This post is intended to answer some very common pitfalls that new Reason recruits have when it comes to using the software. Let’s face it, we were all new once, and we all had the same questions. So let’s get all of this out of the way right now so that we never lock our keys inside our cars again.
The Top Ten list below is an attempt to answer the most frequent questions that are heard time and time again, and to help you in the event you get caught up in the program and can’t untangle yourself. Use it as a checklist before posting on the Props forum or elsewhere for answers.
- Coming in at number 1 is the Midi In/Out and Audio In/Out question. Reason is Midi In / Audio Out. Plain and simple. You can’t directly record audio into Reason (try using Audacity to do that – it’s a great free audio editor). And you can’t use Reason to output to Midi of any kind. It should be noted, however, that you can record something in Audacity or any other editor for that matter, and then bring the audio into Reason as a sample in one of the Sampler Devices in Reason (the NN-19, NN-XT, Dr. Rex, or Redrum). It should also be noted that if you want to bring audio into Reason, Propellerhead offers “Record” as a solution. As a third and final alternative, you can ReWire Reason as a slave to your favorite DAW, which essentially opens up the possibility of using Reason devices as VSTs within the DAW environment (though they are NOT VSTs per say, they just act like them). This also allows you to tempo synch Reason to other instruments in your DAW environment. You also can’t use Reason to control external midi instruments. It just doesn’t do it. Keep thinking Midi-In/Audio-Out and you’ll be safe in understanding the Reason workflow.
- HELP! There’s nothing displayed in the Browser. I can’t see any samples or patches. Did I lose or erase them? Relax, grab a cup of coffee and listen carefully. You didn’t lose them and you didn’t erase them. Chances are that you opened the File Browser from a specific device (from the little folder icon on your device), and you started to navigate through the other folders in the Factory Sound Bank. When you do this, the Browser is only going to report back any samples or patches that can be loaded into the device in question. This is a feature, not a mistake, as it’s meant to keep the browser focussed on only the right areas. For example, let’s say you create an NN-XT and click the patch browser icon — little file icon — to open the Browser again. Then you navigate to the “Combinator Patches” folder. You won’t see anything, because there are no NN-XT patches for the Browser to report back to you. Here’s the fix. Look at the top right side of the File Browser where it says “Shows: NN-XT Sampler Patches.” Click the drop-down and select “All Instruments.” You’ll now see all the Combinator Patches, as well as any other instrument patches that are available. Furthermore, if you select a Combinator Patch after doing this, the NN-XT device you were working with changes to a Combinator automatically. Note that it’s usually a good idea to right-click in the rack and select Create > Instrument or Create > Effect when creating new devices. This way, when the Browser opens you’re not limited to a specific set of patches for a specific device. Note also that the File Browser does distinguish between an instrument and a device, and this is hard-coded into the software. So you can’t truly see all patches and samples at once. You can only see “All Instruments” or “All Effects.”
- How come I can’t automate the parameters in an NN-XT or elsewhere, or rather, how do I know what I can and can’t automate? First off, you can automate any parameters that are in the main NN-XT device (Global and Performance controls at the top). You cannot automate any of the parameters you find within the Remote Editor. This is because automation would get out of control. Think about this: if you have 100 samples and each of them have separate parameters within the Remote Editor, that’s way more parameters than your computer could handle if you were to start automating them. So think of this as the price for power. You have complete control over all samples, but you just can’t automate them (note that you can adjust them in real-time and during performances). As for finding out what can and can’t be automated, there are 2 easy ways to figure it out. First, you can right-click on any parameter and look at the context menu. If you see “Edit Automation” and it is available, you can automate it. If you don’t see “Edit Automation” or it is grayed out, then you can’t automate it. Alternately, click on the device in question, then go to Options > Remote Override Edit Mode. You’ll see small blue downward arrows over all the controllable (ie: automatable) parameters. Anything you can control from a controller, you can automate in the sequencer. Once in edit mode, you can click any other device to see their automatable parameters as well.
- Why can’t I record anything into “x” device? Why don’t I hear anything? Why is there no sequencer track? This is most likely because you are trying to record parts for a device that is inside a Combinator. By default, when you create a Combinator, the Combinator gets a sequencer track. But devices that are combined within the Combinator do not. If a device is created on it’s own (not part of a Combinator), it will automatically get its own track. To record parts into a device which is nested inside a Combinator, first select the device inside the Combinator (the device you want to record on a sequencer track). Right-click and select “Create track for ‘x'” which will create a sequencer track for the device in question. Then you can go into the sequencer, give the track focus (if you just created it, it will already have recording focus), and start recording parts for it. This goes for all instrument devices, FX devices, and mixers (basically everything except the spiders).
- I’m recording via my controller, but nothing is recorded in the track on the sequencer. This could be due to the fact that you didn’t give the right track Recording focus (Enable Recording) on the track in question. First, look to the sequencer and see if anything was recorded. Do you see a clip on any of the tracks that was just generated. If so, that’s the track you’ve been focusing. To enable recording on a sequencer track, click the circle located next to the device thumbnail to the left on the sequencer track. Also, click the track itself to make sure it’s highlighted. Then click record in your transport and start recording. You should be all set.
- I added an Arpeggiator and adjusted settings, but it’s not affecting the sound. This is another common pitfall. The Arp is much like the Matrix in that it doesn’t generate any sound, it is used to sequence another sound device, but your parts need to be located on the Arp track, not the sound device track. You probably have your clips on the sound device track in the sequencer. You’ll hear the sound device, but the arp won’t be affecting it. Just move the clips to the Arp track and you’re done. Once your parts are on the Arp track, you’ll hear the sounds. If you want to make the notes permanent, give your sound device track focus in the sequencer, then go to the rack and right-click on the Arp device, and select “Arpeggio Notes to Track.” Don’t forget to delete the clips on the Arp track or delete the Arp device and track entirely, otherwise you’ll be doubling up on the sound.
- I can’t load samples or Patches in my NN-XT. The NN-XT is divided into two sections: 1. the top section is the Global Parameter section for the entire device. Here you can load patches, but not samples. 2. The Remote Editor. If you click the tiny drop-down arrow at the bottom left of the device, you’ll open the “Remote Editor” which is similar on the RV7000 Advanced Reverb. Basically, this opens up the sample editor. Here you can load your samples, but not patches. It’s important to note that the NN-XT and NN19 are the only devices where you can load both patches and samples, and it’s important to note the different areas where each can be loaded.
- The Matrix doesn’t start or stop where I want it to start and stop. The Matrix can be thought of as a mini-sequencer. It’s monophonic so it will only play a single synth voice if you are connecting the notes via CV to another device. But another area that trips people up is the fact that it is synchronized to the timing and beats of the song tempo when playing in Real-time. It starts and stops based on the bar of your song. It cannot switch patterns between bars. It needs to follow through to the end of a bar before it can adjust to a new pattern. For this reason, it’s important to think through how you want your patterns to play. You can insert up to 32 patterns for each Matrix device, so if you need things to switch differently, it pays to have a plan and insert your patterns as you want them played for a full bar of your song (at least as much as a bar). The other alternative is to speed up the tempo of your song or track as fast as you can. Then the switching can be extremely quick between your patterns. It should be noted that you can have the Matrix start and stop as you wish if you add pattern clips on the Matrix Sequencer track. What I’m referring to here is Real-time use of the Matrix device.
- I am not hearing anything from the Vocoder I just inserted. The BV512 Vocoder is a special FX device which requires two sounds: 1. a Source or Carrier and 2. a Modulator. The Carrier signal is Stereo and is used as the main sound source. The Modulator, on the other hand, is monophonic and requires only a single input. If you need to cable a stereo sound into the Modulator, you can do so by spidering the left and right outputs of the sound together in a spider audio merger, and then send the output into the Modulator input. The modulator is what affects the sound. It pays to have a Modulator signal that has a lot of harmonics, while the carrier can be any kind of sound. The best way to see for yourself is to set up a nice lead synth connected to the Mixer. Then record your parts onto the lead’s sequencer track. After this, cable the lead outputs into the Carrier inputs on the back of the Vocoder. Then add a Subtractor and cable the Subtractor’s output into the Modulator input on the Vocoder. Play with the settings on the Subtractor to hear how the Subtractor is affecting your lead. You can get some really nice sounds out of this type of setup, and the Subtractor is a good Modulator with a lot of options. Of course, don’t let that limit you. You can use any sound as a source and any sound as a modulator. So experiment until you find some useful setups. After a while, you’ll instinctively figure out what works best for the Vocoder according to your own tastes.
- I lost the data on my hard drive / My hard drive is corrupt / My computer freaked out and I can’t find my songs. This isn’t a Reason pitfall, but it is most certainly important no matter what music you make or what software you use. So I’m adding it here. Make sure you first verify with someone who knows all there is to know about computers (your local IT guy, geek squad, brother-in-law super computer genius, or some other computer freak) that you did indeed lose the data on your hard drive. If that’s the case nothing can help you now. You’ve lost your data. You’ve lost your music and songs, and you’ll need to get a new hard drive or reinstall windows or something along those lines. Once you’re back in business with your computer, go get your backup drive, CD, or DVD media that has all your songs on it and transfer them back onto the computer. Oh wait. You don’t have a backup huh? Well then I think you’ve learned a very valuable lesson here right? ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS BACKUP YOUR SONGS. Here’s my strategy. First I have a single folder called “Reason” and under this folder I have subfolders for songs, refills, output, misc, etc. Keep this folder outside the realm of the Reason folder (when you upgrade reason, you wipe out the reason folder, so you don’t want your files wiped out. This prevents that from happening). Back up the entire folder once a month on two different formats (I back it up onto a portable hard disk AND DVD media). The chances of both hard drives crashing and all my DVDs breaking at the same time are astronomically slim (incidentally I keep all the DVDs in a firebox just in case — call me paranoid. That’s ok with me ;-). I back this folder up in both places once each and every month. I even have a reminder setup in my email so I don’t forget. Every first of the month, it takes me about 1 hour. Call that hour an insurance policy against what could take me 5 years to remake all my songs, sounds, etc. and it’s doubtful I could remake it the exact same way twice. So it’s a good bargain if you ask me.
Do you have any pitfalls that weren’t covered here? Do you think there are other “common” ones that weren’t mentioned?