringing you the essential news and tips.
Derek Johnson
We'll kick off this month's column with tidings of a new Refill from Propellerhead. They continually surprise us
with extra free content for Reason, but their latest release is not in that category. Like the excellent Strings
Refill released a while ago, the new Reason Drum Kits set (£79) is the product of a lot of recording and editing
— there are more than 10,000 individual drum, cymbal and hand-percussion samples at the heart of the
collection. Real drums and spaces were captured during the recording process.
The resulting kits have been created for the NNXT mega sampler, though a simpler
collection of Redrum sets drawing on the same raw samples is also provided.
NNXT's mega multisampling and velocity-splitting capabilities have been used to
the max, to provide a realistic drum experience. And the kits themselves are
provided in a number of formats. For a start, they come in both 24-bit and 16-bit
resolutions — thus the set is distributed on a DVD, since the 24-bit ReFill occupies
1.9GB of space! Users will need a lot of RAM to get the best out of Reason Drum
Kits, and a fast computer to help with loading times, but initial auditions indicate that
the slight inconvenience is worth it. (Using 16-bit stereo patches keeps the load to a Reason Drum Kits: the
minimum.) The disk is rounded off with a range of template and demo songs that
show off the collection to good advantage and give users some good starting points.
The Scream 4 distortion device features amongst these song files, adding an industrial edge to the kits'
outputs, and the extra Scream 4 patches are augmented by a nice set for the RV7000 advanced reverb. SOS
will go into more detail about Reason Drum Kits in an issue coming your way soon. In the meantime, check out
Tempo Trickery
In its current incarnation, Reason doesn't have a tempo track, so if you really need this facility in your Reason
work you'll have to run additional software in tandem. The same initially appears to be true when working with
different time signatures — the tempo track of the average MIDI sequencer also allows the user to automate
time signature changes. In practice, though, the pattern-based composition offered by the Matrix step
sequencer and Redrum drum machine means that it's possible to bodge signature changes quite easily. You'll
just need to be organised!
Let's say you'd like to create alternating 4/4 and 5/4 bars in your Reason song. The 4/4 bar is easy: Redrum,
with 16th-note resolution and 16 steps per pattern, gives you this right away. A 5/4 pattern is created simply by
increasing the number of steps to 20. Note that writing a pattern will now require you to use the Edit Steps
button to access steps 17-32, though only the first four steps will be needed.
Similarly, with the Matrix module, a 4/4 pattern will require 16 steps and a 5/4
one needs 20. In this case no switching is required, since Matrix lets you work
with, and see at all times, up to 32 steps per pattern. The organisation now
comes into play when chaining these patterns in the main sequencer window.
Our example means that Reason's default time signature, of 4/4, can be left in
place, since even though we're alternating 4/4 and 5/4 bars, the basic pulse is
still quarter notes (the denominator of the time-signature 'fraction' determines a
piece's 'beat'). So set the grid resolution to 1/4, and enable 'snap to grid' (that's
the little magnet icon at the top of the sequencer window). When you draw in
Pattern automation changes on Redrum or Matrix tracks, in Edit Mode, draw
for four beats for the 4/4 patterns and five beats for those that are 5/4. Simple
— and it's just as easy if you're integrating 3/4 or 7/4 patterns. You'll need to
keep track of which patterns are of which length when putting your song
together, but it does overcome the lack of a tempo track.
Examine the Pattern lane of this
Redrum sequencer track and
you'll see each pattern change
going adrift by an eighth note
every couple of bars. This
arises because pattern A1 in
the example is effectively in 4/4
(16 16th-note steps) and
pattern A2 is in 7/8 (14 16thnote note steps). When you're
working with this kind of
material, the bar numbers at
the top of the sequencer
Things become a little more complicated if you'd like to interject the occasional window are less important than
grid resolution in the
7/8 or 11/16 pattern into your song, but the theory is the same. For example, for the
Pattern lane.
7/8 bars in Redrum, set a pattern length of 14 and keep the resolution at 1/16.
Likewise, set the grid value to 1/8 so that changes will occur within complete bars. You could alternate 4/4 and
7/8 bars in this way. Again, the global time signature is perhaps best left at 4/4, so that you can keep track of
the fractional pattern changes during the composition stage. In practice, the time signature could be anything,
so long as you know what the value of the grid is. In the 7/8 example, you need to know where the eighth-note
steps are. Pattern changes will not be happening at exact bar lines, but the desired result, of changing time
signatures, will be achieved.
Most virtual time signature/step resolution combinations should be possible within Redrum patterns, since they
have a maximum length of 64 steps. The same is not true of the Matrix, since it maxes out at 32 steps. This
becomes a problem if you're trying to work with the smaller note resolutions. The solution is to divide your
patterns in two, and use your new organisational skills to keep track of which pair of patterns makes up the
desired complete bar, and how many steps each has.
Refill Yer Boots
In this column, I've already touched on the universe of free Refills that can be found on the Internet. It's not
getting any smaller, I can tell you, and it continues to be a fascinating experience to hear what other users are
managing to squeeze out of a rack of instruments that I've come to know quite well. Each of my new Reason
songs brings me another pile of patches to add to my collection, but I still find time to audition and analyse the
work of others.
For example, I recently downloaded a couple of neat collections from Funk
Station ( The Dark Side is an intriguing and very
14 / 92
Reason: Alternatives To 4/4 Time
abstract collection of Subtractor patches, moving the synth a good distance
away from standard bass lines and lead parts and towards becoming the
sound design tool any synth can be if pushed hard enough. Most interesting for
me were the stereo patches. Subtractor is, of course, a monophonic synth, but
the simple expedient of creating left and right elements to be loaded into two of
the synths solves the problem (just remember to pan them hard left and right on
their Remix channels). To audition these patches, you'll need to to assign your
controller keyboard to two of Reason's internal MIDI busses, and in the
Hardware Interface that's at the top of every Reason rack, assign the left and
The free Refill page on the
Funk Station web site.
right Subtractors to their own MIDI buss. Alternatively, create a Matrix
sequencer, playing long notes, to help you hear the development of some of
these patches. Route the Matrix's gate and note CV outs to the Split A and Split B sockets of a Spider CV
merger/splitter device; now route cables from the split outs to the corresponding CV inputs of the two
Subtractors. Takes less time to do than describe, and you'll be checking out stereo Subtractor synth
impressionism in no time.
The other set I downloaded from Funk Station is the Chemical Malström Refill, featuring well over 100 patches
for the Malström device. This is described as offering "dirty, industrial" patches, divided into lead sounds,
basses, gated synths and "mad sfx". It's definitely worth a trip with the modem, and might well provide a texture
you can use, or inspire you to explore sonic areas you haven't ventured into before.
Finally, you can also download a demo of Funk Station's Ambient Textures CD, released as a Zero G product
and distributed by Time + Space ( The full package costs £39.95, and includes a big
collection of patches for Subtractor, Malström, NN19 and NNXT.
Quick Tips
If you use a hardware controller with Reason, print out the MIDI implementation PDF files, which list all MIDI controller assignments to Reason device
parameters. It's hard to read the small print on paper, but it's much easier than trying to extract the same information from your computer screen!
Here's one for lazy programmers. If you find that a Subtractor, Malström or NNXT patch that you're using monophonically has a too-long decay that
you're having trouble taming with the EG parameters, simply cut the polyphony to '1'. Problem solved.
For me, the ability to automate mutes quickly is almost as important as being able to quickly record fader-level and pan-position changes. A couple of
months ago in this column we discussed using your MIDI keyboard as a source of transport controls. Well, during a mixing session you can use your
keyboard as a source of mutes — and the assignments are already set for you. However, these assignments are quite low in the MIDI note range, and
some keyboards won't let you transpose down low enough. If this is the case with yours, use MIDI Remote Mapping to create your own assignments.
Assign your controller keyboard to the Remote Control buss in Advanced MIDI Settings, and make sure it's not assigned to play a device in the main
sequencer (de-assign the MIDI icon in the MIDI In column).
Remember that you don't have to play all the slices in a REX loop loaded into Dr:Rex sequentially. For example, the slices in a sample of a guitar-chord
sequence can be triggered in a different order, to create a new section or an entirely new piece, and different words and syllables of sampled speech
or vocals can also be re-purposed for surreal or comic effect. Simply go into the the REX slice lane of the main sequencer for the Dr:Rex track and
draw in the triggers where you'd like the chords or syllables to play. Slices can also be triggered from your MIDI keyboard, if you like a more
spontaneous compositional approach.
It's not possible to layer samples directly within Redrum patches, but a heavier, layered drum sound can be easily created, either within one Redrum
or across two. Load the sounds you'd like to layer into two Redrum sample channels and decide which channel will be used to program the part.
When you've got your part, run a patch cable, at the back of the rack, from the Gate Out socket of the channel being programmed to the Gate In of the
channel hosting the sample to be layered. Do this as many times as you like, with no delays induced.
Easy part doubling in the main sequencer can be achieved by simply copying one track's data to an empty track and assigning a new device to that
track's output. Use the copy and paste functions in the Edit menu, or highlight (or Group) the notes in the source track and Control-drag the notes to a
new track.
Published in SOS November 2004
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
15 / 92
REX Loops: Substituting Sounds
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
REX Loops: Substituting Sounds
Reason Notes
Published in SOS December 2004
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Technique : Reason Notes
Quick Tips
Let's Begin
Cool For School
Around At The Back
New Kits From Old Loops
Going Further
Ever loved the feel of a REX loop but disliked the
drum sounds? Using Reason, you can steal the feel
and substitute sounds of your choice with ease.
Derek Johnson
Practically since sampling first became available, recording engineers have employed tricks for isolating drum
sounds and using them to trigger new samples — perhaps to replace a weedy original sound, make a mix
more contemporary, or replicate the groove played on one drum kit with the (sampled) sounds of another kit.
Something like this technique can also be achieved in Reason. We'll be using REX2 loops, as generated by
Recycle and played back by the Dr:Rex device. The objective is to steal the feel of a loop and assign new
sounds loaded into a Redrum kit.
Quick Tips
In Subtractor, you can give two-oscillator bass sounds a different feel, and sometimes more edge, by enabling ring modulation with one of the
oscillators tuned seven semitones (a fifth) higher than the other. A less thick sound is produced if you place the shifted oscillator one octave higher
than the unshifted one.
You may not realise that Dr:Rex is polyphonic, since all it usually does is play back loops. But if, after 'To Track'-ing a loop, you highlight the slice
triggers in the REX Lane and copy them — say, Alt-drag them a few 16th notes to the right — you'll enter a whole new rhythmic universe, with
syncopations, rolls and fills appearing out of nowhere, depending on the source material.
Let's Begin
Start with a rack that's empty except for a Remix mixer. Add a Redrum, and then four instances of Dr:Rex.
Click on the Browse Loop button of the first Dr:Rex and surf through the Factory Sound Bank Refill to the
Dr:Rex Drum Loops folder. Now, take your pick: there's a lot of choice. Pretty much at random, I selected the
first loop in the Chemical Beats folder (Chm01_Brassic_125_eLAB. rx2). It's kind of simple, loose and groovy
in feel, with a nice bright kit. Of course, you could choose any loop you like.
As this is a two-bar loop, for the purposes of this exercise let's set Reason's
right loop marker to the end of bar two and enable looping. Making sure that
Dr:Rex's sequencer track is also highlighted, press the device's To Track
button. The triggers necessary to play back the loop have now been placed in
the track, which you'll hear when you press Play on the main sequencer
Next, load the same loop into the remaining Dr:Rex's and click on 'To Track'
for each one. You could also simply Alt-Drag the data from the first track to the
remaining three, to copy the Dr:Rex triggers to each track; the effect would be
the same. I'd suggest that you name the sequencer track for the first Dr:Rex
The initial rack, with Redrum
something like Main Loop — use this for reference later. Rename the other
and three instances of Dr:Rex,
sequencer tracks: in this example, Kick, Snare and Hi-hat.
plus the 'To Track' events that
trigger the loops' slices visible
This is where it gets mouse-heavy. Select the track labelled Kick, and go to
in the sequencer window.
the edit view, by clicking on the leftmost icon in the strip that runs above the
main sequencer window; its tool tip will helpfully flash up 'Switch to Edit Mode.' Stretch the sequencer window
so that you can see all the 'slice' triggers in the Dr:Rex lane, and zoom out so you just see the two bars of the
loop. The slice number column to the left is our focus of attention, as we click on each entry to trigger the
corresponding slice. There are 17 slices in this loop, and by auditioning each slice, you'll hear kicks, snare
and hi-hats.
In the Kick track, select the eraser from the tool bar and erase every slice that isn't a kick. You'll be OK if you
make a mistake, since clicking entries in the slice list will still trigger the corresponding slice, even if the
trigger in the lane has been erased. Now select the Snare track and erase every event that's not a snare. For
the Hi-hat track, leave all the triggers in place. As you'll notice if you listen to the loop again, the hi hat plays on
every slice.
Cool For School
For a while now, Reason has been making inroads into education, a trend supported by Propellerhead's own Teaching Music With Reason package.
In fact, Propellerhead have become a registered content provider to Curriculum Online (, a government-led entity that
aims to improve access to ICT (Information & Communications Technology) and multimedia resources for all pupils. Secondary schools in England can
use e-learning credits to buy TMWR from approved retailers.
Around At The Back
Press Tab on your computer keyboard to access Reason's back panels. Locate the Slice Gate Output socket
on the 'Kick' Dr:Rex, click it and hold, drag a cable to the Redrum and connect it to the Gate In socket of
Redrum's channel one. This is generally a kick sound in most kits.
From the 'Snare' Dr:Rex's Slice Gate Output socket, drag a cable to the Gate
In of Redrum channel two — a snare on most kits. The destination of the 'Hihat' Dr:Rex gate output depends on the Redrum kit. We'll drop it on channel
nine's Gate In, because for this example we'll be choosing a kit where that
assignment corresponds to a hi-hat sound.
While you're still at the rear, you might want to disconnect the audio cables for
Focusing on the Dr:Rex 'Kick'
the Kick, Snare and Hi-hat Dr:Rex devices from their Remix mixer inputs,
since we don't want to hear their output. The Remix channels could be muted, track: all slices that aren't a kick
but we're unlikely to want to hear those slices later, so disconnecting frees up drum have been erased.
Remix channels for other purposes.
We're almost done: now hit Tab again to go to the front of the rack, then click on Redrum's Browse Patch
button. (I mentioned Tool Tips earlier, and these are really a lifesaver for newcomers: even if you're completely
lost, simply using your mouse carefully causes these helpful little hints to flash up on screen.) I've chosen a kit
for this example that seems as sonically opposed as possible to the original Dr:Rex loop — from the Factory
Sound Bank again, find the Redrum Kits, go to the Hardcore Kits folder and choose Hardcore Kit 01. (Think
16 / 92
REX Loops: Substituting Sounds
Nine Inch Nails and a lot of distortion!)
Pressing Play, all being well, should now audition the noisy kit playing the Dr:Rex loop, with its exact original
feel, alongside the original loop. Mute Redrum and Dr:Rex to check out your work. With this technique, even
the loosest, funkiest, most unquantised rhythm loops can be given the sound set of your choice. It may require
a little ingenuity to isolate more than kick, snare and hat, but listen to the loop closely to see what can be
picked out. For example, if there's a cymbal crash in there somewhere, figure out which slice it is and assign it
to the cymbal of your choice.
New Kits From Old Loops
Don't forget that the 'feel stealing' explained in the main text works both ways within Reason. Should you really like the individual drum sounds in a REX
loop, load them into Redrum and make a new kit from them! The sample browser in Redrum, and all Reason sample devices, lets you go into a REX
loop as if it were a folder and audition, and then load, the individual slices that make up the loop. The resulting kit will then have the sound of the original
loop, but you'll be able to write whatever patterns you like with it.
Going Further
So far we've only dissected one loop. If you want to recreate more than one loop in a song you'll have to create
more Dr:Rex devices and sequencer tracks for the loop slice triggers. This is unavoidable. But you only need
one Redrum: using a Spider CV merging device, four Dr:Rex gate streams can be merged to one output
(which would be routed to a Redrum channel).
You'll need one Spider CV for each class of slice trigger you're isolating, but
once this wiring is done, the Spider CV devices themselves can be minimised
and dragged to somewhere unobtrusive in the rack. Make sure that no actual
merging occurs, though, unless you like the effect it produces. All you have to
do is make sure that only one loop's kick, snare or whatever is playing at any
one time.
Extending the Dr:Rex slice gate technique further, one could isolate rhythmic
elements from the loop and use them to trigger Reason synths and samplers, The back panel, where a
adding textural changes that match the groove exactly. Another classic studio Dr:Rex Slice Gate Output is
linked to the Gate In of Redrum
technique uses a noise gate to process a bass guitar, but triggers it from a
channel one. In our example,
kick-drum signal, so that bass and kick are completely tight and together. The this will be loaded with a new
same goes here: take a Dr:Rex Slice Gate Output connection to the trigger
kick-drum sample.
input of, say, a Subtractor or NN19 playing a bass patch. Write the notes for
your bass line in an attached Matrix step sequencer, but use the Dr:Rex triggers to initiate the actual notes. Be
prepared to play with amp envelope release times, since the triggers are very short. If this creates a bass line
with too few notes — though this needn't be a bad thing — use the same technique to create a secondary
bassline. Of course, the gate outs on each Redrum voice channel can also be used in the same way, to spread
rhythmic integrity around the Reason rack.
Published in SOS December 2004
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
17 / 92
Arpeggiators & Cool Techniques
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Arpeggiators & Cool Techniques
Reason Notes
Published in SOS January 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
Ups & Downs
Stretching A Point
Time For A Change
Quick Tips
There are more clever tips and techniques than
you can shake a stick at in this month's Reason
Notes, kicking off with yet another fun way to fake
an arpeggiator effect...
Derek Johnson
I hope Propellerhead add some form of arpeggiator device to Reason when they next release an update.
Users certainly expend a lot of energy on trying to recreate the effect in Reason, and indeed we've examined
pseudo-arpeggiator effects before in this column. But here's something I've been meaning to work out for a
while that might be of interest to some of you.
Ups & Downs
The star of this technique is the Malström and its sophisticated modulators. So, first, add one to the rack, but
don't bother connecting its audio to the mixer. Also add a Subtractor, load a patch suitable to be arpeggiated
(at random, I loaded 'Acid Square 2' from the Monosynths folder in the Factory Sound Bank), and then add a
Matrix pattern sequencer, linked to the Sub.
Flip to the rear panel, and route the Malström's Mod A CV output to the Sub's
Pitch modulation CV input.
Back at the front panel, disable Mod A on the Malström and program a simple
repeating note pattern on the Matrix. I set the pattern length to 32 steps,
switched the note range to octave 2 and drew in a row of bottom Cs, with a
trigger for each step in the lower gate strip.
Returning to the Malström, re-enable Mod A, engage the Sync button and
select modulation curve 23. If you play back the Matrix pattern now, you'll get a
repeating pattern of notes, spread over a wide pitch range. We're now going
The Reason devices you'll
to tame that, although it might be an effect that you'll want to remember for
need to set up the arpeggiator
later! First, set the Mod A rate knob to 1/8 (the Matrix still has a step resolution effect.
of 1/16), then go to the rear panel again.
Turn the Subtractor's oscillator-pitch modulation-input trim control fully left; the repeating C-notes return. But
move it one step to the right and you'll start hearing pitch changes again, albeit of a fractional nature. (You
might have to adjust your mouse response here, under General Preferences, to be able to easily increment
parameters a step at a time. My Mouse Knob Range is set to Very Precise.) The first usable trim value is
three. If the root note playing Subtractor is C, a repeating pattern made up of C, C-sharp, D, D-sharp and
back down again is produced. The next useful value is six, offering C, D, E, F-sharp. Other good trim values
include: nine (C, E-flat, F-sharp, A); 10 (C, E-flat, G, B-flat); 11 (C, E, G, B); 12 (C, E, A-flat C); 13 (C, E, A, Csharp); and 21 (C, G, D, A).
Several of these might be a bit atonal or offer a rather whole-tone feel, but experiment. Some of the trim values
I haven't mentioned nearly work — for example, five nearly produces C, D, E-flat, F, and seven nearly produces
C, D, F, G. Some of the intervals produced, especially using trim parameter values not quoted, aren't exactly
even-tempered — and many are downright cranky! But when the main examples are going fast, no-one will
notice. Besides, the 'bad' notes in the good examples are only a few cents off with regard to equal
temperament. If anything, you'll simply get a little extra texture when these are bubbling in the background.
Let's now change our repeating C-note pattern into more of a riff. The pictured
example shows a simple ascending note run with eight steps each for C, D, F
and G. The result isn't, of course, a real arpeggiation, though the insistent 16note feel is similar: we're not breaking up a chord in any way, and without a little
forethought the notes produced will be rather unpredictable. However, even the
unpredictability can be a good thing, turning this Reason rack into more of an
algorithmic composition tool.
More complexity can be produced by manipulating the step resolution of the
Matrix and the Malström mod, plus the amp envelope release on the attached
Subtractor. Slow things down so that the up/down pattern doesn't finish before The fake timestretching effect
a Matrix note changes, which would happen with a Matrix step resolution of 1/4 illustrated in Reason.
and a Malström mod rate of 4/4, and new, unexpected patterns emerge. Play
with Matrix pattern lengths and vary the pattern of note-on events (not to mention note pitches) too.
You can also experiment with the other stepped modulator curves on the Malström. Options 21-27 produce
similarly predictable results, but I haven't got the space here to tabulate the notes produced. And don't forget
that NN19 has an oscillator-pitch modulation input that functions in just the same way as Subtractor's.
I tend to save two- or four-bar sections of the audio produced by this fake arpeggio technique, treat them in
Recycle and use the result to add extra textures to existing tracks, or even start off entirely new tracks.
Stretching A Point
You might be wondering why we're using NN19 for this technique, rather than the more sophisticated NNXT. Well, it's because NNXT doesn't offer
such direct access to its Sample Start parameter. However, velocity can be assigned to Sample Start in NNXT as a substitute for the technique
described above: in the Velocity section of the front panel, turn the 'S Start' knob fully right. Load a sample, insert as many 64th-note 'C's as you need,
then view the velocity track in the sequencer Edit View and use the line tool to draw a straight velocity curve from the lower corner of the display to
the top, ending at the right loop marker. When you play back, the result is the same. Making this assignment will compromise any other, more standard
velocity assignment (such as velocity to amplitude) you may wish to use, but aside from that it's a valid alternative, if you prefer to use NNXT.
Though not as quick or flexible as a genuine timestretching tool, this technique can be expanded upon. Use a coarser resolution, such as 16th or
quarter notes, to create a more choppy effect. Erase some notes in the stream while leaving the controller curve intact. And if you use the velocity-tosample start option (also achievable in NN19), it'll be possible to use the Change Events process (under the Edit menu) to 'Alter Notes'. This rearranges
the notes according to a percentage weighting, normally creating new musical material. In this case it will simply rearrange loads of 'C's, but the
rearranged velocity levels mean that whatever sample is loaded into the NN19 or NNXT will be played back in an eccentric manner, often generating
strange or disturbing sound clusters, especially when 'stretching' speech. Playing with the amp envelope — start and release times especially — can
also affect the end result, often eliminating clicks and making rearranged speech almost make sense!
Time For A Change
18 / 92
Arpeggiators & Cool Techniques
I'd like now to share with you a technique that's been described as 'timestretching'. I can't take credit for it, and
although it's not really timestretching, it's still interesting. If you hunt around on Reasonstation
(, you'll find more discussions on the topic, plus a number of example songs, and
there's also a discussion at the Reason users' community on LiveJournal (
community/reason_users/). While the effect produced is sonically similar to a not-very-sophisticated
timestretch algorithm slicing up a sample really slowly, you don't have much control over it. However, it's still fun
and may remind you of a granular synth effect. The technique starts with an NN19 sample player.
Load a sample, which would ideally be, for a first test, some speech. (Try anything you like later!)
In the sequencer Edit View, draw lots of consecutive 64th notes at C3, the default note that triggers new
samples loaded into NN19. This sounds like an irritating, finicky job, and it is. Reason's maximum on-screen
resolution is 32nd notes, so even though the Snap value can be set to 1/64, you don't have a grid to work to.
No problem: still enable the Snap to Grid button (the magnet in the sequencer toolbar), and set Snap value to
1/64 (with the pop-up to the left of the button). Use the pencil tool to draw in one note at the beginning of the
first bar. Highlight it, copy it (using Apple/Control + C), and paste it as many times as needed (Apple/Control +
V). This key combination pastes the copied note immediately after the previous one; hold down the keys and
the notes will appear automatically. Let go when there's enough. But how many is enough? I tried a number of
options here, but if you've got a short-ish sample it works to set your left loop marker to the start of the song
and the right to the start of bar five and ensure that you fill the space with 64th-note 'C's.
In the Edit view, enable the controller lane for the Sample Start parameter (Option/Alt-click NN19's Sample
Start parameter knob). Drag and zoom this lane so you can see it quite large, and select the Line Tool (the
line icon between the eraser and magnifying glass). Click and hold at at the lower left of the display, and draw
a line right up to the top of the display, finishing at the right loop point.
Now hit play on the transport bar. You'll hear a granulated, stretched version of the sample lasting four bars.
This really neat trick synchronises controller changes for Sample Start with note-on events. You can make
them play out faster or slower by drawing the Sample Start curve for fewer or more bars (ensuring there are
enough note-ons, of course). Unfortunately, the effect can't really be synchronised to a host track, so it's strictly
a special effect — but one that really adds something to a track when used discreetly.
Quick Tips
Don't forget that the Spider Audio device's splitter circuit can just as easily split two mono signals independently as it can split a single stereo signal.
When triggering sound effect or impressionistic samples in NN19, you don't even need your MIDI keyboard: Alt-clicking the little on-screen keyboard in
NN19 (and NNXT) triggers them for you.
Remember that you can 'Export Loop' — the section of song playing between the left and right locators — and that the loop can then be re-imported
into NN19 or NNXT. If it has definite rhythm, the loop won't change tempo if you alter the song's tempo, but this can be a quick way of re-using any
atmospheric or extremely effected material that you might create while noodling with the software.
Here's a quick way to create bouncing stereo delays. Simply route the left and right jacks of a Remix aux send — which are in stereo since v2.5 —
each to a separate DDL1 digital delay. Route a mono output from each DDL1 to the left and right connections of the aux's return. Bingo: no-pain stereo
delays! Almost any pair of timed delay values (which can be selected with the DDL1s set to 'Steps' mode) can produce an interesting effect.
It's worth remembering that the reverse reverb algorithm available on the RV7000 reverb device doesn't 'fake it': the incoming audio is sampled and
played back in reverse, leading in to the original audio played the right way round. Thus a true reverse reverb effect, with up to 4000ms reverb time,
can be produced. However, you need to make sure that the sound being reversed starts early in your track, by the same amount of time that the
reverse effect takes. This ensures that the orginal sound occurs at the desired point in time, an effect that's easier to achieve using the algorithm's
tempo sync option.
Published in SOS January 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
19 / 92
Reasons to be cheerful: v3
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reasons to be cheerful: v3
Reason Notes
Published in SOS February 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
Coming Attractions
Master Plan
Before You Ask...
(Re)Fill 'Er Up
There Will Be A Long Delay
Version 3 of Reason is officially on the way, adding
some high-spec new devices and improved
operational features.
Derek Johnson
It's been buzzing for a while, but the big news this month is the official announcement by Propellerhead of
Reason V3. There's no definite release date as yet, since the software is still in beta-testing (as I write). But, as
with the last couple of upgrades, Propellerhead have been punting for beta-testers via their web site, so that
some of the user base will have a chance to contribute to the final product. In fact, it was largely the call for
beta-testers that alerted users to the fact that something might be on the way!
Coming Attractions
Many of you may know that, before its original release, Reason was meant to be more of a live performance
tool than it turned out to be, and indeed a handful of functions in the program are left over from those plans.
With the new Combinator device, Reason moves back to its performance roots by allowing as many synth,
sampler and effects devices as you like to be joined together and to work as one single performance
instrument — just like a workstation synth. Combinator even lets you integrate Matrix pattern sequencers and
Redrums into the resulting 'Combi' patch. Once saved, a Combinator patch can be recalled with all chosen
devices loaded instantly and the signal path intact. A Combi could even consist of just effects — its back panel
offers interface jacks that let you use Combinator as a single giant effects processor
Devices can be layered, split across MIDI key ranges and set to respond to velocity splits, and ease of use is
improved by a large clear display window. The Combinator device even offers a handful of global assignable
knobs and buttons, to let you tweak multiple parameters across several devices in a Combi.
Master Plan
One area in which many Reason users show considerable ingenuity is mastering — audio sweetening a
Reason mix to sound as fat, vibrant and exciting as possible, without resorting to external hardware or software
processing. The tools are there to do the the job in v2.5, but Propellerhead have just made it a whole lot easier,
with the MClass suite of 'pro level' signal-processing tools.
First up, the MClass Equalizer offers high and low shelving bands, two
parametric bands and a low-cut filter. Great graphic feedback of EQ curves is
provided by a large display, and the modelled circuitry is designed to offer you
the tools to add 'bottom' or 'zing' in as musical a manner as possible.
Then there's the Stereo Imager, which is a bit of a surprise. Not only does it
provide control over the stereo width of a Reason mix, it does it over high- and
low-frequency bands. The Compressor in the suite is several levels above the
original COMP01. It's a single-band device (though multi-band configurations
should be easy to set up), complete with side-chain access to allow ducking
The new Combinator turns
and de-essing to be undertaken, and a smooth 'soft-knee' operation mode.
Reason V3 into a super
performance synth. Any device
in the Reason rack can be
Finally, the Maximizer works with perceived volume, aiming to add punch to
combined, layered and
your mix without unwanted artifacts. Reason is a digital system, so the
controlled from one handy
Maximizer's best trick — a look-ahead option — should be no surprise.
However, this one option should allow you to 'brick-wall' the level of your mixes
without distortion, since it's checking incoming level peaks before they actually happen! Want a more 'round'
sound to your maximized mix? Enable the soft-clip section.
I haven't even covered all the V3 features yet — it also adds 'out of the box' integration with external MIDI
controllers, a new free-text browser for digging around your sound bank, and a new, even larger factory sound
bank. There's another new device, too: the Micromix stereo line mixer, for sub-mixing in or out of a Combinator
Combi. This is a simple device, but not as simple as a Spider Audio. Six input channels have level, pan, mute
and solo controls, plus one aux send.
In addition, it'll now be possible to record automation on multiple tracks, there are new mute/solo options on the
sequencer, and sample loading is to become much faster. About the only new 'feature' that might be sad to
hear (for Mac users, anyway) is that, based on the preliminary spec for Reason v3, it would appear that the
software will no longer run under Mac OS 9. There, that's your reason to upgrade!
Visit to hear some audio demos and read about upgrade paths. This will be a
chargeable upgrade for existing users, costing 99 Euros/US$129, or about £69. However, the list price of
Reason 2.5 has recently been cut by that amount.
Before You Ask...
I'll save you the trouble of reading the main text about the new features of Reason V3 again. On the basis of information released so far, audio
recording hasn't been added to the Reason studio. Propellerhead seem quite steadfast on this issue, though surely it must come eventually. Even synth
workstations, which Combinator is taking a pop at with its super-performance setup capabilities, are moving more in the direction of adding audio
tracks alongside synthesis and sampling. I don't know what other Reason users feel is missing, but so much effort is expended in trying to create realtime arpeggiation that I'd also like to think that the Props will add a proper arpeggiator device at some point.
(Re)Fill 'Er Up
The reliable Reasonfreaks team ( have just released a top free Reason Refill, dubbed
RF01. It's specifically for the NNXT advanced sampler and consists of a 10MB collection of multisampled raw
synth waveforms and ready-made patches. The waveforms, which play back in high-quality 24-bit, seem to
derive from soft synths rather than hardware originals, but that certainly doesn't negate the hard work that's
gone into the set.
First of all, audition the supplied patch collection: browse through them all, or
have a look at the sets broken down into themes. These include pads, bass,
leads, organs, rhythmic and noise FX. Then move onto the folder labelled
'NNXT Oscs'. Here you'll find the tidily multisampled raw oscillators, including
20 / 92
Reasons to be cheerful: v3
many layered for pulse-width and phasey effects. There are several of each
sawtooth, square, triangle and sine-wave patches, with two-oscillator varieties
simulated again by layering.
The four new pro-spec devices
that make up the MClass
mastering suite: serious EQ,
compression, stereo image
manipulation and level
Creating your own patches involves choosing an NNXT 'Osc' patch that most
closely represents the oscillator sound you want, then tweaking NNXT
parameters, taking advantage of this device's very powerful synthesis engine.
Should you want to use a combination of 'oscillators' that isn't provided in a
preset, you can simply open two NNXTs and load one of the patches you want to merge into each device. Now
highlight all the samples in one NNXT patch, copy them, and paste them into the second NNXT. The new
patch (which you should make sure to save immediately, under a new name) will consist of both sets of
It's then possible to use NNXT's Grouping function to apply different synth parameters to each 'oscillator', if
desired. If the respective waveforms aren't already grouped automatically, highlight the ones that should make
up each group, using 'Group Selected Zones' under the Edit Menu. (To select a group, click in the slim column
to the left of the waveform list; this will highlight all the grouped waveforms.) Any synth-parameter tweaks will
now apply to all the grouped waveforms. (Don't forget NNXT's global offset parameter controls: they can
provide you with quick tweaks for any patch you're currently editing.) Reasonfreaks even provide a handy little
PDF that goes into more detail about creating patches from scratch with their raw material.
This is a very worthy download, covering most analogue synthesis basics in a way that's different from
Reason's own Subtractor synth. In total, the set offers 21 waveform types, 80 NNXT oscillator patches, 250
further patches, and 17 Reason Song templates. The last adds effects and/or Matrix pattern sequencers to
patches from the Refill, to give you some help in exploring the collection's potential. The 'freaks are also
encouraging the Reason community to create patches with this new Refill, and post them at the site. In fact,
there's already a download for use with this Refill — the bottom-heavy Xplosive Bass. Not bad for nothing: all
you have to do is register! The collection can also be downloaded from Propellerhead's site, but again,
downloads are for registered users only.
There Will Be A Long Delay
I love playing with delays, tempo-sync'd or otherwise. Delay, or echo, seems to
me to be the quintessential electronic music effect, and Reason, with its DDL1
and the echo/delay algorithm options in the RV7000 advanced reverb, is a
prime environment for working with delay effects. In fact, it was playing with the
RV7000's multitap delay algorithm that reminded me that a sort of multitap
delay can be created with multiple DDL1s. Simply patch, for the sake of
example, an aux send out from a Remix to one DDL1 and pass that DDL1's
output to the input of a second DDL1, the second's output to a third's input, and
so on for as many delay taps as you would like. You could stop here: set each
delay's feedback to '0', ensuring it has a completely wet output, whack the delay
time up to maximum (2000ms) and enjoy some really long, Frippertronic-like
delays. Even the RV7000 delays max out at 2000ms, so a way to access even
longer delays is welcome. (Note that the feedback parameters on any devices
in the chain won't work in the same way as if the long delay were produced by a
single device.)
A simple multitap delay setup.
The DDL1s are linked via the
left ins and left outs, with their
right outs patched to Remix
input channels, to allow each
tap to be panned and treated
independently. Incidentally, the
NNXT has a patch from the
Alternatively, you could take the next step, which is a bit fiddly but worth it.
Reasonfreaks RF01 Refill,
DDL1 is essentially mono, so repatching its right audio output to a Remix input mentioned in the main text,
channel has no effect on what it produces. However, doing this does give us
complete control over the level, pan, EQ and individual effects processing for
each of our 'taps'. The last DDL1 in the chain will still output a delay at the maximum time of all linked delay
devices. The RV7000's multitap algorithm does offer some of the same kind of control, but the final effect is not
quite the same.
Work with tempo-sync'd delays instead of absolute time and you'll find some excellent rhythmic material that
can't be replicated in any other way coming from your Reason rack . Use long or short delays, as befits your
current track, and for more variety add an RV7000 to the chain, using its own multitap delay or echo algorithms
to spice up the delay mix (why not try the reverse algorithm to add some real bizarreness?). Settings such as
diffusion, which add a nice, reverb-like fuzziness to delay and echo taps, aren't available on the DDL1, and can
help take some of the dryness from a delay-only effect chain — although dryness, of course, may be entirely
what you're after!
Published in SOS February 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
21 / 92
Reason: RV7000 Advanced Reverb
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason: RV7000 Advanced Reverb
Reason Notes
Published in SOS March 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
Pre-delay Hint
O, Delay
Quick Tips
Put It In Reverse
Time, Please...
This month we present a closer look at the RV7000
Advanced Reverb, plus a handful of effect-related
hints and tips.
Derek Johnson
The RV7000 Advanced Reverb is an essential part of the Reason rack, adding a sophisticated ambience to
our collection of all-electronic devices. Its algorithm list includes some great true-stereo simulations of typical
spaces, but the device goes further than that. Non-reverb algorithms are provided, as is the wherewithal to
push the realistic reverb types to creative extremes. It all adds up to an excellent tool for your Reason sounddesign arsenal.
Pre-delay Hint
The Pre-delay setting in the RV7000's standard reverb algorithms would normally be used to maintain the clarity of the audio being processed and
reduce any tendency for it to be 'swamped' by the effect. For example, a lead vocal (suitably chopped, and loaded into a Reason sample device) being
treated with reverb will nearly always benefit from around 70-100ms of Pre-delay. This helps preserve the definition of the vocal, making it sound more
'forward' than if Pre-delay were not used, even if the reverb process is quite extreme.
O, Delay
As an example, take any of the standard reverb algorithms, set the Size parameter to minimum, set the Decay
parameter on the top panel to minimum, and perhaps also set Diffusion, if provided, to minimum (or
maximum!). Play with the Pre-delay settings, where available. The result is a simple delay effect, but with a
sense of space on the single tap, almost like having a rhythmic reverb.
The Small Space algorithm is immediately rewarding: its smallest Size setting
results in a severe comb-filtering effect that instantly produces a resonant fixed
flange. The Room Shape and Wall Irregularity parameters provide different
colours, and Mod Rate and Depth parameters push the effect more towards a
traditional flange — if a real space did this, you'd probably be on drugs! The
Pre-delay only goes up to 250ms (an eighth note if your song's tempo is
120bpm), but that's enough to provide useful delays in many circumstances.
(See the 'Time, Please' box for hints on working out sync'd delay times, or set
by ear, like the old days!)
Here, the Arena algorithm —
which would ordinarily produce
a very long reverb decay — is
providing a rhythmic delay
pattern. Increasing the Decay
(top panel) and Diffusion
parameter values blurs the
distinct delays but the rhythmic
Other algorithms that offer Pre-delay also have a maximum value for this
parameter of 250ms, but 'Arena' is a different case. Left, right and mono delays feel remains.
are part of this algorithm, with a maximum value of 1000ms each (and no tempo-sync option). There's no
feedback setting, as would be found on a standard delay, but the three taps have enough flexibility to let you
create some interesting rhythmic effects. Increase the Size and Decay parameter on this — or any other reverb
algorithm being used more for delay — and a ghostly, delayed 'triggered sample' effect is created. Add gating
(this is enabled with the dedicated button in the small upper panel, but edited in a separate window on the
drop-down programmer) and an urgent, stuttering feel is added. Play with the gate's Hold and Release
parameters to enhance this.
We touched briefly on the RV7000's multitap delay and echo algorithms last month. The latter at first appears
to be a pure delay effect, but Diffusion and Spread parameters add a bloom to the individual taps that can be
increased to produce a slightly out-of-control reverb with rhythmic pulsing. Echo has a tempo-sync option for
the echo taps alone, plus a non-sync'able 250ms Pre-delay. Use the latter parameter to add an off-kilter feel to
the otherwise in-tempo echoes. Subtle or obvious polyrhythms can be produced when applying this effect to
percussion parts.
Also try not using the Tempo Sync option, keeping the Spread parameter very low and the Decay parameter at
a medium to high level. This produces a boingy, retro tape-head delay effect that's well worth having. The
antique effect can be enhanced by simulating the dulling effect of worn heads with the global HF Damp
parameter in the top panel.
Quick Tips
It's possible to choose an RV7000 algorithm, edit all parameters visible in the remote programmer, change to another algorithm and make some more
edits, and then return to the earlier algorithm and find all the original changes intact. This range of different edits even survives the saving of a song or
an RV7000 patch: reload a song or patch, choose different algorithms, and the settings you made for those algorithms will be intact. The exception is
the three parameters — Decay, HF Damp and Hi EQ — in the main panel: any settings made here remain the same no matter which algorithm has been
Don't forget that RV7000 edit parameters can be automated or assigned to external MIDI controllers — even the algorithm-selection parameter. What's
more, if you do automate algorithm changes, all the parameters allied to the current algorithm can also be automated: the knob to parameter
assignments aren't fixed. Automating RV7000 parameter changes can lead to a very busy controller lane in the sequencer edit mode, but offers
amazing potential for highly creative use of reverb effects. Do be aware, however, that changing algorithms, and some parameters, can cause clicks;
this is especially the case with reverb algorithms that have long decays.
There might be times when you'd like to dedicate an instance of the RV7000 to a single effect (such as tempo-sync'd multi-tap delays on a lead synth
patch) while still having another RV7000 as a main reverb processor. Remember to tweak the wet/dry balance control of the dedicated 'single-effect'
RV7000 so that you hear a mix of dry and treated audio.
Put It In Reverse
I mentioned in a 'quick tip' in this column a couple of months ago that the RV7000's reverse reverb algorithm
doesn't fake its reverse effect in the way that some budget digital effects processors do, and that it's worth
exploring for just this reason. In response to a reader query, I'll just explain in a little more depth how to achieve
the effect I was alluding to.
To produce the reverse effect, the RV7000 samples the input audio, creates a
reverb effect, reverses it, then plays it back with the original audio at the end of
the reverse 'tail'. The result is pretty close to that produced by playing a tape
backwards. It's a bit processor-hungry, and can be strange to work with,
conceptually, at first, but in truth it's logical. To use the effect sensibly, you may
find that you need to 'time-slip' any audio or sequenced performances being
effected, so that the replayed sampled audio appears in the right temporal
location. Luckily, this is made easy courtesy of the algorithm's Tempo Sync
parameter. Let's illustrate with an example.
In this simple example, a
cymbal hit appears on beat one
of bar four in the sequencer
edit window. The note that it
triggers is processed by a long
22 / 92
Reason: RV7000 Advanced Reverb
Say you'd like to create a dramatic reverse cymbal effect. First of all, insert a
MIDI event in a sequencer track, routed to a Redrum, that triggers a cymbal
sound in that kit. Route the individual output for that sound to the input of an
RV7000. Choose the reverse algorithm, turn on Tempo Sync and select a
'length' value of 16/16 (for a full 4/4 bar). It's also a good idea to set the global
Decay parameter to a high (or full) value, so that the process produces a really
long reverse fade-in effect. Pressing Play now would cause the cymbal reverse
effect to start with the MIDI note-on event, the actual cymbal sound appearing
one full bar later. That problem is fixed by simply dragging the note-on back one
bar. Now the reverse effect will still start with the note-on, but the original sound
will appear exactly where you want to hear it.
triggers is processed by a long
reverse reverb. Tempo Sync is
on, with a length value of
16/16, or one full 4/4 bar. As a
result, the dramatic reverse
effect starts on beat one of bar
four and gradually builds, with
the cymbal crash finally
appearing on bar one, beat
one of this four-bar loop. Note
that because this is a reverse
reverb algorithm, the 'decay'
parameter controls the length
of the perceived fade-in of the
You may find it inconvenient to tie up an RV7000 just for this effect, perhaps
once or twice in a song. The solution is to set up the devices required to create
the reverse effect, mute all else in the rack, set up a loop for the length of the effect and use 'Export Loop As
Audio File' from the File Menu. (Maybe create a folder just for this purpose, so that you don't lose the audio file
later!) The file can then be imported into an NN19 sampler, since it'll be an AIFF or WAV. Set the NN19 to
fixed pitch, by disabling Keyboard Tracking (with the button just above the Amp Envelope controls). Assign the
track that had the original cymbal hit in it to the new NN19, which will now trigger the sample. It's exactly the
right length to fade in with the original sound appearing on the correct beat, as with the 'live' RV7000 example,
and you get the effect you want with lower CPU demands.
Time, Please...
When you're working with delays that have no specific tempo-sync option, sync is still possible but you
need to know the right delay time to produce a given note length at the current tempo. The formula is
straightforward: 60000 divided by tempo, multiplied by 0.5 gives you the time in milliseconds to produce an
eighth-note delay. Double or halve that to get other note/delay values, or add half to get a dotted value.
Triplets are trickier: multiplying the 60000/tempo figure by 0.1666 produces a reasonably accurate value for
a 16th-note triplet.
But why not make life easy on yourself with a specialised calculator? There are plenty available, but a
favourite of mine is at, from JC Lemay (also available in
French). It's free, uses Java, and loads into any web browser on Mac or PC. Just key in a tempo and a
chart of delay-time values for 12 different note lengths (including dotted and triplet examples) is displayed.
The calculator is actually a suite of 11 useful tools, offering various handy sample- and tempo-related
calculations for accurate timestretching, pitch-shifting and so on.
JC Lemay's calculation suite features a
rather useful delay calculator.
Published in SOS March 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
23 / 92
Reason: Getting More Out Of v2.5
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason: Getting More Out Of v2.5
Reason Notes
Published in SOS April 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
V3 On Tour
Export Duty
Going Loopy
Some Observations
Quick Tips
We've got a lot to look forward to with the
imminent release of Reason v3, but there's still a
world of exploration available in v2.5 — so don't
stop creating while you're waiting.
Derek Johnson
While there won't be many Reason users who don't have additional software for working with sound — sample
editors or even Propellerhead's own Recycle — it's nice to know that for some jobs you don't need to move
outside the Reason environment. For example, I often create really big sounds with multiple devices in
Reason, sample the result and load the samples back into NN19 or NNXT — and I don't need any extra
My method is to create the necessary layers by assigning patches to multiple
devices, then trigger them all from one Matrix pattern sequencer, via a Spider
CV splitter. The example illustrated on the left features two Subtractors and one
Malström. Each has a pad-like sound from the factory sound bank loaded into
it. A Matrix has its gate and CV outs split to each equivalent input via the two
splitter circuits of a Spider CV. Try it: write some notes into Matrix, and all three
devices will sound. If you'd like a larger 'layer', remember that the output of the
Spider CV can itself be split by another Spider CV, with no delays of any kind.
The next step is to work out how long each sound takes to decay — it might be
A front view of the initial 'layer' I
really fast for a layered bass sound, or a number of seconds for a pad or
something more abstract. Then decide how many samples you'd like to make. set up. Unfortunately, Reason
Will it just be a number of C-notes over three or four octaves, or a sample every is too big to show this well!
fifth, or would you prefer to have one sample per semitone — or something in
between? Be aware at this point that you probably won't be able to loop the
final result, so too few samples might result in releases cut short if they have to
be played over too large a key range. For most sounds, even those with
obvious intrinsic movement, the most I usually need is one sample every minor
third — C, E-flat, F-sharp, A, C, and so on. When NNXT automatically creates
key-range zones for each sample, a few steps from now, the most they'll be
shifted is one semitone up or down.
However you do it, set the notes you want to be triggered by Matrix. This device
should be set on a low resolution — half notes — and the 'pattern' should be as The back panel view, showing
long as you need to create the whole multisample. You might even need two or the Matrix linked to three
synths via a Spider CV.
more patterns (to be chained on playback) if you're creating something more
detailed. Play with tempo, too: you want to create Matrix events that trigger the
desired notes and let them decay to silence before the next note is triggered.
The next step is to create small playback loops in the main sequencer — a 16th-note in a 4/4 time signature is
the smallest achievable in Reason. Each loop needs to be of the right length to play back just one note of the
pattern you've just written in the Matrix. The example illustrated required a tempo of 60bpm, and each note took
two 4/4 bars to decay. One 32-step Matrix pattern gave me enough space for eight samples, which suited the
finished NNXT patch just fine. From the File menu, select 'Export Loop As Audio File', give the 'loop' a
meaningful name, and save it somewhere you can retrieve it easily. Do the same for the rest of the note
V3 On Tour
There's still no firm date for the release of Reason v3 yet, but you can bet the time is close: UK distributors M-Audio have announced an end-of-March
tour showcasing the software. This is a 'stop press', so you'll have to get your skates on. But if you can make it to one of these events, you'll see ace
demo guy James Bernard, who showed the software at the recent LA NAMM show, doing his thing with v3. As well as covering all the new features,
James will be giving away one copy of the new version at each venue.
Friday, March 18, 2.30-8pm, Sound Control, Virgin Megastore, Tottenham Court Road, London.
Saturday, March 19, 2.30-7pm, Sound Control, Birmingham.
Monday, March 21, 2.30-7pm, Sound Control, Glasgow.
Tuesday, March 22 2.30-7pm, Absolute Music Solutions, Poole.
Export Duty
Once you've exported all the notes you need, open a sample device. For an
instrument patch, the best bet is NNXT: navigate its file browser to the location
where the exports are saved, highlight them all and load them en masse. Leave
the samples all highlighted and choose 'Set Root Notes From Pitch Detection'
from the Edit menu, swiftly followed by 'Automap Zones'. Bingo: instant
multisample correctly pitched and split across the keyboard.
The notes, a minor third apart,
which I used to create my
multisample. At this tempo and
resolution there are two bars
between each trigger.
It won't often be the case that you'll be able to loop these samples. You may
also wonder about effective use of the envelope generators, and what happens when you want to hold a note
for a long time. The answer is to create notes that are quite long and 'envelope them down'. Other
compromises include the fact that all samples exported will be in stereo, though this means that your layered
devices can be panned before export.
Going Loopy
It is just about possible to loop a raw sample within NNXT, but it requires nerves of steel. Tell NNXT to 'Select Zones via MIDI', and play the sample to
be looped; this will select it, and its specific parameters, automatically. Now set the Play Mode knob to FW-Loop (but bear in mind that that the FW-BW
option can help disguise clicks in this rough-and-ready example), and use the Loop Start and Loop End knobs to fine-tune the loop. These knobs are
calibrated as a percentage of the sample length, with single decimal-point accuracy, though the tool tip (if activated) provides you with a 'frame'
accurate (sample accurate) readout. In the circumstances, this is of academic interest! In its favour, the process provides audible feedback — you
hear changes as you dial them in while a note is held — but you have no real control over 'zero crossings' (loop points should be at zero crossings in
the sample to avoid clicks.) If the thought has occurred to anyone at Propellerhead, full-on loop editing in NNXT would be a nice upgrade for the future.
Some Observations
Effects can be part of your layered sample, but be wary of delays and reverb tails lasting longer than the sound
24 / 92
Reason: Getting More Out Of v2.5
you want: ideally, the whole sound, including effects, will decay naturally, to avoid producing unwanted artifacts
when the exported sample is reloaded into NNXT. Anything that adds to the perceived movement of a sound
may cause problems if you're planning to create a multisample with a smaller number of individual samples: for
example, delay and modulation effects, which could become obviously 'wrong' when shifted up or down by a
large amount, might be better left for adding to the finished patch.
If the final NNXT patch is too bright, tame it by using the filter cutoff frequency
as a glorified tone control. Take it down to about 100Hz (watch the tool tip
value), with the LP12 or LP24 characteristic. Leave resonance in its default
position. In the velocity-routing section, turn filter frequency (and level, while
you're at it) to about 60 or 70 percent. Using a soft touch on your controller
keyboard will now play the new patch quietly, and with a soft edge, but as you
play harder, the sound becomes louder and brighter as velocity opens up the
filter and increases level. Simple but effective.
In the current version 2.5 of Reason, layering multiple devices for real-time
The final NNXT patch. The
eight samples are Grouped
performance is possible, as is writing a part for the resulting layer in the
together, and NNXT has
sequencer, but there are compromises and a little bit of faffing involved.
Reason v3 will make this easier, with its fabulous Combinator 'device' (though automatically detected their
and split them across the
it's more of a new framework for other devices than a device itself). Practically pitch
keyboard range.
anything in the rack can be bunged into Combinator and the result addressed
as if it were a single device. However, this will soak up more CPU overhead. Likewise, creating sets of
multisamples from Subtractor and Malström patches and layering them in NNXT can also tax your CPU, so
the technique described above will still be valid even when v3 is released, as it uses fewer resources to
produce a similar result. Even with a powerful computer, anything that saves processing juice is a good thing,
especially when you're running Reason as part of a suite of other software
Quick Tips
In the main sequencer, editing individual velocities of the notes that all play at the same time in a chord seems to be impossible. Try to change one
velocity and all the others are changed with it. The solution is simple: highlight the note for which velocity is to be edited, hold the Shift key, and drag on
the velocity bar. Only the bar assigned to the highlighted note will be changed.
Sometimes the most obvious tricks pass us by: don't forget that highlighting MIDI data or grouped sections in the sequencer or edit views and Altdragging it to another track copies that material. Alt-dragging the data to an empty space in the sequencer actually creates a new track. You have to
make the device assignment yourself, and remember to change the track name to avoid confusion. This is a strategy you might wish to employ when
editing a performance recorded in real time, saving the original just in case you find yourself over-editing and wishing to regain access to the 'feel' of
the original.
Another tool that's easy to forget is the Change Events dialogue, available under the Edit menu when you're working in the main linear sequencer. Alter
Notes can help provide a little extra spice when you're working with looped material. Simply convert or copy any Redrum or Matrix pattern tracks to
notes (or copy patterns to tracks) under the Edit menu, Group the performance, if it's not already Grouped, and apply the Alter Notes routine. It's great
for providing variation in Redrum patterns and can occasionally help with melodic material. Similarly, using the Scale function (50 percent doubles the
length of the pattern and 200 percent halves it) can help change the feel of material you're already working with. Giving a copy of your main drum
pattern a half-tempo feel, to play alongside the original, is an easy way to add more interest to some patterns.
When inputting velocity-bar trigger steps in the Matrix, remember that you can accurately draw in the same level for each step by watching the little
line that appears when drawing the trigger. Just ensure that it matches the top level of the other triggers.
Published in SOS April 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
25 / 92
Reason: New Refills & Tips
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason: New Refills & Tips
Reason Notes
Published in SOS May 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
Re-release Refills
Going Flatpacking
Quick Tips
Bands Apart
This month, new Refills and tweaking techniques
for Reason v3, plus the usual haul of time-saving
Derek Johnson
Of course, this month's most important Reason news is that v3 is now available. A full review can be found
starting on page 32 of this issue, so have a glance over that to see if Propellerhead have been reading your
mind as to which new features to add.
The enhancements and additions, while not perhaps filling all the gaps in our favourite virtual studio, are pretty
impressive. Certainly, existing users should order their updates as soon as possible: the new mastering tools
and the awesome Combinator are well worth the expenditure. If you need any persuasion to make the
upgrade, or simply like the sound of a good deal, surf over to Propellerhead's web site and visit the shop
( Here, you'll not only be able to simply buy the £69 v3 update (which can alternatively
be sourced from your local hi-tech music dealer), but can also be tempted by one of five special bundles
featuring T-shirts and/or special deals on Recycle and the Drum Kits and Strings Refills.
Re-release Refills
Recently I've really enjoyed reviewing Sonik Synth 2, a co-production between sample masters Sonic Reality
and IK Multimedia (the Sampletank people). I found its wide range of raw samples very impressive. SR are
also behind the Sonic Refill range of Reason-compatible sound libraries, currently 20 strong, with various
compilations also in the catalogue. Two volumes of synths, plus rhythm section, retro keyboards, acoustic folk,
world percussion, pianos and organs, bass, symphonic and Mellotron are just some of the collections' themes.
It just so happens that SR have contributed patches and samples to the new
Reason v3 factory sound banks. They might also be first off the mark with new
third-party content for v3. Three volumes of the Sonic Refill collection (Retro
Keys, Vocal Textures and Mello-T) have been updated for v3, adding new
Combinator patches to already comprehensive libraries. The rest of the range
will be updated over the coming months. Interestingly, Sonic Reality v3 Refills A Sonic Reality combi patch
will be available from Propellerhead's on-line shop as keenly-priced downloads from the Retro Keys Refill
— but be warned that they're huge!
collection. Note the customised
skin applied to the
I've had a listen to the first three updated collections, and the quality and variety Combinator's controller panel.
is great. I'm sure I recognise some samples from Sonik Synth 2, but this is no
great problem: I liked a lot of that material, and having it available in the form of NNXT patches is very
convenient. The new Combis are also pretty good, stretching the raw material into more sophisticated shapes.
For example, the electric pianos and organs of Retro Keys are given a classic or modern sheen courtesy of
appropriate layering and effect processing. Check out or the web site of Sonic Reality
(and Propellerhead) UK distributor M-Audio ( for more details.
Going Flatpacking
Another developer quick off the v3 mark is Lapjockey. You may recall their first release, the Flatpack Refill
reviewed back in July 2003's Sound On Sound. This large and varied romp through the sounds of classic
synths, keyboards and drum machines scored with slick presentation and audio quality. Again, some of this
group's work can be found in the expanded v3 factory Refill, and a demo of the forthcoming Flatpack 2 is
included on v3's installation disks.
From the brief example supplied with Reason v3, Flatpack 2 is going to be a
good collection. Combinator is exploited to the max as a starting point for
some serious synthesis experimentation, and the name of the game seems to
be sound design in ways undreamed of with earlier versions of Reason. FP2
really goes for it in terms of analogue emulation and the creation of involving
Lapjockey follow up their
Flatpack Refill with Flatpack 2,
The team have developed several 'shells' that form the basis of their patches. a patch from which is illustrated
Kilburn powers classic synth recreations: raw synth waveforms have been
here. You'll notice the
sampled, and then a given instrument's signal path is emulated using Reason customised look for
devices in the Combinator. The Scope shell is dedicated to the generation of Combinator, a practice which
seems to be catching on...
"soundscapes, pads, textures and just about any kind of rich evolving sound
beds you can imagine". Boxmoor is the shell for the creation of Combinatorbased drum machines, and Rex Dex is a collection of REX-based loop players. Existing and new effects have
also been 'combined' into a new collection of patches.
Flatpack 2 is due soon, and I'm sure SOS will give it the once over when it's available. Until then, is worth a visit for more info.
Quick Tips
If you already have your v3, here's a little routine you might like to try. If you've used individual songs to collect chains of effects or other
interconnected devices, for re-use in other contexts, why not spend some down time turning the elements you want into combis? It's literally as simple
as highlighting the desired devices and choosing 'Combine' from the Edit menu (see main body). After sorting out the input and output audio routing, and
perhaps adding a mixer of some sort to merge any parallel audio streams that might be orphaned, name and save the result as a Combinator patch for
even easier access later. Of course, devices can be cut and pasted from the main rack into Combinator, if desired. A development of this idea is
highlighting an entire rack of devices and turning it into a combi. Having such 'template songs' as Combinator patches rather than normal songs could
save you some time. It's still possible to address individual devices in a combi from the main sequencer, and choosing 'Uncombine' from the Edit menu
removes the Combinator and places its combined devices in the main rack.
The new Micromix stereo line mixer in v3 has just one auxiliary send. If you'd ideally like to feed more than one effect from a single instance of
Micromix (and don't just want to add a Remix to whatever session or Combi you're using), use a Spider Audio to split the aux send to multiple effects.
You may not have individual control over each 'send', but it can be a good compromise for parallel processing.
A new test routine not previously available within Reason comes courtesy of the MClass Stereo Imager. Both its upper and lower bands have a range
of mono through normal stereo to very wide stereo. Set both bands to mono, place the device at the end of the audio chain, then use the device's
bypass/on switch to create an instant test for mono compatibility. Audio is heard in mono, or effectively in mono, in many environments, and it's useful
to have a handle on phase issues (which can be caused by excessive use of the Stereo Imager's extreme width settings) that can cause problems
for a mix when played in mono.
If you own Propellerhead's Recycle, you may already know that some annoying clicks can be quickly removed from slices that are not quite accurate
by simply adjusting the Attack and Decay parameters in the amplitude envelope. Doing so can save lots of time over doing it properly in Recycle (by
26 / 92
Reason: New Refills & Tips
moving slices markers individually). If you haven't done so and find a loop to be a bit clicky when loaded into Dr:Rex, the Attack and Decay parameters
can be used to eliminate clicks without changing the character of the loop too much. Having said that, changing the character of the loop may inspire
you to go further with your envelope experiments. A slightly soft attack allied to a fast decay can make a REX loop sound very different from the
original audio file. Tempo-sync'd LFO effects, routed to pan or filter cutoff, can also change the feel of a REX loop immensely.
A simple way to create a fat, phasey sound in a device such as Subtractor or Malström is to enable both oscillators and detune them. Adjust the finetuning control in a positive direction for one oscillator and in negative values for the other. Anything up to +7/-7 sounds rich and moving, but further
detuning will start to sound, well... out of tune! A similar idea could be used in Combinator, where two whole devices could be detuned against each
other in the same way. Panning detuned devices can also add to the space and width of the resulting stereo image.
Bands Apart
Reason v3's new MClass processor collection adds the kind of mastering tools that many have tried to
emulate with what was previously available in Reason. Without further ado, here's a technique for creating a
simple multi-band compressor (just two independent frequency bands) with MClass devices. You need a
Stereo Imager and two Compressors from the MClass family, plus a Micromix stereo line mixer. To create this
ganged processor, we'll be exploiting the Stereo Imager's 'separate output'. This device provides stereo width
enhancement on two bands, separated by a simple crossover-frequency control. It's equipped with a 'separate'
output, so that one band can be processed separately from the other.
Flip to the back panel, and route the main stereo out of the Stereo Imager to
the input of one Compressor. Then route the separate out to the other
Compressor's input. It's up to you whether the separate out is switched to
output the high or low band, though this choice has an impact on the next step
of the technique. (The illustration above has the low band chosen, though it's
not visible from the front!) While you're at the rear, route the outputs of each
Compressor to an input each on the Micromix.
Return to the front panel and enable the Stereo Imager's 'hi' solo switch (if
you've chosen the high band as your separate out, solo the 'lo' band on the
front panel). Set like this, both bands have their own independent outputs,
ready for compression. You might like to label your Compressors in some
useful manner — 'Low Band' and 'High Band', for example.
The final split-band compressor
chain. These devices could
easily be 'combined' as a
Combinator patch. I'd loaded a
piece of mixed digital audio into
the NN19 shown here to test
the chain's effectiveness.
That's pretty much all there is to it: the Stereo Imager's crossover-frequency
control determines the frequency range of each band. If it's set full left, everything below 100Hz will be treated
by the 'low band' Compressor and everything else by the 'high band'. You still have full control over the stereo
image of each band.
Moving the low band's width control towards mono can give the processed audio a more focused bottom end,
while the opposite (extreme width enhancement of the low-frequency range) creates a 'fuzzy' mix (low
frequencies don't have much directional information and make more impact if not over-processed by stereo
It would be possible to use a Spider Audio device to merge the two MClass Compressor outputs, using their
output gain controls to balance the frequency bands, but the Micromix facilitates a tidier setup, complete with
solo'ing and muting options that you can use while you're setting everything up.
Effect chains such as this are ideal for converting into a Combinator combi. Make this setup in Combinator to
start with, or highlight all the devices and select 'Combine' from the Edit menu. The result is an instant
Combinator patch.
Published in SOS May 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
27 / 92
Building Combinator Patches in Reason 3
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Building Combinator Patches in Reason 3
Published in SOS June 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
In this article:
12-step Program
Skin Deep
Patch Portability
Sequenced Synths & Effects
The most exciting addition to the new version of
Reason is arguably the Combinator device, which
greatly expands the flexibility and programming
potential of everything in the Reason rack. We
guide you through the creation of a Combinator
patch to get you started with this great new
Simon Price
In the build-up to the launch of Reason version 3.0 (see review in the last issue of
SOS), Propellerhead Software released pictures and basic information about the
update's largest single addition: the device known as the Combinator. The weeks
following saw the Props' web site host one of the most heated debates ever seen on
a music software web forum. Everyone understood the Combinator's functionality: it
allows collections of rack devices to be compacted into a single device. The problem
appears to have been a failure of imagination on the part of some forum participants
who couldn't see the huge new power and potential this single device brings to
Here's the basic idea: 'combined' devices are all moved inside the new Combinator
Just some of the many
'shell'. Audio connections are provided to and from the internal devices, and to and
of the Combinator,
from the 'outside' main rack environment. The Combinator appears as a single MIDI faces
courtesy of its 'skins'
destination and features a programmer for setting how the internal modules respond feature.
to MIDI, similar to the key-mapping within NNXT but for devices, not samples. Finally,
there are four knobs and four buttons on the Combinator's front panel that can be assigned to any of the
controls on the combined devices. This offers some previously difficult or impossible options, for example:
Producing complicated instrument patches like those found in 'workstation' synths, with sound sources, filters,
modulation and effects all present, and easy control over the key parameters via assignable knobs.
Creating layers and splits combining any instruments and samples.
Loading complex arrangements and live setups (synth combos, or even entire tracks) that are collapsed into
'Combis' for easy recall, without disturbing clock by changing songs.
Creating entirely new instruments and sequenced synths, Reaktor-style.
Making new effects devices using the Combinator inputs.
12-step Program
If you're still not seeing why this might be useful, let's go through an example of
how it works and build a simple layered pad patch. Devices can be added to
an existing Combinator, or selected objects can be collapsed into a new
Combinator using menu option Edit / Combine. In this tutorial you'll do the
former, starting with a fresh Combinator:
1. Create a new song and add a Remix 14:2 mixer. Select the mixer and
choose menu option Create / Combinator. A new Combinator will be added,
and if you hit Tab to flip the rack you'll see that the Combi Outputs are jacked
Start with a Remix and a
automatically into channel one of the mixer. If you have the sequencer window Combinator.
visible, you'll also see that a new track has been created for 'Combinator 1',
and your master keyboard will be ready to send MIDI to it. (See screen above.)
2. Now click within the narrow black area at the bottom of the Combinator. A
red bar will appear in this box, indicating that any object you add from the
Create menu will be put inside the Combinator. Add a Malström synth.
Reason will automatically cable the Malström's audio outputs to the
Combinator's 'From Devices' ports, and you will be able to play it from the
keyboard. From the Malström's patch selector window, open up the Reason
Factory Soundbank and load the Malström Pad patch called 'PHAD'.
3. Now we'll add another layer using another synth. Again, click in the empty
space within the Combinator, just below the Malström. Add a Subtractor, this
time from the Create menu.
Add a Malström for the first
layer in the sound.
4. There's a problem now: the audio output is not connected to the Combinator,
so you can't hear the Subtractor. This is where Reason 3's new Line Mixer
device comes in. Click on the Subtractor and choose Create / Line Mixer 6:2.
5. Now you can probably see what needs to happen. As shown in the middle
screen on the right, manually re-cable the devices so that both synths are
plugged into the Line Mixer and the Line Mixer's Master Out is connected to
the Combinator's 'From Devices' ports. You will now be able to play both synths
from the keyboard, something very difficult in previous versions of Reason. The
last part of this step is to load the Subtractor pad patch 'Cloud Chamber' from
After adding a Subtractor for
the Factory Sound Bank.
the second part of the layer,
6. Congratulations! You've built your first Combinator patch — but let's go
further. Select the Subtractor and choose menu option Create / UN16 Unison.
The Unison effect will automatically be cabled in line between the synth and the
Line Mixer, fattening the sound nicely to match the width of the Malström layer.
(See screen below right.)
create a Line Mixer and recable both the Subtractor and
the Malström so that their audio
outs are plugged into the Line
Mixer. Then connect the Line
Mixer's Master Out to the
28 / 92
Building Combinator Patches in Reason 3
7. The final building block for your patch will be a global filter. Click in the space
below the Line Mixer and choose Create / ECF42 Envelope Controlled Filter.
Reason will try to be helpful by connecting the filter to the aux send and return
ports of your Line Mixer, but you should re-cable it so that it sits between the
Line Mixer's Master Out and the Combinator's 'From Devices' inputs, as
shown in the first screen overleaf.
8. The next stage in building your patch is to add some hands-on control to the
Combinator's front panel. In this way you can eventually hide the internal
devices and treat the Combinator as a single instrument. In the second screen
overleaf I've hidden the devices and brought up the Programmer using the
Show Programmer/Show Devices buttons on the panel. On the left-hand side is Add a UN16 Unison device.
a list of all the devices contained within the patch. The small keyboard display
works in the same way as the key-mapping window on the NNXT sampler. Key
ranges and velocity zones can be set here for each sound-generating device. In
the case of this patch you can ignore it, as we want both synths to respond to all
keys and velocities.
9. To the right of the Programmer is the Modulation Routing section, where all
front-panel knob and button assignments are set. The most obvious thing to do
with this patch is program in some control over its master filter. Select Filter 1 in
the device list, then click in the routing grid to the right of Rotary 1 (see the third
screen on the left). Choose 'Frequency' from the pop-up list of available
parameters. Now try turning Rotary 1 on the Combinator's panel and you
should have direct control of the filter cutoff frequency. Assign Rotary 2 to
Resonance and rename the panel control labels by double-clicking on them
and typing in new names.
Add an ECF42 Envelope
Controlled Filter and re-cable it
between the Line Mixer's
Master Out and the
Combinator's 'From Devices'
inputs. The correct connections
are shown above.
10. A typical layered patch on a synth workstation would feature additional
controls to alter the sounds and effects. A good idea for this patch would be to
add control over how quickly the first pad layer comes in, because by default it
has quite a hard attack. This is a slightly more complex process, as the
Malström synth uses two oscillators with individual volume envelopes. Select
the Malström in the device list and give Rotary 3 a target of 'Oscillator A Attack'
in the routing grid. Now notice that the grid has two spare slots at the bottom.
These provide for situations where you want to assign the same controller to
more than one parameter on the same device. In the first spare slot, select
Rotary 3 in the Source column (see the fourth screen on the left). Now you can
add Oscillator B Attack to this knob.
Bringing up the Combinator's
programmer, to add some
front-panel controllability to the
11. You can add a further level of sophistication by editing the control ranges in
the routing grid. At the moment, Rotary 3 moves the Attack sliders on the
Malström across their whole ranges. However, you can tweak the Min and Max
Setting the Combinator's
columns in the routing grid so that the knob only operates within the most useful Rotary 1 to control filter cutoff
range of values. Try setting the Max fields to about 80, by clicking them and
dragging down with the mouse.
12. A good final step would be to use two of the front-panel buttons to switch
the two sound layers in and out. The easiest way to do this is to map buttons 1
and 2 to the mute buttons on channels one and two of the Line Mixer. When you
map controls to buttons, the Min and Max ranges reflect the number of states
the parameter you choose can be in. So, for example, the mixer's mute buttons
Setting Rotary 3 to control both
can be either '0' or '1' (off or on). Notice, in the first screen overleaf, that I've
A and Oscillator B
reversed the default Min/Max values so that the Combinator's buttons act like Oscillator
attack for the Malström.
'enable' buttons rather than mute switches.
Editing the value range for
Malström Oscillator Attack on
the Combinator programmer.
The finished patch. Two of the
Combinator's buttons have
been assigned to activate mute
on two channels of the Line
Mixer, so that the patch layers
can be switched in and out
A set of devices I use live and
for songwriting. Pre-Combinator
I could re-use them in other
songs but the process was a bit
laborious and time-consuming.
29 / 92
Building Combinator Patches in Reason 3
When the Combinator arrived I
was able to transform my live
chain of devices into a neat
'Combi' patch that can easily be
opened in different songs.
Because the Combinator lets
you combine all device types,
you can even work Matrix
pattern sequencing neatly into
patches. The 'Graintable
Sequencer Light' patch from
the Reason Factory Sound
Bank, designed to emulate how
certain Reaktor Library patches
work, is an example.
Skin Deep
One of the things that earned the Propellerhead brand a certain credibility was the fact that their Rebirth TB303-emulator software could be hacked
and modified by users to change the graphics and samples. Clearly with those days in mind, the Props have included a 'skins' feature in the
Combinator. In other words, you can import your own graphics to replace the plain light-grey front panel. Simply right-click on the Combinator (or
select it and go to the Edit Menu) and choose 'Select Backdrop'. If you fancy finishing off your unique Combinator patch with its own front-panel
design, you'll need to use a graphics program to make a backdrop 754x138 pixels in size, and export it as a JPEG. Once the backdrop has been
selected, it will be saved into the Combinator patch file, so the original JPEG won't need to be referenced next time you load the patch.
Patch Portability
The example above shows how it's possible to create new and previously impossible sounds from smaller
building blocks. This was one of the main intentions that Propellerheads had for the Combinator device, their
minds being on modern hardware synth workstation patches. However, this is by no means the only use for the
new device. For a start, it's much more flexible, as you can combine synths, drum machines, samplers and
matrix sequencers to create entirely new instrument concepts. Something else you can do is take complicated
rack arrangements that have grown in a Song and unify them into manageable chunks. Many Reason users will
have played around with patching CV and audio between different devices to get certain, often unexpected
results. It's quite common to copy these linked devices from one song to another, and the Combinator provides
a much tidier way to achieve this. It's particularly useful when you're trying to use Reason in a live setting. The
middle screen on the left shows a collection of devices, based around a Redrum drum machine, that I've used
in several songs and in live situations. There's quite a lot of patching, with the drum machine triggering a filter
envelope, a Subtractor used as an LFO for the filter, and some effects connected in-line. Previously, whenever
I've wanted to use this ensemble I've had to open a song containing it, select the objects and use the Copy
Devices command. Then I'd paste it into the new song, get it connected back into the mixer, and create a
sequencer track for it. Now I can just turn the whole thing into a Combinator patch for recall in any song. To do
this I just need to select the objects, choose Edit / Combine, and the whole thing is collapsed into one box and
can be saved as a patch. The bottom left screen shows the result. I've opened up the patch in a new song, and
even added a few control mappings to make a really useful live instrument.
Sequenced Synths & Effects
If you're like me, you've probably spent a lot of time sitting in front of Native Instruments' Reaktor, and wishing
you could take a year off to design and build something big and wonderful. Particularly appealing is Reaktor's
ability to make sequenced sound generators and innovative effects units. The Combinator opens up some
cool possibilities in these areas. Obviously, it doesn't approach Reaktor's scope and flexibility, but the fact that
the building blocks are much higher-level components than the nuts and bolts of a Reaktor ensemble means
that it's much easier to quickly build things that work. You can learn a lot by studying some of the Combinator
patches in the Factory Sound Library. The 'Pattern Based' folder contains patches that all feature some kind of
sequenced element — drum machine, matrix or tempo-synced LFO. You can set these running using the 'Run
Pattern Devices' button on the Combinator front panel, and they'll also kick in when you hit Play. Check out the
patch 'Graintable Sequencer Light', which was designed to emulate how certain Reaktor Library patches work.
See if you can unpick how it functions. Notice that it uses Matrix Pattern Sequencers to automate some
elements, and an LFO connected to the Combinator's own CV inputs to control others.
Published in SOS June 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
30 / 92
Audio Input for Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Audio Input for Reason
Hammer It Home
Patch It Up
Quick Tips
Reason Notes
Published in SOS June 2005
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Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
With some clever programming, an Italian
software house have created a program that claims
to add an audio input to Reason. We take a sneak
peek, as well as bringing you essential Reason
news and quick tips.
Derek Johnson
Showing a good mix of ingenuity and lateral thinking, Italian developers
Petertools have struck again. They've already made an impression with their
Live Set, which provides a performance biased front end, consisting of various
nifty MIDI manipulation tools, aimed at Rewire-equipped applications —
although Reason was the main platform for Live Set's development.
A couple of examples of how
users are customising the look
Now Petertools have taken a close look at the Rebirth Input Module (RIM)
of the Combinator, with the
device and think they may have half an answer to many a Reason user's major 'Select backdrop' option.
wish. How does the prospect of an audio input sound? That will be the aim of
the software currently known as Hammer.
Hammer It Home
Hammer is still in beta testing, but, once finished, should allow audio to be routed to Reason via full-duplex,
multi-client, ASIO-compatible audio cards. Don't get too excited: Reason still lacks any kind of target for
recording audio, so that remains a dream, but it certainly offers plenty of devices which can be used to treat
With the help of Hammer, external audio can be routed via the RIM to the Malström audio inputs, BV512
vocoder, Scream 4 distortion or any other effect (or effect-laden Combinator). Such treatment will always be a
live experience, since neither of Reason's bounce-to-disk audio options works in real time. It's also not
possible to Rewire Reason to another application while Hammer is in use (a side-effect of how Rewire works).
But there should be a way to record the finished output, to an external digital recorder or direct to your hard disk
via other software you might own.
It seems that latency is a bit of an issue when integrating the Hammer input with Reason — perhaps
unsurprisingly, given that the audio is passing through a number of stages that add increasing delays.
Petertools thus recommend the use of high-end audio cards that are capable of very low latency. Once the
software is released, the combination of Hammer and such a low-latency audio card will bring Reason more
definitely into an interactive performance environment. Keep track of developments at
Patch It Up
I'm sure we all appreciate the efforts of third-party commercial entities, and other Reason users, to provide
novel sonic material — and it's always interesting to see how other people, whether commercial or enthusiast,
push the platform. For example, the new Combinator device introduced with v3 is the main focus for any sound
designer working with Reason, and commercial developers and users are debuting their creations as I write. A
visit to the popular Reasonstation ( reveals an expanding range of Combis, some of
which just sound good and some of which showcase clever programming ideas, from creative use of velocity
splitting to unusual soundscapes and rhythmic experimentation.
The new examples also show off the graphic possibilities offered by the fact that the Combinator's 'skin' can be
customised with the 'Select backdrop' command. Users are often as creative in this department as they are in
the sonic field.
Quick Tips
Let's say you've loaded a Combinator with several Subtractors (or other devices), which you'd like to velocity switch and play as one superinstrument. In some circumstances, you might like to save a Matrix sequencer as part of the Combinator setup, and in order to play the multiple
devices from the one Matrix you might think it necessary to split the gates and CVs with Spider CV devices. Not at all: simply route the Gate and CV
outs of the Matrix in the Combinator to that Combinator's Gate and CV ins. The routing will be saved when you save the 'Combi', allowing you to
include a range of patterns in the patch.
Don't forget that Reason v3's new patch browser provides auditioning for all patch types. That includes effects devices, such as RV7000 and
Scream, that offer patch saving. Simply ensure that the device you're loading the patch into is highlighted in the sequencer track list, and that the MIDI In
icon is enabled.
Another v3 feature worth remembering is the Combinator's FX Bypass switch. This is especially useful when working with the MClass Combinator
type, or a custom Combi made up of effects. All effects can be muted with one click, allowing the dry or unprocessed mix to be checked in its raw
Be creative when assigning Combinator rotary knobs: one knob doesn't have to be assigned to the same parameter on every related device in a
Combinator. For example, if you've included a DDL1 delay, you could set its feedback parameter to change with the filter resonance parameter on a
couple of Subtractor synths, to make delay time increase dynamically with changes to the filter. Or set a knob to increase reverb time on an RV7 or
RV7000 and delay feedback on a DDL1, for instant dubby effects. If you find that high feedback or reverb decay time values get out of control in these
specific examples, remember that it's possible to cap the parameter range of knob assignments. In the case of DDL1 feedback, for example, set the
'max' value to around 100 instead of 127, and even when the rotary knob is tweaked full right, feedback will not reach its full level. The same technique
could be used in other potentially unstable circumstances, such as when using the rotary controllers to increase LFO depth or speed. (See the
workshop feature starting on page 244 for more on Combinator programming.)
Published in SOS June 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
31 / 92
Solving Reason problems With Combinator
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Solving Reason problems With Combinator
Reason Notes
In this article:
Trigger Happy
Two Words: It Works
Published in SOS July 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
The new Combinator device can solve Reason
problems you didn't even realise you had. We
elaborate, as well as offering news and tips.
Derek Johnson
I've recently been having a play with Obsession, one of eLab's themed loop collections based around a nicelyspecified eight-track REX-loop player plug-in. It offers a file-saving system lacking in Reason's own Dr:Rex,
and the way a user's own REX loops can be imported got me thinking how nice it would be to have a similar
dedicated multitimbral REX device inside Reason. The thought quickly developed to: "But I can make one!"
The answer is, quite simply, v3's Combinator. This excellent device has had a
lot of coverage, not least in last issue's Reason technique feature, which
offered a great crash course in sound design in Combinator format. But it's
worth being reminded of the simple jobs the Combinator can do that make our
lives much easier. One of these is adding patch saving and loading abilities to
devices that lack it.
Thus one Dr:Rex could be saved in its own Combi and be reloaded at any time
with its loop and parameter settings intact. Add another seven instances of
Dr:Rex to the Combi setup and you have a good approximation of what eLab's
loop player has to offer. However many Dr:Rex devices you put in the Combi,
you'll find it essential to include a mixer, either a Remix or a Micromix, to submix the massed audio to one stereo output; a mixer will also allow you to save
effects as part of the patch.
Six Dr:Rex devices in one
Combinator — all loops and
settings saved in a single
The great thing about the patch is that any front-panel changes made to any Dr:Rex included therein are saved
with the selected REX loops. A Combinator could also be used more simply to collect a couple of Dr:Rex
devices that each have a verse or chorus loop loaded, or two halves of one bit of music (I sometimes have to
split REX loops into two when the contain more slices than Dr:Rex can accommodate).
One last thing: each Dr:Rex still needs a sequencer track from which to be triggered.
Trigger Happy
If you use Dr:Rex a lot, try this: swap around sequencer tracks assigned to Dr:Rex devices so that one loop's triggers play another loop. Don't worry
if the loops have different lengths or feels. Then try triggering loops in several instances of Dr:Rex from one track's triggers. You might think that you'll
need to copy the triggers to multiple tracks — easy enough to do. But it may be quicker to load the target Dr:Rex devices into a Combinator and route
one trigger track to that device: all the Dr:Rex devices in the Combi will be triggered and play back. However you do this, you could well find
interesting textures, rhythms and tunes coming out of the existing material. Loading loops at random can be particularly fun!
Two Words: It Works
At the risk of repeating myself, I think it's worth adding a few comments to my report last month on Peter Tools'
still-beta Hammer audio input add-on for Reason. To recap, this PC-only widget hijacks Reason's Rebirth
Input Machine to Rewire external audio into the Reason rack. Once there, audio can be mixed, effected,
vocoded, and so on, alongside standard Reason sounds.
After playing with the beta for a little while, I'm still amazed that Hammer works.
It was easy to set up, has been crash-free during my tests (amazing enough for
some fully released software, let alone a beta), and provides a really useful tool
to the creative Reason user. As I noted last month, this is essentially a live or
real-time tool, since the host still lacks any way to record audio. But being able
to patch my bass through Scream 4 did confirm to me that I'd really like one of
these available as a plug-in inside another host! I/O delay aside, it sounded
great, and I'm looking forward to the final release of the software.
Incidentally, Peter Tools acknowledge the latency issues, which occur due to
the convoluted signal path from input hardware, through software and back out
again. They didn't seem quite as bad as I'd expected, though singing through Peter Tools' Hammer may not
be overdressed, but what an
Hammer would be a challenge!
excellent little addition it makes
Published in SOS July 2005
to the Reason user's arsenal!
Note the meter activity in the
Rebirth Input Machine and
Remix channel six: that's
external audio!
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
32 / 92
Building Combinator Effects In Reason 3
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Building Combinator Effects In Reason 3
In this article:
Special Effects
Further Projects
Connection Conventions
Published in SOS July 2005
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason's Combinator device isn't all about creating
new sound sources and storing live setups — it
also provides the way to build new and
imaginative effects units.
Simon Price
In last month's SOS we looked at how the new Combinator device works and
walked through the steps needed to create a new instrument patch. Basic
instrument patches in Combinator are typically layered sounds from Reason's
other synths and samplers, with dedicated effects, modulation routings and
some useful or cunning front-panel control assignments. This month, we'll show
that the Combinator can also be used to design your own new effects devices.
Let's have a quick recap for those who missed last month: the Combinator is
an (initially) empty shell in the rack that can house any number of other Reason
devices. The unit has its own audio inputs and outputs that connect its internal
workings to the main Reason environment, and it can receive and distribute
MIDI data to devices inside. Its front-panel knobs and buttons can be mapped
to the controls of the 'combined' devices, so a Combinator can therefore be
used to create a complicated multi-device configuration, with its own signal flow
and CV patching, and collapse it all into a single 'black box'.
Special Effects
The key feature of the Combinator that allows
the creation of new signal processors is the
presence of audio inputs. Take a look at the
device's back panel (Screen A, left) and you'll
see that there's a pair of stereo audio inputs,
then just below that another pair of jacks for
passing on the incoming signal to a device
inside. Let's get stuck into an example to show
how this works:
The Combinator acts as a
container for other devices, like
the effects devices shown here,
which we'll explain how you can
build into an off-the wall
processor incorporating
filtered, flanged, stereo pingpong delays plus a dose of
distortion — great for fattening
analogue synth and guitar
Screen A: The Combinator's
rear-panel connections. Note
the separate sockets for
passing signal to and from the
devices inside the Combinator.
1. Start by creating a new song, then add a Remix mixer, Subtractor synth and Combinator from the Create
2. Click inside the empty box at the bottom of the Combinator and place a DDL1 delay, again by choosing it
from the Create menu. Screen B shows the rack you should now have produced.
3. Turn the rack around and you'll see that Reason has automatically cabled the
Combi's 'To Devices' and 'From Devices' connections to the delay's audio
inputs and outputs. However, it will not have connected anything to the
Combinator's inputs and will have patched the outputs to a mixer channel.
4. Re-cable the Combinator's main inputs and outputs as you would when
creating send-and-return connections (see 'Connection Conventions' box for
more about this) to the mixer, as in Screen C. You can now send the Subtractor
signal to the Combinator (and its internal delay) by adjusting the first send
control on the mixer channel.
Screen B: The basic starting
rack, featuring mixer, synth and
Combinator. A DDL1 has been
placed inside the Combinator.
So what has this achieved? Well, apart from demonstrating how you can send
a signal through the Combinator and its internal devices, not very much! This Combinator patch does nothing
more than the delay unit can already do on its own. However, we can now add further devices to the patch, so
that the signal is processed in more complex ways. For example, we could add a reverb, or a flanger. Again,
this could be done without putting the effects units into a Combinator (although less tidily), so let's try something
a little more adventurous. One thing you might not have noticed is that the DDL1 delay unit is a mono device,
despite having left and right audio connections. The left and right signals are summed and panned using the
panner on the front of the unit. The Combinator provides an opportunity to parallel two DDL1s, creating a true
stereo delay unit.
5. To add a second DDL1, click in the Combinator's device area, just below
the other delay. Now hold down Shift and choose the DDL1 from the Create
menu. (Holding Shift tells Reason not to create any automatic cable
connections. Normally when you create a new effect unit in a Combinator,
Reason will assume you want to chain it on to the last device, but in this
instance we'll do something different.
6. The plan is to use just one channel from each device (the left one) for each
side of the stereo input coming into the Combinator. This will mean that the left
and right legs are being processed entirely separately, maintaining the stereo
signal, and allowing for stereo effects such as ping-pong echoes or subtle
spatial treatments. Check out Screen D to see how the cabling should look.
Screen C: Re-cabling the
Combinator's main ins and outs
for send-and-return operation.
7. On the front panels of the DDL units, set the pan pots hard left, as we're only using the left outputs. Now try
playing the Subtractor with some delay added at the mixer send. You can adjust the left and right delays
independently, for some fun results, but even if you don't your delays will follow the panning of the mixer channel,
an improvement over the normal DDL1. Also, if you put a stereo signal through your new unit, say from an
NNXT sample patch, the delays will now maintain the original sound's stereo width, instead of collapsing into
the middle.
Save this patch and you can pull it up any time in the future. Now, though, let's
try to create something more interesting. By adding more devices, we'll make a
33 / 92
Building Combinator Effects In Reason 3
filtered, flanging, ping-pong delay with some distortion that really fattens up
analogue synth and guitar patches.
8. Add a CF101 chorus/flanger, again holding down Shift to avoid messing up
your cabling. Re-patch the cables so that the outputs from the two delays go
into the flanger.
Screen D: How the cabling
should look after the second
DDL1 has been added.
9. Select the flanger and add an ECF1 filter device. The outputs from the flanger will be connected to the filter
10. Finally, add a Scream distortion device. The Filter will be connected to this so that all the devices are now
chained together. Manually connect the Scream's outputs to the Combinator's 'From Devices' jack ports. The
final cabling is shown in Screen E.
11. Now we can start playing with the front-panel controls to get the effect we're
looking for. Try the settings in Screen F. I've set the first delay to half the step
time of the second, creating the ping-pong effect. The feedback amount has to
be reduced quite a bit on the second delay, as 'feedback' controls the number
of repeats on these devices, so longer delay settings result in longer decay
times for the effect. On the chorus device I've set a short delay, high negative
feedback, and some modulation to create quite heavy flanging. The filter has a
bit of resonance and quite a high cutoff, so it just smooths things out a bit.
Finally, the Scream distortion is set to Overdrive, with the Damage Control
pulled back, and the Master Output down to avoid a boost in overall level.
Screen E: The rear-panel
connections after the
chorus/flanger, filter and
distortion devices have been
At this point you could just save the patch as it is, ready for recall at a later date.
This is already a major advantage over building a chain of devices in previous versions of Reason. Before the
Combinator, if you'd wanted to re-use a configuration like this you'd have had to open the song it was in, copy
all the devices, then paste them into your new song. You'd then have to try to cable it into your new song's rack.
By building everything into a Combinator, you can just load it as a patch. However, the Combinator
environment has a further advantage, in the shape of the front-panel control system. By mapping key controls
from the various devices to Combinator knobs and buttons, you can quickly make variations of your effect,
control several devices at once, and limit the parameters to ranges relevant to the type of effect.
12. First, we'll control delay time using the first knob on the Combi panel. Hit the
'Show Programmer' button, and select Delay 1 from the list on the left. Now, in
the Modulation Routing section on the right, click on the Target slot next to
Rotary 1. Select 'Delay Time (steps)' from the pop-up list. We'll limit the control
to a useful range by adjusting the Max field to '4'. See Screen G, above.
Screen F: Suggested front-
13. Select Delay 2 in the device list, and again choose 'Delay Time (steps)' for panel settings for the effects
Rotary 1. What we're doing here is doubling up the mapping for the first knob, device.
so that it controls both delay units at once. Set the Max parameter to '8'. The
knob will control the delay time, maintaining the ping-pong nature of the effect by increasing the second unit at
a greater rate. Re-name Rotary 1 'Delay Time' by clicking its label on the panel and typing in the new name.
14. Now use the same technique to assign Rotary 2 to control the Feedback
controls of both delays. Again, the ranges need to be set differently to maintain
the relationship between the units. I've set the Max value for Delay 1 to 103, and
Delay 2 to 41. Re-name Rotary 2 'Repeats'.
Screen G: Starting to assign
parameters of the DDL1 delay
15. Rotary 3 will be used to control the amount of the flange effect. Select the
to the Combinator's front-panel
CF101 in the Programmer page and map its Feedback control to Rotary 3. We rotaries.
want zero feedback when the knob is fully left, then an increasing amount of
negative feedback as the knob is turned clockwise. The default range for the chorus device's Feedback control
is -64 (maximum negative feedback) to +63 (maximum positive feedback). Set Rotary 3's minimum and
maximum to '0' and '-64' respectively, and you'll get the correct behaviour from the knob (see Screen H). Rename Rotary 3 'Flange Amount'.
16. The final knob will become the filter frequency control. Select the ECF1 and
assign Rotary 4 to Frequency. Set the minimum to something above zero —
say, 30 — to prevent this control from completely muting the effect when fully
left. Re-name Rotary 4 'Filter Frequency'.
Screen H: Assigning the
Feedback control
We're left with four buttons that I'll let you decide how to assign. I've used one to CF101's
(governing flange amount) to
toggle the filter between Low Pass and Band Pass modes, and another to
Rotary 3 on the Combinator.
bypass the distortion. Don't forget to save the patch! You can see the final
version on page 246.
Further Projects
Our Ping-Pong Flanger (or whatever it should be called) is only just scratching the surface when it comes to
Combinator effects. A Combinator can contain any of the other devices available in Reason, and all CV
cables as well as audio connections are saved as part of the patch, so you can be as complicated as you like.
A great enhancement to the patch we've created in the example would be to use an LFO to sweep the filter
frequency. The filter device has a Filter Frequency CV input, so all you'd need is a device that has an LFO with
a dedicated CV output. (The two options are Subtractor and Malström.) The LFO output would be patched into
the filter, then the little trim pot next to the CV input would need adjusting to set the modulation depth.
Another area for experimentation is using Matrix step sequencers to create rhythmic effects. This is when you
can start trying to emulate some of the cool stuff you might do with Reaktor. An easy-to-follow example of this is
the patch 'Simple Pattern Filter', which can be found in the 'Pattern Based' folder of the Combinator Effects
Devices collection in the Factory Sound Bank. In this patch there's a filter device, with one Matrix triggering its
envelope in a rhythmic pattern, and another setting the filter frequency at each step. A much more complex
pattern filter to study, 'Matrix Filter', is in the same folder. This one uses more step sequencers and even a
vocoder device.
Thinking up new ways of creating effects, and emulating old favourites is one of the most fun and satisfying
parts of Reason 3, mixing head-scratching frustration with moments of inspiration. For example, one of the
bright sparks at Propellerheads realised that you could stick the Gain Reduction CV output of the new
Masterworks compressor device into a filter to create an envelope-following filter, like you'd find on a Mutator or
Moogerfooger hardware processor. In other words, with a bit of imagination you can use Combinators to
create signal processes that none of the other devices could achieve on their own.
Connection Conventions
The example in this article uses the classic 'send-and-return' cabling to allow signals going through the mixer to be blended with varying amounts of an
effect. Normally, if you select the mixer and add any of the basic effect devices to the song, Reason automatically sets up this routing for you. With the
Combinator you'll need to make these connections yourself, as shown in Screen C, page 247. This is an efficient way of using your new effect unit,
as it allows all of the other instruments in the song to share the effect.
There are, of course, many instances (for example, distortion or filter effects) when you'll want to route an instrument straight through the effect (like
having a plug-in on an audio track). In this case, just cable the instrument's outputs directly to the Combinator effect's inputs, then connect the
Combinator's outputs to a mixer channel. Many effects patches suit one of the two routing options better than the other, so a rough naming convention
34 / 92
Building Combinator Effects In Reason 3
was adopted when compiling the Reason Factory Soundbank. If you look in the Combinator Effect Devices folder you'll see that some of the patches
have '[ins]', or 'ins', or simply 'insert' in their name. These patches only really work well when you feed an instrument into them directly. The rest will
probably work best in a send-and-return configuration, but there are no hard and fast rules (and the convention has not been followed strictly
Published in SOS July 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
35 / 92
Using The Malström Synth In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Using The Malström Synth In Reason
Published in SOS August 2005
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Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Malström Basics
The Malström stereo trick
Using The Malström
Beyond The Malström
Bend It, Shape It
The Malström device can certainly be used as a
conventional synth, but behind its slightly bizarre
green front panel there's a powerful graintable
sound engine begging to be exploited to the full.
We show you how.
Simon Price
Most software studios or sequencing packages now come with variations on subtractive
'analogue' synths, and also samplers. Reason, of course, has the Subtractor synth, and the NN19
and NNXT samplers. However, Reason also has a little gem of a synth that dares to break away
from these common sound-generation engines. The Malström synth uses a complex synthesis
method called Granular Resynthesis, but manages to package it in a way that makes it accessible
to anyone familiar with more run-of-the-mill instruments. Learning to understand and control the
Malström is well worth the effort for the new sounds you'll be able to create, but is also the perfect
first step for anyone interested in learning about granular synthesis in general.
Malström Basics
First off, the Malström synth looks a lot like any regular semi-modular soft synth or sampler. There
are two oscillator sections, amplitude envelopes, filters, a filter envelope, LFOs, a 'Shaper' and signal-routing
options. Much of the synth does operate in the same way as more familiar synths, except for the soundgeneration method employed by the oscillators. In fact, by ignoring some parameters you can use the
Malström as a fairly standard subtractive synth. Create a Malström and have a play.
The default patch is a simple sine wave. Clicking on the mini-display that reads 'Sine' in the Osc A section
brings up a pop-up list of 'waveforms' (see screen opposite). I've put 'waveforms' in quotes because, as we'll
see shortly, they are considerably more than just samples or waves. Anyway, if you choose Sine, Square or
Triangle from the list and ignore the parameters marked Index, Shift and Motion, you can operate the Malström
like a regular synth. However, choose any sound type other than these three basic waves, and you'd at first be
forgiven for thinking that the Malström was loading up a sample or 'wavetable', something like what you'd find
in workstation synths using the 'Sample & Synthesis' method. In fact, the Malström is a lot more sophisticated
than that.
The Malström's oscillators use short sampled waveforms that have been
analysed, pre-processed and converted into a series of small sections (known
as grains). These preset samples have some similarity to wavetables or
samples, but as they have been 'granulated' they are called graintables. Each
'grain' of sound has some independence from the overall sample, which allows
the granular synthesis engine to manipulate the pitch and speed of the sound
independently. The best way to hear how the Malström works is to pick a
graintable of a distinctive sample. If you follow these steps you should get a feel
The controls of a Malström
for what is happening and an idea of the possibilities of this synthesis
Oscillator section.
* Create a new Malström and choose 'Voice: Elektronik' in Osc A's pop-up selector. Osc B is off by default, so
ignore that for now. Play the Malström from your keyboard and you'll hear the sample (the vocoded word
'electronic') being played in a forward loop. Different keys play the sample at different pitches, but notice that
it's always at the same speed. The way each sample loops is preset in the Malström. The 'Elektronik'
waveform plays in a forward loop, but some others play forwards/backwards, and a few play forward until a
loop point, as with most sampler patches. However, you can mess with this basic starting point quite a lot, as
you'll see shortly.
* Try adjusting the Octave knob. Again, notice that the sound is re-pitched but plays at the same speed.
* Next, try the Motion knob. Turn this up or down slowly and you'll hear that it sets the speed at which the sample
plays back, again independently of pitch. Playback still extends across the full range of the sample, but as you
get down towards the bottom of the Motion control you effectively won't hear much beyond the starting point. At
the minimum setting, playback just loops around a tiny section of the sample.
You may have noticed that when you pitch the oscillator up, as well as the
speed staying constant, the characteristic 'chipmunk effect' associated with
speeding up a vocal sample is not produced. An advantage of granular
synthesis is that the formants in the sound (the resonant frequencies of a sound
source that determine some of its character) gain a degree of independence
from the parameters of pitch and speed. The Shift control adjusts these formant
characteristics of the sound.
* Push up Shift and you'll hear that you can, in fact, add the 'chipmunk' sound
without speeding up the sample. The Shift control dramatically alters the tonal
and harmonic characteristics of the sound sources, and can add lots of
movement to a patch when swept with an LFO.
The Graintable pop-up.
* The last of the granular controls is the Index slider. Again, it's easiest to hear what this is doing with the
'Elektronik' sound preset. Reset the Pitch and Shift controls to their default positions and make sure Index is
set fully left. Now, turn the Motion control fully anti-clockwise, and hold down middle 'C' on your controller
keyboard. You'll just hear a continuous buzzing sound, which is the first grain looping rapidly. Now very slowly
sweep the Index control over to the right. You'll hear the whole sampled word play back.
As you'll probably gather, Index represents the position in the sample, with the sample mapped out along the
length of the slider. As you sweep the Index fader to the right, each tiny element of the sample is being looped
in turn, re-synthesising the original sound in full at whatever speed you move the control. When Motion is at
minimum, the Index control determines which grain is playing back, but with any other Motion setting Index
determines the starting point where the graintable begins playback each time a key is pressed.
36 / 92
Using The Malström Synth In Reason
The Malström stereo trick
The Malström's two oscillator sections both produce mono signals, and much of the time these are used to blend two different sounds together.
However, there is a Spread knob in the bottom-right corner of the front panel that pans Osc/Filter A to the left and Osc/Filter B to the right. By setting
both Oscillators to play slight variations of the same sound, then spreading them left and right, you can create really lush stereo patches. In the
example patch above I've given nearly all the controls the same settings in Oscillators A/B and Filters A/B. Osc B is not routed via the Shaper, and the
Shaper is off so as not to affect Osc A. The variation between the two sides is achieved by setting the two Index controls fractionally apart. This puts
the two oscillators slightly out of step with one another (out of phase), and the whole patch suddenly jumps into a wide stereo spread.
Using The Malström
To start using the Malström, you don't need to understand all these controls at once. You can just select the
Oscillator waveforms and use these as basic starting points — as if the Malström were a sampler with a
limited number of preset sounds. However, the fun comes from experimenting with the controls and seeing how
they interact with one another, then bringing the LFOs ('Mods') into play to create movement and development
in a sound. For example, the Index slider sets the start position in the loop, and Motion then sets the speed at
which the loop is swept. However, if you start sweeping the Index slider itself, using Mod A, you have two
interacting and competing parameters that introduce unpredictability into the patch. Alternatively, by turning
Motion right off and using Mod A to control Index you can set exactly how the graintable plays back. The Mods
have a huge number of wave shapes, enabling you to control the Index in slow sweeps, single directions,
pseudo-random patterns, or rhythmically. The Single Shot button featured on each Mod only triggers the LFO
wave once when you hit a key, allowing you to use a Mod like an envelope.
Some of the graintables provided in the Malström can be used in a fairly
straightforward fashion, like samples — for example, the guitar plucks or the
tabla hit. Others, such as the sweeps or FX sounds, are more like a small
collection of diverse material all butted together. These graintables give you a
chance to focus in and find new waveforms to act as building blocks for your
The example patch.
patches. In the example patch in the screen above I've used the 'Sweeper'
graintable as my starting point. When left to loop across its entirety, this sound sweeps through a number of
harmonics and different shades. This is too busy and distinctive, so I've tried to pick out one small section. I've
set the Motion control to 'Off', so that the graintable doesn't play or loop at all of its own accord. I've then set the
Index slider to the point in the sample that I'm interested in. Lastly, I've set Mod A to sweep the Index by a small
amount, so that I just get the bit I want looping. Although there's a limited number of graintables in the Malström,
there are many smaller waves to be picked out using this method.
Beyond The Malström
One feature sadly missing in the Malström is the ability to load your own samples. Because the samples used have to undergo analysis and
processing to turn them into suitable graintables (and looping directions and points need to be set), Propellerheads obviously decided it would be
simpler to provide a number of presets. However, there are other packages using granular synthesis that allow you to load in your own audio
samples. Most notable are Reaktor, which features synths such as Triptoniser, Traveliser and Grainstates that employ similar techniques to
Malström, and Kontakt, Native Instruments' sampler package. These can load audio from your hard drive and they take only a few seconds to
'granulate' the samples. With any luck, a future version of Reason may have a Malström with sample-loading capability and controls to adjust the
necessary graintable properties, such as grain size and smoothing.
Bend It, Shape It
Once you've got to grips with the Malström's synthesis engine, the rest of the instrument should be fairly easy to
master. The filters and Mods (posh LFOs!) should be self-explanatory, but it's worth mentioning the switchable
routing options and the Shaper module. The front-panel design employs arrows as a guide to where signals
flow from one section to the next, and buttons designate whether a route is taken or not. For example, Osc A
has arrows and switches for going into the Shaper and Filter B. Osc B can only go into Filter B (and then to the
outputs) or directly to the outputs. However Filter B can be routed into the Shaper, so Osc B can get in via that
route. The Shaper always goes into Filter A, which in turn goes to the outputs. Of course, once you have access
to a bit of this kind of flexibility you always wish you had more. For example, it would be nice to have two
shapers so that you didn't have to combine Oscillators A and B at this point, especially when routing in external
signals (more on external signals in a moment).
You might say that the Shaper is a 'bonus feature' on the Malström, but it has
become one of the distinctive-sounding features of the instrument, offering
several different effects for distorting and smoothing the signals passed
through it. My main advice for this feature of the Malström is to experiment, and
don't go overboard with it, as it has a tendency to 'take over' the patch.
Given that the Malström has this distinctive Shaper section, plus a pair of really
nice multi-mode filters, it's perhaps not surprising that Propellerheads added
external audio inputs to the back panel, so that other Reason devices can be
routed through the synth. The two inputs come into the Malström's routing
scheme at the same stage as Oscillators A and B. In other words, they are
routed to the separate filters and only the first input goes through the Shaper.
However, as with the Oscillators, Filter B can be routed back into the Shaper
(which then takes the signal through to Filter A). This means that you can either
send a stereo signal through and not use the Shaper, or use a mono signal and
go through as many sections as you like.
This screenshot shows the
back panel of a Combinator
patch in which a Malström's
external audio inputs are being
used to filter and shape an
NNXT. The Malström's filter
envelope can be triggered by
the same MIDI notes that play
the NNXT, or from a Gate input
There are a couple of tricks you can use to bring the Filter Envelope into play
on external inputs. One is to connect a CV cable from one of the Mod outputs (which can be from the
Malström itself!). The
back into the Malström's own Filter Envelope Gate Input and set a sync'd
Combinator front panel can
rhythmic trigger. More recently, Reason 3 allows you to combine the external
also be used to tie together the
device and the Malström into a Combinator (see screen above). A good
A and B filter controls for stereo
reason for doing this is that the same MIDI note that triggers the external sound operation.
source can then trigger the filter envelope on the Malström at the same time.
Finally, another good reason for putting the Malström into a Combinator is that you can assign a Combinator
panel knob to control both Malström filters at once, keeping them linked together.
Published in SOS August 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
37 / 92
Reason Notes
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason Notes
Quick Tips
Electromechanical Revisited
Reason UK Tour
News & Tips
Published in SOS August 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Tiger tussles with Reload, Propellerhead's Akai
sample-management software, the excellent free
Electromechanical Refill gets an update to show off
the powers of the Combinator, and we've patch
browsing and Stereo Imager tips to offer.
Derek Johnson
Whenever Apple upgrade their operating system, many of us hold our breath as
we wait to see if our favourite applications are compatible or in need of their
own update. This is especially the case when the company go for a major
increment such as the new Mac OS 10.4, 'Tiger'. And because the new OS
ushers in a number of changes and enhancements to Core Audio and Core
MIDI, we need to be doubly reassured before we hand over our cash to Steve
Jobs. The last issue of SOS covered Tiger in depth, and no doubt this and
future issues will continue to do so as appropriate. Here I'll just pass on the
news from Propellerhead that Reason v3 is fully compatible with MacOS 10.4.
There are no known compatibility issues: during the development of the latest
version of Reason, it was continuously tested with pre-release versions of
Two Combinators loaded with
patches from
Electromechanical 2.0. Note
neat graphics stuck to the right
of the device's Controller
The news is good elsewhere in the Propellerhead software family, with Recycle Panel.
v2.1 also fully Tiger-ready. And then there's Reload, Propellerhead's neat and free (to registered Reason and
Recycle users) utility for converting Akai-format sample CDs into something Reason can load. Apparently,
Reload v1 does work with Tiger, but a minor anomaly, related to inserting Akai-formatted CDs into a Mac, has
surfaced. Propellerhead are on the case, though, and a solution is on its way: v1.0.1 of Reload entered betatesting at the end of May.
Quick Tips
Reason 3's new patch browser is so flexible that there's even an option to browse all synth and sample-based patches and add a device to the rack
as its patch is loaded. An extension of this option is the fact that all patches can be viewed in any device's pop-up. Say you're using the pop-up to
check out patch names in a given Refill from an NNXT's patch selector. Up pops a patch for the Combinator that you'd like to play. Just click on it, and
the NNXT is replaced by a Combinator holding the new patch. How convenient. Under Windows XP, you may find it helpful to see file extenders in the
pop-up list, but on both PC and Mac platforms each patch has the device's icon graphic at the front of the file name. Once you're familiar with these
icons (or the file extenders) you'll know exactly which file types you're looking at.
I hope you're not neglecting your new MClass 'mastering' processors — especially the Stereo Imager, a tool that can add a very nice subtle sparkle to
your mixes. Just remember that there's not a lot of meaningful stereo information in the very low-frequency range. In fact, you might find a mix
becoming tighter and more focused if you turn the Lo-Band width control fully to mono, just slightly widening the Hi-Band. The basic 787Hz crossover
frequency already set is fine for most purposes, but don't hesitate to mess about with it, especially if you're widening different parts of your Reason
mix separately (as you might do with drums or extreme stereo delay effects, for example). Set a crossover much lower than that and you may find the
mud creeping back in. But if that mud does something you like, let it stick!
Electromechanical Revisited
Reason 3's new features — mainly the Combinator — have been the catalyst for third-party developers to
produce new or updated Refills, and now we hear of an updated version of the Electromechanical Refill that
was released early last year, before most of us were aware that v3 was on the horizon. Electromechanical 2.0
remains a free download to registered Reason users (from, but for those without a
really fast Internet connection, or those who would just like to have the Refill on CD, it can be purchased from
Propellerheads for just £7 plus £2.81 airmail postage to the UK.
And what a download it is: 106MB of excellent samples and patches from a range of classic instruments:
electric pianos — Wurlitzer valve EP100 and solid-state EP200, Fender Rhodes MKI tube and MkII solid-state
— plus Hohner's Pianet T and Clavinet D6. The collection even includes a Model A, the grandaddy of
Hammond organs. The NNXT's excellent multisampling and velocity layering are shown off rather well, and
performance tweaks abound — just move that mod wheel! The collection is largely the same as the original
release, but where the original showcased the capabilities of the NNXT sample player, Electromechanical 2.0
highlights the Combinator. If you already have experience of the original Electromechanical release, you'll
recall Song setups that added stylistically suitable effects to various NNXT patches. In the updated Refill,
setups of this type make up the contents of individual Combinator patches, offering NNXTs processed by
complementary effects chains. The custom graphics (an arty image of the sampled instrument is 'stuck' onto an
otherwise plain Combinator background) are fun too. No Reason user should be without this Refill!
Reason UK Tour
Reason 3 is on tour in August. Confirmed dates are: 8th, Sound Control, Glasgow; 9th, Sound Control, Edinburgh; 10th, Boomerang Sounds and Sound
Control, Salford, Manchester; 11th, PMT, Birmingham; 12th, Absolute Music Solutions, Poole; 13th, Sound Control, Virgin Megastore, London; 15th,
Temple Bar Music Centre, Dublin; 16th, Sonic Arts Centre, Belfast; 18th, Sound Control, Southampton; 19th, Digital Village, Acton, London. Check or for more.
Published in SOS August 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
38 / 92
Making Your Own Reason Refill
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Making Your Own Reason Refill
Published in SOS September 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Share & Enjoy
Before We Begin
Do you need to Refill?
The Organisation
Let's Do It
If you've never made a Refill from your Reason
creations, now may be the time to give it a go. It's
an easy process that can offer various benefits.
Derek Johnson
One of the best things about Reason — and this is a program that offers many best things — is the plentiful
extra content supplied commercially by professional programmers or for free by other users. This extra content
invariably comes in the form of Refills — self-contained packages of Reason device patches, samples, REXformat loops, songs and other material. Right from the beginning of Reason, Propellerheads have promoted
the creation of Refills by users. In parallel with the initial release of the software and its subsequent updates,
compatible versions of Refill Packer were made available. This no-frills application is free to registered users
and puts the making of Refills within anybody's reach.
Share & Enjoy
And why would you want to create your own Refill? Surely all your patches, songs
and samples are perfectly safe and accessible on your computer's hard drive?
Well, perhaps you'd like to give something back after hoovering up every free
Refill you can find on-line. Or, having explored other users' approach to
programming, you might like to show off what you're capable of. If you collaborate
with other Reason users, sharing Refills ensures that you have access to the
same patches and samples. Finally, any samples in a Refill are compressed to
about half their original size via a lossless compression algorithm, the samples
uncompressing on playback in the same way as samples within factory Refills.
Collections of synth patches are are also smaller in the Refill package than on
your hard drive. Another reason to pack!
Your motivation might alternatively be similar to mine: I wanted an easy way to move all my current Reasonrelated material from Mac to PC and welcomed an opportunity to clean up and archive the samples I use in
Reason. I've also found that with Reason 3's change of file-browsing system it's been easier to tell the program
where samples are when it loses track of them!
Before We Begin
Using Refill Packer is very straightforward, but it is a rigidly logical program. It pays to be organised when
planning your Refill, but you'll find it helpful to organise your Reason material logically even if you don't plan to
immediately turn it into a Refill.
First of all, you need to know what can go in a Refill — an alien file in a folder of
data you'd like to pack will cause an error. Reason songs can be included (with
the file extender .rsn), as can 'published songs' (.rps — see 'Do you need to
Refill?' box). Standard MIDI Files can also be included. Any patches for patchAny problems encountered by
capable devices can obviously be included — the Combinator (.cmb) meta
Refill Packer produce this alert.
device, Subtractor and Malström synths (.zyp and .xwv), the RV7000 reverb
(.rv7), Scream 4 distortion (.sm4) and the sample-based devices. Patches for
NN19 (.smp), NNXT (.sxt) and Redrum (.drp) not only save front-panel parameter settings but also tags to the
samples necessary to complete the patch.
Speaking of samples, they may be packed into a Refill in AIFF or WAV format. The Dr:Rex device loads and
plays back loops processed by Propellerhead's Recycle package, so current and legacy files from this
package (file extenders .rx2, .rcy and .rex) can be stuffed into the Refill too. Surprisingly, Soundfont files can
also come to the party, though only samples and presets from a Soundfont bank — not the whole Soundfont.
This is handy, since data within Soundfonts can be easily accessed by Reason's sample-based devices.
Finally, the Refill can also contain a text and JPEG-format 'splash' image, which lets you add your own
descriptive text and copyright info, plus one graphic piece of 'flair', if desired.
A word now about file extenders. In Mac versions of Reason, it's possible to
save patches and songs without them. Windows always saves with extenders,
although they may or may not be visible. The Reason manual gives the
impression that if you'd like to share data created on a Mac with a PC version
of Reason, your patches and Songs should have the file extenders included. In An example of a fairly tidily
my experience, though, Mac Reason files that have been packed into a Refill arranged folder from which to
without file extenders (and this includes samples) show up in the browser and produce a Refill. Note the
info.txt and splash.jpg files that
load just fine on a PC. There may be situations where this is not the case,
be in any folder that you'd
though, and it may be worth using extenders if you plan to swap files from Mac must
like to pack.
to PC, just to be on the safe side. That said, a backlog of 'extenderless' files
could be a pain to amend. Try packing the Refill first to see if there are problems; if not, great. If there are, it
might be time to delve into Mac OS X's scripting to add the necessary file extenders en masse.
On a similar topic, the way in which samples in WAV format are generally associated with the PC and AIFFs
with the Mac is not an issue for Reason: the software on either platform can load either format. So if your
sample collection is exclusively in one format, or even if it's in a variety of formats, bit rates and sampling
frequencies, don't worry: Reason will probably cope. If you feel like tidying up the collection before packing,
look out for batch processing in your audio editor. On the Mac, I use i3's DSP-Quattro for all my editing, and a
recent update added a brilliant batch processor. With it, I can set format, sample rate, bit depth, and even
stereo or mono playback, for as many samples as I like at once.
Do you need to Refill?
If you're planning to distribute or share your work in some way, have a think about the best way to do it. Certainly, a collection of Subtractor patches
will be best bunged into a Refill. But if you're sharing a song or two with a collaborator, you may prefer to create 'self-contained' songs rather than
saving the songs and samples in a Refill. This type of song grabs all the samples used by the song and saves them in the one file (again, in
compressed format). The recipient of the file will be able to extract your patches and samples, work with them and return their efforts to you.
The 'published' song format is similar in that it saves all patches and samples into a single file. It differs from the self-contained format in that it's 'readonly': another user can't extract data from it or save changes made to it. Thus this format is used for demo material and distribution on the Internet.
The Organisation
39 / 92
Making Your Own Reason Refill
If you're lucky, you've been quite organised with your Reason files from the start, but even if you haven't,
organisation doesn't have to be too fussy. Simply creating device-specific folders for patches will make
navigating a Refill created from your collection a lot easier. I personally have a patch folder located in my
Reason folder, and inside this there are folders for each device. You might find it helpful, especially if you're
programming a lot of patches, to create themed sub-folders. I admit that this has not been my approach, and
when I hunt for patches in Subtractor, especially, I end up scrolling through a list of hundreds. You may not like
to be tied down conceptually, but some of your patches are going to be mainly suitable as basses, analogue
kick drums and so on. If so, stick them in their own folder.
Samples and REX loops are another issue entirely. You may keep your
samples in a central folder, which is fine, but collecting drum samples in a
dedicated folder that's stored inside the Redrum patch folder may make for a
more easily navigable Refill. Likewise, samples that are used by NN19 and
NNXT could be similarly arranged, and REX loops stowed in their own folder
entirely (perhaps organised in stylistic or tempo-related folders). This level of
organisation assumes that you've finished editing your samples and tweaking
your REX loops, and are happy with your current patch collection. Any material,
especially songs, that you consider works in progress are probably best left out
of a Refill at this stage.
If you start creating a hierarchical organisation of your patches, samples and
songs after months or years of relative chaos there will be a further step or two
to deal with. Sample-based patches and songs may not know where their
samples are located, which leaves you having to recreate the link. There's no
quick way: you'll have to load the patch or song, have Reason relocate the
missing files, then re-save the reconstructed data. You may get the urge to rename sample files during this spring-cleaning process, but don't! It's easy
enough to replace missing samples with your choice of samples from your hard
drive, but if you're recreating existing patches it can be hard to remember the
name of the re-titled sample and its relationship to the original file name.
Refill Packer in action: it looks
even more plain when you've
just booted it up! The info.txt
file is responsible for much of
the text that you see, although
the program itself counts all the
files that will appear in the
resulting Refill before
processing begins. No external
Refills are referenced in this
Let's Do It
Let's now assume that you have a nicely organised collection of patches and samples, and maybe even songs.
If you want to test the water, start with a folder full of Subtractor patches: there's little that can go wrong with
these. When you download and install Refill Packer you'll be provided with a little sample folder that also offers
an easy test of the packing procedure.
When you start the process for real, the first thing you should do is make sure
all your Reason data is backed up. The packing process does not change,
damage or in any way mess with your data, but it's best to be safe.
Now locate the Template Folder that was also part of the Refill Packer
installation. The info.txt file and a splash.jpg image you'll find in here are used
by the software to customise how your Refill will appear in the Reason
browser. Copy the Template Folder and then edit the info.txt doc with a text
editor. The basic shape of this file shouldn't be changed, but by putting the
right bits in the right place you'll give your Refill its name and provide a
copyright date, your URL and whatever comments you'd like to share with the
recipient of the Refill.
Once completed, your Refill will
be recognised by Reason.
Here, a dedicated REX-loop
Refill is being browsed via
Reason's 'Create device from
You can also replace the splash image with the JPEG of your choice, though it patch' option.
has to be 64x64 pixels in size and called 'splash.jpg'. Whatever you do, you'll
need both these files: Refill Packer will present an error report if they're missing.
At this point, drop all the files to be included in the Refill into the copy of the Template Folder. Alternatively,
drag the text file and JPEG to your Reason data folder. Now open Refill Packer.
Choose your Input Folder, from the menu or by clicking on the folder next to the 'Input Folder' entry in the
window. Navigate to the location of the Template Folder copy you've just created (or the folder that you've just
added the text and splash image to). This will cause the text and image to fill up most of the rest of the
Now choose the Output File. Specify the location on your hard drive where you'd like the Refill to be saved and
a name pops up in the window. It'll be the name you added to the info.txt file, with a '.rfl' extender (rather than
the name of the folder where your original data is stored).
Click the 'Create Refill' button.
With any luck, a progress bar will chug away, files in the putative Refill will be counted,
then the Refill will be created. It could take some time if there are lots of samples and
REX files involved or just a few seconds or minutes with a set of Subtractor patches. If
there are any problems, this is when you'll discover them. I found that my main
problems were bad links between Songs or patches and samples — not all the
samples I used were in my Reason folder! (A secondary problem related to
incompatible sample formats left over from editing sessions.) Luckily, RP generates a
report file that describes the problems encountered (see the screen below). Move the
samples to the folder being packed and the next run will be fine.
Another issue might arise if the Refill you're trying to create makes reference to
material found in other Refills. Refill Packer has an option to warn you of references to If anything goes wrong,
such material, and can also add a list of external Refills to the new Refill's descriptive Refill Packer gives you
the opportunity to save
text. If the reference is to one of the factory Refills, there's no problem, since anyone
a text file that lists the
accessing your Refill will have the same set. There will also be no problem if the new problem — in this case,
Refill is just for your use or aimed at a collaborator who has the same collection of
missing sample files.
third-party Reason material as you. But if the new Refill is to be distributed more
widely, you can't count on every user having all your Refills, so it's probably best to winnow out any patches or
devices that refer to these external Refills.
There is one potential problem that won't be flagged: REX loops that have too many slices for Dr:Rex to load.
The device only handles loops of up to 92 slices, so it's a waste of time and space including such loops in your
Refill. Even if you've been organised, your REX folder might have the odd file meant for a different application,
or stragglers and working versions. Part of your preparation, then, might be a quick scrolling audition session
via the Reason browser: files with too many slices pop up an error message. You can log them and fix or
delete them before creating your Refill.
Published in SOS September 2005
40 / 92
Making Your Own Reason Refill
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
41 / 92
Reason Notes
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason Notes
An Exclusive Solution
News & Updates
Published in SOS September 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
We report on a new release of Reason that fixes
some bugs but also ups the system requirements
for running the software, and examine the problem
of achieving 'exclusive' drum assignments in the
NNXT super sample-player.
Derek Johnson
In general, new releases of Reason are not beset by bugs and 'unfinishedness'
in quite the same way as some other software. But, as bad luck would have it, a
number of issues were spotted following the launch of the major rebuild that
was version 3.0. Some of the problems that surfaced were a little obscure and
didn't affect all users; nevertheless, Propellerheads were straight on the case,
developing fixes and pushing an update through beta-testing (once again,
undertaken with the help of the user base). The result is version 3.0.3, which is
available for download now. This release was apparently preceded by v3.0.2
just a few hours earlier, but another bug was discovered and very quickly fixed!
If you've had issues with Keyboard Control causing Reason to crash, strange
pattern-change automation behaviour, 'Bad Format' warnings with NNXT patch
or song names containing exotic characters, odd loud noises at the end of a
loop during loop playback, or unusual parameter-change behaviour, this update
is essential. A range of other niggly issues, documented on Propellerhead's
web site, are also resolved.
A quick Combi patch approach
to exclusive hi-hat samples that
complement an NNXT drum kit.
The sheer on-screen size of
Reason's devices doesn't allow
us to show you the full image.
The update doesn't just bug-fix: direct remote support has been added for M-Audio's Ozonic controller
keyboard and Frontier Design Group's Tranzport wireless controller, and sequencer track mute and solo
buttons can now be controllable via the Remote protocol. In addition, the team have taken the opportunity to
tighten up the program. Overall performance has been improved and sample loading has been further
optimised so that everything runs a little more quickly.
A word of warning, though: v3.0.3 Song files probably won't be compatible with Reason 3.0. Anyone working
with Refill Packer is advised to download the 3.0.3 update of that software, with a similar proviso: Refills
created with the latest version of Refill Packer may not be compatible with Reason 3.0. If you're swapping
Songs or Refills with collaborators, make sure everyone's updated.
It's also worth noting that the 3.0.3 update release has seen the system requirements for Reason change.
Apple's G3 processor is no longer recommended, and a Pentium 3-equipped PC running at 600MHz is now
the minimum, rather than the same processor running at 300MHz. Apparently, the software will run under Mac
OS 10.2, but an anomaly that occurs under 10.2.8 makes upgrading to 10.3 or higher highly recommended.
Other requirements — such as minimum 256MB RAM and 2GB free hard disk space — remain unchanged.
The download is quite big (112MB for Mac and 103MB for PC) so broadband, or a friend so equipped, is
preferable. Have your master discs and registration card handy too, for the reinstallation process.
An Exclusive Solution
I was posed an interesting question by one of the SOS team recently: how to set up two samples, such as an
open and closed h-hat, to operate exclusively within NNXT. Drum voices eight and nine on Redrum have a
switch for setting up just this option, precisely to allow the creation of authentic hi-hat patterns, but there's no
explicit analogue within NNXT. This strange omission becomes stranger when you think of the opportunities for
drum-kit creation within the super sampler.
A simple solution adopted by some Refill developers (including Propellerheads!) is to group the two samples
and assign a polyphony value of '1' to the group. This solves the problem of not allowing the two sounds to play
simultaneously, and playing the closed hat sound does cut off the open hat. It's a solution that will work in many
situations, but the way in which some samples are cut off may be a little too unnatural for others.
There is another solution, of sorts, using v3's Combinator. Create the drum kit you're after, minus hi-hats and
any other sets of samples requiring exclusive performance (bongos or other hand drums, for example) in an
NNXT lodged in a Combinator. Now add a Redrum and assign closed and open hi-hats to voice slots eight
and nine, enabling the exclusive switch.
The trick here is to use the Combinator's Programmer to set up key ranges so that the main drum kit and the
subsidiary samples assigned to the Redrum can be played as if one device. The easiest approach is as
Make sure no samples are assigned, in NNXT, to the keys you'd like to trigger your hi-hats. These would be
G1 and G#1, which play voices eight and nine in Redrum.
Now assign a key range (or just those two notes for Redrum) in the Combinator programmer. Remember to
include a mixer device in your new Combi.
You might think you're losing the ability to velocity-switch between different types of hi-hat sample, but by
adding extra Redrums and also setting their velocity ranges in the Combinator programmer, you can
overcome this problem. There will be some loading issues with a patch such as this, and the Combi will be a
little unwieldy, especially if you add a couple of Spider Audio devices to submix velocity-switched multiple
Redrums. However, the result is a more natural-sounding drum kit, most of which will have all the soundshaping options at NNXT's disposal. Just the 'exclusive' samples loaded into the Redrum(s) will be lacking
these options, although any effects added in-line with devices in a Combinator effectively become part of the
Combi patch.
Published in SOS September 2005
42 / 92
Reason Notes
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
43 / 92
Reason Mixing Masterclass
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason Mixing Masterclass
Published in SOS October 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Reason mixes can sound superbly fat and punchy,
thanks to the array of tools the software puts at
your disposal. We adapt some traditional mixing
know-how to the Reason platform and offer
device-specific tips to help you improve your
Mixing Basics
Submixing & Mixer Chaining
Effects Routing
The Key To Fat Reason Mixes
Gain Structure In Reason
Reverb Tips
Simon Price
Although Reason is primarily a modular environment for virtual synths,
samplers, drum machines and effects, the way in which it's employed varies
widely. There are those that use it as a collection of instruments, rewiring each
device's audio outputs into their main sequencer, or outputting them directly to
an audio interface. Then there's the school of thought that sees Reason as a
kind of musical sketchpad, where song ideas can be quickly laid down before
replacing the sounds with other instruments. However, the sequencer, mixers,
automation and signal processors mean that Reason can be used on its own
as a stand-alone production tool. The introduction of several 'mastering'
processors in v3 mean that it's much easier to create good-quality final mixes,
and we'll take a closer look at these tools next month. This month, however,
we'll look at the best way to go about creating good mixes before you get to the
final output stage. First, we'll have a brief look at the main mixer devices used in Reason, then explore the
issues around mixing and provide tips for improving your mixes.
Mixing Basics
Unless you're routing all your instruments directly out of Reason via Rewire or separate hardware outputs, most
Reason racks will start with the Remix 14:2 mixer module, and I'm assuming most people are at least vaguely
familiar with this device's operation. Each channel handles one mono or stereo input. The most basic mix in
Reason will have two or more instrument devices connected to separate mixer channels, with the mixer
outputting a stereo mix of these instruments to the Hardware Interface module. Beyond this, the mixer can
adjust pan position, apply some basic EQ to each channel, send some of each signal to effects devices and
be automated for real-time changes. Certain other mixer functions, such as inserts, submix groups, dynamics
(gating and compression) and parametric EQ are not found on the mixer, as Reason's modular environment
allows you to achieve all these things without tying them into the design of the main mixer.
Each channel of Reason's mixer has a single pan pot, which places mono signals in the stereo field. As with
mixing in any environment, remember to make good use of positioning to spread things out and add space to
your mix. Common wisdom suggests that loud and low-frequency parts stay central, to share the burden
between your speakers and keep a solid foundation to the mix.
There are a couple of points of particular note that relate to panning in Reason.
The first is how the mixer channels treat stereo signals. When both the L and R
inputs of a mixer channel are connected, the channel switches to stereo
operation, but — unlike the case with some software mixers — you're still left
with one pan pot. The L and R portions of the stereo signal are always
separated to the L and R outputs, but the panner now operates as a balance
control, adjusting the relative level of the two sides. This is fine for many
situations, especially when you're just leaving the panner central. However, if
you're trying to create a detailed final mix in Reason, you may sometimes wish Figure 1: Connecting the L&R
outputs of your sound source
to adjust both the width and position of stereo parts. To do this you need to
(bottom) to separate mixer
connect the L and R signals to two separate mixer channels (see Figure 1,
previous page). Both signals should be connected to the 'Left (Mono)' inputs of channels adds flexibility.
their separate channels. You now have a separate pan pot for each of the L and
R signals, and panning them hard left and right respectively would give the normal full-width stereo signal you'd
get through one channel. However, you can now narrow the stereo width by bringing the panners in towards the
centre, and create a sense of direction by offsetting them left or right (see Figure 2, top right).
The other important panning issue concerns the stereo (or otherwise)
behaviour of Reason's effects devices. Most notably, the DDL1 delay unit and
Reason's original RV7 reverb sum the left and right inputs before processing,
so when connected to the mixer in a send and return configuration (see below)
their output is always panned to the centre. This is a very common problem, as Figure 2: Once a stereo signal
nearly all Reason users employ delay units on aux sends in most mixes. The
is coming through two channels
result is that although the dry portion of a signal (the main output of any mixer
(1&2 here), you can pan its two
halves separately.
channel) is panned wherever the pan control sets it, the wet portion (echoes
from the delay unit) will be in the centre. Stereo signals will collapse into the
middle as mono during the echoes. One answer to this problem is to use the RV7000 Advanced Reverb for all
delays and reverb effects, as this device feature a true stereo signal path. The other solution is to use a
separate delay unit for each channel. You could simply connect two separate DDL1s to the L and R jacks on
the send, but it's more elegant to create a proper stereo delay unit in the Combinator (see Figures 3 and 4).
The Reason Technique pages from the July issue of SOS detail the creation of just such a device, which has
the benefit of neatness and ties the controls of the two units together.
Submixing & Mixer Chaining
Although the Reason mixer only has 14 channels, you can create as many
mixers as you require, and the mixer has some built-in features for working as
part of a team. If you create a second mixer, its master outputs are
automatically cabled to the jack inputs labelled 'Chaining Master' on your main
mixer. All 28 channels are now routed through the main mixer, and the main
master fader controls them all. More mixers can be daisy-chained in the same
way. The mixers also have 'Chaining Aux' links that are connected by default,
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Reason Mixing Masterclass
and route all the additional mixers' aux sends to the same effects devices as
the first. You can, however, disconnect these and have different effects
connected to each mixer.
A second, unchained, 14:2 mixer can also be used to create submix groups, for
Figures 3&4: Front and back
submixing drum/percussion instruments or orchestral parts, for example, and
views of a delay unit created in
controlling them from one fader during the final mix. The submixer's output
the Combinator to produce true
should be connected to a normal input channel on the main mixer in this
stereo delay processing.
situation. Reason 3 includes a new mixing device, the 6:2 Micromix line mixer,
which is often much more suited to creating submixes than its big brother. Figure 5 (overleaf) shows a threesampler string section being submixed through a 6:2 mixer, which then comes up as just one 'group' fader on
the main mixer.
As a side note, notice that the Redrum device and NNXT sampler often act as submixers within themselves.
However, Redrum has an individual output for each drum sample and NNXT has a number of outputs that
samples can be routed to, aside from the main stereo output. Don't be afraid to split sounds out to a mixer
channel for individual processing.
Effects Routing
Like most mixers, both the 14:2 and 6:2 devices feature aux sends (four on the 14:2 and just one on the 6:2).
These are used to tap off a portion of any mixer channel's signal and send it to destinations other than just the
main mix buss. This feature can serve many purposes but is most commonly used to send signals to an effect
device. The 'wet' (effected) output of the effects unit is then fed back into the main mix via the mixer's Aux
Return inputs. This routing should only be used for certain types of effects where the 'wet' signal is significantly
different to the 'dry' (original) signal — primarily, but not exclusively, reverb and delay effects. This rule is the
commonly followed practice in all mixing environments but is particularly important in digital mixers, where
effects devices can produce tiny delays in the signal. This tiny delay can put the effected signal out of phase
with the original, and when the two are mixed back together this will make your instruments (and therefore your
mixes) sound thin.
The aux sends all operate in 'post fader' mode, which means that the level of
signal that is sent to the effect is relative to the main fader level. This is
desirable because the dry/wet ratio will stay the same as you move the fader.
However, the fourth send on the 14:2 mixer can be switched to pre-fader mode,
which is great if you want to have a very high proportion of effect compared to
the dry signal, or even no dry signal at all.
The mixer doesn't have any Insert points — the connections on a mixer that
would normally be used for 'in-line' effects and plug-ins. This is because in
Reason's modular environment you can simply add an effects unit to the rack
and cable it between your instrument and a mixer channel. This method should
be applied for most non-reverb and non-delay treatments, including EQ and
The Key To Fat Reason Mixes
Figure 5: The submix (various
string parts, in this example) is
created in the Micromix
submixer, whose output is then
routed to channel 1 of the
Remix, so that all the strings
can be controlled by one fader.
EQ and compression are your two main tools for creating louder, fatter and clearer mixes in Reason. You have
to remember that, unlike many hardware or stand-alone synths, samplers and drum machines, Reason's
instruments generally come with no built-in effects, so you need to get stuck into the modular way of working
and add plenty of effects units. The Combinator device in Reason 3 really shows this up, and after you've used
some of the factory Combinator patches you'll probably never go back to plugging instruments straight into the
The technical part of mixing is the art of squeezing the most from a limited final delivery medium. With Reason,
the factors you have to work with are the range of sounds in your mix and the dynamic range of the output
format. The most common issue with electronic music is the desire to get everything as loud and up-front as
possible, but there's only so much volume to go around, and so much space for each sound. The sound
sources in Reason are capable of producing wide-ranging, dynamic, resonant, broad frequency-band sounds,
so when you start mixing them together you can end up with quite a mess and max out the final outputs very
quickly. EQ and compression are used to restrict the scope of each sound so that you can add much more
together before you reach the limits of the system (ie. the maximum volume).
Gain Structure In Reason
Although you might think this is an 'old school' topic more suited to analogue studios, 'gain structure' is important in Reason. This is the art of keeping all
the devices in your studio running within their optimum volume levels. In a digital environment such as Reason, the main imperative is to keep levels
fairly high (for maximum resolution), while preventing signals from hitting the top of the range of values that can mathematically be represented within
the software. Straying above this range will result in flat lines at the tops and bottoms of your waveforms (clipping), which doesn't sound pleasant!
You'll probably have clipped the main output from Reason at some point, resulting in the red clip light coming on in the transport bar. However, you can
clip signals at many points before this within Reason. The output from any instrument can clip, for a start, and turning that down in the mixer will not
help because the problem lies before the signal gets to the mixer inputs. Mixer inputs can be clipped. Effects devices that you're sending signal through
can be clipped. The main mixer output can clip. In other words, watching the red 'Audio Out' clip light is not enough; you need to be in the habit of
setting up each device so that it receives and outputs a decent level without maxing out.
One thing to bear in mind, especially if you're used to working with an analogue mixer, is that, like most digital mixers, the way in which signals are
mixed together in the Reason mixer follows slightly different rules. All the individual channels are summed together into a stereo signal known as the
mix buss. This is what arrives at the master fader on the right of the 14:2 mixer. Intuitively, you might think that if you mix together two signals that are
almost at the maximum level, the mix buss signal would 'go over' and clip, but this is not the case. Reason uses 32-bit floating-point maths to sum the
signals together, which means that there is an endless amount of headroom on the mix buss. The master fader scales this final signal down without
any loss of audio integrity so, if the final output of the mixer is clipping (showing red lights on its meters) you can pull it down as far as is necessary to
get a clean output. If this means that the master fader is quite a long way down, this isn't a particular cause for concern, as it would be with an
analogue mixing console.
Firstly, the EQ on the Reason mixer is only of limited use. These high and low
'tone controls' are set to the extreme ends of the useful spectrum (80Hz and
12KHz) so are useful for rolling off high harmonics and boomy low bass
components of sounds. However, you should get into the habit of using the
PEQ2 parametric EQ device on many instruments before they reach the mixer.
This EQ has two user-definable frequencies, with variable width (Q) and is
surprisingly effective at the kind of 'broad brushtroke' shaping you need to rein
in the sounds from Reason's synths and samplers. Many synth patches you
Figure 6: EQing sound sources
use, particularly rich pads and squelchy analogue sounds, will have loud
(a REX loop and an NNXT
resonant areas within their frequency spectra. Cutting these areas will not
patch in this example) with
generally spoil the character of the sound, but will do two very useful things: first, PEQ2s, to de-clutter the mix.
it will reduce the overlap the sound has with other channels, clearing out clutter
from the mix and reducing 'muddiness'; second, it will lower the overall volume of the instrument, which means
that you can turn it up without using more level than you were before you added the EQ. Of course, you're not
really 'turning it up' in the strict sense, but you are bringing forward the bits of the sound that count. In Figure 6
(above right), I've stripped out most of a mix to leave a couple of instruments where I've used this trick. After
cutting these bits of the REX loop and Moog sampler patch, the mix level meters dropped significantly but I'd
not lost anything of the bits of the sounds that I liked. Now I've got more headroom that I can fill with other
channels, or I can turn these instruments up and get several extra dBs of perceived loudness.
Reverb Tips
45 / 92
Reason Mixing Masterclass
While EQ and compression are the main tools for achieving fatter mixes, reverb and echo are used on
nearly all music mixes to bring the song to life and add gloss to the sound.
A good starting point for any mix in Reason is to add two RV7000 reverbs to aux 1 and 2 of your mixer,
using the first for reverb and the second for delays (see Figure 9, below). A medium-length plate reverb works
well on many sources.
Effects connected to an aux send are shared by all mixer channels, so you can add varying amounts of the
same reverb and delay to many instruments. Not only is this an efficient use of your CPU power, it helps tie
all your sounds together into the same perceptual space and create a sense of wholeness in the mix.
Pads and sounds with slow attacks can benefit from lots of reverb, but drums and sounds with sharp attacks
should be treated carefully, to avoid nasty swooshing sounds from the reverb. The high-frequency damping
control will make reverb on percussive sounds subtler.
Too much reverb can wash out your mix and detract from its punchiness. One way to avoid this is to use the
Gate section of the RV7000. This reduces the length of the reverb tail, rather than forcing you to make the
Figure 9: Two RV7000 effects devices,
reverb too subtle with the Decay knob.
one for reverb and one for delay, are a
Delays always add interest to a mix, and help tie it together rhythmically. However, avoid using echoes on good starting point for a mix.
fast rhythmic sounds and loud low-frequency sounds (for example, kick drums). This just creates chaos. If
you're working in Reason 3, try swapping out your RV7000 or DDL1 delay with one of the new Combinator delay-based effect patches.
Remember that you can adjust the level of an effect across all channels at once by tweaking the Return master pots at the top right of the mixer.
Where EQ tightens up and limits a sound in the frequency domain, compression reduces the range of volumes
that a sound spans: its dynamic range. A compressor is like an invisible hand pulling back the fader as a sound
gets louder, but again, the paradox is that this lets you make the sound louder overall. Just as the EQ method
above lets you push a sound up by reducing its frequency range, a compressor lets you push a sound up by
limiting its dynamic range. Reducing the peak volumes of a sound makes more headroom available to
increase the overall volume. Our ears are used to hearing this loss of peak dynamics and the compressed
signal sounds a lot louder and punchier to us. There are four compressors in Reason (see Figure 7, below), all
of which have their own characteristics and particular uses. These are, of course, a matter of taste, but here are
a few guidelines:
COMP 01: This compressor device is the original basic compressor that's
been around since v1.0. It features just the basic set of controls common to
most compressors: Threshold (the level at which peaks in the signal start to be
reduced); Ratio (how much they're reduced); and Attack and Decay (the
response and release times of the level reduction). COMP 01 is always in
'auto gain make-up' mode, which means that once the signal has been
Figure 7: The compression
compressed, the unit turns it up to make up the difference. The device is
choices in Reason: three
always trying to make signals louder overall, but remember that the real
dedicated devices and one
setting of the Scream 4
metered peak-level will not change. In this way, compression is the key to
distortion device.
squeezing much louder mixes out of Reason. COMP 01 is pretty basic and
unrefined, but this seems to make it very useful for taming wilder synth sounds.
It can add a really nice punchy attack to many synth sounds, again helping them cut through without your
having to push that mixer fader up, and it stops clips that would have forced you to pull the whole mix down.
MClass Compressor: There was much talk about Reason 3's great-sounding
new audio engine, when in fact it hadn't changed at all and people were
actually hearing the effect of the new compressors hiding in the Combinator
patches (see Figure 8, overleaf). Although billed as part of the mastering suite,
the compressor is really a general-purpose tool, but it does use quite a bit
more CPU power than COMP 01. There's no auto gain make-up; the user
sets the input and output gains. Use the Input gain to drive the compressor as
hard as you like, altering the threshold and ratio settings to achieve a smooth Figure 8: This Combinator
response. Normally you want to avoid compressing so much that you can hear patch includes the new MClass
Compressor, which can make a
the device working and overly flattening the sound. The device seems to
huge difference to a Reason
sound best when the gain-reduction meter is peaking between the -4 and 12dB marks. The Output gain can then be set to use up as much of your newly patch or mix.
created headroom as you like. Although useful on anything, including the whole
mix, the new compressor can do spectacular things to drums, and you'll probably never want to use a Redrum
again without it.
Scream 4: The third of the compressors is the tape-saturation emulator setting on the Scream distortion unit.
This is brilliant at adding some analogue-style warmth to sounds, or it can be used in quite extreme ways with
the Damage control turned up. The Speed parameter rolls off the high end, so if you only want to compress
with this unit, turn Speed to maximum and only use the Compression knob.
MClass Maximiser: This is the final dynamics processor in Reason and it has a specialised compressor
design for squeezing those last few dBs of perceived volume out of the whole mix. It's normally used as a finalstage process, but if you've got tons of CPU power there's nothing to stop you using it on individual
instruments. Next month we'll take a closer look at the MClass tools and how to master your final mix within
Published in SOS October 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
46 / 92
Beta-testing Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Beta-testing Reason
Manifesto Destiny
Beta Background
User Friendly
Reason Notes
Published in SOS October 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Propellerheads have always had a rather unusual
approach to beta-testing, routinely involving
thousands of registered users. We talk to the Props
about how it's done.
Derek Johnson
Last month's column had a quick rundown of the fixes and new features of Reason's v3.0.3 update. As many of
you will know, the update went through Propellerhead's beta-testing process, involving numerous registered
users testing fixes to destruction.
I thought it would be interesting to have a look at Propellerhead's development process, by way of a few words
with Reason's product manager, Mats Karlöf. Mats joined Propellerhead earlier this year — "This was a dream
job for me" — and must have hit the ground running, as v3 was released and discovered to have a few bugs.
Manifesto Destiny
Marco Raaphorst, known to the Reason community as Raapie, is a long-standing creator of patches for our virtual studio. He also contributed to the
factory Refill for v3.0. His latest work includes a modest but intricately programmed Combinator patch collection, together with a set of all-new
patches for the Subtractor and Malström devices that are these Combis' only sound sources. Combi Manifesto 1 features 22 patches that aim to keep
CPU load as low as possible while pushing the device's signal-routing and sound-design possibilities. Combinator controllers have been thoughtfully
set up (some even change pattern parameters on Matrix devices), and a new graphic 'backdrop' has been created for each patch. Surf to, have a listen to the demos and be prepared to fork over a mere £5.50/US$10/Euro 8.25 for the zipped 5.9MB download.
Beta Background
Beta testing comes after a few months of internal testing, which is ongoing but generally begins at the final
stages of the product development. Mats: "When we no longer can find any errors, bugs or issues with the
software, we start the public beta testing. The purpose of beta testing is to see if problems appear on
machines, operating systems and hardware setups that are different from ours, and also to see if other
installed software might conflict with Reason."
The problems with v3 came to the surface fairly soon after its release: "Almost everyone in the company reads
the Propellerhead forums and boards on a daily basis. We keep track of what users experience, think, feel or
wish to see from us. So we were aware about problems that our users had at a very early stage. We started
working on the fixes almost immediately after the first couple of reports. Some of the bugs were quite
unpleasant, so we were eager to release fixes as soon as possible."
User Friendly
Beta testers are then recruited from the registered user base. "We normally have a lot of interested users who
would like to contribute. From these we randomly select a few hundred that we start the testing with. In each
stage of testing after that we gradually add more and more users, until the final stages, where we have
thousands of people testing the software."
With so many people testing the software, it's impossible to keep track of what
each tester is doing via normal channels. "We set up a beta-test forum, which is
managed by Loui Westin, our beta-test leader, who communicates with the
testers and reports bugs to Erik Agsjö, our project manager for the Reason 3
bug-fixes. Every issue or question is posted on the beta forum, as are all
updates and new versions of Reason. This has the advantage that all beta
testers can follow what has been reported, what is actually a bug, what is
intended as a feature, and what has been fixed. It also makes it a lot easier to
communicate to a large group of testers." The communication is two-way,
From left to right,
despite the numbers of beta testers involved: "The beta-test leader can
Propellerhead's Mats Karlöf,
sometimes try to identify a particular problem and test solutions. It is important Loui Westin and Erik Agsjö.
that the bug or error is reproducible at least by the tester that first found the bug.
"All bugs and issues are logged as separate cases; each case contains one bug or issue and is always
assigned to one individual, who is responsible for fixing the bug or delegating it to someone else. Normally the
beta-test leader would open a case and assign it to the project manager, who in turn assigns it to one of the
developers for fixing. When the bug is fixed, the case is resolved by the project manager and finally closed by
the beta-test leader after he has confirmed the fix. It is important that a developer never confirms and closes his
own fix. We try to make sure that all bugs are fixed before we build a new version of Reason. Unfortunately we
can mistakenly create a new 'issue' when we are fixing an old bug."
Managing a beta-testing program, especially one involving thousands of testers, seems like a potentially
stressful endeavour. Mats comments: "It is not really stressful. One has to be meticulous. It is like being at
school and having to go back and do your lesson over and over again until you get it right. The internal system
we use makes everyone organised."
A 'final' version of Reason 3 was officially released to all users, only to be followed a few hours later by v3.0.3,
due to a newly-introduced bug having been spotted a little too late. How certain are the team that v3.0.3 is 100
percent? Mats is honest: "Unfortunately, we are now certain that v3.0.3 is only 99.9 percent. We must do
another bug fix, as we aim for Reason to be rock-solid and flawless. The up-side of all these bug fixes is that
we can optimise Reason to be less and less CPU hungry. In the end, we hope users appreciate that they will
have a music production system we believe is the best possible."
Published in SOS October 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
47 / 92
Mastering Reason 3 Mixes
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Mastering Reason 3 Mixes
Published in SOS November 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Reason 3 has several new tools for pumping up
final mixes and creating that 'finished product'
Why Mastering?
The Equaliser
Mastering For The Masses
Stereo Image
What's The Frequency,
Kenneth? Some EQ Guidelines
The Other Suite Of Four
Mastering Tools
Simon Price
Part of the appeal of Reason is the idea that you can create tracks from start to
finish in one integrated environment. However, for a while the program struggled to
compete sonically with the final mixes possible in packages featuring bundled
'mastering' plug-ins. Reason 3 addressed this shortcoming with the introduction of
several high-quality processors, meaning that now you really can go from scratch to
a polished final track in Reason.
Why Mastering?
Last month, we looked at how to improve your mixes in Reason, and mastering is,
in some ways, an extension of this topic. However, mastering is also a specific
discipline that exists for two purposes: tweaking the final stereo mix for creative
Reason 3's MClass
reasons, and optimising the output to suit the final delivery medium. These days, the Mastering Suite is a
Combinator patch
stereo mix will either be destined for a CD or MP3/AAC delivery format, both of
which will usually be created from a 16-bit, 44.1kHz stereo audio file, so mastering containing all four of the
new mastering processors.
aims to contain your mix within the limits of this format. In the days when vinyl was
the main music format, mastering was particularly aimed at the technical limitations
of the format, such as stopping the needle from jumping out of the groove! Nowadays, when most musicians
talk about mastering they tend to be thinking about working on the sound of the mix, rather than its technical
Mastering involves listening to and altering several attributes of the final stereo mix signal. The frequency
composition of the mix is scrutinised, and EQ may be used. The spatial (stereo) characteristics of the mix may
be altered, to create space or improve definition, and for technical reasons. Finally, level and dynamic range
are massaged to make the most of the technical limitations of the final medium, to suit the type of music and to
create a consistent, polished-sounding product. Each of Reason's mastering processors takes on one of
these aspects of the mix.
The devices we're going to look at are the MClass Equaliser, Stereo Imager, Compressor and Maximiser.
These devices can be used in the rack like any others, but in the context of mastering they should be inserted
between the main mixer's stereo outputs and the Hardware Interface device (see screen, right, for the rearpanel cabling). If you wish to use all the devices, you can choose to create the MClass Mastering Suite (see
screen at the start of this article), which is actually a Combinator patch that includes all the MClass effects,
cabled and ready to go. The Mastering Suite also lets you play with some preset mastering patches to get an
idea of what can be achieved.
The Equaliser
The MClass Equaliser (see screen below) is a much smoother processor than the older PEQ2 EQ device, and
is ideally suited to making adjustments to the final mix. The device offers low and high shelf EQs, two fully
sweepable parametric EQs and a low-cut filter. Each EQ stage can be switched in or out with the small red
button next to its name.
The first thing to say is that you may as well leave the low-cut filter switched in. It
simply rolls off everything below 30Hz, which is almost certainly only going to be
nasty stuff that you don't want to retain from samples. By far the most useful EQ
modules are the two parametrics, as you can configure exactly how they work.
They're your main tools for identifying and solving frequency-related problems in
your mix and they have the following main controls:
The Frequency control, which centres the frequency that the EQ is boosting or
The Q control, which determines the range of the effect, from a wide area to a
reasonably narrow peak/notch.
Effects devices that you
intend to use for mastering
(such as this MClass
Maximiser) must be
connected between the
The next issue is what to do with them. First, have a good listen to the mix you're main mixer and the
working with and try to identify anything that is niggling you. This could be annoying Hardware Interface outputs.
The Gain control, which provides +/-18dB of boost/cut — way more than you'll
ever need.
boominess, boxiness, muddiness, resonance, sharpness, harshness, or lack of
clarity or presence. These are all words often used to describe problems in the frequency content of a music
mix, and they tend to be associated with certain areas of the frequency spectrum. If you've never done this type
of listening before, now's the time to learn how — it's a lot easier than you might have been led to believe.
When you've identified once which frequency band is associated with a particular problem, it will always stand
out to you in the future and you'll have an idea what to do about it.
Listen to one of your songs and enable one of the parametric EQs. You might already be able to hear some
areas of the spectrum that poke out, especially if you're comparing with a commercial CD (see 'The Other
Suite Of Four Mastering Tools' box).
Whack the Gain control up on your enabled EQ.
Sweep the Frequency control slowly up and down until the offending area
sounds much worse. What you are trying to do is find where a problem is and
exaggerate it, which makes it really obvious and gives you confidence that you The MClass Equaliser's
really were hearing a problem.
parametric EQs are perfect for
tracking down and smoothing
Now turn the Q knob so that you're only boosting the 'nasty bit' and not its
out frequency problems in your
surrounding areas, and pull the Gain control down, so that you're cutting slightly mix.
48 / 92
Mastering Reason 3 Mixes
at this frequency. If your mix is fairly good in the first place, you should only
have to cut by 2-3dB to smooth things out. If you're cutting areas by much more than this — say, 6dB — you
should consider going back to an earlier stage of your mix and trying to sort out why there is an annoying peak
or clutter at this frequency. Normally, EQ is used to cut frequencies, but you can boost an area if necessary.
(See 'What's The Frequency, Kenneth?' box for some useful EQ starting points.)
Now that we've basically covered the use of the parametric modules, what about those shelves? The high shelf
is pretty useful for giving a little boost to mixes that lack high-end life and sparkle, but the low shelf needs to be
used very cautiously. It can be employed to roll off very low-end bass, although you're probably better off using
the more precise parametrics. The problem with the shelf is that unless you have Q at minimum, there is a
frequency boost around the cutoff frequency when you're cutting. This is pretty normal for an analogueemulating shelf EQ, but this bump tends to boost the nasty boomy and boxy frequencies between 200Hz and
The last thing to say about the MClass Equaliser is that it doesn't have an output gain control to counteract any
overall level change caused by your treatments. This means that changing the EQ could alter the response of
the Compressor or Maximiser that comes afterwards in the Mastering Suite. Adjust the input gain on the
Compressor to counter this.
Mastering For The Masses
You're probably waiting for the bit where I say that all these mastering tools are no substitute for a man in a professional mastering studio with 10grand speakers, 'golden ears' and a beard. Certainly, if you're releasing a commercial CD this kind of highly skilled post-production is a valuable
investment. But there are great reasons for all producers and musicians to learn to include mastering in their studio work. For a start, lots of music is
now released non-commercially or independently, via the web or podcasts, and these tracks will not get the benefit of pro mastering. Secondly, many
engineers will run their mixes through a maximiser to reference how their mix will sound when it's been mastered. Most importantly, if you are
mastering with the full mix available to you, you have many more options than a mastering engineer working on a two-track mix. You can take what
you learn from listening and tweaking at the mastering stage and go back and make changes to the mix, rather than just processing the stereo signal.
Stereo Image
The MClass Stereo Imager (below) lets you tweak the stereo width of your mixes in quite a sophisticated way.
Width can be narrowed or widened separately in two different frequency bands. A crossover control sets where
the high- and low-frequency portions of the mix are split, and you can solo each portion for reference.
Typically, this processor is used to ensure that the low-frequency parts of the mix are close to mono, which
keeps the mix tight and is also technically advisable for playback on stereo speakers, and for vinyl. The higher
frequencies can be left at their original width, or even widened, if desired. Don't overdo widening, as this can
just sound weird and chaotic. The Stereo Imager splits the mix into two frequency bands that have no
crossover, a trick that can be used for other purposes than those intended. For example, check out the
Mastering Suite preset patch 'Dual Band Compressor', which sends the high and low components separately
to two compressors.
What's The Frequency, Kenneth? Some EQ Guidelines
Low, bassy boominess usually occurs around 100-250Hz. Try cutting here, and also compressing the instrument(s) responsible. This will make the lowfrequency sound sources punchier and more defined.
A boxy, 'roomy' mix will benefit from a cut at around 350-600Hz. This can make a mix sound very tight, but if overdone may make it too 'dry'.
Muddiness can be addressed by reducing peaks anywhere between 600Hz and 1kHz.
Cutting at around 1kHz can reduce sharpness, and make mixes sound more powerful, but can also be overdone. If this happens, the mix may sound
artificially processed, like the effect created by the 'loudness' button on a dodgy hi-fi.
Shrill and piercing sounds tend to live at around the 2.5kHz mark, so a cut here can smooth a mix. Conversely, if your mix is a bit flat and limp, a boost
here can liven things up.
Mixes that lack presence, shine or the sought-after 'air' might need a subtle boost between 3kHz and 6kHz.
Compression, limiting and maximisation are all provided for in the MClass Mastering Suite. A decent mix will
have made good use of compression before the mastering stage, but a little extra on top from the Compressor
can help bind the mix together. Try using a medium threshold and a ratio of 1.5:1 or less. As I said last month,
the MClass Compressor is probably more useful as a general-purpose tool in Reason than as a mastering
processor (see screen below).
The MClass Maximiser (bottom of page) is where most of the magic happens,
and where you can get the results that most people probably associate with
mastering. The Maximiser does three things (which we'll look at in more detail
in a moment): it boosts the overall average level of the mix; it prevents the
signal from clipping (hitting 0dB); and it adds some subtle 'analogue-style'
Maximisation is achieved in the Limiter section. The technique behind
maximisation is limiting peaks in the mix so that you can push up the quieter
sections, increasing overall loudness. This doesn't mean turning up quiet
sections of a song and turning down the loud bits. A maximising limiter
compresses the transient peaks within the signal from moment to moment. This
means that sections of the song that were already peaking at maximum can be
turned up. The brain doesn't notice if fast peaks are limited, so if you don't go
overboard the mix can sound a lot louder, while peaking at the same level and
without sounding more compressed. The screens on the right show two
waveforms of the same short section of music. The first waveform is the
finished mix, but with no maximisation. The second waveform shows the mix
with heavy maximisation. Both waveforms peak at -0.2dB but the second
sounds a lot louder. Applied at this extreme level, maximisation can be heard:
the mix will sound as though it's constantly flat out, straining at the edges and
almost breaking up. This is the kind of limiting used on most commercial music
radio, or TV commercials. More subtle maximisation, however, gives a louder
mix with no perceived loss of dynamic range.
The ingenious Imager lets you
pull the low-frequency
components of your sounds
into the centre of the stereo
image, tightening up the mix.
Although this device is better
as a general-purpose
compressor, a little touch of
MClass compression brings the
mix together and adds a bit of
punch at the mastering stage.
The MClass Maximiser: this
peak limiter and soft clipping
processor can make the
difference beween a decentsounding mix and a polished,
defined, pumped-up floor-filler.
Or it can make your bad mix
bad but louder.
Looking at the Maximiser (see previous page), the signal flows from left to
right. The Input Gain control effectively pushes the limiter harder and harder, so
this is the main control for setting how loud you wish to make your mix.
However, there is an Output Gain control, which can then push the peak-limited
signal further into the Soft Clip section. Any boost you give the signal at the
Output stage is basically clipping the signal (going over 0dB), but the Soft Clip
stage is transparent enough that you can squeeze a few extra dBs through, if
you really want them. The Attack and Release controls really need
experimenting with for each song. Often, the slower you can get away with
setting these, the more transparent the results. Set them too fast and the mix
will pump and sound compressed. Set them slow and the sound is smoother,
especially if you've managed to achieve a pretty loud mix in the first place. If
sharp peaks (such as drum hits) suddenly poke through, you'll need to use a
faster response speed.
The MClass Maximiser can stop your mix from ever clipping in two different
ways. Firstly, if you set the Attack Speed to Fast, and enable Look Ahead
mode, the mix will be prevented from clipping (provided you don't turn up the
The same piece of mixed music
before (top) and after heavy
maximisation. Both peak at the
49 / 92
Mastering Reason 3 Mixes
mode, the mix will be prevented from clipping (provided you don't turn up the
same level, but the second
Master Output above 0dB). Look Ahead mode imposes a 4ms delay on the
sounds much louder.
signal, which the Maximiser uses to get a head start on any sudden transients.
This stops any sharp peaks from 'surprising' the limiter and getting through. The second way in which the
device imposes a so-called 'output ceiling' is by using the Soft Clip stage. If you switch this in and set the Soft
Clip Amount knob at minimum, the signal will not 'break the rules' by hitting 0dB, but will be able to 'flatline' if
pushed hard, which amounts to the same result sonically. However, if you bring up the Soft Clip Amount, the top
few dBs of the signal will be rounded off, more as if you were overdriving an analogue device. Unless you really
push the mix, this will sound like a very subtle warming distortion.
The Other Suite Of Four Mastering Tools
Reason provides four MClass mastering processors, but the other 'big four' are ears, reference CDs, speakers and headphones. The best way to
create a mix you'll be proud of, and learn a huge amount at the same time, is to stop and listen to some CDs that have a sound you'd like to get close to.
Listen via the speakers you're using with Reason, and also with headphones. Try to listen from a technical point of view, especially for things that you
might find surprising. How loud is the mix, and is it louder when there are more parts playing than just one or two? Can you actually hear any
compression working in the mix? How much low end is there, and how does the overall frequency content compare to your mix? What else is
different, and what might you try to make your mix sound similar?
Published in SOS November 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
50 / 92
ReBirth & Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
ReBirth & Reason
Rebirth of Rebirth
That's Not All Folks...
Reason On The Up
Reason Notes
Published in SOS November 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Rebirth is dead. Long live Rebirth! We discuss the
decision to discontinue this pioneering software
and discover how Reason users can keep its spirit
Derek Johnson
It has been said that Propellerhead, for their second product ever, really wanted to release something like
Reason. But computers weren't up to the job in 1997, so Rebirth RB338 was their follow-up to Recycle
instead. This accurate representation of the classic acid studio — virtual Roland TR808 drum machine and
dual TB303 Basslines — was an instant hit, growing a virtual TR909 beatbox with v2.0.
Rebirth, a very early entry into the soft instrument stakes, had quite an eventful life, particularly when inquisitive
users discovered how to replace the software's graphics, and even its drum samples. Rather than take
umbrage — though they must have been surprised — Propellerhead legitimised this 'mod' culture, releasing an
application with v2.0 that allowed anybody to do their own mods.
The 2000 release of Rebirth's successor, Reason, could have been Rebirth's death knell. But Propellerhead
thoughtfully built a conduit for the software — the Rebirth Input Machine — into their new super studio.
Development of Rebirth effectively ceased with v2.0.1, and although some users might like to see the classic
software rebuilt for modern times (especially for Mac OS X), Propellerhead have decided that their resources
are better deployed on current and future projects.
With regret, therefore, Rebirth has been discontinued.
Rebirth of Rebirth
But all is not lost: discontinued does not mean dead and buried, as it might at other software houses. First,
take a trip over to Here, you'll be able to gen up on the whole story, and download
v2.0.1 of the software for free! For Windows users, that effectively means an extra four modules for their
Reason setup, since RB338 still runs on that platform. Any Mac users still on Mac OS 9 can also gain this free
Rewire-compatible mini-studio.
The download takes the form of a rather large disk image, using the Bit Torrent
distribution method. Burn that image to a disk yourself, and you're ready to go.
(Mac users can run from the disk image on their desktop.)
This is unsupported software, but the museum offers loads of docs, FAQs and
a live message board. The museum also has a lot of 'mods' to download, so
you can sample some of that late '90s hacking action. There are apparently
some people who have never stopped using Rebirth; they're to be applauded,
but they're also to be tempted with a very favourable (but time limited) upgrade
path to the latest version of Reason. It might be time to bite, people!
Propellerhead salute their
More Rebirth history can be found at the SOS web site
breakthrough software with the
( reviews of v1 and v2 appeared in our August 1997 Rebirth Mod Refill.
and November 1998 issues respectively, both available on-line.
That's Not All Folks...
If you can't be bothered with running Rebirth, or are glad to be shot of OS9 but still have a soft spot for Rebirth
sounds, all is not lost. Propellerhead have 'Refilled' all Rebirth's drum sounds — and they've included a
selection of recreations of kits from the 'mod' community. And the 100MB Rebirth RB338 Mod Refill is free!
Go to Now.
The Combinator device has been used to group together Redrums, NNXTs, Spiders and other devices to
recreate the sound and feel of the various TR808 and TR909 kits. Standard layouts have been used, and
Combinator programmer knobs and buttons have been used sensibly and consistently to provide instant
access to important parameters.
Needless to say, most of the mod kits don't sound anything at all like an 808 or 909, but they've been recreated
as accurately as possible, to behave as if they were loaded into Rebirth. And this isn't just a patch collection,
as all the samples are, obviously, available for your use too. Be aware, though, that this collection follows
Rebirth's sample-naming conventions. No matter what the sample is that's meant to go in a particular slot, it
still has to have the same name as the sample it replaces. So, for example, a sample meant for the TR808
bass-drum slot in Rebirth will still be called TR808BD, even in this Refill. That's the case even if the
replacement is a loop, synth sound or wibbly noise.
There's only one annoying thing about this collection: every Combis has been supplied with a 'startup sound'
that chimes every time it's loaded. This gets old pretty quickly. It can be disabled but will only stay disabled in
future if you re-save the Combi.
However, that's a pretty minor quibble for a fabulous collection that costs precisely zero pounds. There's even a
13-page PDF manual, in the full Propellerhead house style, that goes into lots of detail about how the Combis
have been programmed and offers backgrounders on the modders whose work you're enjoying.
Reason On The Up
You might recall that last month's overview of Propellerhead's beta-testing process mentioned that the recent
v3.0.3 update was about to be superseded. We can now confirm that version 3.0.4, which fixes various small
but significant issues, is ready for download.
It's also worth noting that Reload, Propellerhead's free (to registered users) Akai S1000/S3000 sample
conversion utility, has been upgraded. There were, apparently, some 'compatibility issues' with Reason 3, and
these have been addressed in Reload v1.0.1.
Published in SOS November 2005
51 / 92
ReBirth & Reason
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
52 / 92
Tuning Drum Loops In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Tuning Drum Loops In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS December 2005
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Can't quite get your Reason rhythm section kicking
with the rest of the track? If you've never
considered tuning your drum samples and loops to
help create a tight and harmonious mix, now may
be the time to try it...
Sonic Seasonings
The Knobs You'll Be Tweaking
Drum Major
The Rest Of The Kit
Reason News
Automating Pitch Changes
Going Loopy
Derek Johnson
Since Reason's inception, there has been much discussion amongst users
about whether tracks could be taken from start to finish, including final
sweetening, without moving outside the software's environment. Obviously,
adding new audio has always required external help. But although mastering
processes could be replicated to a certain extent with a little ingenuity, it was
the release of version 3's MClass mastering suite that made staying exclusively
inside Reason a really workable idea. See Simon Price's 'Mastering Your
Mixes' feature last month for more on this aspect of Reason.
Sonic Seasonings
Tuning drums can make a big
difference to the sound of a
mix, and can be automated
throughout a song. In this
example, you can see two
I'd like to suggest that it might be tuning. You don't need intimate knowledge of Redrum samples having their
the inner workings of the Western music tradition in order to make music with pitch changed automatically;
pitch stays at one value until
software such as Reason. Many of us just stack bits together, trust to instinct
32, changes, then moves
and do our best. And it often works. But when figuring out the 'vertical harmony' bar
back to the original value after
of a piece — sorting out which lead or pad notes work with our funky bass line, a further 16 bars. The changes
which produce interesting dissonances and which just don't work at all — how have been exaggerated for
many of us include drum sounds in the equation? And how many of us pay as illustration: most alterations
much attention as we should to how textural material or breakbeats fit?
wouldn't be this drastic. Note
the green highlight around
We won't go into a discussion about those styles — usually urban and/or cutting pitch parameters that have
been automated.
edge — that mash beats, breaks and loops together, hope for the best and
But there may be some sessions where even the MClass sheen, on top of the
usual refining, perfecting and polishing of samples, patches and arrangement,
can leave some of us wanting more. But what?
occasionally get it. We'll take it for granted that, no matter what source material
you're using, you'd like the final result to have a sense of unity. If there's to be any distracting nastiness, let it be
Before we move on, note that a lot of what I'll say should be taken loosely: though there are intrinsic pitches in
all sampled sounds (you can play tunes with sampled rain, for example), we don't always need to identify that
pitch absolutely. Our aim is to find tunings for what are, strictly speaking, non-pitched sounds, that are in
harmony with the rest of a song. This can have quite a significant effect on the impact of your final mixes, and
might well help you achieve your goal — a mix that feels subliminally 'right' — more quickly.
The Knobs You'll Be Tweaking
Each drum-voice channel in Redrum has a 'pitch' parameter, with a range of an octave below to
an octave above the central basic value. The scale, -64 to 0 (no change) to +63, isn't concordant
with absolute fine-tuning but is certainly close enough for our purpose. Channels 6 and 7 have an
adjustable 'bend' option. Originally intended for the creation of syn-drum swoops, talking-drum
effects and the like, one could use this to slide from one concordant pitch to the central pitch, if
desired. Other devices that might be used to create drum sounds — samples could be loaded into
NNXT or NN19, and syn-drum sounds created with Subtractor, for example — have a three-way
combination of octave and semitone transposition, plus accurate cent-based (1/100th of a
semitone) fine-tuning.
The tuning controls of
Redrumand NN19. Shown
above are the pitchenvelope controls of
Redrumvoices six and
seven. NN19 has three pitch
controls, although the centcalibrated 'fine' knob will
probably be used most in
this technique.
Drum Major
You may think of percussion as just producing some kind of thud, swish or crash, but listen closely and there's a
dominant pitch in there somewhere. Load any drum sample from a factory Refill into NN19 and play it from your
MIDI keyboard. You'll generate melodies, and it will always be possible to tune the sample to bring it into line
with other musical material.
This is our first goal: to bring the drum samples loaded into Redrum (or NNXT or NN19, if you use them for
drum playback) into a harmonic groove with the rest of the track. If you've never used anything more than EQ,
level and panning to fix up your drums, you may be in for a surprise. Remember that real drummers tune their
kits to suit a given circumstance, especially in the studio. And as for the world of non-pop hand-played
percussion instruments, pitch is part of their raison d'être and they will be generally be fine-tuned to suit their
Let's start at the bottom. The kick drum will probably be the subject of the most valuable tuning decision you
can make, so we'll start by getting it to 'sit' with a bass line — and not just rhythmically.
Obviously, you won't be tuning a kick drum to match every note in a bass line, but it can help to centre the
groove and the feel of the finished track if the kick is at least pitched to something like the root of a track's
overall key.
Solo your bass line and kick drum.
53 / 92
Tuning Drum Loops In Reason
Solo your bass line and kick drum.
Set up loop points for a section of song that has the bass line playing a lot of
root pitches; if your track tends to groove along in E-flat (for example) for most
of its verse or chorus, pick a bar or two where the bass line consists mostly of
E-flat notes.
Now tune the kick drum to this pitch. You don't have to tune it madly up or down
to find an exact E-flat if the result doesn't feel right, or if you find yourself tuning
too high or too low. The object of the exercise is to find a pitch for the kick that
Manually recording a change in
doesn't clash with the bass line.
pitch of -15 to -12 for a Redrum
drum voice resulted in this
If you can't hear something that sounds right, borrow a trick from acoustic
messy transition at bar 32.
instruments: brass and string players often pull slides out or slacken strings
and then slowly move them back to pitch. Move the tuning knob way up or down (the top, central position
always corresponds to the root pitch of the sample) and then slowly move it in the other direction, stopping
when it feels right.
Once you've found a tuning value that works, add the rest of the track and listen for any obvious clashes. Most
kick sounds won't cause a problem with the higher-frequency elements of your mix, but it's worth checking.
If your track changes its harmonic centre, re-tune the kick drum for each section, using Reason's automation
facility. In all probability, the change won't be that much, since we're not necessarily transposing the kicks to
every root pitch, remember. We're just looking for a value that fits. With the full mix going, a small change in
tuning won't be noticed, save perhaps as a subliminal 'rightness' as the new section kicks in. If the only pitch
that works 100 percent for a given section is very far removed from the section on either side, a compromise is
in order — find a tuning that works for two sections, even if neither is ideal.
If this seems like hard work and you've got RAM and CPU overhead to spare, there's another option. Finish
your drum-kit creation and pattern programming, then make a copy of your Redrum, or as many copies as you
have pitch changes to make. Tune each Redrum as required and then automate the Pattern Enable switches
on the Redrums to start them playing when required. You'll need more Remix mixer channels, though, for the
extra Redrums. Finally, if you have simple percussion needs, load multiple kicks into a patch, tuning each for
the different sections and making the changes with changes of pattern.
The Rest Of The Kit
Snare works well if it's tuned to the kick. Again, you'll be listening for feel, so you're not necessarily matching
the kick's pitch exactly; a fourth or a fifth above might work. You'll hear a fourth if you play an 'F' above a 'C' on
your master keyboard and a fifth if you play a 'G'; if you don't know what 'C', 'F' and 'G' are, you may need a
different article! The snare tuning should be cross-referenced to the track, since you're trying to achieve
harmony as part of the mix, not just the drum kit. Be prepared for more compromise as you find a pitch that
works well against the kick and the mix.
The same goes for hi-hats or cymbals: try to tune them within the kit first, and
then 'massage' your result in the context of the overall mix. It can help to solo
melodic and higher accompaniment textures during the hi-hat tuning process.
Toms, if you use them, are another issue. Say you have high, medium and lowpitched toms: you might try to match the low tom to a pitch related to the kick,
though something that sounds a fourth or fifth higher might work better. The mid,
in an acoustic kit, would be tuned another fourth or fifth higher than that, and the
high tom the same again. If there's a lot of tom work, you might want to run
through any fills or other tom parts to make sure that this 'circle of fourths or
A moment with the line tool
fifths' rule of thumb doesn't create any major clashes.
cleans it up nicely.
Another subtle option is to tune the toms, especially if your kit has more than three, to significant pitches in the
overall track's bass line or lead part. Modify your fills accordingly. You may not want to go the whole rototom or
'70s disco syn-drum hog, but it's another thing to consider when you're trying to create an overall feel for your
Claps can be treated like snares, while claves and rim-shots (which have more of a definite pitch element) will
be even easier to match to the whole track. Don't forget automation as a way to introduce dynamic pitch
changes if the musical context of your mix would benefit. Samples of Latin or other hand percussion — congas,
bongos, djembes — can be matched in a similar way to toms.
It has occurred to me, before you say anything, that many instruments in the hand-percussion world can't be
tuned, and that the same goes for hi hats and cymbals. I could answer that well-equipped percussionists have
examples of different sizes that can be brought out for different occasions, but, actually, being able to tune what
in the real world is essentially untuneable is one of the perks of working with electronic music.
Reason News
Following on from last month's SOS review of Propellerhead's excellent Reason Drum Kits Refill is news of RDK 2.0.
The price remains the same, £79, but the collection has been expanded and completely rebuilt to use Reason v3.0
features such as the Combinator and the MClass mastering tools. Hi-hat mapping has also been improved, but the
biggest addition is the 13-strong collection of 'producer kits'. Developed in conjunction with a number of name
producers and engineers, these kits use RDK's samples and Reason effects to reproduce each professional's
'signature sound'. If you're already a Reason Drum Kits user, all is not lost: you can buy an update disk for £20.
It might seem like a gimmick, but how about buying yourself a branded Reason USB drive? A mere £27 is good value
for the 256Mb capacity of this tiny device and the facility to easily move even large Reason files around. And if you
need a further incentive to make you take the plunge, there is one: a free Sonic Reality 64Mb Refill is loaded on each
drive. Visit the shop at
More than 40 MIDI hardware controllers are supported by Reason 3.0's new Remote Protocol. Trouble is, any new
hardware that would benefit from the tight integration with Reason that the protocol offers would have to wait for an
update to Reason before being supported. Until now, because with with the release of Propellerhead's Remote
Protocol SDK, hardware developers will be able to create their own Remote codecs without waiting for a new
version of Reason to be released.
Automating Pitch Changes
Automated parameter changes in Reason can be recorded on the fly or drawn in manually (using the pencil
tool) in the linear sequencer. For our purposes, a mixture of the two techniques will be the best option. And
don't worry: it takes longer to describe this stuff in print than it does to actually do it!
First, take a couple of runs through the song to work out which tuning values you require for which samples,
and when they need to occur. The tool-tip parameter readout that pops up when you mouse or change a
parameter is invaluable here. Changes that happen right on bar lines will make life easier, but don't worry if
changes occur on any beats or sub-division thereof. We'll be using the 'snap' facility (enabled by clicking the
magnet icon on the sequencer's tool bar) when drawing or editing the automation data. Set snap to the most
appropriate value: don't select 16th note if all changes you plan to draw happen on a bar line.
Now, Alt-mouse click a parameter to be automated — say 'pitch' on drum voice one of a Redrum. Doing this
automatically switches the sequencer into Edit Mode and creates a controller lane for drum one's pitch
parameter in Redrum's sequencer track. The lane is immediately available for editing.
Disable any other edit lanes (using the icons in the tool bar) that might be cluttering up the screen. Also zoom
54 / 92
Tuning Drum Loops In Reason
in to maximum lane height (using the '+' magnifying glass to the right of the lane) since this will make it easier
to manipulate controller data, whether drawing it from scratch or editing some that already exists.
There's a quick way to register the initial pitch (or any other parameter) value.
First, move the pitch knob to the value you require at the start of the song
(remember those tool tips). Now fast-forward to a bar or two before the bar
where you'd like the next pitch change to occur (if your first pitch-value change
happens at bar 32, say, fast-forward to bar 30, or double-click the position
display and key in '30'). We're doing this because Reason lacks a count-in
Here's the linear sequencer's
tool bar: the main edit lanes are
selected by the group of icons
to the right of the edit-window
selector button (far left); only
the controller lane icon is
highlighted (it's blue) since
lanes will make our
Enable the Redrum track for recording by clicking on the MIDI icon to the left. other
working window too busy. Note
Now click 'record' and 'play' and after the 'count in', and as quickly as you can, that the line tool is highlighed,
tweak the pitch knob with your mouse to the next desired value (watch the tool and that the snap facilitiy —
tip readout). Stay in record until the bar where the pitch should return to its
see the highlighted magnet
original, or change to another, value; you don't have to hold the new parameter icon — is set to one-bar
value with your mouse.
Rewind to the start of the song and you'll see that initial pitch value recorded as controller data, but when you
reach the point where you made the change, the controller data will look a little messy (see screens on
previous page). Don't worry: this blip can be smoothed out with the pencil or line tool. The line tool is
particularly useful here: place its crosshair at the leading edge of the controller data and drag in a straight line.
With the snap value set appropriately, you just need to keep your mouse hand steady until the nearest snap
value: the line goes jagged if you veer from the straight and narrow.
Further pitch changes can be made in the same way: fast-forward to a bar or two before the point where you
want the change, record it, stay in record until the parameter should change back, and edit any wobbly bits of
controller data later.
When smoothing out serious data blips, or drawing parameter changes from scratch, you'll discover that you
won't know what value you're drawing. Reason's controller lane lacks tool tips and individual parameter step
gradations on its X-axis. After drawing a change, position your mouse over the corresponding knob to use its
tool tip to confirm the value you've just drawn. If the value is right, carry on drawing a straight line. Again, the line
tool is the perfect choice in these situations, and an appropriate snap value ensures clean starts and finishes to
the controller-data changes.
Going Loopy
You know where we're headed now: if you add extra sample material in REX or other formats to your track, you
may also want to make sure its central pitch feel matches the track. Listen closely and you'll find that even the
most abstract textural loop will have a pitch that you can tweak so that it will sit better in your mix.
The same is certainly true of a lot of breakbeats or drum loops. Tuning within Dr:Rex is a doddle, since the
sliced-up REX format means that there are no implications for length or temporal relationships once you've
manipulated a loop or its individual slices. In general, follow the same methods discussed above, bearing in
mind that finding a pitch that works may take closer listening. If the loop is just drums, it may even be possible
to rework the pitches of each slice in the same way as you would each drum sample in a Redrum kit. Doing so
will be less straightforward than with other Reason devices, however. While it is possible to transpose each
slice up or down over a huge range in semitone steps, the fine-tune parameter is global for the whole loop, so if
you need to tweak the pitch of several slices more finely than a semitone you'll have to use automation to make
the changes happen when needed. This isn't a huge problem in Reason, but it will inevitably be more fiddly
than the section-based tuning of drums discussed earlier.
Published in SOS December 2005
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
55 / 92
Mastering External Audio In Reason 3
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Mastering External Audio In Reason 3
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS February 2006
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Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
In this article:
The NNXT File Player
Looped Playback
Vintage Variable Tape Speed
Mastering Suite: Out Of Order?
Automating Levels
Yes, Master!
Reason can be a simple yet surprisingly
sophisticated mastering suite — and not just for
audio generated in the Reason environment.
Craig Anderton
With the addition of the MClass processors in Reason 3, Propellerheads
addressed the fact that Reason had been a studio without a mastering suite.
Prior to v3, people would export their masterpieces as audio files, then complain
about a "wimpy" sound — until the file found its way into the hands of a good
mastering engineer. Now much of that kind of work can be done inside Reason
itself. For a detailed description of the new MClass processors and how to use
them to master material generated within Reason, check out the article
'Mastering Your Mixes in Reason 3', in the November 2005 issue of Sound On
Reason's mastering processors are even good enough that you might want to try
The numbers identify the
using them for mastering audio files generated by other programs, such as
relevant features of NNXT
Cubase, Live, Sonar, DP, Logic and so on. (And to the list of MClass processors and correspond with the
I'd also add subtle use of the RV7000 reverb as suitable for mastering, if your
steps listed in the text.
material needs a bit more ambience.) Although the conventional wisdom is that
Reason isn't suited for digital audio-based signal processing, that's not really true. You can load digital audio
files into the NNXT or NN19 sampler, play them back through the processors in real time, tweak the settings,
then export the audio to disk.
The NNXT File Player
Although it's touted as a sampler, NNXT can play back any digital audio file, including ones that are quite long
(within the limits of available RAM, as it doesn't stream from disk). So you may not be able to fit an entire CD in
there, but you can certainly fit most songs.
So why use NNXT instead of NN19? Either will work, but NNXT allows layering. So if you want to crossfade
two songs, or add another last-minute effect or transition, you can do so very easily. You don't need to load a
patch, as the Init Patch works just fine for our purposes. Here's the step-by-step process for setting up the
NNXT file player; the steps correspond to numbers on the screen shot, left.
1. Click on Load Sample, navigate to the sound file you want to master, then click on OK. The NNXT accepts
WAV or AIFF files, 16-bit or 24-bit; however, if you load 24-bit files, note that the MClass processors do not
include dithering. For many types of files this won't matter, but it probably will for acoustic music.
2. Click on High Quality Interpolation, as you may want to change the pitch. We'll discuss why shortly.
3. At this point, the sample is sitting inside NNXT, with the root note at C3.
4. Go to the sequencer and click on the Pencil tool.
5. Draw a very long note at C3 — long enough to last the entire length of the song.
6. Double-click on the Stop button to send the Play cursor to the beginning of the sequence.
7. Click on the transport's Play button and you'll hear the file.
Although using Reason in this way doesn't allow for true random-access playback within the file, you can come
close by modifying the sample Start point.
Looped Playback
In addition to the sample Start-point trick mentioned above, there are also some advantages to using looped
playback. For example, one part of the file may be considerably louder than the others; this is what you'll want
to listen to when adjusting the Maximizer, to make sure that the sound doesn't get squashed too much as you
increase the level of maximisation. To loop a portion of the file:
1. Adjust the Start point for where you want the loop to begin.
2. Match the Start-point control's setting with the Loop Start control.
3. Set the Loop End control for where you want loop playback to end.
The Start, Loop Start, Loop
End and Play Mode controls
are the keys to providing
Now, when you start playing the sequence (remember, you always have to start looped playback.
4. Set Play Mode to FW-Loop (forward looping).
from the beginning) you'll hear only the looped portion.
Vintage Variable Tape Speed
One fun aspect of using NNXT for playback is that you can alter pitch, just like in the old days when hit music
producers routinely turned up an analogue tape-recorder's variable speed control by a few percent. There are
three ways to do this with Reason:
In the sequencer, move the note up by the desired number of semitones.
With NNXT, use the sample Tune control (located next to the Start control) to alter tuning in cents.
Add a pitch-bend controller message in the sequencer. The advantage of this option is that you can make very
subtle pitch changes over the course of the tune.
Mastering Suite: Out Of Order?
56 / 92
Mastering External Audio In Reason 3
While SOS's November 2005 article on mastering with Reason 3 gives one example of a mastering
configuration based on Reason's MClass Master Suite Combi, the signal flow shown in that example is not
the only one that's possible, and other variations may be more effective with different types of material.
Obviously, for the application presented here, NNXT must go at the beginning of the chain, because it's
providing the signal to be processed, and the Maximizer should go at the end, because it's designed to
catch peaks and prevent 'overs'. Anything inserted after it could introduce peaks again. But the order of the
other three modules is open to debate; I tend to go with EQ, Compressor, Stereo Imager.
Although Reason's MClass mastering Combi places the Stereo Imager before the Compressor, I'm not a big
fan of stereo image processing. I'll use it subtly, if at all, so I don't want a compressor after it to emphasise
the effect. But if you love stereo imaging, you may want the Compressor after it.
Another issue is which order you prefer for EQ and compression. I prefer EQ first, because any peaks
caused by serious equalisation are tamed by the compressor. But you could also argue that compression
after EQ 'undoes' some of the EQ's effects, and you might therefore want to place the EQ after
compression. Some of this depends on how much EQ and compression you use; as always, your ears are
the best judge.
Here's the patching for the mastering
suite I like to use, as viewed from the
back of the rack.
Automating Levels
Something even most digital audio editors won't let you do is automate levels throughout the file, which you can
certainly do in Reason. You can fade in to the file, fade out, or even change gain in particular passages. As an
example, if one section is considerably softer or louder than the rest of the file, rather than relying on
compression to smooth things out, you can use automation to reduce the level of the over-loud section. To do
1. Click on the Show Controller Lane button. The controller lane appears.
2. Size the controller lane as desired for easy viewing.
3. Click on the Controllers drop-down menu.
4. Select Master Volume (see screen below).
Most digital audio editors don't
allow for parameter automation,
but Reason does. This screen
You can use the same basic principle to automate pitch-bend, if you want to do shows a fade-in that's been
variable-speed tricks as mentioned earlier.
added to a file.
5. Draw the desired automation curve.
Yes, Master!
Now that you're done with mastering, don't forget to go File / Export Song as Audio File. If you've come up with
a great mastering setup, shift-click on all the devices you used, right-click on one and select Combine: they'll
end up in a Combinator patch, at which point you can save your efforts as a preset.
Published in SOS February 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
57 / 92
Using Reason with 8 major Audio Host Applications
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Using Reason with 8 major Audio Host
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS March 2006
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason makes an ideal 'synth rack' for use with a
variety of host software. We take you through the
steps needed to Rewire it to eight popular
In this article:
Rewire Basics
Steinberg Cubase SX3
Digidesign Pro Tools 7
Ableton Live 5
MOTU Digital Performer 4
Cakewalk Sonar 5
Arturia Storm 3
Adobe Audition 1.5
Sony Acid 5
Craig Anderton
Propellerheads' Rewire is a connection protocol that allows two or more software
applications to work together like one integrated program. That sounds simple enough,
but it means a lot to today's computer-based musician.
For example, imagine you've created an amazing rhythm track in Reason, but want to
add some vocals and guitar as overdubs. Because Reason doesn't record linear digital
audio tracks, if Rewire didn't exist you'd need to export the Reason stuff as audio,
import it into a MIDI + Audio sequencer and do your best to match the program tempo
with the Reason file's existing tempo as you did your overdubs. If you then wanted to
make a change in a Reason instrument, you'd have to export the Reason file, then import and so on all over
With Rewire, you can use Reason as the client (also called the synth application or slave) with a compatible
host (also called the mixer application) such as Pro Tools, Sonar, Digital Performer or Ableton Live. Both
programs will follow the same tempo while you lay down your audio tracks. There's a misconception that
Rewire is a CPU-intensive protocol, but that's not the case. Rewire itself is quite efficient; what causes the hit to
your CPU is running two audio/soft-synth programs at the same time. As long as your computer can handle
running these two programs at the same time, Rewiring them together shouldn't cause any problems.
Rewire Basics
Any Rewire-compatible application is either a host, a client, or both (but not
simultaneously — you can't Rewire a client into a host, then Rewire that into
another host). There are four main aspects to Rewire:
The client's audio outputs stream into the host's mixer.
The host and client transports are linked, so that starting or stopping either
one starts or stops the other.
Setting loop points in either application affects both applications.
Cubase SX's Reason device
panel is toward the upper
centre; the mixed output and
four other channels are active.
The original version of Rewire allowed streaming of up to 64 individual
Reason's selected instrument
channels into the host's mixer; Rewire 2 ups that to 256. You may have the
outs show up in the
option to choose only the master mixed (stereo) outs, all available outs, or your Arrangement window as part of
choice of outs. If you choose all available outs, instruments can Rewire into the a Reason folder track, as well
host's channels individually, and be processed individually. (With Rewire 2, it's as in the mixer. The SX MIDI
also possible to stream 4,080 individual MIDI channels — 255 MIDI buses with track drives whichever
instrument is selected as its
16 channel per buss — from one application to another.)
Both applications can share the same audio interface.
Another aspect of Rewire is that programs must be opened in a particular
order, usually host first, then Reason; however, some programs will automatically launch Reason if you select it
as a client. You close programs in the reverse order: Reason first, then the host. Now let's look at how to
Rewire Reason into various host programs.
Steinberg Cubase SX3
1. Go to the Devices menu, which lists various Rewire-compatible applications.
2. Select 'Reason' and a Rewire panel appears with Reason's 64 available channels (see screen shot on
previous page). Click the buttons toward the left to enable the channels you want (you can rename channels in
the right column, so names that are relevant show up in Cubase's mixer).
3. Open Reason.
4. The channels you activated in step two appear in the mixer. In the Arrangement window, they're in a folder
track called 'Rewire Channels'.
5. Create a MIDI track, and in the track's 'Output' drop-down menu select the Reason instrument you want to
trigger via MIDI. Now any MIDI data you play into Cubase, or record into the associated Cubase track, will
trigger that instrument.
Digidesign Pro Tools 7
Pro Tools 7 introduced the Instrument track, which simplifies Rewiring,
compared to previous versions (see screen shot above).
1. Go Track / New and select a Stereo Instrument Track.
2. Click on 'Create', which inserts the Instrument track into your session.
3. In the Mix window, go View / Mix Window and tick 'Instruments'.
The Instrument track
4. In the Instrument track's insert section, go Multi-Channel Plug-In / Instrument / introduced in Pro Tools 7
contains MIDI data and outputs
audio from the Instrument. It's
5. Reason will launch automatically. A Rewire window appears where you can also the ideal place to insert
58 / 92
Using Reason with 8 major Audio Host Applications
Reason outputs.
choose the desired Reason output.
6. To send MIDI data to a Reason device, first, in the Mix Window Instrument track's topmost field, choose the
desired MIDI input that's providing the MIDI data.
7. Choose the destination Reason instrument in the field below the MIDI input field. All available destinations
will be named, along with associated MIDI channels.
You can now record MIDI data into the Instrument track, which will feed the destination you selected in step
seven above. Also note that you can create multiple Instrument tracks and insert Reason in each one, while
choosing different outputs from Reason for these tracks.
Ableton Live 5
Reason's outputs flow into the Live mixer channels as if they are inputs you're recording.
1. If you have empty tracks available for Reason's outs, that's fine. Otherwise, go Edit / Insert Track and
insert the required number of tracks (remember, Live's tracks are stereo).
2. Open Reason.
Reason has been
selected in the
'Audio From' field.
The middle track is
an audio track that
is receiving the
output from Reason
channels three and
four. The track on
the right is a MIDI
track, which is
sending MIDI data
to Reason.
3. Once Reason is open, click on Live's 'Audio From' field to see a pop-up menu showing all available Rewire
clients. Select 'Reason'.
4. Next, click on the field just below the 'Audio From' field, to reveal a pop-up menu showing all Reason's
available outputs. Choose the desired output for the current track. Note that you can create multiple tracks,
select Reason in the 'Audio From' field, then choose several outputs from Reason.
5. Click on the 'In' button in the Monitor section for each Rewired track, so that you can hear the Rewired
signal. Note that the channel meters will indicate Reason's levels. You can also process Reason's signals
through Live's effects, as well as sending them to any aux effects via the send controls.
6. Assuming that the 'MIDI From' parameter is set to receive data from your MIDI controller, set 'MIDI To' to
7. In the field directly below 'MIDI To', select the Reason instrument you want to feed with the MIDI data.
MOTU Digital Performer 4
As usual, load the host first. However, DP already 'knows' that Rewire applications are present, even before
you load Reason.
1. Go Project / Add Track / Aux Track, to create an Aux track.
2. In the track Input field, use the pop-up menu to choose the Reason output you
want to feed into DP's mixer (see the screen shot overleaf).
3. If you want to add several sets of Reason outputs, create more Aux tracks
and continue as above.
Assigning a Reason output to
4. Now open Reason, and press Play on either application. Assuming that you the Input field in an Aux track
(circled in red) feeds the output
have a project in Reason, you should hear DP play along with it, and the meters into Digital Performer's mixer.
will indicate that Reason is feeding audio into DP's mixer.
5. Reason will also appear as MIDI output destinations in the MIDI output-assignment menus in DP's MIDI
tracks, so you can play Reason's synths from MIDI tracks within DP, or record data in those tracks for driving
Reason's instruments.
Also note that Rewire MIDI ins and outs are published to Core MIDI-compatible software, so the client can
receive MIDI data from such software as well as transmitting data to it.
Cakewalk Sonar 5
1. Go Insert / Rewire Device and you'll see a list of all registered Rewire-compatible devices. Select 'Reason'.
2. A dialogue box will pop up with check boxes for 'First Synth Output' or 'All Synth Outputs'. The former
chooses Reason's mixed stereo outs, while the latter presents all available outs. Be careful if you choose 'All
Synth Outputs', as Reason will add 64 channels to Sonar's mixer. You can always delete the ones you don't
use, but still, unless you need individual outs go for the main stereo outs.
3. The dialogue box also asks if you want a MIDI source track. This is necessary to send
MIDI data to Reason (eg. for controlling it via a MIDI keyboard). Of course, you can insert a
MIDI track later (and you probably will, if you want to drive several devices from different
tracks), but if you do it now it will be named automatically and ready to go. You can also
check 'Open Synth Property Page' if you want to bring Reason's window to the fore, and/or
'Open Synth Rack', which shows Sonar's 'virtual rack' of whatever synth and Rewire devices
you have open.
4. Now open Reason.
5. In the MIDI Source track, the devices present in Reason will be pre-assigned as options
and the instrument names will show up as outputs. Choose the device to which you want to
send MIDI data (see the screen shot on the right).
Arturia Storm 3
1. After opening Storm, click on the 'Rewire Software' tab. (If the tab doesn't appear, go
Settings / General and tick 'Activate Rewire mixer on launch of Storm'.)
2. Drag the Reason box under 'Rewire Software' into an empty space in the Storm rack.
Reason's mixed
stereo outs are
inserted as tracks
into Sonar. The
MIDI track is being
assigned to the
device. More MIDI
tracks can be
added to feed
other instruments.
3. Use the drop-down menus on Storm's Rewire 'rack unit' to assign particular outputs from
Reason to the Storm mixer's right and left channels, which will already have dedicated a track to the Rewire
4. If you want to assign more Reason outputs to the Storm mixer, drag the Reason box below the Rewire
Software tab over to another blank space in the Storm rack. Storm will open up another channel; assign the
desired Reason outs to the new Storm channel as described previously, using the drop-down menu.
Adobe Audition 1.5
Audition added Rewire support in v1.5. However, it won't pass MIDI data through to the client, so, for example, if you want to play the soft synths in
Reason, you'll need to record your data directly into Reason. Note that you won't need to open Reason after opening Audition, because Audition will
do that for you.
1. In the Multitrack view, go Options / Device Properties / Rewire tab.
2. Click on the button 'Enable Audition as a Rewire Host'.
3. Enable Reason as the Rewire slave application.
4. Choose the desired track assignment. 'Insert summed stereo output into first available track' brings in the summed output, which needs one track, as
Audition tracks are stereo. 'Insert all outputs to individual tracks' brings in allReason's tracks, which is a lot — so you might instead want to tick 'Insert
outputs manually using track device input dialogues'. Then you can choose which client outputs show up at which Audition inputs.
5. After making your decision, click on Launch and Reason will launch automatically.
59 / 92
Using Reason with 8 major Audio Host Applications
If you decide to assign inputs manually in step four, when you click on the track Input field you'll need to set the Device Type as 'Rewire'. Then you can
specify whether the input will pick up the left channel, the right channel, or both. Once you've made assignments for all your tracks, you're ready to go.
(Incidentally, Audition won't let you exit the program unless you return to the Device Properties page and disable Audition as a Rewire host.)
Sony Acid 5
1. After you have opened Acid, Go Insert / Soft Synth.
2. Now click on the 'Rewire Devices' tab. Doing this will cause a list of Rewire devices to appear, along with
their available outputs.
3. Select an output. This creates a Soft Synth channel in the Mixer window. If Reason doesn't open
automatically, open it manually.
4. Continue to insert Reason outputs, if you need more of them. Each of these will create a new channel in the
Acid mixer window.
5. Acid will pass MIDI data to compatible applications. As an example, if you have chosen a MIDI input within
Acid under Options / Preferences / MIDI, and you are Rewiring Reason into Acid, clicking on the MIDI icon for
a Reason channel will allow you to play the associated instrument from whatever is feeding the input of your
MIDI interface.
6. If you want to record that MIDI data inside Acid, go Insert / MIDI Track, name the track and click on Record.
Then fill in the various Record fields, specify where you want to save the data, specify MIDI as the Record Type,
and set MIDI Thru to the Reason device that you want to control. Click on Start and begin recording.
Published in SOS March 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
60 / 92
Using Hardware Controllers with Reason 3
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Using Hardware Controllers with Reason 3
Reason Notes & Techniques
In this article:
Initial Configuration
Surface Locking
Overrides & Special Functions
Published in SOS April 2006
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
In all the excitement about Reason 3's Combinator
device, the powerful new Remote hardware control
functionality has been sadly overlooked — so let's
remedy the situation...
Simon Price
I have to confess that the second biggest addition to Reason 3 passed me by
for a long time after the software's release. Flashy new rack devices such as
the Combinator and MClass effects were bound to grab most of the attention
and column inches. However, in the long term we may come to see that
Reason's new Remote protocol for interacting with MIDI keyboards and control
surfaces was at least as significant an addition as the new devices.
Remote is the built-in protocol that allows Reason 3 to use keyboards and
control surfaces featuring knobs, buttons and faders, without the need to set up
control values or map controls to parameters manually. There are two sides to
Remote's functionality. First, Reason now offers direct support for a large
Reason tells you how to set up
number of common controllers, so all you need to do is tell the software what
your controller, and will even
devices you are using and it will be aware of the controls you have available. As upload a template to it, if
new devices come onto the market, Propellerheads add support via downloads necessary.
from their website. Second, Reason now dynamically allocates your available
controls to whichever device is active in the rack (the currently selected MIDI track). Mappings default to the
most relevant parameters, with the available controls grouped into 'variations' (banks) that can be accessed via
keyboard shortcuts. For example, if you have eight knobs (as with the commonly used M-Audio Oxygen 8) they
are initially assigned to the filters, filter envelope amount and LFO1. Switching to a second map, by pressing
Ctrl-Alt-2 (Windows) or Command-Option-2 (Mac), will redirect your knobs to the envelopes. A third variation
lets you control the oscillators.
Things get even better when you have more than one controller. For example, you might
have a MIDI mixing surface such as a Mackie Control, as well as a master keyboard
with knobs. In this situation, you can 'lock' one of the units to a single rack device. The
obvious example here would be to assign the Mackie Control to Reason's mixer and
use the keyboard's knobs for whichever instrument device was active. Controllers that
have motorised faders and LED displays (such as the Mackie) are also supported by
Remote. MIDI data is sent from Reason to the device, to keep the device up to date
with on-screen controls and displays.
Initial Configuration
Chances are that if you're using Reason 3 you've already done enough to get your main keyboard working,
because the first time you run the program it brings up a setup 'wizard'. However, here's a quick reminder of
how to add hardware controllers:
1. Open Preferences and switch to the Control Surfaces and Keyboards page.
2. Click Add, and a new window pops up, letting you choose a make and model.
3. In the same window, choose a MIDI interface and port from the bottom pop-up menu.
4. Read the notes in the window for specific instructions about your hardware. You
may be told that you need to switch to a particular mode, or that Reason will upload a
template (the screenshot at the start of this article shows an example featuring a
Novation Remote series controller).
If your device is not supported, you should check whether there's a Remote update on If you still have no luck, you can choose 'Other' from the make
and model menus and type in the name of your device. Keyboards and standard
controls (pitch-bend and mod wheels) on unknown devices will work, and there's a
good chance that any other knobs and sliders you have will also have an effect in
Reason, although they won't be mapped in an intelligent way, like the fully supported
The program's Remote
devices. At this point, you can either stick with what you have, try to edit the control
functionality lets you
values on your hardware, or write your own Remote 'library'. The last is a subject for
assign multiple
another article. For now, I'm going to assume that you have a supported device.
The first device you assign will be designated the 'master keyboard' and will always
follow the active MIDI track. When you have more than one device, you can choose which is the master. Once
you've closed the Preferences, you will be able to try out your controller. To choose a Reason device to control,
make it the active MIDI device in the sequencer, exactly as you do when you want to play a device. You can
then experiment with what your hardware controls do, and how they are mapped across the variations. If you
have a surface with a large number of knobs, or you select a Reason device with only a few mappable controls
(such as NNXT or Combinator) you may find that all parameters are mapped without the need to change to
different variation pages. Change to another Reason instrument in the sequencer and all your control surface
knobs and so on will now operate this device.
Surface Locking
In the screenshot on the right you'll see that I've added an Evolution fader unit in
Preferences. By default, this unit will now follow the active Reason instrument,
in addition to the Oxygen 8. This is fine, but there will be overlaps of controller
mappings, making this an inefficient use of two controllers. You might prefer to
have the Evolution box permanently mapped to the main mixer's faders or a
drum machine's level controls. To lock a control surface to a specific Reason
device, either:
Right-click (Control-click on single-button Macs) on the device and choose
61 / 92
Using Hardware Controllers with Reason 3
'Lock to'.
Or choose 'Surface Locking' from the Options menu.
You can lock a controller to a
specific Reason device, such
as the Remix mixer.
The screenshot overleaf shows the Surface Locking dialogue, with the
Evolution controller locked to the Remix mixer. When the chosen Reason device has more controls than are
available on the hardware, the 'Always use mapping' pop-up menu appears, offering options for how this is
handled. You can choose to have the locked device follow the variation keyboard shortcuts, or remain on a
specific page.
Overrides & Special Functions
Remote tries to configure your controls in the most useful way, but there will still
be times when you want to map controls to specific parameters manually. In
particular, if you're preparing to use Reason live, you'll probably wish to configure
your main controller to adjust several devices at once. For assigning your own
controls manually, you'll need Remote Overrides, which work in the same way
that control assignments worked in previous versions of Reason. The simplest
way to lock a hardware control to a parameter is as follows:
Right-click (control-click) on the parameter and choose 'Edit Remote Override
This brings up a dialogue box (see screenshot, top right) that allows you to
assign a device and control. As in previous software versions, simply click
'Learn From Control Surface Input' and wiggle or press the relevant control on
your control surface. There's also another assignment method, as follows:
Individual controls can be
locked to any parameter in
the rack, as with earlier
versions of Reason.
1. Choose Options / Remote Override Edit Mode. The Reason rack will display an overview of all assignments
in the selected Reason device (see the screenshot on the right).
2. The rack is greyed out, with assignments shown as yellow knob icons. Blue arrows indicate other assignable
parameters. All automatic assignments on locked devices and the currently active sequencer device are
3. To see which control an assigned parameter is mapped to, simply place the cursor on it. To assign a control,
double-click it and a rotating lightning bolt icon will appear over it. You can then move a hardware control and it
will be assigned and displayed as a static lightning bolt.
Unlike the dynamic control mappings assigned by Reason, Remote Override
assignments are stored as part of the song (as are Surface Locking settings).
This means that if you wish to use your user-defined control map you will need
to save the current song and use it as a template. Template songs can be
selected as the default starting point for new songs by selecting the 'Custom'
option in the General page of the Reason Preferences.
Selecting 'Additional Remote Overrides' from the Options menu brings up a list
of special functions that can be assigned to control surfaces. Some basic
functions, such as Undo/Redo and Goto Left/Right Locator, can be assigned to
buttons here, as can instrument-specific functions such as patch selection. The Remote Edit mode displays all
your controller assignments.
really powerful features are the ones that tie in with the main Remote
Assigned controls are shown by
functionality. To start with, there are the Target Track (Delta), Target Previous yellow knob icons, while blue
Track and Target Next Track options. These let you select from the control
arrows indicate parameters that
surface which sequencer track will be active. In other words, you can quickly
are still available to be
choose a device to control without having to use the mouse. The Previous and assigned.
Next options are meant for use with buttons, but if you have continuous rotary
encoders you can assign one to the Delta option and scroll quickly through the track list.
The next really useful overrides are the Select Keyboard Variation commands, again available as Next,
Previous and Delta options. These allow you to use buttons or an encoder to cycle through the banks of
controller assignments for the active device, this time without having to reach for the Ctrl-Alt-N or CommandOption-N keyboard commands. With both the Target Track and Keyboard Variation commands assigned on
your control surface, you'll be able to move around the Reason rack and adjust any parameter without ever
having to touch the keyboard or the mouse.
Published in SOS April 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
62 / 92
Loop-based Composition in Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Loop-based Composition in Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS May 2006
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason is more than just a MIDI sequencing
environment; it can also be used for creating new
pieces spontaneously from sample loops.
Reason As An Instrument
Creating The Loops
Propellerhead NAMM News
Creating The Environment
Creating The Sequence
Auditioning The Loops
Remixing & Rewiring
Setting Up The Control Surface
Time To Mix!
Craig Anderton
Many people don't think of Reason as a digital audio powerhouse, but as more of a MIDIbased sequencing environment. While it certainly is the latter, there are also several
applications usually associated with digital audio that are well suited to Reason, and this
month we're going to look at using it for loop-based composition and live performance.
Reason As An Instrument
One of Reason's strengths as a composition 'instrument' is the way you can combine loops
with its virtual rack of drum machines, synths and processors, and exploit them via its
extensive remote-control options. In this article we'll deal solely with remixing loops, but you
can easily use the same approach with MIDI triggering and Reason's on-board sound
We'll take a workshop approach that lets you learn by doing, and to this end there's a set of
eight loops, designed specifically to accompany this article, on the SOS web site. The URL
of the first loop is (change the digit to '2'
for the second loop, '3' for the third, and so on, up to 8). I suggest downloading the loops and
using them to explore the following techniques, but you're free to use your own loops instead.
What we'll do is create a rack containing eight NN19s; load each with a unique loop; set the
sequencer to play the loops continuously; then configure a control surface to bring them in
and out as desired, to create a composition.
A loop-based
composition can
be built up on the
fly using NN19
modules, coupled
with Reason's
sequencer and
some kind of
control surface.
Creating The Loops
Reason has only one option for time-stretching loops without forcing a pitch change: the Dr. REX player. If all
the loops you want to use are in REX format, that simplifies matters. However, the chances are that you'll want
to use some Acidised files or standard WAV or AIFF files, which means that first you'll need to either convert
these to the REX format or cut them to the proper length for the Reason project tempo.
My tool of choice for creating sample-accurate loops of the right length is Sonar — and not just because I write
Sonar technique articles for SOS! I can import digital audio files into Sonar, use its loop-construction window
to stretch them to the desired tempo, then save them as standard WAVs. As they've been stretched to the
correct length, I'll then be able to use them properly in one of Reason's samplers.
Propellerhead NAMM News
There was almost no official Reason news, at the recent NAMM show, other than the announcement that the excellent Reason Drum Kits 2 is
shipping. However, one item of interest is that the REX format is gaining momentum. REX-file support from other companies is increasing (Sonar 5, for
example, includes a REX-file player) and a growing number of sample libraries are including REX files, along with Apple Loops and Acidised files. In
fact, for some companies (particularly Big Fish), the 'Holy Trinity' for sample libraries is now WAV, REX and Apple Loops, so there are now more
options than ever for feeding your Dr. REX.
Creating The Environment
First we'll set up the instruments, by loading the samples we want to use.
1. Download the example loops, as mentioned above, if using them. Save in an appropriate folder.
2. Load the Reason template document 'Empty Rack.rns'. You'll find this in the Template Documents folder,
located in the Reason folder on your root drive.
3. Go Create / Mixer 14:2.
4. Go Create / NN19 Digital Sampler.
5. Minimise the sampler, by clicking the little arrow in the far left of the device
panel, so that it takes up less space.
Click on the Browse Sample
button to load an individual
sample into NN19.
6. Repeat steps four and five until there are eight NN19s. (You could also click on a rack ear, press the
Option/Control key and drag another NN19 into the rack. However, this won't auto-patch it into the mixer, nor
will it automatically create another sequencer track, so the time saved by drag-copying samplers is offset by
the time required to patch them into the rack.)
7. Open up the first NN19 and click on the 'Browse Sample' button (see above). Do not click on the 'Browse
Patch' button, as we just want to load a single sample.
8. Locate Loop1.wav in the example files. Load it into the NN19 by clicking on the file, then clicking 'OK'. Note
that you can audition the file before loading.
9. Open the second NN19 and load Loop2.wav, as above.
10. Continue using the same procedure to load the eight samples into the eight NN19 samplers.
11. Hit the Tab key, so that the rack swings around to the back, and verify that all patching is correct. Patch the
Mixer outputs to the Audio Out section, if needed.
Creating The Sequence
The next stage is to create a sequence that will trigger all loops continuously. The loops I've made for this
project are all four measures long, except for the eighth loop, whose duration is eight measures.
The sequence needs to be only as long as the longest loop, which also determines the sequence's left and
right loop points. Shorter loops are triggered repeatedly, so that they play continuously. For example, suppose
63 / 92
Loop-based Composition in Reason
you have a 16-measure loop and a two-measure loop. You'd create a 16-measure sequence and loop it, which
would accommodate the 16-measure loop. Meanwhile, to re-trigger the two-measure loop continuously, you'd
place a note every two measures so that the loop could play continuously for the whole sequence.
Now let's create a sequence to trigger the loops. You'll probably find the following
easier if you set Snap to one bar, by selecting 'Bar' from the drop-down menu to
the left of the magnet button in the sequencer. The magnet button must be 'in' for
snap-to-grid to be enabled.
1. Set Reason's sequencer tempo to 133.33bpm, which is the tempo at which
the loops we'll be using were created.
2. Click on the sequencer's pencil tool.
3. Switch to Edit mode, by clicking on the Mode button in the upper left of the
sequencer window (see screen below).
Switch to sequencer Edit
Mode so that you can see
individual tracks, rather than
the entire arrangement.
4. Click on the first sequencer track.
5. Draw a note at C3 with a duration of four measures.
6. Click on the velocity value for this note and drag it up to 127.
7. Select the Arrow tool. Click on the note, press Option/Control, then drag the note to the right to create a
second note, four measures long, that starts at measure five and ends at measure nine.
8. Repeat steps five to seven for sequencer tracks two to seven.
9. Click on the eighth sequencer track and repeat steps five and six. However, in step five create a note that's
eight measures long, because the loop itself is eight measures long.
10. Set the Left loop locator at measure one and the Right at measure nine.
Auditioning The Loops
Now we're ready to verify that all the loops are playing back properly. This will also give us a chance to get
familiar with the loops, before starting to create a 'remix' with them.
1. To the right of the transport's Record button, click on the Loop On/Off button so that it's lit.
2. Double-click on the sequencer Stop button, to send the Play cursor back to
the beginning.
3. Solo the track 'NN19 1' and click on Play. The cursor should play through to
the start of measure nine, then jump back to the beginning. The track will play
continuously because Loop On/Off is on.
4. Double-click the sequencer Stop button.
5. Turn off Solo for track 'NN19 1' and turn on Solo for track 'NN19 2'.
Solo each track individually as
you audition it, to make sure
that it's looping seamlessly.
6. Click Play (the track plays continuously).
7. Audition tracks three to eight in the same way you auditioned the first two tracks. Remember to double-click
on Stop each time, to send the cursor back to the beginning of the sequence. If playback begins in the middle
of a note, you won't hear anything because the sequencer will not have 'heard' the note-on event that triggers
the sample.
8. If all is well, turn off any Solo buttons that are on, so that all tracks are available for playback.
Remixing & Rewiring
You can also do this kind of on-the-fly loop re-combining while Reason is Rewired to a host sequencer. This means that you could record your
controller moves and keyboard keypresses into the host if you wanted to take advantage of programs that offer deeper MIDI editing than Reason, or if
you later want to add overdubs with acoustic or electric instruments (as you can't record audio in Reason).
However, it's crucial to remember that Remote Override mode is unpredictable when Reason is Rewired, because if you remap a parameter to a
controller number and that controller number is 'normalled' to an existing parameter, both parameters will be affected when you control the first
remotely. When Rewiring, I strongly suggest avoiding the Remote Override function and instead using the controller assignments listed in the MIDI
Implementation Charts.pdf document. You can find this (assuming a default installation) by going Program Files / Propellerhead / Reason /
Documentation. The implementation chart doesn't mention which keyboard keys control which buttons, but it's not difficult to find out: just run your
fingers across the keyboard until you find the keys that affect the desired buttons.
Setting Up The Control Surface
This is perhaps the most crucial part of the process, because spontaneous loop-based composition (or on-thefly remixing) depends on being able to make split-second changes, as you go along, that flow with the music.
You need a simple setup that doesn't get in the way of the creative process, but one that has enough options to
ensure you don't feel too limited.
There are many ways of setting up a control surface for remixing, depending on your musical style and how you
like to work. When remixing with Reason, my favourite controller is the Peavey PC1600x controller, a
venerable and extremely hardy box that offers 16 programmable faders and 16 programmable buttons. I assign
the faders to mixer-channel levels and the buttons to mixer-channel solo buttons.
However, 16-channel fader boxes tend to be the exception rather than the rule these days (most controllers
emphasise eight-channel operation) and it's fairly unlikely that you'll have a PC1600x yourself, so we'll base the
following around M-Audio's Oxygen 8 controller keyboard, because it's so common (and Reason supports it).
You can, however, use the same basic idea with whatever control surface you have available. With the Oxygen
8, we'll assign its eight knobs to the eight Reason mixer faders and the Oxygen 8's keyboard keys to Reason's
solo buttons.
1. Arrange the Reason Mixer so that it's easy to see, then Go Options / Remote
Override Edit Mode. Reason turns a lovely shade of ice blue.
2. Right-click (Mac users, use Control-click) on the Mixer's first fader and select
'Edit Remote Override Mapping' (see the screen above).
3. In the dialogue box that appears, select 'M-Audio Oxygen 8' for the Control
Surface (or whatever else you're using) and 'Knob 1' for the control, then click
on 'OK'. If you want to take advantage of labour-saving technology (or are using
an unsupported control surface), just click on 'Learn from Control Surface Input'
and move the controller knob to have Reason 'learn' whichever physical
controller you want to use.
Although Reason has
'normalised' control
assignments, you can override
them and create your own.
4. Right-click on the Mixer's second fader and select 'Edit Remote Override Mapping'.
64 / 92
Loop-based Composition in Reason
5. In the dialogue box that appears, select 'M-Audio Oxygen 8' for the Control Surface and 'Knob 2' for the
control, then click on 'OK'.
6. Assign Mixer faders three to eight to Oxygen 8 knobs three to eight.
7. Now let's assign the solo buttons. Right-click on the Mixer's channel one Solo
button and select 'Edit Remote Override Mapping'.
8. In the dialogue box that appears, select 'M-Audio Oxygen 8' for the control
surface and 'Keyboard' for the control.
9. Click on 'Learn from Control Surface Input' and hit the keyboard key you want
to use to control the solo button (for example, C3). The Control Surface Activity
indicator will show that you're hitting a key. Then click on 'OK' (see screen,
10. In a manner similar to steps nine to eleven, assign the solo buttons for
channels two to eight to Oxygen 8 keyboard keys.
11. When all the controller assignments are complete, go Options / Remote
It's possible, in Reason, to
assign keyboard keys to on/off
buttons, such as Solo and
Override Edit Mode and untick Remote Override Edit Mode.
12. Move the knobs and play the keys, while observing Reason's mixer, to verify that all the knobs and keys
control the desired functions.
I'd like to thank Discrete Drums for permission to use loop seven, from the Craig Anderton sample CD Turbulent Filth Monsters; Wizoo, for loops five
and seven, from the sample CD Cologne Cyclez; and M-Audio, for loops one, three and five, from the Craig Anderton sample CD Adrenalinn Guitars.
Loops two and eight were created especially for this article, using instruments from East-West's Colossus virtual instrument/library.
Time To Mix!
All the preparation work is done, so let's run through actually using the setup.
1. Start with all the knobs fully counter-clockwise, except for Knob 1.
2. Double-click on the transport's Stop button.
3. Click on Play and the first loop should start playing.
4. Now move the knobs, solo individual channels for breakdowns, and so on.
Once you're used to the process, you'll probably want to expand your horizons by patching signal processors
between one or more NN19s and the mixer. Then you can manipulate the processor controls in real time, to
add more variety and interest.
Published in SOS May 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
65 / 92
Programming Drums in Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Programming Drums in Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS June 2006
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Re: Redrum
Creating & Storing Patterns
Pattern Automation
One More Thing...
Redrum Step Sequencing Tips
Whether you need electronic beats or realistic
acoustic drums, Reason is one of the quickest and
easiest tools around for creating varied drum
Simon Price
Even when I'm working in another software package, such as Live or Pro
Tools, I still tend to run Reason via Rewire, to handle the bulk of the drums. This
is because I've yet to find a more friendly and versatile set of tools for
programming drum sequences. Reason lets you work with drums in so many
different ways: you can create a Redrum drum machine, and use its built-in
Reason's Redrum drum
step sequencer. You can play and record drums in Redrum from your MIDI
keyboard or trigger-pads. You can edit Redrum tracks in the master sequencer machine can be triggered via
MIDI or from its built-in step
using a standard piano-roll view, or use the drum-track editor. You can even
swap between approaches, by dumping the contents of Redrum's step
sequencer into the program's main sequencer. Alternatively, you can compose several different patterns in the
step sequencer, then record or draw pattern changes into your Redrum track. Another option entirely is to use
the NNXT sampler instrument for your drums. This is particularly good for acoustic kits, as it adds velocity
layers and more expressive playing possibilities. There are several kits presented in NNXT format in the
Factory Sound Bank (as both straight patches and as part of Combinator setups), and Propellerheads' own
acoustic drum Refill, Reason Drum Kits 2.0, is in this format.
This month we'll look at pattern sequencing with Redrum and see how quickly it's possible to arrange the
drums for a whole song, complete with variations and fills. Next month, we'll cover the more traditional MIDI
sequencing approach and look at how you can combine both these methods to become an expert Reason
drum programmer.
Re: Redrum
First, it's probably worth doing a quick recap on Reason's drum machine, which we'll be using this month.
Redrum has 10 channels, each of which can load, manipulate, and play back a single sample. By default all the
channels are mixed to a stereo output, but you can take separate outputs from the back panel for individual
processing of any sound. Each channel has two send controls that link up with the main mixer, to allow
individual send effect levels to be set. All channels have pan, volume, velocity sensitivity, pitch and basic
envelope controls, but there are some further controls that vary by channel. Channels either have a tone control,
a sample-start control, or pitch envelope controls. This means you need to think about which slot to load each
sample into. If you mainly use pre-programmed kit patches (which is usually a good starting point for most
projects) you won't need to worry too much about this.
Redrum can be triggered either from your MIDI keyboard (as with most drum
machines, the 10 samples are mapped upwards from the C1 key) or from the
built-in step sequencer. Anyone familiar with hardware drum machines should Create patterns by clicking the
16 pad buttons that run along
be fairly comfortable with the step sequencer part of Redrum. Patterns are
the bottom of Redrum.
created by clicking the row of 16 buttons along the bottom of the device (see
second screen on previous page). At the default 1/16 resolution, the 16 steps
represent one bar (using the 4/4 time signature) in time. If smaller divisions of time are required, you can raise
the resolution, making the step sequencer play back faster. Longer patterns are created by increasing the
number of steps; patterns can be between one and 64 steps long. Each sample/channel has its own sequence,
displayed by clicking the Select button on that Redrum channel. A complete Redrum pattern stores the step
sequences for all the channels, with each individual sequence in the pattern sharing the same length and
Creating & Storing Patterns
Create a new Redrum and you'll see that the matrix of buttons to the left of the 16-step sequencer has the '1'
and 'A' buttons lit, indicating that pattern A1 is active. Redrum does not require you to perform any actions to
store a pattern; any changes you make to the active pattern are permanent. The best way to start is to load up
a kit that will be broadly suitable to the track you are working on. You can always change some of the sounds
later on. Click on the Browse Patch button on the Redrum, and navigate to the Redrum kits in a Refill. You can
audition kits directly from the browser by selecting them and playing the keyboard. Once you've loaded a kit,
play around with some ideas using your keyboard or pads. When you have something in mind you can start
building up a pattern using the step sequencer. Click the Select button under channel 1, which is usually a kick
drum. Next, click step 1 in the sequencer and hit play. As Reason plays back, the red LEDs above each step
will light up in sequence, indicating the current position in the pattern. As the playback passes step 1 you will
hear the kick drum. Add other kick drum hits by clicking more steps. Now, click channel 2's Select button, and
you can add snare hits. Continue adding hits on different channels until you have a complete drum pattern. The
tips box on page 222 has more on creating drum patterns in Redrum, but for now we'll concentrate on storing,
recalling and sequencing patterns.
You should now have a rough version of the main drum pattern for your song. It's
handy to have this stored as pattern A1, so you can quickly keep coming back
to it when you're arranging the song. The next step is to program some
variations. These could be significantly different, such as patterns for a chorus
or middle eight, or just subtle variations on the main pattern. The beauty of
programming drums in Reason is that you can set up many slight variations
and copies of the pattern with fills, to keep the song from being repetitive, all in Reason's pattern 'lane' is used
a fraction of the time it would take if you were working in a linear MIDI track. To for automating pattern changes
in Redrum.
start a new pattern, you can simply press the '2' button in the pattern-selector
matrix. You will now be looking at pattern A2, which is empty. However, it's
much quicker to start from your first pattern, so the trick is to duplicate pattern
A1 into A2. To do this, switch back to A1, choose Copy Pattern from the Edit
menu (or right-click menu), then switch to A2 and choose Paste Pattern. You
can also use the standard Copy and Paste shortcuts (Command-C and
Command-V on the Mac, or Control-C and Control-V on Windows). Create
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Programming Drums in Reason
your pattern variation, and move on to A3. This time you can choose which
pattern to copy in, but in most cases you'll copy A1 again. Create another
pattern variation.
Song arrangement changes
can be made by moving
sequences of patterns around.
Now that you have your main drum patterns and some variations, it's a good
time to start thinking about the arrangement. Typically, you may need some cut-down sections for the intro and
any breakdowns and builds in the song, particularly for electronic music genres. I like to create these patterns
in a new bank. In the example arrangement shown in the screenshots, I've created four patterns in the B1-B4
slots. Pattern B1 is just a hi-hat and a shaker, then B2 adds a half-speed kick pattern, and finally B3 adds a
snare. Pattern B4 is the same as B3, but has a snare fill at the end to build up to the start of the main pattern.
These were then chained together to create the intro, and ended up also being used during a slow section later
in the song. Now that you've got all the basic drum patterns you need for your song, it's time to put them all
Pattern Automation
Nearly everything in Reason can be automated, including Redrum's pattern sequencer. Reason has an extra
trick in this regard, because pattern-change automation is displayed in its own custom track. You may find that
you prefer to arrange your patterns by editing this track from scratch, but laying down a foundation in real time
is the quickest method. First, make sure that your Redrum is highlighted for MIDI input and record-enabled in
the main sequencer. Now switch the Redrum to the pattern that will start the song. Often songs will start with no
drums, and there's a trick for handling this that avoids automating mutes or mixer channels. Simply switch
Redrum to an empty pattern (for example, D8) and use this as the first pattern in the song. You can also switch
back to this at any time you want the drums to drop out. Now set the main sequencer's play position back to the
start of the track and disable looping. If the song starts with no drums, you will need to enable the metronome
click so that you can hear when to bring the first pattern in. Click Record and Play, and you're off. As you play
through the song, change the patterns on Redrum by clicking the pattern-selector buttons. The trick is to
change the pattern during the bar before you need it to change. The change will not occur until the beginning of
the next bar. Remember to take into account how long your patterns are. In the example, all the patterns are 32
steps long at 1/16 resolution, so I've only changed patterns every two bars at the most.
Eventually, you'll make a mistake, especially when changing between banks
(which requires two button presses). Stop recording and have a look at the
pattern track you've created. To do this, click the button at the top left of the
sequencer pane to switch between Arrange view and Edit view. You should see
something like the top screen on the previous page. If you can't see the beige
pattern track, click the sixth icon in the sequencer toolbar to display it. To
correct your mistake, simply rewind a bit, and drop back into record to
overwrite and continue. When you've finished, you're ready to try editing the
pattern track.
The pattern list is used in
conjunction with the pencil tool
The pattern track displays which pattern is active at any point during the song, to draw in pattern-change data.
using yellow 'bars'. When you've recorded pattern changes on the fly, the
pattern bars will not show the exact time you changed pattern, but instead are
quantised to the bar where the change actually took effect (another advantage
over regular automation). Each bar has a small tab displaying the bank and
number of the pattern. At first glance it might appear that you can click on these
to adjust the position of the pattern changes, but unfortunately this in not the
The pattern change bars do not quite behave like objects or notes that can be Making some fine adjustments
picked up and moved. Instead there are two other ways of editing in the pattern with the pencil tool.
track. The first is to make a selection across a range of time with the cursor tool
(see second screen on previous page), the contents of which can then be moved, deleted, or copied and
pasted. The second is to draw data in over the top of what's there, using the pencil tool. Both these methods
take a little getting used to. The first thing to be aware of is that you will almost certainly want to have the edit
grid active, so that your edits snap to the nearest bar. The grid value is set from the first of the three pop-up
menus at the right-hand end of the sequencer toolbar. Snap-to-grid mode is enabled by clicking the magnet
icon to the right of this menu. Next, try experimenting with what happens when you move, cut or delete sections
from the pattern track. There can be no gaps in automation tracks, so when something is moved or removed
the previous pattern is extended to fill the space. Similarly, if you insert or remove time, using 'Insert/Remove
Bars Between Locators', the patterns will be extended and shuffle up or down the timeline.
Selecting and copying/moving sections of the pattern track is useful for making
large-scale changes, but for most editing tasks the pencil tool is easier and
more precise. To select the pencil tool, either click its icon in the toolbar or
temporarily switch to it from the cursor tool by holding Command (Mac) or Alt
(Windows). If you look again at the screenshots you'll see a small drop-down
menu, to the left of the pattern track display, that has a pattern number next to it.
This displays the pattern that will be written by the pencil tool.
Your entire sequence of
patterns can be converted to
Clicking on this menu lets you select from all the 32 patterns (see top screen on notes for conventional MIDI
previous page). Drawing into the pattern track with the pencil tool will overwrite editing.
whatever is there with the selected pattern, snapping to the grid. For example, if
I wanted to start pattern B4 earlier, at bar 21 instead of 23, I'd select B4 from the menu, choose the pencil tool,
then click at bar 23 and drag to the left until the B4 bar was extended to bar 21 (see second screen on previous
page). If you wanted to go the other way, and extend B3 later, you would need to select that pattern and draw it
in. In other words, you can't simply trim the boundaries, you have to overwrite with the pencil tool.
One More Thing...
Pattern sequencing in Reason is a very fast way of programming drums, but there are certainly times when you
will want to use note-by-note recording and editing. Next time, we'll explore the best ways of doing this in
Reason. For now, there's one last method that shows you how to move between these two worlds. In the
sequencer, right-click on the Redrum track (or select it and go to the Edit menu) and choose Convert Pattern
Track to Notes. Your entire drum arrangement will be converted into individual notes in the Key and Drum
lanes, ready for individual editing and groove quantising.
Redrum Step Sequencing Tips
Redrum's step sequencer offers many benefits of both hardware and software drum-programming techniques. There's the immediacy of a hardware
drum machine and the fun of achieving unexpected results, but you can also manipulate the patterns in more ways than you can with most hardware
The Steps, Resolution and Edit Steps controls follow a traditional hardware system very similar to drum machines such as the Korg ER1. You can have
patterns up to 64 steps in length, but can only view the pattern 16 steps at a time. The steps you are currently viewing (1-16, 17-32, and so on) are
selected with the Edit Steps switch. Resolution sets the playback speed with respect to the main tempo. You would mainly use this control when
programming intricate beats that require 32nd notes, but you can go right up to 128ths, at which point a 64-step sequence would last only half a bar!
The Dynamic switch lets you add more subtlety and feel to your patterns, by allowing you to set how hard each hit is played (soft, medium or hard).
The actual effect these different dynamics settings have is set individually for each sample by adjusting the velocity-sensitivity (VEL) knob next to
each channel's Level control. The basic way of adding notes with different dynamics is to flip the switch to the desired setting before clicking on each
step. However, it's much quicker to use keyboard shortcuts. Leave the switch at the medium setting, then to add soft notes hold Option (Mac) or Alt
(Windows) when clicking, or to add hard notes hold Shift (Mac and Windows). To change a note to a different velocity, click it again with the
appropriate key modifier. Clicking an active note with the same velocity removes the note.
Another way to alter feel in a pattern is to play with the length and envelope settings. By default when the step sequencer triggers a sample, it plays
the whole sample, but each channel has a Length knob that can shorten the release of each sample. Next to this is a switch which lets you choose
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Programming Drums in Reason
whether this results in the sample being cut dead (the square shape) or having a smooth decay (the sawtooth shape). Additionally, at the bottom left
of Redrum is a switch labelled Channel 8&9 Exclusive. When this button is active, channels 8 and 9 mute each other when played. This is very handy
for getting the correct response from hi-hats, with closed and open hi-hat samples always excluding one another. Another performance modifier is to
add the occasional flam (double hit) to a pattern. Any note can be caused to flam by clicking the red LED above that step. The speed of flams is set
with the Flam knob.
Reason provides several Edit menu commands that manipulate step-sequencer patterns. The first of these are the Shift commands. Invoking Shift
Pattern (Left/Right) lets you move the entire pattern (all 10 step sequences) left or right by one step. I find this most useful when I'm experimenting with
a pattern and realise that, for example, step 9 sounds as though it ought to be the downbeat instead of step 1. In this case, I'd cycle the whole pattern
eight steps to the left, to make the loop work properly with the rest of the song. Shift Drum (Left/Right) works in the same way, but for individual step
sequences in the pattern. This is good for trying different grooves and creating syncopated rhythms. Next are the Randomise Pattern and Randomise
Drum commands, which allow you to create entirely random sequences. If you are in need of inspiration, you can choose this several times in
succession until you get the starting point of an idea. Finally, Alter Pattern and Alter Drum are brilliant cheats for quickly knocking out variations to your
drum patterns. These take an existing pattern and make some small randomised changes.
Published in SOS June 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
68 / 92
Refining Rhythm In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Refining Rhythm In Reason
Reason Notes & Technique
Published in SOS July 2006
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Technique : Reason Notes
Last month we took a look at some basic
applications of the Redrum module in Reason drum
programming. Now it's time to move on to more
sophisticated techniques for your rhythm parts.
Arrangement Groups
Check Out This Groove
Get Into Groups
Editing Notes
The 'Converted Notes' Sustain
Velocity Editing
Reason News
Final Flourishes
Simon Price
In last month's Reason workshop feature, we looked at the Redrum drum machine,
its built-in step sequencer, and how to build drum arrangements by chaining patterns
together. At the end of the process, we converted the whole arrangement into
individual note events in the sequencer, using the Convert Pattern Track to Notes
command. This time, we'll look at some of the ways in which this data can be
manipulated. The same techniques also work with drum tracks created using the
NNXT sampler.
Firstly, why bother getting into all this when you've got the perfectly adequate pattern
sequencer inside Redrum? There are several answers to that question. Firstly, if you
want to make small alterations to data in some places and not others, it may be more
practical to do it with individual notes than to create a new pattern and slot it into the
pattern track. Also, when you use Reason's traditional 'linear' sequencer in its Arrange View (all tracks
showing), it's much easier to see what's going on in drum tracks if they contain notes rather than patterns
(although you can have both). A more musical consideration is that Redrum patterns only allow three velocity
levels per sample, so if you need anything subtler or more expressive than this, you need to use notes. Also,
while the pattern sequencer can have its timing shuffled, if you want to groove-quantise the drums, or do
anything that's not strictly grid-based, patterns don't cut it. Finally, there are other instruments in Reason that
can be used for drums and percussion, in particular the NNXT sampler, and using the linear sequencer will
allow you proper access to these.
Arrangement Groups
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty, let's have a look at how arranging drum
tracks as notes differs from using patterns. The first screen opposite shows an
arrangement in the sequencer Arrange View. The top track is the drum part I
discussed last month, which we converted to notes using the Convert Pattern The notes created by the
'Convert Pattern Track To
Track to Notes command (under the sequencer's Edit menu). The track is
function are arranged
divided into coloured blocks, called Groups. Groups act as single objects, so Notes'
into colour-coded edit groups.
are easier to deal with than big clusters of individual notes. (They're useful in
many situations besides drum programming: see the 'Get Into Groups' box for more details.) If you record
drums in as notes using the keyboard, there will be no automatic Grouping on the track, and you'll just see a
series of red lines, as in the 'Combinator 2' track in the screenshot. The reason why our drum track is nicely
grouped is that when you use the Convert Pattern Track to Notes command, Reason cleverly places Groups
where each pattern was in the pattern track. What's more, each instance of the same pattern will become a
group with the same colour. In the regions where we used an empty pattern to drop the drums out entirely, no
Group is created. For large-scale arrangement changes, you can pick up and move, or copy and paste
The second screen (above) shows what you see after double-clicking the first Group in the track, to open the
Edit View. A useful feature of Reason's sequencer is that it remembers the display settings you've set up in
each of the two views (Arrange and Edit). These settings include zoom factors and which of the data 'lanes' are
displayed. In the screenshot, the piano-roll (notes) view and the velocity view are showing.
Check Out This Groove
With all the notes selected, this is a good time to try some groove quantising. I
like to do this in the piano-roll view, as it's then easy to see the results of
quantising. Choose a groove from the pop-up menu in the sequencer's tool bar
(see the bottom screenshot overleaf). There are three preset Grooves, plus
Shuffle and the User groove. (Note that if you had Shuffle enabled on Redrum Double-clicking a group in the
when you converted the pattern to notes, the shuffle will already have been
Arrange View switches you to
Edit View.
written into the sequence.)
The User groove is a clipboard that temporarily stores a groove template that has been created elsewhere in
the song. This has been discussed before in these pages, but is worth a recap, as it is one of the most
powerful ways to make different tracks in a song sit well together. You first select a sequence of notes from any
instrument, then choose Get User Groove, from the Edit menu. Reason will analyse the selection and create a
groove template based on how the selected sequence deviates from the grid. The selection must therefore
have some rhythmic feel to it, or your User Groove will be no different to a regular grid quantise. Normally, you
would select one or two bars from the performance you want to 'sample'. A common trick we've mentioned
before is to find a REX loop that has a groove you like and use the Copy to Track command to create notes in
the sequencer from it. You can then use 'Get User Groove' on these notes and apply it to your other tracks,
instantly forcing the components of your song to gel together rhythmically.
Getting back to our selection of notes, now that you've chosen your quantise
type, choose a percentage from the pop-up to the right. If your drum sequence
came from a Redrum pattern, this value determines how far the hits will be
moved away from the grid. If you recorded the drums directly into the
sequencer, the quantise percentage controls how far notes are moved from
where they were recorded towards the groove template. Most grooves tend not
to affect notes that fall on the beat, so applying groove quantise to a MIDI
recording will tend to tighten up the timing, as well as introducing the groove.
However, if your timing was quite sloppy, you can first apply a grid quantise
(typically using the 1/16 setting), and then apply the groove quantise afterwards.
Once you're happy with the results of your quantising, you can switch back to
the Arrange View (click the first button in the sequencer's toolbar) and apply it
to the rest of the track.
Our drum track as viewed in the
sequencer's Drum Lane. The
Velocity Lane reveals Redrum's
Soft, Medium and Hard
69 / 92
Refining Rhythm In Reason
Get Into Groups
Groups are commonly seen in the Reason sequencer as a result of using the 'To Track' button in the Dr Rex loop player, but they can be used freely in
any track and make arranging in Reason much easier. To create a Group, select a range of notes in any sequencer track and press Command-G (Mac)
or Ctrl-G (Windows), or choose Group from the Edit menu. The selected area will become a coloured 'brick' that can be moved and edited as a single
object. Different Groups are coloured differently, but Groups with identical contents are automatically assigned the same colour. Double-clicking a
Group opens the Edit View, with the Group's contents selected and placed at the start of the viewable area. If you trim a Group by clicking at its edge
and dragging, the bounds of the Group will be extended. This does not affect the contents, it merely extends the Group to encompass more adjacent
notes. If there is another Group adjacent to the first, this will automatically be shrunk, as groups cannot overlap. Multiple Groups can be combined by
selecting them and choosing Edit / Group again, or you can extend the first group until it encompasses all the others. You can also edit the boundaries
of a Group with the Pencil tool.
Editing Notes
There's much more you can do to your drum tracks in the sequencer — in fact, your
preference may be to start work here, drawing in notes on the grid. Notes can be added,
moved, deleted and extended, and may have their velocity altered. In the previous example,
we worked in the piano-roll, or 'Key Lane' view. There's also a Drum Lane, as shown in the
screen above. The data displayed here is exactly the same as in the piano-roll, except that
only the 10 Redrum notes are shown, and the note order is inverted — i.e the channels run
top to bottom. If you're working with drums in an NNXT sampler, the Drum Lane shows all
128 notes, simply labelled Note #1, Note #2, and so on.
To add a note on the Drum Lane or Key Lane, use the Pencil tool. The best method is to
stay in Selection tool mode and hold down the Command key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows) Drum tracks
created by step
to temporarily access the Pencil. This is because you can't delete notes with the Pencil
tool, and if you're experimenting with a pattern you'll want to add and remove notes on the sequencing can
be 'humanised'
grid quickly. You should have Snap mode active, and mostly likely set to restrict your
drawing to 1/16ths. If you click in the grid, a note 1/16th long will then be created; however, with a little groove
if you need to create longer notes you can click and drag. To create notes whose length is quantising.
not restricted to multiples of the grid, hold down the Shift key. The initial placement of the note will still snap to
the grid, but you can drag it to any length. If you need to remind yourself which note plays which sample, click
the name of the note if you're in the Drum Lane, or click the keyboard graphic if you're in the Key Lane.
The 'Converted Notes' Sustain Problem
Reason is very clever in the way it creates note sequences from pattern sequences and groups the patterns, but
there is one problem that can occur when you do this. The screenshots in this article reveal that the notes created
by converted patterns are very short. This is fine, except for notes sourced from any channels in Redrum that have
their Gate/Decay switch set to Gate (see picture). When played from the sequencer, channels in Gate mode only
sound for as long as the note triggering them is held. This means that they will be short and clipped off after you
convert patterns to notes. In some cases, you may just want to switch the channels to Decay mode and set an
appropriate Length. If that doesn't sound right, the solution is to select all the notes in the sequencer that trigger the
problematic channel and extend them.
The two-position
switch (centre right
of the channel) sets
Gate (top) or Decay
mode for the sound
going through that
channel. The choice
of position may be
significant when a
pattern is converted
to notes.
Velocity Editing
If your drum track started life as a Redrum pattern, the Velocity Lane will look something like the one in the top
screen on the previous page, with most drums' velocities hard-quantised to just three values. Some variation in
velocity will greatly enhance the feel of your drum programming. Velocity has an even greater effect on the
NNXT-based acoustic drums, which respond differently to different velocities. Velocities are edited using the
Pencil tool, or you can use the Line Drawing tool to set several notes to the same velocity or create crescendo
or diminuendo effects.
Looking again at the top screen on the previous page, you may spot a problem:
how can you change the velocity of the first kick drum when there are three
other hits at that point, all with their velocity bars on top of one another? If you
draw a velocity value at this point with the Pencil tool, all four hits will be
affected. What you must do is click the note you want in the drum lane, which
brings its velocity bar to the front, then hold down Shift while drawing in the
value. This works across a range of notes too. For example, you might wish to Here, the Pencil tool has been
introduce some velocity variation across all the hi-hat hits. To do this, first select used to add some velocity
all the hi-hats in the Drum Lane (or Key Lane). Now, while holding Shift, draw
variation to the hi-hat part.
across the Velocity Lane with the Pencil tool, and each hi-hat that you pass
over will be set to the Pencil's position (see screen above). As long as you keep using the Shift key, you will be
able to make further changes to any of the hi-hats until you have the sound you want.
Reason News
Free Refills: Line 6 are offering free 'Refills of the Month' at A new download will be added each month for the rest of the year. The
Refills are 'lite' versions and compilations of commercial Refills, and are each about 60-70Mb in size.
Props On Tour: Propellerheads are taking Reason on tour around Britain and Ireland. The nine-date tour will stop at Sound Control stores in England and
Scotland and at the London Calling exhibition and conference at Earls Court, before crossing the Irish Sea to Dublin. There are sure to be great give-aways
at each event! Dates are as follows: 28th June, Sound Control, Bristol, 12-8pm (+44 (0)117 934 9955); 29th-30th June, London Calling at Earls Court,
London; 1st July, Sound Control, London, 10-4pm (+44 (0)207 631 4200); 3rd July, Sound Control, Leeds, 12-8pm (+44 (0)113 242 6601); 4th July, Sound
Control, Newcastle, 12-8pm (+44 (0)191 232 4175); 5th July, Sound Control, Edinburgh, 12-8pm (+44 (0)131 229 8211); 6th-7th July Dublin, Ireland (visit
the web site for full details).
Final Flourishes
Once you've reached the point where your drum track has been fine-tuned and arranged, you may want to add
fills, cymbal crashes and other points of interest throughout your song. It's much easier to do that at this stage
than trying to account for it all from the beginning, when you don't know exactly how the arrangement for your
song is going to turn out. The easiest method is to play through the song a few times and play along with your
Redrum or NNXT, controlled from your keyboard or pads. When you know what you want, you can drop in and
record. There are two options here.
First, you could record on to the existing drum track. If you do this, make sure you have the record mode set to
Overdub (not Replace) in the transport bar. The other method is to use a separate sequencer track, which is
safer and will make it easier to locate and edit your new additions. Choose Create / Sequencer Track, and
name the new track 'Fills' or 'Extras', or whatever. Then, in the 'Out' column in the sequencer, choose the
Redrum or NNXT and you have an extra track controlling the same device as your main drum sequence.
Published in SOS July 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
70 / 92
Using Reason's Spider Audio & Spider CV Devices
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Using Reason's Spider Audio & Spider CV
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS August 2006
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
In this article:
Simple Uses Of Spider Audio
Reason News
Spider Audio & Effects
Spider CV Splitting
Spider CV Merging
Spider CV Gate Merging
The grey Spider devices look mild-mannered and
unassuming - but they have super-powers that can
unlock the hidden reserves of Reason's soundmaking devices, as well as solving a host of more
mundane problems.
Derek Johnson
Reason's Spider merger/splitters must be the least processor-heavy devices in
the software's rack, but although recent Reason developments may have
overshadowed their potential, used creatively they can help you redefine what's
possible with the other devices.
Both varieties of half-rack device are uncomplicated in design, with Spider Audio being probably the most
simple Reason device of all. It provides two basic circuits: a 4:1 mono or stereo merger designed to merge
four signals into one, and a 1:4 stereo splitter designed to split a single signal into four so that it can be sent to
four different destinations. Front-panel 'LEDs' indicate the presence of audio activity, and that's it for external
features (see pictures above). There aren't even any level controls for the inputs in the merge circuit. As for
automatic routing issues, there aren't any of those either, since the user makes all the connection choices.
Spider CV has a little more to it. Again, it offers a single 4:1 merge circuit, for
gates and/or CVs, and each input is equipped with a sensitivity knob so that
input signals can be balanced. Two four-way splitter circuits are also offered.
This is quite logical and allows the Gate and CV outputs of the Matrix
sequencer to be split to multiple devices from one Spider, with each device
playing the same Matrix sequence.
Spider devices, both audio and CV variants, can be infinitely chained with no
processing delays, CPU compromises or other artifacts. To create a big
merge, just link the merged output of one Spider to a merge input of another,
alongside any other audio or gates/CVs that are being merged. Similarly, big
splits are created by routing a split output to another splitter-circuit input.
Spider CV does have some automatic routing logic. For example, one output
Four Dr:Rex devices in a simple
REX loop setup — they only
use one input of the mixer.
There could be lots more,
either chained through multiple
Spider Audios or in parallel via
several Spiders.
from each of the two splitting circuits will connect to the first available pair of
Gate and CV ins in the rack, and a Spider CV created while a Matrix is
highlighted creates an automatic link between the Matrix's Gate and CV outs
and the inputs to the two Spider splitter circuits. This might not always be
convenient, of course. The solution is to hold down the Shift key while creating a Spider CV; doing so disables
automatic connections. (Actually, as most of you are probably aware, this operation disables automatic
connection with any device.)
Simple Uses Of Spider Audio
While there are no really esoteric uses for the Spider Audio, the facilities it offers quickly become
indispensable when you're linking large numbers of effects. The simple mixing offered by the merge circuit is
also a tidy little problem-solver.
The classic Spider Audio merging application is to mix audio from several related devices. For example, a
number of Dr:Rex devices loaded with REX loops of the different sections of a sampled song would ordinarily
require a Remix mixer input each. Using Spider Audio, up to four can be mixed, with a single stereo out
requiring just one Remix channel; all EQ and effects processing on the channel would thus be the same for all
the related REX files, which is generally what you'd want (see top screen, opposite).
The operation is simple. First, create a Dr:Rex for each related REX loop (two
sections of a long verse, a chorus and a break, say). Then create a Spider
Audio. Disconnect the Dr:Rex devices from the Remix mixer and reconnect
them to the Spider's merge circuit. Name the Spider something like 'Dr:Rex
submix' and route the merge circuit's output to a Remix input. The naming step
is a good habit to get into, since the name is reflected in the Remix inputchannel scribble strip and will help you keep track of the elements of a really
busy rack.
As an aside, remember that grouping this bunch of related Dr:Rex devices into
a Combinator patch will make for easy recall later in a different song. Highlight
the Dr:Rexes and the Spider Audio, then select the 'Combine' command from
the Edit (or contextual) menu, and finally save the result as a Combi patch.
Again, if you choose this step, give the Combinator a meaningful name so that
you can track what's happening from its Remix input channel.
A simple four-way parallel
multi-effect setup. One aux
send feeds four simple chains
— a couple of dual delays, a
dual chorus and a distorted
flange — the outputs of which
Speaking of the Combinator, the Spider Audio could have a similar use within a are mixed by the same Spider
Audio that does the splitting.
complex Combi. Let's say you've created a Combi that consists of several
Subtractors or Malströms that are set to different velocity and/or key ranges, for
a dynamic velocity-split effect. They'll need to be mixed in some way. You can use a Remix mixer or a
Micromix line-mixer in the Combi if you need their facilities (such as panning and effect sends), but if simply
summing the layered synths for common processing (as described in the Dr:Rex example above) will suffice,
use one or more Spider Audios. Of course, it's perfectly OK to merge several different devices, if all you need
is processor-efficient submixing and are happy to set levels on the devices themselves. The merged result
could even then be processed in the same way as a stereo submix on a real-world mixing desk — add
compression, EQ, or even a chain of MClass mastering processors to the group. Merged audio is also good
BV512 Vocoder input fodder — either as modulator or carrier.
71 / 92
Using Reason's Spider Audio & Spider CV Devices
Reason News
Peter Tools, they of the unexpected Reason add-ons, are now marketing the full release version of their Hammer Rewire-based audio-input tool. It's
PC-only and allows audio input via the Rebirth Input Machine device. In addition, the Live Set collection of real-time MIDI performance modification tools
has just had an upgrade, to v1.5.
Check out the Peter Tools web site ( for details of a neat bundle of both packages for 109 euros (or US$138). In addition,
registered Live Set users can buy Hammer for 10 euros (US$12). Or you can just buy Hammer by itself for 30 euros (US$38).
Spider Audio & Effects
The Spider Audio's splitter circuit has yet more uses. Routing a Remix aux send output to the splitter input lets
you create a four-way parallel effects chain (just take each split of the signal to an effect of your choice). Using
effects in parallel produces a different sound to chained effects, allowing each processor to cleanly add its own
treatment to the mix, unaffected by the others. The effect outputs will probably need to be mixed somewhere, so
why not use the merging circuit on the same Spider Audio, if nothing fancy is required? Just take the last
stereo output from each of the four chains and patch them to the inputs of the merge circuit. The merged output
can then be routed to the original Remix send's aux return (see screen, right).
The parallel processing idea can also be used when creating complex insert effects — where sound-making
devices in the rack are patched directly to effects devices. Again, use the splitter circuit and merge the results
all within one Spider Audio device.
Spider CV Splitting
The Spider CV device provides real creative potential. Again, there are simple uses, the most obvious being
to let a single Matrix sequencer play several devices in parallel.
This technique exploits the Spider's two splitter circuits. Create a Matrix and a
Spider CV and simply connect the Matrix's gate and CV outs to a splitter input
each (you'll only be able to use three of the inputs, as the fourth is fixed to
'inverted' — more on this below). Now route the three pairs of split outs to three
devices to be played in parallel: you could create three Subtractors, each
loaded with a different patch. Ensure that the split CV and Gate signals are
routed to the relevant inputs on the target synths. Instant layered parts are easy,
and you can keep your result tidy, as always, by loading the linked devices into a
Combi (and perhaps merging their audio outs with a Spider Audio!).
As mentioned above, one of the Spider CV's outputs is inverted, and this can be
useful for special effects. For example, interesting rhythmic patterns can be
produced: route a straight Matrix gate to, say, Subtractor's normal Gate input
and the inverted version to its FM CV input (adjust the sensitivity control and
make sure that both oscillators are active, so that FM can take place). Although
the part will play normally, the FM effect will hit on the off-beat. Normally, the
inverted output would be used with a modulation CV that's being split to, say, the
delay CV inputs of a pair of CF101 flanger effect devices; the normal and
inverted modulation CVs would move in opposite directions, creating a more
complex flange or phase that can be enhanced by panning the outputs of the two
devices to opposite sides of the stereo field.
The Matrix plays two
Subtractors and two
Malströms, via Spider CV. Just
for fun, the audio from the four
synths is mixed by a Spider
Audio that happened to be onscreen. An extra Spider CV is
required, due to the first
Spider CV's fourth CV output
being fixed to 'inverted'.
However, chained Spiders
introduce no delays.
Of course, splitting isn't restricted to playing layered devices. Any gate or CV on
a Reason device's rear panel can be split and sent to multiple destinations. Doing so is ideal if you'd like to
route, say, one of a Malström's complex modulator waveforms to a Subtractor or NN19 while still having it
routed to one of the Malström's own parameters. Not only would the target parameters — filter frequency,
oscillator phase or whatever — be modulated at the same tempo, they'd be treated with the same modulation
pattern, which adds a nice homogenous feel to a mix. The actual parts being played don't necessarily have to
be related — the targets could be bass lines, pads and leads — but the rhythmic fluctuations can work on an
almost subliminal level to add a feeling of unity to the mix.
Spider CV Merging
Merging gates and CVs enters a slightly esoteric area, but if you have Reason running
as you read, and you try some of the examples, you'll hear what I'm driving at.
One basic use of the merging option is to create complex modulation
waveforms from other devices' LFOs (or Malström's already complex
modulators). In these circumstances, you might even create devices just to
independently access their modulators. The merge circuit allows each
contributing modulation source to be freely mixed, with sensitivity knobs
allowing excellent fine-tuning of the result. An example is easy enough to
Create a Subtractor and a Malström, plus a Spider CV.
Flip to the back of the rack (hit the Tab key), and route the Subtractor's own
LFO1 modulation output to a Spider CV merge-circuit input.
Then route Malström's Mod A modulation output to another input of the same
Connect the merged output to any target. The illustrated example (see top
screen overleaf) routes the merged CV to the Subtractor's FM Amount
modulation input.
Here, the Malström is providing
an extra modulator for
Subtractor, but it's being mixed
with the Sub's own LFO1
output, creating something
more complex with a simple
cabling setup.
Play a note or pattern on the synth and tweak the merging input sensitivity knobs to hear the result. I tend to
start with the mod input sensitivity controls fully left and tweak each one slowly to hear what they're adding to
the overall sound. Remember that the LFO or modulator has its own suite of parameters to play with on the
front panel.
Of course, this merged modulator could be routed to several CV inputs. Just route the merged output to the
input of the CV-splitting circuit of the Spider CV and connect the outputs to the desired destinations.
Spider CV Gate Merging
Gates can also be merged, to unexpected effect. For example, merging the gate outputs of up to four Redrum
voices can create a user-definable trigger source that offers lots of new rhythmic possibilities — as long as the
relevant voices have been programmed to play as part of a Redrum pattern! (However, the voice doesn't need
a sample loaded into it in order for its channel to be programmed — the gate will be transmitted in any case.)
One of the merged gates could also be the main trigger being generated by the Matrix.
In the next example, we'll create a Subtractor with attached Matrix sequencer, a
Redrum and a Spider CV.
Create the devices as listed above.
72 / 92
Using Reason's Spider Audio & Spider CV Devices
Program a drum pattern — the one in the illustration (see bottom screen
overleaf) uses just a kick, snare and hi-hat — and create a synth part with the
Matrix (say a bass line), to play on the Subtractor.
Now take a patch lead from each of those three Redrum-voice gate outputs on
the back panel and connect them to the Spider merge circuit.
The gate outs of three
Redrum voices, which are
happily playing their own
parts, are merged to provide
Start playback with the merge input-sensitivity knobs at zero and gradually turn the triggers for a Subtractor,
them to the right. The result of changing the 'level' of each merged gate input is which is deriving pitch
to create playback patterns that are very different from the basic Matrix pattern. information from a Matrix. The
Matrix is folded because my
wasn't big enough to
You'll find, with patches that have a longer release setting on the amplitude EG, screen
show the whole example!
Grab the gate patch-lead from the Matrix and link it to the remaining empty
merge input jack. Connect the merged output to the Subtractor gate input.
that some notes will be re-triggered, adding even more rhythmic interest and
creating parts that you may never otherwise have thought of. The pattern will be closely related to the Redrum
pattern but careful use of the sensitivity controls will stop the result from sounding obvious. Keeping the
sensitivities low creates a subtle effect that's more texture than trigger. The other side of the coin is that any
merged gate input with its sensitivity whacked fully to the right produces a hard, velocity-like hit each time it
fires. I find this particular merging technique works great on octave bass-lines with chuggy patches that have
moderate amplitude EG release values.
The only problem is that the sensitivity controls at the rear of Reason devices can't be automated! If you like
several of the different variations of patterns that are produced, you could try to recreate them within the Matrix,
or bounce them to disk as short audio files for importing into a Reason sample playing device. You could also
create a Combinator patch of the Redrum/Matrix/Subtractor (or whatever) set, and add multiple Combinators
to the rack. Load the new Combi into each, set the Spider CV merge-sensitivity knobs in each Combinator
and automate Remix mutes to enable and disable the variations you want.
Your adventures in merging can become even more esoteric when you mix Gates and CVs in one Spider CV
merge circuit. The output could be routed to gate or CV inputs of target devices. You may not have though of
doing so before, but it's worth knowing that LFO and modulator CVs can, in many cases, actually trigger other
devices, although pitch information still needs to come from a Matrix or linear sequencer track. The result can
be hit and miss, but the hits are worth working for.
Published in SOS August 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
73 / 92
Using Mixer Automation In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Using Mixer Automation In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS September 2006
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Technique : Reason Notes
Mixer automation lets you create more dynamic
mixes, but also provides a fast alternative to
arranging all your tracks in the sequencer. We
offer a simple guide to making the most of it.
Controller Data Vs. Automation
Recording Mixer Automation
Controlling Mutes From The
Computer Keyboard
Playing Back & Punching In
Arranging With Mixer
Simon Price
Like most of the heavyweight sequencing environments, Reason allows you to
record, edit, and play back control movements made on its mixer (or mixers).
There are many reasons for wanting to do this, such as riding the levels of
instruments to 'even out' volume changes and to allow different parts to take
prominence during the song. Automating effect send levels is also common, as is
creating a fade-out by automating the master fader. Reason's fast and
straightforward automation system also makes it simple to use as a
compositional tool: mixer automation is sometimes a faster and more
spontaneous method of arranging parts of your songs.
Controller Data Vs. Automation
In order to record mixer
If you use a sequencer package such as Logic or Pro Tools, you'll probably be
automation, you need to
assign a sequencer track to
aware that your mixer page has a dedicated system for automation. These
the mixer.
systems are akin to automation on professional hardware mixing consoles,
allowing you to put individual tracks into various automation modes. This type of
automation system is different to using MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) data, which is traditionally used to
control parameters on MIDI synths, but can also be used to automate software synths and sometimes mixer
parameters. In Reason, automation is MIDI Controller data, but with some specialised tools for handling the
data and playing it back. Every instrument and device in Reason, including the mixers, is treated like a
separate MIDI module, and most parameters can respond to MIDI controller data, either from an external
source or from the built-in sequencer. If a device's MIDI track is record-enabled in the sequencer and Reason
is recording, any control changes made on the device (with a MIDI controller or the mouse) are recorded on
that device's track. In the next section we'll go through this step by step. Each sequencer track has many 'subtracks', called Controller Lanes, allowing control changes for each parameter on a device to be displayed
Recording Mixer Automation
As automation in Reason is MIDI CC data, it must be recorded on a sequencer track. When you create an
instrument in Reason, a sequencer track is provided for it automatically. This doesn't happen with other
devices, such as mixers and effects, so before you can automate the mixer you must create a track for it. For
the purposes of this article, we're considering a song with one Remix 14-channel mixer, but you can automate
multiple mixers using multiple sequencer tracks.
1. Go to the Create menu and choose Sequencer Track; a new track will
appear in the sequencer.
2. Next, from the pop-up menu to the right of the track's name, choose the
Remix mixer as the Out destination (see the screen above).
3. Change the name of the track to Mix Automation and you're ready to try
recording some automation. The new track is already record-enabled, as
indicated by the red circle to the left of the track name.
Automated controls are
4. Start Reason recording by clicking Record, then Play, then use the mouse to indicated by green boxes.
move fader one up and down a few times.
5. After you stop playback, you'll see two indications that some automation was recorded. Firstly, there will be
pale-blue blocks running the length of the sequencer track, with darker blue areas showing where there is
automation activity. Secondly, a green box will have appeared around the fader that is now automated (see
screen, right).
6. Now return the sequencer to the start and play through what you recorded: you'll see the fader retrace the
movements you recorded. That's all there is to it.
The next step is to view the automation data in more detail. There are a number of buttons and menus in the
sequencer toolbar that govern how controller data is viewed, but there's a shortcut if you just want to jump
straight to a particular parameter: option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (Windows) on the fader you automated. The
sequencer will switch to viewing the controller lane for the fader and you'll see a graph representing the
movements you recorded (see screen below). The screen shows the view controls for automation, with labels
for what each button or menu does. The rightmost button is usually the most useful, allowing you to display all
the automated parameters on that device, leaving un-automated controls hidden. However, if you have a large
number of automated controls, you may wish to use the pop-up menu to select exactly which automation graphs
are displayed (see top screen overleaf). Notice that parameters that have been automated are indicated by an
asterisk in the list.
Controlling Mutes From The Computer Keyboard
Reason's Keyboard Control functionality is ideal for recording mute automation, as it makes it possible to toggle more than one mute at a time.
1. Select the mixer and choose Keyboard Control Edit Mode from the Options menu. The on-screen rack
will become greyed out and yellow arrows will appear over all the controls.
2. Double-click the first mute button and the arrow will spin. Pressing a key on the computer keyboard will
map that key to the mute button.
3. Repeat this procedure for each mute. If you start with the numerical keys, you should be able to get 12
mutes mapped on one row.
Assigning computer keys to mute buttons
overcomes the limitations of recording
4. Exit the mapping mode by selecting it again from the menu.
automation with the mouse.
5. Finally, choose Enable Keyboard Control from the same menu.
Playing Back & Punching In
74 / 92
Using Mixer Automation In Reason
Once a parameter has been automated, it will always follow the automation graph, but you can grab the
relevant control at any time and move it. After you do this, the control will ignore the automation data and stay
where you put it until you stop playback. Moving an automated control causes the red 'Punched In' light to come
on in the Automation Override section of the transport strip. Pressing the Reset button in this section will cause
the parameter to immediately resume following the automation. When recording over existing automation,
parameters behave in a similar manner. Whether you are in Overdub or Replace record mode, automation is
never recorded over until you actually touch a control. Let's try it in practice:
1. With your Mix Automation track record-enabled, go into record over the
section of automation you wrote earlier. The fader still follows the existing
2. Grab the fader and automation will immediately begin recording over the top
of what was there before.
3. Let go of the fader. It will stay where it is put, and a straight-line automation
The key to viewing just the
automation data you need to
see is the group of four buttons
labelled above.
graph will be written to the Controller lane until you hit Stop. Alternatively, you
can punch out of Record or hit the Reset button. Automation writing will stop,
after which the fader will return to following the existing automation. If you're familiar with Logic, Pro Tools or
certain mixing consoles, you'll recognise this as an Auto Latch mode with a Snap Back facility.
Anyone familiar with latched automation writing will also be aware of a potential hazard. You can also see the
problem in the graph in the screenshot below. At the point where you stop recording, there's a good chance
that you'll end up with a sudden jump in the automation graph, as the fader (for example) returns to its initial
setting. Some automation systems (again, Pro Tools is an example) offer a 'Write To End' or 'Write to Next'
function that lets you write flat automation to the end of the song or the next event when you stop recording. With
Reason, you either need to play all the way through the song, so that the correct positions of your faders are
written throughout, or take care of the problem later with editing.
Fortunately, taking the editing route is very simple. All you need to do is select the Eraser tool, click just before
the point where you stopped recording, and drag to the right up to the end of the song, or however long you
wish the control to stay in the same position. The level at the point you clicked will be extended throughout the
selection. In the screen on the opposite page you can see that I've used this trick to extend the automation on
several faders and mute buttons to the end of the song, so I didn't have to record all the way to the end.
Arranging With Mixer Automation
When creating a song in Reason, it's common practice to try out a few
arrangement ideas by running all tracks as loops and bringing parts in and out
by 'playing' the mute buttons on the mixer. When I first started using Reason, I
was having too much fun layering up synths controlled by Matrix step
sequencers and running drums from Redrum's built-in sequencer to learn how
to use the main sequencer. Instead, I would create quick arrangements by
automating mutes and faders. Going through some of these old songs, such as
the one in the screen on the opposite page, reminded me how quick and fun
this was, so I've returned to doing it for some tracks. It's especially useful for
The Automation view menu lets
ambient songs. The ideal is if you have a MIDI controller box that can control the you pick and choose which
mixer, because you can then do more than one thing at a time, but it's not
parameters are displayed.
essential (see the box below for a way of using the computer keyboard to
control mutes). The track shown in the screenshot was made on a laptop with no MIDI controllers or keyboard
First, you should run through the track a few times, experimenting with bringing in tracks with the mutes, until
you've come up with a nice arrangement. You can then record this as automation data. First, set up the mixer
so that it's in the correct state for the start of the song: everything should be muted except the tracks that will
play from the very start, or tracks that start with their faders all the way down. Now, after making sure Loop
mode is off, go into record and perform the mutes you rehearsed. If you're using the mouse, you may need to
perform multiple passes when several tracks come in or are cut out at the same time. However, don't worry too
much about getting everything perfect — you'll need to do some cleaning up afterwards anyway. Unfortunately,
Record Quantisation only works for notes in Reason, otherwise you'd be able to make sure all your mute
presses were recorded exactly on the bar. As this is not possible, there will be some tracks that are cut off too
sharply, or that click when you mute or unmute, and these will need tidying up in the sequencer.
Also, an alternative to doing multiple passes is to just get the automation
somewhere close and fix it up afterwards with editing. To see your automation
graphs, select the Mix Automation track and click the Show Controllers in Track
button (the button that only displays automated parameters). Set the edit grid to
Bars and use the Pencil tool to trim any rough-sounding mutes. When your
mutes are finished, you can go in and record fader movements for tracks that
fade in or out of the arrangement. You can also emphasise some parts and pull
others back at different places to create movement in the mix. If the song fades
A complete song arrangement
out, you can do this with the master fader at the end of the track.
created using mute and fader
This method is so simple because everything is achieved using one device and automation.
one sequencer track. Obviously, it isn't appropriate for all songs, but can be
used as a starting point, and may be quicker and more 'musical' than dragging around notes and groups in the
More complex arrangements can be made by extending the same idea to automating mutes and levels on the
Redrum drum machine. Further variety can be added by automating pattern changes on your Matrix
sequencers and Redrum. By the time you come to the stage where you need to start editing in the sequencer,
you'll find that the main structure of your song is in place, which is much less daunting than trying to construct it
from scratch.
Published in SOS September 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
75 / 92
Using Reason Live
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Using Reason Live
Part 1: Replacing A Live Keyboard Rig
Published in SOS November 2006
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Technique : Reason Notes
Live Combis
Some Good Factory Examples
Doing The Splits
Patch Switching
In the first part of a series on using Reason live,
we look at using the Combinator and MIDI remote
control to replace a live keyboard rig.
Simon Price
Reason is just as at home on stage as it is, well, at home, and there are many ways of using it as a
performance tool. We're going to split these roughly into two categories: this month we'll look at how you can
use Reason in place of (or in addition to) a keyboard player's traditional live rig; next time, we'll put the
software to work as part of a DJ or live electronica performance.
Live Combis
Typically, a keyboard player's live setup might include a synth workstation, an electric piano or organ if they're
lucky, and maybe a sampler. The keyboard player will carefully prepare and store programs on the master
keyboard and sampler, that can be recalled with program change messages. Some programs will have
keyboard layers and/or splits. Our goal this month is to do all this using just Reason running on a laptop, with a
decent controller keyboard.
The key to using Reason in place of a live keyboard rig is to prepare a
Combinator patch for each song in your set, or for each program change that
you would have created in the hardware version. Each Combinator will contain
the necessary instruments, with the correct patches, effects and keyboard
mappings. Any real-time controls you might need, such as filter frequency, can
be saved as assignments on the Combinator's front panel. These controls can The starting point for our live
Combinator example is a
then be mapped to your keyboard or a MIDI control surface. Later, you'll see
Rhodes piano sampler patch.
how patches can be recalled and Combis selected from the keyboard. If you
get the setup right, you may not need to touch the computer for the whole show.
The simplest live Combis consist of a single instrument patch with some effects
and front-panel controls. In this first example, we'll build a patch with a Rhodes
piano and some effects. By mapping buttons to the effects' bypass switches,
we can make it possible to use the Combinator like a Rhodes with effects
1. Create a new Combinator and add an NNXT sampler to it. Load up a
Rhodes piano patch on the sampler: there's one in the Factory Sound Bank's
Pianos folder.
At this stage we've added a
distortion effect, and assigned
some front panel controls.
2. Add a distortion device, by selecting the NNXT, then choosing Create / Scream 4 Distortion. The signal
from the sampler will automatically route through the effects unit. Choose a nice subtle distortion setting, such
as the Overdrive or Tape mode with the Damage control turned down a bit.
3. Now add some front-panel controls for the distortion unit. Click the Show
Programmer button on the Combi and select Scream in the device list. Assign
Rotary 1 to Damage Control. Knob 1 will now control the overdrive level. Assign
Button 1 to the Enabled parameter, and set the Min and Max values to 2 and 1
respectively. The first Combi button will now bypass or enable the distortion
effect. Complete this step by labelling the two Combi controls appropriately.
4. Repeat Step three to add a Unison effect, assigning a rotary to the Dry/Wet
The first finished performance
control, and a button to the Enabled switch. Make sure you select the Scream patch, with bypass buttons and
before creating the Unison, so that audio is routed automatically.
useful controls for the three
5. Add a delay device, and map knobs to Dry/Wet, Delay Time (Steps), and the
usual Enabled button. You can now save your patch.
As well as being able to change the effects from the front panel, you can save multiple copies of the patch with
different knob settings. (For even more on basic Combinator building techniques, see the June 2005 Reason
Some Good Factory Examples
The Factory Sound Bank includes a folder of Combinator presets named Performance Patches. These are all examples of live configurations, with
various splits, layers, and control schemes, and can be a great source of inspiration. The 'Ac Bass+Ride & Rhodes Split' patch is a really nice example
of an addictively playable split. I also highly recommend that you check out the patch called 'Vintage Warp Record'. This beauty requires that Reason
be playing back to work properly. It's an example of what you can do when you start adding drum machines and step sequencers, and should give
you an idea of where we're headed next month.
Doing The Splits
Apparently, there are people who can play keyboards with both hands at the same time. If you have this
freakish talent you can take advantage of keyboard splits. Even us one-hand-at-a-time players can benefit from
layering sounds. The Combinator makes it very easy to set up patches with multiple sound sources divided up
across the keyboard. In the next example, we'll extend the Rhodes patch so that you can play a pad with your
left hand.
1. Click in the empty rack space at the bottom of your Rhodes patch and create
a Malström synth. You won't be able to hear it at first because it won't be
'cabled in'.
2. Now that there are two instrument chains in the patch, you need a mixer, so
create a Line Mixer 6:2 device.
3. Press Tab to revolve the rack. Connect the main outputs of the Malström to
the first inputs on the mixer. Re-cable the outputs from the last device in the
Rhodes device chain (which is the delay unit) into the second input on the
mixer. Finally, connect the main outputs of the line mixer to the Combinator's
The quickest way to switch
between patches is to have
multiple Combinators open and
76 / 92
Using Reason Live
'From Devices' inputs. You should now be able to hear both instruments when
you play the keyboard.
multiple Combinators open and
ready to go.
4. Choose a pad sound: I've chosen 'Fundamentals' from the Factory Sound
Bank's Malström patch collection.
5. Now you can set up the keyboard split. This is done from the left-hand panel
of the Combinator's Programmer, which has a keyboard zone map just like a
sampler. By default, the two instruments in the patch are layered, because they
are mapped across all the keys. Adjust the bars next to the NNXT and the
Malström so that the sampler only responds to keys from C3 upwards, and the
synth responds to keys below C3. You'll need to scroll the display left or right to
find the ends of the zones.
Adding more than one
instrument to a Combinator
6. Add front-panel controls as required. In the screenshot (below, right), I've
necessitates the use of a line
sacrificed the original patch's Delay Mix control so I can control the mixer levels mixer.
for each instrument.
Patch Switching
There's one complete Combinator patch done for a song. Once you have
Combinator patches for all your songs, the next step is to decide how you will
recall or switch patches during the gig. There are two different approaches,
each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The first option is to have
multiple Combinators in the rack, with all the patches you need for the gig
loaded up in them, in advance. The second is to use one Combinator and load
up patches as you need them. Both of these methods can be done remotely
from your MIDI controller. Let's take a look at them one at a time.
The screenshot above shows the multiple Combi approach. With this method,
all your patches are open and ready; all you have to do is select which Combi
your controller keyboard is focused on. When using this method, it's handy to
have the sequencer window visible, as it shows you which Combinator is
currently the target. Buttons or keys on your keyboard can be used to switch
between Combinators. To set this up, open the Additional Remote Overrides
window from the Options menu (above). Double-click the Target Previous
Track command in the list and choose a device and control to map to it. Repeat
for the Target Next Track command. You can use keys instead of buttons. I've
assigned the top two keys on my keyboard to switch patches. If you have a
controller with endless rotary encoders, you can use the Target Track (Delta)
option and scroll up and down the list of Combis with a knob.
With this method patch switching is instant; you can even start playing a new
instrument over the dying notes of the previous one, but if your set calls for a
long list of complex Combinators, you may fall foul of CPU limitations, or have
trouble keeping track of where you are. A simpler method without these
problems is to use a single Combinator. However, although this approach is
tidier and more CPU friendly, you will get a pause between patch changes as
Reason loads your next saved preset.
The Programmer panel lets you
create keyboard splits by
assigning zones to each
instrument in the Combi.
The Remote Overrides window,
where you can assign controls
for changing patches and retargeting your MIDI controller.
An alternative to opening
If you choose to use a single Combinator, you need to save all your patches for multiple Combinators is to load
the gig into a single folder, and in the order that you're likely to need them. They patches as you go along.
will then all be accessible from the Combinator's patch browser, and
Next/Previous Patch buttons (above,right). Again, patch browsing can be done from your controller keyboard,
this time by mapping buttons, keys, or a rotary encoder to the Select Next/Previous Patch for the Target Device
commands in the Additional Remote Overrides window.
Published in SOS November 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
77 / 92
Using Reason Live
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Using Reason Live
Part 2: Live Electronic Performance
Published in SOS December 2006
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Technique : Reason Notes
The Live Connection
A Song For All Seasons
Key Mapping
Be A Reason Song DJ
Live Tips
In the second part in our series, we're exploring
ways to use Reason in a live electronica
performance, laptop DJ set or jam session.
Simon Price
Last month we looked at a traditional live scenario, with Reason taking the place of a
keyboard player's rig, but as Reason is an all-in-one music environment with various ways to
sequence drums, synths, loops, and samples, there's also the option of generating live
performances with just Reason (or Reason and Live, for example) and your laptop. Reason
is particularly well suited for live work, as it's stable, very CPU efficient, and offers versatile
keyboard and controller mapping. Playing Reason live may not always be playing live in the
traditional sense, but it's more flexible and interactive than a pure DJ set, and it's great fun.
An all-inone live
rack, with
for the
There are many ways you could perform with Reason, so to keep things simple we'll look at
two scenarios which cover most of the techniques you might use. In the first scenario
Reason is synced to Ableton Live, with the foundations of the tracks running as loops in
Live, while Reason handles various parts over the top that can be manipulated by the
performer. The second scenario uses just Reason, with multiple songs being triggered manually, like a DJ
would play records, but still allowing for real-time manipulation of the arrangements and sounds. In both cases,
it's easier if there are two of you with two laptops, but both scenarios can be performed solo with some
The Live Connection
The first scenario (Reason with Ableton Live) is a set up I've used a few times when jamming or performing as
a duo. It was achieved by using one laptop to run Live and another to run Reason, but if you feel ambitious you
can do the same running both programs on one machine. Sync'ing the two programs together can be achieved
in three different ways:
1. Single Laptop: If you are performing alone with one machine, the two programs can be sync'd very easily
using Rewire (see the March 2006 Reason technique feature).
2. Live sends MIDI Clock to Reason: You can tell Live to send MIDI Clock out
of any available MIDI port in the MIDI/Sync page of its Preferences. Reason can
then be set up as a clock slave by enabling a MIDI In port in the Advanced MIDI
Preferences (see screen on previous page). If Reason can detect the clock
signal, the green Sync Input LED will light in the transport bar. You can then click
the Enable button, and Reason will play back in sync with Live.
3. Central tempo source: A separate MIDI clock generator, such as a drum
machine, can control both programs, via MIDI cables to one or two laptops.
Some DJ mixers feature beat-detection circuits with MIDI clock outputs, allowing
you to sync Reason with vinyl or CD decks.
Reason can sync to external
devices and programs via
With Live as the clock master, you can either run a free-form set with tempo
MIDI Clock.
changes made manually in Live, or you can program a tempo track. The tempo
track is an automation graph found in the Master track in Live (see screen above). You can program the tempo
track to give you a framework for the entire set, then track-lay as much or as little as you like in your Live
arrangement, depending on how flexible you wish to be. If there are two of you, one can be triggering and
crossfading scenes and clips in Live, and playing with effects and so on, while the other is piloting Reason. If
you're on your own, you might want to automate more in Live, leaving you free to play over the top with Reason.
On the Reason side, the fact that you are using MIDI Sync needs to be taken into consideration when
preparing your set. When Reason is sync'd via clock or Rewire, only one song can play back at a time. You can
change which song is sync'd and playing by clicking the small Play button in the MIDI Sync / Focus section on
the transport bar. There is one catch, which is that Reason songs will always start playing back at Live's current
bar position. So, for example, if your Live song is at bar 185, that's where Reason will start playing back (even
if you choose Pattern Clock in Live). The problem is that if your Reason song has a 16-bar loop in the
sequencer, it won't be heard because playback started further down the timeline. If you stop and start Live, the
looped sequence will play back (and loop), but this would interrupt your set. There are a couple of solutions.
First (and this is my method), you can choose to use only one Reason song for the whole set, so that it gets
triggered at bar one when you start. The other option is to avoid the main sequencer and use only the step
sequencers in Redrum, Matrix or Dr:Rex, as these keep looping regardless of the song position in Live.
Alternatively, use an external clock source from a drum machine or DJ mixer that doesn't send Song Position
A Song For All Seasons
The big rack in the picture on the first page is a Reason song I've used for a couple of live shows. This song
contains everything needed for a set that lasts about 45 minutes. All the loops in the set (which are nearly all
Matrix or Redrum based) play back continuously, which you might think would eat up all the CPU power, but in
fact this song runs OK on an old G3 800Mhz iBook. Sources are brought in as required using the mixer.
Because, in this case, Live is taking care of the foundations and structure of the song, I'm free to mess about
and improvise with the elements in Reason.
Some of the sequences are for specific songs during the set, and these run
roughly left to right on the mixer in the set order. Some channels are re-used for
different songs, or can be used at any time during the set. For example,
channel one is a 303-style synth Combinator, which has several patterns stored
in a Matrix and is used on three songs. There's also a Redrum running through
a filter, with rhythmic patterns and builds stored in it that can be brought in at
any time. Another channel is an NNXT sampler with a set of percussion sounds
that can be played live from the keyboard.
The Tempo Track in Live's
Arrangement view lets you
automate all the tempo
changes for your live set.
78 / 92
Using Reason Live
The song is set up to use both computer keyboard and MIDI controller input. Several of the Matrix sequencers
have computer keys assigned to recall patterns (see the 'Key Mapping' box for how to configure this). The rest
of the control and manipulation of sounds is done with my trusty old Oxygen 8, whose knobs still work even if
half the keys are falling off. Since Reason v3.0, there are two ways of handling MIDI control. Prior to version 3,
individual MIDI controls were mapped to specific parameters in the rack. At that time I used all five banks of
Oxygen 8 controls to control various instrument parameters, with each bank appropriate to particular points in
the live set. For example, in bank one I had four knobs controlling the filter section of my Malstrom 303 patch,
and the other four tweaking a rhythmic Subtractor sequence. I kept a sticky note on the desktop with reminders
of what each bank controlled. This method is still useful: in a live situation it can be handy to have your
controllers locked down so you don't get lost.
However, Reason 3's Remote functionality (see the April 2006 Reason technique feature) gives you the option
to have your controller device 'roam' around the rack, picking up control of various instruments or effects. After
v3, I updated the live rack so that particular groups of devices are in Combinators, with the parameters I want
to control on the front panels. I can now just leave the Oxygen 8 in its default bank, and re-focus it on whichever
Combinator I want to control. Last month's column explained how to assign buttons or keys to move your
controller up and down the rack to control different devices.
Key Mapping
Mapping functions to computer keys is particularly handy on stage, where MIDI controls may be in short
supply. Typical uses are for controlling mixer mutes and recalling Matrix or Redrum patterns. For mutes,
keys give you the distinct advantage over the mouse of being able to press several switches
simultaneously. To map a key to a button, right-click it and choose Edit Keyboard Control Mappping, then
press the key you wish to assign. If you're making several assignments, choose Options / Keyboard
Control Edit Mode. This changes the main display to show all assignments for the selected rack device
Control Edit Mode lets you
(see screen above). You can then add or edit assignments by double-clicking any button, then pressing a Keyboard
assign computer keys to Reason's device
key. You can also map a key to a knob or slider. Pressing the key then toggles the knob between its
maximum and minimum settings.
Be A Reason Song DJ
Our second scenario is a bit closer to DJ'ing, as it involves cueing and looping sections in Reason sequences,
and beat-matching between Reason songs without using MIDI Clock. This method, which I saw being
pioneered by Swedish band The Puff, is particularly good for situations where you have a laptop and no MIDI
controllers, but can be enhanced with MIDI control if you want to do some knob twiddling. It can be done on a
single laptop, although again the performance may be slicker if there are two of you. Ideally you will need a way
of cue mixing: either a four-channel audio interface feeding a mixer if you have one laptop, or just the mixer if
there are two of you.
First, let's look at the basic concept. At its simplest you can simply launch and cue Reason songs, in a similar
way to playing records. However, you get much more input by learning to trigger and loop sections in the
sequencer, allowing you to arrange tracks on the fly instead of conforming to preset arrangements. Going
further, you can add control over rack devices. For example, we'll add keyboard controls for muting and
unmuting channels in each song's mixer.
There are various ways you can experiment with this technique, but let's look at
a typical workflow. (For now, we'll leave out the cue-mixing considerations. Next
month, we'll look at this subject more deeply, and build a simple Combinator,
which you can add to all your songs, that provides simple output switching.)
1. Load a song with a main sequencer arrangement and set it playing.
2. Load another song that you want to bring in. The screen above shows a song
that has been pre-prepared. It has a full arrangement, but I've grouped up some
sections, such as the verse and chorus. I've also assigned the mute buttons of
Tracks can be arranged on the
all active mixer channels to the number keys on my computer keyboard (see
fly by moving loop markers.
'Key Mapping' box).
3. Set the tempo of the new song to be the same as the song currently playing.
4. Set a loop in the Sequencer. To place the left Locator (loop start), Option/Ctrl-click in the time ruler, Make
sure the grid is set to Bars. To set the right Locator (loop end) Command/Alt-click in the ruler.
5. Start the second track playing back in time with the first. It may require some practice, but it's a whole lot
easier than trying to beat-match vinyl! This method makes use of the keyboard shortcuts for cueing to the loop
start and end locators: 1 and 2 on the keypad. Most laptops don't have a numeric keypad, but there is usually
an equivalent accessed by holding down a Function key. When Reason is playing, pressing either of these
keys will skip playback immediately to the corresponding locator. By tapping the '1' key on the downbeat of the
first track, you can get the second track playing on the beat. You might want to do this in headphones and bring
the second track in via a mixer, but once you've had a bit of practice you will be able to bring in tracks in sync
without too many false starts.
6. Use the Mute key assignments to bring in different elements of the second track within the looped sequence.
If you have mute assignments in the first song, you can use these by clicking on its window to make it active.
7. Use the Locate shortcuts and '1' key to move to a different section of the song.
8. Fade out the first track, open a new one, and you're Reason DJing! If there are two of you, you can alternate
the task of loading a new song to free up more time for messing with the tracks and devices.
In next month's Reason Technique, we'll go further with these ideas, building a couple of Combinators that
come in handy for jamming or playing live.
Live Tips
When you're playing a large rack, keep the sequencer window detached and open, as clicking tracks on it navigates the display quickly to that device in
the rack.
Have a Combinator ready that can keep something playing in emergencies (we'll be building just such a Combi next month).
Fader levels on the main mixer can be set instantly by clicking anywhere in a fader's range: you don't have to pick it up and move it.
Plug two or three delay effects into the mixer with different tempo-sync'd delay times for creating quick variations on sequences.
Be careful if you're sending clock from a USB MIDI Keyboard's MIDI Out, as it can sometimes be interrupted during heavy controller use.
Look up from the screen occasionally!
Published in SOS December 2006
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
79 / 92
Using Reason Live
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Using Reason Live
Part 3: Live Looping With Dr:Rex
Published in SOS February 2007
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Technique : Reason Notes
This month we look at a Combinator building
project that allows you to mix and manipulate
loops on the fly.
Two Decks & A Crossfader
Synchronised Playback
Cue Mixing In Reason
Filter & Envelope Control
Four-band EQ
Effects & Finishing Touches
Loop Pool
Simon Price
In the last two Reason workshops we've explored ways of using Reason on stage, first as a
replacement keyboard rig, and then as a kind of instrument in its own right. This month we're
building a tool in Combinator that's specifically designed for live use, providing a fast and fun
way of controlling REX loops. In a free-form live set or jam, this Device lets you layer and play
with new beats very quickly. In other live situations, you can use this Combinator as a backup: if something goes wrong with the planned set, you can still keep some music playing.
The main picture shows the finished Combinator setup to give you an idea where we're
headed. It's based around two Dr:Rex loop players, which will be your two sound sources. The
Combinator's control panel has a crossfader knob which allows you to mix and fade between
the two loop players. Various other devices and control assignments give you access to
The finished
effects commonly seen on DJ mixers, such as EQ band kills. Let's get stuck in...
Two Decks & A Crossfader
patch should
look something
like this.
To get started, create a new Combinator and add two Dr:Rex players. The first Dr:Rex will
cable itself to the Combinator's outputs, but we'll change that in a moment. Next we need a
way of crossfading between the two devices, and this requires a small detour because we're going to use quite
a sophisticated technique for achieving this. The simplest way to crossfade between two devices in a
Combinator is to map a knob to the main level controls of both devices, or to the channel levels of a line mixer
that they are connected to. This knob would be assigned to control the level of each device in opposite
directions. In other words, for Dr:Rex one, you would assign the level to be 127 when the knob is fully
anticlockwise, and 0 when fully clockwise. Dr:Rex two would have a reversed polarity assignment on the same
knob, with maximum volume at the clockwise position. The knob will then adjust the balance of the two devices.
While this scheme is quite simple, if you try it you will hear a problem. There is
a significant level drop when you mix both loops by placing the knob near the
12 o'clock position. This is because the volume faders of the loop players (or
mixer channels) adjust the volume in a linear fashion, resulting in a linear
crossfade. What we need is an 'equal power' crossfader, as you would tend to
find on a DJ mixer. After coming up with some rather ugly workarounds for this,
I was very happy to discover that Kurt Kurasaki, the author of the excellent
Power Tools For Reason book, had found an ingenious solution. Kurt, better
known as 'Peff' in the Reason community, realised that the pan pots on
Reason's mixer devices follow an equal power law, rather than a linear one.
The workaround is quite hard to grasp, as it requires the use of two line mixers
instead of one, but it works perfectly.
The screen to the right, top shows the correct connections for the equal power
crossfade scheme. Note that only the left channel inputs and outputs are used It's possible to build a realistic
on the mixers, and each Dr:Rex connects to both mixers. The screen below that crossfader in Reason by using
this cunning patching system.
shows the Combi Programmer assignments for Line Mixer 1. Rotary one is
assigned to Channel one pan with a range of -64 to +63. Rotary one is then
also assigned to Channel two pan, with reversed polarity (+63 to -64). You will need to use one of the two spare
slots at the bottom of the Modulation Routing table to make the second assignment. The assignments for Line
Mixer 2 (not shown) are exactly the same.
Synchronised Playback
Dr:Rex playback is normally either started by pressing the Preview button, or
playing the slices back via MIDI. Whole loops are played back with MIDI by
using the To Track button to create MIDI events in the sequencer for the current This Matrix sequencer has
configured to trigger
loop. Neither of these is practical for our purposes, because we want to be able been
loops automatically.
to change loops on the fly without interrupting playback or fiddling with
individual devices. Luckily, there is a little-known feature of Dr:Rex that lets you trigger loop playback by
sending a MIDI note message with pitch value D0. Easy, then, you might think: we can just trigger the loops with
a Matrix step sequencer. However, Matrix only produces notes down as low as C1. The cunning workaround is
to use Matrix's Curve output to produce a CV signal that the Dr:Rex players think is a D0 note. Create a
Matrix, and cable the Gate output to the Combinator's master Gate input, and the Curve output to the Combi's
CV input. Now switch the Matrix to Curve mode on its front panel. Next comes the tricky part: you need to enter
a Curve value into the first step of the Matrix that equates to a D0 note value. Set the Matrix to play a short loop
of four steps and start it running. The screen below shows a Matrix with the value you need in for this, but you
may need to experiment to find the exact setting to trigger playback. Once you've got it, the Matrix will trigger
both loops every time the sequence starts, freeing you from having to start loops playing back manually. This
means that both loops will also retrigger at the same time, even if their loop lengths are different. I've set up
several different loop lengths in the Matrix (one beat, two beats, one bar, and two bars) and saved them in the
pattern selector.
Cue Mixing In Reason
As the Combinator we're building this month lets you mix and crossfade between looped beats and
sequences, the subject of cue mixing arises. The need for cue mixing in this situation is not as urgent as
for a DJ spinning vinyl, as Reason makes sure that everything is beat matched, and if you know your loop
collection you should have a good idea what to expect. However, if you are randomly jamming with a pile
of unknown loops, you may want to set up a cue mix so that you can preview them before you bring them
into the main mix. The same goes for bringing in any element in a live situation such as the one we
This screen shows the mixer after cue
discussed in the last instalment of Reason Technique.
mixing has been set up
Unlike Ableton Live, for example, Reason does not have specific built-in cue-mixing functionality, but this
doesn't mean you can't knock together a configuration that does the job. You will need an audio interface with at least four outputs, as you will use
outputs three and four for the cue mix. This assumes that you don't have a DJ mixer at your disposal: if so, you can simply output your loops to
separate channels and use the mixer's cue system.
There are two options here: you can build a cueing system into the Combi itself, or you can set up a cue
80 / 92
Using Reason Live
mix in the main song mixer. Let's have a look at the latter, approach as this allows you to check any mixer
channel before bringing it into the main mix. First, you will need to open the Audio Preferences, and check
that you have more than two output channels enabled. The four aux sends on the main mixer will then be
used to send any channel you wish to check to outputs 3/4. The aux buss can be switched pre-fader (by
clicking the small 'P' buttons on each channel), so you can leave any channel's main fader down (not
going to the main mix) but still hear that channel in your headphone mix.
Loop A from the Combi appears on channel 12, with Loop B on channel 13. The mix from the Combi is on
channel 1. Channel 14 has a feed from the main mix so you can hear the main mix in your headphones if
you wish (this fader must stay down or it's serious feedback time). You can listen to the A or B loop in
headphones by turning up the aux send for that channel. The same goes for any other instrument plugged
into the mixer. The only difference is that you'll use the crossfader on your loop Combi to bring elements
in, whereas you'd use faders on the mixer for other instruments.
The cabling scheme for the cue mixing
The aux output from the mixer is going to outputs 3/4 on the Hardware Interface module. The main mix is
being split in a Spider Audio Splitter, and sent to both the main (1/2) outputs, and channel 14. Note that the configuration.
feed to channel 14 is mono. This is because there is some kind of bug that messes with the phase of the
mix if you make this connections stereo. Because we want to be able to preview the loops in the Combi individually there are direct connections from
each Dr:Rex player to channels 12 and 13. Again, Spider Audio Splitters have been used in the Combi to tap off these signals.
Filter & Envelope Control
Now that we have the fundamental parts of our Combi working, we can starting adding some extra controls.
First, we'll set the Combinator's second rotary knob to control the filters on the loop players. Select Dr:Rex 1 in
the Programmer panel, and assign Filter Freq to Rotary 2 with full range. Repeat for Dr:Rex 2. You can turn the
resonance sliders up a bit on both devices to make the effect more dramatic. Next, assign Combinator's
Button 2 to switch between low-pass and band-pass filters on both Dr:Rexs. To do this, assign Button 2 to filter
mode, with a minimum value of 4 and maximum value of 2.
An useful control assignment is to use a knob to adjust the Amp Envelope Decay stage on each loop player.
This, in effect, controls the length of each hit or slice in the loop. Using the same method as before, select each
Dr:Rex in turn in the Programmer, and assign Rotary 3 to the Amp Env Decay parameter with full value range.
Four-band EQ
DJ mixers commonly have three-band or four-band EQ sections or 'kill' switches which can completely cut
bands, allowing you to blend, say, the high frequencies of one source with the low frequencies of another.
Reason doesn't have such a device, but it's pretty easy to make one. Select the first Dr:Rex, and create a
BV512 Vocoder device. This will cable itself correctly between the loop player and the line mixers. Switch the
vocoder into Equalizer mode, and turn the number of bands down to four. You can now adjust individual
frequency bands between +10 and -(infinity) dB by clicking in the central display area. Repeat for the second
loop player.
Effects & Finishing Touches
There's still a spare knob and some switches on the Combinator's front panel, so let's add
some effects to play with. We'll add a phaser and delay unit, just after the line mixers. Select
the second line mixer, hold down Shift (to disable auto-cabling) and create a PH90 Phaser
and then a DDL1 Delay unit. Now you can manually cable the output from the line mixers
(currently going to the main Combi outs) into the left/right Phaser inputs. Now cable the
phaser's outputs to the inputs of the delay unit, and finally connect the delay to the
Combinator's 'From Devices' ports.
Next we need to add some simple control over the effects. Two buttons will switch the effects
in and out, and the remaining knob will control the intensity or depth of both effects. Select
The cable
the Phaser in the Programmer, and assign Button 3 to the enabled parameter. Set the
minimum value to 2, and the maximum value to 1. These settings mean that the effect is on arrangement for
when the buttons is lit, and bypassed when unlit (as opposed to off, which mutes the sound). the finished
Repeat these steps for Button 4 with the delay unit. To implement the depth control, start by Dr:Rex
assigning Rotary 4 to the Phaser's feedback parameter with full range. The delay control
needs to be a bit more subtle, or it will limit the range over which you can adjust the phaser without creating
crazy echoes. Try mapping the knob to the DDL1's Dry/Wet balance with a range of 0-43.
All that remains now is to add some compression or limiting to the end of the signal chain to avoid clipping and
to even out the levels of different loops. I've achieved this by putting a Maximizer between the delay unit and the
Combi outs. The final cabling for the Combinator is show in the screen to the right.
Loop Pool
Not only a palindromic sub-heading, but also my final tip for live loop mashing with Reason. Prepare one or two
folders on your drive with all the loops that you want to use during a session with your loop player Combi. Once
you point each Dr:Rex player to a file in a folder, all the other loops can be accessed very quickly by clicking in
the loop browser, or using the Next/Previous buttons.
There are many variations on this Combinator that you could try. The main limitation is the number of knobs on
the Combi front panel, meaning that you can't implement all the things you might like to on the panel in one
patch. In some versions of this Combinator, I have assigned two of the Combi knobs to the Transpose controls
on the Dr:Rex players, allowing you to match the pitches of two loops. I've also made patches where panel
buttons are used for bass and treble kill switches (by controlling the vocoders). If you have fun building the
Combinator in this article, you might try designing a companion multi-effects Combinator, freeing up more
controls and allowing for independent processing of each loop. For more on building effects units with
Combinator, see the Reason workshop from the July 2005 issue of SOS.
Published in SOS February 2007
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
81 / 92
Hacking Remote Files In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Hacking Remote Files In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS March 2007
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Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
If Remote support has not been added for your
favourite MIDI controller, consider doing it
Old Dog, New Tricks
Remote Hack
MIDI Monitors & Hex
Codec Files
Modifying A Remote Codec
Remote Maps
Taking It Further
Simon Price
Propellerhead's 'Remote' technology allows intelligent and fluid control of Reason's devices, but only for
specifically supported MIDI controllers. Many of the latest MIDI keyboards and controllers have had Remote
support developed by their manufacturers. However, with a little time and patience you can add support for
older or more obscure devices yourself, or even customise the controller mapping of supported devices.
We covered Remote in detail last year ('Using Hardware Controllers with Reason 3', SOS April 2006) but, to
recap, it's a protocol developed by Propellerheads to allow MIDI controllers to work with no configuration or
control mapping by the user. All you have to do is tell Reason what hardware is connected and the rest is taken
care of by Remote. Once a controller is 'on-line', its controls are mapped to the most relevant parameters of
whichever Reason device is the current MIDI target. You can also lock a controller to any rack device, and use
multiple controllers. Multiple banks of controls can be accessed via keyboard shortcuts or buttons on the
Old Dog, New Tricks
So what if you are, for example, a humble sound engineer/writer who can't afford to splash out on the latest
controller keyboard, and are still using, say, your battered-but-still-loved Yamaha CS1x as a master keyboard?
Luckily, I have some experience of this demographic. My 10-year-old CS1x is still capable of controlling
Reason with its six assignable knobs, pitch and mod wheels, and a couple of foot-controller inputs, but it's not
supported by Remote. Until recently, I've used the ubiquitous (and Remote-supported) M-Audio Oxygen 8
alongside the CS1x, providing me with eight knobs for controlling Reason devices. However, I wanted to be
able to take my gear out live without the Oxygen 8, so I decided to try to hack some Remote support for the
Before we get too carried away, it should be said that any MIDI controllers or
keyboards that lack Remote support can be used with Reason, just as they could
prior to version 3. To do this, you need to open the Preferences, choose the
Control Surfaces and Keyboards page, and click 'Add'. Then set the Manufacturer
to 'Other' and select from the list of generic device types such as 'Basic MIDI
Keyboard', 'MIDI Controller', and 'MIDI Keyboard w Controls'. As well as providing
basic keyboard support, these selections will give any knobs, buttons and so forth
a degree of functionality in Reason — albeit without the intelligent assignments
and multiple banks that you get with Remote. Each device in Reason is
programmed to respond to MIDI CC (Continuous Controller) messages in set
ways. Your controllers may therefore move knobs on whichever device is the MIDI
target, although they might be mapped in quite a random order. You can also, of
course, use Reason's Remote Override mode to lock any of your hardware
controls to particular parameters.
A Remote codec file defines
all the available controls on
your device, and determines
what data they send to
You may be able to use this older functionality to achieve what you need without resorting to Remote file
editing. For example, I might want to get my CS1x's knobs to control the four knobs on any Combinator, and
that may be enough to run a live set. To do this I'd need to program the controls on the keyboard to transmit the
default CC values that Combinator is wired for. All the default Controller assignments are listed in the MIDI
Implementation Chart PDF file in Reason's Documents folder (Combinator's knobs are listed as CCs 71-74).
To test this scenario, I set the first four knobs on my keyboard to transmit these controller numbers and, sure
enough, any targeted Combi could now be controlled by the knobs. However, having chosen to map to
Combinator's knobs, I can't choose how the knobs map to any other device. With Remote support, I could
switch to the mixer and the same knobs would control channel faders. Without Remote, you're at the mercy of
the default MIDI assignments, which are channel EQ bass controls.
Remote Hack
So how does Remote intelligently assign your controls to the most useful parameters on each device, and
manage banks of assignments? Remote references two files that are provided for each supported device. The
first, the MIDI codec file, tells Reason what physical controls are on the controller. It may also contain a data
dump that Reason can send to the device to configure it. The second is called a Remote Map file and lists all
the assignments of each control for every Reason device, including multiple bank assignments.
In Mac OS X the files are kept in the root library at Macintosh
HD/Library/Application Support/Propellerhead Software/Remote. On Windows
XP computers the files are hidden, so you need to open the Folder Options
Control Panel, switch to the View tab, and enable the 'Show hidden files and
folders' option. You will then find the files at C:/Documents and Settings/All
Users/Application Data/Propellerhead Software/Remote. The Remote
directory contains two folders: Codecs and Maps. The Codecs folder contains
The directory stucture for
a folder called MIDI Codecs, where the codec files we are interested in are
custom Remote files in Mac OS
stored. There are also other files for the devices that support two-way
X. Their Windows location is
communication, and Lua codecs which use the Lua scripting language and are described in the main text.
basically off-limits. All the codec files are in a single folder, but the map files are
divided by manufacturer. You will need to observe this convention if you create your own files.
The quickest way to understand how the files work is to study the existing ones. In fact, the easiest way to add
support for a new device is to use the files for a similar device as a template. You may also be interested in
opening up files for a device you own and customising the mapping. Let's have a look at the Oxygen 8's files,
as this is a simple device with eight knobs, a keyboard and a slider. You should be able to add basic Remote
support to most devices or keyboards that have eight knobs, by making a few simple changes to the Oxygen
8's files. In the MIDI Codecs folder, find the 'Oxygen 8 old.midicodec' file, right-click it and choose Open With.
On a Mac, open with Text Edit, and on XP use Notepad. The screen on the previous page shows the contents,
which are just standard text.
MIDI Monitors & Hex
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Hacking Remote Files In Reason
MIDI Monitors & Hex
It can be helpful to understand the format of MIDI messages when undertaking a project like editing a Remote file. One quick way to learn how MIDI
controllers communicate is to download a utility that monitors and displays MIDI activity, such as MIDI Monitor for the Mac
( Turning a standard knob will show a stream of data packets, each containing three values: MIDI Channel, Control
number (CC#) and a value, each as a two-digit hexadecimal (base 16) number equivalent to a decimal range of 0-127. There are many utilities and web
sites that let you convert between hex and decimal numbers ( is one that you can try).
Codec Files
The top section of the codec file has some basic file information and entries for the make and model of the
device. Reason uses this information to list the device in the Control Surface Preferences. The next few lines
all begin 'Setup Info Text', and contain the information text that appears in Reason when you add the device.
Next is the list of controls and data-generating devices on your hardware. Each line begins with 'Item', followed
by the name of the control (which can be whatever you like), followed by the control type. Any ranged controller,
such as a knob, fader, pitch wheel, mod wheel, or either axis of a joystick or touchpad, is listed as a 'value'.
Other types are 'button', 'keyboard' and 'delta'. After the type, Min and Max values are listed.
The next block of data is a list that defines the messages that are sent by each of the controls. Each line begins
with 'Map', followed by the MIDI data format of the control written in hex format (see the box below for more on
this). Following this is the name of the control, and three further values. For example, knob 1 of the Oxygen 8 is
listed as:
Map b? 0a xx Knob 1 x 0 0
The three hex MIDI data entries represent the MIDI Channel, Control number, and Control value from knob one.
The '?' is a wildcard value, and in this case tells Reason to ignore the MIDI channel. The second value (0a) is
the controller number, telling Reason that the knob transmits Controller 10 (the decimal equivalent of 0a). The
third value is the value representing the knob's position. This has been written as 'xx', because it is a variable:
ie. this value will change from one message to the next as you turn the knob. The next entry in the line is,
obviously, the name of the hardware control. The final three values determine what is going to be sent to
Reason. In the example, we have a single value 'x', which simply means that the 'xx' value in the message is
passed on to Reason. You could have Remote pass on something different, such as a constant (for
example,1), or a function (for example, try 128 x), but a simple 'x' is the most common case for knobs and
faders. Buttons are normally set up to send a message of '1' whenever they are pressed, as Reason only
needs to know that it's been pressed and doesn't care if it puts out different values. Keyboard messages (Note
On/Note Off) have two variables: note number and velocity. There are some differences between the way
keyboards handle these messages, but the three lines listed for 'keyboard' in the Oxygen 8 map cover all
eventualities, so can be use for all codecs.
Modifying A Remote Codec
We're going to use the Oxygen 8 file as the basis for my CS1x codec. The first thing to do is make a copy of
the file and rename it Yamaha CS1x.midicodec (or whatever is appropriate for your own controller, so long as it
ends in .midicodec). You can leave the file in this directory, but Propellerheads recommend putting it in the
equivalent place in your home directory. This means that if you migrate your user account to another computer,
your personal remote maps will come with you. The files paths are Macintosh HD/<user
name>/Library:Application Support/Propellerhead Software/Remote or C:/Documents and Settings/<user
name>/Application Data/Propellerhead Software/Remote/. The Codecs and Maps folders do not exist in your
home location at first; you can either create them or just copy the whole lot over from the root directory and
delete what you don't need. I elected to do the latter and copied my Yamaha CS1x.midicodec file to my home
Codecs folder.
Open the file in your text editor and change the Manufacturer and Model entries.
Next, edit the list of Items to reflect your hardware. For example, if you just have a
simple eight-knob controller with no keyboard, you can remove the Keyboard Items
from the file. The CS1x has no data-entry fader, so I removed that. I also removed
the lines referring to knobs 7 and 8, but having those extra two knobs would make
life much easier, as you'll see when we get to the mapping stage. The next step is
the most important: you need to make sure that the messages sent by your actual
knobs match those declared in the codec file. There are two approaches: change
the file to match the messages sent by your knobs, or change the messages sent by
your knobs to match the file. On the CS1x, editing the control values sent by the
knobs is easy, so I did that. The Control Surface Details guide lists the knob values
used in some of the supported devices, including the Oxygen 8 (10-17 decimal). If Remote Map files set how
you can't edit the knobs on your controller, you will need to change the values in the your physical controls map
file. The first step is to find out what controller numbers your knobs send. This should to the parameters in each
Reason device, with
be listed in the manual, but if not you can use a MIDI monitor utility (or Logic) to see provision for multiple
the values (see the box on the previous page). You should be able to display the
pages or banks.
values in hex and save yourself the job of converting them. Now enter the controller
numbers into the Map list in the file, replacing the middle of the three hex values (0a in the example above).
Remote Maps
Codec files describe what controls are present and what messages are sent, but Reason also needs to know
what to do with these controls: this is where map files come in. Open the Maps folder in the root Remote
directory, and find the map for the remote implementation you are modifying (in this example, the 'Oxygen 8 old'
map). Now, in your home Maps folder, create a folder for the Manufacturer and make a copy of the file here.
Rename it with the <model name>.remotemap, and open it in your text editor. The screen above shows the first
page of the file. The file is quite long, as it needs to list the mapping for every Reason device supporting MIDI
As with the codec, you need to change the Manufacturer and Model entries, or
Reason will not be able to match the files up when it tries to set up Remote.
How much you need to do next depends on how closely the device you are
trying to set up resembles the file you are using as a template. For example, if
your device is a simple keyboard with eight knobs, it is so close to an Oxygen 8
that you can just use the Oxygen 8 map without further editing. All you would
need to do is save the Map file, restart Reason, and choose your device in the
Preferences (see the screen at the top of the next page). However, if you have How my custom Remote device
had to make some changes to the codec file, such as removing two knobs, as I shows up in the Control
did for the CS1x, you will need to decide how the controls are remapped. This Surfaces Preferences.
is also the case if you are attempting to modify the mapping behaviour of an
existing supported device. As with the codec, if you study how the file works you should be able to make
changes that do what you need.
The map is divided into sections for Reason's devices, with each section called a Scope. For example, if the
device includes a keyboard, the first section starts 'Scope Propellerheads Master Keyboard'. Each following
line is in this format:
Map <physical control name> <item controlled in Reason>
The line 'Map Keyboard Keyboard' should, therefore, be self-explanatory. The names
of the physical controls are those declared in the codec file. The names of the
Reason parameters are fixed. As you can see in the screen on the previous page,
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Hacking Remote Files In Reason
the next block of text is for the Combinator, and is a simple mapping of the eight
declared knobs to the Combi's eight controls. Things get more complicated when
there are more parameters than controllers and you need to create multiple banks.
This can be seen in the next section in the file for the 14:2 Mixer. The mixer
parameters have been divided into groups of eight or less, and an extra entry has
been added to each line of text to specify a bank. These banks, or groups, have
been declared at the beginning of the section with the text 'Define Group Keyboard
Shortcut Variations' and then the bank names. Banks are selected in Reason by
custom map, with the
holding Command + Option (Mac) or Ctrl + Alt (Windows) and pressing number keys My
six available controls
on the main keyboard.
assigned using additional
The screen to the right is the start of my map for the CS1x, and shows how you can
create or edit new banks/groups, and also how six knobs are not really enough for Reason! In order to control
all the parameters on Combinator, I've had to split the controls across two groups, which I've called Bank1 and
Bank2. In the mixer section, I've had to re-allocate the knobs across three groups just for the faders. The main
thing to be aware of when making larger changes like this is that the file format is sensitive to how the text and
values are spaced. Each entry must be divided by a Tab, and you must be aware of values that aren't being
used and insert an extra Tab as a place-holder. For example, there are headings for Key and Scale
parameters in each Map entry, which are not used in the Oxygen 8 implementation. The only way to be sure any
additions you make will work is to copy and paste lines from elsewhere in the file to use as templates. If you
enter anything in a format Reason doesn't like, a red cross appears in Control Surfaces Preferences. Click the
cross and you'll see a list of the problems in the file.
Taking It Further
Remote file editing is not for the faint-hearted, but it is very rewarding when you get an unsupported controller
working, or open up new possibilities by customising a map to do exactly what you want. You'll soon be
experimenting with assignment ideas to see if you can map MIDI keys to buttons, or reverse a controller's
polarity. Enjoy!
Published in SOS March 2007
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
84 / 92
Exploring Reason's BV512 Vocoder
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Exploring Reason's BV512 Vocoder
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS May 2007
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason's BV512 is pretty sophisticated as vocoders
go, and is capable of much more than Sparky's
Magic Piano-style voice effects.
Vocal Effects
Rhythmic Effects
Playing Back Vocals In Reason
CV & MIDI Band Control
BV512 & Combinator
BV512 Equaliser
Simon Price
Back in the middle era of Reason's evolution (2003), Reason 2.5 arrived with a
Cambrian explosion of new effects devices. The BV512 vocoder might seem
like an anachronistic device in Reason: an effect traditionally used on vocals in
a music package that you can't record into or use to process external signals?
There are, in fact, ways to bring recorded vocals into Reason, but in any case The spectra of two different
the BV512 can be used for a range of creative and unusual purposes with
modulator sources. The top is
white noise and the bottom is a
Reason's other sources.
sawtooth wave.
Let's have a look at traditional vocoding before we get into some of the more unconventional uses for the
BV512. A vocoder imposes the spectral 'fingerprint' of one sound onto another, so most vocoders require two
audio inputs. The exception is if the vocoder has some kind of internal synth to generate one of the sources
(Prosoniq's Orange Vocoder is an example of this). As you'll see later, Reason's Combinator means you can
build a device that operates in a similar way.
The screen below shows the rear panel of the BV512 vocoder, with the various input and output connectors
arranged around a schematic diagram. Ignore the Shift and Hold inputs for now, as they are CV inputs. We're
mainly interested in the stereo 'carrier' inputs and mono 'modulator' input, which are where our audio sources
will be routed. Both sources contribute to the sound of the output in different ways. The carrier is the 'raw
material', or basic tonal texture of the sound. This is filtered based on the spectral content of the modulator
signal. Imagine the vocoder as a spectrum analyser linked to a graphic equaliser (or, strictly speaking, a series
of envelope following multi-band filters). The level of the modulator signal is analysed at various frequency
bands and the resulting EQ curve is applied to the carrier wave. So if your modulator is a static, unfiltered white
noise signal (which contains all frequencies at equal levels) the result will be a nearly flat frequency plot and the
carrier wave will pass through the effect almost unchanged.
The screen above shows two snapshots of the front panel of the BV512. The
top graph, labelled 'Modulation Levels' displays the levels of the modulator
signal measured at each of the frequency bands. The more bands you choose The rear of the BV512 vocoder,
with the knob to the left of the graph, the higher the resolution of this frequency with its helpful signal-chain
curve. In the top panel, the modulation input is a white noise source and the
graph is almost flat (it's not completely flat because the noise source is not
perfect). In the second panel, the modulation source is a sawtooth wave, giving a characteristic series of
harmonic spikes with the fundamental frequency determined by the pitch. The top example doesn't do much,
but the bottom already has the interesting effect of applying an unusual filter curve to the carrier signal that you
are processing. In this way, you can use the vocoder to produce an unlimited number of new filter shapes.
Things get even more interesting if you actually play the saw wave in the second example. Any pitch change in
the saw wave will shift the whole frequency plot (and therefore the filter effect) up and down. Anything you do to
change the modulator has a result on the main carrier signal, so you can add filter and amplitude envelopes,
pitch bend, LFOs and even a step sequence to the modulator and create more and more movement in the
carrier. This is why vocoders are so effective when you use a voice as the modulator. The ever-changing sound
of the voice makes the carrier sound shift in interesting ways that are instantly recognisable as speech or
Vocal Effects
Let's start with an example of traditional voice vocoding. You will need a vocal sample loaded up and playing
back from the sequencer. See the box on the next page for advice on how to set this up. In this example I have
a female vocal which I'm playing back from an NNXT sampler. The carrier wave (which will determine the tonal
starting point for the sound) will be provided by a Malström synth. The screen above shows the necessary
connections. The vocals are connected to the modulator input (the microphone graphic is a handy reminder for
which way around to connect the sources), and the Malström goes into the carrier inputs. When you press play,
the vocals start playing, but you won't hear anything; you'll just see the frequency display on the BV512 front
panel start dancing away. Now, if you play something with the Malström you will still hear very little, maybe just
a very low and dull signal coming through. This is because the Malström's default patch is a sine wave, which
by definition has no sonic texture beyond a single frequency. What we need is a very rich carrier sound that can
be shaped by the vocoder's filtering. Try switching Osc A to a simple sawtooth. The result is instantly
recognisable as the classic 'talking synth' vocoder sound. Try playing some chords higher up for a shiny
resonator type sound, or single notes very low in pitch for the raspy robotic effect. You can also impose an
entirely new melody on the vocal by playing the Malström.
Now that we've established the basic effect, let's have a look at some of the
front-panel controls on BV512. First try pushing up the HF Emph knob. This
boosts the high frequencies, improving the clarity and crispness of the effect.
Most sound sources roll-off in level towards the higher frequencies, biasing the
vocoder's filter effect towards lower frequencies, so the HF Emphasis evens
out the frequency response. You can also fine tune (or dramatically alter) the cut
or boost of every band by moving the yellow bars in the 'Frequency Band Level
Adjust' display. The Attack and Decay controls adjust how quickly the filter
bands open and close as they follow the modulation signal. Setting a very low
Decay causes the filters to follow changes in the modulator very closely, making
the vocal effect very clear and voice-like. Increasing the Decay will smear the
A typical vocoder patch, with a
sampled vocal as the
sound into more of a resonator effect crossed with a spring reverb. Grouped
modulator, and a sawtooth
with the Attack and Decay controls is the Hold button. Pressing this button
freezes the vocoder's filters, allowing you to 'capture' a spectrum at a moment wave synth patch as the
in time from a shifting modulator sound. The Shift control adjusts all the
frequency bands acting on the carrier up and down. In effect, this makes it
sound as though the modulator has been formant shifted and is very dramatic on vocal sources.
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Exploring Reason's BV512 Vocoder
The final control we should look at before moving on is the band selector. This selects how many frequency
bands the modulator is split into for analysis, and how many bands of filtering the carrier passes through. The
more bands, the higher the resolution of the frequency plot extracted from the modulator. In effect, the more
bands you use, the more the output takes on the character of the modulator. In our example of a vocal
modulating a sawtooth wave, as you increase the number of bands the output increasingly comes to resemble
the original human voice. In FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) mode, there are a whopping 512 bands, so very fine
detail can be heard from the modulator, and, in the case of a vocal, you can tell whose voice it is. Lower band
settings give more synthetic results, so choose a setting based on the sound you are looking to achieve.
Rhythmic Effects
A great use of the BV512 is to create rhythmic synth parts, using a drum machine or REX player as modulation
source. A favourite trick is to connect the modulator input of a BV512 to a send from the mixer. You can then
feed a signal from a Redrum or a loop player (or both) using the channel send controls. If you then play a synth
or sampled sound into the carrier input, it will be gated by the rhythm tracks and also mimic their shifting sonic
characteristics. The Reason Operation Manual describes an old-school trick in which you use this same
technique, but with a noise source as the carrier, and the result is a remarkable imitation of a reverb that you
can colour in all sorts of interesting ways. Using a loop or Redrum source also has the advantage of giving you
fast results without needing to sequence anything in the main sequencer.
Playing Back Vocals In Reason
Reason is very much a synth rack rather than a full-blown production environment, and as
such has no ability to record audio tracks or process external audio signals. Generally, if you
want to record vocals alongside Reason you do it in another application and run Reason via
Rewire. However, if you want to use singing or speech with Reason's vocoder, you need to
get it inside Reason somehow. What you need to do is chop out the phrase you want in your
audio-editing program, and export it as an audio file (WAV or AIFF). You can then load this
into one of Reason's samplers. As you can see in the screenshot below, I've created an
NNXT sampler and loaded in three vocal phrases, which I've named Chorus pt1, Chorus pt2,
and Chorus pt3. I've assigned each phrase to a different single key (C2, C3 and C4), and set
their root notes to be the same as the keys they are mapped to. They can now be triggered
from the keyboard, or from the sequencer.
Vocals can
be played
back in
Reason by
them up and
them back in
a sampler.
CV & MIDI Band Control
This being Reason, you won't be surprised to learn that there are some extra
quirky but very powerful ways to use the vocoder. The first concerns the two
rows of 16 CV connections on the back panel. These provide a completely
different way to control the filter bands that can be used instead of, or alongside
of the modulator input. The CV inputs and outputs map directly to the filter
bands if you are in four-, eight-, or 16-band mode. In 32- or 512-band mode,
each port is shared by bands. Connect a CV signal to one of the inputs, and the
corresponding filter's (or group's) level is now controlled by the CV signal, and
no longer follows that band of the modulator signal. You can use any of
By putting the devices into a
Reason's many CV sources, such as LFOs or envelope outputs. A particular Combinator, you can play both
recommendation (again suggested in the manual) is to use the gate outputs of the modulator and the carrier
a Redrum drum machine. You can then create a pattern sequence in Redrum sources at the same time.
and trigger different frequencies in the carrier signal in a rhythmic manner. The
level and length of each 'note' is determined by the velocity and length settings on Redrum's channel controls.
Finally, you can trigger the vocoder's filter bands to open via MIDI (again instead of, or as well as, using a
modulator signal), allowing you to 'play' the vocoder and record sequences of triggers in the main sequencer.
MIDI notes trigger the bands to open, starting from C1, and they stay open while a key is pressed. The filter
levels are mapped to velocity, and their response times follow the envelope set by the Attack and Decay
controls. The Hold button can also be controlled via MIDI note C4. The button only stays active while you hold
the key. In order to route MIDI data to the vocoder you will need to create a MIDI track for it (effects devices
don't get MIDI tracks by default). Just right-click on the vocoder and choose Create / Sequencer Track.
BV512 & Combinator
The Combinator has the potential to make working with the vocoder somewhat simpler (for example, you can
save common routing configurations in Combinators for easy recall), and also raises interesting new
possibilities. Another big advantage is the ability to play multiple devices within a Combi at once from the
same MIDI keyboard. The above screen is an example. This Combinator contains a vocoder and two sound
sources (a carrier and a modulator). Because they are both in a Combi, you can play both of them at once,
removing the need to sequence one of the sources. You can have one source follow the pitch of the notes, and
the other (typically the modulator) only trigger at key presses by switching off keyboard tracking. In this
example, the carrier is a bright sawtooth Malström patch again, and the modulator is a Subtractor synth with a
dramatic sweep and fast LFO that adds lots of movement to the final sound.
To create a vocoding Combi that gives instant results to any signal you pass
through it, you will need to set up a source with a Matrix sequencer so that it
plays automatically. There are a couple of presets in the Factory Sound Bank The BV512 in equaliser mode.
('Evil Vocoder' and 'Wah Wah Vocoder') that demonstrate this technique, one
with a built-in modulator and one with a built-in carrier. You can find them in Combinator Patches / Effects
Devices / Vocoder.
BV512 Equaliser
The BV512 has an equaliser mode that lets you control the multiple filter bands manually, using the band-adjust
bars in the central display area. Used in this mode, the BV512 ceases to act as a vocoder, and is simply
operating on a single signal as a kind of graphic equaliser (as shown in the screen below). The signal that is
processed is the one connected to the carrier input, and the modulator input is ignored. The number of bands
is set as normal with the band-selector knob. Regular readers may remember that the BV512 was used in fourband EQ mode back in the January issue of SOS to provide simple band 'kill' switches in a Combinator patch.
One word of warning here, though: if you use the BV512 as an equaliser in anything but FFT (512-band) mode,
it will colour the signal even when the bands are all at 0dB. This is because there is some overlap between the
bands, and therefore some phase cancellation and reinforcement. You can hear this in particular if you turn the
Shift control and sweep the frequencies of the bands. If you need a transparent signal path through the BV512,
use the FFT mode.
Vocoding is often an under-exploited tool in Reason, but is a great avenue to explore for finding new and
inspiring sounds. Once you're comfortable with its operation, be sure to check out some of the tips and tricks in
the Operation Manual.
Published in SOS May 2007
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
86 / 92
Exploring Reason's BV512 Vocoder
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
87 / 92
Reason's Matrix Pattern Sequencer
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason's Matrix Pattern Sequencer
Hints & Tips
Published in SOS July 2007
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Matrix Basics
Note Sequencing
Ahead Of The Curve
To analogue synth fanatics, the Matrix Pattern
Sequencer is one of the highlights of Reason's
Simon Price
When I first got Reason, I was in the middle of moving and my MIDI controller
keyboard was in storage; all I had was Reason running on a laptop. This turned
out to be a blessing in disguise, as for a few months I was forced to use the
Matrix step sequencer as my main way of creating music. Although step
sequencers can be a slower and more fiddly way of playing synths than a
keyboard, they are valuable in that they tend to produce very different results
and steer you toward different songwriting techniques. They free you from
habitual playing patterns, chords and scales, and introduce unpredictability.
You often start by setting a few random notes and seeing what happens. You
can then store pattern variations and chain them on the fly to make an
There are many examples of
advanced Matrix applications in
Step sequencers are also popular tools for live electronic music, as they allow the Factory Sound Bank's
you to leave the arrangement more flexible than with a full song sequence, and Combinator patches.
free the hands for shaping sounds rather than playing notes. The Matrix is not
just an alternative way to play notes, however; it can also be used to generate versatile tempo-sync'd
modulation sources that can be connected to many parameters on other devices using Reason's virtual CV
Matrix Basics
If you add an instrument (such as Subtractor) to the rack, followed by a Matrix Pattern Sequencer, Reason will
automatically create two connections (as shown in the screens at the top of the page opposite). The Matrix's
Gate CV output will be connected to the instrument's Gate input, and the Note CV output will be connected to
the instrument's CV input. All Reason's synths and samplers have a Sequencer Control section on the back
panel with these inputs. A third output (labelled Curve CV) on the Matrix's rear panel is left unconnected at this
stage. If you press play at this point, or click the Run button on the Matrix, you will hear the synth play back a
series of middle Cs at 16th-note intervals, which is the default pattern.
It's fairly easy to intuit how the Matrix works in this configuration. The main central grid represents a sequence
of notes, as indicated by the keyboard display running up the 'Y' axis. The 'X' axis of the grid represent units of
time, and when the Matrix is playing back you can see a red marker running along the top of the grid showing
the current step. Below the note grid the vertical bars represent gate events (note triggers in this case) with the
height of each bar determining the velocity. The Resolution knob sets how long each step lasts (how fast the
pattern plays back), and the buttons above this set how many steps are active (how long the pattern is). The
default setting is 16 steps with 16th-note resolution: a one-bar pattern.
Note Sequencing
The screen at the top of the page opposite shows a typical Matrix note sequence. Notes have been added by
clicking in the main grid, with corresponding triggers added underneath in the gate track. The first thing to note
is that the grid only shows a range of one octave at a time. The five-position switch to the left of the keyboard
graphic lets you view different octaves, giving a total range equivalent to MIDI notes C1 to C6. You'll also see
that some of the gate bars in the picture are as wide as the grid step, and some are only half-width. The
double-width gates are 'tied', meaning that the note is held until the next step. The half-width gates are held for
half the length of the step, which of course varies with the Resolution setting. Unlike some traditional step
sequencers, Matrix can't alter the gate length of each step beyond this.
Reason has a few built-in functions for helping you with step sequences, some
of which we've looked at in previous issues in relation to Redrum's sequencer.
Firstly, you have the various Shift Pattern commands, accessed from the Edit
menu or by right-clicking the Matrix. Shift Left and Shift Right move the current
pattern forward or backward by one step. This is really handy for changing
where the perceived downbeat of the pattern occurs with respect to other
tracks. Shift up and Shift Down transpose the current pattern in semitone steps.
The other two specialised functions are Randomise Pattern and Alter Pattern.
Alter Pattern makes subtle random changes to the current pattern. Both the
Gates and Notes are altered, but the resulting pattern will only contain the same
notes as the original, so the new pattern will stay in key with the song.
Randomise Pattern completely randomises the notes and gates, and usually
produces a pattern with notes spread across all five octaves. More often than
not these patterns are not usable, but if you are in need of inspiration you can
use Randomise repeatedly until it generates the seed of an idea.
A bank of Matrices makes a
fast and visual way to program
Redrum patterns. Try making a
snare build like this using
Redrum's built-in sequencer!
The Pattern Bank works in exactly the same way as the one in Redrum that
was explained in detail in the June 2006 issue of SOS. You can store up to 32 patterns in four banks of eight.
To change pattern, just click the corresponding button. If you have to change bank, click the bank button first
and then the pattern number. Pattern changes are quantised so that the pattern will not change until the start of
the next bar. The Edit menu has four functions for managing patterns: Cut Pattern, Copy Pattern, Paste Pattern
and Clear Pattern. A pattern can be copied from one storage 'slot' to another by choosing Copy Pattern, then
switching to a new pattern number and choosing Paste Pattern. The Resolution, Steps (number of steps) and
Shuffle settings can be different for each stored pattern.
Again, everything that applied to the Redrum pattern sequencer applies to the
Matrix when it comes to recording or drawing pattern changes into Reason's
master sequencer. Each Matrix track in the main sequencer has a dedicated
Pattern Automation lane where you can record, edit, and view sequenced
pattern changes (as in the screen below). The simplest and most immediate
way to chain together your patterns into a sequence is to record the pattern
changes on the fly. All you need to do is record-arm the Matrix track, start
Patterns can be chained
together to create song
arrangements by recording
pattern changes into the
88 / 92
Reason's Matrix Pattern Sequencer
pattern changes into the
recording from the master transport, and change the patterns in the
master sequencer.
arrangement. The pattern changes are displayed as gold bars with tabs
indicating the pattern number. Your recorded arrangement can then be edited and adjusted as required, and
you can write patterns in directly with the Pencil Tool. Again, the article in the June 2006 describes a number of
editing techniques for approaching this task, and is available on the SOS web site. Finally, you can use the
Convert Pattern to Track command if you need to generate MIDI data from any pattern, or use the Convert
Pattern Track to Notes command to convert an entire pattern arrangement into MIDI.
Ahead Of The Curve
Step sequencing is not just for notes: it can also be used for modulating and triggering many of the parameters
on Reason's devices. This is commonly achieved using the Matrix's Curve CV output. The Curve CV is
controlled by a completely different sequence stored in each Matrix Pattern. You can flip between the Note and
Curve sequences using the front-panel Curve/Keys switch. A single Matrix can be connected to both Note and
Curve destinations, controlling both at once. Curve sequences are drawn like graphs on a single display page:
the octave display switch has no effect in Curve edit mode.
The screen at the bottom of page 185 shows an example use of the Curve CV.
In this case, a separate Matrix is being used to modulate the Filter Frequency
of the Subtractor synth. Using a second Matrix allows you to use a longer
pattern with a higher resolution than the note sequence. In this case both the
note and curve patterns are one bar long but the curve is smoother than it would
have been with a 16-step sequence.
Curves can be set to unipolar or bipolar mode using the switch on the back of
the unit. The default unipolar mode sends values from zero upwards and is
appropriate for most controls. However, some parameters have a default
position of zero, with negative and positive values in two directions. Examples
of this are the pitch wheel on most instruments, and pan pots on the mixers. In
these cases you can use the bipolar mode, which has zero at the centre of the
graph and positive and negative values above and below. As well as these
specific cases, bipolar curves are actually really useful for all controls, because
they make it easy to modulate a parameter up and down from its panel setting.
Unipolar graphs can only adjust parameters upwards from their current
position. The type of graph to use depends on what you want to achieve. If you
want to have the Matrix Curve control the absolute value of a parameter, set the
parameter to minimum and use a unipolar graph. If, on the other, hand you want
the Matrix graph to act more like a LFO, set the parameter to a particular level,
then use a bipolar graph to modulate it up and down relative to this position.
Here, the second Matrix's
Curve CV output is being used
to modulate the synth's filter.
Using more steps at a higher
playback speed results in a
smoother curve.
All the modulation inputs found on Reason's devices have a trim knob, which lets you adjust the intensity of the
modulation. When the knob is in the default centre position the parameter will have a one-to-one relationship
with the graph. In other words, a sweep from top to bottom on the graph will modulate the parameter across its
entire range, or from the top of the range to the current position if it's a unipolar graph. Turning the CV trim knob
to the left will scale down the effect of the CV input, and turning to the right will exaggerate the effects of the
Curve sequences can be drawn like curves for smooth modulation, but you can also create staccato and
rhythmic effects by drawing erratic sequences. Curve sequences can be used to create LFOs of any shape,
from smooth triangles to square waves, or random sample-and-hold type shapes. There is a built-in editing
function for drawing smooth straight lines. Hold down Shift, then click and drag the mouse across the grid. All
the bars in each step will be drawn to meet the line between where you clicked and where you drag to.
If you're a seasoned Reason user, this much is probably fairly familiar to you, so let's look at some more
adventurous uses of the Matrix. First off, you can use Gate signals for more purposes than triggering notes.
Many Reason devices have extra Gate inputs on their rear panel. All the synths and samplers have Amp Env
and Filter Env gate inputs, and Subtractor also has a gate input for its general purpose Mod Env. These allow
you to use a gate signal to trigger the envelopes independently of notes. A typical example of this would be
using a Matrix to trigger the filter envelope to create a rhythmic pulse to a sound while you hold a note. The
Combinator means that you can save configurations of this kind as a patch, and many of the Combi patches in
the Factory Sound Bank use tricks like this (see the screen at the start of this article).
Each of Redrum's channels has a gate input that can be triggered from a
Matrix, and also responds to the velocity level. Using a bank of Matrix
sequencers may be a faster and more visual way to program drums than using
Redrum's sequencer, and gives much improved dynamics compared to the
three basic velocities Redrum offers (see top screens on page 185). Gate
signals can also be used with some Reason effects. For example, the
Envelope Controlled Filter has a gate input for triggering its envelope, and the
RV7000's gate can be triggered from an external source.
A little known Matrix trick is generating gate signals from the Curve sequence.
Any step in the curve graph that is preceded by a step set to zero will act as a
gate. The configuration in the screens above is an example of how you can use
this. The Curve CV signal is being sent to both the Filter 1 Frequency
modulation input and the Filter Env gate input via a Spider CV splitter box. The
Curve graph then becomes a single modulation source that be used to
modulate the filter and trigger the filter envelope at various intervals. When you
play a chord on the Subtractor, the Matrix chops up the sound into a moving
rhythm riff. Combine this into a Combinator and you have a unique-sounding
This CV signal is being split to
two separate destinations,
allowing you to both modulate
the filter frequency and trigger
the filter envelope from a single
Curve sequence.
In a final twist, you can create the same patch using just the Gate output split to
the same two destinations. The Gate's CV value, which is normally used for
velocity when triggering notes, is no different to that of the Curve. This is a testament to Reason's flexibility and
the possibilities that flow from the fact that all the devices share a compatible CV system. Just as with
traditional analogue modular synths and sequencers, there are always new sounds and tricks to be discovered
by experimenting with new patching combinations.
Published in SOS July 2007
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
89 / 92
Reason: Making The Most Of The Mixer
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Reason: Making The Most Of The Mixer
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS August 2007
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Technique : Reason Notes
In this article:
Dual-channel Stereo
Return To Sender
Inserts & Plug-ins?
Chain Gang
Groups & Submixes
Mix Automation
We go back to basics this month, with an in-depth
look at how you can get the best out of Reason's
Remix mixer.
Simon Price
Most Reason users will be fairly familiar with the Remix mixer — so what
hidden depths and tricks can we find associated with this most fundamental of
devices? We'll start with some basics, which might be handy if you could do
with a refresher on the functionality of mixers in general, then look at some
more advanced concepts and routing techniques.
Going back to first principles then, the main function of the Remix mixer is to
take the audio outputs from up to 14 devices or instruments, and mix them
Although undoubtedly familiar
together to a single stereo output. Most commonly, this stereo mix will be fed to to any Reason user, the Remix
a pair of outputs on Reason's Hardware Interface at the top of the rack.
mixer is surprisingly versatile,
However, unlike most music programs, which have one mixer at the heart of
offering no end of creative
routing possibilities.
their whole environment, the Reason mixer is just another device that can be
used at various places in the rack. In fact, a Reason project does not have to
contain a main mixer at all; you can just plug instruments and effects directly into separate outputs on the
Hardware Interface. This is often the best approach when using Reason as a Rewired synth rack in another
application that has its own mixer.
Most of the time, Reason's auto-cabling system takes care of making connections to the mixer, although, as
we'll see, you shouldn't rely on it to always make the best decision for your needs. If you select the mixer, then
create an instrument, the new device will be connected to the first available mixer channel. The name of the
connected device will appear in the channel, and you can then set the instrument's level and position in the mix
using the fader and pan knob.
Let's have a look at the rear of the device to gain a bit of insight into what's happening. In the screen above I've
created a mixer, then a Subtractor synth, and finally an NNXT sampler. You'll see that Reason has connected
the Subtractor's single audio output to the channel 1 input connection labelled Left (mono) Audio Input. NNXT
is a stereo instrument, and its two main outputs have been connected to the left and right audio inputs on
channel 2. Each mixer channel can handle either a mono input or a stereo pair. When a single input is
connected to a channel, it is routed to both the left and right master mix outputs, with the pan control setting how
much of the signal goes to each, effectively positioning the instrument in the mix. When a stereo input is
connected, the left signal is routed to the left mix output and the right signal to the right output. The pan knob
then becomes a balance control, setting the relative levels of the left and right inputs. See the 'Dual-channel
Stereo' box for an alternative way of working with stereo sources.
Dual-channel Stereo
The Remix's channels switch automatically between mono and stereo modes, depending on what's
connected. For the most part it's convenient to have a single fader strip controlling your stereo sound
sources. However, there are times when you need to treat the two sides of a stereo pair separately. In
these cases you can connect the left and right signals to two separate mixer channels. Both signals
should be connected to the Left (mono) inputs. The most common reason for doing this is to gain more
control over the panning of stereo sources. As we've seen, when using a single stereo channel the left
signal always gets routed to the left of the mix, and the right channel to the right of the mix, with the
panner setting a balance between the two. What this doesn't give you is a way of controlling the width of
the sound source. Some instrument patches and samples can sound very wide, and you may want to
narrow them in the stereo field. With the panners set full left and right, as in the accompanying screen,
The width of stereo sources can be
you will get the same result as with a single stereo track, except that the sound will be 6dB louder
controlled by using two separate mixer
(because there is 6dB of attenuation on stereo tracks when the panner is centred). However, you can
now alter the left and right pan positions independently, to set how wide the stereo sound appears. The
mid point between the two panners determines the apparent position of the sound. In the screenshot below the width and position of a stereo stringsample patch has been set using the two panners.
Return To Sender
Between the inputs and the master outputs on the back of the mixer you'll find the Aux section. Experienced
mixers will be in familiar territory here. Aux busses, Sends and Returns are standard-issue mixer features. In
Reason they are mainly used for adding various levels of an effect to channels in the mixer. If you select the
mixer and create an effect device, it will be auto-cabled to the mixer in a classic send/return configuration (as
shown in the right-hand screen above ). The Aux 1 stereo outputs are connected to the reverb's inputs, and the
reverb's outputs go to the Return 1 inputs. The Aux 1 knob on each channel sends a portion of the signal to the
effect, which is a quick way of working and allows you to share one effect among various channels.
While we're taking time to go back to basics, let's look at exactly why this works.
Once you understand exactly how all the connections work, you can start
overriding the auto-cabling system and patching the mixer exactly how you want.
The Remix mixer has a main stereo mix bus which appears at the master outputs,
with faders controlling how much of each input goes into the mix. However, there
are four additional mix buses — the Auxiliaries — which appear at the Aux Send
outputs. Instead of faders, the Aux knobs set how much of each input goes to each
Aux bus. In traditional recording scenarios, these Aux buses are used to create
multiple headphone mixes, but the Auxes can be deployed any time to send a
signal, or a mix of signals, anywhere in the rack.
Some simple connections
The Returns are simple inputs that feed into the main mix, with level controls
from instrument to mixer.
appearing at the top right-hand corner of the mixer's front panel. When they're
used as returns from an effect unit, the effect's dry/wet control should be set to 100 Each mixer channel autopercent wet, meaning that only the effected sound is fed back into the mixer. This switches between mono and
operation, depending
prevents the original sound from being doubled up and causing phase problems. stereo
on what's connected.
For the same reason, send/return effect routing is only normally suitable for effects
where the wet output is significantly different or shifted from the source sound, as with reverbs and delays.
Effects such as compression, EQ and distortion are generally best used directly on source signals (see 'Inserts
& Plug-ins?' box).
Like the Aux outputs, the Returns are not limited to being used for effects. They
90 / 92
Reason: Making The Most Of The Mixer
Like the Aux outputs, the Returns are not limited to being used for effects. They
can be used as extra input channels for sources that don't need the pan, EQ or
send features of the main channel strips. In some circumstances this can save
you having to create a second mixer. Conversely, you don't have to connect
return signals from effects to the Return inputs: you can use standard input
channels. This allows you to EQ the effected portion of the sound, or to process
it further via another send effect. Common examples of this are filtering a
reverb return, or sending a delay to a reverb so that both the original sound and A classic send and return patch
its echoes have reverb. Just be careful not to create a feedback loop by
to a RV7000 reverb unit.
sending the returned signal back to its own effect (although, done carefully, this
can be used creatively).
By default, all four Aux mixes are post-fader, meaning that the levels are affected by the main channel faders as
well as the Aux knobs. This is useful when using Auxes for effects sends, because it means that when you
adjust a fader the amount of signal going to the effect changes as well, preserving the dry-to-wet ratio. Aux 4
has a button marked 'P', which lets you switch the Aux Sends to pre-fader operation on a channel-by-channel
basis. This means that the level going to the Aux mix is independent of the main fader, and is useful when you
need a very high proportion of a send effect on a sound. It even lets you keep the main fader down for a '100
percent effected' sound.
Inserts & Plug-ins?
If you come to Reason from another music package, you might find yourself saying, 'where are the plugins?' Pretty much all other music programs use the traditional mixer concept of inserts. These are
connections on the mixer channels where you can divert the signal to and from another device. On
traditional hardware mixers, these are used to add an external processor, such as a compressor, into the
signal flow of a mixer channel. Software mixers also often have insert points where you can divert audio
out through external devices, and these make convenient places to add virtual audio devices (plug-ins)
As Reason cannot take audio from the outside world, the mixer dispenses with the inserts analogy.
Instead of plug-ins, Reason uses effects devices that can be added to your signals wherever they are
needed. For example, in the screen to the right, a Malström synth has a Scream 4 EQ and distortion unit
connected between it and the mixer. Selecting any instrument and creating an effect will automatically
cable the effect into the signal path. If you want to add an effect to the whole mix, such as compression,
EQ or maximisation, you can add devices between the mixer itself and the Hardware Interface. The
MClass effects, and the MClass Mastering Suite Combi are commonly used in this way.
Reason's mixers don't need insert points,
as you can simply connect effects in-line
as required.
Chain Gang
The final sets of audio connections on the mixer are labelled Chaining
Aux/Send In and Chaining Master. These are inputs that have been added with
some specific uses in mind, but once again, if you know what they are doing
you can use them however you want. The Chaining Master is simply a stereo
input directly into the main mix, with no controls. You can use this to input
anything you like, but it is mainly provided for connecting a second mixer. Try
creating a second mixer in a Reason song and see what the auto-cabling
system does (see the screen to the left). The main output of the second mixer is
connected to the Chaining Master of the first. This effectively combines the
Two mixers chained together.
outputs of both mixers, with the master fader on the first mixer controlling the
This configuration allows both
overall level.
mixers to share send effects.
The screenshot also shows that all the Aux Sends from the second mixer have been connected to the Chaining
Aux inputs on the first mixer. The effect of this is to give the second mixer access to any send/return effects
connected to the first mixer. In other words, if there is a reverb connected to the first Aux on the first mixer, you
can add the reverb to channels on the second mixer using the Aux 1 controls on the second mixer. This feature
attempts to integrate multiple mixers and make large songs easier to manage. However, there are a couple of
differences in this scheme compared to using a single, larger mixer. Firstly, the solo buttons are not linked
across the two (or more) mixers, resulting in some occasionally unexpected behaviour. Solos only affect the
local mixer, so soloing something on the second mixer will only mute other tracks on that mixer. Similarly, if you
solo something on the first mixer, you will still hear everything on other mixers. In addition, soloing a channel on
the first mixer mutes the Chaining Aux inputs, meaning that although you hear the other mixers, they no longer
have any effects on them.
The other common use for the chaining Aux inputs is to
share Send effects with a Redrum drum machine,
which has its own internal mixer with Send outputs (but
no Returns). If another mixer is not already using the
chaining auxes, Reason automatically connects them to
Redrum's sends. This configuration lets you apply the
first two Send effects on the mixer to individual drum
channels on the Redrum, instead of to the mixed output
of the drum machine. The knobs labelled 'S1' and 'S2'
on Redrum control the Send levels for each drum
channel. This is a nice idea, but falls down in similar
A patch for adding dedicated send effects to Redrum,
ways to the multiple mixer configuration. Firstly, if you
avoiding the limitations of connecting Redrum to the
mute the Redrum channel on the mixer, you will still
mixer's chaining aux inputs.
hear the drums going through the effects. Secondly, if
you solo any track on the mixer, including the Redrum channel itself, the effects are muted because the solo
cuts the aux inputs. The screen at top left shows a better way to make use of Redrum's Sends, by connecting
dedicated effects units via a Line Mixer device. This is not as efficient as sharing the effects connected to the
mixer, but it works much better, and doesn't use much more CPU power. This configuration can also be saved
as a Combinator patch.
Groups & Submixes
Many mixers use group faders or aux input channels to create submixes of other
channels. For example, instead of all your drum channels going straight to the
stereo mix, they can be routed to another fader, which then goes to the mix. This
allows you to set the overall level of a group of inputs, and their levels relative to
one another, independently. You can also apply effects to this submix, and the mix
becomes easier to manage. Reason's mixers have no in-built functionality of this
kind (ie. group faders) or the ability to set different outputs for each channel.
However, you can use multiple mixers to set up the same structure. The screen on
the left shows an example, with drums and percussion (from two samplers and a
loop player) being submixed via a Line Mixer. A compressor has been patched
between the line mixer and the main mixer, providing 'bus compression' for the
whole drum and percussion section. Another good place to see examples of the
way multiple mixers can be used is in the Factory Sound Bank, or other
Propellerheads Refills such as Piano, RDK, or the new Abbey Road Refill. Many
of the Combinator instruments available in these Refills use complex internal mixer
routings. Armed with a knowledge of how Reason's mixers operate, you can leave
auto-cabling behind and configure your own custom rack.
Submixing, via either extra
Remixes or the smaller Line
Mixer, makes a mix easier
to manage and is a classic
way to process a group of
91 / 92
Reason: Making The Most Of The Mixer
Mix Automation
Reason's mixers can be automated in the same way as any other device in the rack. In fact, we devoted a whole article to this subject in the
September 2006 issue of SOS (a search for "Reason mixer automation" at will link you straight there). To get started, rightclick on the mixer and choose Create / Sequencer Track for [Mixer 1], put Reason into record, and move some controls.
Published in SOS August 2007
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
92 / 92
DIY Effects In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
DIY Effects In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS October 2007
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Reason 4 may be nearly upon us, but there's still
plenty of experimenting to be done in version 3 creating your own effects devices, for example...
Redrum Meets The ECF
Plugging Into Malström's Filters
Envelope Following
Mono Vs Poly Filtering
A New FX Unit Is Born
Combis & Control Linking
Simon Price
For me, Reason's most appealing feature is the ability to cable devices
together in almost limitless combinations to create new sound sources,
modulation assignments and signal-processing chains. Reason 4's new synth,
Thor, promises to take this concept to a new level, featuring audio inputs and a
routing matrix so you can process audio through its many modules. However,
there's plenty we can do while we wait for our upgrades, and this month we'll
look at several techniques for filtering audio signals using both the ECF filter
unit and the Malström synth. We'll work towards creating a new effect device:
an envelope-controlled filter, complete with all the controls you'd expect to find
on this effect.
Reason offers a surprising
amount of potential for
experimental signal routing. For
example, filters can be added
The ECF42 is one of the original Reason 1.0 effects devices, and is a simple to individual Redrum channels,
external filter unit. We're going to use it to filter and shape individual drum
complete with gate signals to
channels from a Redrum drum machine. This is an ideal application for an
trigger the envelopes. You can
then use a Line Mixer to
external filter, as the drum channels have no filters of their own, and are
monophonic in the sense that they only use one 'voice' at a time and only need combine the separately filtered
drums back into a single drum
one filter and envelope each (see the 'Mono Vs Poly' box for more on this
consideration). In the screen above you can see that each Redrum channel has mix.
Redrum Meets The ECF
its own individual output, which is generally unused when you use the Redrum as a complete instrument. I've
connected the channel 1 outputs (kick drum) to the inputs of an ECF filter unit.
With just the audio connected, you'd have a simple, static filter which could
process the sound of the kick drum in three filter modes: band-pass, low-pass
12dB/octave, or low-pass 24dB/octave. However, for the ECF's envelope to
function it needs to be triggered, and for that we need a gate signal. The best
gate signal for the job is the same one that is triggering the kick drum. Luckily,
each Redrum channel has a gate output that transmits the gate signals
generated by Redrum's internal sequencer. In the picture, the kick drum's gate
signal is connected to the Env Gate input on the ECF's rear panel.
With this configuration, every time Redrum's pattern sequencer triggers the kick
drum, it also fires off the ECF's filter envelope. The front panel provides controls
for Envelope Amount, Velocity Sensitivity and the familiar ADSR stages. By
setting the Filter frequency to minimum, you can use the envelope to sculpt the
transient nature of the sound.
Versatile filtering, effects, and
modulation can be accessed by
routing through the filter
section of a Malström synth.
The audio signals from any ECFs you use can go to separate channels on the main mixer, but a better
arrangement is to connect them, along with the Redrum's main mix outputs, to a line mixer. You can then control
the submix of the Redrum and any filtered sounds on a single channel of the main mixer. Connecting a drum's
individual output to a filter automatically cuts it from the Redrum's main mix, ensuring the sound is not doubled
Plugging Into Malström's Filters
A less obvious, but more versatile way to filter signals is to pass them through the Malström synth. This gives
you access to different filter and effect types, such as Comb and AM (ring modulation) and also Malström's
Shaper module for grunging up your sound. Malström also has two filters that can be accessed and controlled
separately, allowing you to create, amongst other things, true stereo effects.
We'll start by doing the same as we did with the ECF: routing a single Redrum
channel through the Malström. In the bottom screen on the previous page,
Redrum channel 5 has been connected to the Audio Input labelled Shaper/Filter
A, and the gate signal is connected to the Filter Env input. Looking at the front
of Malström (as in the screen above), signals coming into it follow the same
Malström's Filters, Shaper,
path as the signals from the oscillators. This means that our mono signal to
Envelope, and Mod B modules
Input A goes through the Shaper module and then through Filter A.
can all be used to process
external signals.
Malström's dual filters and flexible routing system provide a number of different
signal processing possibilities. Next we'll look at a stereo example: in the screen at the top of the next page,
I've routed the main output of the Redrum through Malström, with the Left signal going to the Shaper/Filter A
input, and the right signal going to Filter B. The earlier individual channel filters have been removed to make the
cabling clearer to follow. No gate signals are present, so the filter is now static. Interesting rhythmic effects can
be created by connecting the gate signal from one of the drum channels, or by employing a Spider CV merger
to use the gate signals from several channels.
On Malström's front panel, the Spread control sets the separation of the outputs. When fully clockwise, Filter A's
output goes to the left output only, and Filter B goes to the right, so this is the setting to choose for stereo
operation. When working in stereo, you should also make sure the button above Filter B, which routes the B
signal to the Shaper and Filter A, is in the 'off' position. When hard panning the filters, you may also want to link
the Left and Right cutoff and resonance controls to keep the stereo image stable (see the 'Combis & Control
Linking' section at the end of this article).
With the ECF, modulating the filter cutoff frequency requires an external CV
signal to be connected to the unit. However, Malström has its own on-board
modulation generators, one of which (Mod B) has a dedicated knob for
applying modulation to the filters. A switch lets you apply the LFO to Filter A,
Filter B, or both. A wide range of modulation shapes are available, and you can The Malström Modulation
sync the mod rate to the song tempo, providing the opportunities for traditional generator is great for creating
93 / 92
DIY Effects In Reason
rhythmic effects.
LFO sweeps or more radical rhythmic gating effects. In the screen below, a
fast, tempo-sync'd impulse-type shape has been applied to Filter A, resulting in
the sound being chopped up into a sequence. You can also use Mod B in Single Shot mode to create
envelope effects on either filter.
Although Malström provides a direct assignment from Mod B to the filters, you don't have to stick with this
arrangement if you have something more complex in mind. Both Mod A and B have CV outputs on the back
panel. You can cable either of these into the Filter CV input and assign this to A, B, or both, and scale the
modulation with the input trim knob. This can be useful for creating panning effects when using the filters in
stereo. Alternatively you might be using the filters serially, with one as a comb or AM effect, and the other as a
filter. You can then have different types of LFO modulation assigned to each effect.
Envelope Following
An envelope-following filter (sometimes called auto-wah) tracks the amplitude of an audio signal and applies it
to the cutoff frequency. This adds movement to the filter, and can be used in place of, or in addition to the filter
envelope. A particular advantage is that you are no longer reliant on a separate gate signal, as the audio
appears to gate the filter magically by itself. Famous examples of envelope-following filters are the Moog/Big
Briar Moogerfooger Low-pass Filter and the Mutronics Mutator. Reason does not have a direct equivalent —
but we can build one.
There are two ways to create an envelope-following filter or auto-wah from
Reason devices. The simplest is to start with the Scream distortion unit. The
Body section of Scream has an envelope follower that can be used to modulate
the Body Scale parameter, which can itself create a kind of comb-filter autowah effect. The envelope follower is applied using the Auto knob. Thoughtfully,
Propellerheads have provided us with a CV jack on the back of Scream that
outputs the 'voltage' generated by the follower. This can be plugged into the
Filter CV input of your filter of choice (ECF or Malström) and straight away you
have yourself an envelope-following filter. In order for this side-chaining to work,
the signal you are processing must be fed both to the Scream and the filter
itself. The audio output of the Scream doesn't need to be connected, because Use Malström's two filters in
parallel to process stereo
it's only there to generate the control voltage.
Using a Scream's Auto CV output is a very simple trick, but you have limited
control over the effect. The only adjustment you can make is to set the depth of the filter modulation using the
CV input scale knob on the filter's rear panel. More sophisticated envelope-following filters feature controls
such as Sensitivity, Depth, and Attack and Release times. This gives you access to a range of results similar to
using a traditional triggered filter envelope, but with its own special character (think Stevie Wonder's clavinet
sound on 'Higher Ground'). Rather astonishingly, it's possible to build an effect with all the features we require.
Mono Vs Poly Filtering
An external filter unit has one main difference from the onboard filters used in Reason's synths and samplers: it is one filter and envelope shaping the
final mixed output of an instrument or instruments. In the synths and samplers, each voice is an individual audio stream and has its own filter and filter
envelope. This means that each note playing can be at a different point in an envelope. With an external filter, all the voices (or instruments, if you are
processing a mixed signal) share one envelope, producing different results. For example, if you are triggering the filter envelope from a gate signal, or
from MIDI key-presses in a Combi, each gate will retrigger the envelope, even if the previous envelope cycle has not finished. When playing a
polyphonic synth through a single filter, earlier notes that had died down as the filter closed can reappear unexpectedly when you press another key.
This is not what you normally want, but can be pleasing in its own right. It would be great if one day Reason featured polyphonic audio connections
(like Reaktor), allowing you to build entirely new synths from separate devices, but for now we have to accept that Reason is more of a 'synth studio'
than a 'synth creator'.
A New FX Unit Is Born
The key to building an advanced envelope following filter in Reason is the MClass Compressor. This has a
connection on the back that outputs the compressor's gain reduction as a CV signal. Now, if you consider that
a compressor is something like an envelope-following gain control, you will see how we can take advantage of
this CV signal. As long as the signal coming into the compressor is above the threshold, the gain-reduction
output carries a signal that is proportional to the audio level. So if we plug this CV output into the CV input of a
filter (as shown in the screen below) the filter frequency will track the audio level.
But what about the other controls? With the Scream-based filter, the CV is
always directly analogous to the audio level. This is not the case with the
compressor, and you can control how the compressor's gain reduction (and
therefore the CV output and the connected filter) responds to the audio input.
By adjusting the threshold you can adjust the response to suit the overall level of
the signal, and 'tune in' to the level changes that are interesting; this acts like a
Sensitivity control. The Ratio scales the amount of gain reduction, and therefore
the amplitude of the CV output, giving you a Depth control. The Attack and
Release controls adjust how fast the CV responds to changes in the input level,
and translate to the Attack and Release characteristics of your filter.
The MClass Compressor's Gain
Reduction CV output enables
With a little adjustment of all the MClass Compressor's controls you can
you to build a surprisingly
achieve the unique smooth filter response that is so characteristic of auto-wah sophisticated envelopefollowing filter.
effects and is a mainstay of funk music. The finishing flourish is to pack your
creation into a Combinator, either with your instrument of choice or as a standalone effects unit.
Combis & Control Linking
As we've seen many times before, the Combinator device provides a neat way to package and save your
multi-device configurations. With the building projects we've looked at this month, the Combi actually provides
some important additional functionality that can't be achieved with devices left loose in the rack.
If you are working with both of Malström's filters to create a stereo effect, it soon gets frustrating having to
adjust separate controls for the left and right filters. With the Malström inside a Combi, it's easy to link controls
by assigning them both to the same Combi knob. In my example, I set the first Combi front-panel knob to both
the Filter A and Filter B cutoff knobs, to give a single control over filter frequency. You can also use buttons to
switch between two filter modes, change the signal routing, switch in the Shaper, and so on.
In the examples earlier in the article, the filter envelope is either triggered by a dedicated CV gate signal, or an
envelope follower is used to create filter movement. If you place a Malström filter into a Combinator, another
powerful option presents itself: triggering the envelope via MIDI notes. I recently made a configuration that
placed a sampler patch and Malström inside a Combinator. The sampler's output was routed through the
Malström's filters, as in the examples in this article. The important difference is that multiple devices in a
Combinator can receive notes from a MIDI keyboard (or the sequencer) simultaneously. This means that each
note can trigger the Malström's filter envelope, as well as play the instrument(s) being fed into it. In my
configuration, a completely different sound is created compared to the original patch that used the NNXT's
onboard filter. As I was sending MIDI notes to the Malström, I had to switch off both of its oscillators, to prevent
them being added to the sound. This trick works best with monophonic instrument patches, for the reasons
described in the 'Mono Vs Poly' box on the right.
Published in SOS October 2007
94 / 92
DIY Effects In Reason
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
95 / 92
The Thor Synthesizer In Reason 4
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
The Thor Synthesizer In Reason 4
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS December 2007
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Technique : Reason Notes
There's a lot to get to grips with in the latest
version of Reason - but we begin by looking at the
basics of the giant new semi-modular synthesizer,
Basic Architecture
Building A Thor Patch
It's A Default Patch, Init?
Filters & Shaper
Global Section
Modulation Madness
Custom Audio Routing
More Thor
Simon Price
The eminent writer and zoologist Richard Dawkins is often heard to say that,
while it's true that one cannot disprove the existence of God, equally one cannot
disprove the existence of Thor (or, to use Bertrand Russell's example, the
Celestial Teapot). Dr. Dawkins will be delighted to learn that the existence of
Thor is now an empirical fact, as anyone who pays their 99 Euros to upgrade to
Reason 4.0 will testify. The jury is still out on the Teapot.
OK, that's enough of that! Thor is, of course, the new flagship synth in Reason.
Its subtitle of 'Polysonic Synthesizer' hints at the fact that Thor is more like
several synths in one, by virtue of the fact that the oscillator and filter sections
are 'hot swappable' between several quite different modules. If Reason is a synth rack, Thor is a synth rack
within a synth rack.
Basic Architecture
Thor's user interface is divided into four sections. At the top is the Controller Panel, which is the only section
displayed when you first create a Thor. (To see the rest of the interface you need to click the Show
Programmer button.) The Controller Panel houses several basic controls, such as those for Polyphony,
Portamento and trigger sources. As well as the standard Pitch and Mod Wheels, you'll also see two rotary
controls, and two buttons. These can be assigned to alter parameters within the patch, for extra performance
The next section of Thor contains all the main synth parameters, divided into
modules. To the left are the three oscillator slots, followed by two filter sections,
a voice mixer, and a shaper (we'll look more closely at how these fit together in
a moment). To the right of these you'll find three envelope generators, an LFO,
and a level/pan control.
All these parameters belong to the 'per-voice' side of Thor. Each note played
has its own filters, LFO and envelopes from this section, making Thor a true
polyphonic synth. All the parameters on the right-hand side of Thor (on the
brown panel), are global — they are single modules operating on the mixed
output of Thor's voice section.
Thor lets you choose from
numerous oscillator and filter
types. The Thor device at the
Below the main Programmer area is the Modulation Bus Routing Matrix, where top has been completely
stripped out, while the patch
routing of both control (CV) and audio signals can be defined. One of the
below uses a variety of different
unusual features of Thor is that you can interconnect these signals — for
example, using an audio signal to modulate a filter, or using a LFO as an audio modules.
Finally, at the bottom of Thor's panel you'll find the Step Sequencer, which allows you to sequence notes or
modulate any other parameters to add melodic or rhythmic patterns to a patch.
Building A Thor Patch
Thor falls into the semi-modular synth category, in that although you have a very high degree of routing flexibility,
there is a pre-defined routing structure. This means that you can get sounds out of the synth without needing to
be too much of a boffin, but, if you do, in fact, have patches on the elbows of all your jumpers, you can overpatch the routing in nearly any way you might imagine.
The screen below shows an initialised Thor (see 'It's A Default Patch, Init?'
box). Only the Oscillator 1 slot is enabled in the Init Patch, and is set to the
Analog Osc type. This is your traditional analogue-style oscillator, switchable
between saw, triangle, and sine wave shapes, plus a square wave with PW
(Pulse Width) control. Add another oscillator by clicking on the pop-up menu at
the top left of the blank Osc 2 panel (as in the screen above). At first you won't
hear any change, because you need to route the oscillator somewhere. Each
filter has a set of three square, numbered input buttons (which light up in red
when active), corresponding to the three oscillators. Click Filter 1's '2' button to
route Osc 2 through Filter 1.
Pop-up menus give access to
the six oscillator types.
Both oscillators are the same at the moment, so tune Osc down by one Octave,
using the Oct knob. Now detune Osc 2 down about 10 cents using the Tune knob, for instant fat analogue-ness.
The lines and arrows on Thor's panel indicate the default signal routing. Following these you'll see that the
oscillators go through the Mixer before hitting the filters. Use the Balance control to adjust the Osc 1/Osc 2 mix.
It's A Default Patch, Init?
In Reason 4, newly created instruments come pre-loaded with a default patch from the Factory Sound Bank. This is a change from previous versions
of Reason, where all new instruments defaulted to an 'Init Patch'. For synths, an Init Patch usually meant a simple saw or sine wave, while the
samplers and Redrum appeared with no samples loaded. The advantage of a pre-loaded patch is that the instrument's patch browser is immediately
pointing at the relevant directory in the soundbank, so you don't need to navigate through various levels of folders to load a patch. Despite the change,
each instrument still has an Init Patch, which can be loaded by right-clicking on the device and choosing Initialise Patch.
Filters & Shaper
In the Init Patch, a low-pass ladder filter has been selected at the Filter 1 slot. This is a classic Moog-style
analogue filter emulation. Below the ubiquitous Freq and Res controls are three smaller controls that
demonstrate some of Thor's pre-defined control routings. The Env control assigns the Filter Env module to the
filter frequency, and the Vel knob scales this modulation by note velocity. The Kbd knob links filter frequency to
MIDI note pitch.
96 / 92
The Thor Synthesizer In Reason 4
After Filter 1, the audio signal passes through the Shaper, where various types
of distortion can be introduced. Following the default routing on the panel, you'll
see the next junction consists of two arrow buttons. These let you choose
whether the audio proceeds on towards the Amp, or is diverted through Filter 2
to use the two filters in series. By default, the output from Filter 2 is disabled, so
you'll need to click the red switch that routes it to the Amp. To use the filters in
parallel, route the oscillators directly to both filters. You also have the option of
routing some oscillators to one filter and some to the other.
From the filters it's on to the Amp, which is modulated by default by the Amp
Thor's Init Patch with a single
Env, to shape the level of the sound over time. This is the last stage that
analogue oscillator and filter.
operates individually on a voice; after the Amp, the voices are mixed for output
or processing by the global modules.
Global Section
The first of the global stages is another filter slot, with the same choice of four filters (or none). By default, the
Global Env is assigned to this filter. In most cases you will want to turn the Env control off for this filter, as having
an envelope controlling a monophonic filter in a polyphonic patch is problematic, as discussed in the last
Reason workshop in the October 2007 issue of SOS. This is even true of monophonic patches, as the Global
Env is always in Legato mode. (When you've mastered the Modulation Matrix you may see a way to fix this).
The final modules before the outputs are the Chorus and Delay effects, making
Thor the first Reason synth to have these effects onboard. The modulation on
these devices is stereo, so as soon as you turn up a Mod Amt (amount) knob, This assignment creates PWM
the sound will widen considerably. Prior to this point the signal path is mono,
(Pulse Width Modulation) of
Oscillator, with Rotary 1
unless you start messing with the routing using the Modulation Matrix.
adjusting its depth.
Modulation Madness
Aside from the interchangeable oscillator and filter modules, the feature that really makes Thor a heavyweight
synth is the snappily titled Modulation Bus Routing Matrix. Many synths have a matrix for assigning modulation
sources such as LFOs or aftertouch to parameters. Thor's routing matrix goes further and allows you to route
audio signals, turning Thor into a fully modular synth.
Let's look at a simple modulation assignment first: setting up an oscillator with PWM (Pulse Width Modulation).
Change Osc 1's waveform to pulse, and set the PW knob to the middle. Now, in the first slot in the Matrix, click
on the Source field, and choose LFO 2 as the source. Notice that the list of sources is divided among the voice
section and global section. Now choose Osc 1 > PW as the destination. To finish the assignment, you need to
set the depth of modulation, between -100 and +100, in the Amount field. Set it high and hear the movement
this adds to the sound.
In the screenshot above, you'll notice that I've also added Rotary 1 in the Scale
field. Thor's mod scaling system allows you to adjust, or side-chain, modulation
or routing assignments with a third control or parameter. In this example I've
assigned the Rotary 1 control to scale the modulation by a factor of 100
percent. The rotary will now provide fast adjustment of PWM between none and
Two examples of audio routing
the full amount set in the first Amount field.
in the Matrix. Negative values
imply reversed phase.
The first bank of Matrix modulation slots thus allows for simple source and
destination assignments with optional scaling. The slots in the second bank have an extra destination field, so
you can map a single source to two destinations. The third bank (below the second in the Matrix) have a single
destination, but two scale sources, so you could, for example, side-chain a modulation with an envelope and
also vary it with the Mod Wheel.
Custom Audio Routing
The Matrix can be used to route audio between Thor's modules if you wish to create patches that deviate from
the pre-defined routing possibilities. For example, you might want to route the output of Filter 2 to Filter 1, or
route an oscillator directly to the Amp, to bypass the filters and mix a clean version of the signal with the filtered
and/or shaped version. Another trick is to create a feedback loop from the Shaper to the input of Filter 1 to
overdrive the sound. Both of these tricks are shown in the screen on the left. Notice that you can vary the level of
the signals from one module to the next when using the Matrix, whereas the main panel routing controls are just
on or off.
Another audio routing application is to create a stereo patch by routing different
oscillators or filters to the left and right inputs of Filter 3. This trick is actually
described on the back panel of Thor (and shown in the screen below). Notice
that the Amp Env has been assigned to scale the signals. This is because you
are bypassing the main Amp module, so need to manually patch in an
amplitude envelope. The patching allows you to add variation between the left
and right outputs, either by routing different oscillators to Filters 1 and 2, or by
varying the two filters.
More Thor
Filter 3 has left and right inputs,
allowing for panned routing.
Here the Scale slots are being
used to apply an envelope to
the audio signals .
Thor is a big modular environment rivalling the Reason rack itself in complexity, and offering enormous scope
for experimentation and sound design. We've only had enough space here to cover its signal flow and
modulation routing, but there's still plenty left to get our teeth into. We'll no doubt be returning soon to look at the
step sequencer, the different oscillator and filter models, routing of external audio and CV signals, the
performance controllers and everything else...
Published in SOS December 2007
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
97 / 92
More Thor In Reason 4
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
More Thor In Reason 4
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS January 2008
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Technique : Reason Notes
Following last month's introduction to the Thor
synthesizer, we embark on a patch-building project
and explore several of the key features of Reason
4's god-like new synth...
Getting Started
A Simple Step Sequence
Virtual Control Key
Custom Sequencer
Thor Sequencer Tips
Virtual Controls
Signal Routing With The Virtual
What's A Wavetable?
Simon Price
Last month we looked at the basic structure, routing controls, and modulation
matrix in Reason's new Thor synthesizer. This time we're going to investigate
the Wavetable Oscillator, Step Sequencer and Virtual Controls by following a
series of steps towards a finished patch.
Getting Started
Begin by creating an instance of Thor in your Reason rack, then right-click on it
and choose Initialize Patch; this will give you a simple starting point with a
sawtooth oscillator, a filter, and no modulation assignments. Now click the
Show Programmer buttons to see all of Thor's controls. Change Osc 1 to a Wavetable, by clicking on Osc 1's
pop-up selector, as shown in the screen above. (For more information on Wavetable synthesis, see the 'What's
A Wavetable?' box.)
The Wavetable Oscillator has a central display showing the current wavetable. Click on the display to bring up
a pop-up menu, or use the up and down buttons to step through the available wavetables. For this patch we're
going to use the 'Logic Or' wavetable.
Play some notes and slowly turn the Position knob to hear the sounds generated at different points in the table.
Try experimenting with different settings for Filter Frequency, Resonance and Envelope, and the Decay stage
of the Filter Envelope. As you'll hear, a wide range of timbres are available, even from this simple patch.
A Simple Step Sequence
Thor's step sequencer is located at the bottom of the panel, beneath the Modulation Bus Routing Matrix. No
assignments are needed to play notes with the sequencer, so we can get stuck straight in. At the left of the
sequencer panel you'll find the Run Mode controls. The first slide switch is set to off; change this to Repeat,
press the Run button, and the sequencer will begin to play the default sequence of 16 middle Cs at a rate of 16
per bar.
The playback speed of the sequence is controlled by the Rate knob, just to the
right of the Run Mode controls. By default, this is sync'ed to the song's tempo.
The rest of the panel is dedicated to the actual sequence, represented by a
series of 16 knobs and buttons. A six-way selector knob (labelled Edit) reveals
six separate step sequences. The first four sequences have pre-determined
functions: Note, Velocity, Gate Length and Step Duration. The final two —
Curve 1 and Curve 2 — are left unassigned, ready for you to use as you wish. The basic settings for our
Regardless of the pre-assignments, you can send any of the six sequences to patch. The rest of the sound
any destination (including the external CV outputs) using the Modulation Matrix. will be programmed in the
Modulation Matrix and Step
With the Edit knob set to Note, use the sequence knobs to create a simple
melody. You can disable individual notes using the buttons beneath the knobs.
If you switch to the Velocity sequence, different settings here will change the brightness of the notes, because
Velocity is mapped to Filter Envelope by default in the Filter modules.
Virtual Control Key Assignments
Each of the Virtual Control buttons on Thor's main Controller Panel has a small display to the right of it. Clicking and dragging upwards on these displays
reveals that you can set a MIDI note value for each button. This is an unusual feature that allows you to momentarily (in the British sense of the word)
activate a button (if it is off) by holding down the assigned MIDI note. Typically, you would assign a note to this that you won't need to play otherwise.
You can then alter the sound mid-performance simply by holding down the assigned note.
Custom Sequencer Assignments
Our patch could use something to make it more interesting, so the next step is to give the sound some
movement by assigning one of the Curve Sequences to Oscillator 1's wavetable position.
In the first slot in the Modulation Matrix, set the Source field to Step Sequencer /
Curve 1 (as shown in the screen below); for the Destination choose Osc 1 Pos
and set the Amount to 100. Now we need to create a sequence for Curve 1:
start by using the Edit knob to display the Curve 1 sequence, then right-click
anywhere on the Thor panel (or go to the Edit menu) and choose Random
Sequencer Pattern. Now click Run to hear the results.
Set Osc 1's Position knob fully to the left: the sequencer's modulation acts
positively on the current position of the parameter. This setting of Position is
where the sequencer modulation will have the greatest effect on the sound.
Assigning the Curve 1
sequence in the Modulation
As with step sequences created using Reason's Matrix device, our Thor patch
is currently limited to playing the specific notes set in the note sequence. Also, the sequence is triggered
whenever you press Play on Reason's transport. It would be better if the sequence only played when you held
down a MIDI note, and was also transposed depending on what note you played — so here's how to achieve
that. Using the Modulation Matrix, assign MIDI Key / Gate to Step Sequencer / Trigger (as shown in the screen
above). The sequence will now be triggered whenever Thor receives a MIDI note. Making this assignment also
stops the sequence from being triggered by Reason's main transport.
Assign MIDI Key / Note to Step Sequencer / Transpose (also in the screen above). Now the sequence will play
at different pitches depending on which key you play. If you play middle C (C3), the sequence will play back at
its original pitch. Play any other note and the sequence will be transposed up or down by the number of
semitones between C3 and the note you played. Finally, set the Keyboard Mode (on the main Thor panel) to
Mono Retrig.
98 / 92
More Thor In Reason 4
Mono Retrig.
Thor Sequencer Tips
You can use Thor's step sequencer to modulate played (and sustained) sounds, rather than just triggering notes. Begin by switching off all the sequencer
notes from the step buttons and then assign any of the sequence layers to modulate the desired synth parameters. Finally, you can use the assignment in
step 15 of the sequence to trigger sequencer playback whenever you play a MIDI note.
When triggering and transposing sequences from the keyboard, switch off MIDI in the Trigger section of the Controller Panel to prevent double notes when
you play keys.
The way you play affects how sequences are re-triggered. Playing legato will transpose the sequence without resetting the step position. Releasing MIDI
keys between the notes will re-trigger the sequence from step 1.
Virtual Controls
It's time to turn our attention to the Virtual Controls, the two rotary knobs and two buttons on Thor's main
Controller Panel. These are used in a similar way to the assignable knobs (or 'macros') on many workstation
synths, and also in Combinator. They allow patches to be set up so that choice aspects of the sound can be
varied from a simple control panel, without needing to delve into the more complicated guts of the synth.
There is a significant difference between the assignable controls on Thor and
those on Combinator. Combinator's knobs and buttons are absolute controls,
effectively replacing the control which they are assigned to. Thor's rotaries and
buttons are relative (or delta) controls, adjusting a value up or down from a
base value. For this reason, the Virtual Controls are called Modifiers.
There are also two different ways in which they can be used. You can use a
Virtual Control to adjust a particular parameter directly — a typical example
would be to use a rotary to adjust filter frequency. Alternatively, you can use a
Virtual Control to scale another modulation or routing assignment (as, in fact,
we did in last month's column).
The core assignments for our
patch: Wavetable Position is
modulated by the sequencer,
and the sequencer is triggered
and transposed by MIDI notes.
Let's create one of each of these types of assignment. To start with, we'll set Rotary 1 to act as a filter
frequency control. In the next spare modulation slot, choose the first knob (Modifiers / Rotary 1) as the source
and Filter 1 / Frequency as the destination and set an Amount value of 100. Now set the Filter 1 Frequency
control fully anti-clockwise. By setting the original Filter Freq control to zero and using a 100 percent control
assignment, you've made Rotary 1 act as a direct replacement for the filter control. This is as it would be if
you'd assigned a Combinator knob to the filter with full range. If you set the original control to somewhere other
than zero and limited the Amount value, the Virtual Control would adjust the filter frequency over a limited range.
You can also set negative values to reverse the polarity of the control.
An interesting aspect of Thor's design is that many parameters can extend
beyond the range of their panel controls. This means that modulation sources,
including the Virtual Controls, can take a parameter to values that would not be
possible otherwise.
Next, we'll use the second assignable knob to scale an existing modulation
source. In the first modulation slot (S.Curve 1 assigned to Osc 1 Pos), click the
Scale field and choose Modifiers / Rotary 2 (as shown at the bottom of the
screen above) and set the Amount to 100 percent. Rotary 2 will now act as a
depth control for the wavetable modulation by Sequencer Curve 1. By setting
The final patch, complete with
the two Amount fields carefully in an assignment like this, you can finely tune
Virtual Control assignments for
how a control will affect the sound. If the first Amount was 50 percent and the
easy tweaking.
Scale Amount was 100 percent, Rotary 2 would adjust modulation between
zero and 50. You could use a number below 100 for the Scale Amount, and this case the rotary would have less
effect, so there would still be some modulation at the minimum position.
The two assignable buttons work in exactly the same way as the rotaries, except that they can only toggle
between two values. Let's look at a typical way of using a button to switch an effect on or off.
Switch on the Shaper, choose the Soft Clip mode and set Drive to zero. Then, in the Modulation Matrix, assign
Modifier / Button 1 to Shaper Drive and set the Amount to about 80. Button 1 will now switch the Shaper Drive
between off and nearly maximum. By adjusting the Shaper Drive's panel value and the button control Amount,
you can define the two values of Drive for when the button is in or out.
Signal Routing With The Virtual Controls
For the finishing touch, we'll look at an advanced use of the Virtual Controls. As we mentioned last time, Thor's
Matrix can be used to route audio signals, as well as modulation sources. By scaling this type of assignment
with the virtual knobs or buttons, you can adjust or switch signal routings from the Controller Panel. We'll use our
final available button to illustrate an example of this. In the Matrix, assign Osc 1 to Filter 2 / Audio Input and set
the Amount to 75. In the Scale field, choose Modifiers / Button 2, and set an Amount of 100. Insert a Formant
Filter into the Filter 2 module and press the red arrow button above Filter 2 to route its output into the Amp.
Now, when you press Button 2, audio will be routed from Oscillator 1 to Filter 2, mixing in a differently
processed version of the sound. Alternatively, you could leave Filter 2 blank, which would blend in some of the
clean signal from Osc 1. Another option is to use one of the rotaries instead of a button to scale the routing, as
this would allow you to control the level of signal being routed to Filter 2. Given the range of possible routings,
and the fact that you can scale multiple assignments from each Virtual Control, it's possible to create patches
whose sounds can be radically altered using just the four panel controls.
Of course, there's a good deal more to explore and understand in Thor, but hopefully this example will give you
some insight into some of the many possibilities available to you.
What's A Wavetable?
Each of the wavetables in Thor's wavetable oscillator consists of a series of single-cycle waveshapes. At any instant in time, the oscillator is 'looking'
at one point in the table (the Position), and playing the waveform at that point. If the Position is between two of the waveshapes and the X-fade button
is active, the oscillator will play a blend of the two waves. This gives you a vast range of waveshapes to use as the basis of a sound. If you then
modulate Position, with an LFO, envelope, performance controller or similar, the sound will shift over time between the different waveshapes in the
table. In most cases, the series of waves in the table change slowly from one wave to the next, resulting in a smooth, natural evolution of the sound
when Position is swept.
Published in SOS January 2008
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
99 / 92
Reason 4: Advanced Arpeggiation
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason 4: Advanced Arpeggiation
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS April 2008
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
RPG 101
Modulation Only?
Pattern Recognition
RPG8 Trickery
Trigger Happy CV
Patterns Within Patterns
Delving beneath the surface of Reason 4's new
RPG8 arpeggiator reveals a treasure trove of
rhythmic modulations and variations.
Simon Price
For years, an arpeggiator module has been one of the features most frequently
requested by Reason users. No surprise, then, that when the Props finally
responded they delivered something that goes well beyond the basics. As is often
the case in Reason, you can use the RPG8 at two levels: you can let it connect
itself to an instrument directly, and just start playing and adjusting the front panel
controls. Then, for the tweakheads, there are many less-obvious possibilities for
experimenting with advanced settings and creative CV connections. The main
purpose of this article is to look at some of the latter, but as this is the first time
we've covered the RPG8, let's start with a quick look at its main features.
RPG 101
This is what we'll be working
If you select an instrument in the Reason rack, and then add an arpeggiator
towards: the final patch, with
(Create / RPG8 Monophonic Arpeggiator) the RPG8 will be auto-cabled to the
the RPG8 triggering notes
and Thor's own sequencer,
instrument. The RPG8 will also automatically become the live MIDI device in the
generating an 'arp within an
sequencer, so will immediately start receiving input from your keyboard. The
arpeggiator translates your played MIDI notes into an arpeggiated performance, arp'.
which is sent to the connected instrument by means of CV and Gate signals. As
well as the Gate and CV signals, you'll see that there are also Pitch and Mod Wheel connections between the
RPG8 and its associated instrument. This is simply to pass through these controller sources, because your
MIDI keyboard is no longer pointed directly at the instrument.
The main panel controls are mostly quite easy to understand, especially if you experiment with them to see
what their effects are. The central Arpeggiator panel houses familiar controls found on most arpeggiators. The
Mode knob selects the order in which order the held notes are played: Up, Up and Down, Down, Random, or
Manual (which plays the notes in the order in which they were first played). The Octave buttons let you choose
how many octaves the sequence will be extended to.
The Insert buttons change the pattern of played notes. 'Off' results in traditional arpeggiation, with the notes
cycled in the order set by the Mode knob. 'Low' produces a sequence that alternates between each held note
and the lowest note held; 'High' is the opposite of this; and '3-1' and '4-1' create sequences that transpose
each cycle, following a 'three (or four) steps forward, one step back' pattern that rises or falls depending on the
Mode. These last two are particularly good when the Random Mode is selected, as the result is an everchanging sequence.
The Rate control sets the speed of arpeggiation, which can be sync'ed to the song tempo, or switched to Free
mode. Gate Length sets how long each note in the sequence is held.
Modulation Only?
Once you've experimented with using RPG8's CV outputs as modulation sources, it's a natural step to consider using them purely for modulating an
instrument, without using the notes generated at the same time. For example, you might want to use a synth polyphonically, playing pad chords for
example, while still using an RPG8 to modulate the synth based on the notes you are playing. This presents the same technical challenge we've
encountered before with vocoding, because you're trying to connect your MIDI keyboard to two places at once. The solution is the same: put both
devices into a Combinator, which can receive the notes and pass them on to both the arpeggiator and the synth at the same time. You'll need to make
sure that note CV is not connected between the RPG8 and the sound source, and that Receive Notes is checked for both devices in the Combi
Programmer panel.
Pattern Recognition
While the Mode and Insert sections determine the melody of the arpeggiated sequence, the Pattern section
lets you vary its rhythm. The display in this section, which looks like a miniature, multi-octave version of the
Matrix device, is always active, showing a visual representation of the sequence that is playing. To use the
Pattern function you need to switch it on with the small grey button at the top of the section. The 16 step buttons
and pattern length controls create a rhythmic pattern of On or Off steps. The important thing here is that the note
sequence is independent of the Pattern; the pattern adds rests cyclically, but doesn't restart the note sequence
each time the pattern loops.
RPG8 Trickery
As I said, the best way to grasp the basic arpeggiator functions is to play with them rather than read about
them, so let's move on to some more unusual tricks you can try with the RPG8. First, let's get an RPG8 running
with the new Thor synth. Simply create a Thor, then create an RPG8, and everything will be set up for you. In the
following examples, I'm using a Thor patch called Analogue Lead, which can be found in the Synth Lead folder
in the Reason Factory Sound Bank.
The simplest trick with the RPG8 is to send the Pitch CV to other destinations
on the connected instrument. To start doing this you'll need to split the CV
signal, using a Spider CV Merger and Splitter (as in the screen below). The
auto-cabling system splits the CV and Gate signals for you, assuming this is
what you want. For now, we're only interested in CV, which appears on Split 'A'.
As we've seen in previous articles, Reason's CV system is all normalised, so
CV signals are interchangeable between different parameters, including note
values. Thus if we send the Note CV to the filter we can control the full range of
the filter from MIDI notes. In the picture below I've actually connected the CV to
Thor's Rotary 1 input, as this control is mapped to the filter over a
predetermined range set by the patch.
The CV connections used in
our patch example. The Spider
CV Splitter is used to send the
Pitch and Gate signals to
multiple destinations.
Now, the filter frequency will change with the notes as the arpeggiator plays. Try
altering the CV input trim and using a large octave range for the arpeggiation, to create a more dramatic result.
But couldn't this have been achieved with Thor's Modulation Matrix? Well, yes, up to a point, but if you try it you'll
find it has a limited range and different characteristic to using the CV method. This way is also quicker and
saves Modulation Matrix slots, which we'll need shortly.
100 / 92
Reason 4: Advanced Arpeggiation
Before moving on, take another CV split of the note output to Thor's Rotary 2 input. The Resonance now
changes with the notes of the arpeggio, too, with pleasing results.
Trigger Happy CV
Next, we'll add some rhythmic interest using a Gate signal. Connect the 'Start of Arpeggio Trig Out' port on the
back of the RPG8 to the CV1 input on Thor. This output sends a Gate signal every time the arpeggio starts a
new cycle. As we've connected the signal to one of Thor's general-purpose control inputs, we'll need to use the
Modulation Matrix to route the Gate within Thor. Open up Thor's Programmer Panel and locate the first empty
slot in the Matrix. In the Source field, choose CV Input / 1. For the destination select Global Env / Gate, and set
the Amount to 100. Now, add a Low-pass Ladder Filter in the Filter 3 slot, and set it up as it is in the screen
above. Each time the arpeggio restarts, the Global Filter's envelope will be triggered. This instantly creates
more movement, as both the indivdual notes and the overall melodic loop have independent filters.
A lot of sonic variation is available in this patch. Use the Global Env Hold,
Decay and Release sliders to alter the movement within the arpeggio. Vary the
RPG8's Octave range and the number of keys held down to change the length
of the sequence and how often the filter envelope triggers. Varying the filter
frequency, resonance and envelope amounts for Filters 1 and 2 all create
different results that interact with one another.
The adapted Thor patch, with
One thing this patch highlights is that arpeggio sequences vary in length,
depending on how many notes are held and the number of octaves set for the Filter 3 triggered by the
arpeggiator, and LFO 2
range. Sometimes it's preferable to have an arpeggio with a regular cycle,
restarts of the
regardless of these factors. In the above example, this would create a regular, triggering
arpeggio sequence.
rhythmic pulsing as Filter 2 is triggered. It's easy to force an RPG8 to do this, by
re-triggering the arpeggio from an external source. In the picture on page 175 you can see a connection from
the CV1 output of Thor to the 'Start of Arpeggio In' port on RPG8's rear panel. I've used the Modulation Matrix
to send LFO 2 to the CV 1 output. Finally, I've set the LFO to a pulse wave, and sync'ed it to tempo. Now, the
LFO can re-trigger the arpeggio at any division of the tempo. In this example I've used the LFO from the
instrument connected to the RPG8, but there's nothing to stop you using any other gate signal, such as drum
triggers from a Redrum, to re-trigger the arpeggio in other rhythmic ways.
Patterns Within Patterns
The last trick this month is to use both the RPG8 and Thor's step sequencer to create a double pattern effect.
The RPG8 will play an arpeggio at a moderate speed, and the step sequencer will play multiple notes for each
note triggered by the arp. First you need to connect the RPG8's Gate output to Thor's sequencer. The Gate
should already have been split via the CV splitter when you first connected it. Simply take another of the split
outputs from 'Split B' on the back of the CV splitter and connect it to the 'Gate In (Trig)' port on the back of Thor.
Now set up the front panels as in the screen on the first page.
The RPG8 has a slow rate (quarter notes). Each note triggers Thor's step sequencer, which is set to 16th
notes, and has its first four steps adjusted to play a simple rising sequence. The resulting sequence is a
combination of arpeggio and step sequence — like an arpeggiated arpeggio! For the best results, set a long
arp gate length so that all the step sequence notes are triggered, and reduce the LFO 2 rate so that the
arpeggio has a chance to play before being reset. You will also need to switch on the Step Seq button in the
Trigger section of Thor's main panel.
Hopefully the examples here show that the RPG8 offers unique modulation possibilities that could not be
achieved with Thor's internal sequencer or a Matrix step sequencer. This is largely because the arpeggiator
generates step sequences in real time that change every time you play different notes and chords. What's
more, the modulation is directly related to the note sequence that is being generated, creating engaging
sequences with bags of natural movement.
Published in SOS April 2008
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
101 / 92
Reason 4's New Sequencer
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason 4's New Sequencer
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS July 2008
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason 4's overhauled sequencer is now more
powerful but has caused head-scratching amongst
users. If you're one of the confused, read on...
Track Changes
Final Thoughts
Sequencer Q&A
Simon Price
Although the Thor synth deservedly received most of the attention when Reason
4 was released last autumn, the biggest change in the software was, in fact, the
new sequencer. The sequencer's redesign has proved controversial, and the
transition has been awkward for many long-term users. So this month, rather
than just explore new features, we'll look at the common causes of sequencer
confusion encountered when upgrading, and hopefully make the process as
painless as possible.
The new sequencer in
Arrangement view. Tracks now
have multiple lanes, and all
data is stored in 'Clips'.
Track Changes
In Reason 3, you could create sequencer tracks freely, and assign them to any
device (or no device, for that matter). You could also assign multiple tracks to a single device. In Reason 4,
tracks are always associated with a device in the rack, and each device can only have one track. However, a
track can now contain as many sub-tracks ('lanes') as you like, storing alternate takes, overdubs, pattern
changes, automation and so on.
The screen above shows the new appearance of tracks. To the right of each
track's master mute and solo buttons is the automation record button. You can
arm any number of tracks for simultaneous automation recording. Note
recording is armed on individual note lanes, and as well as individual mute and
old sequencer with userrecord-arm buttons each note lane has a pop-up menu used by the Regroove The
defined data Groups. Data can
groove tool, which we'll be exploring in a future article.
no longer be 'loose' on the
track, as in the fourth track
When you create a new instrument in the rack, an associated track is added to here.
the sequencer, is automatically armed for recording and becomes the focus for
your master keyboard. Effects devices are not given tracks by default, but you can create a track for them (for
recording automation) by right-clicking and choosing 'Create Track for [device]'. You can also delete tracks for
instruments, should they be unnecessary. For example, if you are controlling an instrument from an RPG8 or a
Matrix, these devices will have their own track. What you can't do is create more than one track for any device:
all separate sequencer 'tracks' for a device are lanes within one track.
The biggest change — and the one that has caused the most confusion — is the concept of Clips. Previously,
MIDI notes or automation were recorded or drawn freely into tracks, and existed just as raw data. To make
arrangement and structural editing easier you could create Groups, which tied chunks of data together into
larger blocks (see screenshot, bottom left). In Reason 4, Groups are gone, replaced by Clips. As far as the new
sequencer is concerned, everything exists within a Clip: notes, automation data, even pattern changes.
This sounds reasonable and fairly innocuous. After all, nearly all other sequencing packages enforce some
kind of region concept on MIDI data. Surprisingly however, this seemingly small change is rather awkward until
you get used to how it works. Also, I think it's fair to say that the implementation has room for improvement. On
the positive side, it is much easier to arrange a song from Clips than to try to lasso and move collections of raw
data, as was often the case before.
By default, selecting a track makes it the focus for your master MIDI keyboard. However, you can now set a
preference in the Keyboard and Control Surfaces Preferences that separates track selection and keyboard
focus. When this preference is active, you need to click directly on the instrument icon to assign the keyboard.
The track with input focus has a red square around its icon, and a mini keyboard graphic that lights up green to
indicate incoming MIDI data.
Next to the Click button in the transport you'll see the new 'Pre' button. Yes,
Reason finally has a count-in option (or count-off option for our US friends). This
has no settings: it simply counts one bar in with the click before initiating
recording from the Play cursor. The count-in does not pre-roll the actual song,
so the click is always played, whether it is on or off. Note that if the Play cursor
is not on a bar line, the count-in plays from the start of the bar before the one
containing the cursor.
Before and after dropping in on
a track. Overdubbing always
creates a new Clip, which also
contains the original notes.
So far, so straightforward. However, the learning curve steepens when looking at how recording interacts with
the new Clip paradigm. When you initiate recording on a blank area of track, a Clip is automatically created
that contains all the data you record. The Clip will extend from the start of the bar containing the cursor. When
you stop recording, the new Clip will be extended to the end of the current bar. In many cases, this will result in
a Clip that is one bar too long, but you can trim the length of the Clip using the length handles at either end.
Things take a peculiar turn when it comes to recording over previous Clips. Like most sequencers, Reason 3
had an Overdub/Replace switch. Recording over previous data with Overdub enabled simply added the notes
to those in the track. With Replace mode active, the existing data was recorded over by subsequent recording
passes or drop-ins. Reason 4 has no equivalent to Replace mode. Whenever you drop into record on top of an
existing Clip, the original data remains intact. However, your overdub is not recorded into the original Clip.
Instead a new Clip is always created over the top of the old one. What's unusual is that the data from the
previous recording is moved into the new Clip (as shown in the screens at the top of the page). If you trim out
the first clip, there will be no data in the area that was recorded over.
The situation is different during loop recording. The first pass will generate a
new Clip as usual, containing any original data you might be recording over,
and anything you play in that pass. Subsequent passes through the loop will not
generate new Clips; MIDI data will be added to the current Clip, just as if you
102 / 92
Reason 4's New Sequencer
were using a traditional overdub mode. If you drop out of record, then back in, a
new Clip will start to be written again. I don't really understand why the
sequencer does this, but at least you can learn the behaviour and you'll have
some idea what to expect.
The overdub can be merged
with the original Clip using the
One way to work with overdubs is simply to drop in and let Reason create a
'Join Clips' command.
new Clip, then join the Clips back into a single block again. To do this, select
the Clips, then right-click them and choose Join Clips (as in the screenshot,
left). There is also some built-in functionality that encourages you to use
additional lanes for overdubs (as in the screen below). If you click the New Dub Extra note lanes can be used
button in the transport bar, a new record-enabled lane is created on the MIDI- for overdubs and multiple
focused track. You can now record into this lane with the same sonic result as takes.
recording over the previous lane. This also provides a work-around for the lack of a Replace mode: pick up
your new recording and drop it on top of the previous lane. An advantage of this technique is that you can trim
the boundary between the original recording and the drop-in, as you'd normally do in most other sequencers.
When you're done, it's a good idea to Join the Clips, because, as we'll see in a moment, overlapping Clips can
cause some problems.
The New Alt button has almost the same function as New Dub, except that other lanes are automatically muted.
This assumes that the new lane will be an alternative take, rather than an addition to the previous lanes.
The sequencer still has separate Arrangement and Edit views, with the Arrangement view showing all tracks
and the Edit view showing a detailed view of a single track's data. The Arrangement view is where most song
structure edits and recordings take place, and is now best summarised as the place where you manage Clips.
By contrast, Edit view is where you edit the contents of Clips. The familiar view toggle button still sits in the top
left corner of the sequencer. However, you can now double-click to 'open' a Clip into the Edit view. To get back
to the Arrangement view, either click the view toggle button, or press Command + E (Mac) or Ctrl + E
The screen above shows a notes Clip in the Edit view. The view is split into
separate sections, the top one mimicking the view of the Clip seen in the
Arrangement window. Next are piano roll and velocity lanes. At the bottom,
any controller data or automation is displayed. A major change is that the
Edit view is always focused on a single Clip. You can only edit notes in the
selected Clip, whereas before you could edit freely within the whole track.
To refocus the Edit view to another Clip, double-click the Clip.
Notes that have been hidden as a result of trimming a Clip are still visible in A note Clip opened in the Edit view.
the Edit view, but distinguished by a grey outline instead of black. In some
circumstances, such as when a track consists of several long performances comped together, this means a lot
of extra notes. Luckily, only the selected Clip's 'masked' notes (as they are officially called) are shown. If you
want to remove the extra notes, right-click on the Clip and choose Crop Events to Clips. Also, when you Join
Clips, the masked notes are removed. What can be a stumbling block is that if you drag a note to a new
position outside the bounds of the Clip, the note remains attached to the Clip and becomes masked. To move
a note to an adjacent Clip you must use cut/copy and paste.
The final thing to watch out for is the somewhat 'jenky' behaviour of Clips that
overlap as a result of editing. When you record over an existing Clip, the
underlying Clips are cut, so if you record a short Clip in the middle of a larger
Clip, you get three Clips. This is the most intuitive result, as you can pick up any
of the elements and move them, and they retain their size. However, if you pick
up and drop a Clip over another Clip, the result is different: the underlying Clip
retains its size, with one Clip overlapping the other. Whichever Clip is later in
the sequence has dominance and the earlier Clip lies beneath the subsequent
Clips later in the timeline are
always on top of earlier ones.
Here a Pattern Change Clip is
trimmed out, but slips behind
the next Clip. This also
happens with note Clips, and
causes problems with both
trimming and moving of Clips.
A number of confusing situations arise from this behaviour. Firstly, if you place
a region across the start of another, the part that you expect to overlap slips underneath the other Clip. When a
smaller Clip is dropped in the middle of a larger Clip, the latter protrudes at both ends, which messes with your
expectations in both the Arrangement and the Edit views. Secondly, if you have two adjacent regions and you
trim out the earlier Clip to the right, the Clip again slides underneath the next one and no change results. This is
particularly problematic when you're trying to edit pattern change Clips. To solve the problem you need to trim
the start time of the second region, so that it doesn't overlap the first.
Final Thoughts
I don't wish to sound really negative about the new sequencer in Reason 4, as the overall concept is a big step
in the right direction. I do think, however, that many of the stumbling blocks described here are design issues,
rather than problems associated with learning new workflows. However, having addressed the initial teething
troubles, we'll turn our attention in the coming months to the many powerful new techniques made possible by
Reason 4's next-generation sequencer.
Sequencer Q&A
Answers to more of the questions you may have about the new sequencer...
Q: How do I draw in notes or automation if there are no Clips?
A: Clicking with the pencil tool in an area with no Clips creates a new Clip. You can then draw data into the new Clip.
Q: Are pattern changes in Clips too?
A: Yes. Once any pattern change Clips exist, areas outside the Clips switch the device to 'no pattern', effectively stopping any pattern playback. One
thing to watch out for is pattern change Clips not quantised to bar boundaries. This happens easily when overdubbing pattern changes, or editing with
snap-to-grid disabled, resulting in patterns being played back out of sync. It's probably a bug.
Q: And automation?
A: Yes, this is in Clips too. This is interesting, as automation is vector based in Reason 4, something that's treated as a continuous entity in most DAWs.
However, it's quite handy, as it makes easy-to-move blocks from significant areas of the graph. There's much more to be said about this in a future
Q: Where are the quantisation options?
A: These have been moved from the sequencer toolbar to the Tool window.
Q: Why do I get Clips for some MIDI controls and not others?
A: Standard MIDI controllers such as pitch-bend, mod wheel or sustain pedal get recorded on note lanes, and are shown superimposed on the note
Clips. In the Edit view they are displayed separately, like automation. Other controls that are mapped to MIDI (or moved with the mouse) are treated as
automation, and are recorded in separate Clips.
Published in SOS July 2008
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
103 / 92
Side-chain Compression In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Side-chain Compression In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS September 2008
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Technique : Reason Notes
Adding A Bass Line & Pad
Splitting The Mix
Sending Your CV
Last Word
Side-chaining Sidebar
Side-chain compression can be the difference
between a flat, lifeless mix and an adrenalised
floor-filler. Learn how to capture the French house
sound, and add an extra little twist.
Simon Price
Keying a compressor with the kick drum is a widely used mixing technique in many types of
music, but the extreme to which it is deployed by certain French house music producers
has fostered a strong association between the trick and this sub-genre. Check out the likes
of Modjo, David Guetta and, of course, Daft Punk and you'll get the idea. Daft Punk's 'One
More Time' is a very well known example of what is essentially a 'ducking' technique. Every
beat of the kick drum pulls the rest of the mix down, causing the whole track to pump
rhythmically around the kick.
In this month's workshop, we'll put together a simple house track that uses the side-chaining
trick, and then take it one step further. OK, Reason racks at the ready. The screen to the left
shows the first step in creating my song, which is a Redrum drum machine. I've kept the
default drum kit (Disco Kit RDK), but replaced the Kick drum sample with something
suitably big and solid. To do this yourself, click the folder icon above Channel 1 in the
Redrum, then navigate to the folder at Reason Factory Sound Bank / Redrum Drum Kits /
Xclusive drums-sorted / 01_BassDrums. I've chosen my all-time favourite FSB kick drum:
With some simple
instrumentation in
place, we're ready
to experiment with
this month's
technique — sidechain
Next, I've created a pattern with good old four-on-the floor kicks triggered at steps one, five, compression.
nine and 13. I've added the usual snare hits at steps five and 13, and then a smattering of hi-hat and eggshaker hits. To finish off my basic beat, I've added a little life by switching on Redrum's Shuffle button, and
turning the Global Shuffle knob to around 55 percent in the Regroove mixer (if you're not familiar with this, don't
worry, we're going to be looking at it in detail in the next instalment of this column).
Adding A Bass Line & Pad
Before we can play with the side-chaining technique, we need some more elements. As in the screen on the
previous page I've added a Thor, which is playing a sequenced synth bass, and a Combinator, which is
providing a simple pad. You can make your own, or follow the next section to retrace my steps.
Starting with the Thor, I chose a preset FSB patch called '3-Stepper Bass'. This
is the first patch in the Thor/Sequenced folder. You'll need to open Thor's
control panel by pressing the 'Show Programmer' button; then you can hit the
'Run' button on the built-in sequencer to hear the bass line. For the pad, I
created a Combinator and loaded the pad preset 'Lullaby'. I then added a
Matrix step sequencer and generated a simple two-note sequence.
You now have the basis of a song to experiment with. Take a moment to
balance the levels of the three tracks running into your mixer. The next step is to
add the compressor that we'll use to duck the mix. Select the Hardware
Interface module at the top of the rack, and choose Create / MClass
Compressor. This will automatically cable the compressor in between the main A compressor sits across the
whole mix, and the kick drum is
outputs of your mixer and the hardware interface. You should be able to hear
connected as a key input; but
that your entire mix is now being compressed slightly.
we're not quite done yet.
Flip the rack around (Tab), and take a look at the back of the compressor. You'll
see that in addition to the main audio input and output connections, there is a
stereo pair of side-chain inputs. As soon as you connect an audio signal to
these inputs, the compressor automatically switches to side-chain (also called
'external key') mode, and the compressor's response will be based on this input
instead of the main inputs.
We want to trigger the compressor from the kick drum, so we need to separate
the kick from Redrum's main output. While still looking at the rear of the rack,
locate Redrum's Channel 1 audio outputs, and drag a cable from the left
(mono) output to the left side-chain input on the compressor (as in the screen
right and above). The main thing you will notice at this point is that you can no The finished patch, with the
longer hear the kick drum.
kick drum split off and routed
back into the mix.
Turn the rack around again and look at the compressor's front panel. You
should see that the gain-reduction meter is showing a few dB of reduction on every beat, corresponding to the
kick-drum hits. However, it's probably not enough to make much of an audible impact. Turn the Threshold
control to somewhere around -25dB, and the Ratio control up to about 16:1 or higher. There should no be no
mistaking what's happening now: the entire mix is ducked rhythmically in time with the (currently inaudible) kick
Splitting The Mix
We now need to reinstate the kick, but we don't want it to get compressed with the rest of the mix. We need
both to split the kick signal and bypass the main mixer. First, select the Hardware Interface at the top of the
rack again, then choose Create / Line Mixer 6:2. This will add a Line Mixer above your main mixer, with no
cabling. Now we need to re-route the mixers so that the Line Mixer's outputs replace the original mixer going to
Reason's main stereo output, while the original mixer instead goes to channels 1 and 2 of the Line Mixer.
To split the kick, start by selecting the Redrum and creating a Spider Audio
104 / 92
Side-chain Compression In Reason
To split the kick, start by selecting the Redrum and creating a Spider Audio
Merger & Splitter. Send the kick output into the splitter, then patch it into the
compressor's side-chain inputs and a spare input on the Line Mixer. If your
cabling matches the screenshot at the bottom of the previous page, you should
now hear the full mix and the separated kick with the side-chaining in full effect.
Each time the kick sounds the rest of the mix 'gets out of the way' making the
kick sound much louder. Try bypassing the compressor to hear the difference.
It's hard to believe that the kick is at the same level with or without the
A modern variation on a classic
With the basic effect set up, you can now tweak it using the compressor's
technique. The compressor's
controls. The Threshold and Ratio control set how aggressively the mix is
CV out lets you use the key
ducked: anything from a subtle rhythmic throb to extreme pumping. The Attack input to modulate just about
and Release controls set how fast the mix is pulled and pushed every time the anything.
kick triggers the compressor. Too fast an attack will flatten and distort the mix;
too slow and the effect is diluted because the kick has come and gone before the ducking. With a fast release,
you get the accentuation of the kick but with less noticeable effect on the rest of the music. Choose a longer
release and you'll hear the rest of the mix pumping more. Adjust to taste based on the effect you want and the
tempo of the music.
Another factor you can play with is the length of the kick-drum sample. This has a strong impact on how the rest
of the music is pumped by the compressor. Try adjusting the Length knob on Redrum's Channel 1 to really
home in on the groove you're after. You can also automate this as an effect in the song. Try starting with length
at zero and slowly raising for a unique build.
Sending Your CV
So far we've employed a traditional ducking technique that uses a compressor to adjust the level of one signal
based on the level of another signal. We're essentially generating an envelope that is formed by the amplitude
envelope of a kick-drum sample, modified by the Ratio, Attack and Release controls on the compressor. So
what if we could apply this envelope to some other parameter instead of volume? Luckily, the large brain in a
vat they keep in the basement of Propellerheadquarters has foreseen this question, and given us the Gain
Reduction CV Output on the MClass Compressor.
In the screen to the left I've connected the Gain Reduction CV Out from the compressor to a Spider CV Merger
& Splitter, then taken the Inverse output and connected it to Thor's Filter 1 Freq modulation input. Now, as well
as the level ducking from the earlier patching, my bass line has its filter frequency ducked with each kick drum,
giving a unique twist to the rhythmic pumping effect. You could, of course, stick your entire mix through a filter
using this trick, or experiment with modulating any other devices in the rack. You can also reverse the effect
and have the filter open with the kicks.
Last Word
Side-chain compression really can make all the difference in music destined for the dance floor, but remember
that you might not want everything in your mix to be ducked. The Line Mixer in our example rack allows you to
route other sounds around the ducking compressor, but, if necessary, you can use another full mixer instead.
Typically, vocals or a prominent lead sound will want to go to this mixer, along with the kick drum.
Side-chaining Sidebar
If you follow the steps in this article, you'll successfully set up a side-chained compressor configuration, but what exactly does that mean? A quick
search on the SOS web site will bring up a number of articles dedicated to this subject, but here's a quick recap. Normally, when you route an audio
signal into a compressor, the input itself determines the compressor's response. The louder the input signal, the more compression is applied, and the
Attack and Release Controls respond to peaks in the signal that is being processed. This evens out level differences in the signal, reducing dynamic
range, which, for most applications, is exactly what you want the compressor to do.
However, side-chaining or 'keying' allows you to do something different: control the compression that is applied to one signal with an entirely different
signal (or sometimes with a filtered version of the original signal). This has different applications, such as causing particular elements of a mix to 'make
room for themselves' by automatically reducing the level of other signals (as we're doing in this article). The classic example of this technique is the
ducking used in radio, where the level of music is automatically reduced whenever the DJ speaks.
Published in SOS September 2008
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
105 / 92
Reason ReGroove: Getting Your Groove On
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Reason ReGroove: Getting Your Groove On
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS December 2008
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Think computer music's got no soul? Think again!
Join us as we explore Reason's ReGroove mixer...
In this article:
New Groove
Getting Into The Swing
Shuffle & Slide
Doctoring Your Groove
Roll Your Own
Global Shuffle
Regular Quantise
Anchor Points
Simon Price
eason 4: new semi-modular analogue-style synth? Great. Improved
Sequencer? Yes please. Arpeggiator? Of course. Real-time multitrack MIDI groove quantise thingy? Um... OK, I guess.
If this was your reaction to the feature list when Reason 4 was announced,
you were not alone (I have my hand up too). Over a year after Reason 4 was
released, the ReGroove mixer still has many scratching their heads and
thinking, well, why?
New Groove
What the Props have done with the ReGroove mixer is completely re-think the
way you apply timing and dynamic variation to MIDI sequences. All
respectable DAWs have ways to quantise MIDI notes (and audio notes in
some cases, such as Pro Tools) to the grid or to groove templates. They also
usually allow you to offset the timing of MIDI tracks, so that notes are shifted
earlier or later, resulting in performances that are ahead of or behind the beat. These operations are
traditionally treated as editing tasks — that is, you select notes or a track and apply settings. These edits may
not be destructive but are generally something that you will set and then leave alone afterwards.
What Reason 4 attempts to do is make adjusting the 'feel' of a performance a real-time, mixing-stle task.The
ReGroove mixer allows you to apply varying amounts of groove quantisation, shuffle, offset, randomness and
velocity variation to individual tracks or note lanes. You can add different types of groove to each track, or use
the same type and vary the amount and blend of timing and dynamics. The beauty of it is that it all happens in
real time, and you use faders to adjust the amount by which each track is affected, allowing you to tweak
multiple tracks by ear until they sit just right with each other.
Getting Into The Swing
Let's look at an example to get a feel for how the ReGroove mixer works. The main picture shows a Reason
song with a Redrum drum machine and two Dr REX loop players. The drum machine is being triggered from
the main sequencer (rather than its built-in step sequencer), and instead of using a single note lane to record
the pattern, separate note lanes have been created to record the kick, snare, and hi-hat sequences. Taking this
step allows each drum part to be groove-adjusted independently.
In the sequencer (fourth down in the Reason rack, overleaf), you can see that each note lane has a pop-up
menu between its record-ready button and Mute button. This is where you assign each lane to one of
ReGroove's 32 channels. The hi-hats lane, for example, is assigned to A3, so it will be adjusted in real-time by
whatever is going on in the third channel of ReGroove's 'A' bank. This song has a hi-hat pattern comprising 16
consecutive 16th notes, as you can see in the screen above . This is an ideal
pattern to use for experimenting with ReGroove, as it reveals all the effects of
any groove template and shuffle settings. You will, in fact, be astonished by
how many different rhythms and feels you can generate from even this most
basic of starting points.
A simple 16 step hi-hat run can
be transformed into countless
In the screen on the previous page the display in ReGroove's A3 channel is
different rhythms.
showing that a groove template called 'Erika' has been loaded from the
factory presets . The channel's fader determines the impact of this template on
the assigned MIDI lane and the template affects timing, velocity, and note
length. As well as setting the overall amount of these three effects with the
fader, you can adjust them relative to one another. This is achieved in the
Groove page of the Tool Window, opened by clicking the Edit button at the top
of the ReGroove channel, as shown in the screen at the top of the next page< .
In this case, I'm only adding a subtle timing change, and mainly using the
veloctity variations inherent in the template.
Shuffle & Slide
Two knobs on each channel — Slide and Shuffle — operate in addition to the
groove template, and are unaffacted by the fader position. Slide shifts notes
earlier or later in time with respect to other tracks, allowing you to create a
more 'rushed' or laid-back feel respectively. Shuffle adds a 16th-note swing,
moving every other 16th note's position within each measure. At the central,
50 percent position, no shuffle is applied. Turning the knob clockwise yields a
traditional 16th swing, with the 66 percent setting pushing the even numbered
16ths to triplet positions.
Presest grooves are derived
from real performaces,
programmed rhythms, classic
tracks and the Akai MPC
Working in conjunction with all the channel settings is a Pre Align button,
which hard quantises all notes to the grid prior to treatment by the Groove,
Slide and Shuffle controls. This can be useful if you want to hear the true effect
of the groove template, but you can leave it off to keep a flavour of your
original recorded performance.
Doctoring Your Groove
Even if you work primarily with loops in Reason, you can still enjoy the benefits
of ReGroove. The Dr REX loop player uses ReCycled loops, which are
chopped into slices and played back by MIDI notes. When you use Dr REX's
To Track button, MIDI clips are created that play back the loop with the exact
The mix of timing and dynamics
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Reason ReGroove: Getting Your Groove On
timing of the original recorded performance. These note sequences can be
affected by the ReGroove mixer like any other, allowing you to change the feel
of REX loops. In order for loops to be affected by velocity variations as well as
timing, you need to turn up the Velocity To Amp knob on the Dr REX device.
The mix of timing and dynamics
from a template is set in the
Tool Window.
Using ReGroove can overcome one of the great problems of loop-based song-writing. Often, electronically
produced songs feel disjointed because the layered loops have different feels. In the example picture (right),
I've added conga and bass guitar loops. In their original form, neither of these fit with each other, or with the
Redrum pattern. Pre-aligning the loops' note sequences and applying the same groove template as the hi-hats
makes the parts immediately begin to gel better. However, you can now go further, adjusting the groove
amount and the other settings until you hear the point where everything is obviously 'in the pocket'. In the
example track, the bass guitar really fell into place when some shuffle was added, introducing some swing to
the runs between the main notes.
Roll Your Own
Once you've been hooked by the ReGroove mixer you'll probably want to start
adding your own grooves to the pot. This is pretty much the same kind of
process as you would find in previous incarnations of Reason. Simply rightclick on a notes clip that has a feel you like, and choose Get Groove From
Clip. Reason will analyse the timing and velocity variations in the Clip and
create a template. This will immediately replace the groove in whichever
ReGroove channel currently has the active Edit button.
If you want to save the template to disk, so that you can load it into other
channels, you can save it by clicking the Save button in the Groove page of the
Tool Window.
Like many, I was initially fairly underwhelmed by the idea of the ReGroove
mixer. However, after getting to know it I've come to think this could prove to
be one of the most significant developments in MIDI sequencing for a long
time — I can't think of anything else that can do what it does.
ReGroove can be used to
change the feel of REX loops.
The inherent timing in the loop
(which can be seen in the MIDI
clip) can be removed by using
the Pre Align button.
If you mostly make straight-cut electronic music or techno, ReGroove will
probably do little to change what you do in Reason. However, if electro, house
or hip-hop — not to mention rock or jazz — are your thing, you're seriously missing a trick if you don't give the
ReGroove mixer a go.
Global Shuffle
The Global Shuffle knob to the left of the ReGroove panel replaces the Pattern Shuffle knob that was found in
the Transport bar in earlier versions of Reason. This knob sets the amount of shuffle applied to any Redrum,
Matrix and RPG8 devices that have their Shuffle buttons activated. In previous versions, you could apply the
Pattern Shuffle to any sequence of MIDI notes, by selecting them and choosing Shuffle from the Quantise
menu. This allowed you to match the feel of MIDI tracks and step-sequenced parts. You can still do exactly
this, using the Quantise section of the the Tool Window. However, you can now also apply the Global Shuffle
to any track in real time using the Global Shuffle button found at the bottom of each ReGroove channel. This
overrides the channel's local Shuffle knob.
Regular Quantise
Simple grid quantisation is still treated like an edit task in Reason 4. The familiar Quantise controls that used
to be in the sequencer's toolbar have now been moved to the Tools tab of the Tool Window. It's a shame that
a straight quantise option is not included in the ReGroove mixer. This would allow you to add grid
quantisation by varying degrees with a fader, instead of by the limited range of preset amounts that are
offered in the Tool Window.
No matter — it's very simple to add this feature yourself, by creating a groove template with no groove. To
do this, you need to use the Get Groove From Clip command on a one bar clip with 16 straight hits at 16thnote intervals. The quickest way to generate such a clip is to create a Redrum, select all 16 steps on any
drum, set a one-bar loop with the Left and Right timeline locators, then use the Copy Pattern To Track
command. Now you can use the steps detailed in the main text to extract and save a groove template from
the clip. You can then load this clip into ReGroove channels and apply varying amounts of grid quantisation to
Anchor Points
An important setting in the ReGroove mixer is the Anchor Point. This tells Reason which bar your song starts
on. In my example track, the song starts on bar one, but if there is an intro section or a pick-up measure you
need to make sure that the Anchor Point is set to the bar that your song actually kicks in on. This is because
many groove templates are more than one bar long, and need to be aligned correctly with your song.
Published in SOS December 2008
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
107 / 92
Reason: Parallel Compression
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason: Parallel Compression
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS March 2009
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Simple Beginnings
Drum Bussing
Routing Schemes
Dealing With Delay
If you want the impact of heavily compressed
drums but don’t want to sacrifice your dynamics,
parallel compression is the way to go. This month
we explore the best ways to achieve this effect in
Simon Price
arallel compression is a tried and tested mixing trick for achieving loud,
punchy drums. The idea is simple: blend a heavily compressed version
of your drum mix with the uncompressed original, as shown in the
diagram below. The result is often more pleasing than simply compressing
your drum submix, as it preserves the original dynamics and decay tails, while
adding harder-hitting and punchier transients. This month we’ll look at this
classic production technique, discuss some considerations when patching
effects devices in Reason, and build a new Combinator effect.
Simple Beginnings
Applying parallel compression in Reason raises a number of interesting
questions about Reason’s mixer and signal flow, but before we get drawn off
on any tangents, let’s look at a simple example.
A Spider splitter being used to
create a separate dry and
compressed version of a drum
We’ll start with a rack containing a 14:2 Mixer, a Dr:REX loop player, and an
MClass Compressor. We need to patch these so that we hear both a dry version and a compressed version of
our drum loop. There are several ways to approach this — the screen above shows what is probably the best
option (we’ll discuss why shortly). This configuration uses a Spider audio splitter to split the loop player’s
output. A direct, unprocessed, connection is made to Channel 1 of the mixer, while another connection goes to
the compressor. The output of the compressor is fed to Channel 2 on the mixer. This routing scheme gives you
control of the balance of dry and compressed drums using the mixer faders.
Typically, heavy compression is used in this technique, as you can see from the Compressor front-panel
settings in the screen opposite. Try setting up the example shown in your Reason rack, and soloing the
compressed drums. The drums will sound thoroughly flattened and pumping, which you wouldn’t normally want.
However, blend in the original drums and you’ll get larger-than-life drums that still manage to sound natural.
Drum Bussing
Parallel compression is usually applied to a submix of a song’s drums, rather
than its individual components. This is not the most straightforward thing to do
in Reason, and is sometimes unnecessary anyway — for instance, when the
drums are from a single submixed source, such as a Redrum, an NNXT
sampler, or a Dr:REX loop. However, you may be using a mixture of a
sampler and a REX loop, for example, and Reason’s mixer offers none of the
mod cons of most mixing consoles, such as internal buses or submix groups,
but you can configure the same signal routing using multiple mixers.
Although conventionally used
as a serial insert, a compressor
in a parallel configuration can
be useful for a ‘best of both
worlds’ approach.
The screen above shows how a number of drum elements can be connected to a dedicated drum mixer. The
master output of this mixer is then connected to the main mixer, where the whole drum mix can be controlled
from a single channel. Should you now wish to apply the parallel compression technique, simply split the master
output of the drum mixer, and send a copy through a compressor and into another channel on the main mixer.
Routing Schemes
Why, I hear you ask, don’t we use the aux sends and returns on the 14:2 Mixer
device instead of all this manual patching? The sends and returns are, after
all, designed for blending a wet and dry version of a track into the mix. Firstly,
the sends are post fader (by default), so if you were to configure the
compressor in a send/return loop via the mixer, the level going into the
compressor would change as you moved the drum channel’s fader. This would
vary the compressor’s response. To fix this, you could use Aux 4, which can
be switched to pre-fader mode. Now the compressed signal will remain
consistent, but the level of the compressed signal will not change if you adjust
the original. This is not an insurmountable problem, as you can use the Aux 4
return pot to control the level of the compressed signal. All in all, this is a
perfectly workable method (and tidy, as you can see from the screen at the
bottom of the page), but it is a bit fiddly to blend the levels, and it uses up the
mixer’s only pre-fader aux bus.
Multiple drum sources can be
submixed in a separate mixer,
allowing the complete drum mix
to be processed as a whole.
Dealing With Delay
Seasoned digital mixer users will probably be raising an eyebrow about some
of the routings described here, due to the potential pitfall of digital signal
latency. Routing a signal to the mix via two different paths is asking for trouble,
because if there is a short delay in one of the paths, they will suffer phasecancellation problems (comb filtering) when recombined. When the dry and
wet signals are very different (such as with a reverb or delay effect), there is no
problem, but with compression, the signal remains very similar, albeit with
different dynamics.
An alternative parallel
compression configuration,
using the Reason Mixer’s prefader aux send.
Many digital mixing platforms get around this issue by employing Automatic
Delay Compensation, which actively equalises delays to ensure that sources maintain their phase coherency
as they travel through various signal pathways. Now, I don’t know if Reason uses delay compensation for the
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Reason: Parallel Compression
signals in the rack, but there are no audible phase problems when going through the compressor and
recombining the output with the original signal. This means that either there is some compensation happening,
or the compressor’s processing latency is very small. I have tried stacking large numbers of the MC Class
effects in series to see what happens, and eventually you do hear some delay effects, but for real-world use,
there’s no issue.
Having said that, there are a couple of situations that can cause problems. Firstly, if you use an aux send to
route to an effect, it’s sometimes tempting to connect the return signal directly to a mixer channel, instead of the
mixer’s aux return inputs. This is exactly what you’d want to do in this month’s example, so that you can control
the wet and dry levels with the faders. However, there appears to be a delay compensation scheme that
operates between the main mixer channels and the aux send and return paths. If you break the standard wiring
convention and return directly to the mixer, you get nasty phasing. So, er, don’t.
The second thing to look out for is when using the Scream distortion unit. This is ripe for experimentation as a
parallel process, because it has a nice tape compression algorithm and is generally great for crunching up
drums. However, it inverts the phase of signals going through it (a bug?), which can cause the original signal
and the effected signal to cancel each other out. A workaround is to pass the original signal through another
Scream, but turn all the effects off or right down.
The business of signal splitting and manual routing is not something you want
to get into every time you sit down to write or mix a track, so consider packing
this month’s patch into a Combinator. Here’s the basic idea: the Combinator
lets you group together a patch of multiple rack devices into a ‘black box’ with
a single set of controls and audio connections. This composite device can
then be saved, for easy recall in future projects.
The screen below shows the front view of our parallel-compressor
Combinator. The idea is simple: as before, the signal from our drums is split
A custom Combinator design
using a Spider splitter device, with one of the two resulting signals going to an for applying parallel
MClass Compressor. Both the compressed and original signals are
connected to a 6:2 Line Mixer device. Front-panel knobs on the Combinator
are assigned to the Line Mixer, allowing you to control the balance of dry and compressed signals. A master
level control has also been added, as well as a knob to adjust the threshold of the Compressor.
In the screen above, you can see that the new Combinator is connected in
the same way as any of Reason’s ready-made effects devices. The
Combinator is connected in-line between the drums — in this case a REX
player — and the mixer. You only need one connection to the mixer, as the
Combi is taking care of blending the dry and compressed signals.
Once you’ve built the basic device shown here, you can experiment with your
own customisations. For example, instead of separate level controls for dry
and compressed signals, you could try creating a single crossfade control —
for a description of how to do this. More fun is to be had by adding some other
processing to the effects chain. If you want to explore the idea of building your
own Combinator effects further, be sure to check out the July 2005 Reason
workshop on the Sound On Sound web site
( for detailed
The rear of the parallelcompression Combi, with a loop
player to show the cable
Published in SOS March 2009
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
109 / 92
Make A Modular Synth In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Make A Modular Synth In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS May 2009
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Print article
Not only can Reason’s Thor synth be used as an
effects unit for other signals, it can also act as a
hub for combining instruments and devices into
true modular synth structures.
Patching Through Thor
Thor FX
Finding Your Voice
Go Modular
Next Steps
Pick & Mix
Keeping It Raw
Enhanced Loop Player
Simon Sherbourne
hose of you who like to tinker at the back of Reason’s rack will have no
doubt noticed that the Thor synth sports four audio inputs and outputs,
and four general purpose CV inputs and outputs. Why all these
connections on a self-contained synth? Well, Thor has a nice master filter and
effects section that’s just asking to have other instruments routed through it.
Additionally, audio can be routed in or out of Thor at various points along its
semi-modular signal path, offering the exciting possibility of linking up other
instruments with Thor to create monster modular synth patches.
Patching Through Thor
Thor’s front panel, with audio
input routing and filter
modulation configured in the
matrix at the bottom.
We’ll start by simply routing another device’s output through Thor’s master
filter and effects section. Not only is this a really useful technique, it also
demonstrates how to configure inputs in Thor’s routing matrix. We’ll begin by
connecting the outputs of an NN19 sampler to audio inputs 1 and 2 of a Thor synth, and then connect the Thor’s
main outputs to a 14:2 Mixer.
In order to hear anything, you need to use Thor’s modulation/routing matrix to connect the audio inputs to a
suitable destination. Before doing anything else, right-click on the Thor and choose Initialise Patch to remove
all the default assignments. Next, click the Show Programmer button on Thor’s front panel. At the bottom of this
extended display (shown in the screen above) is the routing matrix. Each slot in the matrix allows you to create
a connection between two parts of Thor. You choose a source and destination from pop-up menus and adjust
the signal level within the Amount field. The Scale setting lets you adjust or modulate the signal level with
another control (e.g a knob) or signal (e.g an LFO).
We need to route the audio from inputs 1 and 2 to Thor’s FX section. The entry point for the master section is
a stereo input to the Filter 3 module. Accordingly, I’ve routed Audio Input 1 to Filter 3 Left In, and Audio Input 2
to Filter 3 Right In. Once this is set, you should hear audio from the sampler being passed through Thor.
Thor FX
Thor’s master section is the brown section on the right-hand side of the front
panel. At the top is a nice chorus effect and a delay. The delay is especially
useful, as it features stereo spread and delay-time modulation, both of which
are lacking on Reason’s main delay unit. Both of the effects are particularly
good for fattening and enlivening mono sounds.
The settings for modulating the
filter with Thor’s step
The filter section offers access to Thor’s interchangable filter modules: the
Low-pass Ladder, Comb, Formant, and State Variable filters. In the screen above I’ve chosen the Comb filter
which sounds great on the default NN19 Farfisa patch that’s being used here. To make things more interesting,
you can delve into Thor’s modulation options. In the Thor shown in the main screen, I’ve used the matrix to route
LFO 2 to the filter’s frequency, which, with the Comb filter, creates a lovely swept flange effect.
Thor also has a built-in step sequencer which is great for modulating the filter. In the screen to the bottom left
I’ve used the Step Sequencer’s Edit knob to view the Curve 1 sequence, then right-clicked on it and chosen
Randomise Sequence. I’ve then routed this sequence to the Filter’s Frequency using the matrix. One thing to
remember when using the Step Sequencer is that it will, by default, trigger notes on the Thor. The simplest way
to stop this is to turn off the Step Seq button in the Trigger section of Thor’s main panel. You can also disable
Thor’s internal sound generation by removing the Osc 1 module, or by switching off all the gate buttons on the
Finding Your Voice
So far so good; we’ve gained a couple of new effects and a suite of filters that
other instruments can be routed through. But what about the rest of Thor, with
its multi-mode Shaper, dual filter path, and envelope generators?
Unfortunately things get a bit more complicated if you want to access these
features, because they are modules that belong to Thor’s Voice section. All
the dark grey modules on Thor’s panel are polyphonic or ‘per voice’, which
means that each played note on Thor has its own virtual version of each
module. The Global section that we’ve been using so far is much simpler,
being a single signal path that the mixed output of Thor’s Voice section
normally routes through.
Thor’s step sequencer can
control multiple instruments by
distributing CV signals.
If you want to route external signals through any of the grey modules, you
have to bear some things in mind. First, to pass audio through this section
Thor needs to receive a gate signal (either from a CV connection or a MIDI note). This will open a voice for
incoming audio to pass through. However, the Amp Envelope is hard-wired to the Amp, so any audio passing
through will always be amplitude modulated by the Amp Envelope. This makes it impractical to use the grey
modules as simple effects devices for an external audio signal, except perhaps in the case of Dr.REX loops
(see the ‘Enhanced Loop Player’ box).
Go Modular
What you can do with Thor’s Voice section is potentially more interesting: you
110 / 92
Make A Modular Synth In Reason
What you can do with Thor’s Voice section is potentially more interesting: you
can link the grey modules up with simple external sources in the same way
that you would use a true modular synthesizer. If you synchronise the MIDI
notes between other instruments and a Thor, you can pass monophonic notes
through Thor’s modules. The loss of polyphony is not too bad in this case; as
Jyoti Mishra’s modular feature pointed out in last month’s SOS, polyphony is
not a viable option with modulars anyway.
These matrix assignments allow
you to trigger and transpose
the step sequencer with MIDI
For this technique we’ll start with the same basic building blocks: a Thor and
an NN19. We only need a mono connection this time, so just connect the left output of the sampler into Thor’s
Input 1. In the matrix, connect Audio Input 1 to Filter 1 > Audio Input. This is usually the best place to start, as
with no further configuration your signal will get routed to the Shaper via Filter 1, followed by the Amp, before
being passed on to the main effects section.
At this point you’ll still not hear anything, because the Thor is not getting a MIDI note when you play the
sampler. Just like a real modular, you need your keyboard to trigger your oscillator (NN19) at the same time as
your envelopes (Thor). Regular readers will know that the easiest way to send the same MIDI events to multiple
devices is to stick them all in a Combinator. Simply select the Thor and the NN19, right-click on one of them,
and choose Combine. Now when you play your controller keyboard you should be able to hear something.
You can now use Thor’s modules as though the sound were coming from one of Thor’s oscillators — the
filters and envelopes in Thor are essentially replacing the ones on the sampler. To get predictable results you
should set the Amp Envelope on the NN19 to minimum attack and maximum sustain and release, and switch
off the filter. It’s also important to reduce the Polyphony setting to one, so that the whole hybrid patch is
operating monophonically. Otherwise you may hear older decaying notes re-appear from the NN19 when
Thor’s envelopes are triggered.
Next Steps
Once you’ve mastered the basic idea, you can add more sound sources. You
can route more than one of Thor’s audio inputs to the same destination
(typically Filter 1) and they’ll be mixed together. You can also combine Thor’s
own oscillators with the incoming signals for more sonic variety. To get an
idea of what you can build from multiple sound sources see the ‘Keeping It
Raw’ box, which describes a finished modular patch..
If you’ve made it this far through all this geeky synth patching, you’re either
ready for a nice lie down, or to add keyboard-controlled step sequencing. One
of the best features of Thor’s step sequencer is that it can be triggered and
transposed by MIDI notes. This means you can set up a note sequence, then
play it at different pitches by holding single notes on your keyboard. If you’re
patching in external sound sources, you can still do this, but you need to get
the step sequencer to control all the instruments involved at once.
A finished example of a hybrid
modular synth.
The screen at bottom of the previous page shows the physical connections
required for sequencing our modular combo: Note and Gate CV signals need
to be fed from Thor’s sequencer outputs to the samplers. As there’s more than one instrument, a CV splitter is
being used to distribute the signals. The screen to the left shows the modulation and sequencer set-up: MIDI
Gate is routed to Step Sequencer Trigger, and MIDI Note is sent to Step Sequencer Transpose.
Pick & Mix
We’ve only looked at some of the possibilities for using Thor as a hub for
combining devices. Any of Reason’s other instruments can be used in place
of the NN19 samplers. Also, we’ve mostly used Thor’s default, pre-wired
signal path, and just tapped into at different points. However, the routing Matrix
can be used to break Thor’s default structure, and route audio directly from
one module to another. Going further, you can use Thor’s extra audio
connections to patch out to other effects and back. There are a huge range of
possibilities to explore, and whatever monstrosity you build, you’ll have had
lots of fun doing it and will have created a truly unique instrument.
The connections necessary to
use Dr.REX’s Slice Gate Output
to sync Thor’s envelopes with
Keeping It Raw
If you like the idea of building your own Reason modular synths, you should check out the set of NN19
patches called Synth Raw Elements in the Factory Sound Bank. These are samples of simple waveforms
from a number of classic synths, and are designed to be stacked and mixed together to create more
complex patches. A finished example of a modular Combinator patch that uses these samples can be found
in the Reason Factory Sound Bank. Create a Combinator, click the patch browser and navigate to Factory
Sound Bank / Combinator Patches / Lead Synth / Moog Monosynth. In this Combi, four NN19 samplers act
as simple oscillators, using the Minimoog raw waveform presets. The front panel of Thor can be used to
shape the sound just as if it were a basic Thor patch, even though all the sound sources are actually external
to Thor.
Enhanced Loop Player
The Dr.REX Loop Player teams up with Thor rather nicely, and can be routed through the whole of Thor’s
signal path more easily than other instruments. This is because when it’s being used to play back a loop,
Dr.REX is more-or-less monophonic, and generates its own gate signals in sync with the beats its playing.
The screen here shows the simple connections that are required for this technique. Dr.REX’s Slice Gate
Output generates a gate at each slice (transient) in the loop, which, when wired as shown, triggers Thor’s
envelopes in time with beats. This means that you don’t need to put the devices into a Combinator, you just
need to trigger the REX player. With these physical connections, use the routing matrix to send the loop to
Thor’s Filter 1, and get the full benefit of the Shaper, envelopes, LFOs and step sequence modulation.
Published in SOS May 2009
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
111 / 92
Running Reason And Ableton Live Together
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Running Reason And Ableton Live Together
Reason Notes / Ableton Live Notes
Published in SOS September 2009
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason and Ableton Live work well together — we
offer some tips on running the two programs in
Simon Sherbourne
ll the Propellerhead buzz right now is around the upcoming product
Record, which will integrate audio recording and mixing with all the
stuff we love in Reason. Of course, we’ll be getting our teeth into
Record in these pages as soon as the final release is available, but in the
meantime, many Reason users have already had great results running audio
alongside Reason using other DAWs. This way of working will continue to be
advantageous to those who use third-party plug-ins and/or hardware MIDI
instruments, or who prefer another DAW’s approach to recording, mixing or
In this article:
How It Works: Rewire
Get Started & Get Organised
Monitoring Self-sequenced
Reason Instruments
Sequencing Reason From Live
Freezing & Flattening
Template For Living
Live and Reason running sideby-side. Live’s tracks are
colour-coded to match the
Reason instruments.
Ableton Live is a particularly popular host among Reason users, and has a
number of features that offer tight parallel operation with Reason. This month, we’re going to look at some tips
for combining Reason with Live.
How It Works: Rewire
Reason and Live can be used together thanks to Rewire, a clever bit of Propellerhead technology that is
supported by most major audio applications. Rewire allows audio signals and MIDI events to be passed
between two open programs. Audio signals from the ‘slave’ program (Reason) are routed to the ‘master’
(Live), where they appear in the mixer alongside other local audio sources. The Rewire link also synchronises
playback position and tempo between the two applications. Either program’s transport controls can be used,
so you don’t need to flick back and forth.
This idea can be used for glorified synchronisation, with two independent sequences running and a stereo
mix routed from Reason into Live’s mixer. However, Live and Reason can be integrated much more tightly, so
that Reason acts more like a powerful plug-in rack within Live.
Get Started & Get Organised
Launch Live, then launch Reason. Reason will detect that Live is running, and
will switch itself into Rewire Slave mode. Reason’s audio outputs are now
hard-wired to Live via 64 internal buses.
To keep track of Project Files you’ll need to save your song in both Live and
Reason, so you will always have two project files. Before doing anything else,
save the Live Set. Live always creates a project folder for a newly saved Set,
providing a default place to store audio recordings and anything else. Switch
to Reason and save your Reason Song to the same folder, giving it the same
name. Now, you’ll easily be able to locate the correct Reason Song that
partners your Live Set.
Each Reason instrument is
routed to Live via discrete
Rewire buses.
Most modern computers and laptops sport a high-resolution wide-screen
display. The Reason rack is narrow enough that you can usually view it alongside the Live window, eliminating
the need to keep switching your view from one application to the other. To maximise screen space in Live, hide
the Browser and Help columns when you don’t need them. You can also narrow the track widths in Live’s
Session View by dragging the track boundaries. Finally, as you can see in the screen on the previous page,
you can colour-code the tracks (and regions) to match the devices in Reason. Simply right-click and choose a
colour from the palette.
Monitoring Self-sequenced Reason Instruments
There are two types of instruments that we’ll connect to in Reason: those
running internal sequences, such as Redrum, and those that you want to play
with MIDI notes. The first sort are very simple to set up. Create a Redrum
device in an empty Reason rack. We’re going to forget about Reason’s mixer
(one of the keys to integration is to bring up all your Reason instruments on
discrete channels in Live’s mixer). In Reason, press Tab to view the rear of the
rack, and cable the Redrum’s outputs to outputs to 1 and 2 on the Hardware
Switch to Live and create a new audio track (or use the default one that
appears in a fresh Set). Make sure the input/output routing options are visible
using the I/O button to the right of the Master channel. Click the top pop-up
menu in the audio From section of the Audio track, and choose Reason. The
pop-up menu below then lets you choose from the 64 Rewire audio buses, so
choose ‘1/2 Mix L, Mix R’. In the Monitor section, switch from Auto to In, to tell
Live to pass through audio from the input source.
The External Instrument device
adds MIDI and audio links
between Live tracks and
Add some trigger steps to the Redrum’s Step Sequencer, and hit Play in either Reason or Live. Both Live
and Reason’s transports will start and you should hear and see the audio arriving at the audio track in Live.
Sequencing Reason From Live
To play a Reason instrument from within Live, and record your performance as MIDI, the approach is basically
the same as when using instrument plug-ins. First create a MIDI track, then go to the Live Devices browser (the
first folder in the browser that holds Live’s Instruments, MIDI Effects and Audio Effects). Open the Instruments
folder and locate the External Instrument device. Drag this from the list onto the MIDI track.
The External Instrument Device (shown in the screen to the right) adds an audio path to the MIDI track, turning
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Running Reason And Ableton Live Together
it into what most other DAWs call an instrument track. The device’s panel extends the track’s I/O controls with
routing options for both MIDI output and audio input. The MIDI To section has two pop-up menus for choosing
the basic destination (Reason) and a specific device in the rack. The Audio From selector gives you the list of
64 Rewire buses so that you can route the audio back from Reason.
The final step is to disable MIDI keyboard input in Reason, to prevent notes being doubled up as MIDI is
received both directly and via Live. The safest way to do this is to open the Preferences in Reason, switch to
the Control Surfaces and Keyboards page, then un-tick the ‘Use With Reason’ option for your controller
keyboard and/or pads.
With these settings in place, you can treat the Reason instrument just like an instrument plug-in. Recordarming the MIDI track will allow you to play the instrument from your MIDI keyboard. Recording Clips on the
track will record MIDI that sequences the Reason device.
Freezing & Flattening
Live has a Freeze function (right-click on a track and choose Freeze) which
invisibly bounces tracks to audio Clips. To the user, a bounced MIDI track
looks the same as normal, except that control of MIDI notes and device
parameters is ‘frozen out’. All the individual Clips are still available and can be
triggered as normal. This means you can continue to trigger Clips live, or edit
or record arrangements in the Arrange view.
A basic Reason Rewire
template with routing notes in
the device names.
Normally, when you freeze a track that has a hardware insert or controls an external instrument, Live does a
real-time record of all Clips, which may take time. However, Reason sources are bounced much faster than
real time — just like a plug-in — because Reason is sharing Live’s audio engine.
Although originally conceived as a way to free up CPU power, freezing is equally useful as a way to capture
your Reason sound sources as audio. In fact, after a MIDI track which sequences Reason is frozen you can use
the track without Reason even being open, although of course you can’t edit the contents of the Clips.
Frozen tracks can be used without Reason being present, and you can still have the option of running Reason
at a later time and unfreezing the tracks to make changes. However, sometimes you want to convert your
Reason tracks into actual audio tracks, with editable audio Clips. Again, this can be done in just a few
seconds, with no manual routing or recording. Simply Freeze the track you want to bounce, then right-click it
again and choose Flatten. The track will be replaced with an audio track, with all the MIDI Clips (in both
Session and Arrange views) converted to good old-fashioned audio.
Template For Living
If you plan to work with Live and Reason in tandem on a regular basis, it can be really useful to create a
Template in Reason, with your favourite instruments all ready to go. By including the output number(s) that a
device is routed to in its name, you can avoid turning the rack around just to see the routing (as shown in the
screen below). This name also appears in Live in the Reason MIDI device list. To make a Template, set up a
Reason Song the way you’d like the Template to appear, then save it as something memorable. Then, open
the Preferences, and switch to the General page. In the Default Song section, choose Custom, then click the
Folder icon and navigate to the Song you saved.
Published in SOS September 2009
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
113 / 92
Reason To Record
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason To Record
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS November 2009
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The Song Remains The Same
Mix Rescue
Part Exchange
We help you to bring your old Reason songs into
the Record era.
Simon Sherbourne
t’s something of a new dawn for Reason users, as Propellerhead’s fully
fledged music production package Record is now out. If you’ve not been
following developments, you can get up to speed by reading the review in
last month’s SOS.
The first question facing most of us who’ve added Record to our Reason
setup is what to do with existing Reason songs. First, a little background.
Record without Reason offers audio recording, some basic instruments, a
superior mixer, and the same effects found in Reason — all in a Rack-based
environment that works in almost exactly the same way as Reason. Reason
can be added to this package to provide its extensive range of instruments.
The main thing to get your head around is the way in which Reason
integrates with Record. Rather than running both applications and linking them
by Rewire (as you would when using Reason with any other DAW), all of
Reason’s devices actually appear inside Record if you have Reason installed.
You don’t need to run Reason at all: just have Reason activated on the same
account as Record.
The Song Remains The Same
Record can open Reason songs directly, provided that you have an activated
copy of Record (if you are in Demo mode, you can’t open songs). If you open
a .rsn file in Record and hit Play, you’ll hear what sounds just like your old song
in Reason. Great, we’re done here... except there’s actually a bit more to be
said about it, and a lot more you can do to get your existing project to benefit
from Record.
Take a look at the screens above. These show the same Reason song file
opened in Record (left), then Reason. The Sequencer at the bottom looks very
much the same, and retains all the details of your song. The section in the
middle is the rack, and contains all the devices and cabling from your Reason
song. If you had anything happening in Regroove in Reason, it is retained, as
Record also features the Regroove mixer. The real difference (other than the
fact that you can now add audio tracks to your song) is the Main Mixer at the top of the screen.
Notice that the rack area has retained the mixer from Reason. Reason’s mixer (the ‘Remix 14:2’) exists as a
device in Record, but is separate from the new Main Mixer. Just like Reason, Record has a Hardware Interface
device which allows you to cable signals from the rack to physical outputs (the big difference from Reason, of
course, is that this also has inputs). If you were to plug the main 14:2 mixer from your Reason song into this
device, you’d essentially be in exactly the same situation as you were in Reason.
However, by default your main Reason mixer is routed to Record’s Main Mixer, via a stereo channel. To bring
the full benefit of Record to your song, you need to forget about the old 14:2 Reason mixer, and re-route all your
instruments through separate channels in this vastly superior mixer. That is what we’ll spend the rest of this
article doing.
Before proceeding, it’s important to understand how Record’s mixer hooks into the rack. Unlike all previous
Reason devices, the mixer doesn’t exist as a single, fixed-format object that you can cable things into. As in
other DAWs, the Main Mixer view is a separate entity from the rack, with mixer channels that are created as
required. However, connections to and from the mixer do appear in the rack in modular form. Each input
channel has its own rack device, where connections can be made to other devices. The Master section of the
mixer also has a Rack device.
Unfortunately there’s no automatic way to reconnect all your instruments from
the old mixer to the new one, so it must be done manually. In our example, the
first instrument in the Reason song appears as ‘Vocoder’ in the 14:2 mixer.
This is a pad from a NNXT sampler, routed through a Vocoder. To route this
to the new mixer we first need to make a new mixer channel. Right-click on the
Vocoder, and choose Create / Mix Channel. A new channel will appear in the
mixer pane, and an associated rack object will be created under the vocoder.
(Keeping these channel racks next to their sources keeps the cabling tidier
round the back).
Each channel in the new mixer
has its own rack device where
connections are made.
At the back of the rack, the vocoder is connected to input 1 on the old 14:2 mixer. In the screen above I’ve
reconnected to the stereo inputs on the new mix channel, and the pad now appears in Record’s mixer, as you
can see in the screen below. Did you notice two cool Record features? Firstly, the naming of the mixer channel
is handled more intelligently: it’s automatically given the name of the source instrument instead of the effect that
is in between them. Secondly, the new Reduce Cable Clutter mode dims cables not associated with the
selected devices.
Mix Rescue
Using the above method you can re-route all your instruments through the main
mixer, but you’ll have lost your balance and any send effects. The fader levels
can be reset easily enough, although there’s no simple way to get exactly the
same values because the old mixer used a value scale of 0-127, while the
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Reason To Record
new grown-up mixer uses decibels. As a reference the 0dB point on the old
mixer is 100. Likewise, pan was measured as -64 to +63, but is now
displayed as -100 to +100. If you used the EQ controls on the 14:2 mixer,
these will need to be recreated using the new channel EQ — which is like
going from sitting on a bucket to an expensive leather armchair.
Disconnecting from Reason’s mixer will mean you’ve probably lost some
reverb and delay effects that you’d set up on sends. In the example project,
there was a RV7000 reverb on send 1, which was being used by several
channels, including the pad we reconnected. This reverb needs to be
connected to the new mixer, and this is done by simply dragging cables that
connect the reverb to the old mixer’s Aux section up to the FX Send and FX
Return jacks on the Master Section.
To add some of this reverb to a channel, you have to activate the
corresponding send by clicking its button and then setting the right level. The
sends default to -12dB, so you’ll hear something as soon as you press the
The old song’s sampler track
re-patched into the new Record
Main Mixer.
Things get slightly more complicated if you had automated any mixer
parameters in the Reason song. Unfortunately, with the exception of mutes,
you can’t simply copy the old automation to the new mixer, because the
parameters do not have compatible data ranges (the new mixer uses much
higher resolution). If you do want to copy across mute automation, you’ll need
to right-click on the appropriate channel’s rack objects, and choose Create
Track for ‘channel name’. Then right-click the new sequencer track for the
channel and choose Parameter Automation... From the list, enable Mutes. You
will now be able to copy mute automation from the old mixer’s sequencer track
to the new track. Use Alt+Shift to copy and drag automation clips while
restraining horizontal motion.
For all other mixer parameters you will either need to recreate the
automation, or leave a copy of the old mixer in the signal path. Although this
might be a temporary nuisance, the rewards you’ll get from the brilliant EQ,
Dynamics and Bus Compressor in the Record mixer mean it’s well worth
making the move.
Sends must be activated in the
Record mixer.
Part Exchange
What if you only want to use part of a Reason song in Record? For example, you might have a particular
group of devices and tracks in a Reason song that you want to bring into a Record project. You can’t open
Reason at the same time as Record, so it’s not as simple as copying and pasting things across. No
problem: open the Reason song in Record (you can have multiple Record projects open at once) and copy
across what you need. If it’s just a configuration of devices you want to import, an elegant solution is to save
the devices into a Combinator patch in Reason, then open that patch in Record.
Published in SOS November 2009
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
115 / 92
Reason: Productivity Boosts
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason: Productivity Boosts
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS January 2010
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Record Corner
Wot, No Keypad?
Boost your Reason productivity with indispensable
keyboard shortcuts that make everyday jobs
quicker and easier.
Robin Bigwood
’ve always loved Propellerheads’ approach to software design, but navigating a huge Reason rack and
editing in the sequencer can often feel annoyingly slow and labour-intensive, requiring endless fiddly
clicking, dragging and scrolling with the mouse. It doesn’t have to be like this, though. A few well-chosen
keyboard shortcuts can achieve a great deal, allowing you to work faster and smarter, and look great in front of
friends or clients! I’d suggest putting the following into practice a few at a time, while you’re working on a song.
These are just about the most useful, fundamental keyboard shortcuts of the lot, and they’re all conveniently
based around the numeric keypad.
The ‘stop’ shortcut has some hidden abilities: hitting it twice stops playback and takes the wiper back to your
previous start position, which is very handy if you’re having to repeatedly jump back to rehearse a section or
gather alternative takes. Hit it a third time and it places the wiper at the start of your song. Also, check out how
the fast forward and rewind shortcuts work. Hold either down for more than a second or two, and the playback
wiper goes really zooming off, making it quick and easy to relocate just a few bars, or a hundred.
The clutch of loop-related shortcuts is really handy for the familiar task of building up an arrangement while
playback cycles over a short section. But loop start and end indicators are good for general location tasks too.
Turn off the loop, place the ‘L’ and ‘R’ loop start and end indicators at some important places you’re working on
in your song, and the keypad 1 and 2 keys give instant access to them with a single keystroke.
Shortcuts for navigating Reason’s environment can save time and keep your
workspace clear and organised (see table opposite top). The Maximise rack
command actually works like a toggle, so hit it again to return to the familiar
‘split pane’ view. If you tend to work with the rack and sequencer separated,
the same shortcut selects the rack instead of maximising it. OS X users might
need to watch that F8 shortcut — so see the end of the ‘Record Corner’ box
for more on this.
As well as being used for their
intended purpose, as loop
boundaries, Reason’s loop
indicators can also act as
locate points.
The ‘Create’ shortcuts are great. Instead of always choosing a default instrument or effect from the Create
menu (or from a right-click contextual menu), and then laboriously mousing to its patch-selection controls, try the
Command/Ctrl ‘I’ and ‘F’ shortcuts instead. Reason pops up a patch-browser dialogue box, in which the Tab
key jumps the ‘focus’ between the main patch column, the Search field, Locations and Favorites. You can use
the up/down arrow keys to select list items, and the right and left arrows to move up and down through patch
folders in the patch column. When you’ve found a patch you like, the Return key loads it. Voila! An instrument or
effect, quickly created, without a mouse-click in earshot.
For an existing device, you can do something similar. In the rack, select it by
clicking, or by moving the focus to it using the up-down arrow keys, then hit
Command-B (Mac) or Ctrl-B (Windows). If you’re working with a track in the
sequencer, hit Command-1 then Command-B on Mac, or Ctrl-1 and Ctrl-B on
Windows, for super-fast patch access.
There are some devices that you can’t create from a keyboard shortcut —
things like the Mixers, the Matrix sequencer, and the Spider merger/splitters,
which are neither instruments nor effects. For these, a right click (or Ctrl-click
for single-button Mac mouse users) and then a choice from the Create
submenu is the quickest way forward. This technique is also essential when
you need to create any device while overriding Reason’s usual behaviour.
Shortcuts allow instruments and
effects to be quickly created
without the use of the mouse.
Say you’ve got a Redrum pattern that you want to pass through Thor’s Ladder filter. Normally, a new instance
of Thor will result in a corresponding sequencer track being created, and automatic routing of its outputs into
your mixer, ready for use. But here neither is required, as Thor is simply going to be used like a glorified effects
unit. So as you choose ‘Thor Polysonic Synthesizer’ from the Create menu (or contextual menu), hold down two
key modifiers (Shift and Option on the Mac, Shift and Alt on Windows) to prevent the usual automatic routing
and track creation from occurring. The Thor device then appears in the rack completely unconnected — at
which point you can view the rear of the rack and re-patch as required.
The ‘fold all devices’ shortcut is invaluable whenever your rack is starting to
get unmanageable. You can then unfold just the devices you’re working with, to
keep things really clear. The final two shortcuts in the table do what they say on
the tin, and the ‘increase adjustment resolution’ key modifier is great for really
smooth, slow filter sweeps, amongst other things.
I always think that learning zoom shortcuts is absolutely essential, and in
Reason they really make sense, being associated with the +/- keys. Tool
shortcuts are nicely done too, the tool-selection buttons in the sequencer
window being a constant reminder of their QWERTY key shortcuts.
There are some hidden ‘tool toggles’ too. Hold down the Command (Mac) or
Ctrl (Windows) key while any tool is selected, and you’ll get its most useful
counterpart. For example, the arrow, erase and razor tools toggle with the
pencil tool. The magnify and hand tools toggle with each other, allowing rapid
navigation around track lanes.
Here, Thor was created while
holding down the ‘Create
unrouted device’ and ‘Override
track-creation for device’
modifier keys. That made it
appear in the rack
unconnected, and without a
sequencer track, allowing it to
be quickly hooked up to treat
the output of the Redrum drum
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Reason: Productivity Boosts
machine, modular synth-style.
There’s one other useful toggle: whenever the Magnify tool is selected,
holding the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows) makes it zoom out rather
than in.
Reason’s six tools can be
selected with the QWERTY
keys on your keyboard.
Record Corner
While this column is devoted to Reason, and will stay that way for the
foreseeable future, I can’t ignore the elephant in the room: Record is with us,
and it’s big! I’m hoping to include a ‘Record Corner’ every month, if possible,
covering news and techniques specific to that application.
To kick off, and sticking with the general thrust this month, here’s the skinny
on keyboard shortcuts in Record. The great news is that they’re nearly all the
same as in Reason, so almost everything I’ve mentioned in this month’s
column works great! There are just a few differences and additions:
Maximise Mixer, Rack and Sequencer commands have dedicated F-keys:
F5, F6 and F7 respectively (you did find those little yellow stickers in your
Record box, didn’t you?).
F4 opens Record’s handy on-screen piano keyboard.
Command-T (Mac) or Ctrl-T (Windows) creates a new audio track.
Mac owners watch out, though! By default, many recent Apple computers have the F-keys assigned to
specific operating system tasks printed on the key tops, so to get them (or Reason’s F8) to work in Record
without having to hold down the ‘fn’ key each time, go to System Preferences in the Apple menu, and click
Keyboard & Mouse. In the Keyboard tab, tick the F-keys option box. While you’re there, click the Keyboard
Shortcuts tab and un-tick (or reassign) the OS-level shortcuts for ‘Turn VoiceOver on or off’ and ‘Spaces’.
Some pretty wild things can happen if you don’t!
Wot, No Keypad?
For laptop users, the sad fact is that most Reason transport shortcuts (and some others) are unavailable,
unless you’ve got some sort of embedded keypad doing double duty with your other keys. You can, of
course, add a USB keypad — I always take one with me when I use my MacBook outside the studio.
Otherwise there’s not much left: the space bar stops and starts playback, you go into record with CommandReturn (Mac) or Ctrl-Return (Windows), and zoom horizontally with the ‘G’ and ‘H’ keys.
Stop, return to previous
Go to song start
. (or ,)
Fast Forward
Set loop start
Drag indicator, or Option-click in ruler
Drag indicator, or Ctrl-click in
Set loop end
Drag indicator, or Command-click in
Drag indicator, or Alt-click in ruler
Toggle loop on/off
Go to loop start
Go to loop end
Click on/off
9, or C
9, or C
Change tempo
+, -
+, -
View front/rear of rack
Maximise (or select detached)
Show/hide cables
Show/hide Tool window
Create instrument
Create effect
Create unrouted device
Shift + create device
Shift + create device
Override track-creation for device Option + create device
Alt + create device
Fold/unfold all devices
Option + click fold triangle on
Alt + click fold triangle on
Reset parameter to default value
Command + click knob/fader
Ctrl + click knob/fader
Increase adjustment resolution
Shift + drag knob/fader
Shift + drag knob/fader
Maximise (or select detached)
Select track
Up-down arrow keys
Up-down arrow keys
Toggle Arrange/Edit view
Shift Tab
Shift Tab
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Reason: Productivity Boosts
Horizontal zoom
Command ‘+’ and ‘-’ (keypad)
Ctrl ‘+’ and ‘-’ (keypad)
Vertical zoom
Shift-Command ‘+’ and ‘-’
Shift-Control ‘+’ and ‘-’
Fold/unfold all tracks
Option + click fold triangle
Alt + click fold triangle
Follow song (autoscroll)
Quantize selected notes
Turn grid snap on/off
Arrow tool
Pencil tool
Erase tool
Razor tool
Magnify tool
Hand tool
Published in SOS January 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
118 / 92
Reason: Delaying Tactics
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason: Delaying Tactics
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS February 2010
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Multi-tap Delays
Analogue & Tape Delays
Modulated Effects
Inserts & Sends
Build sophisticated multi-tap and modulated delay
treatments using Reason’s flexible devices.
Robin Bigwood
hen it comes to effects processing, Reason and Record’s ‘closed’ design, which doesn’t admit any
third-party plug-ins, can leave them looking a little short in a few areas. I pick my words carefully here,
though, as often there’s phenomenal flexibility if you only know where to look, or how to achieve it. So
with that in mind, let’s look at an area in which the Propellerhead applications can initially appear a touch
undercooked: delays.
You want a simple delay/echo effect on a device? Easy: with only the DDL1 Digital Delay Line to choose
from, just select the device, create the delay, then use its relatively few controls to adjust the effect. The Unit
button switches between absolute delay times in milliseconds and tempo-locked effects specified in numbers
of steps. The step length is either a 16th note or an eighth-note triplet, which covers all bases. The Feedback
control effectively sets how many echoes you get, and the only unexpected parameter is Pan, which steers the
delayed signal (but not the dry signal) left or right in the stereo field, assuming you’re using a stereo output.
So far, so simple. The trouble is that there aren’t any obvious ways to go
further and produce multi-tap or ping-pong effects, use filtering (which could
allow old-school ‘analogue’ and ‘tape’ style delays), or create richly modulated
effects. But they’re all achievable, and here’s how.
The simple, but rather limited,
DDL1 device.
Multi-tap Delays
It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but for the more complex delays, don’t use DDL1, but instead create an RV7000
Advanced Reverb and open its Remote Programmer. Using the top-left soft knob, switch the ‘reverb’ algorithm
to Multi Tap. Now you’ve got a much more sophisticated delay, with up to four separate delay channels or
‘taps’. The tap controls are the four right-hand soft knobs. The top one chooses which tap you’re adjusting, then
the three below dial in the delay time (again in 16ths or eighth-note triplets) plus the level and pan position for
that tap. Rotate the Edit Select knob fully clockwise and there’s a final ‘Repeat Tap’ parameter, which controls
the repeat (think ‘echo’) time for all four taps.
For clarity, when setting up from scratch I’d recommend using a 50/50 dry/wet balance and working on one
tap at a time. You can do this by quickly setting other Tap Levels to -infinity. You might then want to try out
something like this stereo eighth-note ‘ping-pong’ effect: First, ensure that Tempo Sync is on, then make the
following parameter settings:
Tap 1: Tap Delay 2/16, Tap Level 4dB, Tap Pan -64. This is the ‘ping’ bit of the delay. The 2/16 delay
means two 16th notes (equivalent to an eighth note).
Tap 2: Tap Delay 4/16, Tap Level 4dB, Tap Pan +63. Here’s the ‘pong’, another eighth-note later.
Tap 3 and 4: Set Tap Level to -infinity, as these are not required.
Repeat Tap: Set Repeat Time to 4/16. This repeats taps one and two every quarter note.
Now the Decay knob (which would be called ‘Feedback’ on a dedicated delay unit) controls how many left-right
repeats you get. Also check out the Diffusion knob. For a true delay, set it to zero, but try higher values for a
delay that seems to merge into a reverb — often a nice effect.
Analogue & Tape Delays
To emulate simpler analogue and tape delays, with their distinctive echoes
that become progressively more limited in frequency bandwidth, try RV7000’s
Echo algorithm. It’s just like a single tap of the Multi Tap algorithm, and is
consequently even easier to work with.
Reason/Record’s best and
most flexible delays are lurking
inside the RV7000 reverb unit.
Try an Echo Time of 320ms (Tempo Sync Off), and set Diffusion to zero. Set the HF Damp (high-frequency
damping) parameter to around 80, and turn the Decay (Feedback) knob up so that you can hear the effect over
a number of echoes. It makes quite an effective analogue delay sound, with the echoes gradually becoming
more muted. But also try setting HF Damp at zero, and raising LF Damp (on the top-right soft knob) to about
800Hz. Now the bottom falls out of the sound and it’s another fine vintage-style treatment, which reminds me of
that Paris walk scene, with piano soundtrack, in the movie Diva. Incidentally, the Spread parameter only makes
a difference if you use some Diffusion, which gives a smoother effect, like quasi-reverb. If you need finer control
over delay or ‘echo time’ than the default 10ms increments, hold down the Shift key as you adjust.
Modulated Effects
Some of history’s great hardware delays, like the Lexicon PCM42, for example, gain a great deal of flexibility
by allowing their delay times to be modulated by onboard LFOs. As the delay time changes, the sample buffer
ends up either squeezed or stretched, and subsequent delays appear at a different pitch.
Reason/Record’s semi-modular interface would seem ideal for quickly patching up the same effect, but
neither DDL1 or RV7000 have dedicated CV inputs for delay time. It’s still possible to rig using a Combinator’s
additional modulation options, though, as this shimmery ‘wow and flutter’ tape-style delay demonstrates.
1. Select the device to which you’d like to apply the delay effect, and create a DDL1. If you haven’t disabled
Auto-Routing, the DDL1 should get patched in appropriately. Set dry/wet balance to around 50/50 and Unit to
‘MS’ (milliseconds).
2. Select the DDL1, right-click (or Control-click on a one-button mouse) and choose ‘Combine’ to place it in a
Combinator. Again, the patching should be automatic.
3. Click in the empty lower section of the Combinator’s device rack, and a red ‘insert’ bar should appear.
Right-click or Control-click and create a Malström synth, while holding Shift and Command (Mac) or Shift and
Alt (Windows), to prevent automatic routing occurring and a sequencer track being created.
4. Now we need Malström’s ‘Mod A’ LFO to modulate DDL1 delay time. At the rack’s rear, drag a cable from
Malström’s Mod Output: Mod A socket to the Combinator’s Modulation Input: Rotary 1 socket.
119 / 92
Reason: Delaying Tactics
5. Viewing the front of the rack again, click the Combinator’s Show Programmer button. Then, in the left-hand
Key Mapping section, click on ‘Delay’ in the Device list (see screen below).
6. Here’s the nifty bit. In the right-hand Modulation Routing section (which
should now also say ‘Delay’ in its Device field), click on a Source pop-up
menu and choose ‘Rotary 1’. Then, in the neighbouring Target pop-up menu,
currently empty, choose ‘Delay Time (ms)’. You should see DDL1’s time
display spring to life.
What you’ve done is make the Rotary 1 knob into a go-between for the Malström LFO and DDL1’s delay time.
Try playing your device now, though, and you might get a shock! We need to
adjust the effect so that it’s a lot more subtle.
7. To set the basic delay time you want, in milliseconds, go to the Modulation
Routing matrix once more, and click and drag the value in the Min: column, in
the same row as in step six above. Try 250 for now, and hold down the Shift
key as you drag, to be more precise (see above).
8. In the Max: column, choose a value fairly close to 250, perhaps 256.
Play something through the Delay, and immediately you should be able to
hear the ‘chorus-ey’ echoes. You can adjust the speed of the shimmer with
Malström’s Mod A rate control, and its depth by increasing the difference
between those Min and Max values, although the basic delay time will always
correspond with the ‘Min’ value. You might also want to try some of Mod A’s
other waveforms. Some of the more complex shapes can create unlikely but
interesting effects if you set Min and Max delay times very low (between one
and 30, say), use a good amount of feedback on the DDL1, and set
Malström’s Mod A Sync on, to get it going in time with the transport.
By using a synth LFO in
conjunction with a Combinator’s
modulation matrix, you can
easily set up Lexicon-like
modulated delays.
Sadly, this same technique doesn’t work in RV7000, as some clever aspect
of its design prevents the classic pitch-change behaviour from occurring. Boo!
It would have been nice to have those additional filtering options available.
Next month, we’ll look at a way of adding ‘selective delays’, such as on final
notes or words of phrases, and also consider some ways of mimicking ‘glitch’
or granular effects.
Inserts & Sends
The many waveforms available
I’ve described all the delay treatments this month as if they’re being applied
in Malström’s LFOs can help
insert-style, to a single device. But you could just as easily patch them into the you to create subtle or strong
Mixer, as a send-type effect that all channels can access via their aux sends.
flavours of modulated delay.
Just select a Mixer 14:2 in Reason (or the Master Section in Record) instead
of a specific device, before creating your DDL1 or RV7000. Then set its dry/wet control to 100 percent wet.
Published in SOS February 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
120 / 92
Creating Unusual Effects In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Creating Unusual Effects In Reason
Unusual Effects
Selective Delays In Record
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS March 2010
: Close window
Print article
Reason’s flexible sound-design environment opens
up the possibility of unusual and exotic effects
Robin Bigwood
n last month’s workshop on ways of creating delay effects in Reason, we didn’t have space to cover
producing ‘selective delay’ — a perennially useful echo effect that’s only audible on a few notes in a phrase.
So, as promised in that workshop, I’m returning to the subject, as well as looking at more unusual
The key to creating selective delay is to patch the delay to your mixer as a send effect, and then automate the
the aux send level of the device to which you want to apply the selective delays. In this example, we’ll put delays
on individual notes in a Thor riff (see box opposire for Record details):
1. In Reason, select the Remix mixer the Thor is patched into, then right-click, select Create, and choose DDL1
Digital Delay Line. As long as you hadn’t already got four aux-routed effects, Reason will have patched it in
appropriately and you’ll see the DDL1’s label on one of the aux return scribble-strips (see screen, right).
2. Next, set up the DDL1 to give you the delay you want: use ‘MS’ for absolute delay times in milliseconds, and
‘Steps’ for tempo-locked effects. Turn up the Thor channel’s Aux send 1 knob to send audio to it and audition
the effect.
3. Now you can think about recording (ie. automating) the movement of that knob, turning it up just for the notes
on which you want the delay effect. But to record automation data, a device needs a track, and by default
Remix mixers don’t get one. If yours lacks one, select the Remix again, right-click and choose ‘Create Track for
[mixer name]’.
4. Now for the creative bit. With the new mixer track selected (and its squiggly Record Enable Parameter
Automation button enabled) in the sequencer, hit Record and nudge up the aux send knob on the Thor channel
at the appropriate moments.Your mixer track gets a new Parameter Automation lane and clip, which you can
edit later with Reason’s editing tools, if you wish. It’s also really easy to copy and paste that clip elsewhere in
your song if needed.
While this sort of dynamic, selective delay can have lots of uses, don’t rule out
doing something similar with reverb. Very subtle but effective extra emphasis
can be given to certain notes (and, in Record, words) by momentarily adding
or cutting reverb. You can also try the startling effect of adding occasional
dabs of a reverb that has an infinitely long decay time, which you get when you
turn up RV7000’s Decay knob to a value of 127. The effect is to ‘freeze’ an
otherwise short-lived musical event, and it’s a great little post-production or
remix-style effect. Be aware, though, that while turning up the aux send to the
reverb starts the freeze, you can only end it by briefly lowering the reverb’s
Decay time, so you need both knobs to hand. For precise control, write the
automation data for the mixer aux and reverb decay directly in their track
lanes, with the mouse.
Here’s my selective delay setup
for a Thor riff. Notice the
sequence track for the mixer,
and its aux 1 send automation
Unusual Effects
The reverb ‘freeze’ I described above can definitely be classed as one of the more ‘out there’ effects in music
production. If ‘out there’ is your bag, on the face of it Reason and Record can appear lacking, but with a bit of
lateral thinking and creative routing they can pull off a range of interesting and potentially very weird-sounding
treatments. Here are some I’ve been trying recently.
Glitch-style Stutters
One particular type of glitch treatment revolves around disrupting otherwise sustained, continuous tones with
sudden changes in level — preferably random-sounding ones. You can achieve something like this by utilising
a mixer channel’s ‘Level CV In’ socket, which puts its level fader under external control. The Record equivalent
is to use the Level ‘CV In’ socket on the rear of a Mix or Audio Track device. Connect a synth’s LFO to it and
you have a range of options. For example, Subtractor’s LFO 1 has a random (sample and hold) setting (see
above), while Malström’s Mods have several unusual patterns. You can also connect a Matrix sequencer’s
Curve CV output, of course, and design your own patterns. Bipolar mode (on the rear panel) works best.
Harmonic Shifting
BV512 isn’t just a vocoder: it also has an Equaliser mode, which disables its
modulation input and turns it into a straightforward insert-type effect. You can
dial in individual cuts and boosts for each of its frequency bands, and sculpt
EQ curves by clicking and dragging over the Frequency Band Level Adjust
display. What’s cool is that if you give BV512 a sequencer track, individual
band adjustments can be recorded as automation, and the musical result is
strangely different from a conventional EQ, especially when you adjust the
upper bands in 32-band or FFT (512-band) mode. If you like the effect, you
can take it into rhythmic territory by flipping the rack round and patching in CV
modulation sources (such as synth LFOs) to the top few CV In sockets.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s a Shift control that moves the EQ band
frequencies up or down en masse. You can record automation for this, of
course, but you can modulate it too, courtesy of the Shift socket on the back.
Patching in a simple sine-sweep LFO generates phaser-like movement in the
Here the level of an NN19 pad
sound is being modulated by
Subtractor’s LFO 1, set to
‘sample and hold’
Malström Shaping
Malström is a dark horse, and it has some unique capabilities in the form of its
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Creating Unusual Effects In Reason
Malström is a dark horse, and it has some unique capabilities in the form of its
Shaper/Filter combo, which can treat external audio, thanks to the rear-panel
audio inputs. For example, try taking a stereo output from a Redrum or Dr Rex
and hooking it up to the two Malström inputs. It looks as though the left and
right channels will pass through different filters, and that’s one possibility, but
the precise routing is actually down to the front-panel controls. For example, if
you want the stereo output to pass first through the Shaper, then Filter A (a
Route any audio source you
very useful duo), just disable Filter B on the front panel, but enable the Shaper, like into Malström’s shaper and
Filter A and the ‘doorway’ from Filter B into the Shaper. .
filters, and hold on tight...
The Shaper can add various kinds of saturation and distortion, but the Filter
is where it’s really at. As well as familiar band-pass and low-pass modes, it
also has two varieties of comb filter. Try these with quite high resonance and
then sweep the filter frequency: it’s a similar (but more controllable) effect to
Intriguing effects can be
using a very short delay with high feedback. The AM option is a totally different created by automating BV512
ball game: it’s actually a ring modulator. Ring modulators need two inputs, so
band adjustments in Equaliser
your audio becomes one of them, and a sine wave generated by the filter (and mode.
whose pitch is controlled with the ‘Freq’ knob) is the other. What come out are
two new signals, whose frequencies are the sum of and the difference
between the two inputs. The resonance knob now acts as a mix level control,
balancing the input (clean) and output (effected) signals. Don’t forget, too, that
you’ve got Malström’s superb Mod LFOs ready and waiting to apply
modulation mayhem!
Route any audio source you
like into Malström’s shaper and
filters, and hold on tight...
The yellow buttons enable
different parts of the Shaper
and Filter architecture, and the
signal flow between them.
‘Spread’ controls stereo
separation of the two filter
Selective Delays In Record
The underlying idea in Record is the same as in Reason, but the detail differs. Right-click in the main Mixer
section and choose Create Send FX / DDL1. Then set up and audition the DDL1, as explained in the main
text. Don’t forget to actually click the ‘number button’ for the aux send, to enable it.
Now, if you’re about to record aux-send automation for an audio track,
select the track in the sequencer, and make sure the Record Enable
Parameter Automation button is enabled too. Hit record, and go right
ahead. The automation clip will appear in the track lane.
However, if you’re recording aux send (or any other mix-channel parameter) automation for a synth or
sampler, you need to take the fairly unintuitive step of selecting its Mix device in the rack, right-clicking and
choosing ‘Create track for [device name]’. Then select that new track — you’ve now essentially got two
tracks for one instrument — and make sure the squiggly red button is selected once more, before going
ahead and recording your automation.
The need to create a separate Mix device track for an instrument before you can record automation for its
mixer channel is one of the clumsiest aspects of Record 1.0. It makes some mixdowns into very fiddly affairs,
and we can only hope that Propellerhead find a way of rolling mixer parameter automation data directly into
the device’s sequencer track lanes.
Published in SOS March 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
122 / 92
Comping Tips in Reason and Record
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Comping Tips in Reason and Record
Reason Notes & Techniques
Published in SOS April 2010
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Technique : Reason Notes
Notes & Queries
Sound Swap
Multi Effects
Audio Alternatives In Record
The ability to quickly create and compare
alternative takes is very useful. We look at how it’s
done in Reason and Record.
Robin Bigwood
hen you’re putting together an arrangement, in Reason or any other
sequencer, you’re faced with ongoing choices about what,
musically, and in production terms, is going to work out best in the
long run. Knowing exactly what’ll work in advance is a real art form, and maybe
the preserve of just a few musical geniuses. But for the rest of us, what
definitely helps is having options — perhaps gathering multiple musical ideas,
trying them out on different sounds and devices, and equally being able to
compare effect and processing treatments. Luckily, Reason (and Record) are
well equipped for this.
Notes & Queries
Here’s the scenario: you’re recording with Reason’s Loop turned on, and
you’re improvising a new part to get a good fit with the rest of your
arrangement. Rather than feeling you’ve got to do a ‘one-take wonder’, why
not gather multiple ideas or performances that you can choose between later?
To do this, after you’ve finished your first record pass, click the New Alt button
in the transport section, or hit the full stop key — the one that’s not on your
numeric keypad. You don’t necessarily have to stop recording to do this, by
the way. Reason responds by creating a new record-enabled track lane, and
automatically muting the clip in the first lane. You’re now set to record your
alternative take (hence ‘Alt’), so go ahead and do it, and repeat this process
as many times as you like until you’ve squeezed your creative lemon dry.
In this sequence I’ve used the
New Alt function to gather a
handful of tracks for the
‘upright bass’ track, and I’ve
named them to help me decide
later on the feel I want for this
little writing session.
Get in to the habit of building
your effects chains inside
Combinators and then save
and recall of different settings,
or even radically different
treatment and device combos,
becomes really easy.
Now you’ve got some choices. To listen back to your alternative ideas or
performances, unmute them one by one: in the Arrange view, just select a clip
and hit the ‘M’ key to mute or unmute. You can also name track lanes
descriptively, as I’ve done in the screen on the right, to help with identifying
what’s on them if you have to revisit the Song at a later date. Just double-click their names to get a pop-up text
If you decide to keep one of your takes, leaving it unmuted might be all you need to do. However, if your track
is a bit more complicated, with best takes here and there across many lanes, it could be worth making a
‘master’ lane, and putting all the best material into that:
1. This time, with your track selected, click the ‘+ Lanes’ button near the top left of the Arrange window to create
yet another new, empty lane.
2. Go through your Song, auditioning, and dragging or copying the best clips into the master lane. Keeping grid
snap enabled will help you not to lose the original clip location and timing.
3. Any time you like, use a clip’s trim handles, or grab the razor tool (keyboard shortcut: R) to edit as you go
4. Finally, mute (or even delete) all your other lanes, and admire your hard work.
This method is, of course, otherwise known as ‘comping’, and it goes to show that although Reason doesn’t
have a dedicated comp editor, the fact that it does have multiple track lanes makes the technique perfectly
Sound Swap
Most sequencing applications allow you to easily chop and change which
instruments their MIDI tracks are playing, but not so Reason, amazingly. Or
rather, it used to be possible, until Reason 4 was introduced — tracks had a
little pop-up menu, which could be used to virtually connect them to any of the
devices in the rack. In Reason 4, this feature disappeared...
These buttons, at the top left of
Record’s comp editor, switch
between Single and Comp
So what if you’ve got a Subtractor track, say, and you wish you could try it out
on a Thor instead? It’s not actually that hard to do: create the new Thor device in the rack, and a track will be
created for it in the sequencer. If you had multiple note lanes in your Subtractor, you’ll need to create the same
number in the Thor track. In the Arrange view, make sure both tracks are visible, then select all the clips on the
Subtractor note lane(s). Try zooming all the way out horizontally first, to make this easier. Now click one of the
clips, and hold down Option (Mac) or Control (Windows), while dragging it to the corresponding lane in the Thor
track. This duplicates the clips.
Now, to hear only the Thor, mute the entire Subtractor track. This technique is also the key to layering sounds
Multi Effects
So far we’ve looked at comparing takes and trying out different devices with
existing material. But is it also possible to easily compare different effects
treatments? The answer’s yes, and the key to it is the Combinator.
Let’s say I want to do an A/B (or even an A/B/C!) comparison of some
different effects chains, applied to one of my instrument devices. Here’s a way
to go:
1. Create an effects chain for an instrument (or the mixer) in the normal way,
and dial in your preferred settings.
In Comp Mode you use the
Razor tool to define which
segments of each take you
want to form your comp. Here a
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Comping Tips in Reason and Record
2. Now select all the effects devices, right-click, and choose Combine.
want to form your comp. Here a
fade is about to be created,
after selecting a comp
boundary handle.
3. Reason encloses the entire chain in a Combinator and does the necessary
repatching. Now you can save it as a single unit: click on the Save Patch
button at the top right of the Combinator and give it a descriptive name. A good place to save it is the same
location as the Song you’re working on.
4. Back in the rack, and in the Combinator once more, try out some other settings. You could also go crazy and
use new effects devices, or delete existing ones. To start from scratch again, with different devices, right-click
the Combinator and choose Initialize Patch. Then build a new chain inside the Combinator.
5. With a new treatment dialled in, Save again, this time with a different name. Repeat this process as many
times as you need to.
Now, to switch between your different treatments, just simply click the Combinator’s patch name display, and
choose which you’d like — it should load up in a jiffy.
Audio Alternatives In Record
Reason and Record’s sequencers are very flexible, but they’re not without their inconsistencies. The track
lane techniques I described in the main text for Reason 4 also work perfectly in Record 1, but only for
instrument tracks. For audio tracks it’s a different matter.
If you’re working with an audio track, the New Alt button (or keyboard shortcut) is still very much operational.
But when you click it, Record creates a whole new track, complete with audio track device and mixer
channel, and mutes the previous track. Not quite the same — and there’s no way to exactly replicate
instrument track behaviour. The thinking behind this, presumably, is because Record’s audio clips
themselves can contain multiple takes, and there’s a proper comp editor for dealing with them. So here’s a
quick guide to how it all works.
First of all, to gather multiple takes, just record the same region of your sequence, into the same audio
track, a number of times. You can either manually stop and rewind between each take, or just cycle round as
many times as you like with the Loop enabled. In both cases, Record is curiously uncommunicative about
what it’s doing — it just looks like you’re piling up clips on top of one another. But when you’ve finished
recording, try selecting the audio track, and switching the sequencer to Edit mode. Suddenly all those
separate takes are revealed, in so-called Comp Rows. If you don’t see them at first, try double-clicking the
clip, and make sure you’ve enough vertical height in your sequencer window.
Then you’ve got two choices as to how you work: Single Mode or Comp Mode. You select which you prefer
by clicking the corresponding button at the top left of the audio track Edit view.
In Single mode, only the topmost take in the Comp Rows is audible. If you want an older take to be at the
top, just grab its ‘handle’, to the left of its name, and drag it to the top. Simple as that. This is a simple (if fairly
eccentric) ‘switch take’ mechanism.
In Comp mode, you make cuts in the individual takes, using the Razor tool, to assemble multiple regions
into a ‘master’ comped clip. Either click in the Comp Rows with the Razor, or drag with it to define a region. If
you want to switch takes for a segment, double-click on the matching region in a different Comp Row,
whereupon the appearance changes to confirm your selection. Remember you can also use the Razor in the
special Silence row, above the main Comp Rows, to insert segments of silence. Adjusting a segment
boundary is easy: drag its handle, or click the handle, then hit Backspace to delete it. To delete entire takes
— ones where you didn’t play anything or something went wrong — click the Comp Row’s handle at far left,
and hit backspace.
Finally, for the smoothest effects, you can fade between segments by clicking the handle that divides them,
and dragging out the smaller fade handle that appears above. If a take is a little too loud or quiet, use its
fader at the left of the Comp Row to adjust the level.
Published in SOS April 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
124 / 92
Reason / Record: Stereo Vision
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason / Record: Stereo Vision
Reason Notes & Technques
Published in SOS May 2010
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Technique : Reason Notes
Stereo Width
Comb Filtering
We show you how familiar devices can be
manipulated to create stereo effects in Reason and
Robin Bigwood
eason and Record offer a wide and varied range of audio effects, but
neither is particularly well endowed with stereo processors. We’re
going to look at how some standard devices can be re-purposed to
make up for the deficit.
Electric pianos, clean electric guitars and synths can all sound great with a
touch of auto-pan, but there’s no dedicated effect device for this. However, it’s
really easy to set up, using a synth and a single rear-panel CV connection.
To achieve it, all you need to do is modulate the mixer pan control for your
instrument or track. Start by creating a synth (a Subtractor is a fine choice),
and as it’s only going to be used as a modulation source, hold down the Shift
and Alt keys as you do, to prevent a sequencer track being created for it and
to stop automatic patching to the mixer. Viewing the rack’s rear, drag a cable
from the Subtractor’s LFO1 modulation output to the Pan CV In socket of the
mixer channel (or, in Record, the Mix or Audio Track device) for the instrument
you want to auto-pan. In the screen above, I’ve got it hooked up to the NNXT’s
mixer channel.
Auto-pan is a cinch to set up —
just use a Subtractor synth
LFO to modulate your mixer’s
pan knob.
Splitting a mono channel in two
and then delaying one ‘half’ of
it is a simple but extremely
effective pseudo-stereo
Now, viewing the front of the rack, you can set the rate of auto-pan with the
Subtractor’s LFO1 Rate knob. The Amount knob doesn’t do anything here, so if you need a deeper or
shallower effect, flip the rack again and adjust the CV knob beneath the Pan CV In socket on your mixer
channel. Of Subtractor’s LFO1 waveforms, triangle is the most useful for a conventional auto-pan, but switch to
square for that old-school Fender Rhodes treatment.
Stereo Width
Being able to control the stereo width of sources is a useful technique.
Applied to a mix, exaggerated width can add a feeling of spaciousness and
grandeur. Maybe more useful still is the ability to restrict width. This can help
individual stereo tracks like pianos, acoustic guitars and drum overheads (or
submixes) sit better in a mix, and not dominate other narrower or mono tracks
with unnatural width.
Now, there is a device for this: the MClass Stereo Imager. Propellerhead
don’t give technical details of how it works, but it’s almost certainly a Mid/Side
processor, and it allows the perceived width of a stereo signal to be widened and narrowed. With a built-in
crossover, which allows independent stereo adjustment for low- and high-frequency bands, it’s intended more
as a mastering tool, but you can use it on individual devices. To use it on an NNXT string pad, for example, just
right-click on the NNXT and choose it from the Create submenu. As long as your individual track doesn’t
include much low-frequency content, you can then turn the crossover right down (to 100Hz) and use the righthand Hi-band width knob. Otherwise, set the crossover to a higher value, and try the possibilities the dual-band
design offers, such as widening the treble but narrowing the bass, for a ‘spacious yet focused’ feel.
What the MClass Stereo Imager can’t do is widen a mono signal, but that’s
often a desirable thing to do, for pads in Subtractor (which only has a mono
output), old mono-output synth or Mellotron samples, or (in Record) acoustic
guitars and backing vocals recorded in mono. What we’re talking about is
creating ‘pseudo’ stereo, and there are techniques that can achieve this,
without slapping on a reverb. All involve splitting the mono source signal in
some way, and the tool for that job is the Spider Audio Merger and Splitter
device. Let’s look at one possible way forward, creating a pseudo-stereo
Subtractor pad.
The theory and practice of
splitting and routing a mono
source into Malström’s twin
The gist of the setup is this. We’re going to split the Subtractor’s mono output into two. One of the signals will
go to the left input of a mixer channel (or, in Record, a Mix device), and the other will feed the right input, after
picking up a short delay from a DDL1 delay. See the screen above for how that looks in practice. By
decorrelating the signals in this way we can achieve a nice sense of width. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Create a Spider Audio splitter and DDL1 with the Shift key held down, to
prevent automatic routing from occurring.
2. Patch the Subtractor’s audio output into the Spider’s ‘A (L)’ socket. Now the
four sockets to the right split off four copies.
3. Hook up one of them to a left mixer (or Mix device) input. Then hook up
another to the left input socket of the DDL1.
4. Take the DDL1’s left output and drag a cable to the right input of the mixer channel you chose in step three.
Using the DDL1’s front-panel controls, switch the time unit to MS (milliseconds) and dial in a value of about
50ms as a starting point (feel free to experiment with smaller or larger values). Make sure Feedback is at zero,
and keep Pan in the middle and the mix control to 100 percent wet. Your Subtractor pad should now have a
nice, spacious spread across the stereo image.
Comb Filtering
125 / 92
Reason / Record: Stereo Vision
Creating a stereo effect by splitting a mono feed and delaying one channel
works great for pads and other sounds with slow attacks, but is less well
suited to transient-rich sources like guitars, pianos and percussion. For these,
you can end up with an undesirable ping-pong or slap-back effect. So here’s
another, slightly more sophisticated method of creating stereo from mono that
doesn’t suffer from those problems, and can give remarkably convincing
results. It still splits the mono signal in two, but each ‘half’ is processed by
complementary comb filters, courtesy of a Malström synth. In the diagram at
the foot of the page, you can see how it looks on paper, and in the adjacent
screen how it looks patched into an audio track in Record.
The Malström’s filters set up to
process separate feeds of the
same mono source.
The real key to this technique is how you set up Malström’s filters. As the
screenshot below shows, both filters have to be enabled, by clicking the yellow tick-boxes above their names.
The Shaper module and the link from Filter B to the Shaper should be disabled. Then a good way forward is to
set both Filter A and B to ‘Comb +’, and turn Res (resonance) right down on both.
After this, it’s all about experimentation, tweaking the large Freq knobs and the smaller Spread knob at
bottom right. The comb filters are effectively taking a series of slices out of your input’s frequency spectrum,
and by using slightly different Freq settings for each filter you ensure the left and right channels sound different,
with some divergence in their phase relationship too. Some Freq values can dial in slight tone changes, but
you can achieve natural-sounding results with both set to values somewhere around 30 or 40. The Spread knob
becomes a stereo width control. Leave it fully clockwise for the full effect, or limit width by turning it down.
Comb-filter aficionados will know that more extreme effects are possible by combining filters with opposing
polarities — so one set to ‘Comb +’ and the other set to ‘Comb -’. The problem is that the ‘Comb -’ mode
applies a bass cut, but if that’s not a problem for the track or device you’re processing, feel free to try it out.
Published in SOS May 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
126 / 92
Building A Multi-Band Compressor In Reason
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Building A Multi-Band Compressor In Reason
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS June 2010
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In this article:
Multi-band Dyamics
Home Brew Compressor
One More Band
Multi-band For Record Users
Reason doesn’t have a dedicated multi-band
compressor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build
your own.
Robin Bigwood
s we’ve seen in recent Reason columns, there are some useful audio
treatments and effects that appear to be missing in Reason, but are
achievable when you know where to look — or if you think a little
outside the box. Examples include comb filtering and ring modulation,
courtesy of Malström’s filters, the multi-tap and analogue-style delay
algorithms in RV7000, and pseudo-stereo techniques via signal splitting and
short delays. This month we’re going to turn our attention to multi-band
processing with a hands-on example.
This month we go all Blue Peter
— you get to build your own
multi-band compressor, and
here’s one I prepared earlier.
Multi-band Dyamics
It’s quite surprising, I think, that neither Reason nor Record has a dedicated
multi-band dynamics processor. These are frequently employed for mastering
purposes, splitting a mix into separate frequency bands, and providing
separate compressors for each. This ensures that compression on cymbals
(which consist mostly of high frequencies) isn’t triggered every time a loud
kick-drum (predominantly low frequency) comes along, to give just one
common example. The overall outcome is much greater control over
compression with less obvious pumping and ‘surging’ than could be achieved
with a single broad-band compressor.
The wiring for the home brew
dual-band compressor
described in the main text.
So how do you get this in Reason (and Record)? Well, without too much fuss
you can have yourself a dual-band compressor, and that’s often a whole lot better than a broad-band
compressor, or nothing at all, for slapping onto a main mix. It’s possible thanks to a sneaky little technique
involving the MClass Stereo Imager device. This has a crossover that can be brought into play independently of
any stereo processing, and splits a signal into low- and high-frequency bands. Then a bit of jiggery-pokery
separates those bands into discrete audio feeds.
Home Brew Compressor
Here’s a quick walk-through of how to set up a simple dual-band compressor
for a drum loop playing in a Dr Rex, in Reason 4. To make the whole thing
neater, and recallable, we’re going to build it in a Combinator:
1. With your Dr Rex already in place, create a new Combinator. Do this by
right-clicking on the Dr Rex and the two devices will be next to each other,
which is handy.
2. View the rear of the rack and do a bit of audio re-routing. We need the Dr
Rex’s audio output patched into the Combinator’s Combi Input. The Combi
Output should then be hooked up to a mixer channel.
The front and rear of the
MClass Stereo Imager, when
set up to work as a crossover.
The combination of the frontpanel ‘Solo Lo Band’ and rearpanel ‘Hi Band’ switch setting
causes low- and highfrequency components to be
handled separately by its two
stereo outputs.
3. Now for the crossover. Make sure the Combinator’s ‘Show Devices’ button is selected. Then in the
Combinator’s Device area, currently empty, right-click with the shift key held down, and choose an MClass
Stereo Imager from the Create sub-menu. The shift key prevents it being automatically wired up.
4. Now go on and create two compressors in a similar way. For simplicity here I’m using COMP-01s, but you
could just as easily choose MClass Compressors, which have more bells and whistles.
5. We need to re-combine the signals from these two low- and high-band compressors, so in readiness for
that, create a Line Mixer 6:2, still with the shift key held down.
6. Now, a cable-fest. Patch the Combinator’s ‘To Devices’ to the Stereo Imager’s audio input, then the Stereo
Imager’s Audio Output to the L/R input of one of the compressors, and its ‘Separate Out’ to the other. Hook up
the compressors’ outputs to input channels on the Line Mixer. And finally take the Master out of the Line Mixer
to the ‘From Devices’ input on the Combinator. Phew! The results should look like the screen above.
You just built a dual-band compressor — well done! But there’s one final step,
to configure the crossover. The Stereo Imager device wasn’t strictly built for
this role, but it does a great job. The trick is to engage one of its front-panel
solo modes (in this example I chose to solo the ‘Lo Band’) and that causes its main outputs to carry only
frequencies below the ‘X-over Freq’ knob setting. But we’re also using the separate outputs, and on the rear of
the Imager there’s a switch to choose what emerges from those. In this case I chose ‘Hi Band’. So we have low
frequencies coming from the audio output, and high frequencies coming from the separate output, and the
front-panel ‘X-over Freq’ knob sets the crossover point between the two. Cunning.
That’s the last step. Now I’ve got hugely increased flexibility over the compression characteristics of my Dr
Rex loop. Whacking up the ratio on my Lo Band compressor makes the bass pump and grind, but my Hi Band
cymbals, which aren’t being compressed very much at all, still sound completely natural. Just tweaking
compressor settings makes a huge difference to the sound of the loop, and the crossover frequency knob on
the Stereo Imager allows the effect to be ‘tuned’ to include or exclude different parts of the frequency spectrum.
What’s more, the Line Mixer allows the relative levels of each band to be adjusted, acting almost like a
bass/treble EQ. After that, it’s all about experimentation, and articles like SOS’s own Multi-band workshop
( can give you some more ideas. Incidentally, the
best way to apply a multi-band compressor like this to an entire mix in Reason is to patch the Combinator that
contains it between your main 14:2 mixer and the Hardware Interface. Then everything goes through it.
127 / 92
Building A Multi-Band Compressor In Reason
One More Band
The dual-band compressor I described above is a useful thing, but how much
more useful would it be to have a three-band compressor? These allow even
more subtle and natural-sounding treatments, and can particularly keep vocals
(which are normally very much ‘mid’-band) sounding really natural while
energetic compression occurs in the low and high bands. You can also
compress just a narrow middle band of frequencies (try working outwards
from about 5kHz) to suppress sibilance when you’ve only got a whole mix to
work with.
A three-band compressor on
Such a thing is possible, by going further down the dual-band route, but you have to work hard not to get
confused! First, you use a Stereo Imager to split off low- and high-band signals as before. But you feed the
upper-band signal directly into another Stereo Imager, and its ‘X-over Freq’ control then effectively sets the
crossover point between the resulting mid-range and high bands. The Imager outputs then feed three
compressors, which are subsequently combined by a line mixer.
It’s a bit of a Heath Robinson thing to build from scratch, and to look at, and
some potential confusion surrounds the crossover frequency settings of the
two Stereo Imagers — you have to make sure the mid/high-band frequency is
set higher than the low/upper-band frequency, or you’ll get some sort of
parallel compression occurring. But actually it’s a superbly useful thing to have
around, and it’s easy to master after a minute or two. You can see how it
works in the diagram above and, in the screen below, how it appears in
Reason. Despite somewhat scary appearances, this only takes a couple of
minutes to build, and it’s well worth it.
... and wired together in
Multi-band For Record Users
If you use Record rather than Reason, and you want a bit of multi-band action, jump right in — there’s nothing
stopping you! Just remember, if you want to apply a multi-band dynamics processor to your main mix, the
best place for it is in the Insert FX section of the Master Section device. That automatically patches it in to
your master fader signal.
Published in SOS June 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
128 / 92
Reason/Record: Tooling Up
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason/Record: Tooling Up
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS July 2010
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It’s All About The Feel
Legato Legwork
Chancing It
Tool Tips
Room 1.0.1: Record Update
The Tool window is the key to some nifty
sequencer manipulation in Reason and Record.
Robin Bigwood
eason and Record helped rewrite the DAW rule book, going all-out on
photo-realistic graphical elements and doing away with the multiwindow, dialogue box-driven approach that was (and still is) the norm
for many DAWs. They make it perfectly possible to go from capturing initial
ideas to mixing your masterpiece without so much as visiting a menu, let
alone tweaking around with values in a settings window.
There are times, though, when we need a level of precision and some
additional editing facilities that just can’t be achieved visually — and this is
where Reason and Record’s Tool window comes in. It offers a range of datamanipulation features that can save you time, offer you creative possibilities,
and help manage your work.
Rather than going exhaustively through all that the Tool window offers, let’s
look at a handful of typical scenarios where it can come in handy. This will,
hopefully, give you some idea of how you can harness what it has to offer for
your own work.
It’s All About The Feel
Here’s a common situation: you’ve played in some MIDI drums from your
keyboard controller, in real time. The natural next step might well be to
quantise them for a tighter effect, and to do this you might be used to right-clicking a clip and choosing
‘Quantise Notes’ from the contextual menu, or using the Apple-K/Ctrl-K shortcut. Reason and Record’s default
quantise resolution of 16th notes is very handy and will cover many situations. But what if you need something
else, or a little more subtlety?
To do this, select the clip or notes, and go to the Tool window’s Quantise pane, where you set the basic
quantise resolution. The Amount pop-up allows you to make the effect more subtle. Choose 100 percent and
click Apply and the notes will snap absolutely to the quantise grid, computer-style. But why not try 90 percent, or
75? These settings will cause the notes to fall much nearer to where they should be in terms of time, but without
the strictness that can rob your performance of musicality and feel.
Here’s another possibility: you’ve got a piano part that has already,
somehow, been 100 percent quantised. Yes, it might be in time, but the
squeaky-clean accuracy, especially of every note of a chord playing at
precisely the same moment, can sound really artificial. You need to loosen it
up a bit, so start by selecting it, then choose an appropriate quantise setting
and enter a value of four or five in the ‘Random’ field. After you click Apply,
Reason or Record just shakes up the note timing a tiny little bit, hopefully
restoring a more human-like looseness. The sequencer uses a resolution of
240 ticks per 1/16 note (or 960 ticks per quarter note) so at a tempo of
120bpm a tick is equal to about half a millisecond.
To begin with, I’ve selected the
hi-hat notes from a particularly
unrelenting Redrum pattern,
which has been copied to a
track using the Copy Pattern to
Track command. Applying a
little velocity randomisation
using the Tool window breaks
up the mechanical effect and
gives my pattern a bit more life.
There’s another way to introduce variation and looseness into a MIDI part.
Say you’ve used the ‘Copy Pattern to Track’ command to get a stepprogrammed Redrum pattern into a MIDI track as individual note events, which
is always a good thing to do if you want to do some editing beyond simple pattern switching. The trouble with
Redrum parts is that the limited velocity values on offer can make patterns sound extremely mechanical. So as
well as using some tick randomisation in the Quantise pane, go to the Note Velocity pane, select Random,
choose a value of perhaps 8 to 10 percent, then click ‘Apply’.
I will readily admit, though, that sometimes mechanical rigidity is great! Some styles demand it. So let’s say
you’ve played in a sequence-style synth part and you’re hearing unwanted tone variations caused by some
aspect of the patch responding to key velocity changes. You might try ironing out the velocity response in the
patch itself, of course, but a potentially quicker and easier way is to select a clip or some notes, go to the Note
Velocity pane, choose ‘Fixed’, and Apply the value you enter in the field. This isn’t a percentage, but uses the
familiar MIDI velocity value scale that runs from 0-127.
Legato Legwork
Achieving smooth string parts, whether sampled or synth-generated, is
sometimes made easier if you use a patch with plenty of polyphony and then
have short overlaps between chords or notes. That can be very difficult to play
in, though, especially if keyboard isn’t your main instrument. Instead, try
playing in your part but don’t worry at all about trying to overlap chords and
notes. Select the notes (or an entire clip), then use the Legato Adjustments
pane to do the hard work for you. Choose ‘Overlap’, and set an amount like — that’s two 16ths, or half a beat in a 4/4 time signature. Apply, and
you’re done.
Here’s another variation on the same theme: you have a TB303-style mono bass-line synth patch, which
produces that typical glide effect when the MIDI notes that drive it overlap. A section you’ve played in shouldn’t
have any glides, but one or two have crept in. Select the notes of the section, then in the Legato Adjustments
pane chose ‘Gap By’, and a tiny amount, say five ticks ( This just prevents notes from overlapping, so
no glides are triggered.
Chancing It
129 / 92
Reason/Record: Tooling Up
Introducing a bit of randomness into your song productions can sometimes be
inspiring. Perhaps you’ve played in an arpeggiated-style synth part and want a
quick variation of it for a few beats. Or you might have a Dr Rex loop spitting
out a bongo groove, and want it to do something different for a one-bar break
or fill.
For this sort of thing, give the Alter Notes function a spin. Select the notes you’d like to rearrange (or a clip
that contains them), dial in a percentage amount, and click Apply — yes, that’s all there is to it. Far from being
a completely random process, Alter Notes will generate randomness only amongst the pitches you’ve selected,
so you’re going to get the same notes (or the same Dr Rex slices), in the same rhythmic positions, but just a
different order. Clever, eh?
If you ever want truly random pitch changes, perhaps to generate the ever-popular ‘1970s mainframe
computer gone bad’ effect, select some notes or a clip and use the Transpose Notes pane. Choose the
Randomize radio button, and set a pitch range within which the notes will end up completely randomised.
Finally, click ‘Apply’.
Tool Tips
Let’s finish off our exploration of the Tool window’s possibilities with a few
quick tips.
There are some useful keyboard shortcuts for the Tool window: F8
opens and closes it, and clicking one of its disclosure
Alter Notes in action. Here an
triangles/arrows expands or collapses all the individual panes
original riff has been duplicated
twice, and a 70 percent setting
Be careful! If you choose more subtle Quantise options, using an
applied to each of the copies.
amount setting other than 100 percent, and perhaps also a ‘Random’ By maintaining the rhythms and
the original palette of pitches,
amount, those settings will remain in use for any further Quantise
the outcome remains musically
commands applied via keyboard shortcut or right-click, even if the
Tool window is closed.
There’s a setting in the General page of the Preferences window
called ‘Automation Cleanup’. This determines how many automation
events Reason or Record writes when you add them using a realtime controller, or by drawing freehand. The default ‘Normal’ setting
retains quite a lot of detail, but there are times, especially if you’re
editing pre-existing automation data, when you might be thankful for
a bit less. At these times, try selecting the clip, and applying a higher
level of clean-up from the Tool window’s Automation Cleanup pane: Heavy or Maximum really
simplify the data but can often retain most of the original effect.
Room 1.0.1: Record Update
Record has had its first maintenance update, which is a free download for registered users from It squashes several dozen bugs, inconsistencies and instabilities, but adds some
useful new features too.
Mac users benefit from having new custom audio drivers for the separate inputs and outputs that are
characteristic of the built-in audio on Intel machines. Previously, you will have had to create an Aggregate
Device in Audio MIDI Setup if you were relying on built-in audio and needed to use an input and output
concurrently. Now, though, you’ll find pre-configured input/output pairs in the Audio page of the Preferences
Everyone gains from a new audio import scheme. Now, if you go to File menu / Import Audio File and
select multiple audio files, they’ll be added to separate new tracks at the wiper position. The only exception
to this is if you have an audio clip open in the Edit view first. Then the files are added as new Comp Rows.
There are also new possibilities for recording incoming MIDI performance automation to mix and audio
tracks — and we’ll be looking into this subject in more detail in Reason workshop columns over the coming
Published in SOS July 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
130 / 92
Reason 5 Rundown
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason 5 Rundown
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS August 2010
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Dr Octo Rex
Kong Drum Designer
Live Sampling
Neptune Pitch Adjuster
Who Gets What?
Robin Bigwood
he big news in June was the announcement of Reason 5 and Record
1.5, both quite significant updates that add interesting new features and
devices. It’s quite possible they’ll be available by the time you read this,
so here’s a practical guide to some of the new toys.
Dr Octo Rex
Dr Octo Rex improves the loop
Dr Octo Rex is a souped-up version of Dr Rex, Reason’s loop player. The
playback experience and gives
Reason 5 some Ableton Livemain difference is that it can load eight loops rather than just one (although it
like chops.
can still only play one at a time), but there are other crucial enhancements.
First off, you can reverse slices: just select one and turn the ‘Rev’ knob
beneath the waveform display. It’s also now possible to treat a single slice with effects: simply select the slice
and turn the Output knob to have it removed from the main outputs and emerge from one of a number of
additional output pairs. Hook those up to an effects unit and into your mixer, and voila!
For tweaking slice parameters such as pitch and filter frequency, a new Slice Edit Mode comes into its own.
Click the dedicated mode button to the right of the waveform display and then a parameter name underneath
the waveform, and you can draw curves and set levels with the mouse: much more intuitive.
Looking at the bigger picture, though, Dr Octo Rex moves Reason into Ableton Live territory. Transposition
and tempo change has always been possible with the REX format — but now just a few Dr Octo Rex devices,
loaded up with appropriate loops, can form the basis of song-length projects. Those eight loops can be
triggered by MIDI notes, and the Trig Next Loop feature ensures that newly selected loops trigger neatly and at
musically useful points in the bar/measure. This could be especially useful when combined with external
controllers such as the Akai APC40 and Novation Launchpad. We’ll look at this in detail when the Reason 5
dust has settled, as it has the potential to take Reason into completely new musical arenas.
Kong Drum Designer
With its 16 pads in a 4x4 arrangement, it doesn’t take a genius to spot where
the inspiration for Kong comes from. But being software, and software by
Propellerhead at that, there’s quite a bit more flexibility than has ever been on
offer in an Akai MPC.
The basic idea is that Kong is a modular drum-sound generator — every
pad has the same potential capabilities, and they’re extensive. For basic
sound generation, you can choose from the sample players NN-Nano and
Nurse Rex, dedicated physical modellers for bass, snare and tom, and synth
generators for bass, snare, tom and hi-hat. These feed into two per-pad
effects, which include additional noise and tone generators, a compressor,
EQ, and more specialised treatments such as Rattler and Transient Shaper.
Kong Drum Designer delivers
deep sound production and
mangling potential in a fun and
friendly package. Sound
generators include a range of
physical modellers, such as this
snare module.
All this is ridiculously easy to work with — just click the ‘Show Drum and Fx’
button below Kong’s virtual LCD display to open up an extra lower panel. Then
click the pad you want to edit, tweak the modules already in place, or choose
new ones from pop-up menus in the Drum Module, FX1 and FX2 sections. Reverb can be added in varying
amounts for each pad, by calling it up in the Bus FX slot, selecting a pad and using the associated Send level
knob in the ‘LCD’.
Live Sampling
Until we see the release version of Reason 5, there’s going to be some doubt
as to exactly how Live Sampling is configured, and what its maximum
recording time will be. But this is massive! What can be gleaned from prerelease titbits is that it’s delivered via Reason’s sample-based devices —
NN19, NNXT, Redrum, and NN-Nano in Kong. In each case there’s a new
‘squiggle’ waveform button added to the group of sample selection and
browse buttons. You click it and Reason starts recording, popping up a little
waveform progress window. Then any selected NN19/XT zone or Redrum
channel is instantly replaced with the sample. Sample management takes
place via a new pane in the Tools window, and an Edit button there calls up an
editing window with simple crop, crossfade and loop tools. It looks devilishly
easy to work with, and apparently Reason performs automatic root-key
detection to make multisampled creations easy to set up.
For Record users, Live Sampling will be a fun, useful new addition,
supplementing the existing audio recording features. But for die-hard Reason
stalwarts, it’s a new universe. Suddenly, incorporating vocoder phrases or
even verse- and chorus-length vocals into a Song is a reality, in an application
that supposedly doesn’t do audio. Incidentally, audio input for sampling is
configured from the Hardware Interface device in the rack.
Neptune Pitch Adjuster
The latest addition to Record is living proof that it’s not Reason users who are
having all the fun. So what does Neptune do? Well, think Antares Auto-Tune
and you’re in the right ballpark, as Neptune’s Pitch Adjust mode effectively
mimics Auto-Tune’s live mode. But there’s more... A transpose function allows
overall transposing and tuning of incoming audio, with independent formant
adjustment to help you to avoid (or deliberately generate) crazy genderbending and ‘Pinky & Perky’ vocal effects. It’s also a polyphonic voice synth,
It’s official: Reason 5 can
record audio! Samples are
organised and edited via this
new Tools window pane.
Neptune provides Record 1.5
users with AutoTune-like pitch
correction, and then some.
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Reason 5 Rundown
capable of creating backing harmonies and double-tracking effects in real
time, driven from a MIDI controller.
To use Neptune for general pitch-correction duties, just select your audio track and Create a Neptune device,
which should be added to Audio Track device’s Insert FX section. Then it’s a case of enabling the Pitch Adjust
button and choosing a suitable root note and scale from the central controls, or creating your own scale by
selecting and deselecting keys from a little chromatic keyboard. To provide some visual feedback for this, the
display above indicates pitch level in real time when audio is playing back. The Correction Speed and
Preserve Expression knobs control the effect — no doubt setting the former to maximum and the latter to
minimum will produce the most processed effect.
For some remarkable results, especially on sustained vocal lines, right-click Neptune, create a sequencer
track for it from the pop-up menu that appears, and make sure the track is receiving an input from your MIDI
controller. In Neptune, click the square that’s labelled ‘To Pitch Adjust’. Now, play your Song while also playing
notes on your controller, and the pitch adjustment ought to be under real-time control. Click ‘To Voice Synth’
and now your MIDI controller should add extra notes to the existing vocal line, instead of retuning it. As if that
weren’t cool enough already, Neptune will also have the flexibility to allow automatic pitch correction and voicesynth sound generation at the same time. So, lots to look forward to...
Who Gets What?
Here’s a handy list showing how all Propellerhead’s new goodies are divvied up between Reason 5 and
Record 1.5...
Reason 5
Kong Drum Designer.
Dr Octo Rex loop player.
Live Sampling.
Combinator enhancements.
Bounce Clip to Sample command.
On-screen keyboard.
Record 1.5
Neptune Pitch Adjuster.
Time-stretching of individual audio clips.
Normalise and reverse commands for audio.
Reason 5 & Record 1.5
Mute Tool.
Self-Contained Song format with embedded samples and sounds.
Tap Tempo button in the transport panel.
What this latest round of updates hasn’t changed is the fact that Reason still majors on sequencing synths
and samplers, while Record is all about audio recording and a more sophisticated mixing environment. As
before, Propellerhead nirvana is achieved by running both. You then get the fancy mixer features but can fill
your rack with the full range of synths and sample-based devices.
Published in SOS August 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
132 / 92
Reason | Using Your Own Samples
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason | Using Your Own Samples
Reason Notes & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS September 2010
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Lost & Found
Robin Bigwood
eason’s sample replay devices — Redrum, NN19-and NNXT — are
screaming out to be used for creative sample manipulation, and yet so
often we just use them for loading up patches from commercial Refill
Reason 5 promises to make doing your own sampling even easier — see
last month’s Reason column for more on that. But it’s hardly difficult in Reason
4, or in earlier versions, as long as you have an appropriate audio editing
application. The idea is this: you record into the audio editor, tweak your
sample as appropriate, save it as a WAV or AIFF file, and then import it into
Reason to use as you wish. We’ll look at the whole process here.
A simple audio editor like
Audacity is all you need to
make the most of samples in
Reason 4.
First of all, then, what about audio-editing applications? Many users will doubtless already have their own
favourite audio editor, the likes of Sound Forge for Windows, or BIAS Peak for the Mac. As well as opening up
pre-existing audio files, these will record new ones from a mic or line-level input. The open source Audacity is
also great for this, and that’s what I’ve used in the screen shot above to record, trim and normalise a simple
vocal sample.
The next step is to save your sample — choose WAV or AIFF for this, but don’t worry too much about sample
rate and bit depth, as Reason can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. As usual, 44.1kHz and 16-bit or
24-bit is a pretty good option.
As to where you save it, it’s not a bad idea to create a new folder for the purpose, and you can put your
Reason song file in there too, to create a ‘project folder’. Keeping songs and any special samples they use
together in this way is always a smart move.
Now you can switch to Reason and choose the best sample replayer for your
purpose. Redrum is great for individual drum hits, of course. NN19 is a good
choice to load a sample you want to ‘play’ as a melody or bass line, say.
NNXT is more sophisticated still, but overkill for simple sampling needs, so
we’ll just look at the first two.
Loading a sample in Redrum could hardly be easier. After creating the
device, you notice that every one of the 10 drum ‘channels’ has a Browse
Sample button beneath its red LED readout — it looks like a folder icon. Click
one to open up the Sample Browser dialogue box, navigate to your sample,
select it, and click OK. Then you can tweak pitch and length to your heart’s
content. Not all the channels are the same though: channels 1, 2 and 10 have
tone controls that can be modulated by velocity. Channels 6 and 7 have pitch
envelopes for tom-style bends. See what works best for your individual
Samples can be loaded into
Redrum and NN19 via the
Browse Sample button, which
carries a little folder icon.
Now for NN19. After creating one in the rack, right-click an empty area of its
front panel and choose Initialise Patch — we’re starting from scratch here.
Click the Browse Sample ‘folder’ button above the central display, navigate to your sample, and load it as you
did for Redrum. NN19 loads this sample into a keyzone that spans the entire pitch range, so you can
immediately play it from your keyboard. It also assumes that the original pitch of the sample is C3 (check out
the ‘Rootkey’ parameter in the display). That’s all very well if it was C3, but if not, your sample is going to be out
of tune with the rest of your sequence if you play it melodically. To fix this, if necessary, adjust the Rootkey knob,
and maybe the nearby Tune parameter too, until playing the sample gives you the notes you expect. You may
want to quickly refer to a basic synth sound as a reference as you do this.
To take it further with NN19, try right-clicking the central display, and choosing Split Key Zone. Now you’ll see
the keyzone bar above the keyboard display has split in two. Click one side and you’ll see your sample named.
Click the other, and you’ll see ‘** no sample **’, so this new keyzone can now accept another sample loaded
via the Browse sample button, as before. Voila — multisampling! You can also keep splitting keyzones and
loading new samples in this way, if you want to. It goes without saying, too, that NN19 has a fully-featured synth
engine, so envelopes, LFOs and filters are available to sculpt your sample if you need them.
The gist of resampling is that you ‘bounce’ a small section of an entire Reason
mix as an audio file, then load it back into an NN19, say, to give yourself even
more creative options. We’ll have a look at the basic procedure, and then how
you might achieve three common ‘resampling’ style treatments: grungy, downtempo loops, the ‘vinyl brake’, and repetition or stutter effects.
The key to this technique is Reason’s ability to export a portion of a song as
an audio file. To try it, load up a Song, and set your ‘L’ and ‘R’ loop markers in the sequencer to surround just a
small section — maybe a single bar, or a few beats. Remember that the movement of the loop markers is
subject to any current Snap To Grid setting, so you might need to adjust that or turn it off to be really precise.
Mute any tracks you don’t want included, then choose ‘Export Loop as Audio File’ from the File menu. Reason
asks where you want to save it (in a folder with your Song file is a good idea, as I mentioned before). You
should also get the choice of saving the sample in WAV or AIFF format. Either is good, so go with your
personal preference here. After clicking ‘Save’, there’s one more dialogue box, asking for sample rate and bit
depth — go with 44.1kHz and 24-bit and click ‘Export’.
Now, just as if you were loading a ‘normal’ sample, create an NN19 sampler in your rack, right-click it and
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Reason | Using Your Own Samples
choose Initialise Patch. Click the Browse Sample button above the central display, navigate to the sample you
just saved, and load it.
If it’s just slowed-down (or sped up) playback you’re after, it could hardly be easier. NN19 assigns your
sample a root key of C3, so if you play C2 on your keyboard the sample will come out half speed. Try C4 and
it’ll be double-speed. All other pitches are possible too, of course, but they may not be rhythmically useful,
depending on the nature of your sample.
What about that ‘vinyl brake’ effect, which seems to have been trendy for
about the last 20 years? The quickest and easiest approach is to set NN19’s
bend-range parameter to the maximum of 24 semitones using the ‘LED’
display above its pitch-bend wheel at far left. Then, after you trigger the
sample at its original pitch from your MIDI keyboard, by playing the key C3,
simply pull down your pitch-bend wheel...
Finally, what about those repetition or ‘stutter’ effects? These can range from
short-lived ‘ear candy’ to the repetitious build-ups that are still so much a part
of many dance styles — where you repeat two bars, then one, a couple of
beats, then a single beat, and then sub-divisions of the beat, in the run-up to a
monumental return of the chorus. Just bounce the bars you need and trigger
them repeatedly. You’ll probably need to draw notes at C3 directly into the
NN19’s track lane with the pencil tool, for the necessary rhythmic precision.
Reason’s Song Self-Contain
Settings dialogue box can save
your samples directly into the
Song file.
In all these cases, you’re using NN19 to replace existing sequence material
with something tricksy, so don’t forget to actually ‘clear a space’ in your song,
ready for the resampling effect to step into. This could be easily done by
literally deleting note data for the region, or in a more time-consuming way, by
automating mixer mutes for tracks other than NN19. Reason 5 and Record 1.5
users also have the option of using the Mute tool, which they can click and
drag over track data to silence it without deleting it — the best of both worlds.
Here, a two-bar song section is
being ‘bounced’ prior, to
loading back into an NN19.
Lost & Found
One slight risk when using your own samples in a Reason Song is getting them and your Song file split up,
perhaps when archiving your project, or sharing it with a collaborator. If that happens, the song won’t open
properly next time, and your samples will be missing from playback. But this awful fate is easily avoided: go
to the File menu and choose ‘Song Self-Contain Settings...’ A dialogue box opens that may be chock-full of
samples from any Refills you’re using. But lurking somewhere will be your individual samples. Tick them one
by one, or click ‘Check All’, and from then on they’ll be included within the Song file.
Published in SOS September 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
134 / 92
Time & Tempo Flexibility
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Time & Tempo Flexibility
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS November 2010
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Technique : Reason Notes
Small Change
Tempo Flexibility
Here's How...
Time-signature Changes
We bring you up to speed on tempo flexibility and
Reason 5's new transport bar.
Robin Bigwood
t's felt like a long wait at times, but copies of Reason 5 and
Record 1.5 should, as you read this, have been steaming
out of Sweden for several weeks. We'll start digging into the
big new features in the coming months; this month we'll look at
some aspects of the redesigned transport sections and explain
how you can achieve flexible tempo and time signature in any
recent version of the applications.
The evolution of transport: Here you can
compare the old Reason 4 and Record v1
transport bars with the new Reason 5 and
Record 1.5 version, the latter sporting control
panels that improve on the clarity and simplicity
of anything found in previous versions.
Small Change
In the new versions, Propellerhead have taken the opportunity
to harmonise the look and operation of Reason and Record's
transport sections, and that means a few minor changes for
users of both applications. The main transport buttons are still there, of course, along with the familiar playback
position and other displays, click controls and performance indicators, but they've all been given a make over
that really enhances their visual clarity. The old Quantise During Rec button has been replaced with one
labelled 'Q REC', and the Regroove Mixer button is better integrated and no longer gets a label. The screen
shots above show this very readily, and also reveal some interesting additions. First, there's that big 'Blocks'
button (which relates to a feature we'll be looking at in detail next month), and a Tap tempo button that you need
only click a few times to set your sequence tempo by feel, rather than numerically.
A couple of things are now conspicuous by their absence.
A button previously labelled 'Automation As Perf Ctrl' — always
a bit of a head scratcher — has disappeared. This allowed you
to choose how Reason and Record recorded automation data or MIDI controller messages other than
pitch bend, modulation, sustain pedal, aftertouch, breath control and expression. When the button was unlit, the
controller data would be recorded into clips on dedicated controller lanes, making it easy to edit. With the
button lit, and the feature enabled, the data would be integrated into the track's note clip, which made it easier
to keep the two things, notes and controller data, together if you were going to do a lot of duplicating or editing
of clips. The feature hasn't disappeared, but it's now found in the Options menu, called (much more helpfully)
'Record Automation into Note Clip'. Also missing, apparently, is the Automation Override section, whose
indicator lit up whenever you'd adjusted an automated knob or slider in real time, to show you that its link with
the automation data had been temporarily broken. Actually, it's still there: a vibrant blue 'Automation Override'
sign lights up in the left-hand side 'LED' panel, and clicking it is the equivalent of clicking the old 'Reset' button,
restoring the link between the parameter value and the automation data.
Reason 5 and Record 1.5's Click controls are as simple as ever: just a simple toggle on and off, an option of
a 'pre-count' count in, and a level control. But for Reason users there's a crucial new enhancement: in the
Options menu you'll find a menu item called 'Number of Precount Bars', and from its submenu you can choose
any number from one to four. Now, if only there was a true 'pre roll' option...
Tempo Flexibility
Like many sequencers, a default new Song in Reason and
Record can tempt the unimaginative straight into the musical rut
that is a fixed 120bpm tempo, but it doesn't have to be like this.
Changing tempo is really easy: click and drag vertically in the
transport panel's tempo field, click its 'spinners' (the little up and
down arrows on the right (they'll adjust tempo really accurately if
you click the number field after the decimal place first), or just
Reason 5's sequencer, showing a tempo clip in
the Transport track, in Edit Mode. Note the
double-click the field and type in a value numerically.
static value of 116bpm that Reason will revert
to either side of the clip.
What's more, Reason and Record have no trouble with
flexible tempo, and a few tempo changes, slow-downs and
speed-ups suit many musical styles. You can even subtly manipulate apparently rigid styles such as dance
music, to introduce subtle changes of energy between song sections. Your listeners will appreciate it without
ever being aware of it, and you can drive DJs crazy...
Automating tempo, which is really what we're talking about, is easy to achieve, and it's done with the
sequencer's Transport track, which is ever present in any sequence. The first step is to give it a tempo lane,
and the power user's way to do this is to Alt click the tempo field in the transport. Quick, nifty, but not exactly
obvious! If you forget this trick, just right click the transport track, choose Parameter Automation and enable
Tempo in the parameter list, before clicking OK. In Reason 5 and Record 1.5, you can also select the Transport
track and choose Tempo from the squiggly Track Parameter Automation pop up menu near the 'Lanes +'
Your sequence tempo is now automated. Reason/Record has inserted a 'static' tempo value in the track, and
you'll notice that the transport's tempo field has the green 'I'm automated' border. Now it's just a case of adding
your desired changes to the Transport track's Tempo lane. There are a few ways of doing this, with some
strange operational pitfalls awaiting the unwary, so here's a nice simple approach.
Here's How...
Start off in Arrange Mode. Select the pencil tool and choose an
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Time & Tempo Flexibility
appropriate Snap setting: you'll frequently want to choose 'Bar'
here, to accurately restrict a single tempo change to the bar
boundaries of a verse or chorus, say. Smaller values like '1/4'
(a single beat) are good if you need to create a slow down or
speed up for a shorter region, perhaps starting in the middle of
a bar. Scroll (and, if necessary, zoom) to the place in your
sequence where the tempo change should occur, and then click
and drag in the Transport track's Tempo lane to create an
empty clip for the region.
The same clip, but with added tempo events,
and ramps between them, that in this case will
cause a gradual speed up.
Next, switch to Edit mode (Shift Tab is a good shortcut) and
in your empty clip click once with the pencil tool where the first tempo change should occur. You won't know
exactly what tempo you're entering, but click anyway, because immediately you can enter a precise value for it
in the Value field that appears at the top of the Sequencer pane.
The single tempo event you just wrote affects the whole clip. So if you'd just wanted to make the entire region
covered by the clip go a bit quicker or slower, you are, as they say, done. But what about a slow down or
speed up? Easy — just click again later in the clip to write another tempo event. Assuming that the tempos are
different, you'll see the a ramp between them — and there's your smooth tempo change. And of course, tempo
automation works like any other, kind so you can add additional events to the ramp by clicking with the pencil
tool, and select or adjust existing ones with the arrow tool. .
Two things to watch for here. First of all, Reason/Record will
revert tempo to a 'static value' outside of any clips. That was
chosen way back when you first created the Tempo lane. It's
shown in the Tempo lane, in Edit Mode, as an indicator in the
The Transport track in full flight, with Tempo
tempo scale display, and you're free to adjust it if you need to.
and Time Signature tracks. I feel some Prog
Second, if you want to create multiple separate tempo clips
coming on...
throughout your song, be careful if you attempt it in Edit Mode. If
you're not careful you end up just extending another clip, if one was selected. Quite often it's easier to draw the
clips in Arrange Mode and add the tempo events in Edit Mode, as I described above.
Time-signature Changes
Automating time-signature changes follows very similar lines to changing tempo. Alt click the transport's
Time Signature field to create the Transport track Time Signature lane. Click and drag in the lane with the
pencil tool to create a clip in either Arrange or Edit Mode. Here, a Snap value of 'Bar' is highly
recommended, to avoid the mathematical meltdown that is a time signature starting halfway through a bar.
Then, with the arrow tool, click the pop up menu in the top-left corner of the clip, from which you can choose
between a range of common time signatures. Prog Rockers can choose 'Other...' to summon a dialogue
box for more unusual signatures.
Changing time signature when you have existing sequencer data can lead to some unexpected difficulties.
Let's say, for example, that you've done your whole Song in 4/4, but you want to shove in a 5/4 bar mid way
through to make one of those quirky rhythmic 'breaks' that can do so much to loosen up the regimented feel
of a track. Pencilling in a one bar Time Signature clip and switching it to 5/4 is easily done, and the time
ruler will look right. However, Reason/Record won't actually insert the extra beat, and instead you'll end up
with your sequence sounding exactly the same as it ever did, but with all data following the 5/4 bar now early
by one beat. The solution is to shift the now incorrectly placed data along a beat, which you could do by
selecting and dragging. More accurate, though, is to place the left and right locators (often used for
specifying loop boundaries) so that they exactly surround beat five of your new 5/4 bar. Then simply choose
'Insert Bars Between Locators' from the Edit menu. Voila!
This command, and its evil side kick Remove Bars Between Locators, are, in my view, very handy, and
also very poorly named. They absolutely don't insert or remove any bars, and instead just open up or close
space — however much of it you enclosed with the locators. They pay no attention to your time signature,
and can just as easily be used to shift data forward or backward a 16th note (as a handy editing tool) as by
an actual bar.
Published in SOS November 2010
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
136 / 92
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS December 2010
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Technique : Reason Notes
Make light work of song arranging with Reason's
new Blocks feature.
A Little Background
Building Blocks
Song View
Blocks ing Clever
Blocking Your Old Songs
Spot Mute Trick
Robin Bigwood
ne of Reason 5 and Record 1.5's major new features is
'Blocks'. It's a system that allows you to easily construct
and edit song structures and repeated accompaniment
patterns, making Reason and Record feel less 'linear' and
more pattern based. For those working in musical styles that
rely on a lot of repetition, it could be hugely beneficial and
a serious time saver. There's nothing quite like it in any other
DAW, though, so read on to find out how it works, and whether
it might suit your way of working.
A Little Background
First, a brief history lesson. Back in the not so distant past,
when tape ruled in the studio and computer printers could give
you hearing damage, it was the drum machine that formed the
backbone of many pop songs. You'd start by programming
multiple short patterns, then use an on board song sequencer
to tie those together into larger structures. Entire songs could
be created with just a handful of patterns — main grooves,
alternatives, fills and so on — replayed in an appropriate order.
A Record song being constructed using Blocks.
The song sections in the Blocks track were first
programmed individually. Now, in Song View,
they're easily added, re ordered, duplicated
and replaced, to give huge flexibility in
experimenting with song structure. Some of the
grey block clips, which aren't directly editable
here, have been muted to provide localised
variations in the arrangement, and various
'linear' material (such as the vocal track) has
been added over the top.
These days, the pattern/song approach has mostly become confined to hardware groove boxes (the modernday descendant of the drum machine) and the dusty corners of the odd DAW. Whatever its potential benefits,
it's also got the potential to be somewhat limiting, and, in any case, mouse driven graphical interfaces have
established alternative ways of working.
Now, back to Reason and Record. Never ones to turn down the opportunity to incorporate retro concepts into
cutting edge software design, Propellerhead have resurrected the pattern/song idea in the form of Blocks.
Actually, we already had it, on a small scale, with Reason's pattern based Redrum and the Matrix Sequencer.
But Blocks is a much bigger deal: a single pattern (or rather 'Block') can be an entire multi track song section,
such as a verse or chorus. String some Blocks together and you've got yourself an entire song. Want to try
a different structure? Just re-order or change the length of the Blocks. Want to use Blocks for a sequenced
backing but add linear style guitar and vocal tracks over the top? No problem. This is a powerful new feature
that could change the way you work in Reason and Record for ever more. But it's also very flexible; you needn't
use it at all, you can use it a bit, or you can commit to it 100 percent and never work in a linear way again.
Building Blocks
Blocks is simplest to use and understand when you start a new Song
with it, and in the new versions of Reason and Record it's enabled by
default. You can't really miss the on/off button: it's a great big square
in the Transport. With the feature enabled (in which case the button
turns blue), a subtle but crucial change occurs in the Sequencer: at
top left, two new buttons marked 'Song' and 'Block' appear, along
with a new Block track.
New buttons appear in the sequencer
when Blocks is enabled in the transport
section. 'Song' and 'Block' switch between
Song View, where you lay out your song
structures and work with linear material
as usual, and Block View, where you work
on individual blocks.
Here's how it works: If you click that new Block button in the
sequencer, you effectively go into a sort of 'pattern edit' mode: Block
View. In many ways, the sequencer behaves the same as it ever did; you add devices and tracks, record and
play back as normal. But look at the Blocks track. It's filled with a solid coloured bar that displays a name for the
current Block (always 'Block 1' by default for the first one). Also, the End Marker (the 'E' flag in the time ruler)
becomes very important, defining the length of your Block and causing the transport to loop back to the
beginning whenever it's reached.
So let's say I commit to making a song using Blocks. What's my workflow? Well, to begin with, I might work on
an eight bar Chorus section. I'd drag the End marker to the beginning of bar nine to indicate an eight-bar Block
length. Then I'd build up my arrangement in the normal way, adding tracks and switching between Arrange and
Edit views as necessary. Oh, and at some point I'd double click the 'Block 1' name in the Blocks track and
rename it to 'Chorus'.
Next, I need a verse section. From the Blocks track pop up menu, I'd choose the next Block in the list (Block
2). The track lanes empty, although the actual tracks remain, and once more I can set the Block length, build my
arrangement, and rename this Block to 'Verse'. And so on, then, for any other main sections of my song, such
as middle eights and bridges. I might well copy and paste some backing material such as drum loops between
Blocks as I go — and that's perfectly permissible.
Song View
What I've got now are a bunch of separate sections, but no
sense of running order. This is what Song View is for.
If I click the Song button at the top left of the sequencer, the
track lanes empty once more, and that includes the Blocks track, indicating that I'm not working on any specific
Block any more. Now comes the fun bit.
137 / 92
After switching to the Pencil tool (click its button, or press the 'W' key), some pop up menus appear in the
inspector section above the time ruler. These include one labelled 'Block'. The idea is that you now draw song
sections into the song. So let's say I want to start with two verses back to back. I'd choose 'Verse' from the
pop up menu, and then in the Blocks track I'd click and drag over 16 complete bars. As I do this, the verse
section I've been working on begins to fill the individual sequencer tracks, as if by magic. (It's a good idea, by
the way, to have Snap enabled and set to Bar before doing this, so you don't have to worry about being too
accurate with the mouse.)
Next, I might choose 'Chorus' from the inspector panel pop up menu, and draw in a Chorus directly following
my verses. And on it goes for the other sections, with a song literally appearing before your eyes.
What's really cool about working in this way is that you're effectively creating song section 'clips', and they
behave in a very similar way to any other clip. With the Selection (arrow) tool you can drag them, duplicate them
(holding down the Alt key as you drag), or select them and drag their left or right edge handles to adjust the
Block start and end times. Making massive changes to Song structure is as easy as rearranging a few building
Blocks — hence the name! You can also reassign Blocks: each clip has a pop up menu triangle next to its
name. Click that and you can switch that clip to play another Block.
Blocks ing Clever
What's maybe a little less cool is that the contents of your
individual tracks are not editable; you can see them, but they're
greyed out. It's understandable, of course — Reason/Record is
referencing the separate Blocks and merely displaying the
contents in Song View. But what if you need to edit something,
or make localised changes? The great news is that you have
loads of options.
Firstly, there's nothing to stop you clicking the Block View
button once again, and going into an individual Block to change
it in some way. When you click back to Song View, those
changes will be incorporated into the song, any time that Block
is used. It's very much a 'live' link between Blocks and your
Block View is where you work on individual
song sections. The End Marker in the time ruler
is crucial for setting the block length. And you
choose the block you want to work on from the
Blocks track's pop up menu, as shown.
Secondly, in Song view you can use the Mute tool ('T' key) to silence individual track clips within a Block: just
point and click, and they become greyed out. This is really handy, allowing you (for example) to create just one
fully worked 'Verse' Block, but mute different tracks in it every time it's used in the Song. That can provide
a great sense of variation, and saves you having to create and maintain lots of separate 'Verse' Blocks that just
have minor differences between them.
Thirdly, you can freely record and add non block material anywhere you like in Song view. It really is just like
the normal, linear sequencer of old, except that it's got that extra Block track. This makes the system hugely
flexible. And thank goodness, because it's pretty much a necessity when adding vocals in Record. Think about
it — you might use the same 'Verse' Block three times, but if you'd recorded a vocal as part of it, you'd get the
same lyrics three times too. Not usually what you want! So the solution is to use the Block/Song system to lay
out your backing track, but then in Song View create a vocal track and record on to it in conventional linear
fashion 'on top of' the Blocks. Doing this requires no special consideration, and no extra steps — just work as
This sort of 'linear overlay' can also be used to create little links
between sections/Blocks, or to add tiny localised variations.
You can record right on top of Block material, in any track, and
linear song mode clips always have priority over Block
material. To give an example, if I needed a simple, one-bar
song intro ahead of a 'Verse 1' Block, maybe a drum fill and
a bass lead, I almost certainly wouldn't bother trying to create it
in a separate Block. What's the point? It would only happen
once, and doing it in Song mode would allow me to hear much
more easily how it integrates with the verse.
In Song View you use the Pencil tool and the
new Blocks pop up menu to literally draw song
sections in the Blocks track.
The final word in seizing back editing flexibility is to convert Block data into old fashioned linear data. You can
do this in Song View. Just select a Block clip, right click, and choose 'Convert Block Clips to Song Clips' from
the contextual menu. Any unmuted clips represented by that Block are transformed into linear, editable copies.
In fact, though, they're just overlaid on top of the referenced Block material, so nothing gets deleted. If you want
to convert an entire arrangement from Blocks to fully editable linear data, right click in the track list and choose
'Convert Block Track to Song Clips'. The Blocks content is still retained, but Blocks style replay is automatically
disabled (via the Blocks track's little 'On' button), and you'll be back in a completely linear world once more. .
Blocking Your Old Songs
Blocks is a beautifully simple concept when you build brand new songs with it. But what if you're mid-way
through a project that is built in a linear fashion, and you'd now like to 'convert' to a Blocks workflow? Simple
answer: cut and paste. Make sure Blocks is enabled and that you're in Song View. Start by dragging
a selection over everything you'd like to represent a Chorus, say. Hit Command C (Mac) or Ctrl C
(Windows) to copy it, and click into Block View. Paste this into an empty Block, adjust its length, and
rename it as appropriate. Back in Song view, delete what you just copied, and immediately draw the block
equivalent into the Blocks track with the pencil tool. Carry on like this for each section until the entire linear
arrangement is represented by blocks.
Spot Mute Trick
Using the Mute tool to silence individual track lanes of a Block in Song View is a very effective arrangement
device, but it's an all-or-nothing situation, and Reason/Record won't let you mute just a bit of a block.
However, there's a fabulously easy workaround. In Song View, take the pencil tool, and simply draw a new
clip where you'd like your 'selective mute' to occur. Because this is linear data (albeit empty!) it takes priority
over the block data and for that moment, nothing happens!
Published in SOS December 2010
138 / 92
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
139 / 92
Introducing Dr OctoRex
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Introducing Dr OctoRex
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS January 2011
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Technique : Reason Notes
Meet The Doctor
Getting Creative
Playing Slices Via MIDI
Applying Effects To Individual
Get some eight-way sample action with Reason's
new loop player!
Robin Bigwood
ne of the headline features of the recent Reason 5
upgrade is a souped up Dr Rex loop player called Dr
OctoRex. For those new to the Reason game, this is an
instrument device that loads and plays audio files in the REX
format used by Propellerhead's Recycle application. As
a 'sliced' audio format, REX files can then be played back
across a huge range of tempos, while maintaining excellent
audio quality; the individual slices don't change, only the gaps
between them.
In Dr OctoRex's Programmer panel, the
different loops are selected via the eight
numbered buttons to the top left. They can
then be manipulated individually with the
sample controls on the left-hand side and
globally by the host of synthesizer style controls
to the right.
What the new Dr OctoRex offers over its less sophisticated
predecessor is the ability to load up to eight REX loops at once
(hence the name), and play them back one at a time. You might, for example, load eight variations on a single
drum loop — alternative patterns, fills, drops and so on — and then switch between them (either on the fly or by
programming the changes into a sequencer track) to create a drum track that is much more varied and
dynamic than one consisting of a single loop playing over and over. However, look beneath the surface and
you'll discover that Dr OctoRex can pull off some fascinating, creative sound mangling too.
Meet The Doctor
Let's start simple. After creating a Dr OctoRex, you can try
loading one of the .drex patches that comes bundled with
Reason 5. Do this by using the main patch buttons and display
as you would for other Reason instruments, and navigating to
Individual loops can be loaded by clicking on
the Dr Octo Rex Patches folder. When you do this during
a slot's loop display in the main panel.
sequence playback, patches you select in the browser window
will sync to the sequence so you can preview them in context. Neat. With a patch loaded, you can get it going
by clicking the Run button, or just by starting sequence playback. The only exception to this is when 'Enable
Loop Playback' isn't turned on. We'll look at why you might choose to work like this in a moment.
The new .DREX patch format is capable of loading multiple loops into Dr OctoRex's eight loop slots. But
sometimes you'll just want to load a single loop into a single slot, and a good way to do this is to click the little
display underneath your chosen slot button. From there you can choose from other available loops, or open
a browser and drill down into the various Dr Rex Loops folders.
With some loops loaded up, try starting playback and switching
between them by clicking different loop slot buttons. The three
'Trig Next Loop' options control how quickly the switch occurs:
'Bar' keeps things really slick and musical, but 'Beat' or '1/16th'
will be better if you need a crisper response. Recording
a sequence of loop changes is really easy. Just make sure your
Slice Edit Mode lets you edit slice parameters
Dr OctoRex's track is selected in the Sequencer, click Record
visually, somewhat in the manner of a step
(or hit the keypad '*' key), then switch away! Reason records
sequencer, by drawing values on the clip. Here
your changes as pattern clips in a new Pattern Lane on the
the pitch of each slice is being edited.
track. If you'd prefer to write these pattern changes with the
mouse directly, select the track and click the Create Pattern Lane button above the track list (this will be greyed
out if there's already a lane present). Then select the pencil tool, choose a loop from the Pattern/Loop pop up
menu to the right of the tool buttons, and drag in the pattern lane to write it. When you work like this, you're not
subject to that minimum '1/16th' pattern change interval, so assuming the sequencer's Snap value is set to
a finer value, you can write in pattern changes that are as quick and complex as you desire.
As for tweaking the sounds of your loops, there is, of course, the main volume control, and a Global
Transpose parameter that's good for putting a group of pitched loops into another key, or doing quick, grungy,
varispeed style treatments on drums. But to really find some flexibility, we need to open the Dr OctoRex
Programmer panel: a click on the little disclosure triangle is all it takes. Now there's a new world of
Let's start with the silver coloured Select Loop and Load Slot panel. Try clicking on a few of the eight
numbered buttons that correspond with the eight buttons on Dr OctoRex's upper panel. The display changes to
show the waveform for each loop, overlaid with vertical lines showing where each slice begins and ends. Some
duplicate patch controls allow you to load up alternative loops directly from here. But more interesting is getting
stuck in and mangling individual slices. Basic pitch and volume changes can be made with the Loop
Transpose and Loop Level knobs. However, try Alt clicking a slice: the mouse cursor turns into a little speaker
icon, and then clicking auditions the slice. Now try clicking a slice without the Alt key: this selects it. Want to
change the pitch of this slice? No problem, just spin the Pitch knob beneath the waveform display. The same
goes if you want to change Pan position and Level (volume): use their dedicated knobs. The Decay knob
applies an amplitude envelope to a slice, causing it to decay and making it shorter. Turning the Rev knob
reverses the slice (psychedelic!).
Getting Creative
What about other options? The rest of the programmer panel is
140 / 92
Introducing Dr OctoRex
What about other options? The rest of the programmer panel is
a completely standard synth architecture that acts globally
rather than on a per loop basis. Try tweaking the filter
parameters there to make basic tonal changes, and then adjust
the F.Freq parameter for individual slices (it can be positive or
negative) to introduce step sequencer style filter effects.
The Osc Pitch section can transpose loops by a lot or a little.
Meanwhile, the filter and amp envelopes are triggered on every Slice events being edited in a Dr OctoRex track
slice, which opens up some fascinating options. Raise the Amp following the use of the Copy Loop to Track
attack, for example, and your loops take on a sort of slow, trippy button.
quality. Set sustain on zero and bring down the decay and the
loop takes on a super dry, gated feel. Do the same with the filter envelope (this works best when you've
lowered the filter frequency somewhat) and you get TB303 like swoops that can sound fantastic with drums.
Back in the Osc Pitch section, raising or lowering the 'Env. A' parameter applies the filter envelope to slice
pitch — and trippy effects can ensue...
Another way to quickly mangle loops is to engage Slice Edit Mode. In the waveform display you click the
parameter you want to adjust, for example Pitch. Now you can click and drag over the display to draw
automation envelopes (or toggle Reverse playback status). The mouse pointer becomes a pencil icon to
confirm the mode. There is, of course, nothing you can achieve here that you couldn't in the 'normal' mode, but it
often feels much more intuitive.
What if you really want to take apart a REX loop, mute parts of it, quantise it and so on?
Try the Copy Loop to Track feature, which causes the slices to be triggered by note
events on the Dr OctoRex track.
1. In the sequencer, select the Dr OctoRex track and set the 'L' and 'R' locators to
surround a region where you'd like your loop to play.
2. On the Dr OctoRex device, click the slot button of the loop you want to work with, and
turn off Enable Loop Playback.
3. In the Programmer panel, click the Copy Loop to Track button. This fills your sequencer
track region with clip trigger events on a dedicated slice lane, and also writes a single
Notes to Slot automation event, to ensure the right loop gets played.
Turning the Notes
To Slot knob, or
directly clicking on
its associated little
red 'LEDs' next to
the slot buttons,
controls which loop
receives MIDI input
when you want to
play it live from
your MIDI
Playing the sequence region now should sound as if the loop was playing as normal. But
because the slices are triggered by separate events, you've got a lot more flexibility. In the
sequence track, try selecting a clip and quantising it, to remove or apply a groove. In Edit Mode, double click
a slice clip and then you can move, write and delete events at will, creating drops, alternatives and fills. .
Playing Slices Via MIDI
Dr OctoRex isn't only about loop playback, it can also act as a sort of specialised individual sample player.
Try loading a loop and turning off the Enable Loop Playback feature. Then record enable the Dr OctoRex
track in the sequencer, and play chromatic notes from C1 upwards on your MIDI controller. These trigger
individual slices in whatever loop has been chosen with the Notes To Slot knob, and this breaks you
completely free from the normal pattern and groove of the loop — all sorts of crazy possibilities can present
themselves. This is one occasion when the Alt parameter in the waveform slice display comes into play. You
could, for example, assign all hi hat slices to one Alt group — there are four groups in total. Then, when
playing via MIDI, you need only remember the MIDI note associated with one hi hat sound. Play it repeatedly
and Dr OctoRex will step through all the other samples in that same Alt group, potentially creating a more
natural or interesting effect and making your life much easier.
Applying Effects To Individual Slices
Dr OctoRex has eight additional rear-panel 'slice outputs' (working out as four output pairs for stereo loops)
in addition to the main L-R output pair. This is very helpful, because these outputs help you achieve various
valuable effects, like selective reverb, for example. Create an RV7000 reverb while holding down the Shift
key, so that automatic patching doesn't occur. On the rear of the rack draw connections from one of the Dr
OctoRex slice outputs (or an output pair) into the RV7000 Audio Inputs. Then patch that into Reason's mixer
(or, in Record, a Mix device). In Dr OctoRex's waveform display switch the snare slices' Output parameter
value to the output (pair) you just configured. That re routes it from the main outs, and via the RV7000.
Published in SOS January 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
141 / 92
Drum Instruments
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Drum Instruments
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS February 2011
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Technique : Reason Notes
Discover how to tackle Reason's over sized gorilla
of a drum instrument.
Found Sounds
Balancing Act
Controlling Kong
Primitive Man
On The Mic: Kong & Live
Robin Bigwood
s its name suggests, Reason 5's new drum instrument,
the Kong Drum Designer, is an absolute beast. Here's
a practical guide to get you going, and some more
advanced tips that'll really let you tame its power.
When you create a Kong device in your song, Reason loads
a default patch for it — Kong Kit — so it's ready to go
immediately. Using a keyboard controller the notes C1 to D#2
trigger the 16 pads chromatically. But you can play Kong higher
up the MIDI note range too — there, each pad can be triggered
by three adjacent keys, making it easier to knock out fast hi hat
parts, rolls and flams. For example, pad one is also triggered
by C3, C#3 and D3, and pad two by D#3, E3, F3... The pads
light up when they're triggered, so with a bit of experimentation it's easy to zone in on individual groups of keys.
If you're lucky enough to own a dedicated drum pad type controller, or have one built into your keyboard
controller, all you'll have to do is make sure that each of your hardware pads is programmed to generate the
correct MIDI note number to suit Kong. Pad one should be set to MIDI note number 36, Pad two to 37, and so
on... right the way up to Pad 16, which should be set to MIDI note number 51.
Found Sounds
So that's how you trigger the pads live. But what about the sounds? As
you'd expect, Reason allows you to load (and save) entire kits at a time.
Just click on the folder button next to the kit name, at top left of Kong, to
open a file browser.
If you're anything like me, though, you'll want to start assembling your
own kits, loading specific drums on individual pads. The super quick
way is to right click a pad and choose Browse Drum Patches. You can
also left click a pad to select it (it assumes a blue surround) and use the
folder button in the Drum Control Panel section. Kong can load
samples in a number of different formats: raw WAV and AIFF files,
SoundFonts, and REX loops or slices, all in a range of sample rates
and resolutions. But amongst the factory sound bank sounds you'll also
see .drum files, and these are patches for Kong's non sample based
drum-sound generators. These load up the same way as
sample based hits, so feel free to experiment.
When you select a pad, by clicking it
(or its name), the control panel section
displays its essential settings. The
patch controls allow you to load up
different hits, or engage the Live
Sampling feature.
By the way, to go the whole hog and build up a kit from scratch, just right click on an empty area of Kong after
you first create it and choose Initialize Patch. That clears out any assigned drum sounds and resets everything
to the default.
Balancing Act
You've got your sounds loaded — but what about tweaking
them, setting levels and pan positions, and making tonal
changes? Put another way, where's Kong's mixer? Short
answer: it doesn't have one. And while the parameters we're
looking for can be adjusted in the Control Panel section, one
pad at a time, that's clearly not a very practical or fast way of
getting to grips with an entire kit. Kong's solution is somewhat
different, and very cool!
Check out the very bottom of the Control Panel: there are four
'Q' buttons corresponding with the Pitch/Decay, Send,
Pan/Tone and Level sections. Try clicking the one at far right,
beneath the Level knob. Suddenly all 16 pads are overlaid with
their own X/Y style display, and dragging one of the 'handles' up
and down adjusts that pad's level, while dragging it left and right
adjusts its Tone. These 'Quick Edit' buttons really are the
business — the other three in the Control panel work in
a similar way, with the Send Quick Edit one giving you three
faders per pad to adjust the levels.
Click the Control Panel 'Q' buttons to put the
pads into Quick Edit mode — brilliant for
getting an overview of their settings.
Controlling Kong
Kong is an instrument you can really play if you so wish, but
many Reason users will primarily want to sequence it, building
up drum patterns in multiple record passes or programming
them visually. Both are really easy to achieve, and work in
conjunction with the transport section's Loop playback mode. Try this:
1. In the sequencer, select your Kong device in the track list and switch to Edit Mode by engaging the Edit
Mode button or (if you're in Arrange Mode) using the Shift Tab keystroke.
142 / 92
Drum Instruments
2. Scroll and zoom to the sequence region you want to work on, and turn on Snap with a setting of 'Bar'. Then
select the pencil tool and draw an empty clip corresponding to the length of pattern you want to work on in the
Clip Overview area at the top of the track lane, above the individual drum lanes.
3. Right click the clip and choose 'Set Loop to Selection' and Start Playback. Instantly, Reason will begin
playing the clip over and over.
Now you've got a choice. If you want to record live, hit the record button, turn on the transport section Click, if
you need a time reference, and start playing MIDI notes to record the drum hits. The Quantise During Record
feature can be a boon here; turn it on via the transport section 'Q Rec' button and, if necessary, change the
current Quantise Notes value in the Sequencer Tools section of the Tools window.
If you prefer to build up your pattern graphically, there's no need to hit record. Instead, adjust the Snap setting
to something suitable, like 1/16 (for 16th notes, or semiquavers) and, with the pencil tool still selected, start
clicking in the drum lanes to build up the pattern.
Incidentally, the drum names shown in the Kong track in Edit Mode accurately reflect the name of Kong's
pads. If you want to change them, just switch back to your Kong device and double click one of the pad names
to rename it.
Primitive Man
There is one more, slightly bonkers option for building up Kong
patterns. Clearly, what Kong doesn't have is anything like the
old school hardware drum machine inspired step sequencing
offered by Redrum. But such is Reason's back of the rack
flexibility that it can easily be set up.
Create a Redrum next to Kong in your rack. Viewing the rear
of the Reason rack, disconnect Redrum's audio outputs: this
thing's going to be a sequencer only. Now drag cables from
Redrum's Gate Out sockets to Kong's Gate In sockets for the
first 10 pads. It's a shame a single Redrum can only control 10
of Kong's pads, but there are always limitations like this with
vintage gear (cough). Switching back to the front of the rack again, you can use Redrum's step sequencer in
the usual way, but now its 10 drum channels will trigger Kong's first 10 pads.
Did I mention that Kong's a beast? You only have to expand its interface, by clicking the Show Drum & FX
button at the bottom left, to be in no doubt about that. There's just far too much to cover in a single Reason
technique column, but because we've looked at basic operation this month, we're all set for an investigation
into sound, effects and fine control possibilities next month. Stay tuned! .
On The Mic: Kong & Live Sampling
Opening up a whole new range of creative options, Kong is one of the Reason 5 instruments that can make
use of the new Live Sampling feature. Recording a sample directly into a Kong pad is quick and painless.
You do, however, need to have set up your sampling input in the Hardware Interface at the top of the rack.
When viewing the back of the Hardware Interface, the Audio Input section of sockets correspond to physical
hardware inputs on your audio interface. Creating an audio input into Reason is then as easy as dragging
a cable from those input sockets to the Sampling Input section. You can see how this looks for my setup in
the screen above: my mono mic is plugged into input 3 of my MOTU interface, so I drag a cable from audio
input 3 to sampling input L. Obviously, if I wanted a stereo sampling input I'd drag two cables, perhaps from
audio inputs 3 and 4, to sampling inputs L and R. Gain settings on your audio interface will be crucial to
ensure a good healthy input level, and the Hardware Device's front panel meters will help you with that. You
can also turn input monitoring on and off there.
Now the easy bit! Select a pad in Kong, and click the Live Sampling (squiggle) button in the Control Panel
section. Reason immediately starts recording, so go ahead and record your drum hit. If you want to restart
the sampling click the Restart Sampling button at far left of the little box that's popped up.
Now, in the unlikely event that you've created the perfect sample in one fell swoop, you can click the little
stop button, the sampling pop up goes away, and your sample is loaded into the pad (in an NN Nano drum
device, in case you're interested). But almost always some editing is going to be needed to trim the sample
start and end, and possibly apply some sort of fade-out. So click Edit, and Reason presents you with a very
businesslike Edit Sample window (as in the screen below) which is a doddle to use. Drag the S(tart) and
E(nd) flags to trim the sample (an option to restrict their positions to transients in the sampled audio can
make finding the start of a hit very easy). Click Play to audition it (there's a Solo option in case your song is
playing in the background and drowning it out). You can click and drag in the waveform display to make
a selection, and then use the command buttons at the top to apply a crop, reverse, fade-out and more. You
can name your sample descriptively, too (at the bottom right), before clicking Save to load the finished
product into the Kong pad.
Published in SOS February 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
143 / 92
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Propellerhead Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS April 2011
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Technique : Reason Notes
Reason's flexible routing makes scintillating
sampling simple...
In Theory
In Practice
Sampling Through Effects
Sampling Devices
Sample Management
Robin Bigwood
eason 5 has something that no other version before it
offered: audio inputs. These are an essential part of
Live Sampling (also new), which lets you record drum
hits, vocal phrases and anything else you like directly into Kong,
Reason 5's expanded and redesigned
Redrum, NN19 and NNXT.
Hardware Interface device lets you access the
inputs on your audio hardware, which you can
I looked briefly at Live Sampling when I wrote about the new
record by connecting them to the Sampling
Kong Drum Designer in the February and March Reason
Input. The optional Big Meter can accurately
columns, and how you'd sample a hit from a microphone input
display levels for any input or output pair;
rotate its Channel knob to change its 'focus'.
into one of its pads. This sort of straightforward sampling is
fantastically useful, but other possibilities exist too. So this
month we'll cover all the fundamentals, and a few other things besides, to really dig into this brilliant new
In Theory
First, a quick recap on how it all works: Reason 5 has
a 'sampling input' on the rear of the Hardware Interface. Next to
it are sockets representing physical inputs on your audio
hardware. Want to sample from a mono mic plugged into input
1 of your audio interface? Then drag a cable from Audio Input 1
to Sampling Input L. For stereo sources, just drag two cables, to inputs L and R. Meters on the front of the
Hardware Interface help you set your input levels, and a Monitor button (plus associated level control) lets you
hear what's coming into the sampling inputs.
The next step, of course, is to actually start sampling, and the easiest way to do that is by clicking the
'squiggle' buttons on the sample based devices I mentioned above. Here's a run down of where to look, and
how it works:
Redrum: Each of the 10 drum channels has its own sampling button. The resulting sample is loaded into that
Kong: Select a pad or Drum Assignment button to call up the drum channel of your choice and
then use the sampling button in the control panel. You can also sample direct to NN Nano hits or
NN19: Samples load into the currently selected keygroup, replacing anything that was there before.
NNXT: If a zone is selected a new live sample will be loaded into it, replacing any sample assigned to it before.
If no zone is selected, a new one is created.
Regardless of the device you're using, starting the sampling process brings up
the same little 'progress' window, with buttons to restart sampling, end it (and
pass the sample directly to your device), or to Edit it in a dedicated dialoguebox.
This is a little streamlined audio editor where you can adjust sample start and end
points, switch on forward or forward back looping (and adjust loop points), and
apply a range of destructive actions such as crop, normalise, reverse, fade-in and fade-out. This is also where
you set the Root Key, the MIDI note reference at which the sample will play back at its original pitch and speed.
In Practice
As a real world example, here's how you'd put it all together to sample a sung 'lah'
and create a sustained vocal pad sound in NN19 — heavenly!
1. Assuming that your mic is set up and the sampling input connections made, create
an NN19, right click an empty part of its front panel and 'Initialize Patch'.
2. Click NN19's squiggly Start Sampling button and then sing your sweetest 'lah' for
a few seconds; the sampling window's waveform should confirm that something is happening.
3. Click the Edit button to pass this new sample on to the Edit Sample window. When it
appears, click Play to hear your sample.
4. You want this sample to loop, so click the forward or forward backward loop button in
the window's header area. Also check the Crossfade Loop option to take all the
pressure off producing a glitch free effect. Now, in the waveform display, you can drag
the 'S' marker to set the sample start point (although Reason will have made a good
stab at it already), and the L and R markers to set the loop boundaries. Another
approach is to click and drag in the waveform display to make a selection, then use the Set Sample Start/End
or Set Loop buttons to snap markers to that region.
5. When your sample is perfected, you can name it, then click Save to
144 / 92
5. When your sample is perfected, you can name it, then click Save to
load it into NN19, and start playing it.
Sampling Through Effects
Live Sampling opens up a new universe of creative possibilities all by
itself. But I promised to go beyond that and suggest some more
left field techniques, so let's look at something a little more exotic...
You can easily discover interesting sounds and textures by playing around with effects processors in real
time, especially delays and filters. Thanks to the audio inputs, it's now possible to do this in Reason, and
sample the results. How? Easy: just re wire your sampling input so that there's an effect processor (or
a Combinator containing a whole cocktail of treatments) in the signal path. You'll need to turn Live Sampling
monitoring on using the button on the Hardware Interface to hear what's happening, and you might want to
lower your audio buffer size in Preferences to minimise latency.
Sampling Devices
Who says you can only sample from stuff plugged into your audio
interface? You can just as easily connect other Reason
instruments to the Sampling Input.
You could try, for example, taking the output from a Thor into the
L and R sampling inputs. Create an NN19, initialise its patch and,
with Thor selected in the sequencer track list (so it has
a MIDI input), start sampling on the NN19. Now anything you play
on Thor will be sampled.
But why on earth should you do this? There are a few reasons.
You could sample and loop a multi oscillator pad played as
a stack of octaves and fifths. When replayed as a chord or
another octave stack on the NN19, it could create an absolutely
colossal, dense wall of sound. Or if you're feeling glitchy, you
might choose to sample a note or texture and deliberately loop it
This looks a touch scary, but is actually
really simple. Thor and a mic input from an
audio interface drive the vocoder; the
vocoder's patched directly into the Sampling
Input; and NN19 is ready and waiting to
capture any good results.
Reason has a great asset in the shape of the BV512 Digital
Vocoder, and it's crying out to be used with an audio input and
then sampled (or even used live). The screenshot below shows how you might connect
this up. The audio input (probably from a mic) goes to the BV512's Modulator Input. For
the Carrier Input, I'm using a buzzy pulse-wave patch from Thor. The BV512 output goes
straight to the Sampling Inputs, so that I can capture any nice textures and phrases into
an NN19. I just need to make sure Thor is selected in the sequencer track list, ensuring
that it's receiving MIDI and I can play it, and that I've got a sampling device visible, so
I can click its Start Sampling button when the muse takes me. .
The dedicated
Song Sample pane
of the Tool Window
keeps you in control
of what samples are
being used where.
Here, my single
'Lah' vocal sample
is being used in an
NN19, while
a Redrum reveals
its factory sample
Sample Management
Reason 5 gets a new Song Samples pane in the Tool window, and it's there that you manage your own (and
other) samples. Samples currently in use are called 'Assigned Samples' and are listed in association with
the device they're loaded into. After you select a sample in the list the buttons at the bottom of the Tool
window become active. Clicking Edit, for example, recalls the Edit Sample window, so this is the way to
further tweak samples gathered using Live Sampling.
Published in SOS April 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
145 / 92
Modulation Mayhem
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Modulation Mayhem
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS May 2011
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Technique : Reason Notes
Oscillator FM
Drums & Wires
Filter FM
Any Which Way You Like
Amplitude Modulation?
Reason's flexible routing is at the heart of this
month's exploration of synth modulation.
Robin Bigwood
eason and Record offer astonishing flexibility when it
comes to modulation. At the simplest level you've got
the envelopes, LFOs and other modulation sources built
into the synths and samplers; and for more ambitious users,
there are the rear panel CV (control voltage) inputs and outputs,
which allow you to apply one device's modulation sources to
another at the mere drag of a virtual cable. But what if you want
to take synthesis and sound design further — to explore the
outer limits of modulation, as it were? What other options are
Reaper Notes | May 2011 by Sound On Sound
Answer: try using audio as a modulation source. 'What?',
I hear you cry, over your banging beats, 'Surely that's
impossible?' Well, for the most part yes. Reason and Record
won't allow you to plug an audio cable into a CV socket, and
vice versa. However, so called 'audio rate' modulation
possibilities are built into the very heart of the über synth, Thor,
and you access them via its modulation matrix.
The fundamental signal path here could hardly
be simpler — just an 'analogue' oscillator
passing through a Low-pass Ladder filter. But
the modulation matrix is being used to modulate
the frequency of Osc 1 with Osc 2, at an audio
rate. Normally the province of esoteric
hardware modular synths, the effects you can
achieve range from mild coloration to total
harmonic insanity.
Oscillator FM
FM (frequency modulation) is the technology used in radio broadcast, of course, and in
Yamaha's seminal DX series of synths from the 1980s. The idea is that one oscillator you
don't hear (the modulator) repeatedly 'bends' the pitch of another that you do (the carrier).
Since this pitch modulation occurs at an audio rate (which is considered to be at least
20Hz, and frequently much faster) it ends up with the carrier's waveform being altered, and
taking on different harmonic characteristics. Certainly we don't hear the effect as any sort
of frenetic vibrato!
To get started with audio-rate synthesis in Thor, let's set up a simple patch. Assuming
you've already created a mixer (or you're using Record), start by creating a Thor, click the
Show Programmer button, and right click to Initialise Patch. This leaves you with a single
Analog Osc routed through a Low pass Ladder filter. Try the following:
1. In the empty Osc 2 slot, create another Analog Osc and switch it to sine wave. You won't
hear it, by the way, as by default it isn't routed into the audio signal path.
2. Down in the first slot of the modulation matrix, set the source to Osc 2 (that's the audio
output, remember), and the dest(ination) to Osc 1 > Frequency (FM).
oscillator type
combinations and
settings can
interesting tones,
as in this
Multi/Analog Osc
3. Now, as you play, click and drag in the amount field, to add the effect.
The effects you can achieve like this depend greatly on the modulation-matrix amount value, as well as on the
pitch settings of both oscillators, and range from mild thickening to glassy, bell like digital textures. Interesting it
may be, but in reality the DX like tones that emerge are unlikely to feature in your next trance production. So
how can you broaden the scope of this technique?
First of all, try different waveforms in the Analog Oscillators you're
already using. The more high-frequency content present in the
modulator oscillator (Osc 2), the more grungy the outcome,
generally speaking. So you'll get more dirt using a sawtooth wave
than a sine.
Using the matrix's scale option lets you
vary the quality and intensity of audio rate
modulation over time, using another
modulation source.
Next, try switching oscillator types, both for Osc 1 and Osc 2. Any
type can modulate any other (with the exception of the Multi Osc, which can modulate, but can't be modulated).
It's all entertainingly unpredictable, but certain combinations seem especially fruitful. Try, for example,
modulating one Wavetable oscillator with another. Stepping through the position setting for each of the many
wavetables on offer provides a huge range of harmonic variation. Using the Multi Osc as a modulator gives
especially complex results. For example, the settings shown in the screen shot below yield a very complex tone
with formant filter like overtones in certain pitch ranges.
The scale option in the mod matrix also yields interesting results. In the same row where you made the main
FM assignment, try choosing the Mod Env(elope) or an LFO in the scale column, and drag to apply an amount.
Either way, this will cause the FM effect to vary over time, and of course you can then tweak the envelope or
LFO settings too.
Drums & Wires
For even weirder, but often brilliant sounds, try using an audio
source outside of Thor as the modulator. You could go with
a sequenced pattern from another Thor, or a drum pattern from
a Redrum or Dr OctoRex, as in this example:
146 / 92
Modulation Mayhem
1. Create a Dr OctoRex and load up a typical drum or
accompaniment pattern — it'll be just a starting point for now
and you might want to go back and experiment with it further in
a minute.
2. Around the back of the rack, unplug the Dr OctoRex from its
default connection to your mixer and take one of its outputs
instead into Thor's Audio Input 1.
If you like using sample and hold LFOs to
provide some movement in your synth sounds,
wait until you try audio-rate modulation from an
external source — here being provided by
a vinyl scratch loop from the Dr OctoRex
3. In Thor's modulation matrix, where previously you'd chosen Osc 2 in the Source column, choose Audio
Input > 1 instead.
Now, while playing your Thor patch, click the Run button on Dr OctoRex and get ready to adjust the modulation
Amount to control the effect. You'll hear it particularly if you adjust Amp Env settings so that the basic Thor
sound is a sustaining pad or polysynth type sound. I found several of the .rx2 files (found in the Reason Factory
Sound Bank > Dr Rex Instrument Loops > Scratch Loops folder) particularly good for inducing strange but
controllable oscillator instability.
Filter FM
Even more unusual than Oscillator FM is what could be termed
Filter FM. Rather than apply an audio rate 'wobble' to the pitch
of the oscillator, this is all about applying it to the filter frequency
(cutoff) parameter. Consequently it can be applied to all filter
types (in all three filter slots) except the Formant Filter.
The setup can work in just the same way as before. Sticking
with our very simple signal flow for now, with Osc 2 used as an audio rate modulation source, you can modify
the modulation matrix assignment so that Osc 2 is still in the Source column, but Filter 1 > Filter Frequency
(FM) is now the Dest(ination). This gives you a whole different range of harmonic distortions to play with, many
of which aren't so metallic and digital sounding as oscillator FM. But since Filter FM often adds a lot of
high frequency content you might want to load up Filter 3 with a Low pass Ladder or State Variable LP12 filter
to tame the effect.
Any Which Way You Like
The more you experiment with audio-rate modulation, the more possibilities seem to emerge. For example, I've
only described using an Oscillator or an external signal as a modulation source. But in the mod matrix Source
pop up menu you can choose the signal present at many other points in the audio chain instead, including the
output of Filters 1 and 2, and the Shaper. And why not push the limits with other modulation destinations too?
I've only described FM and Filter FM, but how about routing an Oscillator to modulate another Wavetable
oscillator's position parameter or the Shaper's Drive parameter. As with many forms of audio-rate modulation,
the results are often unpredictable, but you can create sounds that are not easy to achieve by any normal
means. .
Amplitude Modulation?
Thor's modulation matrix does indeed let you set up amplitude modulation effects by routing an Oscillator
(for example) to the Amp > Gain parameter. But more often than not, it's quicker and easier to use Thor's
'hard wired' AM, controlled by the little vertical slider to the left of Osc 1. When you drag this up, you begin to
modulate the amplitude of Osc 1 with Osc 2, at an audio rate, of course. For really clangorous tones, turn
down (or off) Osc 2's keyboard tracking, using its KBD knob.That causes Osc 2 to produce a fixed-pitch
tone while Osc 1 still tracks the keyboard.
Published in SOS May 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
147 / 92
Neptune Pitch Correction
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Neptune Pitch Correction
Propellerhead Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS June 2011
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Technique : Reason Notes
Instant Impressiveness
Real world Use
The MIDI factor
Catch Zones
Reference Material
Wetsuits on, as we dive into Record's new
pitch correction device, Neptune.
Robin Bigwood
eptune appeared along with Record 1.5 last year, and
because it's really designed for use on audio tracks, it
appears only in Record, not in Reason. On the face of it,
this is a fairly straightforward Auto-Tune clone: You feed the
plug in monophonic audio and it pulls that audio into tune,
according to a musical scale you define, and with varying
degrees of naturalness or (intentional) artificiality. Its other
abilities (which are extensive, and often jaw dropping) we'll look at next time, but for now, let's get stuck into the
main game — pitch correction.
Instant Impressiveness
So you've got your vocal track recorded, and you'd like to tighten up its tuning a bit. Easy.
Start by finding the vocal track's device in the rack. One easy way to do this is to click the
'RACK' button at the bottom of the track's channel strip in the mixer. Record opens up a rack
view if necessary and flashes the device. Now right click the device and choose Create /
Neptune Pitch Adjuster from the contextual menu. This creates and inserts a Neptune within
Neptune's pitch
the Audio Track device, in its 'Insert FX' signal path.
Now all you need to do is configure the Neptune for your needs. Towards the right hand side
make sure the Pitch Adjust button is toggled on, but that Transpose and Formant are both off.
Then you might only need to adjust the pitch correction characteristics using the Correction
Speed and Preserve Expression knobs. Using them is intuitive, and very much a matter of
experimentation, but in general it's the Correction Speed parameter that determines how
processed the result sounds — keep this low for an in tune but natural performance. Preserve
Expression is all to do with vibrato: high values let vibrato through, while low values iron it flat.
If you have a very wobbly singer, try switching in the Wide Vibrato option (to the left of the central display), which
alters the response characteristics of the system. The Low Freq(uency) option is there for when you're trying to
work with very low pitches — below 44Hz to be precise — so Barry White or Jaco Pastorius wannabees
should still be served perfectly well without this option switched on.
Although Neptune's default settings work well on a range of
material, you'll get tighter results if you also choose one of its
predefined musical scales and a corresponding musical key to
match your song. This prevents Neptune getting the wrong end of
the stick, as it were, and 'correcting' the vocal to pitches that aren't
actually used in the song. You'll need to be thinking in music theory
terms, of course, to pick the appropriate key and scale, so if you're
uncertain, you can do it another way: just work out which notes your
melody actually uses, and then program the scale from scratch.
Actually 'program' is too grand a term — it's just a case of toggling
notes on and off with a few mouse clicks on Neptune's miniature
Choosing a scale type and root note can
help ensure more accurate pitch
correction, with fewer unwanted wobbles.
Real world Use
Now, choosing or defining scales is all very well, but what if your song switches tonality
halfway through, or simply changes key, rendering your settings useless? For this, there's the
Scale Memory function. Check out the top right of the central display area and you'll see the
four numbered buttons associated with this feature. These are memories for scale settings,
so you can have up to four scales ready and waiting for use at any one time. Here's how you might use them:
1. Set up the scales you need for each section of your song: for each
one just click a Scale Memory button and then choose a predefined
scale or program your own. Settings 'stick' as you go along — you
don't have to save anything.
2. If your Neptune is inserted in an Audio Track device, it won't have
got a sequencer track for itself by default. So right click the Neptune
and choose 'Create Track for Neptune'
3. In the sequencer, select this new Neptune track (it may well be
selected already) and then click the Track Parameter Automation
button at the top of the track list and choose the 'Scale Memory' option.
For 'scales' with very few notes, a wider
Catch Zone ensures that Neptune stays
on the job.
4. Switch to Edit Mode, and in the Scale Memory lane use the
Pencil tool to write an automation event relating to one of the
four values, at the appropriate point in your song. In Record
1.5.1, at least, the values range, unhelpfully, from 0 3 rather than
If you've recorded acoustic parts that are not
1 4, but it's not difficult to work out.
tuned to an A-440Hz pitch centre, the Master
5. Now, on playback, Neptune's scale settings will be switched
at the appropriate moment.
Tune slider in Preferences allows you to tweak
Neptune's pitch recognition to match.
148 / 92
Neptune Pitch Correction
Another scenario that comes up quite often is the need to switch off pitch correction completely for a section of
a song. For this, we need to automate Neptune once more. Start off by repeating most of steps 2 and 3 above,
but instead of choosing 'Scale Memory' opt for 'Pitch Adjust On/Off'. Then, in Edit Mode, in the Pitch Adjust
automation lane, use the pencil tool to write a value of 1 (on) or 0 (off) at the relevant locations in your song.
The MIDI factor
So far we've only considered what Neptune can do using pre-defined scales. But there is
another way to feed it pitch correction information: with notes from a MIDI controller, either
played live or recorded into a track. This approach can generate both delightfully subtle and
downright bonkers results.
1. Right click Neptune and 'Create Track' for it if it doesn't have one already.
2. Record enable the newly created sequencer track.
3. Back in Neptune, make sure the '[MIDI] To Pitch Adjust' option at the left of the central display
is selected.
The Scale
feature lets
you set up
a number of
scale types
and then
them using
— essential
if your song
Now, during playback (or indeed recording), try playing some notes on your controller. The
display indicates the target pitch you're playing with a green rectangle, and Neptune should pull
the current pitch towards it, subject to the Correction Speed setting. Interestingly, MIDI works in
addition to the normal scale system, overriding it for as long as there's note input. That means
you can use it for brief overrides, perhaps for when your melody steps outside of your
programmed scale. But you can also toggle off all the scale pitches, using the mini keyboard,
and then you'll get a natural, uncorrected performance except when there's MIDI input. This is good if there's
just one or two notes out of tune in a vocal take.
It goes without saying, too, that the MIDI input allows you 'play' the pitch correction in remarkable ways,
twisting vocal and other lines into bizarre and wonderful shapes. Many hours of happy noodling lie ahead...
Catch Zones
If you program a lot of your own scales, and especially if you ever select just one or two pitches for a scale,
to force some very 'quantised' pitch correction, you'll see gaps appear in the red line above the pitch
display. The red lines (for there are actually many, one associated with each pitch) are called 'Catch Zones'.
To put it simply, Neptune won't even attempt to correct a note's pitch unless it falls within a catch zone.
However, the size of the zones is adjustable, using the horizontal slider above the pitch display. So how do
we use Catch Zones to best advantage?
In some circumstances, reducing Catch Zone size is good. Let's say you're working with a really good jazz
singer. You might already have set pitch-correction parameters to allow a more natural effect, but going
a step further and setting Catch Zone Size to its minimum forces Neptune to only correct notes that are a tiny
bit out of tune, and to actually completely ignore a microtonal pitch range between scale pitches. This can
allow portamento, swoops, glissandos and deliberate note bends to pass through more naturally.
On the other hand, increasing Catch Zone Size has its uses too. Imagine you've programmed a 'scale' with
only three pitches, relating to the notes of a minor chord. You're aiming for a highly processed, robot like
effect of a vocal line jumping between these pitches, almost in the manner of sa synth arpeggiator. As well
as the obligatory settings of maximum Correction Speed and minimum Preserve Expression, it's also
essential to increase Catch Zone Size so that the zones fully cover the gaps between the pitches. In this
instance a setting of above 260 cents does the trick. In fact a higher setting makes no difference — Catch
Zones can't overlap.
Reference Material
One thing conspicuous by its absence in Neptune is any sort of pitch reference parameter. You need this if
the fundamental pitch centre of your song is a little way flat or sharp of A-440. This could have happened if
you sang to a guitar accompaniment, but the guitar was only in tune with itself.
Actually the parameter does exist, but it's a global setting, in Record's Preferences, on the Audio page.
There's a Master Tune slider there that allows you to adjust either side of A-440Hz by up to a semitone.
Published in SOS June 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
149 / 92
Neptune Pitch Correction, Part 2
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Neptune Pitch Correction, Part 2
Universal Harmony
Hit The High Notes
Automatic Double Tracking
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS July 2011
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
In part two of our short series, we dive deeper into
Neptune, the pitch correction device that keeps on
Robin Bigwood
his month's Reason workshop, just like last month's, is
aimed squarely at Record users, and focuses on
a device that only appears in that application — the
Neptune Pitch Adjuster and Voice Synth. As we discovered last
issue, it's a hugely capable Auto-Tune equivalent, ideal for
tidying up vocal tracks. But it can do so much more, and has
value even if you never work with vocals. Certainly, if you're
a Reason user who's never tried Record, now might be a good
time to download the demo, available from, and try some of the techniques
described below.
To cut a long story short, Neptune can do several things
beyond pitch correction. Firstly, it's a voice resynthesizer that
Neptune does much more than pitch correction.
can generate fluid harmony parts when you feed it a vocal (or
Here it's generating harmony parts from
other monophonic line) together with MIDI notes. Secondly, it's
a standard single line vocal track, according to
the notes it's receiving from the Neptune MIDI
a real time audio transposer and formant shifter that works
a treat with single-line melodies, riffs and so on, and produces
fascinating results with polyphonic parts, percussive material and even whole mixes. A bit of lateral thinking
opens up even more possibilities, including ADT (automatic double tracking). We'll look at all of these this
Universal Harmony
In a pop production, backing vocals can be a lot of hard work.
Even if you've got a great grasp of the harmony, you've still got
to figure out how that translates into the individual vocal lines
and then perform multiple record takes to get them down.
Neptune provides another, altogether quicker, alternative. The
following directions assume you've already recorded a vocal
phrase into an audio track, and set up a playback loop around it
so that you can 'session' it.
1. If you haven't done this already, right-click your vocal track's
Audio Track device in the rack and choose Create / Neptune
Pitch Adjuster. That should also open up the Insert FX area of
the device.
2. We need to get MIDI note data to this Neptune, so right-click
on an empty part of its front panel and choose 'Create Track for
Neptune 1' (or whatever number it happens to be).
Neptune's separate voice synth outputs allow
you to separate out your backing vocal signals
for independent treatment. In this example,
they're being treated by an RV7000 reverb,
and the Mix device gives them a whole mixer
channel of their own.
3. Record should have already selected and record enabled the new Neptune track in the sequencer, so the
MIDI input should be live. Check this by playing notes on your controller keyboard and watching for the MIDI
Input indicator to light up towards the bottom left of the Neptune front panel.
4. In that same 'MIDI' section of the front panel, click the 'To Voice Synth' box. This ensures Neptune doesn't try
to use your MIDI input for pitch-correction purposes.
Now we're good to go. Start playback to hear your vocal phrase, and play chords on your MIDI controller to
generate a completely new harmony vocal part based on those notes. The sliders in Neptune's Mixer section
control the relative balance of the input signal and harmony parts. It's worth noting, too, that Neptune can
perform its voice synthesizer duties in addition to automatic pitch correction of your original vocal — you may
even find that the Pitch Adjust button is lit up already if you've been following the steps in this example.
There are a few extra things to cover before we move on.
Firstly, you're going to need to record MIDI notes on the
Neptune sequencer track if you want your backing vocal
harmonies to be a permanent fixture in your song. Just select
the track, hit the record button, play your chords again, and you
should be away. Secondly, you can use your MIDI controller's
pitch bend and modulation wheels to introduce some
movement into Voice Synth generated harmonies, without
Neptune's Transpose and Formant functions
affecting the main vocal line. Neptune's Bend Range parameter can be used to process anything you feed into
and Vibrato Rate knob let you fine-tune the two effects. Finally, it, just like any other effects device.
be aware that on Neptune's rear panel there's a separate
stereo output for the voice synth. By default it's not used, and the voice synth gets mixed into the main outs. But
if you create a new Mix device and hook up those voice synth outputs to it, you suddenly have the capability to
mix, EQ and process them completely independently.
Hit The High Notes
If you're a producer of that kind of dance music that sometimes uses very squeaky, transposed vocals, you'll
150 / 92
Neptune Pitch Correction, Part 2
love this bit. Aside from its pitch correction abilities, Neptune can also do real time pitch transposition of up to
an octave in either direction, and formant shifting too. Applying the effect couldn't be easier: just create
a Neptune on an Audio Track device (as in step 1 above) and then enable one or both effects by clicking their
buttons at the top right of its front panel. They're not complicated parameters, so experiment away!
There is a more serious side to this, though. While almost
everything about Neptune is optimised for use on vocals,
there's nothing to stop you processing other audio with it. For
example, both Transpose and Formant functions can make
really useful changes to the character of drum and percussion
loops. Owners of Reason and Record can have a field day with
this. To see what I mean, why not try using Neptune on the
output of a Reason instrument like Dr OctoRex, and treat it just
as though it were a delay, reverb, or any other sort of effect
For the synthesist and sound designer always looking for the next new thing, try using a Neptune on the output
of a synth or sampler playing polyphonic material, or perhaps an entire mix. What you discover is that
Neptune's transposition and formant shifting clearly has a strong pitch-recognition element. Playing chords
confuses the poor thing, producing strange artifacts on note attacks and decays, but the results can be striking
and sometimes very beautiful and effective. Certainly, for anyone who's ever hankered after the instability and
unpredictability of certain early analogue synths, here's a modern virtual equivalent! And to push things even
further, if you have the Record/Reason combo, you can hook up the CV output of a synth to Neptune's
rear panel Formant CV input, making the whole effect wobble even more... .
Automatic Double Tracking
A bit of creative thinking opens up a technique that Neptune wasn't primarily designed for: ADT (automatic
double tracking). Double tracking of vocals suits many singers and styles, producing a characteristic
thickening and loosening effect. However, if your singer finds it hard to be accurate enough, or just isn't
around when you decide you want the effect, Neptune can step in.
The idea here is to use a single vocal track, but double it in such a way that one 'half' is heard in its natural
state (which may well have a few pitching imperfections) and the other is processed by Neptune's Pitch
Adjust section, possibly with a hint of Transpose too. Neptune makes us work a little to achieve this, as it
doesn't have a wet/dry mix control, but there are two straightforward ways to do it.
You can literally duplicate your vocal track in the sequencer. Right-click in the track's configuration area,
near its icon, mute and solo buttons and so on. Then choose 'Duplicate Tracks and Devices' from the
contextual menu that appears. Make sure that only one of the tracks is being processed by a Neptune, and
you're away.
Now a Spider Audio Merger and Splitter plus a Line Mixer can be inserted, along with a Neptune, in your
audio track. The Spider splits the signal in two: one half directly to channel 1 of the Line Mixer with no
processing, and the other half via Neptune and into channel 2. Then the Line Mixer's main outs go to the
Audio Track device's Insert returns. The screen to the left shows how this looks in practice.
Regardless of which way you choose to do it, you immediately get a mild ADT effect even if none of
Neptune's sections are enabled. Just having it instantiated obviously causes a very slight delay to the signal
passing through it. However, a twiddle of the controls can take things further. Enabling Pitch Adjust with
a fast ish correction speed but a high Preserve Expression level causes a more obvious but still naturalsounding divergence for most vocal parts. I also dial in transposition of around 15 cents, sometimes, for
a bit of added thickness.
Published in SOS July 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
151 / 92
Missing DAW Features: Track Folders, Fader & Mix Groups, Markers, Track Freezing
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
Missing DAW Features: Track Folders, Fader &
Mix Groups, Markers, Track Freezing
Reason/Record Tips & Techniques
In this article:
Track Folders
Fader & Mix Groups
Track Freezing
Clip Labels
Published in SOS August 2011
: Close window
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Technique : Reason Notes
We work around the missing DAW features in
Reason and Record.
eason and Record provide a self contained system that
gives you everything you need to take a project from
conception to final master. Some common DAW
features are conspicuous by their absence, though, so this
month we're going to take a look at which these are, and
consider some workarounds.
Track Folders
Several major DAWs offer track folders as an organisational
feature in their arrange windows. They're ideal for grouping
similar or related tracks, allowing you to 'fold' tracks away when
not needed, providing good visual organisation, and
sometimes a way of applying editing actions to the enclosed
tracks simultaneously.
In the absence of track folders, Reason and
Record's sequencer windows can be made
much easier to navigate just by folding tracks
you've finished working on, and by colouring
tracks and clips systematically.
You'll search in vain for a direct equivalent in Reason or Record, and sadly I'm not able to reveal some hidden
functionality that will achieve exactly the same thing. However, there are ways to work that can fulfil some of the
same goals, at least.
First of all, for visual organisation in the sequencer, a methodical approach to track colour can be
tremendously useful. Choosing a colour is easy: just right click an empty part of a track's information area, or
directly on its icon, and make a selection from the Track Colour submenu. The trick here is to make meaningful
coloured groupings of tracks — perhaps all drums blue, bass parts red, synths yellow, and so on. The whole
sequencer becomes clearer as a result.
Secondly, while Reason and Record may not have actual track
folders, individual tracks can be folded away, when in arrange
mode, using the triangular handles to the left of the track name.
This allows you to minimise use of vertical space in the
sequencer, making big track lists much more manageable.
Certainly, folding away tracks as soon as you've finished
tracking or editing them can be a good habit to get into.
Remember, too, that Alt clicking a fold handle opens or closes
all tracks at once.
Now, how about editing on multiple tracks? Using the arrow
tool, you can only select one clip at a time, but you can
Using a submixer to handle the outputs of
shift click clips across several tracks to add them into a bigger related synths or audio tracks is the next best
selection. Then moving one moves all of them, as does
thing to using true track or fader groups.
dragging a clip boundary. What's more, the Erase and Razor
tools can be clicked and dragged across multiple tracks, making it easy to delete and chop up clips in a single
mouse action.
Fader & Mix Groups
Being able to group faders is a really handy feature in many
DAWs, as is creating a mixer signal routing that mixes several
tracks to one 'group' or 'stem' channel. Both allow you to adjust
the level of a bunch of related tracks — all drums and
percussion tracks, for example — using just one fader, and
without disturbing any pre existing level balance between them.
In both Reason and Record, for the time being at least, you'll
need a workaround to achieve the same thing.
In Reason, if your intended 'group' doesn't have more than six
stereo outputs, try creating a Line Mixer 6:2 device. This will
automatically get patched into your main 14:2 Mixer. Then flip
the rack and start rewiring the outputs of the individual group devices so that they feed the channels of the Line
Mixer. This little workhorse even has a single aux send and return, in case you need to add a bit of shared
reverb or delay. Now you can double click the scribble strip to rename the Line Mixer 'Drums Submix', or
whatever is appropriate, and start setting levels and pans for your submix. Looking at the main mixer again
now, you'll have a lot of free channels, and one new channel for your submix group.
In Record, the principle is very similar. Create a Line Mixer 6:2 (or, indeed, a Mixer 14:2, for larger submixes)
and it'll show up in the rack with an associated Mix device. Manually patch all the outputs of your 'group' devices
into the new mixer, and give the mixer (or the Mix device itself) a descriptive name, as before. Check the Main
Mixer and your group/submix fader will be there ready for you to use.
The interesting thing about Record is that Mix and Audio Track devices have a tantalising section on their
rear panels: P LAN Out. In versions 1 through to 1.5 of Record, at least, there's only one value ever shown here
— 'Master Section' — in a little virtual LED display. It's not a pop up menu and there's no way to change
anything. However, I suspect the way this is implemented could mean that a future Record version will
152 / 92
Missing DAW Features: Track Folders, Fader & Mix Groups, Markers, Track Freezing
somehow allow Mix and Audio Track device routing to go somewhere else than the Master Section stereo mix
bus, which strongly suggests that group channels, and perhaps channel strip routing buttons to go with them,
are on the cards. Here's keeping our fingers crossed.
Neither Reason nor Record has a marker or 'locator' scheme,
which in other DAWs allows you to mark up different sections of
sequence meaningfully ('Verse 1', 'Middle 8', and so on). These
needn't be just a cosmetic feature, either — a well implemented
marker system lets you navigate the timeline quickly during
editing and tracking.
What Reason and Record do have, though, is their L(eft) and
R(ight) loop flags always available in the sequencer timeline.
When you're not actually using them for looping, they can be
pressed into service as general locators. You might drag the 'L'
locator to the beginning of verse 1 and the 'R' locator to verse 2,
to provide a couple of useful 'signposts' around your sequence.
Now you just have to remember these keyboard shortcuts:
Jump to 'L' locator: Alt + Left Arrow (or keypad 1).
Jump to 'R' locator: Alt + Right Arrow (or keypad 2).
It can be used for various tasks, but Record's
'Bounce Mixer Channels' function does
a fantastic job of 'freezing' tracks, to reclaim
processing power.
To get to the start of your sequence, press Shift and Return, or
the dot key on a numeric keypad. The keypad's also useful for its
7 and 8 keys — they move the playback wiper forwards or backwards, one bar at a time.
Track Freezing
This one is really aimed at Record users. Despite the application
generally being staggeringly CPU efficient, it is possible to
exceed your computer's limits using Record, especially if you have
a lot of layered synths and a ton of RV7000s. As ever, your first
port of call, as audio begins to break up, is to dive into the Audio
page of the Preferences window (accessible from the Record
menu in OS X and the Edit menu in Windows) and increase the
buffer size. But when that's already at the max, or you don't want
the latency that comes with it, you might try a manual freeze of
some processor heavy tracks.
Record has a dedicated function for this — Bounce Mixer Channels — which you find in the File menu. Call
up the dialogue box and there you'll find tick boxes to select tracks to include in the bounce. You can also
include effects returns, in case your tracks rely on any effects plumbed into the Master Section in an aux type
routing. Neat. For a track 'freeze' such as we're considering here, select the 'All' option at top right to ensure
your freeze sounds the same as it does in your current mix. At the bottom left, choose '(Bounce To) New Tracks
in Song' to instantly add the freeze tracks to your mix as simple audio tracks. The 'Mute Original Channels'
option avoids doubling and, more importantly, reclaims all that precious CPU: with the tracks muted, Record
will no longer try to play them back. The only decision left to make is whether to bounce the whole song length,
or just the section within the loop boundaries. The loop option can be a good time saver when your
CPU intensive tracks only occupy a small section within a longer song. .
Clip Labels
Clip Labels aren't enabled by default, but do just what the name suggests: they provide a way of 'tagging'
clips so you can identify them by name. To label a clip, right click it and choose Add Labels to Clips from the
contextual menu. A text field appears and you type a name, then hit return. To make it quicker to label
a whole bunch of clips, select them all, right click just one of them, choose Add Labels to Clips, and hit
return. They'll get generic names like 'untitled note clip', but now you can just go through double clicking the
labels one by one to bring up the text input field, rather than repeatedly having to right click.
And here's a thought: if you really miss a full-blown marker system for identifying song sections (and you're
not using the Blocks feature for the same purpose), try this cheeky workaround. Create a Subtractor synth,
and in the sequencer, drag its track-lane 'handle' so it's at the top of the track list. You're never going to use
this synth, so fold it away in the rack, but you can use its track lane to draw in empty note clips, using the
pencil tool, that correspond in length with your song sections. Then add labels to those clips — verse one,
chorus, middle eight, and so on — and you've got song markers. Not quite the same as the real thing, as
there's no mechanism to locate to them easily, but better than nothing.
Published in SOS August 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
153 / 92
Reason 6
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason 6
Reason Notes
Published in SOS September 2011
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Technique : Reason Notes
New Effects
Merging Technologies
The Damage
Balancing Act
Reason 6 is probably the biggest update in the
program's history. We give you the lowdown...
Robin Bigwood
ecord is dead. Long live Reason! That's pretty much the
message of Propellerhead's recent announcement of
Reason version 6. Life is going to change for devotees
of both applications — and if you're reading this I guess that
means you — so let's look at some of the facts and their
Reason 6 brings to an end the era of the
Reason/Record duo; from now on it's a fully
Reason 6 will be available on September 30th, 2011.
fledged, audio-recording DAW. At the same
From that date, Record will be discontinued and no longer
time, three new effect devices — Pulveriser,
available for purchase (other than boxed versions still in
The Echo and Alligator — promise soundmangling potency.
retailers' supply chains).
Reason 6 is essentially the old Reason/Record combo, in an
updated and expanded form. It has the full complement of devices, audio tracks, and the SSL-modelled main
For current Reason/Record combo users, Reason 6 will offer
some other new features to justify the upgrade cost. Three
new audio effect devices — Pulveriser, The Echo, and
Alligator — broaden still further the possibilities for creative
treatments. Transparent time-stretching of audio is augmented by audio transposition, which looks as if it'll
handle key changes of entire mixes as well as single clips, and should allow really flexible control of pitch, in
the manner of Ableton Live's clip envelopes.
Version 6 includes 64-bit compatibility, allowing use in the most modern operating systems, and potentially
better handling of really big samples.
Launching alongside Reason 6 is a cheaper, cut-down version of the application called Reason Essentials.
It's still a fully-fledged DAW, but lacks audio transposition and Blocks mode, and has a simpler mixer.
There's no NN19, Kong, Thor, Malström and RPG8 arpeggiator, and it's also missing the three new effect
devices and a bunch of old ones, including most of the half-rack effects, Neptune and Vocoder BV512. Also,
importantly, the Factory sound bank is smaller, the Orkester bank is not included, and for obvious reasons it
can't provide full compatibility with all ReFills.
New Effects
Now that we've got the official announcements out of the way,
let's look in more detail at how life might change for seasoned
Reason and Record users.
First off, those new effect devices. Pulveriser joins Scream 4
as a distortion and general 'dirtying' effect. Simple two knob
compression and distortion sections are complemented by a multi mode filter with on-board envelope follower
and an LFO, which is whimsically labelled 'Tremor'. It looks easy to use, so it'll be fascinating to find out how it
sounds. The inclusion of a dry/wet mix control certainly suggests Pulveriser might be designed with parallel
compression of drum mixes in mind.
The Echo is a new delay unit that, rather predictably, picks up
some styling cues from Roland's RE201 and RE501 Space
Echo tape delays. It looks set to massively expand Reason's
abilities in this area, but goes well beyond what's possible in
hardware. Stereo width and ping-pong effects appear simple to
set up, and a dedicated Colour section includes a resonant
filter, distortion and saturation effects for plenty of character and
potential vintage quality in delay repeats. Where The Echo
seems to come into its own, though, is in creative treatments.
On-board modulation should take care of everything from a bit
Reason 6's huge recording meter overlay will
be a boon for guitarists and singers working at
of tape flutter to rhythmic mayhem but, more importantly, two
a distance from their computer monitors.
additional modes, Triggered and Roll, open up a range of
'bouncing ball' and stutter effects. They promise to allow you to
'play' the effect as if you were manually moving around a tape delay's play head.
Alligator is billed as a 'Triple Filtered Gate'. It splits the input
signal into three separate channels, each sporting a gate,
A new time-stretch mode selection scheme
modulated filters, drive, a phaser, delay, pan and a volume
paves the way for choosing additional more
control. There are 64 on-board gating patterns, but you can
specialist algorithms.
program your own too, using the Matrix step sequencer or
RPG8 arpeggiator, or simply by playing notes on a MIDI keyboard. Going well beyond the typical sequencedfilter effect, it has potential as a powerful rhythmic treatment for drum loops, synth pads and entire mixes.
Merging Technologies
Most other new Reason 6 features are the key elements being
brought across from Record, as I previously mentioned. They
include the new unlimited channel mixer, audio recording, comp editing, automatic audio time-stretching, the
Neptune Pitch Adjuster, Line 6 guitar amps and stem exporting.
154 / 92
Reason 6
As well as audio transposing, though, there do appear to be one or two genuinely new features. A big
Recording Meter overlay seems to tie in with features on the new Balance audio interface, and will be useful for
when you record more than a few feet away from your monitor screen.
On Audio Track devices, there's a redesigned and apparently recharged time-stretch algorithm selection
scheme. Previously there were two algorithms, Allround and Melody, and you chose between them with two
buttons. Now there's a pop-up menu, and at least one more algorithm: Vocal. I wonder if there could be a
specialised algorithm for drums, too?
Also, appearing in the transport section (of Reason Essentials, at least) are new waveform zoom controls,
allowing you to scale up waveform displays without necessarily having to use the vertical track zoom as well.
Certainly a handy feature, especially for the potentially very small waveforms on stereo tracks.
The Damage
Buying Reason 6 from scratch when it's released on
September 30th will cost €405$449. If you already have any
previous version of Reason or Record (but not both), the
upgrade will cost €149$169. For users of the Reason/Record
combo, it's €99$99. And from the Reason versions sometimes
bundled with MIDI controllers and the like — Adapted and
Limited — the upgrade costs €279$299.
The exception to all this is if you buy (or have already bought)
Record, Reason, or both, after July 1st and before October 31st
2011. Get the Reason/Record duo and you can score Reason 6 for free. Buy Reason 5 during the same period
and version 6 will cost you €99$99. Likewise, if you pick up Record during the same period, then the Reason 6
upgrade will be €200$220. Go to for even more purchase and upgrade details.
Balancing Act
Being launched at the same time as Reason 6 is Propellerhead's first audio interface, called Balance. This
€405$449 USB 2 bus powered device is a 2-in/2 out design that looks like it'll be ideal for the needs of
many desktop and laptop musicians.
There's some fascinating integration with Reason, too. First of all, the entire interface can act as
a copy protection dongle for Reason, meaning you don't have to carry it and your separate USB 'Ignition
Key' around with you. Secondly, it has an intriguing feature called Clip Safe, which records any incoming
audio at two gain levels simultaneously, on two different channels. If you discover that your recording clips
during a take, you can switch over to the audio captured at the lower level, and apparently this is all done
automatically. Sounds fantastic!
Other interesting features include front panel source selection buttons for each of the two input channels,
not unlike on a domestic hi fi amplifier. These should help cut down on repeated plugging and unplugging of
inputs, and let you keep a range of gear permanently connected. There are two mic inputs with individual
phantom power switches, two guitar inputs with pads, and four line inputs.
Another important thing to note is that Balance comes bundled with Reason Essentials, the 'lite' version of
Reason 6. If you already own Reason, Record, or Reason and Record, you'll get a free upgrade to Reason
6. It isn't available without software, though it will work fine as a general-purpose audio interface via Core
Audio in Mac OS X, and with ASIO and WMD drivers on Windows.
Published in SOS September 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
155 / 92
Reason 6
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason 6
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS October 2011
: Close window
Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Version 6 is a new dawn for Reason users. This
month, we offer some essential techniques for
getting up to speed with it.
Audio Tracks
The Mixer & The Rack
Audio Options
Master Blaster
Home Improvement
Robin Bigwood
he dawn of version 6 brings to a close a slightly awkward
period in Reason's development. With the inclusion of
audio recording, it can now rightfully claim to be
a full blown DAW, capable and characterful, all by itself. There
are no confusing spin offs, application combinations, or feature
overlaps. It sports a better and more configurable rack and
acquires a great new modular style mixer that's ready for songs
of any complexity, so the nightmare of managing multiple Remix
14:2 devices should be well and truly gone. Let's dig into some
of the new features.
Audio Tracks
Adding an audio track to your sequence is as easy as hitting
Command T (OS X) or Ctrl T (Windows). You choose which
inputs from your interface it'll record via the pop up menu next to
the level meter. This is also where you choose between a mono
and stereo input, and hence whether it's a mono or stereo track.
The green button — Enable Monitoring for Track — routes the
input to the track's output. It'll activate automatically, or not,
according to the monitoring mode you've chosen in Preferences
(see the 'Audio Options' box).
That'll often be all you need to know to get stuck into recording.
Hit the record button and you're away. However, there are some
other cool options to explore.
Reason 6 in all its glory — modular mixer,
multiple racks, audio tracks. Look familiar? It's
essentially the old Reason/Record duo in one
An audio track in the sequencer: the
buttons next to the level meter let you
choose a hardware input and engage the
built in tuner. The button above, currently lit
green, enables track monitoring.
Clicking the tuning fork button switches the input level meter into a tuning display, ideal for guitarists. It works
incredibly easily: you play the note you want to tune, and Reason figures out the target pitch and guides you up
or down.
If the input level meter doesn't give you enough feedback — I always wish there was some clearer calibration
— you can choose Recording Meter from the Window menu. This pops up a big, floating, well calibrated meter
The Mixer & The Rack
Creating a mixer with virtually unlimited tracks, but without
causing cabling pandemonium on the back of the rack (well, no
worse than usual, anyway...) doesn't seem like an easy task, but
the Propellerhead nerds were equal to it and have come up
with a nifty solution. Basically, any channel you see in the mixer
has a counterpart in the rack, in the form of either an Audio
Track device or a Mix device. These communicate with the
Here's a Thor synth with its Mix device
mixer via an invisible, virtual 'P LAN' connection.
counterpart. Notice how an RV7000 reverb has
been inserted into the Mix device, almost as if it
A lot of the time you never have to think about these new
was a Combinator.
devices, or interact with them in any way. Audio Track devices
are created automatically whenever you create an Audio Track — in
a very real sense they are the Audio Track. And Mix devices show up in
partnership with any individual or Combinator instruments you create. In
old versions of Reason, you'd see just instruments and effects devices in
the rack. Now every instrument has a Mix device 'shadow', and as you
add effects to instruments, they get patched in between the instrument
and the Mix device.
In no time at all, the presence of a bunch of Audio Track and Mix
devices should feel completely familiar for Reason upgraders. There are
a few aspects of how they work, though, that are worth noting.
Firstly, they are not just a conduit to the mixer. You can also patch
effects directly into them. Try it: right click an Audio Track or Mix device
and choose an effect from the Effect submenu. It gets plumbed in as if
you'd added an effect in a Combinator device. And they're like
Combinators in other ways, too — there's a programmer window (closed by default), which you can use to do
all the usual parameter mapping and external control assignment stuff.
Secondly, Audio Track devices carry an all important pop up menu, for choosing the type of
time stretch algorithm the track uses should you play back your track at a different tempo than that at
which it was recorded. Reason 6's real time time stretch gives excellent results; this just optimises the
outcome. 'All round' is the default algorithm, but 'Melody' or 'Vocal' can give smoother results on monophonic
156 / 92
Reason 6
Finally, there are times when you'll want to create a Mix device manually, which is an option when you
right click an empty part of the rack. One such situation is when you're using more than just the main stereo
outputs from an instrument like NNXT or Kong. The additional outputs will need their own Mix device (or
devices) in order to become part of your mix. So right click an empty part of the rack or instrument and choose
Other > Mix Channel from the pop up menu. The new Mix channel appears. Then, on the rear of the rack,
manually drag cables from the additional output to the Mix Channel's Input.
Back in the days of Reason 5 and before, mix automation — of faders, pans, EQs and the rest — was
achieved by recording automation data for a Remix 14:2 mixer, into a sequencer track specially created
for it. In Reason 6, however, you can't create a track for the mixer. Instead you record mix automation
data into individual tracks for Audio Track and Mix devices. The process differs a little depending on
which it is.
Recording mix automation for an audio track couldn't be easier. Make sure its parameter automation
record enable button is on in the sequencer. (You'll probably want to deselect the main record enable button,
especially if you've already done all your recording on this track.) Then just hit record, and make the knob and
fader movements. They appear in the sequencer track on new lanes.
Sadly it's not quite the same for instruments using Mix devices. The difference arises because while
instruments get their own sequencer tracks by default, their Mix devices don't. You can create them manually,
but a super quick shortcut is to just Alt click the mixer channel parameter — the fader, knob or button — you
want to automate. You can also right click a control and choose 'Edit Automation'. In both cases, the outcome
is the same; a new sequencer track is created for the Mix device, and then you can just hit the main record
button and start recording automation. .
Audio Options
As befits Reason 6's DAW status, its audio setup is a little more complex than in previous versions.
Everything is configured in the Preferences window (accessed via the Reason menu in OS X, and the Edit
menu in Windows). On the audio page you choose your audio hardware device, buffer size (smaller values
minimise monitoring latency but work your CPU harder) and audio track monitoring mode. There are three
modes on offer here. Automatic is good for dead easy, intuitive working — freshly created audio tracks
show up record enabled and with their monitoring on. Manual might be a better choice if you're recording
with a mic in the same room as your monitors — when you record enable a track, monitoring does not
automatically turn on, potentially avoiding those nasty feedback moments. External is the way to go if you're
exclusively using a mixer or the zero latency features of your interface for monitoring.
Master Blaster
The same shortcut you can use to begin recording mix automation for instruments (Alt clicking on a control
in their channel strip) is also how you record automation for Reason 6's Master Section. To record
a fade out at the end of a song, for example, Alt click the mixer's master fader. Then hit record and drag the
fader down in real time, or just go to the new Master Section track in the sequencer, enter Edit Mode, and
click the fade into the Master Level lane using the pencil tool.
Home Improvement
Reason 6's workspace is more configurable than ever before. For a start, you can resize its main window to
fill your screen. The draggable horizontal dividers then determine how much space is devoted to the mixer,
rack and sequencer, from top to bottom. The F5, F6 and F7 keys focus on each element exclusively — and
you can then hit the same key again to return to a two or three area view.
Navigation buttons appear by default at the top (for the mixer) and the right of the main window, shuttling
you around vast mixing boards, racks and track lists with the merest drag of the mouse. However, you can
switch these off if you want, to further maximise your screen space. Then a mouse scroll ball or trackpad
scroll will do the same job, as you mouse over each of the window areas.
For those lucky users with multiple displays, the mixer and rack can be split off into separate windows with
a mouse click or two — that's what the little overlaid square icons are for in the vertical strip at the far right of
the main window.
Finally, check out the series of little buttons at the far bottom right of the mixer. Clicking these shows or
hides areas within all the channel strips: input, dynamics, EQ, inserts, effects sends and fader. So if you
aren't currently working with the inserts and sends sections, for example, deselect them to make the mixer
that bit more manageable.
Published in SOS October 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
157 / 92
Mix Tricks For Reason 6
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Mix Tricks For Reason 6
Send Reinforcements
Look After The Talent
Multiple Outputs
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS December 2011
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Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Robin Bigwood
eason 6's new mixer is living proof of its new 'grown-up' status: no restriction on the number of
channels, flexible and great-sounding EQ, channel dynamics... Enough to make you salivate over your
dongle. Yet there are some rather less conspicuous features that are just as exciting, and can really
make a difference to how you work — and that's what we'll be looking at in this month's column.
Reaper Notes | SOS December 2011 by Sound On Sound
Send Reinforcements
Having eight aux sends available, and all of them configurable as preor post-fader, is a real luxury. For general mixing, they're potentially
great time and effort savers.
One common but very worthwhile technique is to connect just one
reverb unit (for example) to the mixer, in a send/return loop, and then it
can be 'shared' amongst any number of mixer channels. You just raise
a channel's send level knob to divert a bit of its signal off into the effect
device, and the effected signal comes back into your mix via an FX
Return. The technique is massively more efficient and user friendly than
applying many instances of the same effect to lots of individual devices
or audio tracks. It's a bit of old-school studio engineering goodness
that's still very valid.
1: A right-click shortcut in the mixer
Setting up 'Send FX' like this is really straightforward. In the Mixer,
makes setting up send effects
laughably easy. Reason patches the
right-click anywhere except on a knob, fader or button and choose
new effect into the first available
'Create Send FX' from the contextual menu that appears (screen 1).
send/return 'slot'.
This then offers up the full complement of effect devices to choose
from. The one you choose appears in the rack and gets
automatically patched into the Master Section device. In the
mixer, the device appears by name in the first free slot in the
2: With a send effect in place, you use it by
master section's FX Return area — make a quick note of which enabling send buttons on individual channels
(they light up in blue) and adjusting the level
number that is. So, to now apply the effect to a mixer channel,
controls to determine how much effect is
you find the channel's Send section and click the send button
applied to each.
with the same number to enable it. The accompanying level
control determines just how much effect is added (screen 2).
For the most part, your sends should be set to post-fader mode when adding reverb, delay and the like.
That's the default state of a send in Reason 6, and it ensures that the level being sent to 'external' effects
devices scales automatically when you adjust the channel's main output fader. Also, the effect itself should have
its wet/dry balance (if it has one) set to 100 percent wet.
Look After The Talent
Another prime use for Reason 6's sends is setting up headphone mixes for
musicians to use during tracking. And, thanks to another new mixer feature, that just
got a whole lot easier to do.
Look at the master fader section of the mixer. Lurking in a nondescript grey panel
is a 'Control Room Out' level knob, and some accompanying buttons (see screen 3).
The Control Room section provides Reason 6 with a dedicated monitoring volume
control, completely independent from the main output fader, and also lets you listen
to effect sends and returns as well as the main master mix. This is an absolutely
crucial feature in setting up good headphone mixes for your talent, allowing you to
hear a headphone mix just as the artist will.
In a default new, empty song, the Control Room features don't do anything; they're
effectively bypassed. But bringing them online, as it were, is really easy and well
worth the effort.
3: Reason 6's Control
Room feature gives you
Create or open a song, find the Master Section in the rack, flip the rack around,
a monitor controller
and (if it's not already like this) drag the cables that are connected to the Master Out knob, and lets you hear
what's going out and
sockets over to the CTRL Room Out sockets. Now, in the mixer, take a look at the
coming into any of the
buttons below the Control Room Out knob. They're 'source selectors', and determine effect sends and returns.
what you'll hear through your speakers. Much of the time, you'll want Master
selected, which simply lets you hear your main mix, but being able to select any of the eight effect sends and
effect returns is a real plus. For example, if you want to check exactly what a send effect such as a reverb is
contributing to your mix, just click the FX Ret[urn] button, and the number of the send/return loop your effect
device is patched into, and you'll hear only that effect.
But back to this headphone mix business. Let's say you need to
provide a cue mix for a vocalist, and they want a completely
different mix to the one you're building on your main faders.
You're going to need an audio interface with an independently
addressable headphone output, at least, or a multi-output
interface with a pair of outputs driving a stand-alone headphone
amp. You'll also have to set up Reason 6 to use multiple outputs
(see the 'Multiple Outputs' box). Assuming that's all sorted, here 4: This is my Master Section setup for patching
158 / 92
Mix Tricks For Reason 6
are the steps you could take to build an independent
headphone mix.
the Control Room outputs to my main monitors,
and a headphone cue mix from FX Send 8 to
an additional output pair.
1. In the mixer, find an unused send, enable it on all channels and switch it to 'PRE' (pre-fade mode).
2. In the rack, at the rear of the Master Section, drag a pair of cables from the FX Send sockets that relate to
the send you chose in the first step. Plug these into the pair of sockets in the Audio Output section of the Audio
I/O device that correspond with your headphone output (screen 4).
3. In the mixer again, switch your Control Room Out source from
Master to the FX Send number you chose in step 1. This sends
what your vocalist is going to hear through your main speakers.
4. Start to balance your channels in the headphone mix by adjusting
the send-level knobs, not your main faders. You'll notice that there
are no pan controls. This is just a cue mix, after all, but hey, at least
it's in stereo!
5. When the mix is done, you can use the Master Section's FX
Send section in the mixer (beneath the master bus compressor) to
control the overall level if the headphone output or amp doesn't have
separate volume control.
Just remember that when you finally come to track the vocalist, you'll
need to make sure they can hear themselves too. How that works
5: If you want to use multiple output
depends a little bit on how input monitoring is set up. If you're using channels in Reason 6, it'll let you do that,
but you have to enable them first.
the zero-latency features of your interface, remember to route the
vocal input to the same headphone output, using the interface's
controls or its software mixer application. But if you're using Reason 6's software monitoring, just remember to
monitor-enable the track you're recording to and then raise its headphone pre-fade send level, just as you did
for the backing tracks. .
Multiple Outputs
Reason has the ability to drive many separate audio outputs, but by default it's set up to use only two, for
stereo monitoring. Adding more, to allow the setting up of independent headphone mixes, for example, is
easy, though: it's done in the Preferences window. Go to the Audio page and click the Channels... button
next to where Reason shows you how many Active Output Channels there currently are. What you see here
varies according to the specifications of your audio hardware: screen 5 shows how it appears for the RME
interface I use. In the pop-up dialogue box that appears, you can enable (or disable) additional output pairs.
I've chosen an additional pair that relates to a headphone output on my interface. Once you've OK'd the
dialogue box, and closed the Preferences window, you can then check out the Audio I/O device in the rack.
You'll notice there's something a bit unintuitive about this: rather than enabling audio output sockets 9 and 10
(to correspond with my physical outputs 9 and 10), Reason just maps the physical output pair to the next
available pair of sockets on the Audio I/O device. So I end up with my mixer control room output feeding
sockets 1 and 2 (which relate to outputs 1 and 2 on my interface), and my headphone cue mix send
connected to sockets 3 and 4, which represent outputs 9 and 10 on my interface. Potentially a bit confusing,
but nothing a napkin and a biro couldn't sort out.
Published in SOS December 2011
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
159 / 92
Reason 6 New Features
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason 6 New Features
A Handful Of Dust
Modulation Explanation
Audio Stretching
Reason Notes
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS January 2012
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Robin Bigwood
here's still plenty to get our heads round in Reason 6, so
this month we're going to have a look at two completely
different aspects of the new program. Firstly, we'll
examine the new Pulveriser effect and then we'll go on to
explore what version 6 can do with time stretched audio.
A Handful Of Dust
Pulveriser is one of Reason 6's new effect devices, and with
One of Reason 6's new effects devices,
a name like that you might imagine some sort of brutal
Pulveriser is more than just a character
distortion unit, especially as the subtitle or tag line is 'high yield compressor — it can be used for a wide range
demolition'. But hang on a minute — hasn't Reason already got of sonic treatments.
one of those, in the shape of the Scream 4 Sound Destruction
unit? Absolutely right, and in fact Pulveriser is actually a more subtle and flexible tool than you might at first
think. What it offers is characterful single band compression (Squash), old school valve type distortion (Dirt)
and a multi mode Filter with cutoff (Frequency) and resonance (Peak) controls. Used by themselves, these get
you a long way. But there are modulation options too, as we'll see.
Try this for starters: load up a loop or two in a Dr OctoRex and hit Run. Right click on Dr OctoRex and choose
Effects > Pulveriser Demolition to patch in the new effect device. Immediately there should be a whole lot more
attitude! The default patch combines some Squash compression with a bit of Dirt distortion, and nothing more.
You can quickly tweak the effect by adjusting the Squash and Dirt amounts, and also Dirt's accompanying Tone
control. On more dynamic loops, the Release control will also come into its own — experiment with it to really
get things pumping — but it'll make little difference if your loop maintains a uniform level throughout.
The next crucial feature is the Blend control. This is a wet/dry mix. We're not used to seeing those on
compressors and distortion units, but it's a brilliant feature. When using Pulveriser to treat drum loops or
patterns from Kong or Redrum, this lets you blend the crisp original audio with the squashed and dirtied
contribution from Pulveriser. Simply adjust to taste. It's effectively a simple version of parallel compression. This
is a real power user's technique, often mentioned in SOS producer/engineer interviews, which is frequently
used to fatten up drums without destroying their original character.
If you only every used Pulveriser's Squash, Dirt and Blend, you'd already be getting your money's worth. But
there's more to it, and the remaining sections are a tweaker's delight.
The filter section is like a synth's multi mode filter. Select the Low pass 24 or LP12 + Notch modes, turn down
the Frequency knob a bit, keep Peak turned down, and the result is even more lo fi, progressively numbing the
signal's high-frequency content. The Comb mode adds flanger like overtones to the signal, and turning up the
Peak control adds weird robotic tones.
Modulation Explanation
The remaining sections — Tremor and Follower — are
modulation sources. They're capable of producing more
different effects than I can describe here, but here's one
example that demonstrates what's possible.
Try applying a Pulveriser to an electric piano or clavinet
Tremor and Follower settings for a combined
sound. For now, turn Squash and Dirt right down. Set the
auto wah and tremolo effect, as described in
the main text.
Filter to Low pass 24, the Frequency knob to about the 12
o'clock position, and Peak to about 2 o'clock. The result so far
is a more muted, slightly twangy version of the original sound, but it gets a lot more interesting when we
introduce the modulators...
Follower measures the level of the input to Pulveriser, and generates a corresponding modulation amount,
which can be applied to the filter frequency parameter using the knob to its left. Try raising that knob to about
the 1 o'clock position. Make sure the Threshold control is right down, and raise Release to about halfway. The
effect is auto wah — as you play, the filter now tracks the volume of your performance.
Now, how about some authentic electric piano tremolo? For this we need the Tremor section, which is an
LFO, pure and simple, with nine waveforms. Select the square wave using the up and down buttons, and set
the rate control to about the 10 o'clock position. You'll notice from the knobs either side of the Tremor section
that it can modulate the Filter or Volume control, or both. For tremolo, you need to control the volume, so raise
the right hand knob to about the 2 o'clock position. The result is tremolo, but it's clicky. You need to soften the
edges of the square wave, and that's what the Lag parameter is for. As you raise it, the Tremor waveform
becomes more and more 'rounded'. There's another option too: if you press the Spread button, the tremolo
effect is split between Pulveriser's two output channels, and the effect becomes auto pan.
The more you experiment with Pulveriser, the more you realise how versatile it is. Happy pulverising!
Audio Stretching
Reason 6 doesn't have the Melodyne like 'elastic' audio that
some other DAWs offer, but it does offer more in this
general area than previous versions did. Let's look at one really
common scenario where this can come into its own: importing
audio loops.
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Reason 6 New Features
clips can be time stretched manually by
For an application that is so modern and progressive in other Audio
dragging their resize handles while holding
ways, Reason has surprisingly poor support for audio loops.
down a modifier key.
You can, of course, load sliced REX format loops into Dr
OctoRex, either from the Factory Soundbank, commercial ReFills, or those that you've created yourself in
ReCycle. But beyond that, the only audio formats Reason will deal with are plain old WAV and AIFF files. So
let's say you've got a loop in one of those formats that you want to time-stretch to use in a song. Here's a good
way forward:
1. From the File menu, choose Import Audio File, or hit Command Alt I (Mac) or Shift Ctrl I (Windows).
2. In the file browser that appears, navigate to where your loop is stored. You should be able to preview audio
using the Audition section's Play button, to make sure you've selected the right thing. Reason will also confirm
some technical details about the file.
3. Click Open. Reason will dismiss the file browser and place the loop into your sequence. If you've already
selected an audio track (with the correct channel configuration), the loop is inserted in it at the playback wiper
position. If not, Reason will create a new track for you.
As the vast majority of WAV and AIFF loops don't have tempo metadata embedded, the likelihood is that the
imported loop won't match your sequence tempo. So try this:
4. Make sure your loop begins exactly on beat 1 of a bar. If it
doesn't, the quickest way to remedy that is to first select it, then
use the Position text field at the top of the sequencer to type in
a location directly. For example, typing in 3. 1. 1. 0 moves the
loop to Bar 3, Beat 1, 1/16th 1, subdivision 0.
5. In the sequencer, turn on Snap and set the resolution to Bar.
The clip parameters at the top of the
sequencer section are invaluable for setting
clip length, position and transposition.
6. Select the audio clip, then hover your mouse pointer over the
right hand clip resize handle. Now hold down the Alt key (Mac) or Ctrl key (Windows) — the mouse pointer
changes to a 'scale tempo' icon — and drag the clip. The length will snap accurately to bar divisions. You're
aiming to make the clip best match your sequence, and most likely it'll be one, two, four or eight bars long.
Listen to the results, experiment a bit and see what works best.
7. When you've nailed the length of your loop, you can easily repeat it to form the basis of a backing track. Just
select it, and hit Command C (Mac) or Ctrl C (Windows) to copy it. The playback wiper helpfully jumps to the
end of the loop. Then use Command V (Mac) or Ctrl V (Windows) to paste it as many times as you need.
The reason this all works so well is because of Reason's superb real time time stretching capabilities on
playback. You can now vary your sequence tempo to whatever you need, and the loop will continue to 'conform'
to your sequencer time ruler, as it remembers its length in bars and beats.
There's one thing to check, though, or to experiment with. The quality of time stretching is controlled on
a per track basis and it's set in an audio track's corresponding Audio Track device in the Rack. That's easy to
find: just click the sequencer track in an empty part of its settings section at the left side of the sequencer, and
the rack scrolls to show its rack device and flashes it for good measure. You need to be able to see the rack for
that to work, of course. Then check out the Stretch Type pop up menu. The Allround setting works well for most
things, but Melody and Vocal can give a different effect, and might be a better choice for sustained textures.
Published in SOS January 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
161 / 92
Reason 6: Alligator, Gates
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason 6: Alligator, Gates
Channel Hopping
Key Skills
Introducing Alligator
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS February 2012
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Print article
Technique : Reason Notes
Robin Bigwood
efore version 6 came along, Reason was not exactly over-endowed with dynamics processors, and it
had no gates at all. But gates are very useful for both 'utility' functions and creative use, and Reason 6
has made good the omission. Getting started could hardly be easier, as there's now a gate on every
single mixer channel in Reason 6.
Channel Hopping
My number one use for gates, and probably most other people's too, is in cleaning up multitracked
drums and percussion. You know the kind of thing — you close-mic all the individual drums in a kit,
but all those mics still pick up unwanted spill from other drums, and that can make getting a good
sound difficult. In particular, it can be hard to achieve crispness and focus, especially if you're after
a really tight, dry effect. Here, gates come into their own. Used on the individual drum channels,
they only allow signal to pass when each drum is sounding. The rest of the time the gate is closed,
silencing the spill. Let's work through an example.
1. Set up a playback loop around a region of your song that contains some representative drum
hits. If you can, find a section that contains some hits of differing intensity and level.
2. In the mixer, solo a channel — try a snare channel for starters. In the dynamics section, click the
On button in the darker grey Gate section.
3. Turn the Range knob all the way to the right (we'll look at how this works in a minute).
4. Now adjust the Thres (Threshold) knob, while watching the gate's five-part gain-reduction meter,
and listening. You're trying to find a threshold level where the gate opens for all the hits you want to
hear, but closes for the spill and room noise in between. It helps to remember that lights on the
level meter show that the gate is partially or fully closed. If there are no lights, it's open.
Often, these few steps will be all you need to get a good result. But there are many more
parameters and options available for tailoring the effect.
Let's go back to the Range knob. When it's turned all the way to the right, Reason's gate operates
in a simple way that's quite easy to understand: the gate is essentially either open or closed,
letting signal pass or not. However, set the Range knob anywhere else and the gate won't
attenuate the signal so much — the gate won't completely close. Try playing a snare track again
but decrease the Range setting. As you do, you'll hear more and more signal coming through
between the hits. Eventually, when you turn Range all the way down, the gate won't close at all —
it'll be like it's turned off. Interim settings can help to retain
a sense of naturalness, and also deal with the worst of the
unwanted spill without completely blitzing some low-level detail.
For some drum hits, you might need to engage the Fast
button. This causes the gate to open quicker when triggered —
in a matter of microseconds rather than milliseconds — and
helps to preserve the crispness of attacks.
a compressor
and gate
on every
is one of
The gate
is quite
too, with
a sidechain
input and
plenty of
to play
'Keying' or triggering a gate from an audio
signal elsewhere in Reason is quite
straightforward. First, connect an FX Send to
the gated channel's side-chain input. Then
enable the send (and set it to pre-fader mode)
in the mixer. Finally, adjust the channel's gate
section to suit your needs.
Meanwhile, the Rel (release) parameter governs how quickly
the gate closes, and effectively controls the decay phase of the
drum sound. Keep it low to makes drums really short and
snappy, but set it higher to allow them to ring on a bit. The Hold
parameter has a similar effect, but extends the time for which
the gate remains fully open after each drum hit. Raising it a bit can help with drums like low
tom toms, where you probably want to retain the natural decay sound for longer, before the
Release phase kicks in. It can also prevent the gate from 'chattering' when using very fast release
Key Skills
Gates aren't only for cleaning up drum-kit recordings: they can also be used creatively. For
example, you could use a gate on a sustained synth-pad sound, but trigger (or 'key') it to open and
close from another track in your mix. That's possible because of the dynamics section's sidechain input. Suddenly that pad sound won't be quite so sustained any more, but starts to pulse
rhythmically in time with the other track. In the following example, I've used a snare-drum track to
provide the rhythmic key source.
The first step is to make the necessary audio connections. I need to get that snare drum to the
synth channel's side chain. The easiest solution is to pick up the drum signal from a send in the
mixer, so then it's as simple as dragging a cable from a Master Section FX Send socket to the Dynamics
Side-chain input on the synth Mix device. You'll find the same side-chain inputs on audio track devices, by the
Next, some settings in the mixer: Start by enabling the send you
just connected on the drum channel. Click the number that
corresponds with the socket you chose, and raise the send
level to something around 0dB. I'd recommend engaging its
Pre (pre-fader) mode too. Then the send level won't be affected
by changes to the drum channel's main level fader. You could
Alligator works well when paired with a Matrix
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Reason 6: Alligator, Gates
even mute the snare track if you didn't want to actually hear it.
For the next bit, I'd suggest playing your song, so that you can
adjust settings by ear. On the synth-pad channel, switch on the
gate in the Dynamics section. You'll notice that the Key button
next to the gain-reduction meters is lit, indicating a connection
to the side-chain input. Now turn the Range control right up, as
I described earlier. This ensures that the gating effect is at its
most pronounced, and makes setting up easier. Adjust the
Threshold control until the gate begins to open and close in
time with the drum signal. Finally, adjust Release and Hold
times to taste.
Alligator works well when paired with a Matrix
sequencer (or three). You can use Matrix's
Gate CV pattern sequencing to trigger
Alligator's gates.
That's the basic keyed-gate effect. You can tweak it by
Alligator excels as a preset wonder and as
playing with the Range level, which can add what
a playable programmer's dream. Either way, it's
almost sounds like a reverb effect at times. Also try switching
all about rhythmic gated effects.
on the synth channel's compressor. With a bit of tweaking, you
can achieve a more percussive effect, or one with more obvious pumping. .
Introducing Alligator
Alligator is one of the nicest new additions in Reason 6. It's one of those devices you can use any number of
sources and get nice, inspiring and sometimes unexpected effects.
The way it works is by splitting an input signal into three, and then passing each of the resulting signals
through a gate (triggered by an onboard sequencer with 64 preset patterns), a resonant filter (either a high,
low or band pass), a drive stage, phaser and delay line. On top of that, there are all sorts of modulation
options and pan/level mixing possibilities.
It requires some will-power to progress beyond Alligator's presets, but it's worth doing if you're into gated
effects. To show you what I mean, we're going to look at a couple of really simple, though perhaps
unexpected, ideas.
Try creating an Alligator as an effect for a sustained sound — maybe strings, a synth pad, or possibly even
a held vocal line. Then right-click an empty part of Alligator's panel and choose Initialise Patch. If you play
your song now, you get a really simple, repeated gated pattern (pattern 0) that plays through all three filters
simultaneously. You can sculpt the 'shape' of each gated event with the Amp Env section at bottom left,
varying it from little staccato chirps to subtle shimmering.
But now try turning Alligator's Pattern section off — trust me on this one! Right click Alligator again and
choose Create Track for Alligator. Select this new track in the sequencer, and record-enable it if it isn't
already. Now, from your MIDI controller, playing the notes F#1, G#1 and A#1 trigger the three gates
individually. The gates are velocity sensitive too! It means you can simply play (and record) any gated
pattern you require. If Alligator's filters are getting in the way, simply turn them off by clicking their On buttons.
Then you need only play one of the gates to get a full frequency-range signal.
There's another way to trigger Alligator's gates too. Create a Matrix Pattern Sequencer, and drag a CV
cable from Matrix's Gate CV output to one of the Alligator Gate CV inputs. In the Matrix, click to write some
gate events in the lowest part of its sequencer display. Then, when you hit Matrix's Run key, or play your
song, that pattern triggers Alligator.
Published in SOS February 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
163 / 92
The Echo
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
The Echo
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS March 2012
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Technique : Reason Notes
Robin Bigwood
What Is Normal?
Trigger Happy
Rock & Roll
Insert Or Send?
Nektar Panorama P4
s we all know, delays are the linchpin of all manner of
effects, from subtle vocal treatments to creative
experimentation. But until now, Reason users haven't
had a terribly broad range of options to call on. There are, of
course, several good delay algorithms lurking in the RV7000
reverb (which I covered in detail back in the February 2010
Reason Technique column), but otherwise we've been stuck
with the rather limited half-rack DDL1, or having to do some
nifty patchwork to run audio through Thor's Delay section.
Of all the new devices introduced in Reason 6,
The Echo is one of the most exciting and
In Reason 6, though, it's a whole different story, thanks to the great new device, The Echo. Users with even
the most passing familiarity with hardware delays of yore will recognise the design cues from Roland's revered
Space Echo units. But, as is typical in the Propellerhead world, this thing goes way beyond the capabilities of
hardware — it's an astonishingly versatile device. To get an idea of what's achievable, and to check out the
most crucial features, let's look at setting up some typical delay-based effects.
What Is Normal?
There's no question about it: sometimes you just need a very straightforward delay/echo effect for a guitar or
vocal line, say. The Echo is perfect for this. After you've applied it to an instrument or audio track device, these
are the main parameters to watch for.
First off, you'll need to work in Normal mode, selected at far left. Then adjust the nearby Time knob to set the
length of time between 'echoes': from one millisecond to one second or, with the Sync button engaged, temposynced note values between 1/128 note and a half note. Next, go to the far right and adjust the Dry/Wet balance
knob to set the relative volume of the input signal and the following echoes. Now, increasing the level of the
Feedback knob determines how many echoes you hear. Around the 2 o'clock position, you'll get echoes that
never die away but go on into infinity. Wind it on more and your echoes will get louder, and progressively more
distorted. Keep your monitoring level control handy...
The beauty of The Echo, though, is how easy it is to make a basic echo effect into something much more
interesting. For example, to make the echoes become increasingly lo-fi, like an old tape echo unit, just turn on
the Filter section. The Freq knob sets the centre frequency of a band-pass filter, so for that typical warm tape
echo sound keep the value quite low, and turn up the Reso(nance) knob to intensify the effect. To add in a bit
more dirt, turn up the Drive level and experiment with the four different drive 'Colors'. Still want more of a tape
vibe? Turning up the Wobble knob, in the Modulation section, adds some random wow and flutter pitch
variations. And finally, to soften the 'edges' of the echoes, enable Diffusion and turn up the Amount knob. That
adds a reverb-like sheen around the echoes, and the Spread knob makes the 'smearing' quality more
Even more variety is possible if you utilise The Echo's stereo features. Setting up a ping-pong delay — where
echoes swap sides across the stereo field — is as easy as pressing the Ping-Pong button! Then the
associated Pan knob chooses how 'wide' the effect sounds, and on which side of the stereo field, left or right, it
starts. Set to its minimum or maximum position (marked 'L' and 'R'), it's at its most pronounced. But be careful:
if the knob is in the centre position, essentially you've turned the effect off.
More stereo effects are possible, though, and they're quite unusual. Check out the 'Offset R' knob in the Delay
section. If you raise it, The Echo effectively turns into two separate delay lines: one for the left channel and one
for the right. It makes most sense of all in Ping-Pong mode — the 'Offset R' knob makes the ping-pong timing
'swung' or uneven. Then there's the other 'Offset R' knob, in the Feedback section. At any setting except dead
centre, this unbalances feedback between left and right. Put simply, it makes echoes pan to one side of the
stereo image as they die away. Weird, but quite nice! One thing to note, though, is that it's more or less
redundant when Ping-Pong is enabled.
Trigger Happy
Now we're getting to the heart of The Echo's unusual but interesting and useful capabilities.
An ever-popular effect treatment is to add delay to individual words in a vocal phrase, or pick out just one or
two notes in a guitar or synth line. It's a technique that's sometimes called 'selective delays', and I described the
normal way you have to set this up, by automating mixer send levels, in the March 2010 Reason column.
The Echo, however, blows that out of the water, and makes adding selective delays stupidly easy. Here's
what you do:
1. Set up The Echo in Normal mode, so you can quickly zone in on the sonic effect you want, balancing input
level and echoes with the Dry/Wet knob.
2. Switch to Triggered mode. Initially, it'll sound like you've bypassed The Echo.
3. Now, any time you want to add a brief delay/echo effect, just click the Trig button. It's a momentary button that
only stays on for as long as you hold it, so frequently you will want to hold it for a short time, to completely cover
a word in a vocal phrase, for example.
4. To record those Trig button presses into your song as automation data, right click on The Echo and choose
'Create Track For The Echo'. Make sure the new track is selected in the sequencer track list. Then hit Record,
164 / 92
The Echo
and Trig away... The data for the button-pushes appears in the track lane ready for subsequent editing.
Essentially, Triggered mode puts a gate on The Echo's input, and by pressing the Trig button you
momentarily open that gate. It's a really nice solution to a common need.
Rock & Roll
If Triggered mode is useful, Roll mode can get seriously trippy!
Roll mode works best when the Wet/Dry mix control is set to
100 percent wet, or at least close to it. Initially, it'll sound like
The Echo is bypassed, but to actually trigger the effect you have
to grab the Roll slider and move it to the right. That's when the
wet/dry mix really changes. Moving the slider also shuts off any
further input, and cranks the feedback right up. What the hell does this mean in practice?
Essentially, Roll mode is a freeze or repeat function — it's 'roll' in the sense of a drum roll. While the slider is
moved to the right, a little slice of your input signal gets 'stuck' in The Echo, and is endlessly repeated, subject
to the filtering and other sound options we've already mentioned. If you've chosen a really high feedback
setting, the repeats will actually increase in volume. You can use this as another flavour of the 'selective delay'
effect I already described, but try it on drum or instrument loops, or even an entire mix (by creating The Echo in
the Insert FX sections of the Master Section), to drop quirky bits of ear candy into a phrase or finished song.
Next month, we'll look at some more elaborate possibilities, including glitch treatments, and setting up
hardware control to really 'play' The Echo. .
Insert Or Send?
All the techniques I've described this month assume you're using The Echo in an insert-type configuration,
processing the output of a single instrument or audio track. But, of course, if you prefer you can use it
patched into the mixer, in a send/return configuration. If it's used like that, you really need to keep the dry/wet
mix control set to 100 percent wet, at which point it's the channel's send level that effectively determines the
balance of dry signal and echoes.
The other thing to note is that Roll mode pretty much relies on an insert configuration, with its dry/wet mix
set to 100 percent wet (or close to it). A send/return setup for that doesn't make much sense.
Nektar Panorama P4
While plenty of generic MIDI controller keyboards include templates for Subtractor, Malström and other
devices, Reason users have so far not been offered a dedicated hardware controller, by Propellerheads or
anyone else.
All that's about to change, though. Nektar are a new California-based company that have just released
a 49-note, 12 drum-pad controller keyboard called the Panorama P4. It'll function as a generic MIDI
controller, but its real purpose in life is as a hardware front end for Reason 6. Central to the whole thing
(literally and figuratively) is a 3.5-inch, high resolution, colour display surrounded by faders, encoders and
buttons, and a 'completely transparent' integration with Reason that promises to do away with a lot of mouse
work, at least for mixing and device control. A single 100mm motorised fader should be an asset for writing
automation data of various kinds.
The P4 looks classy and, at an anticipated street price (in the US, at least) of $500, could be really
tempting for dedicated Reasonists. More details at
Published in SOS March 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
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In this article:
Reason Tips & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS April 2012
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Straight and vintage delays, ADT, psychedelia,
glitch... Is there anything Reason's Echo device
can't do?
More Tricks
Roll With It...
Modulate This
Duck Or Grouse
Robin Bigwood
ast month, we started a thorough investigation of The
Echo, one of the new devices introduced in Reason 6,
and looked at using it for a range of bread-and-butter
delay effects. If they were all this great-sounding new device
could do, it'd be pretty good... but, as we'll see this month, it's
capable of a whole lot more besides.
More Tricks
The Echo includes a couple of on-board modulators (in addition
to the Wobble feature we looked at last month) which are
1: Movements of the Roll slider can be
invaluable for setting up both useful and creative effects. One of precisely and rhythmically automated with the
Matrix Pattern Sequencer.
those is Automatic Double Tracking (ADT), the very useful
treatment that makes it sound as if a single vocal take was
tracked more than once, with tiny variations in pitch and timing between the takes.
To get started with this, add The Echo to a vocal audio track, then right-click it and choose Initialise Patch, so
that you're starting with a clean slate.
What we're going to do here is set up a short delay, and then use the on-board LFO to continually vary the
delay time. Just as if we were slowing down and speeding up the tape in a tape-echo unit, the LFO introduces
subtle pitch changes in the delay signal, and here helps to prevent the sound acquiring any sort of predictable,
metallic quality. The effect is especially pronounced because The Echo's LFO (somewhat unexpectedly) works
in opposite polarities on its two output channels. So try these starting points:
Delay time: 20-50ms (you need to have Sync turned off to set absolute times like this).
LFO Rate: 0.2-0.4Hz (that's one cycle every few seconds).
LFO Amount: 90-100.
Dry/Wet balance: roughly central.
Interestingly, turning up Feedback at this point adds an artificial, metallic sheen which is really reminiscent of
early, cheap hardware reverbs and some basic spring reverbs. If it's a sound that appeals, you can tweak it
further by turning down the LFO amount again (to get rid of the weird pitch lurches) and enabling Diffusion, or
the Filter, or both (to colour the effect).
Welcome to the outer reaches! Lurking above the LFO section is the single ENV knob,
which is at zero in its 12 o'clock position. Moved away from that point, it causes individual
'echos' to either bend up or down in pitch, according to whether you turned the knob right or
left, respectively. The result is at its most pronounced when you use short delay times (say
200ms or less), and plenty of feedback. Check out the factory preset 'Kraftwerk Drums',
which uses the shortest (1ms) delay time available, and then bends all the echoes upwards
— fabulous! From this starting point, it's pure sci-fi in every direction. Try raising the Delay
Time and Feedback level a bit, and seeing what a negative value for the Env knob sounds
Roll With It...
Special effects like these are so distinctive and pronounced that it's helpful to be able to
apply them selectively. And that's where Roll mode comes in. We briefly looked at it last
month, but to recap, it's a kind of 'freeze' feature that grabs a bit of your input signal and
'rolls' it, like a drum roll, while also excluding the input signal.
2: The Echo's
built-in LFO and
envelope section
are pivotal
factors in some
of its craziest
When you switch The Echo to Roll mode, it can sound initially as though you've bypassed the device. But
what you're doing is making the Roll slider responsible for morphing between dry and effected signals (and
some other things, in fact, like cranking up the Feedback). The whole point of this mode is to allow you to play
the echo, bouncing the slider up and down like a DJ does with a crossfader, and adding delay effects briefly
and temporarily.
Quite honestly, though, who wants to be using a mouse (or even worse, a trackpad) for such a tactile job? Not
me, anyway. So luckily The Echo is designed in such a way that if you have a knobby controller keyboard
available, you can tweak the Roll slider (and most other parameters) with a hardware fader or knob.
Setting it up is a simple two-step affair. Firstly, right-click on The Echo and choose 'Create Track for The
Echo...' Secondly, in the sequencer, make sure the new track is selected — this channels data from your
controller to The Echo. Now, turning your controller keyboard's modulation wheel controls the Roll slider. The
mod wheel generates MIDI continuous controller (CC) #1 data, and the slider responds to it. You can record
these movements, too; they appear in The Echo's sequencer track as automation data.
If you like the idea of playing The Echo in this way, and you have a programmable controller keyboard, here
are some more useful default mappings for The Echo's parameters:
The Echo Parameter MIDI CC
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Delay Time 12
Delay Feedback 13
Filter Frequency 26
Filter Resonance 27
Drive Amount 23
Still want more? Check out the MIDI Implementation Chart PDF that's installed along with Reason 6 for a mindboggling run-down of all available MIDI controller mappings for Reason 6 devices.
Whenever you switch The Echo to Roll mode, remember one more thing: also turn the Dry/Wet knob all (or at
least most) of the way to the right. Unless you do that, Roll mode treatments always sound a bit half-hearted, or
won't do anything at all.
Glitches, stutter-edits, call them what you like, but those clever little
bits of sample-repeat ear candy can be very exciting to listen to,
and show no signs of waning in popularity in pop music
production. They've traditionally not been easy to achieve to
Reason, other than by painstaking manipulation of samples
performed with the mouse and razor tool, but The Echo opens up
some new possibilities for achieving them automatically.
For this kind of treatment we rely mostly on three specific
features in The Echo. The first is Roll mode. The second is the
presence of rear-panel CV inputs, which allow more sophisticated
external modulation sources to be used on The Echo's
parameters. The third is the Delay section's Keep Pitch mode,
which prevents any wild pitch-bends from occurring when the delay
time is modulated but in doing so generates its own range of
glitchy, loopy sounds.
3: The Malström synth's sophisticated Mod
LFOs are great for generating mayhem via
The Echo's CV inputs.
Let's start with a great effect utilising the first two. Here, I've got
a Dr OctoRex drum loop and I want to apply a stutter edit-style
effect to tiny portions of it. I'm going to achieve that by creating the repeat effect with The Echo's roll mode, but
then triggering it precisely with a Matrix Pattern Sequencer. Here are the main steps:
1. First, create an instance of The Echo for Dr OctoRex, switch to Roll mode and make sure the Wet/Dry mix is
all the way up (wet).
2. Next, throw the Roll slider to the right (so that the effect is audible while The Echo is being set up), and dial in
a fast-repeating, tempo sync'ed delay effect. A delay time such as 1/32, with some in-your-face drive, can be
an interesting starting point. When you're happy with the general effect, set the Roll slider back to the left.
3. Create a Matrix sequencer and patch its Curve CV output to The Echo's Roll CV input, and make sure its
front panel switch is set to 'Curve'. You might also juggle sequence length (the 'Steps' display) and resolution to
match your loop. For example, 32 steps at 1/16 note resolution gives you a sequence of two bars.
4. Now, run your sequence, to trigger both the OctoRex loop and the Matrix sequencer. As it plays, experiment
with drawing curves into the Matrix display. You don't need the pencil tool for this, by the way.
All sorts of curves work, depending on the loop or sound: abrupt full-scale peaks, beat-length maximums, slow
up-slopes and down-slopes, and random shapes. You can switch (and automate) multiple Matrix sequences, to
both vary the effect and turn it on and off. The Echo's Env knob can be useful here, as can the Ping-Pong
Modulate This
I'm going to leave you this month with one final suggestion for producing some interesting, glitchy results from
The Echo: modulate both the Roll slider and delay time with another device's LFO. In screen 3, I've got
a Malström's two Mod LFOs (always a good choice for interesting waveform shapes) patched into The Echo's
CV inputs for Roll and Delay Time. Crucially, also, I've engaged the Keep Pitch option I mentioned earlier. Then
it's a case of adjusting the Echo's delay-time knob, which determines what sort of sounds you're going to hear,
along with the Malström's two Mod waveforms and their rates. Be ready for anything, but there are some sweet
combos to be found! .
Duck Or Grouse
A subtle but brilliant feature I couldn't quite squeeze into last month's column is the Ducking knob. When you
turn this up, The Echo automatically ducks (ie. turns down in volume) the delay effect as the incoming dry
signal gets stronger. It allows you to dial in really strong, obvious echo effects but then apply them to a vocal
line (for example) without fear of swamping it. During vocal phrases, there's very little audible echo, but
during any silences the effect is allowed to really ring out.
Published in SOS April 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
167 / 92
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reason Tips & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS May 2012
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Explore the potential of complex sound layering
with Reason's Combinator.
Quick Layers
Ins & Outs
Going On
Program Music
Multiple Routing
Rotary Mappings
Robin Bigwood
eason's synths and samplers are extraordinarily flexible
and powerful, but there's a limit to what any one of them
can achieve. Start layering them, though, and all sorts of
possibilities suddenly open up. Colossally complex pads, snarling
12-oscillator monosynths, acoustic/synthetic hybrids, mighty
orchestral textures... They're all possible when you utilise the
Combinator to play multiple devices at once. Somehow, layering
seems to add instant sophistication and depth to arrangements,
and if you just need great results in the minimum of time it'll let you
create genuinely unique sounds just by combining presets. If you
haven't tried it, it's a whole new approach to sound design.
Quick Layers
Combinators are created just like any other device in Reason.
You can right-click an empty part of the rack and choose Other >
1: Combinators let you easily create layered
Combinator from the contextual menu that appears. Or make sure timbres, instantly broadening the scope for
sound design.
nothing is selected in the rack and do the same from the main
Create menu. In Reason 6, they're created ready-patched to a Mix Device.
So how would we use this to layer a couple of instruments? The first step is to give your Combinator its own
mixer. We'll see why this is so crucial in a moment. Right-click in the currently empty 'Devices' area (which will
be confirmed with a red 'insertion line') and choose Other > Line Mixer 6:2. Then, right-click again just beneath
the new line mixer, and create an instrument of your choice, then repeat the process to add another one. In
screen 1, I chose to create a Malström and a Subtractor.
Now, as long as your Combinator is record-enabled, playing your MIDI controller will result in both these
instrument devices playing. That's it: a basic layered sound.
Ins & Outs
Let's just pause for a minute and look at some of the subtleties of what just happened. You can play two synths
at once here because a Combinator passes on MIDI information to all the devices it encloses. And, of course,
that's as true for two synths as it is for 10, or 20 or more...
You'll notice, too, that your synths did not get their own Mix devices, mixer channels, or sequencer tracks.
That's because a Combinator is essentially a dedicated grouping device that lets you build device combos that
act as self-contained units, and which don't clog up your song with redundant 'infrastructure'.
As for audio handling, a Combinator has only one stereo in and out. That's why you'll always need a submixer
for layering two or more instrument devices. The instruments feed the submixer, and the submixer feeds the
Combinator's output. The Line Mixer 6:2 device will frequently be perfect for simple duties, but don't rule out the
bigger Mixer 14:2, which has handy channel EQ and more effects patching facilities.
Going On
So what more is possible with a simple setup like the one we
just created? Firstly, and most obviously, you can use the Line
Mixer 6:2 to balance the relative levels of the synths, and pan
them too. Panning pairs of quite similar layered sounds (such
as pads) hard left and right can really open out the stereo
You can also add effects to your instruments. For individual
2: A simple MIDI routing, linking Combinator's
first rotary knob with Thor's Filter 1 Frequency
'insert' style effects that act on just one instrument at a time,
right click the instrument and choose 'Effects >', then the effect parameter. I've renamed the knob 'Metallic', as
that's the quality it ends up controlling in this
you want. Reason is smart enough to patch the effect device
specific layer of patches.
between the instrument and submixer. To share an effect (like
a reverb) amongst all the instruments in a Combinator, right click its submixer, and choose 'Effects >' as
before, to automatically patch the new device into the submixer's Aux send/return loop. The Line Mixer 6:2 has
just one of these — all you need for that touch of reverb — but the Mixer 14:2 has four, for more complex needs.
Then simply raise the corresponding aux-send level on each mixer channel to add in the effect.
Finally, when you've finished tweaking your layered Combinator, you can click the Show Devices button to
'collapse' the vertical height, and make your rack more manageable. Just click it again when you need to tweak
once more.
Program Music
While a Combinator's basic functionality is quite easily understood, it has a more complex and interesting side,
which you reveal by clicking the Show Programmer button. The Programmer is best thought of as a sort of
intermediate layer between incoming MIDI data and the devices, which gets round an unforeseen problem, and
does some other cool things.
That problem? It's to do with the way Combinator distributes incoming MIDI messages to all its devices.
168 / 92
Imagine you had a Thor and Malström within a Combinator, and you wanted to use a hardware control surface
to tweak Thor's Filter 1 cutoff. If the Combinator indiscriminately passed the data (MIDI CC 74) on to both
synths, Thor would respond as you wanted, but Malström's Filter B frequency would also get involved, as that
parameter is hard-wired to the same MIDI CC number.
Clearly, that situation is unworkable, so in fact Combinators filter out all MIDI controller data except for what
are termed Performance Controllers: Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel (CC 1), Breath Control (CC 2), Expression (CC
11), Sustain Pedal (CC 64) and Aftertouch. So if you do want to tweak the parameters on a 'combined' device,
you have to do it a different way: you link a specific parameter with one of the Combinator's 'virtual rotaries'.
Then you tweak the virtual rotary. Far from being a hassle, this approach is quick to work with, and actually has
unique benefits, as we'll see.
Going back to the example I just gave, here's what you'd do.
1. In the Programmer, click Thor in the device list on the left. This brings up its 'modulation routing' in the display
on the right, and you'll probably find Rotary 1 already listed in the source column.
2. In Rotary 1's row, click in the Target column. Virtually all Thor's parameters pop up, sub-grouped by section
and type. Choose Filter > Filter 1 Freq.
That's all there is to it. Now clicking and dragging Rotary 1 with the mouse will control Thor's Filter 1 Frequency.
If you want to tweak it from your hardware controller, it responds to MIDI controller 71. The 'Rotary Mappings'
box shows the real-time controller mappings for all four rotaries. You can also give rotaries more descriptive
names. Simply double-click their labels and type away, before hitting Return.
Multiple Routing
Combinator controller routing is easy to set up, as we've seen — and,
what's more, you're not restricted to one routing at a time. For example,
at the same time as Thor responds to the Filter 1 routing I just set up,
I could get Malström's Oscillator Index parameters hooked up too.
Tweaking the rotary would result in all three parameters changing
3: You can link a rotary knob to
multiple parameters — in this case the
Index on both oscillators of a Malström.
Here's how I'd do it. In the programmer, I'd click my Malström in the
Device list. Then, in the Routing section, I'd configure two rows to have
Rotary 1 as their source. The first gets a target of Osc > Oscillator A Index, and the second Osc > Oscillator B
That's a quite complex and potentially exciting-sounding controller mapping already, but the exact behaviour
can be further refined thanks to the Min and Max columns. These default to values of 0 and 127 respectively,
and those numbers relate to the adjustment limits of the parameter being controlled.
So let's say I want Rotary 1 not to sweep through the whole Oscillator Index range on Malström, only a bit of it.
I'd go into the routing configuration again, and change Oscillator A Index's Min value to 40 and Max to 95 (for
example). Now the Rotary still sweeps the whole range of Thor's Filter 1 Cutoff (0 to 127), but a more restricted
range of the Malström Index. And here's the really cool bit. If I find the Oscillator B Index routing and set the Min
value higher than the Max, I'll have inverted the control relationship. So, as I tweak, the Rotary Oscillator A's
Index will sweep in one direction, while Oscillator B's will go in the other.
The more you explore the programmer and experiment with routing like this, the more you realise its scope. It
begins to act like a 'master' modulation matrix for all the devices contained in the Combinator, and it can hook
into parameters that aren't otherwise controllable in real time. Next month we'll take this further and look at
some more specific examples of interesting routing setups. .
Rotary Mappings
Here are the MIDI controller numbers a Combinator's rotaries respond to:
Rotary MIDI CC Number
Many MIDI keyboard controllers will have presets featuring these common sound-oriented controllers readyrolled.
Published in SOS May 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
169 / 92
Open Borders
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Open Borders
Reason Extended
Reasonable Conjecture
Early Adopters
Reason Tips & Techniques
Technique : Reason Notes
Published in SOS June 2012
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New vistas appear for Reason users, with the
arrival of Rack Extensions...
Robin Bigwood
hen I reviewed Reason 6, back in the November
2011 issue of SOS, I made no bones about both the
strengths and weaknesses of the application's
self sufficient, hermetic nature: "Having a prix fixe selection of
devices keeps your focus very much on your production, and on
using the tools available to best effect. It's often a relief to not
have to choose from hundreds of third party plug ins, and have
to deal with the specific quirks, compatibility and authorisation
issues that can go with them.” But then, on the other hand, I also
said "For all the advantages the approach offers, Reason 6 still
feels under provisioned in some areas. Some varieties of
effects are missing... There's a fairly limited choice of
compression and EQ character, and no dedicated multi band
compressor... As for really specific and sophisticated
treatments, like drum replacement, noise reduction and
restoration tools, forget it.'
Most of that will now go out of the window, though, as of Reason 6.5 (and Reason Essentials 1.5), which
should be available in the very near future. That's because of the Rack Extensions, a new technology coming to
these new versions, which is essentially a 'plug in' architecture for Reason. As inconceivable as it might once
have sounded, you'll soon be able to spend your hard earned cash on brand new devices from third party
developers to put in your Reason rack.
Reason Extended
If you haven't seen it already, the video at is well worth watching.
But if you've not got time for that, here are the key facts:
Reason 6.5 and Reason Essentials 1.5 will be available in 'Q2' 2012 and will be free updates to existing
Reason 6 and Essentials 1.0 owners.
Rack Extensions will encompass new instruments as well as effect devices.
Rack Extensions will behave exactly like existing Reason devices, sharing the same rack and sequencer
integration, patch management features, automation behaviour and patching features — they're not really
'plug ins' in the way we understand from other DAWs.
The new devices introduced in Reason 6 — Pulveriser, Alligator and The Echo — are themselves Rack
Extensions, running as add ons to the main Reason code, and acting as a sort of 'proof of concept'.
Participating developers already announced include Softube, U he, GForce Software, Korg (yes, really!),
SonicCharge, Peff and Sugar Bytes.
Individual extensions already demo'ed include Softube's Trident A Range EQ, U he's Uhbik A ambience
processor and Uhbik F flanger, and SonicCharge's Bitspeek bit reduction lo fi mangler.
Rack Extensions will be available to purchase from a dedicated Propellerhead store (clearly taking its cue
from Apple's App Store) that promises to make demoing, purchasing and installing extensions quick and
easy, from just one location online.
It looks as though purchases will share Reason's existing user account or Ignition Key based authorisation,
simplifying the process of transferring songs between computers.
That's not the end of the news from Propellerhead, as an instrument called Radical Piano was announced at
the recent Frankfurt Musikmesse. It appears to be either a modelled piano or a sampled/modelled hybrid, with
continuous variation between dark and bright timbres and many parameters on offer, including sympathetic
vibration. An audio input allows external sources to take advantage of its soundboard colouration and
sympathetic resonance, like a specialised kind of reverb. As it was featured in a mock up screenshot of the
new Propellerhead Rack Extension store, the early indications are that this will also be a paid add on, rather
than bundled in version 6.5.
Reasonable Conjecture
After the fact comes speculation. There's every reason to
believe that the companies whose plug ins were featured in
Propellerheads' demo might well end up offering their entire
plug in ranges as Rack Extensions. For example, U he's Uhbik
is actually a pre existing bundle (for conventional
VST/AU/RTAS hosts), of which Uhbik A and Uhbik F are just
two components. The other processors in the bundle include
a delay/echo, granular pitch-shifter, phaser, EQ, overdrive filter, U he's Uhbik A reverb processor.
frequency shifter and tremolo. Any of those would bring
something new and useful to the Reason table — and I doubt I'm alone in relishing the prospect of GForce's
superb virtual instruments coming to Reason platform. To have some faithful recreations of real analogue
synths available at last... what a concept!
Propellerheads' CEO, Ernst Nathorst Böös, also stated, in his Musikmesse press conference, that there
were other developers on board who didn't yet want to be named. The mind boggles… I imagine it would only
take the involvement of one or two more major players — the likes of Audioease, PSP, iZotope, Native
170 / 92
Open Borders
Instruments or Spectrasonics —to completely alter long standing perceptions of Reason's value as
a production platform. As soon as musicians and producers can 'jump ship' to Reason without having to give
up all their favourite tools, it starts to look like a really serious DAW. Add in the simple installation and
authorisation procedures, the harmonised patch management features, plus Reason's excellent stability, and
the prospect is especially enticing.
It's probably also worth reflecting on the Rack Extension format's value from a developer's point of view. It
seems that Propellerheads' SDK (Software Development Kit) for the format relieves developers of most of the
headaches associated with copy protection, as well as Mac/Windows cross platform compatibility concerns,
leaving them to concentrate on the really interesting stuff: the DSP code and nature of the instrument or effect
itself. It's conceivable that Rack Extensions could end up a very attractive option for smaller developers, and
I've no doubt we'll begin to see things starting to appear that are only available for Reason. Exciting times.
Early Adopters
Several developers were willing to share screenshots of their
early version Rack Extensions with SOS, and provide a bit
more information, so we'll wrap up this month's column with
a quick run-down of who's onboard. For interest, I've listed here
the current cost of each developer's conventional plug in
Softube's Trident A Range equaliser.
equivalents, as much as anything else to illustrate the fact that
there's bound to be quite a range of prices for Rack
Extensions. But, in fact, the one clue to emerge so far about pricing, from developer U he, suggests that they
could end up undercutting their AU/VST/RTAS counterparts quite significantly.
U he's Uhbik A is shown here in a development version lacking patch controls and a bypass button, and with
some visual tweaks still to be done on the knobs and labelling, but already it's looking quite a bit more inviting
and immediate than RV7000. Interestingly, company founder Urs Heckmann told me that working with the new
platform 'has been an easy gig so far'. He has also stated that existing owners of plug in versions of his
products will be offered an crossgrade path to the Rack Extensions, and that individual processors from the
Uhbik bundle could cost as little as €10 13 each. Current cost of AU/VST/RTAS Uhbik bundle (nine plug ins):
$149. www.u
The Softube Trident A Range equaliser is a model of the EQ section from a specific Trident A Range mixing
desk in Denmark. It's a four band design, with shelving top and bottom bands, low and high mids and low and
high pass filters. Softube also modelled the saturation/distortion character of the original, and on the Rack
Extension the effect gets its own knob and is continuously variable. Softube say they plan to release more
products from its range as Rack Extensions at the same time as the Trident A Range. Current cost of
AU/VST/AAX/RTAS plug in version of Trident A Range: $219.
SonicCharge's Bitspeek is described by them as a 'real time
pitch excited linear prediction codec effect'. OK, so that's a bit
tongue in cheek, but still — wow! Imagine a cross between
a Speak & Spell, a bit depth reduction effect and a granular
synthesizer, and you're more or less there. As well as many
funky vocal effects, Bitspeek can generate pitched tones and
textures from almost any audio input. Its presence in Reason is
SonicCharge's Bitspeek — much more than just
going to increase massively the potential for off-the-wall
a bit reduction effect.
sounds, and it seems the Rack Extension version will have
unique features compared to the existing plug in versions of the effect. They include CV out connections that
will, in the words of Magnus Lidström, Bitspeek's developer, "make any synth in Reason speak and sing”. If
you're thinking that name rings a bell, you'd be right — Magnus was the designer of Reason's excellent
Malström synth, introduced way back in Reason 2.0. Current cost of AU/VST plug in version of Bitspeek:
$29. .
Published in SOS June 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
171 / 92
Rack Extensions
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Rack Extensions
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS July 2012
: Close window
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Technique : Reason Notes
With our racks about to get even more densely
populated by Rack Extensions, we may need
strategies for keeping on top of the sprawl...
Rack Basics
Making Connections
Forward Planning
Name Or Shame
Colour Way
More 6.5 Teasers
Robin Bigwood
he CPU power of today's computers allows us to create
absolutely colossal racks of virtual devices in Reason.
Propellerhead's response in Reason 6 was to give us
a modular-style mixer with unlimited channels, to break free of
the limitations — which now seem almost laughable — of the
ReMix 14:2 mixer. We also get multiple vertical rack spaces
instead of the one single über-long rack of Reason 5 and
That's all great, but the more synths, samplers and effects we
load into our Racks, the more potential there is for confusion,
and for literally getting lost in a migraine-inducing mass of
illogically ordered, poorly named channels, devices and
sequencer tracks. So this month we've got a whole bevy of tips
and tricks that can help keep your Reason workflow smooth,
clear and productive.
Even for a modest mix like this one, clear track
names, meaningful mixer channel grouping,
a well-ordered rack and lots of colour coding
makes life a lot easier.
Rack Basics
Your best friend for shuttling around a big rack is the Navigator. Nestling to the right of the rack this shows you
a zoomed-out view of it, with an overlaid blue square to indicate what's currently visible in full-size. Grab the
square with your mouse pointer to move it in any direction. Unlike the similar Navigators for the mixer and
sequencer, the rack's is resizable. You can grab the vertical divider to its left, and drag to the left to increase its
size, as I've done for the main screen in this month's article. You get a more detailed overview, for starters, and
you may even find it useful to have the Navigator bigger than the actual rack — it helps to keep you focused.
There are other ways to navigate the rack, too. Point anywhere in the rack or its Navigator, and you can use
your mouse's scrolling features. If you've only got a vertical scroll-wheel, hold down shift to allow horizontal
movement. With a device selected, you can use your keyboard's arrow keys to move (and select other devices)
in all directions. Additionally, page up/down keys will scroll vertically, and the home/end keys (found on some
PC keyboards) scroll horizontally.
Making Connections
Since there's often a close connection between sequencer tracks, devices and mixer channels, being able to
quickly see how they're linked up is really useful. Mixer channels all get immensely helpful SEQ and RACK
buttons above the channel names. Click SEQ, and the corresponding track becomes visible, flashing
momentarily, in the sequencer. Click RACK, and you'll instantly find the signal source for the channel in the
Clicking an empty part of a track in the track-list area is similarly helpful: this simultaneously locates and
flashes both the associated rack device and its mixer channel.
Forward Planning
Navigation and location are all well and good, but for really
complex projects, a bit of forward planning will repay you over
and over again.
Since Reason now allows us to place devices in multiple
separate rack columns, we should use that to our advantage.
How about, for example, keeping similar parts of your
arrangement grouped separately from other things? Here's one
(of many ways) you might place and group your devices:
Propellerhead's own Rack Extension, Radical
1. Master Section plus mastering devices, aux send effects, and any other 'whole mix' effects.
2. Vocal tracks.
3. Other audio tracks — perhaps guitar and bass, for example
4. Rhythm section: bass, drums and loops.
5. Strings, pads, 'texture' sounds.
6. Rhythmic, arpeggiated, sequenced sounds.
7. Leads and solos.
To create a device in an existing rack column, just right-click in an empty part of the column and use the
contextual menu. To create a device in a new column further right, do the same directly on the rightmost
wooden divider strip.
Moving a pre-existing device is easy, too. Just click an empty area of its front panel and drag it to the rack
column you want: a red insertion indicator shows where it'll go in the new column. There's a setting we should
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Rack Extensions
enable before doing much of this (although it's actually on by default), and that's 'Auto-group Devices and
Tracks' in the Options menu. This useful little number ensures that whenever you move a device, it takes all its
baggage with it; mix channels, connected effects, modulating devices hooked up via CV and gate cables, and
so on.
Name Or Shame
Along with spatial organisation, a good naming scheme is essential for big mixes, just as in any DAW.
The best place of all to assign names is in the sequencer. Just double-click a track name, type a good
descriptive one, and hit return. That renames the track, the device it's driving, and its mixer channel, all in one
fell swoop.
You can also rename instrument and audio track devices in the rack by double clicking on their scribble strips
or 'LCD' displays, respectively. The name change will be reflected in both the sequencer and the mixer.
Confusion can rear its ugly head, though, if you rename mixer channels. It's a perfectly easy and legitimate
thing to do: you just double-click the channel name. But if you rename an instrument device, from 'Malström 1' to
'glassy pad' for example, you're actually only changing the name of the Malström's mix device. That, and the
mixer channel, changes to 'glassy pad'. The instrument itself and its sequencer track stays as 'Malström 1'. In
general, renaming audio tracks in the mixer is OK, but instruments are best done in the sequencer.
One other thing to watch: if you choose to 'Combine' a pre-existing device (or device group), the resulting
Combinator will zap your nice naming scheme and show up in the mixer and sequencer as a generic
'Combinator 1' or similar. Remember to rename these as you go along.
Colour Way
For me, visually grouping mixer channels and sequencer tracks
by colour is an essential technique for bigger arrangements.
I like all my loop-type instruments to be a consistently different
colour from my vocal tracks, for example, and all next to each
other. It makes finding things so easy. The 'Auto-colour Tracks
While the graphical interface is still in the lab,
and Channels' option, in the Options menu (turned on by
Peff gave us this line-drawing of their
default) might make a bright working environment with
forthcoming Rack Extension, BuffRe. It
a mishmash of colours, but I'd take uniformity and neatness any promises to be an exciting and very
contemporary-sounding effect.
day, so I generally deselect this. I then make sure that similar
tracks are really next to each other in the mixer and sequencer
— it's a simple click and drag of the mixer-channel name sections or sequencer 'move handles' to do this.
Reason does not try to keep the mixer and sequencer track orders synchronised, so you'll often have to do
a little bit of work on both.
You can then select a group of similar channels or tracks by clicking through them one by one while holding
down the Shift key. Right-click on any of them and choose 'Track Colour', and then the colour you'd like. An
entire mix can be colour-coded in a few clicks. .
More 6.5 Teasers
Further information about Reason 6.5 and several third-party rack extensions has been emerging in recent
First of all, Propellerhead have revealed more about one of their own Rack Extensions, Radical Piano. It's
a sampled/modelled hybrid that offers three main piano sounds — Home Grand, Deluxe Grand and Upright
— but lets you achieve many more variations than this, thanks to a Microphone Blend knob and a Character
parameter that ranges from 'subdued' to 'agitated'. The Mechanics section controls key and pedal noises,
and there are plenty of other things to play with too: velocity response and resonance parameters, plus an
ADR envelope generator, three-band EQ and onboard reverb.
Propellerhead are backing up Radical Piano with two further Rack Extension effects called Pulsar and
Polar. Pulsar is said to be a 'dual-channel modulation power house' that's also a powerful synth in its own
right — intriguing! Meanwhile Polar is a harmonizer and pitch shifter with elements of stereo control and
granular processing.As yet, there's no pricing information for any of these Propellerhead rack extensions,
nor was any more detail forthcoming about Korg and soft-synth guru Rob Papen's involvement with the new
format. However, there was some more definite info from one third party developer we knew about already.
Peff will be known to many in the Reason community through its founder Kurt Kurasaki's involvement with
the video tutorial Music Production With Reason & Record. Peff's Rack Extension is called BuffRe and it's
a beat repeater or 'stutter edit' tool that loops and scrubs audio flowing into it in sync with the song tempo.
The effect is triggered by MIDI note or CV/gate input, and captured audio is looped on the fly, subject to
a range of operation modes and front panel parameters. I've seen and heard an early version of BuffRe in
action and it's superb, offering everything from subtle glitch effects to full-on Squarepusher-inspired mix
deconstruction — very possibly an essential tool for certain genres. At 'around $85' it sounds eminently
affordable too, and should be available as soon as Reason 6.5 and the Rack Extension Store launches.
Visit for more info.
Published in SOS July 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
173 / 92
Rack Extension Shop
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Rack Extension Shop
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS August 2012
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Technique : Reason Notes
What's New
Rack Extensions
Rack Extensions Rundown
Propellerhead's Rack Extension Shop is filling up
with tempting goodies...
Robin Bigwood
eason 6.5 (and Reason Essentials 1.5) is finally
available, and lets you fill your rack with all manner of
fancy new Rack Extension devices. In this month's
column, we're going to look at what's new, take a whistle-stop
tour of all the Rack Extensions currently available, and also
explore the curious new Pulsar device.
What's New
If you're looking for obvious visual or operational changes in the
new versions there are actually very few. One thing you'll
immediately notice, though: the Create menu, and the right-click
rack context menu have a new submenu organisation. Reason
devices are now grouped, quite sensibly, into four categories:
Instruments, Creative FX, Studio FX and Utilities.
There's also a new Rack Extensions menu item in the
Window menu. Choose it, and a helper application called
Authorizer launches, lists Rack Extensions you've already
installed and displays the download progress of Extensions
you're acquiring.
By opening up the rack to third party
developers Reason 6.5 once again feels like
a new frontier, ripe for exploration and
Reason 6.5 is as helpful as it can be when you
try to open songs that include Rack Extensions
As for Rack Extensions themselves, here's the lowdown.
you don't have. You might end up with nonThere's just one place to get them: You functional 'placeholders' in your rack, but at
least you'll still be able to do something.
can Try or Buy — the trial period is a generous 30 days — and
either way the download should be handled by that Authorizer
application, which launches automatically when required. After
a Rack Extension download is complete, restart Reason to get
it to appear in the Create menus.
You also have to be aware of some limitations regarding
licensing and authorisation. Trial Rack Extensions can only be
used when you've launched Reason using the Internet verification log-in option, because trial licences can't be
transferred to your Ignition Key —so don't plan to do your testing of trial Rack Extensions when you're on the
move without Internet access. Rack Extensions you've bought can be transferred to your Ignition Key, and they'll
still be available if you opt for Internet verification.
What happens if you try and open a song someone's sent you that includes Rack Extensions you don't own?
Reason gives you the option to visit the Rack Extensions shop and download trial versions (or indeed just buy
what you're missing), and that'll get you up and running. But you can also opt to open the song anyway, in which
case the missing devices are replaced in the rack by place-holders.
One other boring but crucial bit of info: to get at documentation or support for a Rack Extension, don't go
looking in Reason's Help menu, or the application folder on your drive. Instead visit the Rack Extension shop
once again, find your Rack Extension amongst what's on offer there, click it, and follow the 'Product web site' or
'Product support page' link on the page that opens. Often developers offer a PDF user guide. I made a folder
on my desktop to start collecting these...
Rack Extensions
At the time of Reason 6.5's launch, there were two free Rack
Extensions: Propellerhead's Pulsar (free until October 1st
2012) and Softube's Saturation Knob (free until August 14th
2012), so it could be worth acting fast if you haven't already got
The currently free Pulsar exists primarily for
these. It was also interesting to see what was not in the shop
modulation duties: it consists of two flexible
that had already appeared in Propellerhead's promotional
LFOs and an envelope generator.
material. U-he's Uhbik-A ambience device was notable by its
absence. Also in the pipeline are GForce Software's Re-Tron (apparently a Reason version of their M-Tron Pro
virtual Mellotron), Rob Papen's Predator synth (collective rubbing of thighs), and Korg's Polysix (which may
point to more of Korg's 'Legacy Collection' eventually coming to the RE platform).
What is already available, though? As I write, there's a veritable smorgasbord of gadgets on offer, as you can
see in the 'Rack Essentials Rundown' box, and I'll be focusing on many of them in the coming months. But for
now, let's look in some more depth at the Propellerhead freebie, Pulsar.
Pulsar is a comparatively weird device with some unexpected
capabilities, and it naturally partners with the likes of the Matrix
Pattern Sequencer as a dedicated, stand-alone modulator. For
the most part you 'hear' it purely in what it's doing to
other devices, although, as we'll see next month, it's capable of
generating sounds of its own too.
So what exactly is Pulsar? The short answer is: two LFOs and
Using Pulsar to create a tremolo effect for a
guitar sound.
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Rack Extension Shop
a simple envelope generator in a box. It generates CV signals,
so you patch its outputs to the parameter CV inputs of other devices any time you want some movement or
'wobble'. You won't be using it every day, because all of Reason's synths and many of its effect devices have
onboard LFOs of their own, and those should remain your first port of call for bread-and-butter modulation
duties. But you will use Pulsar for other duties, to modulate parameters outside the scope of devices' onboard
LFOs, when you've run out of onboard LFOs, and when you want some unusual shapes of wobble! Here's one
example to illustrate the possibilities.
In the screenshot of the Pulsar back panel elsewhere in this article, I've hooked up LFO 1's CV output to
modulate the level of a guitar track's Audio Track device. The result is tremolo — a regular pulsing of the
guitar's volume. LFO 1's Rate controls the speed of the pulsing, and Level controls the depth. Job done, and
not a synth in sight!
However, if I'm feeling experimental I could try clicking through Pulsar's 9 LFO waveforms, and sync them to
my song tempo with the Tempo Sync option. Suddenly the simple tremolo becomes a bit more groove-like.
The action of the Phase knob is particularly noticeable when Tempo Sync is engaged: it causes the LFO
waveform to 'start' in a different place in its cycle. Raising the Lag knob gradually smooths out the more square,
abrupt LFO waveforms. The Shuffle knob causes the rate of two adjacent LFO cycles to differ, so you end up
with 'swung' or 'dotted' patterns.
For even more complexity, try modulating LFO 1 with LFO 2. Turn on LFO 2 and set its Rate really slow —
perhaps 0.1Hz (one oscillation every 10 seconds) — then slightly raise the Rate control that's sitting between
the two LFOs. Putting on my nerdy hat for a moment, that should really be labelled 'Rate modulation amount'.
This causes LFO 1's Rate to constantly change, controlled by LFO 2's 10-second cycle. The exact setting can
give you anything from subtle to psychedelic. .
Rack Extensions Rundown
Radical Piano
Dynamics &
iZotope Ozone
Softube FET
Not a replacement for a very high-quality piano ReFill but an
unusual and versatile instrument in its own right.
Roland TB303 clone.
Limiter and very high-quality dither components from iZotope's
Ozone plug-in.
Strongly-flavoured, thick-sounding compressor.
€99/$119 (includes 20
percent discount until
August 14th)
€99/$119 (includes 20
percent discount until
August 14th)
Trident ARange
Filters and
tone effects
Free (until August 14th,
then €25)
Etch Red
Sonic Charge
Synapse RM1
Ring Modulator
Sugar Bytes
SB Filter
Synapse AF4
Analog Filter
Reverbs and
Synapse DC2
Dual Chorus
Sugar Bytes
SB Pitch Delay
€119/$149 (includes 20
percent discount until
TSAR1 Reverb
August 14th)
€39/$49 (includes 35
percent discount until
August 14th)
€39/$49 (normally €69, no
PEFF Buffre special offer end date
Sugar Bytes
SB Slice
1176 compressor clone but with continuously variable ratio
rather than buttons.
Emulation of a fine-sounding four-band EQ from Trident mixing
Handy 'fattener' with interesting options to preserve integrity of
high or low frequency ranges.
Sophisticated filter bank with extensive modulation and
rhythmic options.
Bizarre and wonderful pitch-tracking lo-fi vocal effect — an
enhanced port of an existing plug-in.
A pretty simple ring modulator, but with the effect calculated,
apparently, using analogue emulation.
Rhythmic filtering with 25 preset patterns for funky effects with
the minimum of fuss.
12/24dB low-pass resonant filter, emulating a Moog transistorladder design.
Complex harmoniser effect whose applications include
thickening, stereo widening and many creative effects. More on
this next month...
A very simple and easy to use stereo chorus.
A modulated delay that can introduce pitch fluctuations and has
some interesting rhythmic options.
Versatile reverb with intuitive, highly tweakable controls
reminiscent of high-end Lexicon hardware units of the past.
The same algorithm as the TSAR1 but with only a few
parameters to play with.
Glitch, stutter and looping — an effect you 'play'.
Preset-based slicing and stutter effects — good value.
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Rack Extension Shop
Propellerhead Free (until Oct 1st, then
See main text.
Published in SOS August 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
176 / 92
Rack & Roll
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Rack & Roll
Tron 2012
Propellerhead Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS September 2012
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Technique : Reason Notes
Pausing by the buffet, we check out what
Propellerhead have brought to the Rack Extension
Robin Bigwood
s the dust settles following the release of Reason 6.5,
the potential of some of the new Rack Extensions is
becoming clear. This month, we continue our look at
Propellerhead's own offerings, beginning by picking up where
we left off with Propellerhead's intriguing Pulsar device.
On the face of it, Pulsar (a free download until October 1st this
year) is one of the more workmanlike Rack Extensions
The diminutive (and currently free) Pulsar isn't
available. In last month's column, I looked at how its two LFOs
just a modulator: with a few clicks it can be
could be pressed into service for simple (and not so simple)
turned into an ultra-basic monosynth ideal for
lo-fi electronic game-sound emulations — and
modulation of other devices. However, there's another, more
much more.
unexpected side to it too: the LFOs can work well up into the
audio range, and in a few steps you can turn Pulsar into a primitive but distinctive monosynth. Here's how:
1. Right-click on an empty part of your rack and choose Utilities > Pulsar Dual LFO to create the device. Turn
down the level knobs on both its LFOs (you'll see why in a minute).
2. Right-click the empty rack once again and choose Utilities > Mix Channel, to route Pulsar's audio into the
Reason mixer.
3. On the rear of the rack, drag a cable from one of Pulsar's LFO1 Audio outputs to the L/Mono input of the new
Mix Channel.
This combo is already usable, in a sort of 1960s BBC Radiophonic Workshop fashion. Try turning Pulsar's
LFO1 rate up to about the three o'clock position, un-tick the Tempo Sync option, and then raise its level. You
should hear a continuous tone, which can be pitched with the Rate knob. Go easy with the Level knob (and your
overall monitoring level) if you try any of the more spiky or square waveforms: Pulsar has no anti aliasing filters,
so its output is liable to be filled with tweeter-melting high frequency digital artifacts. So far, so crude. To make
it more usable, we need to get MIDI input and pitch-tracking going.
4. Right-click an empty part of Pulsar and choose 'Create Track for Pulsar'. Also turn the far right Kbd Follow
knob all the way up. This makes MIDI input control the LFOs' frequencies.
5. Next, to achieve accurate pitch-tracking, turn LFO1's Rate knob right up.
6. Now, assuming you don't want a monosynth that never shuts up, turn the LFO1 level knob all the way down
but raise (a little bit) the leftmost Level knob in Pulsar's Envelope section.
Pulsar's envelope will now trigger every time it receives a MIDI
note input, and raise the Level parameter for as long as the
note is held. You've got basic control over note start and end
shapes using the Attack and Release knobs. It's a working
synth! But it's all pitched rather high, and you could say the
sound quality puts the 'rude' in rudimentary. There's a lot you
can do to remedy that, though.
The overall high pitch of Pulsar can be tamed
by retuning its LFO rate knobs using
automation data.
LFO1's Lag knob 'rounds off' the squarer waveforms, so it acts like a kind of low-pass filter. The Shuffle knob
acts almost like a pulse-width parameter on a conventional synth, so you can adjust it to tease out different
harmonic characters from your basic waveforms. And if you flip the rack around and drag a CV cable from one
of LFO2's CV outputs to LFO1's Shuffle CV input, you get a moving PWM (pulse width modulation) effect.
Adjust LFO2's parameters to control the effect.
For even more control over the sound quality, try creating a filter in the insert section of Pulsar's Mix Device.
The lowly ECF42 half-rack device will do the trick, but I've also been getting some brilliant sounds from
FXpansion's Etch Rack Extension. You encounter limitations when using separate filters like this, because they
don't track the pitch you're playing, as a more sophisticated synth's filter would. But that's part of the charm of
this setup — it's basic, and produces a certain unique character as a result.
What about that overall high pitch? Pulsar screams out (maybe literally) to be used as a bass synth, so you
need to tweak the rate knob to find some lower octaves. Even adjusting it with the Shift key held down (to
access finer value increments) doesn't give sufficient resolution to do this properly, so instead Alt-click the
LFO1 Rate knob to enter an automation value for it in Pulsar's sequencer track. Find that in the Sequencer —
switch to Edit mode if necessary — and double-click the 'Static Value' handle to type in a value directly. Values
of 524 and 263 (Hz) give a much more suitable lower octave.
Polar is one of the weirder new rack extensions. Termed a 'dual
pitch-shifter', but taking its cue from harmoniser effects of the
'80s, it's a completely new kind of effect device for the Reason
We already have pitch-shifting, of course, directly in
sequencer tracks (thanks to the Transpose parameter for audio
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Rack & Roll
clips), which is ideal for tuning and repitching loops, and also in Deep and gloriously weird, Polar will keep
a really sophisticated, formant-corrected form, in the Neptune
tweakers and programmers happy for weeks.
Pitch Adjuster, which is amazing for generating backing vocals
and counter melodies. Polar isn't meant to replace or duplicate either of these, but rather is a creative pitchshifter for modifying tone quality and texture, not always in a naturalistic way, and for creating stereo effects and
strange pitch cascades.
Let's look at creating an octaver effect for a synth or guitar track. Create an instance of Polar for the track,
and initialise its parameters by right-clicking an empty part of its panel and choosing Reset Device. What we're
dealing with here is essentially two pitch-shifters (labelled 1 and 2) running in parallel, with their output
optionally routing through a filter, so making a simple octaver is easy: just turn the Shift knob for pitch-shifter 1
down by 12 semitones (or one octave), and also enable the Dry Signal section so that you can hear the original
audio too.
The quality of the octave-shifted audio is dependent on the settings in the Algorithm section. It's here that
Polar analyses the incoming audio. Smooth and Classic are the two algorithms best suited to this sort of
straightforward role, with Classic potentially the more dated sounding of the two. Choose Fast mode to
minimise latency (Med and Slow can give better results, especially for complex and transient-rich audio, but at
the expense of latency). Finally, also check that that the Delay knob is turned right down in the Delay Buffer
section. Your octaver should now be fully functional.
You can adjust the relative volumes of the dry and octaveshifted signals with their separate Volume knobs at the bottom
of the front panel. You can also pan them: try positioning the dry
signal far left and the shifted signal far right, for example. Now
try turning up Shifter 1's Feedback (marked 'F.Back') knob.
This injects the octave-shifted audio back into the input, so it's
shifted down again — and again, and again, producing
massive octave 'stacks'. In fact, for a truly symphonic effect,
switch on Shifter 2 (by clicking its red indicator), turn its Shift
knob up an octave, and add some feedback. Now you have
octave stacks stretching both above and below the notes of the
track audio. This can work brilliantly in big, spacious pad
sounds, for example.
A sample library in a rack extension: GForce's
Re-Tron is a 21st century take on the Mellotron
tape-based instrument.
Polar is capable of more subtle effects too. Check out the default 'Classic Stereo Spread' preset. Here, both
shifters apply a tiny amount of pitch change, with a tweak up and down of their Fine knobs. One is panned far
left, the other far right, and the dry signal left in the middle. The result is a subtle, chorus-like decorrelation of
phase, and an exaggerated stereo image. Adding feedback thickens the effect further.
Here's one final setup to try in this initial examination of Polar.
Disable Shifter 2.
Set Shifter 1's Shift knob to +2 semitones.
Turn up the feedback (you might hear a grim tone-cluster) and the Delay knob in the Delay Buffer.
Now the resulting steps up in pitch are spaced out in time. We've entered the realm of the special effect, but
this is something you might consider using low in the mix as a bizarre vocal or pad treatment, once or twice in
a song. .
Tron 2012
One of the most exciting Rack Extension releases of recent weeks has been GForce Software's Re-Tron,
a slightly cut-down port of their virtual Mellotron, M-Tron Pro, which has been available as an AU/RTAS/VST
plug in for some time.
Re-Tron offers 25 tape banks, and many ready-to-use patches, covering all the classic Mellotron timbres
— strings, flutes, choirs and orchestras — as well as a beautifully grungy piano, some organs, tuned wineglasses, and more. Two sounds can be layered, tapes can be reversed or played at half speed, and there
are independent filters, LFOs and envelope generators, plus on-board delay and chorus/ensemble effects.
It's all beautifully implemented, and the sound oozes vibe and character.
Re-Tron costs €59$75 and is available from
Published in SOS September 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
178 / 92
Extension Leads
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Extension Leads
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS October 2012
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Technique : Reason Notes
The Big Freeze
Radical Connector
The Good Old Days
We serve up another smorgasbord of Reason Rack
Robin Bigwood
n last month's Reason Notes, we made a first recce of the
often strange sonic landscapes emanating from
Propellerhead's rack extension Polar, a new device based
around two pitch-shifters fed by a delay buffer. At its subtlest,
you can use it for chorus-like thickening and stereo effects. But
quickly you're into tone cluster and octave stack territory,
sometimes with a rhythmic element, and a seriously likeable
artificial twang. Check out the article in the September issue of
SOS for some guidance on setting up these treatments.
A pitch-shifter it may be, but Polar can also pull
off some weird granular synthesis-like textures,
'freezing' the incoming audio stream.
Polar comes into its own in the outer limits, though, and
alongside a seemingly inexhaustible repertoire of weird noises, one really interesting approach stands out.
The Big Freeze
This technique centres around Polar's delay buffer and the way its Lock button can 'freeze' an incoming audio
stream. This is a great, contemporary effect with applications for vocals, drums and more. We looked at
something similar using The Echo back in the April issue of SOS, but this is weirder.
To get going with this effect, create a Polar for an audio track or
instrument device, right-click it and choose Reset Device to
initialise all its settings. In the Algorithm section, switch to Fast
mode: this cuts the latency associated with Polar's input
analysis right down. In this basic, zeroed-out state Polar still
imparts a bit of character on the audio it processes, but it's
Propellerheads' Radical Piano rack extension
As your track plays back, click the Delay Buffer section's Lock trades the opulence of most piano sample
libraries for flexibility, attitude and edge.
button. The effect should be instantly obvious! You'll notice the
button isn't 'momentary', it latches. That's a good thing, though,
because it means that while the delay buffer is locked, and you're experiencing that strange granular synthesislike cloud of sound, you can turn the nearby Delay knob to explore the snippet caught in the buffer. All sorts of
ear candy can be produced like this, to spice up otherwise straight-sounding tracks in unexpected and
interesting ways. It doesn't have to be a choice between 'normal' or frozen either: if you turn on the Dry Signal
section the freezes persist while the input signal continues.
To record your pushes of the Lock button as automation, Alt-click the button to create
a track for Polar. Then start recording and click away. Easy as that.
To get some variation on this technique, try switching algorithms. Classic creates strange
digital artifacts, while the Loop algorithms offer something new again. Now chunks of audio
(the durations of which are determined with the Length knob) get played repeatedly. With
the Loop algorithm, the effect is most pronounced the more upward pitch-shift is dialled in.
With Rev Loop the effect is good most of the time, regardless of settings! Good enough, in
fact, to use without the Lock feature, as a strange kind of delay.
You might also investigate hooking up an LFO to Polar's rear-panel Lock Delay Buffer
gate input. Don't bother with anything other than a square-wave LFO, as this is strictly on-off
stuff. A device like Pulsar, a dedicated modulation source, is ideal for the task.
Crazy and cool stuff can happen if you also modulate the Delay Buffer Position with
Polar's onboard LFO, which is as simple turning up or down the LFO knob in the Delay
Buffer section. Sawtooth waveshapes work well, at a tempo-sync'ed rate, injecting rhythmic
pulses and shapes into your frozen audio.
Make all your
audio sound like
it's coming out of
a piano, with the
rear panel audio
Radical Connector
Propellerheads' rack extension instrument, Radical Piano, isn't
your normal virtual piano. It doesn't really do those £$100,000
tones of big Steinways, Bosendorfers and Faziolis which are
the promise of most sample libraries. Instead it seems
dedicated towards creating 'character' pianos, all with a bit of
a twist.
The essential controls are all quite self-explanatory: you
choose two pianos from 12 piano types and then blend between them with the central grey knob. The orange
knob to the left is labelled Character, and seems to control a resampling process. Turn it down and the piano
sounds slowed-down (think Music For Airports). Up, and you're into tighter, brighter tones reminiscent of
historical pianos or dulcimers. Other parameters tailor the effect, applying different decay curves, controlling
action noise, adding reverb, and so on.
Less obvious is the front-panel Sustain indicator. Yes, it is an indicator, displaying the position of
a continuous sustain pedal, if you're fortunate enough to be using a MIDI keyboard which has one. But it's also
a slider: click it elsewhere in its range to set the amount the virtual dampers are lifted from the strings, when
you're not using a sustain pedal input.
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Extension Leads
Then there's the rear-panel audio input. Signals sent there pass through Radical Piano's resonance section
(the soundboard and strings) before going on to its EQ, Ambience and Compression section. This means you
can use Radical Piano as a strange but wonderfully different reverb, on NNXT sampled pianos, vocals, guitars,
drums and anything else. As it has no wet/dry mix control though, and only a mono input, you're better off
patching it into one of the Master Section's FX Send/Return loops rather than patching it directly to the output of
another device.
Hold down the Shift key when you're creating a Radical Piano
to use as an effect, to prevent an unneeded Mix device and
sequencer track being created. To heighten the piano-reverb
effect, raise the Resonance Level and Release Time knobs,
and the Sustain Pedal level. Also, be aware that the rear-panel flow-chart graphic isn't telling the whole story —
the reverb quality is affected very much by the positions of the Character knob, the Cent (fine tune) and Drift
knobs in the Tune section, the overall Volume level and the stereo Width setting.
The Good Old Days
Finally, one of the most exciting aspects of rack extensions is
that they provide access to classic gear within Reason. Let's
take a quick look at two really good candidates.
We looked at GForce Software's excellent virtual Mellotron,
Re-Tron, last month. Just as momentous is the release of
Korg's Polysix, a recreation of the early-'80s six-voice synth of
the same name. It's only $49€39 from
Polysix fills a niche in Reason's synth armoury. It's
fundamentally very simple, with a single oscillator (albeit backed up with a sub-oscillator) and single low-pass
filter. It has a different character to Reason's own Subtractor, though — somehow more 'fruity' and immediate
— and various features such as pulse width modulation, a great-sounding chorus/phaser/ensemble and
a devastatingly effective unison mode ensure the sound still has loads of richness and life.
I'm hoping Korg might consider expanding Polysix's rear-panel connections in a future update; it'd be great to
pass other devices through its effects section, and also drive other synths from its straightforward but very
effective arpeggiator. But it's already good as it is, and a real bargain.
Next up is Softube's Trident A-Range EQ, one of the first rack extensions to be announced. It's a port of their
long-established VST/AU/AAX/RTAS plug-in which models the EQ section of a '70s-era Trident A-Range
mixing desk.
While the appreciation of different EQ characters can sometimes seem an esoteric business, there's no
doubting the smoothness on offer here. Even large boosts and cuts never get ugly, and seem to enhance the
character of the original source rather than overwhelm it.
€119$149 might seem a lot for an EQ, but this is one of the best. Now, if only Propellerhead could dream up
a way of getting EQ rack extensions to appear in mixer channel strips... .
The textures that can emanate from pretty much any audio source treated with Polar's Delay Buffer Lock
feature are often worth capturing, to play from your MIDI keyboard as textures. All sorts of great pads,
textures and effects can be made this way.
To do this you need to get Reason's main audio output routed to the Sampling Input sockets. Viewing the
back of your rack, locate the Master Section and Hardware Interface devices (always at the top left of the
rack) and make sure neither is folded. Also check the Hardware Interface is showing its 'Audio I/O' panel.
Click the button with the same name if not.
Now, disconnect the cables running from the Master Section Master Out sockets, which are no doubt
running up to one of the Audio Output pairs on the Hardware Interface, and take note of which numbered
pair it was.
Next, create a Spider Audio Merger & Splitter device nearby. Drag cables from the Master Out sockets
into the Spider's right-hand side splitter input sockets. Then reconnect cables from two of the splitter output
sockets back to your audio output pair in the Hardware Interface (the one you made a note of) and also to
the Sampling Input on the same device.
Phew! This setup is a lot easier to understand in the screen shot. But now it means you can use any
sampling device to capture interesting sounds from Polar (or anywhere else in Reason, for that matter). An
NN19 Sampler is ideal, after you've cleared its default preset with the Reset Device command. Just click its
Sampling button, near the preset display, and your sound gets loaded straight in.
Published in SOS October 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
180 / 92
Reverb Revisited
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Reverb Revisited
Reverberational Vehicles
Reason's 'Hidden' Reverbs
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS November 2012
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Technique : Reason Notes
It's a Reason reverberation extravaganza this
month, as we look at the tools available and how
to use them.
Robin Bigwood
everb is a crucial treatment for everything from vocals
and drums through to synth pads and orchestral strings,
and in the latest versions of Reason there are more
reverb devices available to us than ever before, even if you
leave third-party Rack Extensions out of the equation. This
month's column, as you will have guessed by now, is going to
focus on reverb in Reason.
As familiar as an old pair of slippers, the
RV7000 is a fine-sounding, flexible reverb.
Reverberational Vehicles
Let's get straight to it and look at Reason's bread and butter reverb, the RV7000. As is the case with any
reverb, you have to decide if you're going to 'insert' it for an individual instrument or audio track, or if you'll patch
it into one of the mixer's aux send/return loops. Inserting dedicates a reverb totally to just one device (or device
group), while patching into the mixer potentially 'shares' it amongst many mixer channels. There are no hard
and fast stipulations — the Propellerhead police will not be paying a visit whatever your preference — but there
is one rule of thumb: for reverbs on mixer auxes, set their wet/dry mix knobs 100 percent wet, so that they don't
confuse your mix by adding any more dry, untreated signal. For inserts, adjust the wet/dry mix to taste.
Back to the RV7000. When you create it, it's a slim little thing, presenting only its main parameters, including
a Decay knob. This governs Decay time, controlling the length of the reverb tail. However, the true power and
flexibility of the RV7000 is revealed when you click on the triangle next to its Remote Programmer socket. The
key control is the bottom left Edit Mode button, which cycles the RV7000's 'soft' knobs through controlling
reverb parameters, its built-in EQ, and a Gate. Those last two are only active if their Enable buttons are
In Reverb mode, spinning the Algorithm knob gives access to
seven distinct reverb types: Small Space, Room, Hall, Arena,
Plate, Spring and Reverse. There are two delay algorithms
there too — and you can check out the Reason column from
back in February 2010 for more on those. Each algorithm has
its own complement of parameters, which appear on the other
soft knobs. These are the key ones to watch out for:
The main two ways of adding a reverb to your
mix — 'inserted' directly for a device (left) and
Room Size, given in metres for all the algorithms except
patched into a mixer send/return loop.
Plate, Spring (where it becomes Length instead), and
Reverse. Adjusting size affects the density and quality of the tail, but, perhaps more importantly, also the
spacing of the Early Reflections, the initial, fast echoes that simulate the dry signal bouncing directly off walls,
floors and ceilings in the virtual acoustic, and that do so much to determine the character of the reverb.
Room Shape controls the pattern of those early reflections. Try
selecting the Hall algorithm, turning up the room size, and
looking at the individual 'spikes' near the left-hand side of the
red reverb graphic. Change the Room Shape and the pattern
really changes, with a corresponding difference in sound. It's
particularly noticeable with drums and other percussive sounds.
ER Level & ER->Late: These adjust the volume of the early
reflections, and their timing in relation to the diffuse tail of the
reverb, respectively. Put crudely, turning up the early reflections
(or making them occur ahead of the tail) produces a more 'splashy' and potentially more realistic effect.
Meanwhile, turning them off leaves the shimmer of the tail only, which is sometimes really desirable for more
artificial, ambient treatments. Predelay makes the reverb — both the early reflections and the tail — come later
after the dry signal. Larger amounts can help you use quite long, lush reverbs on vocals, for example, without
detracting from the intelligibility of the words. It gives the dry signal a little breathing space before the reverb
gets going.
Mod: the Mod Amount and Mod Rate parameters control an onboard LFO that makes the pitch of the reverb tail fluctuate in
a chorus-like way. Use none, or only a little, if you're trying to
recreate believable acoustic spaces. If you're after a more
ethereal, unnatural effect, though, feel free to go mental.
Uhe's Uhbik-A Rack Extension reverb.
The RV7000's EQ section is useful because it allows you to
sculpt the wet reverb sound without having to insert a separate EQ device. With the soft knobs, you control
a shelving low band, and (on the right) a parametric mid-range band. The high band is adjusted with one of the
main parameter knobs above.
So that's the RV7000. Compared to it, the half-rack RV7 looks pretty disappointing. Don't rule it out, though: it
has its own unique character, and is unsophisticated in a likeable way. If you're into lo-fi, retro, or semi-ironic
1980s tributes, this is the one. Also, three of its algorithms — Low Density, Stereo Echoes and Pan Room —
are particularly interesting in their own right, blurring the distinction between delay and reverb.
As ever in life, your options broaden if you're prepared to drop
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Reverb Revisited
As ever in life, your options broaden if you're prepared to drop
some dosh, in this case on Rack Extensions.
A great low-cost choice is Uhe's €32$39 Uhbik-A. This has
Synapse Audio's Deep Reverb rack Extension.
three algorithms (selected with the 'Operation' pop up menu)
that differ considerably in character. It also has a great feature:
a Reverb knob that crossfades from early reflections only to tail only, with differing blends of the two in between.
The knobs to the left control the early reflections, and those to the right the tail. Separate Bass and Treble
decay times contribute a large degree of flexibility, and there's wild Modulation on offer too. It's a nice sounding
reverb, very flexible, and an absolute bargain.
Then there's the identically priced Deep Reverb from Synapse Audio. This has few controls, no patch section,
and just one reverb character. It's a one-trick pony, but what a trick! Clearly a homage to the expensive Lexicon
units of the 1980s and '90s, the sound is open, bright and shimmering, and its sound appears to be
unachievable with the RV7000, at least.
Softube offer two reverb Rack Extensions. TSAR1R is €65$79, and is notably
easy to use. A 'Time' parameter adjusts the decay from 0.2 to 15 seconds,
but clearly has a bearing on additional 'under the hood' parameters as well,
not least diffusion and HF damping. 'Color' dials in Dark, Neutral and Bright
variations, and that leaves only predelay and wet/dry mix, plus a somewhat
redundant Output Volume knob. If you want more control, you'll have to stump
up for the €159$199 TSAR1, which uses the same algorithm, but has much
more to tweak — separate Time, Density and Tone, and more control over
early reflections. It can do vintage and modern treatments and can sound very
lush and expensive.
Finally, just when I thought I'd finished writing this column, in roared the RE
version of Rob Papen's €99$119 Predator synth. I'll be covering it in more
detail in a future column, but I couldn't sign off without mentioning its triplebarrelled effects section, which includes a synth-friendly reverb alongside
a whopping 24 other effect types. Quite the multi-effects device, then, as well
as being a viciously good synth. .
Lurking within Kong, and
accessed from its rear panel
audio inputs, the Drum Room
Reason's 'Hidden' Reverbs
It's far from obvious, but there's actually another reverb device available to you in Reason (before you turn to
Rack Extensions): the Drum Room module in Kong. It takes a little effort to patch up. You have to first create
a Kong (holding down the Shift key, so it doesn't also create its own Mix device), click its 'Show Drum and
FX' button, then use its rear-panel audio input and main out jacks to either patch it into an existing device
group in the rack (as an insert), or into the mixer (as an aux). On the front panel, you then choose 'Room
Reverb' in the Master FX slot's pop-up menu.
The reward is a single reverb flavour, but an interesting one. Like the name says, it's a room, so you won't
get 10-second tails out of it, but, surprisingly, it seems to have quite a lot of tail modulation going on, and you
can run it very wet without the dry signal's attacks going to mush. Not a 'go to' reverb, maybe, but an
interesting option, especially if you use the adjacent Bus FX slot to load up one of the other mini-FX on offer.
The Tape Echo makes a particularly good pairing.
Beyond this, there's one more 'factory' reverb option. If you like being surprised and inspired by presets (or
are just really lazy), you can find a lot of more 'worked' reverbs, many of which rely on multiple devices,
amongst the factory patches for the Combinator.
To try these out, create a Combinator while holding down the Shift key (to prevent a Mix device being
created), and then patch it in in a similar way to what I just described for Kong. Click its Browse Patch
button, choose the Reason Factory Sound Bank in the dialogue box that appears, then Combinator Patches
> Effect Device Patches > Reverb. Those should keep anyone going for a while, even if some will require
quite a bit of reverse engineering to really figure out how they're doing what they do.
Published in SOS November 2012
All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent
of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.
Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media
182 / 92
Master Class
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Master Class
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS December 2012
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Technique : Reason Notes
Total Class
Dirty Dancing
Flower Power
Album Mastering
Reason is becoming a much more rounded DAW,
and one of the main areas to benefit is mastering.
Robin Bigwood
o some, mastering is about adding that final sheen to
a finished mix and — regardless of the ethical
considerations that surround this issue — cranking up
the level of the track to compete with typical super-loud
commercial mixes. To others, it's more about co-ordinating EP
or album-length releases, deciding on track gaps or transitions,
and balancing any level and tonal differences. These two
approaches are not mutually exclusive, and, as we'll see this
month, Reason has plenty to offer in both areas.
Total Class
Reason's long-standing MClass devices are
ideal for mastering. The Maximizer can provide
Reason has had its own complement of mastering devices for
digital clipping protection, level boosting, and
even a bit of friendly distortion thanks to its Soft
many years, in the form of the MClass suite. Your New Song
template may well include them by default, in which case they'll Clip section.
probably appear in the Master Section's Insert FX section.
That's also the best place to put them if you're creating the little critters from scratch.
For a detailed look at all MClass devices have a look at Simon Price's excellent November 2005 Reason
column: /sos/nov05/articles/reasontech.htm. But I will just single out a few points for special mention here.
First and foremost, if you want to fundamentally change the sound or character of
your mix, don't start with mastering devices! The MClass devices can dial in
significant changes, for sure, but they're essentially blunt tools, and deliberately so.
Any underlying weaknesses in your mix are best dealt with in the mixer, or in the
musical arrangement itself, and while you work on that sort of stuff leave these
mastering tools bypassed.
When you are ready to finalise your mix, though, there is some accepted general
good practice. First, engaging the MClass Equaliser's 30Hz Lo-cut filter is
frequently a Good Thing, as there's rarely much musically useful stuff down in those
near-subsonic frequencies, and cutting them can help dynamics devices later in the
signal chain work better.
It's also smart to enable the MClass Maximizer (or another mastering-style limiter)
even if you're not trying to increase the overall level of your track. That's because it
can prevent digital 'overs' — those moments when you run out of resolution and
harsh digital distortion is the result. Its most transparent setting is with the Input and
Output Gain knobs left on 0dB, the Limiter section enabled, Look Ahead turned on,
and Attack set to Fast.
Mix 'glue' or something
much more blatant — the
Master Compressor is an
ideal whole-mix
mastering tool.
And here's a final consideration before we get on to some more juicy stuff. Because of their essential role in
avoiding overs, you should always run maximiser type devices last in your mastering signal flow. Putting one
anywhere else risks a processor further down the line doing something to add gain and undo all the good work.
And be aware that even then the very last thing in your signal chain is always the mixer's master fader. Keep
that at 0dB and you won't get any nasty surprises, hot or cold.
Dirty Dancing
Mastering doesn't have to be about precision and clarity
though. Sometimes a bit of dirt and pumping is exactly what
a mix needs to wake it up and give it some attitude.
Very broad, subtle EQ boosts and cuts are just
In Reason 6, don't overlook the Master Compressor. It's
the thing for treating a whole mix.
a great alternative to the MClass Compressor for introducing
a bit of dynamism and even blatant pumping. The needle indicates how hard you're driving the compressor. If it
never goes beyond a few dB of gain reduction, typically associated with using a high Threshold and a 2:1
Ratio, you'll just be getting some nice mix 'glue'. A lower Threshold and higher Ratio will lead to a much more
pronounced effect.
Then there's Pulverizer. This has the advantage of being both a character compressor and providing some
valve-style distortion. You could destroy a mix using this as a mastering processor, but if you bypass the Filter
and ignore the modulation sections, and then restrict yourself to a smidgeon of squash and dirt, it can really
add some colour. And thanks to the Dry/Wet blend knob you can blend your original mix with the pulverised
version in varying amounts — parallel processing at its easiest.
Meanwhile, Scream 4 is currently the best option we have for tape saturation effects. Select the Tape mode
and then adjust the P1 and P2 parameters for (tape) speed and compression (or saturation). The Damage
Control knob varies the strength of the effect, and you'll almost certainly want to keep the Cut and Body
sections disabled.
Exploring further means turning to third-party Rack Extensions. Softube's €25 Saturation Knob is one option,
and its Type switch lets you choose to keep high frequencies clean while dirtying the lows, or vice versa.
Joining Softube's smooth-sounding Trident A-Range EQ (which I looked at in October's Reason column) is the
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Master Class
new Uhbik-Q from Uhe. This $39 device sports two 'semi-parametric' bands, and their 'wide bell' modes are
ideal for broad whole-mix sculpting.
Probably the single most capable mastering-oriented tool
currently available for Reason is iZotope's €65 Ozone
Maximizer. You'd use this in place of the MClass Maximizer for
avoiding digital overs and increasing average level with its
impressively transparent IRC (Intelligent Release Control)
modes. Pulling down the Threshold fader cranks up the level
and the Margin knob decides how near you want the resulting
signal to get to the 0dB full scale 'ceiling'.
With the Ozone rack extension, state-of-the-art
finalising comes to the Reason platform.
Ozone brings something new to the table too: configurable Dither options. You use dither when reducing the
resolution (or bit depth) of a digital recording, like when making a 16 bit CD master from your 24 bit song. It
eradicates the artifacts and distortion you'd get if the last eight digits of each audio sample were just thrown
away by introducing some numerical rounding and randomisation. The effect is to retain most of the detail of
the original recording, but at the expense of added noise. However, if that noise is 'shaped' so it falls in parts of
the frequency spectrum where human hearing isn't very sensitive, it can pretty much disappear — and you get
to retain your 24-bit quality in a 16-bit delivery format.
If you're thinking Reason already 'does' dither, you'd be right. When you export a song or loop as an audio
file, from the File menu, you get to choose the bit depth (24- or 16 bits) of the resulting file. As most audio
interfaces have 24 bit converters, and Reason records at the highest resolution your interface allows, you'll
almost always want to select the Dither option when you generate a 16 bit file.
So why bother with Ozone? Well, aside from its prodigious
level-boosting abilities it provides an alternative dither
algorithm, iZotope's MBIT+, which is generally judged to be just
about state-of-the-art. It also lets you choose the amount of dither, and noise shaping, and lets you reduce
resolution right down to 8-bits. If you work in pop and rock styles you may feel this is all a bit academic, and
you'd probably be right. But it's a bigger deal for acoustic and classical work, if you have very specific needs,
or if you just want the best there is.
If you do use Ozone to do your bit-depth reduction and dither, make sure that (as we saw already with MClass
Maximizer) it's the very last thing in your signal chain before hitting your master fader set to 0dB. And then
never use Reason's own dither, in the Audio Export Settings box. Otherwise you'd have 'double dithered' —
nasty! .
Flower Power
If you're really serious about mastering you might want to invest in Flower Audio's €15 Loudness Meter. This
little thing gives unambiguous, informative numerical info about the peak levels and perceived loudness of
your mix. It also lets you instantly compare another 'reference' input, which could be a commercial track.
Album Mastering
I said at the beginning of this column that mastering is as much about preparing whole albums as polishing
individual songs. And while Reason lacks any CD-specific mastering or disc-burning features, you can use
it in this role.
If you're in Reason 6, open up the new file template 'Album Mastering'. What this gives you is 10 stereo
audio tracks, one for each CD track of a 10-track album. Feel free to add more audio tracks if your album is
longer than this. The idea is that you place finished stereo masters in these tracks, working left to right in the
time ruler, adjusting relative levels in the mixer, tweaking track gaps and fades in the sequencer, applying
any per-track processing in each one's Audio Track device inserts, and then adding any overall, albumscale peak control or sweetening in the Master Section. When all that's done you can place the sequencer's
'E' end marker at the end of the last track and export the whole thing as a long Song audio file. You're still
going to have to use a dedicated audio editing application to place CD track markers and make the burn,
but at least this way you get to use all your favourite Reason devices to really shape the master in the first
Published in SOS December 2012
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Untold Glitches
Sound On Sound : Est. 1985
In this article:
Untold Glitches
Reason Tips & Techniques
Published in SOS January 2013
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Technique : Reason Notes
Sugar Bytes Slice Arranger
Ochen K Glitch
Peff Buffre
Glitch The Hard Way
Complete Reverb
Glitch techniques are common currency in pop
production, and Reason can glitch with the best of
Robin Bigwood
round-breaking productions like BT's 'Somnambulist'
and Squarepusher's 'My Red Hot Car' — both stunning
in their technical mastery — have really popularised socalled stutter-edit and glitch techniques. Indeed, they're
cropping up regularly in mainstream pop production: check out
'Starry Eyed' by Ellie Goulding to see what I mean.
Over the last year, I've written about the way several Reason
devices can perform these kinds of isolated loops, freezes and
blips. In the October 2012 column, it was Polar, and its Lock
feature. In April 2012, it was The Echo's Trig button and Roll
mode, and a little further back, in February, Alligator's rhythmic
Aside from some of Propellerhead's own
devices, there are some really great Rack
Extensions out there for stutter-edit and glitch
effects. Here we see Slice Arranger, Glitch and
The techniques explained in those columns are all great, and
well worth practising, but recently several third-party developers have stepped up with even more specialised
Rack Extensions. This month, we'll have a look at some of these and see exactly what they can do.
Sugar Bytes Slice Arranger
This was one of the very first cr