50 – Matrix Track Building (Part 3)

In this tutorial, I’m going to finish up our Matrix song, and then explore the differences between the Matrix and the Thor Step Sequencer in a little more detail. It’s important to note the differences between the two and how one is not necessarily better than the other. Although I would argue that Thor’s step sequencer is much more advanced from a programming standpoint. I think the Matrix still has a lot to offer and still provides a lot of possible uses. So don’t shelve it just yet.

In this tutorial, I’m going to finish up our Matrix song, and then explore the differences between the Matrix and the Thor Step Sequencer in a little more detail. It’s important to note the differences between the two and how one is not necessarily better than the other. Although I would argue that Thor’s step sequencer is much more advanced from a programming standpoint. I think the Matrix still has a lot to offer and still provides a lot of possible uses. So don’t shelve it just yet.

Creating a Bell Fill

This time we’ll use the Matrix in a new way, as an Arpeggiator. I know if you have Reason 4 and up, you have the great RPG-8 (which I’ve explored in a different series of tutorials). This time, however, we’ll use the Matrix to arpeggiate your sounds. In this specific case, the Bell Fill track is used to add some arpeggiated notes into the song. Creating an Arpeggio with a Matrix is really easy. Think of it this way: You need one Matrix to play the notes/gate and another Matrix to apply the Arpeggiator. In the second Matrix, the Note CV is sent to the Osc. Pitch CV input (Osc. Pitch is a CV input on all Reason Synths and Samplers).

In this case, a Thor is used to create a Bell sound using 2 FM Pair Oscillators, and then one Matrix is sent to the Note/Gate CV input on the Thor (this plays the Thor in a normal way), and another Matrix Note CV output is sent into the CV1 input. On the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS), the CV1 input is sent to the 2 Oscillator Pitches. Any notes you input on this second Matrix device will adjust the Pitch as the Thor is played; i.e.: it arpeggiates the Notes being played. This gives you a great degree of control over your Bell sound.

Song Cleanup

Finally, we’ll do a little bit of cleanup to the song overall. First, we’ll add a Reverb as a send to all the tracks and “glue” the whole song together. Second, we’ll add a Mastering Suite underneath the Hardware Interface to master the entire track. Note that this is just a starting point. You can tweak all the mastering device parameters to fit the song as you see fit. But it’s a good starting point to try out some of the Mastering Suites that are included with Reason and Record. For that matter, you can bring everything into Record and use the SSL to master your track. So many options.

Probably more important is the fact that if you have Reason 5 (not sure about Reason 4), you can select all the Matrix Sequencer tracks (using Ctrl+Right-clicking on the tracks at the left section of the sequencer) and select “Convert Pattern Automation to Notes.” This is a very handy way to convert all the pattern automation you’ve spent so much time getting “just right” into note clips on note lanes. Once this is done, you’ll have to move all the note clips to their respective Combinator tracks. The Pattern lanes are automatically muted for you though, because the expectation is that you won’t want to have them playing or “doubling” up, after you move the note clips to the Combinator lanes.

This little trick provides you with the ability to then go in and adjust individual notes or entire note clips using the “Sequencer Tools” (F8). You can quantize, Transpose, adjust velocity, randomize notes, Scale Tempo, etc.

So there in a nutshell is how you can use the Matrix to build a track in Reason. Now I think I’ll try building one with nothing but Subtractors. That should be an interesting task. As always, let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions on ways in which you can use the Matrix within Reason and Record.

If you want to download the final song file, along with all the separate Combinators, you can find them here: Matrix-Track-Building. The file includes a final .rns file as well as the separate Combinators. The reason the Combinators are provided is because I’m running reason version 5. But for this project, I stuck only to devices you would find in both version 4.0 and 5.0. So if you can’t open the .rns file, then you have the Combinators and can reconstruct things yourself if you like. It’s more fun that way anyhow. Note: please respect that these project files, like everything else on this site, is under the Creative Commons 3.0 licensing, meaning you can mix, remix, share, and play around with the song to your heart’s content, but you will need to provide the source info and a link back to my site here in any productions you do with this file. Share and share alike ok? And you can’t make any money off the file. It’s not going to win any awards anyway. But if you remix or play with the file, send them back to me privately and I’d be happy to showcase them here in a new posting (send to my email in the top menu), I’d love to see what you come up with. Don’t be shy! 😉

Where do you go from here?

Well you have the file, so feel free to remix and play with it and send it back my way. I’d love to take a listen. As I put together this posting, I also thought a little more about the comparison between the Matrix step sequencer and the Thor step sequencer, so I’ll leave off with a look at both in a side-by-side comparison. Just to give everyone a little more food for thought about both, and when one would be better suited over the other. In asking some people on “The Sound of Reason” website which was more advantageous than the other, I got some mixed responses. Most found the Matrix to be easier to use live, but they also found the Thor sequencer to be advanced on a number of fronts. I’ll let you decide. For now, the jury seems to say that both are still very much necessary, and they are more like sisters than a parent-child relationship.

So let’s take a rundown of the Pros and Cons of each by providing a side-to-side comparison:

Matrix Thor Notes
Pattern Enable Yes Yes You can use the “Step Seq.” button on the Thor Controller (top panel) to enable or disable the Step Sequencer.
Pattern Reset No Yes (non-automatable button).
Number of Patterns 8 Patterns x 4 banks = 32 1 Obviously, the Matrix can produce more pattern variations than Thor. You will need to create a new instance of Thor for each pattern you want to input.
Pattern Randomization 2 Options (via right-click context menu):
Alter Pattern
1 Option (via right-click context menu):
Dear Props: Please add Alter Pattern to Thor. Pretty please with a cherry on top.
Convert Patterns to Notes Yes (via right-click context menu). No This is the biggest beef users have with Thor. You can’t send the Thor sequencer data to the Main Reason/Record sequencer, either as patterns or as notes.  Nuff said.
Number of Steps 1 – 32 (selectable via digital input and up/down arrows). Non-automatable. 1- 16 (selectable via lighted square step buttons) or Step Count knob.

Note that the Step Count knob is automatable, while the step buttons are not.

Thor’ step count knob is automatable, which means you can automate the number of steps, but since you can’t automate the step buttons, you can’t automate turning steps on or off.
Pattern Input Type Note/ Bar visual display (non-automatable) 16 Rotary inputs (non-automatable)
Resolution Input Type Rotary (labeled dial) Rotary (digital dial)
Step Directions 1 direction:
5 directions:
Pendulum 1
Pendulum 2
Run Button Yes (non-automatable) Yes (non-automatable) It’s a little unfair to say that the Thor Run button is not automatable. As with most things in Reason/Record, there are workarounds. And you can get it to run using the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) or CV to trigger the sequencer.

As far as I can tell though, there’s no way to automate the Matrix Run button.

Run Modes No 4 modes:
Mute Light Yes Yes
Sync Capability Yes Yes
Synced Rate / Resolution 9 Positions (non-automatable):
1/8T (Triplet)
1/16T (Triplet)
21 Positions:
1/2T (Triplet)
1/4T (Triplet)
1/16D (Dotted)
1/8T (Triplet)
1/16T (Triplet)
Synced Rates/Resolutions which are shared between the two are in Bold.

While the Matrix has less positions, it has two positions Thor does not: 1/128 and 1/2. Though I would venture that using 8/4 and 2/4 is the same as using 1/2.

Non-Sync Capability No (always synced) Yes
Non-Synced Range N/A .10 Hz – 250 Hz.
Notes Yes (5-Octave Range from C1 to C6) Yes (Full Range from C-2 to G8) Note that for Thor, there are 3 global Note modes: “2,” “4,” and “Full” octave ranges.

Note also that for Thor, the Octave switch is not automatable

Velocity Yes (Range is 0 – 127) Yes (Range is 0 – 127) Note: in Thor you can see a digital readout of the Velocity value. In the Matrix you do not see the precise value. It’s a bit of a guess to get the Velocity exact. Though workarounds exist to see the numerical CV value (see Part 1 of this series of Matrix tutorials).
Gate Length 3 states:
Off (0)
Half (50%)
Tied (100%)
100 States (Full Range of 0% – 100%)
Step Duration Static Varied (17 Positions):
This parameter is different than the gate length. Whereas Gate Length determines how long the gate stays open, Step Duration signifies how long the note plays.

Put another way, this allows you to create a self-contained tempo inside Thor’s Step Sequencer. Something you can’t do with the Matrix because all steps are a static value. There is no ability to change step duration for each note played.

If you use Step Duration in Thor, generally, you’re going to want your entire pattern to equal the same value as the overall tempo. This means if you change One step duration downward, you want to change another one upward to compensate.

If you don’t compensate, you’ll end up with a pattern that’s out of sync (which of course may be what you want, but probably not).

Try it out to get a feel for how it operates. If you go too far, there’s always the “Reset” button.

Curve 1 Yes. 2 “modes”:
Unipolar (Range: 0 – 127)
Bipolar (Range: -64 to +64)
Yes. 1 “mode”:
Unipolar (Range: 0 – 127)
Curve 2 No Yes. 1 “mode”:
Unipolar (Range: 0 – 127)
Shuffle Yes (valid for Resolution values 1/8T and above).

This is non-automatable, but is set on a per-pattern basis.

No Though Thor does not have a Shuffle feature, you are usually better off using the ReGroove functionality for Both Thor and the Matrix.

In Thor, you can use the Step Duration to shuffle as well.

Editing Input / Edit Knob Note / Step / Gate / Velocity are drawn in by hand. Rotaries are available for each step, and are turned for one value at a time (determined by the Edit knob).

Note that the edit knob as well as the steps and Rotaries are all non-automatable.

This makes for easier “Live” editing input for the Matrix. Thor can be a little difficult and unwieldy to enter. It takes more time and precision to lay down a pattern.
CV Capability (all of which are non-automatable)
CV Outputs 3 Outputs:
Curve CV
Note CV
Gate CV
6 Outputs:
Gate / Velocity
Curve 1
Curve 2
Start of Seq. Out
End of Seq. Out
This is where Thor really shines, because there is an extra Curve CV, and extra CV outputs that can get sent to other locations when the Sequencer starts and/or stops.
CV Inputs None 5 Inputs:
Gate In (Trig)
Rate In
Pitch In
Gate Length In
Velocity In
Again, Thor has some nice input capability where CV can be used to send values into the Sequencer to Trigger all kinds of Parameters.

For example, you can have the sequencer run (and play a short sequenced thor melody, for example) based on a Kick by sending the CV from the Kick drum into the Gate In (Trig) CV input.

*Note: Unless otherwise specified, all above parameters are automatable in the sequencer.

In leaving, I’ll say this: They both have their respective places. And what you want to do in your tracks is going to determine which step sequencer you use. One question that I can’t seem to shake is why on earth the Props didn’t provide the ability for the Thor step sequencer to create 64 patterns in a single device, and provide the same kind of editing interface that the Matrix has? If these two things were implemented, the Thor step sequencer would go light years beyond the Matrix and would probably negate the need to keep using the Matrix altogether. These two feature implementations would solve the two biggest issues: multiple patterns per device, and an editing environment that is easy to manipulate in a “live” environment. So if the props are listening, take note: This would help the users out immensely!

Your thoughts?

And after writing this, Sterioevo was kind enough to provide this cool little patch which shows how you can chain several Thor sequencers together to create a giant 256-Step-Transposable-Sequencer. No this is not a tutorial on Thor necessarily, but it shows that with some creative CV routing, you can get an amazing thing going on. Very cool stuff!

49 – Matrix Track Building (Part 2)

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

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

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

Kick Drum and Roll Creation

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

Snare and Hi Hat Creation

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

Entering a Bass Line and Variations

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

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

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

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

Creating the Lead

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

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

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

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

Adding Pads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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