Feb 172011

In this tutorial, I’m going to finish up our Matrix song, and then explore the differences between the Matrix and the Thor Step Sequencer in a little more detail. It’s important to note the differences between the two and how one is not necessarily better than the other. Although I would argue that Thor’s step sequencer is much more advanced from a programming standpoint. I think the Matrix still has a lot to offer and still provides a lot of possible uses. So don’t shelve it just yet.

Creating a Bell Fill

This time we’ll use the Matrix in a new way, as an Arpeggiator. I know if you have Reason 4 and up, you have the great RPG-8 (which I’ve explored in a different series of tutorials). This time, however, we’ll use the Matrix to arpeggiate your sounds. In this specific case, the Bell Fill track is used to add some arpeggiated notes into the song. Creating an Arpeggio with a Matrix is really easy. Think of it this way: You need one Matrix to play the notes/gate and another Matrix to apply the Arpeggiator. In the second Matrix, the Note CV is sent to the Osc. Pitch CV input (Osc. Pitch is a CV input on all Reason Synths and Samplers).

In this case, a Thor is used to create a Bell sound using 2 FM Pair Oscillators, and then one Matrix is sent to the Note/Gate CV input on the Thor (this plays the Thor in a normal way), and another Matrix Note CV output is sent into the CV1 input. On the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS), the CV1 input is sent to the 2 Oscillator Pitches. Any notes you input on this second Matrix device will adjust the Pitch as the Thor is played; i.e.: it arpeggiates the Notes being played. This gives you a great degree of control over your Bell sound.

Song Cleanup

Finally, we’ll do a little bit of cleanup to the song overall. First, we’ll add a Reverb as a send to all the tracks and “glue” the whole song together. Second, we’ll add a Mastering Suite underneath the Hardware Interface to master the entire track. Note that this is just a starting point. You can tweak all the mastering device parameters to fit the song as you see fit. But it’s a good starting point to try out some of the Mastering Suites that are included with Reason and Record. For that matter, you can bring everything into Record and use the SSL to master your track. So many options.

Probably more important is the fact that if you have Reason 5 (not sure about Reason 4), you can select all the Matrix Sequencer tracks (using Ctrl+Right-clicking on the tracks at the left section of the sequencer) and select “Convert Pattern Automation to Notes.” This is a very handy way to convert all the pattern automation you’ve spent so much time getting “just right” into note clips on note lanes. Once this is done, you’ll have to move all the note clips to their respective Combinator tracks. The Pattern lanes are automatically muted for you though, because the expectation is that you won’t want to have them playing or “doubling” up, after you move the note clips to the Combinator lanes.

This little trick provides you with the ability to then go in and adjust individual notes or entire note clips using the “Sequencer Tools” (F8). You can quantize, Transpose, adjust velocity, randomize notes, Scale Tempo, etc.

So there in a nutshell is how you can use the Matrix to build a track in Reason. Now I think I’ll try building one with nothing but Subtractors. That should be an interesting task. As always, let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions on ways in which you can use the Matrix within Reason and Record.

If you want to download the final song file, along with all the separate Combinators, you can find them here: Matrix-Track-Building. The file includes a final .rns file as well as the separate Combinators. The reason the Combinators are provided is because I’m running reason version 5. But for this project, I stuck only to devices you would find in both version 4.0 and 5.0. So if you can’t open the .rns file, then you have the Combinators and can reconstruct things yourself if you like. It’s more fun that way anyhow. Note: please respect that these project files, like everything else on this site, is under the Creative Commons 3.0 licensing, meaning you can mix, remix, share, and play around with the song to your heart’s content, but you will need to provide the source info and a link back to my site here in any productions you do with this file. Share and share alike ok? And you can’t make any money off the file. It’s not going to win any awards anyway. But if you remix or play with the file, send them back to me privately and I’d be happy to showcase them here in a new posting (send to my email in the top menu), I’d love to see what you come up with. Don’t be shy! ;-)

Where do you go from here?

Well you have the file, so feel free to remix and play with it and send it back my way. I’d love to take a listen. As I put together this posting, I also thought a little more about the comparison between the Matrix step sequencer and the Thor step sequencer, so I’ll leave off with a look at both in a side-by-side comparison. Just to give everyone a little more food for thought about both, and when one would be better suited over the other. In asking some people on “The Sound of Reason” website which was more advantageous than the other, I got some mixed responses. Most found the Matrix to be easier to use live, but they also found the Thor sequencer to be advanced on a number of fronts. I’ll let you decide. For now, the jury seems to say that both are still very much necessary, and they are more like sisters than a parent-child relationship.

So let’s take a rundown of the Pros and Cons of each by providing a side-to-side comparison:

Matrix Thor Notes
Pattern Enable Yes Yes You can use the “Step Seq.” button on the Thor Controller (top panel) to enable or disable the Step Sequencer.
Pattern Reset No Yes (non-automatable button).
Number of Patterns 8 Patterns x 4 banks = 32 1 Obviously, the Matrix can produce more pattern variations than Thor. You will need to create a new instance of Thor for each pattern you want to input.
Pattern Randomization 2 Options (via right-click context menu):
Alter Pattern
1 Option (via right-click context menu):
Dear Props: Please add Alter Pattern to Thor. Pretty please with a cherry on top.
Convert Patterns to Notes Yes (via right-click context menu). No This is the biggest beef users have with Thor. You can’t send the Thor sequencer data to the Main Reason/Record sequencer, either as patterns or as notes.  Nuff said.
Number of Steps 1 – 32 (selectable via digital input and up/down arrows). Non-automatable. 1- 16 (selectable via lighted square step buttons) or Step Count knob.

Note that the Step Count knob is automatable, while the step buttons are not.

Thor’ step count knob is automatable, which means you can automate the number of steps, but since you can’t automate the step buttons, you can’t automate turning steps on or off.
Pattern Input Type Note/ Bar visual display (non-automatable) 16 Rotary inputs (non-automatable)
Resolution Input Type Rotary (labeled dial) Rotary (digital dial)
Step Directions 1 direction:
5 directions:
Pendulum 1
Pendulum 2
Run Button Yes (non-automatable) Yes (non-automatable) It’s a little unfair to say that the Thor Run button is not automatable. As with most things in Reason/Record, there are workarounds. And you can get it to run using the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) or CV to trigger the sequencer.

As far as I can tell though, there’s no way to automate the Matrix Run button.

Run Modes No 4 modes:
Mute Light Yes Yes
Sync Capability Yes Yes
Synced Rate / Resolution 9 Positions (non-automatable):
1/8T (Triplet)
1/16T (Triplet)
21 Positions:
1/2T (Triplet)
1/4T (Triplet)
1/16D (Dotted)
1/8T (Triplet)
1/16T (Triplet)
Synced Rates/Resolutions which are shared between the two are in Bold.

While the Matrix has less positions, it has two positions Thor does not: 1/128 and 1/2. Though I would venture that using 8/4 and 2/4 is the same as using 1/2.

Non-Sync Capability No (always synced) Yes
Non-Synced Range N/A .10 Hz – 250 Hz.
Notes Yes (5-Octave Range from C1 to C6) Yes (Full Range from C-2 to G8) Note that for Thor, there are 3 global Note modes: “2,” “4,” and “Full” octave ranges.

Note also that for Thor, the Octave switch is not automatable

Velocity Yes (Range is 0 – 127) Yes (Range is 0 – 127) Note: in Thor you can see a digital readout of the Velocity value. In the Matrix you do not see the precise value. It’s a bit of a guess to get the Velocity exact. Though workarounds exist to see the numerical CV value (see Part 1 of this series of Matrix tutorials).
Gate Length 3 states:
Off (0)
Half (50%)
Tied (100%)
100 States (Full Range of 0% – 100%)
Step Duration Static Varied (17 Positions):
This parameter is different than the gate length. Whereas Gate Length determines how long the gate stays open, Step Duration signifies how long the note plays.

Put another way, this allows you to create a self-contained tempo inside Thor’s Step Sequencer. Something you can’t do with the Matrix because all steps are a static value. There is no ability to change step duration for each note played.

If you use Step Duration in Thor, generally, you’re going to want your entire pattern to equal the same value as the overall tempo. This means if you change One step duration downward, you want to change another one upward to compensate.

If you don’t compensate, you’ll end up with a pattern that’s out of sync (which of course may be what you want, but probably not).

Try it out to get a feel for how it operates. If you go too far, there’s always the “Reset” button.

Curve 1 Yes. 2 “modes”:
Unipolar (Range: 0 – 127)
Bipolar (Range: -64 to +64)
Yes. 1 “mode”:
Unipolar (Range: 0 – 127)
Curve 2 No Yes. 1 “mode”:
Unipolar (Range: 0 – 127)
Shuffle Yes (valid for Resolution values 1/8T and above).

This is non-automatable, but is set on a per-pattern basis.

No Though Thor does not have a Shuffle feature, you are usually better off using the ReGroove functionality for Both Thor and the Matrix.

In Thor, you can use the Step Duration to shuffle as well.

Editing Input / Edit Knob Note / Step / Gate / Velocity are drawn in by hand. Rotaries are available for each step, and are turned for one value at a time (determined by the Edit knob).

Note that the edit knob as well as the steps and Rotaries are all non-automatable.

This makes for easier “Live” editing input for the Matrix. Thor can be a little difficult and unwieldy to enter. It takes more time and precision to lay down a pattern.
CV Capability (all of which are non-automatable)
CV Outputs 3 Outputs:
Curve CV
Note CV
Gate CV
6 Outputs:
Gate / Velocity
Curve 1
Curve 2
Start of Seq. Out
End of Seq. Out
This is where Thor really shines, because there is an extra Curve CV, and extra CV outputs that can get sent to other locations when the Sequencer starts and/or stops.
CV Inputs None 5 Inputs:
Gate In (Trig)
Rate In
Pitch In
Gate Length In
Velocity In
Again, Thor has some nice input capability where CV can be used to send values into the Sequencer to Trigger all kinds of Parameters.

For example, you can have the sequencer run (and play a short sequenced thor melody, for example) based on a Kick by sending the CV from the Kick drum into the Gate In (Trig) CV input.

*Note: Unless otherwise specified, all above parameters are automatable in the sequencer.

In leaving, I’ll say this: They both have their respective places. And what you want to do in your tracks is going to determine which step sequencer you use. One question that I can’t seem to shake is why on earth the Props didn’t provide the ability for the Thor step sequencer to create 64 patterns in a single device, and provide the same kind of editing interface that the Matrix has? If these two things were implemented, the Thor step sequencer would go light years beyond the Matrix and would probably negate the need to keep using the Matrix altogether. These two feature implementations would solve the two biggest issues: multiple patterns per device, and an editing environment that is easy to manipulate in a “live” environment. So if the props are listening, take note: This would help the users out immensely!

Your thoughts?

And after writing this, Sterioevo was kind enough to provide this cool little patch which shows how you can chain several Thor sequencers together to create a giant 256-Step-Transposable-Sequencer. No this is not a tutorial on Thor necessarily, but it shows that with some creative CV routing, you can get an amazing thing going on. Very cool stuff!

  5 Responses to “50 – Matrix Track Building (Part 3)”

  1. Nice work Rob! Thanks…

    Couple of additions…

    - The thor sequencer can be transposed.

    Available only as Remote Overrides

    - Matrix: Run/Resolution/Individual Bank and Pattern Select

    - Thor: Run/Step Sequencer Edit Mode/Octave Range/Individual Pattern Step Gate and Knob/Pattern Reset All

  2. @Steve,
    Yep. I saw your post on the PUF, and responded. You indeed can transpose using some crazy CV trickery. Also thanks for letting us know about the overrides. I honestly hadn’t thought of introducing those here, but I’m very glad you did. If you want me to post your “Transposition Combi” here, I’d be happy to do so. Up to you. :)

  3. Sure thing :)

  4. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew
    of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my
    newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

  5. @Washing,
    I used to have a twitter widget that I liked to use, but I’ve since deleted it and gone through a few changes here on my blog and now can’t remember the name. So it seems you’ll have to do what I usually do… try out a few and stick with the one you like best. I usually try to look for plugins that have many users, not necessarily the ones with the most gold stars. Read through a few reviews and then read about the plugin and how it functions before you try it out. After a few tries, you’ll probably find something you are happy with. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get the right one on the first try. And also do a few searches on Google for things like “Top WordPress Twitter plugins” or something. You’ll invariably find a few good reviews that highlight the best ones.

    Good luck!

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