Bernard Childcare Trust

It’s wonderful to be a part of something that truly makes a difference in our little music community, and I was lucky enough to contribute to a ReFill that helps out a true legend in the Reason world, James Bernard. The Bernard Childcare Trust is a ReFill where the proceeds go directly to helping out the 4 Bernard children. The family suffered a tragic loss in July 2011, when Nicole Bernard, wife to James and mother to the children, passed away. Please help out by purchasing this ReFill.

It’s wonderful to be a part of something that truly makes a difference in our little music community, and I was lucky enough to contribute to a ReFill that helps out a true legend in the Reason world, James Bernard.

A ReFill with a purpose!Those of you who know the story already realize that he recently had a tragedy in his life and the lives of his four children. His wife passed away in 2011. So a group of us got together and produced a ReFill for Reason labeled the Bernard Childcare Trust. Ben from 3rdFloorSound headed the project and a group of very respected and talented sound designers jumped in to contribute their sound and FX patches.

All proceeds from the sale of this ReFill will go towards a fund for the Bernard children, and I can’t think of any better cause than this. So if you want to contribute and add a few new and interesting patches to your library, I would encourage you to take a look at the page, and purchase the ReFill. It’s not going to break your bank, but it will most definitely make a difference.


Now for the DVD extras:

First, here’s the demo song I put together for the ReFill: Bernard-Childcare-Trust-Demo. You’ll need to have the ReFill on your computer in order to use the file, but if you do, you have access to the Full Reason song file (.reason). Feel free to remix it or play around with it. And let me know if you create something interesting from it. Everything except the drums were from the Bernard Childcare Trust ReFill. Cheers!

You can listen, comment, and download the demo song (.wav file format) from SoundCloud here:

JBCCT by Phi Sequence

Also, here are two videos showcasing a demo I put together for the sounds you’ll find under my section of the ReFill (Phi Sequence folder).

And here’s a brief rundown of what you will find in my section of the Refill:

Combinators:

The following 3 Pads were in part created while I was watching the service for Nicole Bernard streamed over the internet. As you can imagine, it was a very moving experience. So the sounds are deep and very rich. I hope that came across in these patches.

  • A Homage to Hope & Expectation
  • A Homage to Peace
  • A Homage to Rest

The following were two ideas I was developing for the FSB6 ReFill. One is a very common Reese Bass idea I had after watching a few videos on creating Reese Basses on the internet. The second was a typical glitch-induced mayhem patch (those who know me, know I love chaotic and mangled sounds – I think this one falls into that category).

  • Reese Bass (Run)
  • Robot 303

Thors:

The following patches are two other Pad ideas I had, along the same lines as the 3 Combinator pads.

  • Oblong Starstreak
  • There IS Celebration Here

The following patches are some Synth ideas. Some Leads which were developed specifically for this ReFill. Dark Blue Smear is a cross between an organ and an Oboe sound. Blue Yearnings is a wobbly lead. Buzzer Lead is exactly that. Sounds like it buzzes at a very fast rate. Synthetic Shine is a higher pitched ethereal synth sound. And Trance Symphony is more of a Trance lead line.

  • Dark Blue Smear
  • Blue Yearnings
  • Buzzer Lead
  • Synthetic Shine
  • Trance Symphony

The following two were underdeveloped ideas for the FSB 6 project. From Cowbell to Champagne Glass is a drum / bell sound that hopefully can recreate something close to both sounds, and a few things in between. Use the Rotaries, buttons, and Mod Wheel to change the shape of the sound, and add it into your projects as a synth triggered by a Redrum or Kong (to add inside your drum kits, if you like). Make Em Dance James is a bouncy Synth patch that I put together which uses the Step Sequencer in Thor. I figured that there were enough rich deep sombre sounds in this ReFill, that I had to put something in that gives an upbeat emotion. There’s only so much Beethoven one can listen to after all (not that I’m comparing my abilities to that of Beethoven whatsoever). I just felt that there should be a few patches in here which are more uplifting. Hopefully this one fits that category.

  • From Cowbell to Champagne Glass
  • Make Em Dance James

This last Thor patch is just a fun little texture where I got Thor to mouth the words “Yadda Yadda Yadda” — made me smile, so I included it here.

  • Yadda Yadda Yadda

Malstroms:

The Frog Bass is a throaty Bass-like sound, which could also be used as a Texture. Muck Rain is one of my favorite Textures, simply because it sounds like you’re in the middle of a swamp. And Tin Can Whistle is a very simple sound that can be used as a one-shot triggered for some added percussive sound. It’s kind of like a Digeridoo meets a downward ramping bomb being dropped. Hard to explain properly, but give it a whirl and see what you think.

  • Frog Bass
  • Muck Rain Texture
  • Tin Can Whistle

These two are just too hard for me to categorize. They’re more Textures than Synths. Space Murk is a fun one to play with. It reminded me of a space symphony sound.

  • Rough Tension
  • Space Murk

Subtractors:

These two Chip Tune patches were derivatives of the Chip Tune Emulators I put together for the FSB 6 ReFill

  • ChippyTune Fun 1
  • ChippyTune Fun 2

The FM Enveloper patch is a Subtractor Arp that is probably one of my favorites in the ReFill. You can hear it used in the Demo song I put together for this ReFill.

  • FM Envelopers

The First Flight patch is a cross between a Synth and a Bass. It uses some noise to create what I thought sounded like an engine in flight. And finally, Revy Bass is a really nice sounding Bass that was put together with a lot of love and care. You can hear this bass in theDemo song I put together for this ReFill

  • Revy Bass
  • First Flight

For more details, and to purchase the ReFill, go here: http://www.3rdfloorsound.com/bernard-childcare-trust.html

Thanks go out to all those who purchase this ReFill, and to all my friends and fellow sound construction architects. This is what makes it such a blessing to be part of the Reason & Music communities. I can’t think of another place I’d rather hang my hat.

All my best,

Rob.

72 – Pounding The Pulveriser (Pt. 1)

Now there’s a word with some power behind it: PULVERISE! Let’s pulverise our sound. New in Reason 6 is this wonderful Distortion-Compression-Tremolo-Follower-Filter-Parallel Processor — And oh yeah, it’s got a Lag feature too! Suffice it to say this thing is vintage goodness, and it can do an awful lot to your sound, whether you just want to warm things up a bit, or set your sound to completely self-destruct. Let’s push it to the limit and see where it takes us.

Now there’s a word with some power behind it: PULVERISE! Let’s pulverise our sound. New in Reason 6 is this wonderful Distortion-Compression-Tremolo-Follower-Filter-Parallel Processor — And oh yeah, it’s got a Lag feature too! Suffice it to say this thing is vintage goodness, and it can do an awful lot to your sound, whether you just want to warm things up a bit, or set your sound to completely self-destruct. Let’s push it to the limit and see where it takes us.

This article is going to provide you with an introduction to the device, as well as show you how to use it as a parallel compressor. I’ll get into more tricks with it in part 2. But for right now, I thought we’d first like to get acquainted with all of it’s goodies. So let’s start with a look at all the parameters on the device.

Also don’t forget that my latest Refill, Pureffects, is available with 1,250 effect patches designed specifically with Reason 6 in mind. There’s 200 Pulveriser patches alone, and several Pulveriser-based Combinators with all kinds of interesting routing ideas. Read More about the ReFill.

Explaining the Interface

Here’s the front look at the Pulveriser and a brief explanation of what each feature does.

The front panel of the Pulveriser with an explanation of the interface.
The front panel of the Pulveriser with an explanation of the interface.

Now let’s break down the Pulveriser into it’s Component Sections:

Compression Section

  • Squash: This is another fancy word for Compression. It compresses the audio signal coming into the Pulveriser. So in this respect, it’s kind of like the Compression Ratio of the M Class Compressor. Though it’s probably a different algorithm entirely if I’m reading the Props correctly (maybe Selig can provide charts and comparisons?).
  • Release: Controls the Release of the Squash (compression).

Distortion Section

  • Dirt: This is another fancy word for Distortion. It distorts the signal coming into the Pulveriser. Note that the Dirt algorithm is unlike any other one found in any other Reason device. I have this on very good authority from the Props themselves. So you can think of this as a brand new Scream algorithm if you like. And I must say it’s one of the cleanest distortions I’ve heard in Reason or any other virtual instrument. Definitely one of the highlights of Reason 6.
  • Tone: This controls a low pass filter that is applied to the Dirt. It is outside the realm of the Filter section, so this is not to be confused with any of the Filters found there. This is a separate filter altogether. Practically, it smooths out the Dirt (Distortion), the further left you turn the knob; which may be what you want.

Filter Section

  • Filter: Allows you to select from a variety of built-in Filters. Bypass will bypass the Filter section entirely. The other filters provided are Low Pass 24, Low Pass 12 + Notch, Band Pass, High Pass, and Comb.
  • Frequency: Controls the Filter Cutoff Frequency. Pretty standard for most filters.
  • Peak: This is just another fancy word for Filter Resonance. However, to my ears this Resonance is not as bright as other Resonance settings for other filters in Reason. I may be wrong, or my ears may be shot. But this Resonance algorithm sounds a little more “tame” than the others. But don’t get me wrong, if that is the case, I’m happy about this. It means that we have more choices in Reason on what kind of Filters and Resonance settings to use. More choices = more flexibility.

Tremor Section

The Tremor section can be thought of as an LFO which you can send to various parameters both inside and outside the Pulveriser.

  • Tremor Rate: This controls the Rate of the LFO.
  • Tremor Synch: This controls whether the Tremor is synched to Tempo (when the Sync button is lit) or the Tremor is unsynced/free running (when the Sync button is turned off).
  • Waveform: You can select between 9 different waveforms, as follows: Sine (0), Triangle (1), Square/Pulse (2), Sawtooth (3), Random Square (4), Downward Ramp (5), 3-Step Sawtooth (6), 4-Step Sawtooth (7), and 4-Step Triangle (8).
  • Tremor Spread: This is another fancy way of saying “Pan.” It pans the LFO across the stereo field in a ping-pong kind of way, based on the Rate and LFO waveform.
  • Lag: This is actually yet another filter inside the Pulveriser, however, it’s a filter which is not so much audible, as it is a tool to smooth out the LFO Curve. Obviously if you select a sine wave, it’s already smoothed out, so lag has no effect. But if you select a square wave, for example, the more lag you use (more right you turn the knob), the smoother the corners of the LFO Curve become. So fully right and a square wave would become a Sine wave.

Note: That’s also my biggest beef with the Alligator. For all the greatness it possesses, it doesn’t posses a “lag” knob for the LFOs, which would reduce the pops and clicks I was speaking about in the Alligator tutorial I wrote. And as far as I can tell, there’s no way for you to “add” any lag to the LFO in the Alligator because you can’t, for example, take an LFO from the Pulveriser and use that to affect the LFO of the Alligator.

Oh and by the way, did anyone catch that little note on the back of the Pulveriser? It points you in the direction of how to use the “Lag” feature. However, I don’t see a similar note on Alligator. Too bad.

  • Tremor to Frequency & Tremor to Volume knobs: Here’s how I think of it. When you use the “Tremor to Volume” knob, you are creating Tremolo (change in amplitude over time, or more colloquially, a “Volume Wobble”). Depending where the volume knob is located, this Tremolo effect tremors lower (to the left) or higher (to the right). But it’s more of a Vibrato effect when using the “Tremor to Filter” knob. Because the Tremor creates a “Filter Frequency Vibrato” — think Dubstep Bass Wobble. I honestly don’t know if musical terminology has an alternate name for “Filter Frequency Vibrato” since strictly speaking, “Vibrato” refers to a change in Pitch, not in Filter Frequency.

Follower Section

The Follower is an Envelope Follower that takes the incoming Pulveriser audio and converts it to a CV signal that you can use to modulate all kinds of things both inside the Pulveriser and outside the Pulveriser (via the CV on the back of the Pulveriser – don’t worry, we’ll get to that shortly).

  • Trig: This allows you to manually trigger the Follower section. If you do this, you are no longer using the Audio alone to trigger the Follower. It becomes a manual process (for as long as you hold down “Trig”). Once you let go, if you have any audio going into the Pulveriser, it triggers the Follower to act. Of course, you can disconnect audio from being sent into the Pulveriser and use the Trig button to manually trigger the follower. Nothing is preventing you from doing that. In that case, the Follower is purely manual, with no audio controlling the Follower whatsoever.
  • Threshold: Controls the Threshold of the Follower.
  • Lamp: The Lamp is just a simple red light which turns on while the Follower is triggered. Note that the intensity of the red light shows the level of the Follower. So if the light is dull, the level is low. If the light is intensely red, then the Follower level is high.
  • Attack: Controls the Attack of the Follower.
  • Release: Controls the Release of the Follower.
  • Follower to Rate: The Follower affects the Rate. So if you aren’t using the Tremor to affect either the Filter Frequency or the volume, this knob does nothing. If, however, you are using the Tremor for anything, using this knob will basically send the follower to the Tremor Rate. Depending where the Rate knob is “set” turning this knob left will shift the rate downward (slower rates), and turning this knob right will shift the rate upward (faster rates). So, for example, if the Tremor is affecting your volume, and the Tremor Rate is set to 1/4, turning the knob right means the volume will be “wobbled” at a rate starting at 1/4, but then the wobble will get faster — move at a faster rate — depending on your follower settings. The Follower is kind of like a “rate envelope” (i.e.: it changes the Tremor Rate over time). With the knob set further left of center, the rate still starts at 1/4, but becomes “slower” over time. Personally, this is one of the most interesting knobs on the whole device IMHO.
  • Follower to Frequency: Similar to the “Tremor to Frequency” knob, this knob sends the envelope follower to control the wobble of the Frequency. You can get some really interesting effects when using both Tremor and Follower sent to the Frequency, so its important to play around with both knobs in tandem (though you don’t have to). This is bipolar. Moving the knob more to the left, and the Frequency wobbles below where the Frequency knob is set. Moving the knob more to the right, and the Frequency wobbles above where the Frequency knob is set.

Mix Section

  • Volume: This is the master volume for the Pulveriser. Pretty standard.
  • Blend: This blends the original audio signal with the “Pulverised” audio signal. In this sense, it acts as a Dry/Wet knob. However, when you use this in conjunction with the Squash on your Kick drum, for example, it turns into a Parallel Processor. The nice thing about using the Pulveriser in this way is how easy it is to create create Parallel Compression for your audio, because you only need one device and two knobs to achieve the effect. Of course, you can still use all the other features, such as Dirt, Filtering, Tremor, etc.

Ins and Outs of The Pulveriser: A Look at the Flipside

The back of the Pulveriser presents several ways you can modulate the Pulveriser with CV and output the Tremor and Follower to modulate other devices in Reason. Here’s the skinny. . .

An explanation of the connections on the back of the Pulveriser device.
An explanation of the connections on the back of the Pulveriser device.

I won’t go into explaining all the uses of the inputs / outputs and CV connections. Instead, the image pretty much says all you need to know. In the next article, I’ll go over some of the uses of these connections, and how you can use them in various Pulveriser techniques. Suffice it to say you have a lot of power on the rear of the device, as I hope you can see from the image above.

Basic Application: Parallel Compression.

So after reading that somewhat elaborate explanation of all the parameters on the Pulveriser, where do you start?

A hint comes in the way I’ve explained things. Notice that each part of the front of the Pulveriser is divided into sections. These sections can be used independently or in tandem to produce results. In addition, the Pulveriser’s sections are also very interdependent; arguably more-so than the other effect devices. So, for example, if you want to Parallel Compress your kick drum you would create your drum sound, and then add the Pulveriser as an insert effect. Bypass the filter section, and use the following:

Squash and Release + Blend = Parallel Compression
Squash and Release + Blend = Parallel Compression

Instant Parallel Compression using 3 knobs. It really can’t get much easier than this.

Let’s compare this to how you would traditionally set it up in Reason. To get this setup outside the Pulveriser, you would have to split the output of your drum module and send one split into an M Class Compressor and then out to Mix Channel “1” and then send another split directly to Mix Channel “2.” While you can say that this setup provides for more control over the compression, you could also say that it involves more routing, more time to setup, and more controls to worry about. In our Pulveriser setup, this process is much more efficient and easy to setup and control, at the expense of a slight loss in some of the finer aspects of control (you don’t have Compression Attack, for example, which you DO have with the M Class Compressor setup).

In the Pulveriser, the M Class Compressor would be akin to the Squash and Release knobs, while the two faders used to “blend” the two Mixer channels together would be akin to the (you guessed it) Blend knob.

Here’s a video to show you the comparison:

So which setup do you select? That all depends on what you feel sounds better to you, and it’s important to note that both setups are equally valid. The Pulveriser simply provides you with a convenient way to set up Parallel Compression.


Well that’s it for now. I’m a little worn out from writing all this stuff out. But I’ll come back and continue with the Pulveriser to see some of the cool things you can do with it. Stay tuned. And write me if you think of some really wacky ways it can be used. From my own experiments, I’ve learned you can do everything from enhance and warm up sounds to completely destroy them. Hours of fun, and you won’t hurt anything except maybe your hearing while you experiment. Let me know what you think. And thanks for reading this.

Echodile Deluxe

Here’s an interesting patch that I submitted to the productspecialist@propellerheads.se email in response to their first video in the “Reason Sound Design” series, a new series put out by the Propellerheads to help us all learn a little more about the Combinators inside the Factory Sound Bank, and allow the user community to submit their patches. I love it when they launch a new series!

Here’s an interesting patch that I submitted to the productspecialist@propellerheads.se email in response to their first video in the “Reason Sound Design” series, a new series put out by the Propellerheads to help us all learn a little more about the Combinators inside the Factory Sound Bank, and allow the user community to submit their patches. I love it when they launch a new series!

Here’s the original video in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know about this new series:

So without further ado, I give you my humble take on this type of technique. . .

The 4-Way X-Fade Echodile Deluxe

Download the .reason file (example) and Combinator patch here in zip file format: echodile-deluxe.

4-Way Crossfade Echodile Deluxe
4-Way X-Fade Echodile Deluxe

First, here’s a video to showcase what the Echodile Deluxe sounds like:

An explanation of the Controls:

Pitch Bend: This is connected to the Echo Envelope.

Mod Wheel: Connected to the Delay R Offset

Rotary 1: This rotary crossfades between 4 different Alligator Patterns, and is really the heart of the whole thing. It allows you to blend any two of the four Alligators together using a single Rotary. Ed Bauman came up with the idea of using the Thor’s Shaper set to a Sine wave to fade between four different Mixer Channels. If you want to know more about this little trick, I wrote about it here. So in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted you to know this was not my own idea. A good artist mimics, a great artist steals. According to Picasso anyway.

Note: In order to have all four Alligators Crossfade properly, you will need to either press the “Run All Pattern Devices” button on the Combinator, or press “Play” on the Transport first. Otherwise, the CV-based Thors’ step sequencers won’t start running, and that’s necessary to let the signal pass through them.

You’re also not tied to using these 4 Patterns. You can, of course, change them around to your liking, or else load completely new Alligator Patches into each of the 4 Alligators. In this way, you can really make this device “your own.”

Rotary 2: Echo Feedback. Simple enough. Mix / Max values are 0 / 72

Rotary 3: Shift. Allows you to use the Shift knob of all four Alligators at the same time.

Rotary 4: Delay Time. I ran out of Programmer assignments for the Echo unit, so I had to route this through the P-Pongy Thor’s Rotary 1 and send that into the Delay Time CV on the Echo. So you won’t see the delay move visually on the Echo.

Button 1: Freq. Shifter. The LFO from each Alligator is split out to all three filter frequency bands on the respective Alligators. This way you get some further Filter modulation if you want it. Turns it on or off.

Button 2: Smear. I love this little button. It cranks up the LFO in the Echo to give it a really nice gritty electro quality. Sweetness to my ears.

Button 3: Pingy-Pongy. Turns the Ping Pong of the echo on, but also wobbles both the Ping Pong Panning as well as the Feedback Offset R knob, based on the settings in the Pulveriser.

Button 4: Delay Time Sync. Turns on the sync.

Hope you guys have fun with it! 😉

71 – Entering Song Contests

One of the best things you can do to learn, improve, contribute, and generally be creative is to enter your music in contests. Usually there are several contests through magazines, online music forums, bandcamp, soundcloud, and the like. I would strongly urge you to look up some of them and enter into the contests you feel are appropriate for your style of music.

One of the best things you can do to learn, improve, contribute, and generally be creative is to enter your music in contests. Usually there are several contests through magazines, online music forums, bandcamp, soundcloud, and the like. I would strongly urge you to look up some of them and enter into the contests you feel are appropriate for your style of music.

First, some Suggestions and Tips when Contributing

There’s a few suggestions I would make when looking at which contests to enter.

  • Look for a contest where you find like-minded people and musicians that will be accepting of your work. For example, if a contest is put on by a cinematic club, you wouldn’t post country music. So first, read up about the contest, listen to some of the tracks done for previous competitions of the same contest, try getting in touch and networking with individuals that are a part of the contest or group submitting their tracks to the contest. And then get up the courage to submit your work.
  • Read the rules! I can’t stress this enough. Read the rules and then follow those rules. The worst thing you could have happen is that you win a contest only to be disqualified because you didn’t follow the rules properly. Remember that unless YOU are the organizer, you can’t make the rules. Therefore, don’t argue about them. Just follow them. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. And suggest ways to improve the competition in the future. But remember the goal is to get your music out there, connect with others, and learn more about music in general (others’ music and your own).
  • Generally, don’t submit a work longer than about 4 minutes, unless the competition specifically asks you to. Long drawn-out tracks are a surefire way to bore even the most die-hard music enthusiast, and will probably tire out the judges and those that will have to listen to your music. Make it interesting and get your point across in a reasonable length of time. Sure there are exceptions to this rule, but if it’s not specified, assume a length of 3-4 minutes is standard. And see the previous point: if you don’t know, ask!
  • Listen to the music of others and participate when you have a point and when and where you can. Discuss what you like about other peoples’ work. Provide “Constructive Criticism” and DO NOT give an opinion without any feedback. You know what I mean. Don’t say “this sounds good” or “love it.” That’s not helpful at all. And if you have nothing to provide, then just keep your mouth shut! A helpful comment always comes with honest feedback which helps the musician learn what is working and what is not working, and always with zero negativity. For example, “The compression on that kick drum seems a little too high for my taste, and the melody line comes across too rigid. Perhaps try to lower the compression on the Kick drum and try using and arpeggiator on the melody. That could be one approach to enhancing the track. But that bass you have going on is perfect. The frequency is just where it needs to be.” Notice here that you’ve not said anything negative and you’ve provided some helpful ideas. As an aside, it’s usually good form to tell the musician what you enjoy about the track and what you feel works in the track if the majority of your comments are things you would do differently in the track.
  • Don’t overdo it! If you are commenting 10 times on every song or in response to every single comment, people are going to get tired of listening to you, and you’re probably cluttering up the competition with a lot of crap. Tone it down. Think about your responses. And if you’re impulsive (hey, we’re all impulsive from time to time, especially about things that we feel passionate about), instead write your comment down in notepad and save it for one day. Then go back to it and see if you still want to post it. The one day rule gives you some time to ponder what you’re saying, maybe you want to rework what you previously wrote as well. And it gives you a break from the forum / competition. Most importantly, it gives the other people a break from YOU. And remember, a well-formed and well thought-out comment is usually greeted with much more acceptance than an impulsive one.
  • Most importantly, have fun submitting your track(s). Well-run competitions are fun places where everyone shares ideas. Make the most of them. Listen to what others have to say about your work. And try to grow from the experience. You will find many useful ideas that others suggest are often ideas you hadn’t thought about before, and it may be just what you need for some new inspiration.

Always remember that competitions are NOT about winning, despite what others might say. Competitions are about people getting together to share their passions. They are about learning how to take your music to the next level. They are about learning from the techniques about others. Winning is merely a by-product and a cherry on the cake. If you win, great. But if you lose, you still win. Those that enter competitions merely for the sake of winning are actually the ones that are losing. Because they are stagnant. Those that get the most out of the competitions are those that open themselves up to the process and learn from the experience. They are the ones that go home with new friends, new ideas, new techniques, and new ways to improve themselves. Ask yourself which one do you want to be?

My Song Contribution to the Reason Song Challenge III

So with all of that said, here’s my own entry from the Reason Song Challenge III put on by Rob (FailedMuso). In order to use this file, you will need to download Patrick’s (Bitley’s) DeLight Fairlight Demo ReFill. The whole idea for this competition was to create a full song from the sounds found in that demo ReFill. Lots of entries were created. I think a total of 32 songs were submitted. Mine did not make the grade. But as I said, that’s totally ok with me. I’m just very happy to be listening, talking, and sharing with such a talented group of people. That’s why I wanted to share my track with everyone. That way you could take a look at how it was put together, and perhaps find a few ideas in there which may spark your own creative juices or inspire you in some way.

So here is the final entry I submitted to the contest (sadly, it did not come in first, second, nor third place. Nor did it get any honourable mentions). But that’s ok. As I said, even when you don’t win, there’s a lot you can take away from it, and a lot you can learn.

Enlightened v2 by Phi Sequence

And you can download the song here: Enlightened. The file is zipped up, and when you open it you’ll also need Reason 6 to inspect it (since it was done in Reason 6 and is a .reason format). Feel free to look it over, play around with it, remix it and send it back to me. Have at it. But remember it’s still copyrighted and I still own the rights to it. So no distributing it without letting me know first.

Finally, here’s a video I put together on YouTube to show you what’s inside the file. I think the hardest thing was coming up with Hi Hats (none were included in the demo ReFill), and making the song “my own.” It was also interesting to try to cull the proper sounds I wanted out of the demo. For instance, there were no sweeps inside the demo, so I had to make changes to the synth parameters to get some sweeps out of them. Little things like this add up to a lot of fun hours working inside the song document and making the demo sounds do what I wanted them to do. But in the end, I can honestly say it’s all worthwhile.

Also, limiting your song palette in this way forces you to work within boundaries. And that is sometimes a great source of inspiration. Especially when all the ReFills out there have massive libraries of sounds and effects. It’s very easy to get lost in a sea of sounds. Sometimes a competition like this comes along and it forces you to work in a limited way. Or else it forces you to find workarounds you might not have ever thought about before. In short, it’s a great way to stimulate your musical mind.

I hope you found some of this useful information. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think? I’d love to hear from you.

70 – ChipTune Sounds

There’s a wealth of great information out there on recreating the sounds of old computer chips, like the Commodore 64 or old SID chips and video console chips, and using these sounds to create tunes (Chiptune). I honestly knew very little about the subject until I, along with several other very talented folks, were asked to put together some fresh new sounds for the Reason 6 Factory Sound Bank (FSB). So here I’m going to explore and explain how I created a few of these sounds, and show you that you can definitely recreate some convincing Chiptune sounds using nothing but Reason and a little experimentation.

There’s a wealth of great information out there on recreating the sounds of old computer chips, like the Commodore 64 or old SID chips and video console chips, and using these sounds to create tunes (Chiptune). I honestly knew very little about the subject until I, along with several other very talented folks, were asked to put together some fresh new sounds for the Reason 6 Factory Sound Bank (FSB). So here I’m going to explore and explain how I created a few of these sounds, and show you that you can definitely recreate some convincing Chiptune sounds using nothing but Reason and a little experimentation.

There are no additional project files for this tutorial because all the project files can already be found in the FSB (Factory Sound Bank) for Reason 6. So read the article, watch the videos, and I’ll point to where you can find these chiptune sounds and show you how they are put together.

The Process: It’s all in seeking out the Answers!

Before I delve into creating these wily little playful sounds, I want to shed a little light on how I approached the subject. Because hopefully that might give some insight into the process of sound creation and more importantly, might inspire you to seek out the knowledge you need to tackle any sound design project, even if you know very little about it. The whole process starts by asking yourself two questions:

  1. What is the sound I’m looking for? What does Chiptune sound like?
  2. How can I recreate those sounds inside Reason.

The answer to the second question depends upon the first, so your first step is to seek out Chiptune sounds. Try to find some sites on the internet that cater to that specific sound and immerse yourself in them. It also helps if you can download a few sounds in your genre of choice and then deconstruct them using a spectrum analyzer. The more you do this, the better you will be at instantly recognizing what type of Oscillator was used, envelope settings, and the like. And yes, this is another plea for the Props to introduce a fully-featured Spectrum Analyzer in Reason. Because, for a sound designer, this is a very important analysis tool.

Once you have an idea of how the genre or specific instruments sound, the next step is to seek out information on how those sounds are built. I went to my best virtual friend next to Google to get the answer: Wikipedia. Enter “Chiptune” into the search box, and you have all the information you need to figure out how to build chiptune sounds inside Reason (or at least a very good start). Look for keywords like which “Oscillators” and “Waves” and “Filters” were used. Then you can transfer this knowledge over to Reason and be well on your way to creating vintage Chiptune sounds.

So if you really want to know about Chiptune, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiptune. After you’ve read that (especially the section on “Technology” and “Style”), come back here and we’ll continue with taking the knowledge from that article and build our chiptune sounds in Reason.

Note: There are several sites dedicated to creating Chiptune sounds, software and hardware used to create chiptune sounds, discussion groups, sound share sites, and a plethora of everything to try to recreate these old video game consoles and chips. Simply searching on Google will give you a wide variety of information and I urge you to explore those avenues as well, if this is your thing.

Components of Chiptune Sounds

Now that we have an idea of what Chiptune sounds like, and we know a little about what elements of the synthesizers are used to recreate those sounds, we can jump into Reason. Of course since this is a Reason article and since we’re using Reason software, it makes perfect sense that we are taking the software route to recreate these sounds. But that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate them via hardware instead. You could also, if you’re lucky, have access to those older chips from the 80’s and build your own box if you are feeling inspired by your inner engineer spirit. There’s also a wide variety of other software dedicated to recreating these chips and chip sounds. But that’s a whole other article for a totally different kind of blog. Here, it’s all about software and Reason.

Most of the components of the chiptune sounds use some or all of the features below, and are very simple to create in Reason. As a matter of fact, you can use any or all of Reason’s synths to mimic some very realistic chiptune sounds. Where the fun comes is adding your own variation or style to the sound. Since the chips used to create the sounds of the 80’s arcade devices were very basic, they required very little CPU and that holds true even today. So you can create whole songs out of them with very little strain on your processor.

  • Usage of Square Wave (also called Pulse Wave)
  • Usage of the Bandpass filter
  • Bitcrushing to add distortion and a low quality feel
  • White noise for drum sounds
  • Arpeggios were simulated with a fast-changing pitch (something easily simulated by an LFO affecting the Pitch)

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Now let’s see how we can set up our sounds using all three Reason synths.

Malstrom Chiptune Sounds

Here’s the video that shows you how to build some chiptune sounds using the Malstrom. Think of this as your own Malstrom chiptune emulator:

Here’s the process to create some interesting Chiptune sounds with the Malstrom (the short version):

  1. Create a Combinator and a 14:2 Mixer inside the Combinator. Then create a Malstrom, so it is auto-routed to the first channel of the Mixer.
  2. Turn off filters A & B in the Malstrom.
  3. Select Curve 26 for Modulator A, and Curve 3 (square wave) for Modulator B. You can play around with the Curves after you’ve created most of the patch. The key is to select sharp-edged (stepped or square) waves. This provides a distinctive chip sound for the patch.
  4. Turn the Rate knob for Modulator A to around 104, and the Rate knob for Modulator B to around 96. Also set the “Modulator A to Pitch” knob to 63 (all the way up). And then set the “Modulator B to Motion” knob to around 22
  5. In Oscillator A, select “VSWaves” and turn the Motion down to -64. Then turn the Index up to 127. Finally, set the ADSR envelope of Oscillator A to 0 / 127 / 0 / 0
  6. Set Polyphony to 1.

Now when you play the Malstrom you should hear some interesting chippy sounds coming out of it. You can now set up the Combinator Rotaries/Buttons to play around with the Rates of both Modulator A & B, as well as the Modulator A to Pitch, Modulator B to Motion, and Oscillator A Index. Here are the settings I entered for the Malstrom Emulator patch I created for the Reason 6 FSB. The idea is to keep things playful, flexible and usable.

The Combinator's Modulation Routing settings for the Malstrom, which were used in the Chiptune Emulator A patch from the Reason 6 FSB
The Combinator's Modulation Routing settings for the Malstrom, which were used in the Chiptune Emulator A patch from the Reason 6 FSB

Adding some “Crunch” or Bitcrushing into the Mix

To add a bit of bitcrushing to the sound, you can do the following:

  1. Select the 14:2 Mixer and create a Scream 4 device. This will auto-route to the first Auxiliary of the Mixer.
  2. Turn the “Return” knob of Aux 1 down to around 50 or so. Then turn Channel 1 Aux 1 all the way up to 127.
  3. Select the Scream device, and set the Damage Control to full (127), Damage Type to “Digital,” and P1 to 105.
  4. Select the “Scream 4” in the Combinator Mod Routing section, and enter the following settings: Rotary 4 > Parameter 2 : 0 / 127. Also set Button 4 > Damage On/Off : 0 / 1.

This way, Button 4 acts as the Bitcrush On/Off switch, and Rotary 4 acts as a “tone” knob for the bitcrusher. If the effect is too much for you, reduce the Return knob on the Mixer for Aux 1 down a bit more. If it’s not enough, turn it up.

Thor Chiptune Sounds

Here’s the video that shows you how to build some chiptune sounds using the Thor synth. Think of this as your own  Thor chiptune emulator:

Here’s the process to create some interesting Chiptune sounds with Thor (the short version):

  1. Create a Combinator and a 14:2 Mixer inside the Combinator. Then create a Thor synth, so it is auto-routed to the first channel of the Mixer.
  2. Ensure Oscillator 1 is Analog (by default, this should already be set). Then change the wave to a square (pulse) wave. Use the Oscillator 1 Mod setting to 64.
  3. Bypass the Filter 1 slot, but ensure the Oscillator is still going into Filter 1 (the red “1” button to the left of the Filter 1 slot).
  4. Set the LFO 2 to a square (pulse) wave, and the Rate to somewhere around 11.3 Hz. Things are more interesting if you don’t “sync” the LFO to the tempo, so leave that off for now.
  5. Set the Amp Envelope’s ADSR to 0 / 127 / 0 / 0
  6. Set Polyphony to “1” and Release Polyphony to 0 (zero).
  7. In the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) at the bottom of Thor, enter the following: LFO2 : 66 > Osc1 Pitch
  8. Setting up the “Bitcrusher” is exactly the same as previously described when creating the Malstrom patch, so you can set that up for your Thor chiptune emulator if you desire.

Now when you play the Thor synth you should hear a classic Chiptune sound. The next step is to set up the Combinator Rotaries/Buttons to play around with the Rate of the LFO2, as well as the PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) of Oscillator 1.

The interesting thing about using Thor is that you also have access to the built in step sequencer. So another approach is to set up a random pattern to a “Pendulum” setting, then unsyncing the step sequencer, and having it trigger from a button on the Combinator (see the video for more on this). Setting up the sequencer this way means that you have an “auto-sequenced” pattern triggered from the Combinator button. Handy for instant chiptune.

Here are my own Combinator settings for the Thor device:

The Combinator Modulation Routing settings for the Thor chiptune Emulator.
The Combinator Modulation Routing settings for the Thor chiptune Emulator.

Now let’s have a look at some Chiptune sounds triggered via Kong.

Here is another little patch that I put together for the FSB, along with some other talented people who helped out by providing a few of their sounds as well. It’s a little Kong Kit that you can experiment with. Note that in order to create some of the drum sounds that are classic 80’s arcade, you will want to use “white noise.” This formed the basis for classic chiptune drums.

So there are a few outlines to create classic 80’s arcade sounds. With a little tweaking, I’m sure you can come up with several authentic sounding video game sounds using Reason. And I’d sure love to hear them. Furthermore, armed with this knowledge, why don’t you try out using the Subtractor to create chiptune sounds. And if you come up with some good ones, please be sure to send them my way and let me have a listen. Until next time, happy Reasoning.

69 – All about the Alligator (Part 2)

Let’s continue with the Alligator and find a few other tricks that it can perform. In the first part, I looked at how the Alligator works, and provided a few ideas for how to work with it. In this part, I’m going to get a little more practical and show a few new ideas you can incorporate into your tunes. Hopefully this will provide you with some new creative inspiration.

Let’s continue with the Alligator and find a few other tricks that it can perform. In the first part, I looked at how the Alligator works, and provided a few ideas for how to work with it. In this part, I’m going to get a little more practical and show a few new ideas you can incorporate into your tunes. Hopefully this will provide you with some new creative inspiration.

You can download the project files here: alligator-techniques-part2. There are some Combinators and a .reason file showcasing the examples found below. In the .reason file, I’ve used mutes to silence all the tracks. To listen to a track, unmute it. I hope you find some of these tricks useful.

Also don’t forget that my latest Refill, Pureffects, is available with 1,250 effect patches designed specifically with Reason 6 in mind. There’s 200 Alligator patches alone, and several Alligator-based Combinators with all kinds of interesting routing ideas. Read More about the ReFill.

So let’s continue where we left off last. . .

Technique #5: Using the Alligator Effects without the Gates or Filters

After I wrote the first tutorial, it occurred to me that you can use each part of the Alligator independantly. For example, you can use the Gates only, without the Filter and Effects section. Or you can use the Filter section only, while keeping the Gates continually open. And lastly, you can use the Effects or Mixer sections only, if that’s all you want to use (Drive, Phaser, Delay, Pan, Volume). The way to achieve it is as follows:

  1. Start with “Technique #2: Keeping your Gates Open.” To recap, you set the pattern to #60, and ensure the Amp Envelope Decay knob is set to 127 (fully right). Then flip to the back of the Alligator, and send Gate CV Output 1 to Gate CV Input 3, Gate CV Output 2 to Gate CV Input 1, and Gate CV Output 3 to Gate CV Input 2. This way all your gates are Fully open.
  2. Fully turn down the volume of the High and Band pass filters. Note: Alternately, you can move the main left/right output cables to the Low Pass Channel left/right outputs on the back of the Alligator. This way, the audio input into the Alligator is only passing through the Low Pass section of the Alligator. Note also that this doesn’t have to be the Low Pass Channel. This idea works with any of the Channels in the Alligator, since the effects and mixer sections are the same for all 3 Channels. The idea is to pick one Channel, and mute the other two.
  3. Turn off the filter section (green light) on the low pass filter.
  4. You might also want to reduce the volume of the low pass filter (I found a volume setting of 64 for the low pass volume combined with a volume setting of 100 for the master volume is equivalent to bypassing the Alligator — at least to my ears).

Now your signal is passing through the low pass Channel only, and with the Gate always open and the Filter section turned off, you can use the effects & mixer sections independently to affect your sound.

The Alligator Front Panel, showing the areas of importance when trying to use a single channel for effects and Mixer only; in this case, using the Low Pass Channel
The Alligator Front Panel, showing the areas of importance when trying to use a single channel for effects and Mixer only; in this case, using the Low Pass Channel

Technique #6: Using External Effects

As with all Reason devices, you can very easily set things up to use external Reason devices. In other words, you are not limited to using the Drive, Phaser, and Delay that’s already built into the Alligator device. If you wish to use an external effects device, such as an Echo, Scream, or even any of the Kong FX modules, you can easily set this up. Here’s how you go about it.

  1. Select the sound source device or Audio Channel and then add an Alligator so that it’s auto-routed.
  2. Determine if you want the external effect to be applied to all three Channels or just one of the Channels.
  3. If you want the effect applied to all three Channels, it’s super easy. Just select the Alligator and add your effect device (a Scream, for instance). The Scream is auto-routed after the Alligator and will be applied to the Gated signal from all three Channels.
  4. If, however, you want to have the effect applied to specific Channels, select the Alligator and add your effect device (a Scream, for instance). Then flip to the back of the device (Tab), and move the main left/right Alligator audio output cables to one of the three desired Channel output pair (High, Band, or Low Pass Channel).
  5. If you desire, you can do the same thing for the other two Channels by adding other effects and routing them in a similar way. This way, you could have a Chorus effect inserted into the High Pass Channel, a Scream inserted into the Band Pass Channel, and a Pulveriser inserted into the Low Pass Channel. Or you could have three different screams inserted into the three different Channels, and set the parameters/settings for all three Screams differently to get more variation.

The more you experiment with external devices, the more I’m sure you’ll find how versatile the Alligator is in processing your sounds. You might even wonder how you ever lived without this device.

The back of the rack, showing how to process the audio through single Alligator channels and external effects.
The back of the rack, showing how to process the audio through single Alligator channels and external effects.

Here’s the video showing you the above two techniques:

Technique #7: Gating Three different Audio signals across Three Different Gate Channels.

Here’s an interesting way to go about using the Alligator Effect device. How about taking three different sound sources and passing them through the three different Alligator Gate Channels, and then outputting them to three different Mixer Channels? Confused yet?

No, you can’t really do this with a single Alligator because the Alligator only has one pair of Inputs. However, you can create three Alligators, and then send your three audio sources into the three different Alligators (one audio source for each Alligator). Once this is done, you can send the separate channel outputs on to their own Mix Channel Inputs. The setup would look like this:

  • Audio Source 1 > Alligator “A” main left/right input > High Pass Channel left/right output > Mix Channel “A” left/right input
  • Audio Source 1 > Alligator “B” main left/right input > Band Pass Channel left/right output > Mix Channel “B” left/right input
  • Audio Source 1 > Alligator “C” main left/right input > Low Pass Channel left/right output > Mix Channel “C” left/right input

The nice thing about this setup is that you can choose to keep all three Alligators’ “Pattern” section the same, in which case the “Pattern” sounds sync nicely together between all three Alligators, or you can spice it up by setting up different parameters in each of the Alligator “Pattern” sections. For example, you could set Alligator “A” to have a resolution of 1/8, Alligator “B” to have a resolution of 1/16, and Alligator “C” to have a resolution of 1/32. And/or you can set all three Alligators to different patterns entirely. This way, you can attain some very intriguing and unique gate patterns going on, and all your friends will wonder how the hell you did it. Well, maybe not, but it’s something worth a try!

Showing different audio sources processed by different alligator channels to achieve an interesting result.
Showing different audio sources processed by different alligator channels to achieve an interesting result.

Technique #8: Oh Hell, let’s just dive off the cliff already!

You want something completely off the wall right? Well here goes. Since the Alligator contains separate outputs, you could theoretically “Nest” the Alligators one after the other. This creates a Double-Gate-Filter-FX Channel for any audio source passed through it. Here’s how this little trick works at it’s most simplest (note that you can create Triple- Quadruple- and so on, nested Channels up to the point where it probably just won’t sound good anymore and your CPU will have a heart attack and lie dead on the operation table). This technique goes down one nested level, and only highlights the “High Pass” Channel. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from mixing/matching nested channels either. For example, a High Pass Channel goes into a Low Pass Channel, or a Low Pass Channel goes into a Band Pass Channel. Just be warned that you may need to write this out as a diagram on paper first before you lose yourself in Cables.

  • Audio Source > Alligator “A” main left/right input > High Pass Channel left/right output. . .
  • . . . Alligator “A” High Pass Channel left/right output > Alligator “B” main left/right input > High Pass Channel left/right output > Mix Channel left/right input

So now that you’ve set it up in this way, if all your Alligators are set to the exact same parameters, adding on these additional “nested” Alligators won’t produce a different sound. Where things get interesting is when you start changing the parameters so each of the Alligators are set with unique parameters. See the Project Files at the top of this tutorial for a Combinator that shows this type of setup.

Of course, if you want to use all three channels, you’ll need to create more Alligators, and each nested level will require a new Alligator. You’ll also need a Spider Audio Merger/Splitter to both split the Audio Source into the three channels, and then use the Merged side to merge them back again before going on to the Mix Channel input. As I said, this could get very tricky very quickly, and will probably be quite CPU-intensive. My advice would be to start off with one Channel and two levels (as the example shows above), then start setting up the parameters on both Alligators. See how that works out for you. Then build it up by moving to the next Channel (if you like), and so on.

Processing your audio source through multiple Alligator Channels. This shows the High Pass Channel in series. But you can do the same with other Alligator channels.
Processing your audio source through multiple Alligator Channels. This shows the High Pass Channel in series. But you can do the same with other Alligator channels.

Technique #9: Let’s Dial it Back a Bit. Adding Filter Movement

This technique is a little less freaky, and I’m going to end off with it so that you give your mind a chance to wrap around that last little technique. In this one, we’ll do something easy. We’ll take some Malstrom Curves and send them into the Alligator’s Frequency CV inputs to create some movement. Then, since there is only 2 Curve’s available with the Malstrom, we’ll steal the LFO CV output and send it into the third Filter Frequency CV input (all within the same Alligator). Sounds more complicated than it actually is. But here’s an image that shows the setup:

Showing the Malstrom's 2 Mod A/B waves and the Alligator's LFO to provide movement to the Alligator's 3 filters.
Showing the Malstrom's 2 Mod A/B waves and the Alligator's LFO to provide movement to the Alligator's 3 filters.

Those are all the ideas I have for the Alligator at the moment. I’m sure there’s many other interesting ways it can be used. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them, so please don’t be shy and comment to let me know what you’ve come up with. I’m all ears. Until next time, go make some killer music. 🙂

68 – All about the Alligator (Part 1)

In this tutorial I’m going to talk about the new Alligator device in Reason 6. I think no other device has mystified so many since the RPG-8, and a lot of people have reluctance to really dive into it, thinking it’s mainly built for electronic musicians. Truth is that it’s a very easy device to work with, and it has applications for all kinds of instruments and all kinds of genres. So don’t be intimidated by all the knobs and levers. It’s a veritable evil laboratory, but getting it under control is easier than you think, and that’s the focus here.

In this tutorial I’m going to talk about the new Alligator device in Reason 6. I think no other device has mystified so many since the RPG-8, and a lot of people have reluctance to really dive into it, thinking it’s mainly built for electronic musicians. Truth is that it’s a very easy device to work with, and it has applications for all kinds of instruments and all kinds of genres. So don’t be intimidated by all the knobs and levers. It’s a veritable evil laboratory, but getting it under control is easier than you think, and that’s the focus here.

You can download the project files here: alligator-techniques. They contain a .reason file with all the techniques described below, as well as the separate combinators. You will of course need Reason 6 in order to load and use any of the files.

Introduction to the Alligator

The Alligator is billed as a “Triple Filtered Gate” and that’s exactly what it is. However, it’s quite a bit more. It contains 64 patterns that can be manipulated, it has a few built in effects (Drive, Phaser, and Delay), it has 9 LFO’s that can be used to affect the filters, and the Panning capabilities allow you to create some movement in the stereo field. That’s not even taking a look at what you can do with the CV connections on the back of the device.

To start, let’s take a look at the various sections of the Alligator. When I’m starting off creating a patch for this device, I usually first load up a sound I want affected. So if it’s a Bass or a Synth or a Drum sound, all of these sounds will require a different approach to the Alligator. In other words, the sound I feed into it coupled with what I want to do to that sound in my head, will decide how I proceed with the device.

Following is an explanation of the parameters you will find on the front panel of the Alligator device.

The Alligator front panel with legend and explanation of the device functions.
The Alligator front panel with legend and explanation of the device functions.

And following is an explanation of the inputs and outputs found on the back panel of the Alligator device.

The back of the Alligator device with an explanation of the CV and Audio inputs and outputs.
The back of the Alligator device with an explanation of the CV and Audio inputs and outputs.

And here’s the quick introduction video to show you the main components of the Alligator:

Technique #1: Creating a Dry / Wet Knob for the Alligator

Since the Alligator does not have a Dry / Wet knob, we have to go about getting a little creative. This means wrapping the device inside a Combinator. Once there, you can use the Dry Level Knob and program its direction to be inverse to the individual Band level knobs. Set that up on a rotary in the Combinator and you have an instant Dry / Wet control for our Mister Alligator.

Technique #2: Keeping your Gates Open

You’ll notice that the Alligator by default uses a pattern to open/close the gates. You can turn them off or turn the pattern on, but what if you want to keep the gates open all the time. The easy solution is to do the following:

  1. Set the Alligator pattern to #60
  2. Flip to the back of the Alligator and send the Gate 1 CV output to Gate 3 CV input (both on the same Alligator device)
  3. Send Gate 2 CV output to Gate 1 CV input (both on the same Alligator device)
  4. Send Gate 3 CV output to Gate 2 CV input (both on the same Alligator device)

If you flip back to the front of the Alligator you will see all the gates are permanently on. This means that you can still use the LFO, Frequency, Resonance, all the Effects (Drive, Phaser, Delay), and Mixer controls to affect the sound, but you bypass the Gate section of the Alligator. It’s always on.

Just note one thing when you do this: You want to keep the Amp Envelope Decay set to full (fully right). If you lower the Amp Envelope Decay knob, the gate will fade out (even though it is completely open). If this happens, you’ll have to first move the decay knob all the way right, and then reset the CV on the back of the Alligator (unplug all 3 CV connections, and plug them back in again).

Alternately, you can send a one step tied curve pattern in a Matrix split 3 ways through a Spider and then sent to all 3 gate inputs, but this means creating additional devices when it can all be accomplished with a single Alligator.

This video will show you how to set up the above 2 Techniques:

Technique #3: Creating your own Patterns to Control the Gates

You’re not limited to the 64 patterns that are built into the Alligator (though you can definitely have a lot of fun with so many different patterns). You can easily use 3 Thors or 3 Matrix Curves/Gate CV to control all 3 gates in a single Alligator. To do this, first turn off the pattern section in the Alligator (the big “ON” button at the top of the Pattern section). Once you do this, you’ll need to create your Thors or Matrixes and flip to the back of the rack. Send the CV from the Step Sequencers into the 3 Gate CV inputs and then start all of the pattern devices up (this is easier to do if everything is Combined in a Combinator. That way when you press the “Run all Pattern Devices” or press “Play” on the Transport, the Step Sequencers start gating the Alligator. Dead simple my friends!

Best of all, this means you can create any kind of gate of any length you can imagine (See my “Matrix” series of tutorials #48-51 or Thor sequencing ideas #60-62 for ways in which you can extend the length of your patterns).

Technique #4: Stealing the Patterns to sequence other Reason Device Parameters

Forgetting about the Alligator’s intended purpose for a second, you can use its built-in patterns to affect any other parameter in any of Reason’s devices (just about). In this way I got pretty excited to see that you can use the Alligator as an “already pre-configured Matrix with double the amount of patterns” — yeah that’s pretty exciting for a nerdy nerd like me. It means I don’t have to tediously program two matrixes filled with patterns (though truth be told, if you’ve read article #3 in my 101 Creative Projects category, you already have a huge array of Matrixes from which you can copy/paste into any of your projects, right?).

In any event, to get the ball rolling, pick a pattern you like. Then flip to the back of the Alligator and disconnect the audio cables. You’re only using the pattern section here to trigger something else in Reason. And since you have 3 gates, this means you can modulate three other parameters from a single Alligator device (or how about using a spider to combine the three gates and sending the merged output to control a single parameter). I think you get the picture. This is a very quick and easy way to control things via CV.

One idea is to use the Gates in the Alligator to play the Kong drum designer. Send the three gates of an alligator into 3 drum pad CV inputs on the back of Kong, and then you can set up some pad groups in Kong so that you get even more variation. Finally, set up a Matrix curve to control the “Shift” knob via one of the CV inputs in a Combinator, and you have instant “Groove” for your drums, without ever using the ReGroove. It’s a nice alternate way to get some drums going quickly in your tracks. For the full feature on how this is done, see the video below.

Tip #1: Tuning your Filters

This concept was provided by Peff when he was doing his tutoring session in Las Vegas. And I really do hope that he doesn’t mind me providing the tip here. But in the attempt at full disclosure he needs full credit on this one.

Tuning filters is not a concept I was all that familiar with, but armed with this knowledge, it actually makes perfect sense, and has applications that reach out much farther than just the Alligator. But that could be a whole tutorial in and of itself. For our purposes, tuning the Alligator filters is a way to produce a more even sound coming out of the device. The idea is that you pick a frequency as your “Base” and then set the other filters up so that they are multiples of this “Base” frequency. So if you set up the LP Filter on the low end to be 200 Hz, then the BP Filter could be set up to 400 Hz and the HP Filter could be set to 800 Hz, which should produce a “cleaner” tone than if the filters were out of sync or out of tune.

Now while this is a handy technique, I should also say that going for a sound where the filters are more out of tune is perfectly valid. This is not a practice that should be set in stone. It’s more a technique that you should understand and get acquainted with and add into your arsenal of knowledge. But don’t be afraid to venture outside this technique.

You’ll also notice that it’s not always possible to get a precise multiple of a specific Filter Frequency. But generally, the closer you are to a multiple, the more “in tune” the filters should be with each other.

Tip #2: Taming the Dreaded Pops & Clicks

One thing that still bothers me to this day is how quirky the envelopes and LFO can be in the Alligator. Under certain settings, you can hear noticeable pops and clicks which are most definitely unwanted. Here are a few ways to deal with this if you find it happening to you.

First, it’s important to note what’s causing the pops and clicks in the first place. More often than not, it’s a result of a short Attack Time in the Amp Envelope coupled with a slow-running LFO with a sharp edge (think the Pulse or stepped Waveforms). The lack of a lag feature (which is available in the Pulveriser) means that you can’t smooth out the LFO. And when it’s running too slow, and the attack time is short, this is usually a recipe for disaster. Here are a few hints to get you out of this jam. Note that all of these methods will change the sound of the gated effect, but there’s really no way around this that I’ve found.

  • Use a smooth LFO, such as the Sine Wave or even the Triangle Wave. Stay away from the Stepped, Ramp, or Pulse waves.
  • Adjust the Amp Envelope’s Attack time to be slower (turn the knob more to the right). Times that are above 25 or 30 work well.
  • Don’t use the LFO at all. Ensure that all the LFO knobs for the bands you are using are all pointing due west! This means the LFO does not affect the bands whatsoever.

So there are a few tips and tricks for you to get acquainted with the Alligator. Give it a whirl on any kind of audio just to get a feel for it, and have some fun gating your audio. Until next time, happy Reasoning!

EditEd4TV’s 88MPH ReFill

Anyone using Reason should already be sufficiently versed in the work that Ed Bauman has done. If not, then this is the perfect time to get acquainted. Simply put, he’s one of the gurus. And he has recently released a ReFill for version 4 and up, titled “88MPH Vol. 1” (a new volume 2 will be available late 2011 and volume 3 available early 2012). This ReFill packs in 51 Combinators of 80’s sounds; sounds which he used to recreate with utter realism some of the best hits of the 80’s. From Prince’s “1999” to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” he is the man who can’t get his perfect recreations (“Re-Covers,” to use a term he coined) posted on YouTube because the video service can’t recognize his tunes from the original. That’s just how good he is!

Ed “EditEd4TV” Bauman’s 88MPH Vol.1 ReFill
Available now at: http://baumanproductions.com/88mph.html


Anyone using Reason should already be sufficiently versed in the work that Ed Bauman has done. If not, then this is the perfect time to get acquainted. Simply put, he’s one of the gurus. And he has recently released a ReFill for version 4 and up, titled 88MPH Vol. 1 (a new volume 2 will be available late 2011 and volume 3 available early 2012). This ReFill packs in 51 Combinators of 80’s sounds; sounds which he used to recreate with utter realism some of the best hits of the 80’s. From Prince’s “1999” to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” he is the man who gets grief from YouTube because his perfect recreations (“Re-Covers,” to use a term he coined) fool the video service into thinking they are the original. That’s just how good he is!

So here, I’m going to take a quick look at his ReFill, and also post a demo video I created using the ReFill. I would highly recommend if you are into the sounds coming out of the 80’s or if you want to learn a little more about how to program those sounds, that you pick up this ReFill. It won’t disappoint you.

Ed was also gracious enough to allow me to provide a free Combinator from the ReFill. Since Blondie’s Heart of Glass has always been a great disco classic near and dear to my heart, I thought I would provide one of the sounds taken from that song. You can download the Combinator patch file here: E4TV_Bland E Herd a Class Pulsing Synth. Thank you Ed!

Ed's 88MPH Vol 1 Free Combinator Synth Patch
Ed’s 88MPH Vol 1 Free Combinator Synth Patch

First, here’s what Ed posted about his ReFill:

These are all Combinators with all 4 Combinator knobs and buttons mapped to various parameters. Usually Combinator knob 4 is mapped to volume for convenient live use. The remaining knobs and buttons control anything from filter frequency to reverb amount, reverb time, chorus speed, octave settings, and more. Pitch wheel and mod wheel are mapped as well. About 90% of the ReFill is custom Thor and Subtractor patches, with the remaining 10% made up of NN-XT patches which rely on the Orkester and Factory Soundbank for samples.

Each and every patch has enormous potential, from the default load-in setting to drastic changes when you alter the programmed parameters… try low octave power drones, and for patches with delay try playing staccato notes in tempo, move the pitch wheel and mod wheel, etc. When you load in a new patch, about 80% of the time all the knobs are at either 0%, 50%, or 100%. At first load-in you’ll find the patch to be exactly as I used it in my ReCover, so you can simply deviate from there.

This ReFill is a collection of 51 Combinator patches only; sequencer content is NOT provided. Requires Reason version 4.0 or higher due to extensive use of Combinator and Thor devices. There is not a VSTi version available and it will not natively work with any DAW (though you can of course use ReWire with your DAW of choice in conjunction with Reason/Record): this is a Reason/Record product only.

So the basic idea is that Ed provides you with all the sounds from the original songs, but not the sequencer information. Which means that we can bring the flavor of the 80’s into today’s music, and create our own tracks with them. I did that here:

Here’s a video that Ed put together to promote the ReFill:

And here’s the little demo I put together to showcase a few sounds from Ed’s Refill. Remember that this is just a taste of his refill. Ed is a meticulous programmer, and each Combinator is worth its weight in gold if you ask me. So please support his work:

I hope this gives you a good idea of what’s included in the ReFill and what can be done with these sounds. And might I suggest also having a look at his “Reasonable Help 2010” ReFill, in which you get 50 patches that help teach you how to design sounds and develop better patches.  It’s a great tool for the medium or advanced level Reason user. I wrote a review of that ReFill back in January 2010.


A huge thanks to Ed for putting this package together. You truly are an inspiration to all of us Reason users. Please keep doing what you’re doing my friend. You can purchase Ed’s 88MPH Vol.1 ReFill here:  http://baumanproductions.com/88mph.html

67 – 7 Songs in 7 Days

When you get a creative spurt, don’t dismiss it! Make sure you embrace it, accept it, harness it, and get it out of you immediately. Most importantly, learn to understand it’s happening (or when it’s about to happen), and let it ride for as long as you can. I can tell you this because from experience you will have dry spells and they tend to last longer than the creative spells. So it’s important to read the signs and act on them.

When you get a creative spurt, don’t dismiss it! Make sure you embrace it, accept it, harness it, and get it out of you immediately. Most importantly, learn to understand it’s happening (or when it’s about to happen), and let it ride for as long as you can. I can tell you this because from experience you will have dry spells and they tend to last longer than the creative spells. So it’s important to read the signs and act on them.

You can download the project files here: 7-Songs-in-7-Days. There are 2 song files zipped up. Note that they are a “.reason” format, which means you need Reason 6 in order to open them. But even if you don’t have Reason 6, you can follow along with the project below, watch the video and adjust it for previous versions of Reason. You’ll probably also learn more by doing it this way. The first song is “7-songs” which is outlined in the videos below, and the second is “Crease Kink” which I threw in there in case you want to remix it or play around with it. Have some fun with it, but remember that I own the rights to it. So if you use it, please let me know and I’ll showcase it here (to date no one has yet to do something with one of my files, but there’s always hope). 🙂

Usually when I’m in a dry spell, I tend to notice it pretty quickly. And when I do, I immediately shift gears and work on a different project. For example, recently I was creating nothing. It happened about 3 months ago. So shifting focus, I started working on designing sounds — LOTS of sounds. Rather than sit at my computer with a blank canvas open or hacking away at nonsense, I shifted focus. This does two things:

  1. It gets your mind out of the clouds and away from the blank slate.
  2. It usually rejuvinates you and lets you recharge your batteries. Kind of like a holiday. We all need them from time to time to rest and clear the mind.

When I got back (and after producing my latest Pureffects ReFill), I was more creative than I’d ever been. And this is all just a long-winded way of saying I brought on a new challenge for myself. Let’s create 7 songs in 7 days. Not an easy challenge, to be sure, but a very fun challenge nonetheless. And though not every song is spot on, most I’m happy about, and with a few modifications, I could say they are finished.

The Main Sequencer after adding some of the elements you'll learn in this creative project.
The Main Sequencer after adding some of the elements you’ll learn in this creative project.

First: The Songs

So first, here’s the songs in order of creation (day by day). Skip all of this if you just want to get to some of the good tricks that I used inside them. You’ll find some of those tricks down below. Otherwise, please have a listen and comment. One can never have too much feedback.

Day 1: Friday October 14, 2011 – Crease Kink (Glitchcore)

Crease Kink by Phi Sequence

Day 2: Saturday October 15, 2011 – Redaction (Dark Ambient)

Redaction by Phi Sequence

Day 3: Sunday October 16, 2011 – 200 Years (Dark Ambient)

200 Years by Phi Sequence

Day 4: Monday October 17, 2011 – Lens Fold (Dark Experimental)

Lens Fold by Phi Sequence

Day 5: Tuesday October 18, 2011 – Vicious Viscous (Dance)

13 – Vicious Viscous by Phi Sequence

Day 6: Wednesday October 19, 2011 – Severed (Electronica)

Severed by Phi Sequence

Day 7: Thursday October 20, 2011 – Palatinate (Electronica Dance)

Palatinate by Phi Sequence


Second: The Methods & Tricks

Now for a few tricks. I thought I would show a few ways I went about creating some of these songs. It’s not really a formula, but it’s a way I used to start off these songs and keep going in order to create so many in such a short time. There are, of course, a million and one ways to create songs. This hopefully will show you a few techniques that might inspire you to jump into a new direction with your own music. I hope so.

Before I start, let me first say that a lot of the time, I’ll create all the sounds from scratch using the Reason synths. But for the sake of efficiency, and in order to create a song every day, I opted for the approach of using patches in the Factory Sound Bank (FSB) for all the instrumentation, and my Pureffects ReFill for some of the effects. Since I had already created thousands of effects patches (and some in the FSB as well), why not put them to good use. In this respect, it was a bit of a novel approach for me, but one that was very rewarding.

Let’s start by looking at the videos on how I started out a song. This gets you about 50% done in less than an hour.

Of course, after these tutorials, there is still work to be done. Mainly some EQ work on the various elements, continuing with the arrangement in the sequencer, throwing in additional elements to spruce it up a little, adding compression here and there, gluing the track together with a Reverb or two, adding a mastering suite to open up the track, and finally using the Master Bus Compressor from the main mixer (if you choose). But this is where I’m going to leave you for now. If you want to pursue these tracks, I have put two in the Download up at the top of the tutorial. Feel free to work on those and come up with your own mix. If you do, please share it with us so we can have a listen.

Starting off with a few Drums

Let’s start at the beginning. Usually the first thing is to start with your drums. That’s a normal starting point for most tracks. So we’ll start with a Redrum. Now normally, you have an idea in mind before you start a track. But I seldom work that way. In truth, I usually lay down a few drum sounds in a pattern in the Redrum and wait until I hear it. I then start to get a certain idea of how to shape the sound and where it’s going to go. In this respect, the song becomes a combination of what I hear first, and then I make decisions on how to shape it as its playing. This is usually backwards from the way most people would compose. But it’s worked for me in the past. So I’m going to do the same thing here.

Once you create a redrum, open up the assorted kick drums in the FSB, and add one into the first channel. I usually keep them playing as I’m selecting them so I can get a feel for what I’m going to use as a Kick drum. Once that’s done, I flip to the back of the rack and send the Gate Out from Channel 1 into the Gate In on channel 2. I do the same thing between channels 2 & 3. Then flip to the front of the rack and select Drum Channel 1. Lay down a pattern (usually I lay down a 64 step pattern to take full advantage of all the steps in the Redrum, and to have something that sounds like it has a lot of changes throughout). Since I’ve connected the Gate channel 1 to channels 2 & 3, I can layer the kick with 2 other kick sounds, but I only have to enter 1 pattern in the Redrum. This speeds up the workflow a little (and is why you should get familiar with your CV connections!).

So now add two more kick drums in Channels 2 & 3. Once this is done, I shape the levels, length & pitch of all 3 drums together. It’s at this point that I start to get a feel for how things work together. If something isn’t working right, I’ll either change one of the samples, or adjust those parameters.

Next, I add 2 Snare drums in channels 4 & 5 and use the same gate CV trick between the two. This means I need to create a snare pattern on channel 4.

And finally I’ll create 2 Hi Hats on channels 8 & 9 – and set the button  to have exclusive sounds between those two channels. This way I can set up an open hi hat on 8 and a closed hi hat on 9. Though, I don’t always use open / closed Hi Hats. But it’s there if you want.

Now create 2 additional mix channels and put them under the first mix channel for the Redrum. Label each Mix Channel Kick, Snare and Hi Hat. Create 3 Spider merger/splitters and use them to merge the sounds from each single channel through them and back into their respective mix channels. This way you end up with 3 channels for the 3 different drums. You’ll see why we do this in a minute.

And now copy the Redrum pattern to the track. Go to the track and using the Tools window (F8), go to the “Explode” function and explode the drum clip to their own lanes (you may want to delete the old lane and label the 3 different clips so that you know what’s what. I’ve done this enough times to know that the order is the Hi Hats at the top, the Snare Drum in the middle, and the Kick drum on the bottom. Easy enough.

So why separate mix channels? The reason is because you want to be able to process each drum differently. And this ensures that we can do this with a minimum of fuss. So first off, select the Kick mix channel, right click, and go to Effects > Pulveriser. The device is automatically routed inside the Mix Channel’s “Insert FX” section — if you’re new to Reason 6, this might be confusing at first. But think of each Mix Channel as having its own built-in Combinator where you can place effects and even route / program them as you would a normal Combinator. It keeps your rack clean and makes working with effects easier. Trust me on this.

With the Pulveriser, I’m going to set up a nice beefy Kick — watch the video for how this is done. After that, I’m going to have a little bit of fun by varying the pitch somewhat on 2 out of 3 of the kicks. Flip to the back and you’ll see that the Pulveriser can not only be used to beef up the kicks, but we can steal some of it’s modulation to affect the pitch on those kicks as well. So use the Tremor / Follower outputs and send them into the Pitch inputs of 2 kick drum channels on the Redrum. It’s a nice idea also because it doesn’t require any extra devices to set up.

Now I’m not going to go into processing for the snares and kicks, but I think you get the idea now. Don’t be afraid to add a few effects, and when done, you can also add an EQ to each drum individually to cut the low end and boost certain frequencies a bit. That’s one method to work with the drums. Now on to the Bass.

Working the Bass into the Mix

Now we move on to the bass. Again, this is just one of the methods I used to come up with this song challenge. It’s nothing fancy. Start out by adding a Bass instrument and ensure you have a bass that you like. Something with a long sustain so our notes can ring through. Don’t worry if the notes sound too long. We’ll adjust their note lengths in a minute. For now, just find a bass sound in the FSB that works with the drums and that gives you some degree of pleasure when you hear it.

Now go to the sequencer and draw in a 4-8 bar bassline. Again, don’t get too caught up in the composition. You can always change it later. Just something simple. This will be the driving sound for the song, for the most part. At least that’s what it is for me.

Now Loop the clip. This is so that you can audition the effect we’re going to add. And also so that we can switch out the bass with another bass instrument if we don’t like it. I do both of these things. I also add another one or two basses and copy the clip to those other instruments. This way we have a nice thick layered bass; just as the drums are layered.

For the effect, my go-to device is an Alligator. This is because it really is a nice way to add some movement and also since I’ve created a bazillion Alligator patches, I can audition them as they play through. Once I find one I like, I keep it. And since I usually have at least 2 bass instruments, I have the lower bass line kept as the sub bass without any effects, and the higher basses utilize the Alligator. In this way, you end up with a nice lush line playing through your song.

Another Fun Audio/Alligator Trick: Introducing some Pad-like Elements.

Here’s something fun that I’ve been toying with in most of these songs. It involves adding one or two audio channels, and then dropping a short melodic sample into the audio track. Then I’ll take the sample and stretch it the entire length of the song (or beyond, depending how the waveform looks). The idea is to have the audio act as a Pad sound for the entire length of the song. And since you’re stretching it out beyond recognition, you end up with a real twist on the sample.

Once you do this, make sure to lower the level significantly. The idea is to have the sound running in the background so it’s audible, but doesn’t take over the drums or bass. A nice subtle sound.

To complete the trick, I add an Alligator to the audio channel. It’s important to remember that the Effects work on audio just as they would on MIDI clips. So adding an Alligator provides some nice movement to your pad sounds. I wouldn’t go crazy with the Alligator in this situation. Just a slight movement to the sound is all you need. So again, audition some of the Alligator patches in the FSB, or get my Pureffects Refill for a selection of 200+ Alligators. 🙂

 Finally: Some Dr. OctoRex accents to really Kick it up a Notch

Lastly, let’s add some accents using a loop. You’d think a single loop can’t do much, but wait until you see this fun little trick. It’s not so much a mystery, but while the song is playing, create a Dr. OctoRex and find a loop that goes along with the song. In this experiment I wanted to find something with a hard edge, so I opened up the “Hardcore” folder in the FSB and found a loop that I thought had some possibilities. I then set about filtering it and adjusting the Octave setting, and adding the LFO for some modulation. Once this is done, copy the loop to a portion of the track (4-8 bars long) and then turn off the “Enable loop playback” button, so you don’t get double-note sounds.

Now in the sequencer you can go about altering the notes and creating some variation.

Finally, copy the Dr. OctoRex and Track. Using this copy, make some adjustments. Then combine the Dr. OctoRex and create an RPG-8 Arpeggiator to play the Combinator. Go to the sequencer and move the notes from the second Dr. OctoRex down to the Arpeggiator track. Then go back to the rack and copy the loop into all 8 slots. This is so that if the notes on the sequencer playing the RPG-8 switch the loop slot, the same loop is still playing.

From there, you can go to town switching things around in your loop. Usually changing the octave, updating some settings on the RPG-8, etc. will produce some interesting results. The nice thing is that both loops have the same groove and timing, so they will sound like they belong together. Indeed, this is where I had the most fun: playing around with settings until you find the right balance between the loops.

Don’t forget you can also edit the slices directly, or use some CV to modulate things further. Experiment and play until you make the loop your own. That’s really the key here.

 

The front of the rack after adding the Drums, Bass, Audio Track (Pad), and some Dr. OctoRex Loop accents.
The front of the rack after adding the Drums, Bass, Audio Track (Pad), and some Dr. OctoRex Loop accents.

So there you have it. One method I used to create seven songs in seven days. Now go out there and challenge yourself to create your own group of songs using your own methods, or incorporating some of the methods I outlined here. The sky is the limit. So reach for the sky!

66 – The ECHO Echo echo. . .

Today let’s take a nice little look into the world of The Echo. New to Reason 6, this is one of 3 new effects which were much anticipated by the User Community (Do we all remember posts with subject lines reading “We need better effects in Reason”? I do).

Today let’s take a nice little look into the world of The Echo. New to Reason 6, this is one of 3 new effects which were much anticipated by the User Community (Do we all remember posts with subject lines reading “We need better effects in Reason”? I do).

You can download the project files here: Echo-Techniques. There are some Combinators and a .reason file showcasing the examples found below. In the .reason file, I’ve used mutes to silence all the tracks. To listen to a track, unmute it. I hope you find some of these tricks useful.

Also don’t forget that my latest Refill, Pureffects, is available with 1,250 effect patches designed specifically with Reason 6 in mind. There’s 200 Echo patches alone, and about 30 or so Echo Combinators with all kinds of interesting routing ideas. For example, ever thought about setting up Kong to “Play” the various “Delay Times” via your pads? Since there are 16 “synched” times in The Echo delay, they are perfect for mapping to the Kong pads. Yup. It’s in there. Read More about the ReFill.

Overview of The Echo

The Echo brings some nice new features into Reason. It’s an Echo / Delay device that can also phlange things around, and purports a new Algorithm to the Echo that you won’t find inside the RV7000. As with all Reason devices, it doesn’t replace anything, but instead adds something new into Reason. So it’s not meant to be a replacement for the DDL-1 or the RV7000 Echo algorithm. They all have their place inside Reason.

One of the nice things I like about the Echo is the “Keep Pitch” button. Essentially, this will keep the pitch as you adjust the Delay Time, so that you don’t get those insane squelches that you get if you were to change the Delay Time in Thor or the DDL-1 devices. This is unique to The Echo.

Another unique offering is the way in which you can control The Echo. There are 3 ways to control it:

  1. Normal: Allows you to use The Echo as an insert or send device in any situation. The Dry / Wet knob determines the amount of Echo produced. This mode is probably the one you will be most familiar with, as it’s the way most effects are set up in Reason.
  2. Triggered: Allows you to Trigger The Echo via the Trigger button or by sending CV to the back of The Echo device. The only thing to remember with this mode is that Any Audio being processed through The Echo will not sound unless the Triggering is enabled. Something that can be a little confusing at first. Honestly, I would have preferred if the Audio was sent through the device dry when not triggered, so that you could still hear the unprocessed audio, and then triggering allowed you to hear The audio processed through The Echo, but I’ll show you a way around that later.
  3. Roll: This is a really nice option when you want to play a stuttering effect on the Audio. The Roll Feature will boost both the Feedback and “Wet” signal as the Roll lever is moved to the right. When this lever is all the way right, both Feedback and the Wet signal = 100%. Fully left, and both Feedback and the Wet signal are 0%. This makes it very useful as a “Freeze” or “Beat Repeat” function.

And of course you have the Color, Modulation, Ping-Pong mode, Offsets for Delay and Feedback, and Ducking. I’m not going to go into all of these features because the manual does a pretty good job of explaining them. Instead, I’m going to show you a few practical ways you can use them in your compositions.

Trick #1: Echoing Slices in a Loop via Parallel Processing

This idea uses 2 instances of the same loop to parallel process the drum beats. One will be the original unprocessed Loop, and the other will have a few slices of the same Loop run through The Echo. It’s a very simple process, but it can be a lot of fun when you’re spicing up your loops.

Start by creating a 6:2 Mixer inside a Combinator. Then create a Dr. OctoRex Loop player and initialize the device. Open up the lower section of the Dr. OctoRex and load up one of your favorite loops into slot 1. Now Duplicate the Dr. OctoRex Loop player. Flip around to the back panel (Tab), and connect the second Dr. OctoRex to Channel 2 (the first Dr. OctoRex should be connected to Channel 1). Flip back to the front, and select the Second Dr. OctoRex. Right-click and select Effects > The Echo. This will automatically connect The Echo as an insert device between the second Dr. OctoRex and the 6:2 Mixer. Perfect.

Now for the important part. Flip to the back of the Rack, and move the output of the second Dr. OctoRex from the Left / Right output to the 1/2 output instead.

Parallel Processing specific Slices in a Dr. OctoRex with The Echo
Parallel Processing specific Slices in a Dr. OctoRex with The Echo (back of the Rack)

And now comes the fun part. Set both Dr. OctoRex devices to “Select Slice By Midi.” This allows you to see the slice focus as the loops are running. On the first Dr. OctoRex, select the “Slice Edit Mode” button and select the word “Level” in the Loop display area (not the “Level” knob). In the second Dr. OctoRex, select the “Slice Edit Mode” button and select the word “Out” in the Loop display area (not the “Out” knob).

Find a few key slices as the loop is played (Bass Drum is a pretty good choice in most cases), and in the second Dr. OctoRex, pencil in a quarter of the way up over these key slices. You should be hearing The Echo affecting those slices. In essence, the slices you select to be output from 1/2 (a quarter of the way up in the display) will be processed through The Echo. The reason it’s a parallel process is that the original loop is still playing simultaneously. If you don’t want the slices processed in a parallel way, go to the first Dr. OctoRex and reduce the level completely on the same slices you just sent to the Echo. You can introduce a little of the original signal back in by raising this level for the first Dr. OctoRex loop slices, or you can reduce/raise the levels in different ways to add a little variation and groove. It’s a very versatile method.

If you really want to start tweaking things, try transposing the second Dr. OctoRex loop by a few semitones or a whole Octave. If it sounds good, go with it. And when you’re done, save your creation in a Combinator.

Parallel Processing Specific Slices in a Dr. OctoRex Loop with The Echo
Parallel Processing Specific Slices in a Dr. OctoRex Loop with The Echo (Slice Edit Mode)

Trick #2: Using a Matrix to Trigger Echoes

This idea is very basic but shows you how to use the Trigger Mode of The Echo. The idea is to use a Spider Audio to split the signal of a Dr. OctoRex Loop, and have one split going into a Mixer Channel, and another Split processed by The Echo and then sent to another Mixer Channel. Then take a Matrix Pattern Sequencer, and send the Curve CV from the Matrix into The Echo’s Trigger CV input on the back of the device. On the front panel, Set The Echo to “Triggered” mode, and set the Matrix to “Curve” mode. Start the Main Sequencer by pressing the “Play” button,  and start drawing in some steps in the Matrix curve. The steps should be draw in at full level, and you don’t need a lot of them. Start by drawing in one or two on a few key beats. You’ll start to hear how The Echo is affecting the loop, so draw in your steps by letting your ears decide where they should go.

Here’s a video that showcases how to set up the above 2 tricks. Don’t worry, it’s really not as hard as it sounds. Once you understand the concepts, you can really have some fun with these methods.

Trick #3: The Echo’s Feedback Loop

Using the built-in Feedback loop of The Echo is something that hasn’t been talked about very much since Reason 6 was released a few days ago, but I’ll bet this will be one area that will get a lot of attention in the coming weeks and months. If not, then it should. The Feedback Loop is one helluva tremendous feature. And it’s really simple to implement with a lot of possibility. The only thing I would advise when you start fiddling with the Feedback loop is to reduce the Feedback of the Echo down to zero before you start connecting devices to it. Also make sure there is no feedback offset either. Keep that knob centered at zero (0). Otherwise you can really destroy your ears if Feedback is set very high and you accidentally connect a Scream to it, for instance.

No doubt someone will eventually do this. And for that poor soul I guarantee it will end up being the last time they do it.

So now that you know the rules of the road, here’s how you set it up:

Load up a sound device, like your favorite Thor, Malstrom, Subtractor, or any Audio Track if you prefer.

Create an Echo device underneath the sound source device (or you can place it inside the Audio/Mix Channel’s “Insert Effects” section). Turn the Feedback knob down to zero. I also turn the Delay Time down to zero as well, but this isn’t necessary.

Hold your Shift Key down and under The Echo device insert your favorite Effect device from the “Effects” subfolder (to make it interesting, select a Pulveriser).

Flip to the back of the rack and connect the Pulveriser’s audio outputs to The Echo Feedback Loop audio inputs (Breakout Input). Then connect The Echo Feedback Loop audio outputs (Breakout Output) to the Pulveriser’s audio inputs.

The basic setup is complete. Now you can flip to the front of the rack and slowly raise The Echo’s feedback knob. I would probably set the knob to somewhere around 20. Then start to play with the parameters on the Pulveriser. Don’t go crazy. Just slowly introduce a few things such as some dirt, filtering and dry/wet blend. If you don’t hear anything too exciting, keep experimenting by turning up the feedback a little more, then increase the dirt and perhaps the squash settings. Try out the various filters.

You’ll start to hear how it all affects the feedback inside The Echo. And believe me, there are hours of fun found just in creating weird feedback loops. I created a lot of different feedback loops inside my Pureffects refill for Reason 6. I even fed a second Echo device through the feedback loop in one patch, and an RV7000 in another patch. Though when you feed delay effects through the Feedback Loop, you really need to mind your manners. As you can imagine, piling delays upon delays can be a recipe for disaster. Though with the right settings, you can produce some phenomenal results. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it again and again: Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

Here’s the Video for setting up a Feedback Loop in The Echo:

Trick #4: The Zipper Effect

Here’s a little trick to create an off-the-wall sound with The LFO feature of The Echo. I personally like it for a very rapid delay which sounds somewhat like a zipper. So I’m calling it the zipper effect. It’s also very simple to set up.

The "Zipper" effect in The Echo
The "Zipper" effect in The Echo

Here’s a short video on how this is set up:

Trick #5: Automating the Roll feature in The Echo with an LFO

This is another one of those simple ideas that can produce some nice results. Try automating the Roll in The Echo with an LFO. Any LFO will do. You can even use the Pulveriser’s Tremor feature (essentially an LFO) to control your Rolls.

A Subtractor LFO connected to The Echo's Roll CV Input
A Subtractor LFO connected to The Echo's Roll CV Input

Here’s a short video on how this is set up:

Bonus Trick #6: Processing a Kong Snare Drum through The Echo

Much like Trick #1, where the Slices are independently sent out to The Echo, you can also set up a Kong Drum Kit, and send specific drums out to The Echo for processing. This video shows how you can set up a Snare Drum to be processed by a Pulveriser and an Echo, while all the other drums are sent out Dry. Once you understand these concepts, there’s no end to how you can process things with The Echo, as well as other effects devices in Reason. Have fun with it!


And here’s a really nice tutorial that Selig put together on parallel processing and sidechaining with The Echo, which I just found the other day. Really nice method to parallel process using nothing more than a single Echo. Sweet.


I hope that opens up some new ideas for those of you using The Echo. Any other ideas, please share them here. Until next time, have a blast with your new Reason 6 upgrade.