49 – Matrix Track Building (Part 2)

Now we get to some fun stuff: How to use the Matrix in a few different and interesting practical ways. To that end, I decided to build an entire track using nothing but sound devices that are controlled by Matrixes (Matrices?). This way, we can explore some of the practical uses of the Matrix along the way.

Now we get to some fun stuff: How to use the Matrix in a few different and interesting practical ways. To that end, I decided to build an entire track using nothing but sound devices that are controlled by Matrixes (Matrices?). This way, we can explore some of the common and uncommon uses of the Matrix along the way.

Creatively, it can also be a test of limitations to try creating tracks entirely with certain devices in Reason. It helps to set some boundaries and you might want to try creating an entire track using nothing but Thors, or nothing but one set of 10 samples or something along those lines. It forces your mind to think in new and innovative ways. And that, after all, is the point of this Blog.

Kick Drum and Roll Creation

In this video, I’ll show you how to create a kick drum and roll using a Subtractor. The Matrix is used to gate the drums and 2 patterns are created: One for the main drum part, and the other for the Roll. Once this is done, you can program the patterns in the sequencer and put the roll anywhere you want.

Snare and Hi Hat Creation

In this video, I’m going to do the same thing with the Matrix. Once again, we use some Subtractors for the sound sources, and the Matrixes are used to gate the drums.

Entering a Bass Line and Variations

Next, we’ll use a Malstrom and Matrix to create a simple Bass line. We’ll also use the “Copy/Paste Pattern,” and “Alter Pattern” functions on the Matrix to create some variations of the main bassline. Note that the “Alter Pattern” feature of the Matrix (accessed from the right-click context menu when you hover your mouse over the Matrix device) is unique to the Matrix. Even Thor doesn’t have this feature. The difference between Alter Pattern and Randomize are as follows:

Randomize: Randomizes the Note values anywhere from C1 to C6 in the Matrix. Also Randomizes the Gate & Velocity events (on / half / tied is also randomized), and the Curve. In other words, all three Matrix outputs are randomized.

Alter Pattern: Randomizes the notes, Gate / Velocity, and Curve events along the left and right axis. No new notes are introduced, no new velocity and gate values, and no new Curve values. Put simply, it reorders what already exists on-screen. And is one of the best features of the Matrix in my honest opinion.

Ok, I’ll admit, I cheated a little on this one. I automated the Mod Wheel directly in the sequencer. I could have just as easily created a curve ramped upward in a new Matrix and sent the Curve CV output from the Matrix into the Malstrom’s Mod Wheel CV input. Then drawn the pattern into the sequencer at the position where the Combinator Mod Wheel automation is located. Oops. But this gives you a great opportunity to practice some of the concepts I’ve presented here. Why not try reproducing this automation lane with a new Matrix yourself? Yeah, let’s go with that. 😉

Creating the Lead

In this video, I’ll show how you can create a Lead with Thor. Then we’ll use the Matrix to create a few patterns as we did for the Bassline. One of the things I hope you take away from this video is the idea that you can use the Matrix to adjust parameters that don’t have CV input jacks on the back of them. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not a hard setup at all.

For example, here we have the BW parameter on Thor that can’t be adjusted via CV input, and since it can’t be adjusted on the Thor Modulation Bus Routing System (MBRS), you can’t send the curve CV of the matrix into Thor to adjust it that way. The solution is to send the Curve CV from the Matrix into a Combinator Rotary (or CV input in Version 5.0), and then set this parameter in the Combinator’s Modulation Programmer, so that Rotary 1 on the Combinator adjusts the BW in Thor. This way, the Combinator Rotary acts as a CV pass-through between the Matrix CV source and the Target parameter. This means that you can automate almost any parameter in Reason using the Matrix as a source. Such a simple idea with profound and powerful consequences.

In this second Lead-creation video (below), I’m going to introduce the idea of creating Chords using the Matrix. Since the matrix is a monophonic device, you cannot play more than one voice (or note) at a time. So Chords are out. However, once the lead is created, you can duplicate both the sound source and Matrix a few times to gain access to multiple voices. For example, create three instances of the Sound Source/Matrix duo, and then on step 1 for the first Matrix, place a “C” note. On step one of Matrix 2, place an “E” note. Finally, on step 1 of Matrix number 3 place a “G” note. If you have a pattern that is one step long, you will hear a C-major chord when all three are played simultaneously (when all three Matrixes are “run” at the same time).

So this video shows you how to create polyphony, and automate a polyphonic lead line in the sequencer.

Adding Pads

Now comes the part where we add our pad sound. This is a basic Thor device using some Wavetable Ocsillators and a Multi-Oscillator. Two Matrixes are used; one to control the note/gate of the pad, and the other used to adjust the Filter 1 Frequency.

Once again, I cheated on the Matrix in favor of a Mod Wheel automation lane. The poor girl is never going to forgive me.

Looks like another opportunity to try switching automation lanes into pattern lanes using a Matrix. For this one, it will be a little trickier. Since the Matrix pattern can only go 32 steps long, at the highest resolution(1/128) a single pattern can last 1/4 bar, while at the lowest resolution (1/2) a single pattern can last 16 bars. Put another way, if you want the smoothest possible curve, you will need to use 1/128 resolution. If you want the choppiest curve, you can use the lowest resolution (1/2).

Why does resolution matter? Because it’s important to understand that the Matrix is a “Step” sequencer, and not a a smooth curve (like a vector curve, for example). Put another way, think of the steps in the step sequencer as a square wave and a vector curve as a sine wave. As the amount of steps increases and the amount of time to play those steps decreases, the Resolution becomes finer (the Square Wave moves closer to morphing into a Sine wave). As the amount of steps decreases and the time it takes to play those steps increases, the Resolution becomes coarser (the Sine wave moves closer to morphing into a Square Wave). The finer your resolution, the less you will hear the change from one step event to another. The coarser your resolution, the more you will be apt to hear the switch from one step to another. This is a key concept to keep in mind when working with the Matrix. If the resolution is too course, you’re going to hear the switches between steps — which may be what you’re after. For this specific case, we want to create a very smooth curve. That’s going to mean a lot of Patterns and some work to create smooth, even curves. Truth be told, in the Matrix, there’s no such thing as a pure vector wave or sine wave. It’s just that there is a point at which the resolution becomes so fine that the ear does not hear the switch from one step to another (similar to how resolution works with sight. look at a newspaper photograph up close or through a magnifying glass and you see all the dots — course resolution. Look at the newspaper from farther away and your mind can no longer discern the dot pattern — fine resolution).

So how do you recreate the 20-bar ramp upward that I used for the Pad’s Mod Wheel automation?

The solution is to determine the resolution you want, then chain your patterns together using multiple curves. Let’s go somewhere in the middle. Using 1/16th resolution, we will need 10 patterns to create a 20 bar curve (all patterns using 32 steps). So you will need to utilize patterns A1 to B2 to create a continuous ramp upward. Still with me? Good. Now the most difficult part comes. Since the Matrix does not provide a proper way to set each step (you have to do this visually), you’ll have to figure out approximately where the curve starts and stops between patterns. For this, you can use the Visualizing CV trick I showed in the video in Part 1 of this series. Or you can eyeball it using the hash marks along the left edge of the curve input area. You know that the curve ending A5 and starting on A6 will need to be at the 50% mark of the Unipolar Curve height. So work backwards from there ramping downward all the way to zero at the start of pattern A1 (use the Shift key to create an even line of step events in each pattern). Then work upward from the start of A6 to the end of B2 (again holding down shift to create an even line of step events). Once that’s done, create a series of 10 patterns on the sequencer, each 2 bars long, and chain them together from A1 at the start to B2 at the end.

Now repeat this process using another 10 patterns and create a downward ramp 20 bars long (from B3-C4). To create the middle clip that is at level 127 is easy. Create a pattern (on C5, for example) which is one step long. On this first step of C5, raise the curve value up to the top in the Matrix editor. Then place that pattern on the sequencer for the duration of the middle clip (4 bars long in this song).

Phew! Now you see why I cheated. This is no small task. It’s fiddly, and it takes some effort. So why would you do it this way? Well, it shows you the concept of chaining patterns together, which can come in very handy to create curves or note sequences over long passages in your song. Also, it’s a great way to learn how the Matrix operates, which is, after all, the reason for this tutorial series. But more on this whole pattern chaining issue later on.

Thus ends the second part of our track creation using Matrixes. In the next part of this series, I’m going to show you how to use the Matrix as an arpeggiator, finish and clean up the track, convert all the patterns to notes, and more. Until next time, hope you have some fun in Reason and Record, and post a comment to let me know how you’re making out with the software and how I’m doing teaching it to you. Thanks for reading!

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