Organizing your Files

I would diverge a bit and talk about a subject that everyone needs to understand: organizing your files. Hopefully this will shed a little light on how Reason files operate, and at the same time provide some ideas with a safe method of organization.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how to best organize Reason and Record refills and files and such, so I thought I would diverge a bit and talk about this, since it’s important for everyone. It’s also tied closely with another subject: how does Reason handle files. In my opinion, everyone needs to have a basic understanding of this subject, as understanding this will help you put together a foolproof file structure on your hard drive or external drive. In the process, I’ll provide my own method for file organization, which I think has some pretty good benefits.

First and Foremost: How the heck do these files work?

First, what must be understood is the idea that samples in Reason and Record are not automatically part of the song files. Note that wav files loaded into a track in Record is a different story. Any wav files loaded on their own channels are saved along with the song. When it comes to samples, the only thing saved with the song file is a link to the sample location. This means that each time a sample is loaded into a song, the location and name of the sample is noted and stored. When the song is saved, the sample’s file name and location are saved along with the song. When the song is reopened, the program performs a check to see that all the saved sample links are still valid. If not, you get a warning telling you that the sample is missing. UH OH. Now you’re in trouble.

But what causes a sample to go missing. If you’ve understood the above paragraph, it’s not a great leap to figure out that if you change the sample’s location or file name (or both), Reason’s sample check will fail. So why am I telling you this? Because once you understand how samples are treated in Reason, you’ll understand how best to organize them. Knowledge is power after all.

Second, we must also understand the difference between a sample and a patch. A sample is a .wav or .aiff file which can be loaded into any of Reason’s sample players (the NN19, NN-XT, Redrum, Kong, or Dr. Rex). A patch is completely different. Patches do not rely on any outside files, and instead are built wholly inside Reason. This means that you can rename and relocate patches anywhere you like. They will still load fine within Reason or Record. Patches can be loaded into any of Reason’s Synthesizers (Subtractor, Malstrom, and Thor), as well as the advanced FX devices (Scream and the RV7000).

A special case exists with the Combinator, NN19, NN-XT, Redrum, and possibly Kong, which can make things a little confusing. All three of these devices can load both samples and patches. While the Combinator does not have the ability to load a sample per se, it can contain instruments which do load samples, therefore it has the possibility of containing samples. The NN19, NN-XT, and Redrum can all load both samples and patches (Kits = Patches in the case of Redrum). Lastly, if you use the NurseRex or Nano-XT in Kong, you’ll realize that Kong can also hold samples. Point is this: if you have a sample contained inside a Reason device, be it Kong, Combinator or NN-XT, etc. then you’ll have to be extra careful to ensure that those samples are not changed. No renaming, and no moving around from folder to folder. If you change sample file names or move them to another folder, the link is broken and you get the dreaded “Sample not found” dialog.

Truth be told, moving them from folder to folder is really not a huge issue if you follow my advice for file organization below (in other words, if you keep all the Samples in a single parent folder — create as many subfolders under this as you like, and move the samples around freely under this main parent folder). The more dangerous culprit is renaming the sample file, as this will make it almost impossible to find later, especially if you have thousands of samples on your hard drive or if you do some massive renaming of a bunch of sample files. Just don’t do it. Force yourself to think of a naming convention that makes sense to you (and it doesn’t hurt to make it somewhat logical in the event you’ll be collaborating with others).

Note also that if you trade files between others that don’t have your samples or the same refills you do, you’ll also get the dreaded “File not found” message. In this case there are two easy solutions: 1. If the samples are your own creations, self-contain the song (from the file menu) and send the song to your colleague. When the song is opened on the other end, all the samples are contained and will open up properly. 2. If you are using samples from a refill which your colleague does not have, tell your colleague to download the refill if it’s free or pay for it if it’s commercial. Problem solved.

In conclusion, you have to simply be cognizant of the fact that if samples are used anywhere in your Reason devices, Reason is only storing a link to those samples. Now let’s look at things from the other side of the coin. Let’s see how we can best optimize the samples and other Reason files so that we never lose any samples, songs or other files ever again.

The Simple File Organization Method for Reason or Record

One of the simplest solutions to file organization is to create a directory outside the “C:\Program Files\Reason” directory entirely (I put mine under the C:\ drive directly and I call it “Reason” for lack of a better term — call this folder anything that makes sense to you like “Audio” or “AudioWork” but I would stay away from “Music” because Windows creates a “My Music” folder automatically — looking back I probably would have chosen a name other than “Reason” so as not to confuse it with the Reason directory under the Program Files on my hard drive, but I’ve never been tripped up by this).

Then under this folder I created the following sub-folders:

  • Main Refills (where I place all 3rd party refills)
  • Working Refill (where I place my own patches for my own refill development)
  • Samples (Where I place all my sample wav or aiff files)
  • Songs (all .rns, .rps, and .record files go here)
  • Output (all .wav or .mp3 output goes here)
  • Miscellaneous (files others provide me, documentation, charts, etc)
  • Scratchpad (any stupid experiments or playful fun stuff goes here – usually in .rns or .record file format).

You can create any number of sub-folders under the above folders as you wish. The idea though, is to keep the samples in their own folder and keep some basic top level organization.

I personally have the whole above “Reason” folder backed up on 2 different hard drives and I do a DVD backup twice a year. This takes care of ensuring I sleep like a baby each and every night, and even if my computer explodes or gets accidentally hurled off the balcony after receiving that final blue screen of death straw during the best jam session I’ve had in a decade, it’s unlikely all 3 hard drives will crash at the same time. And even if they do, I have everything stored on hard media (DVD). At the absolute very least, and if you only do one of the above, back up your stuff onto a DVD! Hard Drives fail. DVDs seldom do. But even with that recommendation, I still would highly suggest in backing it up in at least 2 other places above and beyond your main computer (a secondary hard drive and DVD).

Some of the benefits of the above organizational approach:

  1. Easy to find what you want quickly
  2. You can always uninstall/install reason without ever worrying you’ll overwrite something or having to move something outside the main reason folder every time you uninstall/install
  3. Saving all my scratchpad stuff in .rns or .record format means that I can go directly into windows explorer and double-click on the file to open the Reason or Record program with my song loaded in one shot, which saves time.
  4. Separating the output (.wav) from the songs (.rns or .record) means that I can organize my output in whatever way I want without touching the main song files — which is nice when trying out different track listings. Note that all the output files are further organized into sub-folders for different full CDs or genre, etc. Whatever works for you.
  5. Keeping all the samples in one folder means that you’ll never lose the samples or the link to the sample from a song. You could also subgroup samples underneath in sub-folders based on sample type: drums, nature sounds, urban sounds, etc. As long as they stay in this folder, you can subgroup them any way you like and you can even change the samples from one location to another under this folder — if the song ends up losing the connection with the sample, just point to the “Samples” folder, and let Reason/Record find the samples for you. Since they will always be in this folder. Only thing you can’t do is rename a sample. That’s always unwise.
  6. Finally, this type of system means I have one folder to backup. Not a bunch of folders and files all over the place on my hard drive.

I know some people advocate the opposite approach of saving everything related to a song in a single folder and creating separate folders for each song. But this approach means you end up with several copies of the same samples and patches all over the place, and I think it can become a mess very quickly. Also, with the “self-contained” settings in Reason and Record, the program can do this for you on the fly.

Here’s another idea if you really want to keep all the patch and sample files with your songs. Try using the “favorites” feature in the Reason song browser to create a “favorite list” for each song you create. This way you have all the files and patches for each song stored in a favorites list. And you can duplicate patch listings in multiple favorite lists without duplicating the patches themselves.

The other added benefit is that it can help you when you’re looking for a specific patch from a specific song. You don’t need to open up the song file. Instead, open the song browser, click on the “favorite list” for the song that contains the patch, and there it is.

Building a Refill: How do I organize that?

Well you’re on your own for that one jack. Mainly because I’m way too tired from writing this long post. But here is an example on how I would probably try setting things up. Usually I create several folders for each instrument or device at the top level, then the sub-folder would contain the various instruments. If I don’t have any patches for a specific instrument, I omit that folder entirely (no need to have an empty folder). Here’s an example:

  • Instrument Device (for instance, Thor)
    • Bass
      • Acoustic
      • Synth
    • Bells & Mallets
    • Drums
      • Kits
      • Hits
        • Bass Drum
        • Snare
        • Toms
        • Rimshots
        • Assorted
    • Horns & Woodwinds
      • Sax
      • Oboe
      • Flute
    • Pads
      • Upbeat
      • Downbeat
      • Neutral
    • Piano
    • Strings
      • Guitar
      • Violin
    • Synths
      • Mono
      • Polyphonic

For the FX devices, I usually just list the device at the top level, and put all the patches directly under that folder. If it gets out of hand though, I might try separating even that into sub-folders based on sound types. For example, you could set up the RV7000 as according to it’s algorithms (Room, Arena, Spring, Echo, etc.). Or you could set up the Scream according to its damage types (Tape, Tube, Fuzz, etc.)

For Rex loops, I would probably list them based on purpose and then Tempo. For example:

  • Dr.OctoRex Loops
    • Drum Loops
      • 90 BPM
      • 100 BPM
      • 110 BPM
      • 120 BPM
    • Music Loops
      • 90 BPM
      • 100 BPM
    • Experimental Loops
      • 90 BPM
      • 100 BPM
    • Assorted Loops
      • 100 BPM
      • 110 BPM

In conclusion, when you’re dealing with file structures on your hard drive the idea is to make it as easy as possible for you to find what you’re looking for. When creating file structures for refills, the idea is to make it as easy as possible for the end user.

As an update, Vitor posted the following on EditEd4TV’s forum in this post. I wanted to reprint this, because it’s also good advice:

I already do what you say, I just don’t agree with the use of optical media to store backups. It’s slow and it’s destined to fail in less than 10 years, even if you store it carefully. And a 1TB HDD costs 50-60 bucks, how much would it cost to get that on DVDs? That’s almost 250 DVDs.

I prefer to keep buying new and bigger HDDs and keep rotating the old drives to become OS drives (my OS HDDs and work HDDs are distinct). Right now I have 320GB and 500GB for OS duties and 2x1TB for work and backups. Next year, I’ll just reassign the oldest 1TB to OS duties and buy a new HDD to become a new backup drive.
I also use an external USB 2.5 250GB to store the most important stuff and keep it in a different location.

Just don’t forget that you should not trust a new HDD, at least not until a week has passed and you’ve been able to test it all. Sometimes they fail on the first week. Remember this to prevent disaster.

I hope some of this helps to demystify how files work in Reason and Record, and provides a helpful and simple approach to file organization on your computer. If you have any other advice in this area, please don’t hesitate to share it with us.

29 thoughts on “Organizing your Files”

  1. Does having your refills in the Reason folder allow for faster searching? I have a drive thats dedicated to just refills. When searching for refills it takes a long time to go thru all the refills. Refills that are in the Reason folder search almost instant, like they have been indexed. Would moving the refills to the reason folder help with searching?

    1. Dr.No,
      There’s nothing to suggest that having your refills in the Reason folder versus another folder on the same drive will make things faster. However, there’s a few factors that could affect how fast or slow your refills load. First, if you have your refills on an external drive, this may be slower than loading from a dedicated hard drive directly connected to the motherboard. Also, you have to look at the speed of the hard drive and the connection of the hard drive to the computer (Firewire being faster than USB 2.0 and USB 2.0 being faster than USB 1.0). Some common sense prevails here. If your drives are equal and both connected to the computer via the motherboard (as a master and a slave), they should both be equally fast.

      Another thing to consider is the amount of refills on your dedicated drive versus the amount of refills in the main reason folder. If you have only the FSB and Orkester files in your Reason folder, but you have 200 refills on your dedicated drive, certainly it’s going to take longer for reason to locate or open the file folder with all those refills. Moving them over to the Reason folder probably won’t solve that problem.

      I always advise people to keep their refills outside the Reason folder. There’s one VERY GOOD reason for doing so: next time you upgrade reason, you don’t have to go through the extra step of moving all your refills out of the Reason folder (otherwise they are overwritten and lost for good — unless you back them up which you should anyway). If you forget to move them, poof! they’re gone. Not to mention the extra time you’re wasting moving all those files back and forth. So a few tips:

      1. Keep them in a location outside Reason
      2. If you can, keep them on a dedicated drive that is connected directly to your computer’s motherboard
      3. Whatever drive you get, make sure it’s bloody fast.
      4. Weed out the refills you don’t use and get rid of them. Having 200 refills isn’t helping you if you use only 2 or 3. If you’re not using the refills back them up on CD or DVD for use on an ‘as needed’ basis. Then delete them from your main refill location. That way you still have a copy of them, but they’re not tying up your hard drive with clutter.

  2. Useful information, as always! Just one thing though re your reply to drno: I’ve just upgraded to Reason 5 and Record 1.5 on PC and I didn’t move any of my refills from the Reason folder before I upgraded. They are still there; they haven’t been overwritten by the upgrade. This is good – I’ve got them all backed up, but it would have been a real pain copying them across.

    In the install instructions with the disc it only says you have to move what it calls “personal files” out of the Reason folder if you are on a Mac – not for PC. On Mac it overwrites the whole Reason folder, but not on PC. I don’t know if this is new for Reason 5 on PC, or whether it’s always been this way (I’ve only owned Reason since Reason 4).


    1. @Outback: I didn’t realize it only overwrites the files on MAC, but still, I am always hesitant about unleashing (aka: installing) software and letting it have free reign to install into a folder which has “personal” files or refills that I’ve worked so hard to keep safe. I would still keep them outside the Reason folder, just in case. Yes, I know copying them is a pain, but you need to back them up anyway right? So you kill two birds with one stone. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  3. @ Phi. I don’t disagree with you about the sense of keeping everything where it can’t be massacred by a heavy-handed installation – just thought it was worth mentioning that the PC upgrade doesn’t overwrite Refills.

    Matter of fact, my project for this weekend is to re-organise my file “system” along the lines that you suggest. I use the word “system” in it’s loosest sense. You know how it is; you install stuff, you uninstall stuff, you save new stuff here, you have old stuff there, you back up other stuff to somewhere that seems reasonable at the time. You keep meaning to do something about it, but somehow it never happens. I spend endless amounts of time going ” I know it’s here somewhere!”

    One of these days (if I don’t fix it now) I’ll have a catastrophic disc failure, and I’ll lose the lot. This would probably marginally increase the average quality of the universe’s total music pool but I would be be upset, even if no-one else would. One folder to back up – I like that.

    Any suggestions for making this process as painless as possible? Currently my Reason and Record song files point to particular Refills and samples & loops in particular places. If I move them won’t the songs come up with the “file not found” error? Is there a simple way to deal with this?

    Regards, Alec

    1. Alec,
      I know what you mean. I’ve been a little lazy lately, and I have to do a little housekeeping as well. Not a big deal. But to answer your questions. . .

      If you follow the notion of keeping all your samples in a specific folder what’s going to happen is the following:
      1. You open your song, and you get the “Missing Sounds” alert (see page 231 in the R5 manual)
      2. Press the “Locate Sounds” button.
      3. The “Missing Sounds” dialog opens (see page 233 in the R5 manual)
      4. Click the “Search Folder” button. Then navigate to your “samples” folder and click “OK” — all the samples are found.
      5. Important: Save your song after this process. This will ensure the new locations are accepted and you won’t get the dialog next time you open your song.

      If your song uses a Refill and you move the refill, the process is somewhat similar (and easier).
      1. You open your song, and you get the “Please Insert Disk” alert (see page 232 in the R5 manual)
      2. Click the “Browse” button and locate the refill in question. Select it. And click the “OK” button.
      3. Again, save your song after this process so that you don’t get the dialog again.

      If you save all your refills in one folder and your samples in another, this ensures you only have to point to one location for missing sounds and one location for missing refills. In other words, you’ll always know exactly where they are if they accidentally get lost (which theoretically they shouldn’t). It makes life a lot easier. And once all your songs point to the new location and they are saved, you won’t have to go through this procedure again.

      Hope that helps! Let me know how it goes.

  4. My computer has become out of control with files everywhere with no good order. I have started going through everything and organising it all into appropriate folders. While deleting and sorting my internet favourites I came across this page – perfect! Thanks for taking the time to make this page Rob, I will be sorting my Reason folders next 🙂

    1. Jagwah,
      No problem. I’m glad it helped you sorting things out in Reason. It can be a little frustrating at times to sort things properly (especially if you don’t organize from the outset), but once you have it all under control, it makes the music-making process much smoother and more enjoyable. There’s nothing worse for blocking creativity than having to stop to figure out where a sample is located or how to link a broken sample path back again.

  5. Massive thanks for this bro. Makes so much sense. I have just upgraded to windows 7 from xp and i cant duplicate the file paths. eg. xp= c/documents and settings/all user/user name/my music Windows 7= c/users/ user name I tried to recreate the xp path but window 7 wont allow me to create a documents and setting folder in the c drive, it wont work. I have over 500 songs that now have the missing sample error. Any suggestions on how to fix this ? thanks

    1. @Track Medix,
      First, make sure you keep all your samples in the same folder structure, but obviously, it will be in a new location.
      Second, you’ll have to load each song separately. So start with your first .rns file, and open it up. When the “Samples not found” dialog appears, choose to manually find the sounds, then point to the new folder location, press OK, and your song should pick up the samples from the new location.
      Third: In order to make the new location permanent, you’ll need to then save the song file (so you don’t get the “missing samples” warning again when re-opening the song).
      Fourth (and final): You’ll need to do this for each song in your library. I know it sucks, but it’s the only way to have the songs pointing to the new sample location.

  6. I recently installed Reason 5 on my newly built PC. I didnt have this problem on my old PC, but now I install all programs and samples etc onto different hard-drives for organizing purposes – for some reason, Reason does not remember (or save…) the paths to locations – even if I have Reason on the same drive as the sounds / refills / samples… Can anybody else clue me in on this please?? I’m running a SolidState drive for my system/windows so there is not enough space to store all my samples and sounds on there – but I don’t want to have to re-search each sample again and again when I start a previous Reason project.

    1. @Alex,
      I think I saw you posting this on TSOR’s Forum. And I did read your question. I seem to recall someone else having this same problem before, and I think it might have something to do with the fact that you’re loading your files on an external drive perhaps? Or else on a drive that changes designations (for example, if you have a network drive that is “H:\” and then the next time you boot up, the drive letter changes to “G:\” — that might be confusing Reason. But I’m not absolutely sure. My best advice is to contact the Props directly and see what they say about it.

      I hope you can figure this one out because it sounds like a pain in the behind. I wish I could be of more assistance on this.

  7. It still takes 10 minutes to load a piano combinator from the props piano refill (with reason 5 incl update). Never had this problem with older versions of reason, on slower machines mind you. Searching takes forever too. I was thinking of getting a ssd for my refills, but I have the bad feeling this is just part of the new reason 5 coding because I run a quad core machine and get 60 to 90MB per second throughput with all other activities with the sata drives on full DMA. I hope they sort this out, these loading delays kill creativity.

    1. @DrNo,
      Have you asked around on the Props forum? They might have an answer for you, especially considering this is their refill as well as their software. 5 minutes seems a little long. But it may be a very large multi-sampled patch, which pianos usually are. So… I’m not sure. 5 minutes might be right. But I would still ask in the general or user forum over at the Props website. Just in case they have a solution for you.

  8. It not just he piano’s refill. It’s all the refills that call on a lot of samples. They load very slowly. No one has a answer, I’ve asked everywhere. I just attributed it being a problem with reason 5 that will either be fixed with another update or another version. Maybe its that I’m running it on the 64 bit version of win7. Who knows. I love Reason to much and have invested too much in it to change, so I’ll have to make the best of it.

  9. Finally figured it out 🙂 I had a bad install DVD. A friend brought his install DVD, and my serial worked fine with it. Also on 64 bit windows, found out its best to install giving it administrator privileges and clicking on the compatibility option that comes up. Windows will install it under the settings it find tobe best. After the install and update, fired it up, reason pianos patch loaded in 6 seconds. I’m going to request a replacement dvd from prop’s just in case I need to move to another PC. Glad this is finally over. I am happy. I hope no one else has gone thru this.

    1. @Dr.No,
      That’s good to hear, and good to know! Thanks also for letting me know it worked out. This way, if anyone else asks, we now have a possible solution or answer for them. 🙂 Now go make some killer music since you don’t have to wait anymore for files to load in order to do it. hehe.

  10. First of all, let me say thank you for all the good adivce. My comment is really a question. I am running Reason 4.0 on my Acer Laptop. About a month ago, I was having computer problems and the shop suggested re-installing Windows XP. I tried to “back up” everything I could, but could not find a way to “back up” or “save” my “Favorites” in Reason. You know, when you find a good instrument patch or drum loop and you save it in the “Favorites” window. How do you save those patches or loops?

  11. do remember it loads into ram- slow ram, slow processor, slow hard drive, etc. all are major issues that can slow the loading down to a CRAWL! also, make sure nothing ram-intensive is being used at the same time or it’ll choose the one given most priority and slow loading down like crazy!

  12. How do you organize reason files on a Mac? I’m having trouble with my Midi tracks in Logic not being able to find the .RNS file. After I open a Logic Project, I have to go find the specific .RNS file that I saved and physically open it to trigger the Midi track.

    I think I’m not storing my custom .RNS files in the correct location.

    1. @Tony, Unfortunately I don’t use a MAC so I can’t speak to your question. I also don’t use Logic. But I would recommend posting this question on the PUF (Propellerhead User Forum), as there are a lot of knowledgeable MAC users there. I also appreciate your question, and hope you find the answer to it. All my best. Rob

  13. Is there a way to import all of your .rfl like the soundbanks.. I just want every patch in the right order of the devices.. I have 15 gigs of refills and I do not want to search through all of them.. I just want to see the instruments in the folders.. Ex i open a thor i want every thor patch on my pc in that window so i can cycle through all of my patches to get the one i want ..

    1. @Joseph
      Well, it would take a lot of work, and it might slow down the Browser (not sure because I’ve never tried this on a massive list of patches), but you could put all the Thor patches in a favorites list, call it “Thor only” and then when you open your Reason browser, click on the “Thor Only” patches, and they are all there. But of course, creating this list requires you to navigate through every folder in all your .rfl files, and throw all the “thor” files into this favorites list. So upfront it’s a lot of work, and once you’re done, I would recommend backing up your “Favorites” files (which is just a text file pointing to where the actual patch files are, so this list is pretty light). Try that out and let us know how it goes.

  14. Hi. I read your post because it relates to a problem I have had with reason since samplers were introduced.
    Reason loses my files. And yes the dreaded “cannot save”.
    The file sits in the self contained settings, I can see it, just when I go to save the project…error.

    Thanks for your post
    And the site is awesome.

    1. Could it be that you’re moving around your sample files? As far as I know, this will happen unless you self-contain the samples. But even if you self-contain the samples, I could see this happening if, for instance, you self-contain using samples that are inside ReFills, and then later move or delete the ReFills. As far as I know, even with self-contain, you still need to own the ReFill and have it in the original location when you go to open the song. I think Reason does a check for this when opening.

      The odd thing is your “Cannot Save” issue. Have you talked to the Props about this?

      Whatever you do, the best advice I can give is to keep your organization consistent and don’t move around your samples. Keep all your samples in the same root folder and Reason should always be able to find them. And if Reason can’t, then you can just point Reason to a single location where all your samples reside, and it should pick up on them from there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *