“Thunder” ReFill

The Thunder ReFill is based on synth drum patches, samples & complete drum kits, with hundreds of unique patterns built-in. If you’re looking for some fresh percussion sounds, then this is the most versatile and expansive set out there. Kicks, Snares, Hi Hats, Cymbals, Toms, Bells, Bongos, Congas, Udu, Claps, and many other percussion varieties for many different styles and genres for a highly comprehensive and versatile drum package. Over 1,600 samples & patches for Reason 6.0 and up.

Thunder ReFillReason101 & Odarmonix, two sound designers behind many of the sounds found in the Reason Factory Sound Bank (FSB), have teamed up to present you with the Thunder ReFill for Reason 6.0 and above. This ReFill centers around Synth Drum patches, samples* & complete Kits with hundreds of unique patterns built in. If you’re looking for some fresh percussion sounds, then this is the most versatile and expansive set out there. Whether you use the included Combinator, Redrum, or Kong kits, or roll-your-own drums with the included samples and patches (for SubTractor, Malstrom, Thor, and Kong), you’ll find a wealth of expressiveness. Kicks, Snares, Hi Hats, Cymbals, Toms, Bells, Bongos, Congas, Udu, Claps, and many other percussion varieties for many different styles and genres are available. We made this with the intention to create a highly comprehensive and versatile drum package.

What’s included in the ReFill?

  • 65 Combinator Kits
  • 17 Redrum Kits
  • 22 Kong Kits
  • 415 Drum Instrument Patches (Bass, Bells, Claps, Cymbals, Ethnic, Hi Hats, Misc, Snares, Toms)
  • 1,089 Drum Samples (Bass, Bells, Claps, Cymbals, Ethnic, Hi Hats, Misc, Snares, Toms)*
  • 18 Effect Patches
  • 1,627 Elements in total

* Sample Bit Depth: 16; Sample Rate: 44,100 Hz; Mono. Samples resampled from the 3 core Reason synths (SubTractor, Malstrom, Thor) and Kong. All drum patches are included in the event you want to resample them yourself for further variation.

Purchasing

The Thunder ReFill cost is $59.00 USD. Purchasing is done through Paypal. After payment is made, you will be able to download your product.

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Demos

Following is a sample track that showcases many of the Combinator kits included. Note that each combinator comes with between 8-16 patterns each. This simply showccases one pattern per kit. And all kits are played at 120 bpm. Of course they can be sped up or slowed down to your liking.

The following track showcases a song I put together in which all the drums were taken from one of the Combinator kits:

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.

42 – Stacking Modulated Filters

In this tutorial I’m going to show you two things: 1. How to Stack multiple filters together to process a sound, and 2. How to use Thor’s filters to supplement other devices in Reason that don’t have those same filters (think of the Formant and some parts of the State Variable Filter).

In this tutorial I’m going to show you two things: 1. How to Stack multiple filters together to process a sound, and 2. How to use Thor’s filters to supplement other devices in Reason that don’t have those same filters (think of the Formant and some parts of the State Variable Filter).

You can download the project file here: stacking-filters. This is a zip file that contains the .rns file with the two Combinators used in the making of this tutorial. Those same two Combinators are provided separately as well. The files work with Reason 4 and above.

Stacking Thor Filters (In a Nutshell)

Before jumping into the tutorial, if you are a primarily visual person (or just a YouTube whore), you can watch the video below to see the process outlined:

It should be noted that this is merely one method to stack a few filters. I find this method gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to processing the sound, because you can adjust the amount of filtered sound which is mixed with the original sound (in other words, parallel processing). So let’s get started.

  1. First off, Create a Main 14:2 Mixer at the top of your rack. Then create a Combinator. Then inside the Combinator, create in order a 6:2 Line Mixer, RV7000, Spider Audio Merger/Splitter, and Malstrom. Then holding the shift key down (to prevent auto-routing), create a Thor synth device.
  2. Flip the rack around (Tab) and create the following routings: Remove the Malstrom Main A/B Outputs and reroute them to the Main Left/Right splits in the Audio Splitter. Then send one pair of splits to Channel 1 on the Line Mixer. Send another Split into Thor’s Audio Input 1 & 2. Then Send the Left/Right Audio outputs from Thor into Channel 2 on the Mixer.
    The view of the back of the Rack before all the routing
    The view of the back of the Rack before all the routing.

    The view at the back of the rack after all the routings -- we'll get to the second Thor's routing in a bit. . .
    The view at the back of the rack after all the routing -- we'll get to the second Thor's routing in a bit. . .
  3. Flip back around to the Front (Tab). In the Malstrom, turn on Oscillator 2, and set both Oscillators to “Sawtooth*4” and both Waveshapes in Mod A and Mod B to “Curve 2.” Set the ADSR envelopes of  both Oscillators to 40/127/127/75, respectively (This turns the sound into a much more progressive slow-moving Pad). Route Oscillator A to the Shaper and Oscillator B to the Filter B (Note: Do not turn on the Shaper). Set Filter A’s Frequency to somwhere around 116 or so. Set Filter B’s Frequency to somewhere around 106. This is so that we remove a bit of harshness in the final sound we’ll be building up. Set Oscillator A’s Cent value to “+7” and Oscillator B’s Cent value to “-7” which detunes the Oscillators from each other.

    The Malstrom settings
    The Malstrom settings
  4. Moving to the Thor, Turn Oscillator 1 Off, and uncheck the “1” button which routes Osc.1 to Filter 1. You don’t need Oscillators in Thor. We’re only using the Filters in Thor. Turn on the Formant Filter in both the first and second Filter Slots and set up Filter 1’s X/Y value to “0/127” and Filter 2’s X/Y value to “127/127.” Turn off the Filter Envelope’s “Gate Trig” button as well so that the Filters are not affected by the Filter Envelope. Then enable Filter 2 to be sent to the Amp section (the small arrow that leads from Filter 2 to Amp). Turn on the Tempo Sync for LFO2 and set the Rate to 6/4. Finally, set the Amp Envelope’s ADSR to the following values: 396 ms / 29.6 s / -0.0 dB / 6.98 s.
  5. Next, in Thor’s Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS), enter the following slots/lines:

    Slot 1 – Audio In1 : 100 > Filt1 In

    Slot 2 –  Audio In2 : 100 > Filt2 In

    Slot 8 – LFO2 : 100 > Filt1 X : -100 > Filt2 X

    The Thor Filter settings and Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) settings.
    The Thor Filter settings and Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) settings.

    The first 2 slots are telling Thor to take the audio input of the Left and Right Audio cables we set up previously, and sent them to Filter 1 and Filter 2 respectively. From that point onward, the signal travels through Thor as it normally would and then outputs to Channel 2 on the Line Mixer. The last line is what modulates the filter parameters in Thor. This basically creates a cross-over between filter 1 and filter 2 based on the default Sine wave in LFO2. Ok so far.

  6. Now with the Thor still selected, right-click and select “Duplicate Devices and Tracks.” In the duplicated Thor, set the LFO2 rate to 2/1 and change the Filter 1 X/Y value to “0/0” Then change the slot 8 line in the MBRS to the following:

    LFO2: 100 > Filt1 Y : -100 > Filt2 Y

  7. Flip the rack around and connect another split pair from the Audio Splitter to this new Thor’s Audio Input 1 & 2. Then Send the Left/Right Audio outputs from the new Thor into Channel 3 on the Mixer.
  8. Flip back around to the front of the rack and on the Line Mixer adjust the following:

    Channel 1 : Aux = 34; Level = 36; Pan = -14

    Channel 2: Aux = 50; Level = 92; Pan = 18

    Channel 3: Aux = 53; Level = 90; Pan = 22

  9. Finally, let’s take a look at the RV7000. Truth be told, you could enter whatever preset you like here which would work for a Pad sound. So enter your favorite RV7000 Patch. My settings were a low HF Damp, High EQ, with EQ turned on, and a lowering of the EQ curve on the low end with the gain set on the high EQ end to affect the midtones more than any other area. I also smoothed out the curve and made a few adjustments to the overall Reverb default “Hall” settings, as shown below.
    The RV7000 settings for the Hall Reverb
    The RV7000 settings for the Hall Reverb

    The settings for the Reverb's EQ.
    The settings for the Reverb's EQ.

Now give it a play and see how it sounds. By layering the filters and sending Left and Right to different filters that are modulated with a simple Sine wave, you can create some very complex tones that you couldn’t get using the Malstrom on its own.

Quickly Converting to a Whole New Sound

Now we can do a few interesting things with our setup. For example, duplicate the Combinator and change all four filters to “State Variable Filters.” Set the Resonance in the two filters in the first Thor to 54 and 82 respectively. In the second Thor, set both filters to “BP” mode and set the first filter’s Frequency to 3.28 kHz and Resonance to 38. Set the second filter’s Frequency to 158 kHz and Resonance to 50. Reduce the Attack and Release settings on the first Thor’s Amp Envelope a little bit. And Reduce them completely on the second Thor’s Amp Envelope. You can also use the Mod Envelope to affect the Resonance of the filters as I have done here:

Switching Filters and a few Parameters to get a completely different sound
Switching Filters and a few Parameters to get a completely different sound

Solo each Channel on the Mixer and see if the levels are ok. I found I had to insert a Maximizer after the second Thor just to boost things a bit. Trial and error is the key.

Finally, go into the Malstrom and change the two Oscillators to use the “JewsHarp” graintable in both. Reduce the Filter A & B Frequencies to your liking, and have a listen by playing a few notes. You end up with a very different sound altogether; like a slow meandering rumble. With just a few minor changes you get all sorts of different sounds.

The Malstrom Settings for this brand new sound. Use the JewsHarp Oscillators
The Malstrom Settings for this brand new sound. Use the JewsHarp Oscillators

Where do you go from here?

Anyplace you like is the short answer. But try out different filters and different Malstrom Oscillators. You could also insert a Scream device with some mild settings to completely alter the sound. Or try your hand modulating the filters in different unexpected ways using different LFO waves and rates. The sky is really the limit.

The only thing I might be wary of doing is creating delays on any of the parallel signals, as this can cause some phase shifting. But that might be something you are trying to achieve. It’s really up to you.

Let me know what you think of this tutorial and please add your comments if you come up with something far more interesting than these designs. I’d love to hear your own sound designs and creations. Until next time, good luck in all your endeavors.

40 – Thor Oscillator Wave Mods

In this tutorial I’m going to jump into Thor’s oscillators and show you how a simple method to cycle through the oscillator’s waves (Carriers, Modulators, Phase Mod Waves) can create lots of unexpected outcomes (a la Glitch). It can also allow you to modulate the Oscillators in a way you might not have thought about previously.

In this tutorial I’m going to jump into Thor’s oscillators and show you how a simple method to cycle through the oscillator’s waves (Carriers, Modulators, Phase Mod Waves) can create lots of unexpected outcomes (a la Glitch). It can also allow you to modulate the Oscillators in a way you might not have thought about previously. So let’s jump right in.

The project files can be downloaded here: Glitch-Oscillatoriffic. This zip file contains a single RNS file with 2 different Combinators. You can use the mute buttons on the main mixer to highlight each Combinator and play with each one individually.

I also wanted to say thanks to Geoff Wakefield for talking over this idea through an email exchange. Your ideas are great, as is your music Geoff! Keep up the great work. And go check out his music here: http://soundcloud.com/raven-2741.

First, here’s a video that outlines the basic concepts of modulating Thor’s oscillator waves:

Modulating Thor’s “FM Pair” Oscillator’s Carrier and Modulator

The main trick here is to keep all the devices inside a Combinator so that you can use CV to trigger the Rotaries of the Combinator. The Modulation Bus in the Combinator is used to set up the Oscillator’s Carrier and Modulation waves in the FM Pair, so that when CV is cabled into Rotary 1 & 2, the CV triggers a “cycling” through the different waves. This in turn affects the sound coming out of Thor. You then use the Malstrom’s Mod A & Mod B to supply the CV source, which is sent to the Rotary 1 & 2 CV input.

Also in the Modulation Bus of the Combinator, you’re going to set it up so that Rotary 3 and Rotary 4 (sources) are set up to adjust the Malstrom’s Mod A and Mod B (the destination). You can adjust the Min/Max settings to be as wild and crazy (full 0/31) or as tempered as you like (1/3, for example). In this way, you can not only adjust the Carrier / Modulation waves of Thor’s Oscillator with Rotary 1 and 2, but you can also adjust the Modulation Curve settings of the Malstrom’s Mod A and Mod B with Rotary 3 and 4.

Modulating Thor’s “Phase Modulation” Oscillator’s Wave 1 & 2

Now that we have the basic concept down, it’s a snap to transfer this same idea over to the Phase Modulation Wave 1 and Wave 2. Simply switch the Thor oscillator in slot 1 to “Phase Modulation” and then go back into the Combinator Modulation Bus, and change Rotary 1 and Rotary 2 as follows:

Rotary 1 > Osc 1 Phase Modulation Wave 1

Rotary 2 > Osc 1 Phase Modulation Wave 2

Note: the actual Min/Max settings, as shown earlier, can be anything you like, depending how crazy you like things.

Modulating Thor’s “Wavetable” Oscillator’s Tables

Now instead of the Phase Modulation oscillator, switch to the Wavetable Oscillator. Personally, this is my favorite oscillators for this type of technique. The variety and timbre of the sounds make it a really nice glitch mayhem device for the task. In using it though, there’s only 1 parameter we can effect, which is the actual Wavetables themselves. So switch Rotary 1 in the Combinator Modulation Bus as follows:

Rotary 1 > Osc 1 Wavetable Table

Once again, the actual Min/Max settings are up to personal taste.

One Step Further with the Oscillator’s  “Modulation” Parameter

When it comes to any of these oscillators, there is a “Modulation” parameter that you can also control using CV. For example, when using the FM Pair oscillator, you can have CV control the “FM Amount” knob. When using the Phase Modulation oscillator, you can use CV to control the “PM Amount” knob. When using the Wavetable oscillator, you can use CV to control the “Position” knob.

If you want to do this, you can borrow from one of the existing CV cables coming from the Malstrom and split it using a Spider CV Merger/Splitter, then send one split to the original Rotary destination and send another split into Thor’s CV in. Then it’s a matter of going into Thor’s Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) and entering the following:

CV In1 : 100 > Osc1 FM Amt / Osc1 PM Amt / Osc1 Pos

If you set the FM/PM/Pos on Oscillator 1 very low, then using a high Amount (100) in the MBRS makes sense. If, on the other hand, you set the FM/PM/Pos knob very high, using a lower setting (-100) makes more sense. It depends which direction you want the CV to influence the knob (upward or downward).

Now that we’ve done 3 different Oscillators, I’ll leave you to work your magic on Thor’s  “Multi Oscillator” — yes, you can certainly have a lot of fun with that oscillator as well.

Bringing it all Together

If you look in the project file, you’ll see a few Combinators that take this whole idea a step further by creating a 6:2 Mixer in the Combinator, and then creating three sets of devices (each set contains a different Thor Oscillator, 1 Matrix to use the Mod A/B curves, and an Equalizer at the end of the signal chain, which is then sent to the line mixer and back out to the Combinator’s “From Device” input).

Here’s a video that goes through the steps needed to build one such Combinator:

The idea is a simple one. Have a different oscillator in each of the Thors. Set up the amp envelope any way you see fit. I find a high Decay, Sustain, and Release setting works pretty well, but again, you may have a different preference. The Malstrom Modulation Curves are there for you to use to affect the Thor oscillator waves or even the Modulation knob of the oscillator. This is where experimentation comes in.

The back of the Rack showing the main components of the Combinator and how the devices are routed.
The back of the Rack showing the main components of the Combinator and how the devices are routed.

Finally, you have an Equalizer which is applied as a dynamic insert effect used to split each of the Thor sounds into their own specific range along the stereo field. This way, you can set up three oscillators and have each oscillator represent a place along the spectrum: Low, Mid and High. This way, you can balance out the sounds and let them shine in their own frequency range, without interfering with each other. Of course, these are all just suggestions. You might find some other ways to set things up for yourself.

The front of the Combinator, showing all 3 EQ devices to spread out the Oscillator sounds across Low, Mids, and Highs.
The front of the Combinator, showing all 3 EQ devices to spread out the Oscillator sounds across Low, Mids, and Highs.

I hope this opens up some new creative avenues for you. There’s a lot more that can be done with the Thor oscillators, and this just attempts to scratch the surface or get your feet wet. Don’t be afraid to jump in though, and create your own masterpiece. Oh and if you do, please feel free to share it here. The more we see your ideas, the more we can learn from each other.

Reese Bass & Trance Lead

This time, I was trying out various Reese Bass ideas and other trance lead ideas after watching Hydlide do a few interesting tutorial videos on putting together a trance lead. So I thought I would try out creating some trancey sounds in a Combinator which everyone can use if they wish.

Download the RNS file and two Combinators (in a single zip file) here: trance-leads.

Description: This time, I was trying out various Reese Bass ideas and other trance lead ideas after watching Hydlide do a few interesting tutorial videos on putting together a trance lead. So I thought I would try out creating some trancey sounds in a Combinator which everyone can use if they wish.

Features: The Combinators are pretty simple. Mostly, they use saw waveforms which are detuned. Add in a few special effects and you have some highly customizable sounds. The Reese’s Pieces Combinator was created with a Reese Bass sound in mind, so it’s better if you use this in the lower registers of your keyboard. The Trance Lead Combinator is pretty much what it says on the tin: a Trance Lead. Here are a rundown of each Combinator’s controls:

Reese’s Pieces

Reese's Pieces - Just one of my takes on a Reese Bass
Reese's Pieces - Just one of my takes on a Reese Bass

Here’s how the patch was put together:

Pitch Bend: The pitch bend adjusts the Pitch up or down by 7 semitones.

Mod Wheel: The mod wheel is assigned to the Malstrom only. Index is increased, Shift is reduced, and the Filter is increased.

Rotary 1: Filter Frequency – This affects the Thor’s Filter 1 Frequency and allows you to play with the full frequency range. This knob is also tied to the ECF filter frequency which affects the sound coming out of the Malstrom in the same way. Essentially you can create a filter sweep with this Rotary.

Rotary 2: Resonance – This gives you a limited, but useful range affecting the Thor and Malstrom Resonance kn0bs.

Rotary 3: Unison – This Rotary affects the impact of the Unison affecting the Thor Oscillators. Fully left, and there is no Unison (fully dry), while turning the knob fully right provides you with a full Unison detuned sound (fully wet).

Rotary 4: + Shift – This changes the Shift of the two Malstrom Oscillators (A and B) from 0 to +63. You just have to try this out to hear for yourself. It’s a very interesting and quirky application to the sound. But I personally like playing around with this rotary.

Button 1: Twist 1 – This turns on the Thor Shaper. It provides a slightly overloaded or overdriven sound on top of all three sawtooth waves in Thor. It’s not overly heavy though, so it’s pretty safe to use. However, depending on how your Frequency and Resonance are set, this will affect how much you will hear the Shaper affect the sound.

Button 2: Twist 2 – This turns on the Malstrom Shaper. It provides an overdriven sound effect. This is much higher pitched or brighter than the Thor Shaper, so it provides a more distinctive sound. However, depending on how your Frequency and Resonance are set, this will affect how much you will hear the Shaper affect the sound.

Button 3: Reverb – Adds in a strong reverb sound, which I find is pretty common in these types of patches.

Button 4: Unassigned

Usage: You can use this any way you like. But mainly it can provide a very bass-heavy sound (my take on a Reese Synth Bass sound).

Trance Lead

A simple Trance Lead Combinator
My take on a simple Trance Lead with lots of parameters to tweak.

Pitch Bend: The pitch bend adjusts the Pitch up or down by 7 semitones.

Mod Wheel: Unassigned

Rotary 1: Bass Increase – As the name suggests, the bass is increased by increasing the Filter Frequency of Thor’s Filter 2.

Rotary 2: Motion – This affects the Motion of the Malstrom Oscillators A and B from -64 to +30.

Rotary 3: Reverb – Adds Reverb to the overall sound coming out of the Combinator. This is a Dry/Wet Reverb knob going from 0 to 70.

Rotary 4: Filter Sweep: This affects the frequency of all the Oscillators. Use this rotary to create a simple filter sweep for build-ups in your songs.

Button 1: FX 1 – Each of the buttons adds a specific effect which you may or may not like. I added these in as an afterthought just to provide more flexibility with the Combinator. Play around and experiment with them to see if they enhance the sound for you. Button 1 here Changes the Modulator A to Index from 0 to -64.

Button 2: FX 2 – Changes Thor’s Oscillator 1 Octave from 3 to 4. Also changes the Malstrom’s Oscillator B Octave from 4 to 5.

Button 3: FX 3 – Changes the Malstrom’s Modulator A to Shift from 0 to 22 and Modulator B to Motion from 0 to -10

Button 4: FX 4 – Changes the Malstrom’s Modulator B to Filter from 0 to -64

Usage: You can use this any way you like, but mainly it provides a basic trance lead sound.

Other Notes: For both Combinators, you can really change this sound around quite a bit just by playing with all the parameters. So you’ll have to experiment to find something that suits your taste. In addition, you can use the Frequency rotary to create a frequency sweep or build-up in your tunes.

As always, please let me know what you think or let me know if and how you use this in your own projects. Happy Reasoning!

29 – Synth Drums from Scratch

The subject of today’s tutorial is how to create your own standard drum sounds via synthesis. Here, I’m going to show you a few techniques to bring these drums to life, with little more than a Thor, Malstrom, or Subtractor synth, and some supporting modules. This is a great alternative to using Drum samples or relying on sample CDs for your drum sounds, though those are both great alternatives that should not be overlooked.

Often times we don’t have access to a real drum kit and it’s not feasible to get real true-to-life drum samples to use in your own work. Or you may just want the sound of a synthetic drum as opposed to the real thing. One option is to purchase some sample CDs. Another is to create your own drum sounds from scratch, using the synths provided in Reason. That’s the subject of today’s tutorial. Here, I’m going to show you a few techniques to bring some standard drums to life, with little more than a Thor, Malstrom, or Subtractor synth, and some supporting modules.

I should start by saying that with the addition of Kong in Reason 5, creating drums has never been easier. Load up a physical drum or a synth drum module and you’re more than halfway there. However, for those that don’t have Reason 5 yet, then this tutorial is for you. Everything below is created using the Reason 4 devices. This goes to show you that you don’t necessarily need Kong to create interesting drum sounds. So let’s get started.

You can download the project files here: Synth Drums from Scratch. This is a zip file that contains 3 Combinators and 1 Thor patch outlining the different drum sounds from the tutorials below. The Combinator parameters will affect the sound of each drum. I’ve tried to tailor them so that you can get a very wide variety of drum sounds out of each Combinator. Have fun with the various buttons and rotaries to get the sound you want out of them.

The Bass Drum

The first drum we’ll emulate is a Kick or Bass drum. This is probably one of the easier drums to emulate because it has that very bassy deep and punchy feel to it. The hardest part about programming this kind of drum I think is in the Compression, which most every Kick drum should have. How it is compressed is really a matter of taste, but getting just the right sound you want is probably going to rely on the way you compress it. A close second in terms of seasoning your Bass Drum is using EQ to accentuate the correct frequency or frequencies. Here’s how I would go about creating a Kick Drum using Thor.

The Tom Drum

The second drum type we’ll create is a Tom Tom drum. This time, I’ll use a Malstrom with a TubeSlap Oscillator to emulate it. This oscillator is great for sounds like these, and can produce just the formant sound that is needed with a typical Tom drum. Of course, you can emulate all of these different drums using any of the synths. This is just one way to recreate the sound. You could instead, try using a Thor oscillator with a Formant filter to get the Tom Drum sound you’re after. Be sure to explore more on your own to find the sounds that truly inspire you.

The Snare Drum

The third type of drum I’ll recreate is a Snare drum. For this, I’ll use a subtractor with two Oscillators and a Bandpass filter. Then we’ll use a Noise Oscillator in Thor to add that extra tail that a Snare drum can have. To wrap it all up, we’ll combine them both and set up a little programming to the rotaries in order to get a little more out of our Snare sounds. Using these parameters we can create a variety of Snares, instead of a single type of sound. See how it’s done:

The Hi Hat

Finally, there is the tried and true Hi Hat sound, both open and closed. To emulate this one, we’ll use a Thor FM pair and Noise oscillator going through two State Variable filters set to High Pass and Notch mode in Thor. I’ll emulate the open and closed Hi Hat and tie it to a Thor button. This way, you can access both the closed and open state of the drum with the click of a button (and from within the same Thor synth, which makes it very CPU friendly). Of course, if you want to separate them, you can duplicate the Thor device and use one Thor for the “Open” Hi Hat position and one Thor for the “Closed” Hi Hat position. It’s all up to you and very flexible.

So there you have it. Four basic drums created with the three different synths in Reason 4. If you have any other drum sounds that you would like to contribute or tips for drum creation, please feel free to share with us. Until next time, have fun working your own magic in Reason and Record!

28 – Weird Sci-Fi Synth Sounds

Here are a few ways you can create some trippy and out-there sounds using the synths in Reason. I’ve had a lot of requests for these kinds of sound creations, so I thought I would throw a few ideas out there. These sounds provide you with three different patch ideas for three different Sci-Fi type sounds. Enjoy!

Here are a few ways you can create some trippy and out-there sounds using the synths in Reason. I’ve had a lot of requests for these kinds of sound creations, so I thought I would throw a few ideas out there.

Sure. This time around I’ll provide the patches found in this project here: weird-sci-fi-patches The file contains 2 Thor patches with 2 variations on the Sci-Fi sound, a Malstrom with an Alien voice, and a Subtractor ominous spacey patch. Enjoy!

First off, here’s an idea which uses the Noise Oscillator and a Multi-Oscillator to create some really weird sounds in Thor. The key features here are the use of the Bipulse Shaper and the Self-Oscillating filters. In this example, they are probably even a little more important than the actual Oscillators that you’re using. So here’s the video:

 

The second kind of other-worldly sound is brought to you by the Malstrom. In this case, I tried to create an Alien from outer space voice using the Electronik voice and the Jews Harp grains inside the Malstrom. As you’ll see, the Malstrom is exceptional for these kinds of crazy effects. You can have a field day tweaking knobs on here. The main focus should be on utilizing the Pitch knob, as well as all the other knobs to affect the Oscillators. In this way, you can mangle your audio beyond any human recognition. Makes for exactly what we need to build our Alien Voice. Here’s the video:

Now of course we shouldn’t forget the Subtractor in our quest to create some freaky sound effects. So let’s try giving it a whirl. This time I’m going to go for a more Ominous space sound, almost a Pad-like sound. This seems like it would be great as an intro for a huge and ominous scene and reminds me of when the Borg attacked the Enterprise in the feature-length movie: “Star Trek: First Contact.” Yes, I know. Major geek right? Well, anyway, this uses some FM for the deep bassy sound, and a low Octave Oscillator. From there, you just need to adjust the filter. One other interesting thing you could do is sweep the filter frequency from Closed to open and back again. The key of course is to experiment, experiment, and experiment some more!

So there you have it. A few different Sci-Fi sounds for you to jump into. There’s billions more sounds just waiting to be created. If these help as a starting off point for you, then great. Glad I could help. And if you have any comments, suggestions, tips or tricks, please let me know. It’s from your requests that I end up making these tutorials in the first place. So keep the requests coming. And Happy Reasoning!

21 – Massive Combi Drum Kit

Turn a Combinator into a 61-synth drum kit that spans the range of the Matrix pattern sequencer so you can use the Matrix to trigger your drum hits. Yes it’s massive. Yes it’s crazy. And yes, you should try it out! Why? Because apart from being time consuming, it’s dead easy to accomplish. And it doesn’t have to break the CPU bank.

This project was a real blast to put together. Essentially it involves turning a Combinator into a 61-synth drum kit that spans the range of the Matrix pattern sequencer so you can use the Matrix to trigger your drum hits. Yes it’s massive. Yes it’s crazy. And yes, you should try it out! Why? Because apart from being time consuming, it’s dead easy to accomplish. And it doesn’t have to break the CPU bank.

Download the project file here: minimal-super-kit. This zip file contains my Minimal Super Drum Kit Combinator with 61 synth sounds that can be played by the Matrix. I’ve added 32 random patterns in the Matrix which is assigned to a Rotary knob so you can dial in a pattern you like. Also, you can turn the matrix off using button 1, so that you can play the drum kit with your keyboard controller if you wish. This is a great flexible way to show off your drum kit creation chops. So enjoy! And when you’ve had it with my own drum sounds, try your hand at creating your own. Read on to find out how.

There’s also a few extra devices in the Combinator, and assignments on the other Rotaries / Buttons which affect the drums globally. Feel free to explore their routings as well if you’re interested. The focus here, however, is turning your Combinator into a massive drum kit which can be sequenced using the Matrix.

Back to Basics: Setting things up

  1. Open up a new document with a 14:2 Mixer and then create a new Combinator. Inside the combinator, create five 14:2 mixers all in succession so that they are all chained one after the other.

    The five 14:2 Mixers are chained together.
    The five 14:2 Mixers are chained together.
  2. Create 61 Synths. Yes, that’s right. 61 Synths. These can be any combination of Thors, Malstroms, or Subtractors. one trick before you go nuts copying and pasting is to create one instance of Thor, one Subtractor, and one Malstrom, and then initialize all 3. This way, only one oscillator or graintable is used and it will be light on the CPU. Once you’ve done that, copy and paste so you have 61 different synths and connect them each to their own mixer channel.

    Each of the synths are connected to their own Mixer channel.
    Each of the synths are connected to their own Mixer channel.
  3. Now this is the trickiest part of the whole tutorial. Click the “Show programmer” button on the front of the Combinator, and select the first synth in the list at the top. Notice in the Key Mapping area on the left part of the Combinator screen, the key range for this synth spans the entire keyboard range. If you look at the bottom of the Key Mapping area, the value under Key Range is C-2 (Lo) to G8 (Hi). We’re going to change these values so that both read C1. The easiest way to do this is to click and drag upward over the “Key Range Lo” field until it reads “C1.” Once you’ve done that, you can click and drag down all the way on the “Key Range Hi” field. This means that the synth will only be triggered by pressing C1 on your keyboard controller.
  4. The first Synth selected in Key Mapping. See that the range listed is C1 (Lo) to C1 (Hi)
    The first Synth selected in Key Mapping. See that the range listed is C1 (Lo) to C1 (Hi)
  5. Sweet! Now do this for each subsequent synth, but incrementing each one by one note value upward on the scale. So, for example, the next synth is only triggered by C#1 and the one following that by D1, and so on up the scale until you have the last synth in place at C6. Ta da! Now each synth can only be triggered and played from it’s corresponding note on the keyboard controller. And taken as a whole, the entire kit ranges the same 5-octave span of the Matrix (from C1 to C6).
  6. The last Synth selected in Key Mapping. See that the range listed is C6 (Lo) to C6 (Hi).
    The last Synth selected in Key Mapping. See that the range listed is C6 (Lo) to C6 (Hi).
  7. Now comes the really fun (but tedious) part. Go through each synth one at a time and sculpt your drum sounds. Go wild. Enter some amazing Kicks, Snares, Toms, Hi Hats, Rim shots, glitch mayhem, or whatever sounds you really enjoy listening to through Reason. Don’t be shy. Jump in and have some fun. And if you’re really hard pressed for some ideas, sift through the Factory Soundbank (FSB) for some inspiration. There are plenty of synth ideas in there.
  8. Note: audition your sounds using your keyboard controller. This way you can hear each note triggering each synth. If you forget your place on the keyboard, minimize your entire stack of synths by holding down Alt as you press on the minimize arrow of one of the devices. This will automatically minimize all devices within the Combinator. Now press a key on your controller and look for the “Note On” light as you press. This “Note On” light will show you which synth is triggered by the note you are playing. Since each synth is tied to an individual note on the keyboard, only a single “Note On” light will flash when you press a single key. Trust me, this is a great time saver when working with so many devices.

  9. Add a Matrix under everything, flip the rack around, and tie the “Note/Gate CV out” cables from the back of thedevice into the Sequencer Control “Note/Gate CV in” on the Combinator. Flip back around to the front again and start dialing in some Note/Gate patterns into the Matrix pattern banks. Or use the right-click context menu to select some random patterns for the various Matrix pattern banks.

    Connecting CV cables from the Matrix to the Combinator's Sequencer  Control section.
    Connecting CV cables from the Matrix to the Combi's Sequencer Control section.
  10. Finally, go back to the Combinator’s Modulation Routing section and with the Matrix device selected, enter the following settings:

Rotary 1 > Pattern Select: 0 / 31 (assuming you’ve entered patterns in all 32 pattern banks of the Matrix)

Button 1 > Pattern Enable: 0 / 1

Entering the Matrix Sequencer Parameters in the Combi's Modulation Routing Section.
Entering the Matrix Sequencer Parameters in the Combi's Modulation Routing Section.

Keeping Button 1 off means that you can play the Combinator in a “live” situation, accessing the drums to be played in real time and ignoring the Matrix. Turning on Button 1 automates the drums and plays the drums according to what is programmed in the Matrix. Spinning the Rotary 1 knob will select from the 32 Matrix pattern banks. You can also automate pattern changes for the Matrix in the Sequencer if you create a sequencer track for the Matrix.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little exploration of what can be done with a bunch of synths and a Matrix inside a Combinator. You can create some gigantic kits using this technique. And it can be an alternative to using the NN-XT for a sample-based drum kit.

As with any method, there are pros and cons to this approach. I like it because it can be much easier to tweak the sounds later if you want to adjust any of the synth parameters for your various hits. Personally, I feel this can give you more flexibility than storing your kit in an NN-XT. That being said, the downside is that it’s not quite as compact, takes some time to load up in your song, and it’s not sample-based so it’s not as “organic” as samples in an NN-XT can be. Both approaches, however, are valid. It all depends what you’re after.

If you have any other ideas or unique ways in which you’ve created your own kits please share them with us. I’d love to know some new techniques that I may not have thought about before.

Until next time, I hope this inspires you to build some kick-ass drum kits. Good luck!

18 – A 12-Way Filter FX Combi

This is a 12-Way Filter FX Combinator patch (with Shaper – and an Envelope for the ECF-42) which is best used as an Insert Effect anywhere you need it to filter audio. It’s a tightly compact little bugger.

This is a 12-Way Filter FX Combinator patch (with Shaper – and an Envelope for the ECF-42) which is best used as an Insert Effect anywhere you need it to filter audio. It’s a  tightly compact little bugger. It took me quite a bit of time to work out the proper programming in the Combinator’s Mod Matrix, because some of the Rotaries and Buttons, as well as the Mod Wheel, have dual functionality, depending which filter you are using. This is why I’m going to provide a little explanation from the vantage point of looking at each device that the combinator is controlling and explaining how those devices are controlled. I think that’s the best approach to show how this Combinator functions.

If you’re itching to get your hands on the Combinator, then go here: 12-way-filter-fx. It’s a zip file that contains the FX Combinator I’m outlining below. For safety sake, please read through so that you understand how this thing operates. Don’t want to open up any black holes in the universe or anything.

A 12-way Filtering FX Combinator system. Deceptively simple looking.
A 12-way Filtering FX Combinator system. Deceptively simple looking.

First, A brief background. When I posted a video on YouTube showing how to create a selectable Thor Filter, the focus was on creating a way to route audio through Thor and use Thor’s global Filter 3 slot and be able to switch between all 4 Thor Filters on the fly. This way you could control most of Thor’s parameters from within a single Combinator. That’s great for getting the most out of Thor’s 4 filters. But then Hydlide gave the following comment on his site, The Sound of Reason:

it’s an awesome technique. I sometimes use thor just being an audio processor only because it is the only device that can change filters (all of them) on the fly. In Reason 3 the malstrom was always my default audio input/output source since it didn’t need that much programming and such (just jack the audio signals inside the rear and you are done). However the nice thing with thor is that whole programming part. I can remember I also did a similar setup using filter slot 1. However, that one even becomes more tricky since filter 3 is a global filter (eg: does not need a gate to trigger), with filter 1 you need that same setup with the step sequencer for a gate to retrigger. But it does add that shaper thingy in between. However, in addition, it does add something having the step sequencer running anyways, and use the curve of the step sequencer to retrigger something else (eg: Shaper drive, filter changes etc…).

So two things I got from this comment:

  1. Thor is the only device that can change filters on the fly. [OK, let’s add more filters that we can change on the fly]
  2. That shaper thingy in between. [hmmm. yes indeed. Let’s add that shaper thingy]

So there was my mission. To create a Combinator that could change more than just the Thor filters on the fly, but could also allow you to select a few other filters (namely the ECF-42 and the Malstrom A/B Filters). And also let’s utilize the “Shaper Thingy” in between (since both Thor and the Malstrom have “Shaper Thingies” let’s definitely have the ability to change both and adjust the amount of both).

Oh and hey, while we’re at it, let’s try our hand at squeezing in the ability to utilize the Envelope of one of the filters. And the ability to change filter modes on one of the other filters. Essentially, we’re going for ultimate controllability and in the end you’ll have a 12-way Adjustable filter using a single Combinator. Think you can’t do all of this in a single Combinator. Wrong!

It’s actually deceptively simple to route into a Combinator. And it’s really light-weight on your CPU. The really tricky part in putting this all together is programming the Modulation section of the Combinator. Here’s how it breaks down:

There are three main devices that can be used as filters: Thor (4 filters), ECF-42 (1 Filter with 3 Modes), and the Malstrom (2 Filters: A&B which work globally, and these with 5 variable modes). So 4 Thor Filters + 3 ECF Filter Modes + 5 Malstrom Filter Modes = 12-way adjustable Filter FX. Here are the parameter settings for each of the 3 different devices:

Thor Filter

Rotary 1: Cycles through all of Thor’s 4 filters: Low Pass Ladder, State Variable (on High Pass mode), Comb Filter (+ mode), and Formant Filter.

Rotary 2: Adjusts the full range of the Filter Frequency

Rotary 3: Adjusts the full range of the Filter Resonance

Rotary 4: Adjusts Thor’s Shaper thingy Amount (termed the drive in Thor).

Button 1: When pressed, the Thor filter becomes active. When not lit, Audio routed to Thor is muted.

Button 4: When pressed, Thor’s Shaper Thingy is enabled.

Mod Wheel: Acts as a Shaper selection for the different Thor Shaper waves. When recording using this combinator, I would highly suggest just setting this and forgetting it — in other words, program the automation for the mod wheel in the Reason/Record sequencer, but don’t automate any changes with the Mod wheel. When you adjust the shaper modes using the mod wheel in this way, you’ll hear an audible click which is nasty and you won’t want it saved along with your recording. So set up a shaper wave and then forget about it.

ECF-42 (Envelope Controlled Filter)

Rotary 1: Cycles through the 3 ECF Filter modes: BP-12, LP-12, and LP-24

Rotary 2: Adjusts the full range of the Filter Frequency

Rotary 3: Adjusts the full range of the Filter Resonance

Rotary 4: Adjusts the Filter Envelope Amount

Button 2: When pressed, the ECF-42 filter becomes active. When not lit, Audio routed to the ECF-42 is muted.

Button 4: Activates the Envelope when lit. The Envelope is off by default. Actually, what’s happening is the Matrix inside the Combinator is used as a gate CV to control the Filter frequency of the envelope. Since it is routed through the CV in/out of one of the Thor devices, this button acts as a trim knob control for the free-running Gate CV from the Matrix into the ECF CV Gate in. This makes things instantaneous when switching the Envelope button on / off.

Mod Wheel: Acts as the Velocity setting for the Envelope amount in the ECF Filter. Of course, it won’t do anything unless you have the Envelope enabled (button 4).

Malstrom’s separate A/B Filter processor

Rotary 1: Cycles through the Malstrom’s A/B Filter modes:LP-12, BP-12, Comb+, Comb-, AM

Rotary 2: Adjusts the full range of the Filter Frequency

Rotary 3: Adjusts the full range of the Filter Resonance

Rotary 4: Rotary 4: Adjusts the Malstrom’s Shaper thingy Amount.

Button 3: When pressed, the Malstrom filter becomes active. When not lit, Audio routed to the Malstrom is muted.

Button 4: When pressed, Malstrom’s Shaper Thingy is enabled.

Mod Wheel: Acts as a Shaper selection for the different Malstrom Shaper waves. When recording using this combinator, I would highly suggest just setting this and forgetting it — in other words, program the automation for the mod wheel in the Reason/Record sequencer, but don’t automate any changes with the Mod wheel. When you adjust the shaper modes using the mod wheel in this way, you’ll hear an audible click which is nasty and you won’t want it saved along with your recording. So set up a shaper wave and then forget about it.

A few other notes:

  • There is no “bypass” option for the filters. In other words, if you turn off buttons 1, 2, and 3, then you won’t hear any audio coming out of the combinator (even though audio is going INTO the combinator). So, to get around this, bypass the Combinator. This way, you will still hear audio going through the Combinator.
  • If you press play or record while the Thor filter is enabled (Button 1 is lit), Thor will not sound. You need to actually engage this button after playing or recording is initiated. Not sure if there is a workaround for this, but let me know if there is and I can update the patch.
  • Since each Filter has its own dedicated Line Mixer associated with it, and the first three buttons simply turn the master level on or off (0 at a minimum and 100 at maximum for the respective buttons), then having more than one filter on simultaneously will effectively duplicate the audio and combine the filtered audio together. This wasn’t really intended when I put this Combinator together. Usually, I would think you would want one of the filters on at any given time, and not have them both on in unison. But I’m not stopping you from using it in this way. You might get some interesting effects by enabling both the Thor and the Malstrom Filter, and then using the Shaper for both at the same time.
  • Further to the point above, if you want to stack filters on top of each other in your audio chain, it’s pretty easy to do. Just put as many copies of this combinator on top of each other and you have an instant stack of adjustable filters in series as an insert effect.
  • The Pitch/Bend wheel is open if you want to program it to do something above and beyond what the Combinator already does. Not sure what else you could possibly pack in here, but hey, go for it!

So I hope you enjoy this little venture into packing everything but the kitchen sink into a Combinator. Please let me know if you find this useful and if you have any great solutions or better ways to improve on this patch please let me know. Also, if you have a question or want to see me write about something in Reason or Record, please speak up. I take requests too. Until next time, good luck in all your Musical pursuits!

17 – Auto-Panning Methods

Learn a few different ways to automatically pan your audio back and forth from left to right or right to left in the stereo field using the LFOs of the Reason synth devices or a Matrix pattern device. As you’ll see, these methods are not that difficult to understand or implement.

Here I’m going to go over a few different ways you can automatically pan your audio back and forth in the Stereo field. As you’ll see, the methods are not that difficult to understand or implement. Once you have this process down, you can also go on to do more complicated panning techniques, such as combining waveforms for panning, panning filter frequencies, or panning your EQ to create left to right frequency sweeps. Of course, I’m not going to go into all of these advanced techniques. Rather, I’ll delve into the world of auto-panning slowly to get your mind wrapped around some of the different methods you can use in Reason and Record.

Download the project files here: auto-panning-methods. This is a single .rns file with 4 different Auto-Panning Combinators set up for you. Each one affects the same audio source and then gets sent to their own mixer channels in the 14:2 mixer. Mute/solo the channel you want to hear to listen to the examples. Note that each Combinator in this set uses a different way to pan the signal. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, as you’ll see in the tutorial below.

At it’s heart, panning simply moves your sound from Left to Right or Right to Left in the stereo field. In order for the software to pan your sound, you must set up something that signals the audio to move from one side to the other. Usually, this means assigning an LFO or Mod Envelope to control the pan position of your audio. Since Reason and Record have CV inputs assigned to every channel in their mixers, as well as directly on the Mix and Audio Devices themselves, panning any audio source can be achieved with one simple CV connection. Also note that you can pan a mono signal from one side to the other just as you can pan a stereo signal from one side to the other.

Setting up a simple Pan using the Subtractor LFO1

Here is one of the easiest ways to create your automatic panning using the LFO of a Subtractor device:

  1. Open up your audio source in Record or Reason. This can be any synth device, audio channel, mix channel, etc. The point is that you need an audio source to affect.
  2. Next, create a Combinator. Then inside the Combinator, hold your Shift key down and create a 6:2 line mixer and a Subtractor.
  3. Initialize the Subtractor. This means reducing all the values in the Subtractor to zero (range/polyphony/ADSR envelopes, etc.).
  4. Press the “Tab” key to flip the rack around to the back. Connect the Combinator’s Left and Right “To Devices” to the Mixer’s first channel’s Left and Right inputs. It’s not shown in the image below, but you’ll have to also route the audio source Left and Right output to the Left and Right Combinator input.
  5. Connect the LFO1 CV out from the Subtractor’s Modulation Output section into the Pan CV in on the mixer’s first channel. Then turn the trim knob all the way right. This means that the CV will fully control the panning of the audio source.
The back of the rack showing the Subtractor LFO1 modulating the Pan of the Sound Source.
The back of the rack showing the Subtractor LFO1 modulating the Pan of the Sound Source.

With this setup, the subtractor’s LFO1 is controlling the audio position in the stereo field. This is a great setup, however, there are two main problems: 1. You have access to a very limited set of LFO waveforms (6 to be exact), and none of those waveforms is a straightforward “sine” wave. And 2. Since the Subtractor is free-running, there’s no way for you to turn off the LFO. It will continually pan from side to side, with the Panning speed based on the Rate in the LFO1 section. I can live with #1, however, #2 is a huge hindrance and is enough for me to say no thanks! Let’s find a better way.

Panning with the Malstrom Curves (a step upward)

Now let’s up the game a little.

  1. Delete the Subtractor we just created, and instead hold the shift key and create a Malstrom device. Again, initialize the device by moving all the faders to zero and reducing the polyphony to 1 and the pitch range value to zero. Turn everything off except for the “Modulation A Curve” — leave that little light on.

    The fully initialized Malstrom
    The fully initialized Malstrom
  2. Flip to the back of the rack, and route a CV cable from the Mod A output to the Pan CV in on the line mixer.

    The back of the rack showing how Mod A is controlling the Pan CV in on Mixer Channel 1
    The back of the rack showing how Mod A is controlling the Pan CV in on Mixer Channel 1

Now the Curve from Mod A is controlling the Panning for the sound source. The nice thing about this setup is that you can turn Mod A on or off, which in turn turns the panning on or off (unlike previously in our Subtractor example). Furthermore, there’s another added benefit: you can select from the Malstrom’s 32 different waveforms. Now that’s some serious power.

Panning with Thor (an alternative)

The Malstrom is great if you want to play with a lot of curves to pan your sound source. However, there are a few advantages to using Thor’s LFO2 instead.

For a detailed run-through of how to setup Thor to auto-pan your sound source, have a look at the video below:

In this situation, you would delete the Malstrom, and initialize a Thor in its place. Send the CV1 Output to the Pan CV in on channel one of the line mixer. Then in Thor’s mod matrix, you use LFO2 as a source and CV1 Out as a destination. Finally, you could set up a button on the Combinator so that when the button was off, Thor’s “Mod Destination Amount” is set to zero (0), and when turned on, it is set to 100. This way, the button acts as a switch to turn the CV on/off. Just have a look in the project files to see how this is set up.

Thor CV1 out going to the Pan CV in on the first mixer channel.
Thor CV1 out going to the Pan CV in on the first mixer channel. Thor's LFO2 being sent to the CV Out1 (in turn routed to the Pan CV in on the mixer)

The benefit to using Thor is that you can assign the LFO2 delay and Key Sync parameters to the Combinator Rotaries/Buttons, which is something you can’t do with the other methods. So it all boils down to how you want to pan your sound. There’s no better or worse way to do it. If you know the panning won’t ever need to be turned off for the duration of your song, you can use the Subtractor. If you need control over the delay and Key Sync parameters of the LFO, then you know Thor is the only choice.

The Matrix (a wild card)

The last way I’m going to discuss is how you can use a Matrix to create your own waveform to affect the panning of a sound source. This is just like the previous methods, except you draw in a pattern inside the matrix, and on the back you connect the Curve CV to the Pan CV input on the first channel of the line mixer. Be sure to change the front panel of the matrix to “Curve” and on the back, select “Bipolar” as the curve selection. Panning is a bipolar process going from -64 to +63 with zero (0) being dead center. So the matrix needs to utilize this bipolar functionality to have the panning work correctly.

The Matrix Curve CV being sent to the Pan CV input on channel 1 of the mixer
The Matrix Curve CV being sent to the Pan CV input on channel 1 of the mixer The Matrix from the front with a Curve setup.

The drawback is that the curves are always in sync with the tempo (which may or may not be what you want), and your rate selection is limited to locked-in resolutions in the matrix. You can’t have any concept of a free-running rate system with this setup. On the plus side, you can draw in up to 32 unique patterns (on each of the matrix pattern banks), and then assign a rotary to the pattern selection to cycle through the different programmed curve patterns.

Now, I’ll show you how the Modulation Matrix is set up on each of the Combinators. Looking at these setups, you can see how each one has a different set of parameters that can be controlled. This is how you determine what the right “fit” is for your sound source. Get to know these inside out and it will become really easy to figure out which one works best for each of your audio scenarios:

From top to bottom: Sub, Mal, Thor, Matrix auto-panner Combinator setups.
From top to bottom: Sub, Mal, Thor, Matrix auto-panner Combinator setups.

So there you have it. A few different ways you can auto-pan your sound source. Things can get pretty interesting if you start crossing pans or inverting one sound source with another, so that when one sound is in the left channel, another sound is in the right channel (hint: use the spider’s “inverted” split to output one CV split to the second channel). You also don’t have to use an LFO to achieve your panning. You can easily draw in automation for the panning knob on the mixer channels and have full control over drawing in the panning curves yourself in the sequencer. Oh there’s lots of possibilities.

So do you have any suggestions or other interesting ways you’ve developed for panning your elements in Reason and Record. I’m always looking for innovative ways to use panning in my mixes. It’s a great way to add some movement and modulation to your pieces. Move up the rate fast enough and you almost have a vibrato or phased effect on your sound, which can add interest. So tell me what you’ve come up with and share it with all of us.

Here’s a bonus little rns file for Sterioevo (see his comment below). He was suggesting using an RPG-8 as a Panning device. Now the problem with this is that the Arp is not bipolar. The notes / gate CV output from the Arp is unipolar. So with a little tweaking, you can create something that comes close. A kind of pseudo-panner using the Arp. This was a pretty interesting technique so I thought I would provide the file here: arp-auto-panner-idea Enjoy!

Selig also had a comment on the Propellerhead forum that is important when talking about panning your audio. I thought I would quote him here, as it’s a very good point:

“The main problem I always had with using the CV Pan input is that the panning only goes half way to either side – I want a panner that goes ALL THE WAY!!! And the easy way to accomplish that is to route the LFO’s CV output (from any synth) to a combinator Rotary Knob’s rear input (cranking the little knob up all the way) and assign it to the mixer’s Panner with the combi’s Programmer. Check it out – NOW you have some serious P – A – N – N – I – N – G ! And all your cool tips will still apply. :-)”