Next up in the Reason101 series of PDF Guides for Rack Extension devices, I chose to cover the Alias8 CV Controller from Peff, a virtual controller “bridge” between your hardware surface and the Reason Rack. Control other instruments in the Reason Rack via CV inputs & outputs that you set up in any way you like. You can use it to create a Template or multiple Templates to allow one main place where all your devices are controlled (acting as a Hub). Though the controller can be mapped to any MIDI Control surface, it excels if you have the Alias8 from Livid Instruments, on which it is modeled, providing very tight integration between that controller and Reason. One of the most flexible controllers inside the Reason Rack.
Here, I put together an 8-page PDF, with an introduction and overview of the Alias8, and some creative ideas for how to use it in practical routing scenarios. If you are familiar with the book I wrote on the core devices in Reason, then you’ll already be familiar with the layout. There’s a bunch of samples on the book page which you can download to get an idea of how these PDFs are put together. Here’s an outline of what you’ll get in the Alias8 guide, specifically:
Complete coverage of the device, both front and back, with all controls and routing options explained.
Explanation of how to map the Alias8 to your MIDI Controller hardware
Plenty of Tips & Tricks
Switching Alias8 knobs from Unipolar to Bipolar
Alias8 Combinator Control
Alias8 Master Crossfader
Enabling Matrix Patterns & Pattern Switching
Alias8 Step Sequencer
And the cost for all of this? $1.99 – the cost of a cup of coffee (or tea, for my friends across the pond).
In this next installment of the Reason 101 guide to creating better patches, I’m going to focus on setting up the Wheels, Rotaries, and Buttons in Thor, and discuss some creative ways you can implement your modulations. Hopefully this will provide you with some further inspiration when you’re building your sounds.
In this next installment of the Reason 101 guide to creating better patches, I’m going to focus on setting up the Wheels, Rotaries, and Buttons in Thor, and discuss some creative ways you can implement your modulations. Hopefully this will provide you with some further inspiration when you’re building your sounds.
The Pitch Bend Wheel
The Pitch Bend Wheel is a bipolar (it goes both positive and negative) bend wheel that is normally used to apply pitch modulation to the sound. The bend modulates the pitch smoothly upward or downward by a specific set of semitones (as outlined in the “Range” field — Thor can go from 0-24 semitones for a maximum two octave range). In terms of MIDI data, the Pitch Wheel goes from a value of -8,192 to 8,191. In the majority of circumstances, you’ll want the Pitch Wheel to modulate the note value (pitch) of the sound, and this is the default behavior (meaning, you don’t need to set anything up in the MBRS to use it to control the Pitch of your patch – however, you DO need to have the KBD knob in the Oscillators tracking the keyboard for the Pitch Wheel to have an effect on pitch – the knob should be set at a position other than zero, and usually set fully right). However, there are cases where pitch is either not necessary to the sound you are developing, or you may simply wish to modulate something other than pitch. You can easily do this in Thor.
A good example where Pitch may not be necessary is if you are using the Step Sequencer to set up a specific sequence to play the Thor patch with specific note values in mind, or if you are restricting your patch to play at specific pitches, and don’t want the user changing the pitch on you. If that’s the case, you set up the sequence using the Note value in the step sequencer. Another example might be if you have a drum sound that doesn’t require pitching. Though, I have to admit, it’s pretty rare that I program something other than Pitch on the Pitch Wheel.
If you are NOT going to use the Pitch Wheel to modulate the Pitch parameter in Thor, you’ll need to do the following:
First, if your patch is pitch-capable, meaning you are tracking pitch along the keyboard (using the KBD knob set fully right in the oscillator sections), you can force the Pitch Wheel to be non-responsive to the pitch by reducing the Pitch Wheel range to zero (0).
Next, I would strongly advise you to assign something to the Pitch Wheel using the MBRS. Remember that most everyone that has a Piano, Organ, or MIDI controller will have a Pitch Wheel, and to leave it unassigned is going to make the musician wonder why nothing is happening when they use it. And this article is all about making better patches right? So assign something to the Pitch Wheel.
When you assign a parameter to the Pitch Wheel, remember that the wheel is bipolar. This makes it a little more tricky when assigning modulation parameters. If the destination you are modulating is already bipolar in nature, it’s relatively straightforward. The most obvious parameter I can think of is the Amp > Pan parameter. By default, the Amp Pan knob in Thor’s voice section is centered in the middle of the stereo field. If you add the following line in the MBRS:
Pitch Bend : -100 > Amp Pan
Then, when the Pitch Wheel is pushed upward, the sound is panned left. When the Pitch Wheel is pushed downward, the sound is panned right. As with all MBRS settings, you can reverse this relationship, as follows:
Pitch Bend : 100 > Amp Pan
Then, when the Pitch Wheel is pushed upward, the sound is panned right. When the Pitch Wheel is pushed downward, the sound is panned left.
The default position of the Pitch Wheel is the same as the position of your Amp Pan knob (centered in the stereo field). If you were to change the position of the Pan knob to be more left or right, the Pitch Wheel will have a different “starting” position, based on this pan knob’s position.
So now, if you want to use the Pitch Wheel as a source to modulate a unipolar destination (Amp Gain, for example), you need to think a little harder about your starting position for the gain knob. If you turn the amp gain knob all the way down (fully left), and enter the following in the MBRS:
Pitch Bend : 75 > Amp Gain
The Pitch Wheel will turn the Gain up by 75% in volume when you push the wheel upward. But nothing will happen when you push the wheel downward. In order to have some movement in both directions, you need to turn your unipolar destination control (the Amp Gain knob in this example) to a more “middle” starting location. This is because the Pitch Wheel is bipolar and can move in two different directions (up or down). The Amount in the MBRS which is assigned between the Pitch Wheel and the destination determines how much the destination is modulated “in both directions.” Positive or Negative amount values simply determine which direction the modulation occurs. Put another way:
Positive Mod Amount = Pitch Wheel up (moves Positive from the destination’s start position); Pitch Wheel down (moves Negative from the destination’s start position).
Negative Mod Amount = Pitch Wheel up (moves Negative from the destination’s start position); Pitch Wheel down (moves Positive from the destination’s start position).
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from combining effects. You could raise the Pitch Wheel range back up to 2 (whole tone; major second), 4 (major third), 7 (perfect fifth) or 12 (Octave), and combine the Pitch bend with the Pan bend. Or any other combination of Thor destination parameters you like.
In the physical world, the Pitch Wheel’s default starting position is in the middle (in the virtual world, this is a bipolar value of zero), and you can move the Pitch Wheel up (positive) or down (negative). If you move the wheel all the way up or down, and let go of the wheel, an internal spring will send it back to the zero position. In Reason, the same thing happens. If you move the Pitch Wheel up with the mouse, for example, and let it go, the wheel reverts back to the default zero position. For this reason, you cannot save the Pitch Wheel in a position other than zero when saving your patch.
Of course, if you are saving the song file, there is a very simple workaround for saving the Pitch Bend at a location other than the default zero. Simply add an automation lane in the main sequencer in your song, and draw the automation at any value you like. Then save the song. The automation forces the Pitch Wheel to be saved at a location other than zero. This is probably never necessary though, if in fact you are using the Pitch Wheel to control Note Pitch, because you can always just change the pitch of your Oscillators in Thor. But this could be a valid approach if you have some other modulations set up on the Pitch Wheel and need to have the Wheel start at a value other than zero.
The Modulation Wheel
The Mod Wheel is a unipolar (it goes positive only) wheel that is used mainly for Vibrato, Tremolo, or both. From a MIDI standpoint, it goes from a value of zero (0) to 127. However, as with the Pitch Wheel, the Mod Wheel can be used to modulate any parameters you like in Thor. By default, the Mod Wheel always starts from a position of zero as well, but it does not “spring” back to zero if you raise it and let go of it. For example, if you move the mod wheel up to a value of 70, then save the patch. The next time you open the patch, the Mod Wheel will “start” at zero. But if you are performing while using the Mod Wheel, you can raise it to 70 and let go. It will still remain at 70 until you stop the song. The value setting of 70 is not retained from session to session, but is retained while you are performing. In the world of physical controllers, the Mod Wheel has no spring.
Of course, there’s nothing preventing you from drawing an automation lane for the Mod Wheel in the main sequencer in Reason, and assigning a different value, then saving the Reason song file (as explained in the Pitch Wheel note above).
Since the Mod wheel is common to about 99% of all keyboards, both traditional piano instruments and MIDI Keyboard controllers, and Rotaries / Buttons are much less common, I usually ensure that the modulation that is most important for the patch is applied to the Mod Wheel. Less important modulations should be placed on the Rotaries and Buttons. Aside from that, if your patch calls for Tremolo or Vibrato, the Mod Wheel is a good location for this, since it just “makes sense” for the musician to access these effects from the Mod Wheel.
It should also be noted that while the focus of this article series is using the front panel of Thor to modulate parameters and build better patches, you have several CV options on the back of Thor. These CV options can be used to control the Pitch and Mod Wheels, Rotaries, and Buttons of Thor (Note: Buttons have no direct CV inputs or outputs, but can be controlled by wrapping the Thor inside a Combinator and using the Combinator’s programmer).
The two Rotaries in Thor’s Controller panel can be used to modulate any parameters in Thor via the MBRS. Practically speaking, the Rotaries serve the same purpose as the Mod Wheel, except that it’s a knob instead of a wheel. There’s also one other difference: Rotaries can have a starting position anywhere between the left and right side of the dial. Something the Mod Wheel cannot do (the Mod Wheel always starts at a position of zero, remember). I typically use Rotaries to create variations in the Timbre of the patch, frequency, FM applications between Oscillators and filters, Mixing between Oscillators, Crossover effects (see my Thor Crossfading Techniques for some ideas on this), Delay or Chorus levels, or any other aspects of the patch that could prove useful.
If the patch is a drum patch, I sometimes will put the delay time on the Rotary and then have the Delay On / Off assigned to a button under that Rotary. This can produce rolls for your drums. Of course, these are all just idea springboards. You can assign any source parameter to modulate any destination parameter in Thor, and so outlining them all is not practical in a tutorial such as this. The key here is your imagination and creativity.
One piece of advice though: If you are assigning modulations to the Rotary (as a source), try to assign more than one destination in Thor. For example, assigning Rotary 1 to control the Filter Frequency will at least make your patch “good” because you at least have Rotary 1 doing something. But assigning Rotary 1 to raise Filter 1 Frequency while reducing Filter 1 Resonance, or assigning Rotary 1 to Raise Filter 1 Frequency while reducing Filter 2 Frequency and at the same time raising the AM amount between two oscillators can raise your sound design idea from “good” to “great.” I’m not saying that every Rotary and Button should have more than one assignment, but often times, you can create more subtle variation in the sound, or create something that is much more dynamic, responsive, and unique by layering your modulations. This advice goes not just for the Rotaries, but any modulations you develop inside your patch. Always look at ways you can improve upon what you’ve done. And always try lots of experimentation. Sometimes you’ll come across an unexpected result that can improve your patch.
The two Buttons in Thor’s Controller panel can be used to modulate any parameters in Thor via the MBRS. Because the buttons can contain only two positions, this makes them the perfect place to create on/off modulations. However, it would be careless to think that these controls are simplistic. You can create some amazing variety within a two-setting limit. For example, think about creating two distinct instruments within a single Thor patch. Or even four, if you want to be so bold and use two different buttons. These are what I call “Hybrid” patches. Here is one example:
First, you can easily change a Synth sound into a Pad sound using little more than the Attack and Release of the Amp Envelope. Leave the Decay and Sustain levels somewhere in the middle or higher up, and when the Attack and Release are short, the patch can sound like a synth. Modulate the Attack and Release higher up, and the synth will take on a pad-like quality. In the MBRS, the settings would go something like this:
Note that you can set up two destinations in the top right MBRS row, which sets up a shorthand to use one source to modulate two different parameters. This uses one single row for two modulations.
Try creating a Bass / Synth hybrid or a Bass Drum / Snare Drum hybrid. Challenge yourself to come up with a few hybrid patches like this, just for the fun of it.
Some other modulations I usually place on the buttons are things like a one-stop Chorus or Delay on/off button. For example, if I’m putting the Chorus on a button, I first turn on the Chorus, then set up the Chorus parameters to specific settings that works with the patch I’m creating (Delay, Feedback, Rate, and Amount; but not the Dry/Wet knob). Once I have everything set up, turn the Dry/Wet knob completely off (turned fully left). Then in the MBRS, I would add the following line:
Button1 : [“X” Amount] > Chorus Dry/Wet
where “X Amount” is the amount you set up as you listen to the patch and play it back. Usually settings between 60-80 are a pretty good range, though it depends on the sound you’re going for.
Since you have turned off the Dry/Wet knob in the Chorus section, the Dry/Wet value is determined entirely with the MBRS setting you just entered. When the button is off, there is no Chorus. When the button is turned on, the Chorus you just set up is turned on. Simple and elegant.
Think about putting a Drum Roll on the button using Delay, or using the Shaper or FM between oscillators to create distortion. Or Frequency Wobbling for a bass. As with the Rotaries, the sky is the limit. Modulate, modulate, modulate.
Lastly, another reason I use Buttons is to reverse modulations around. I alluded to this when I was discussing Velocity in Part 2 of this series, but let’s look at it from another example. Let’s say you modulate your pitch upward using the Mod Envelope. You would first raise the Decay of the Mod Envelope, and then set up two lines in the MBRS as follows:
Mod Envelope : 30 > Osc1 Pitch : -100 > Button 1
Mod Envelope : -30 > Osc1 Pitch: 100 > Button 1
This means that when the button is off, the Decay of the Mod Envelope bends the pitch upward by an amount of “30” (noted by the first line in the MBRS). When the button is turned on, the same Decay of the Mod Envelope bends the pitch downward by an amount of “30” (noted by the second line in the MBRS). The button acts as a reversal of your modulation.
Button Key Triggers
One other really useful aspect of the buttons is the fact that you can assign a MIDI Key from your keyboard to turn the Button on and off. Use the arrows to the right of the Button (also called a “spin box” control) to select a key. Then as you play, use the Key that is assigned to that button to turn the button on. This works as a “Momentary Trigger,” meaning that the button will remain on as long as your key is pressed down on your keyboard, and turns off when you lift your finger off the key.
For example, if you set up the Chorus on a button as I outlined above. Then use C-2 as the key trigger, you can play your patch using any of the other keys, and press C-2 to hear the Chorus affecting the sound of your patch as you play. If you have set up the hybrid Synth/Pad patch that I outlined above, you could easily switch between the two timbres of the patch using a key trigger, and do all of this “Live” as you play. Great fun
Thor’s Built-in Tutorials & Mod Wheel Vibrato
If you flip to the back of the Thor device Programmer panel, you’ll see a lot of great tutorials that can be used as starting points. Let’s take a look at the first one, which sets up Vibrato on the Mod Wheel, and see if we can expand on it. This will also be a good excercise to show you how changing a few MBRS settings can extend the power of one simple concept: Vibrato, turning it into a Vibrato / Tremolo crossfade that can be turned on and off.
First, Let’s flip back to the front panel again and Initialize the Thor patch.
Enter the Mod Wheel Vibrato settings in the first row of the MBRS, as outlined in the above Thor tutorial.
Next, let’s set up Tremolo (change in volume) on the Mod Wheel to hear how that sounds instead of Vibrato. Just change the destination from “Osc1Pitch” to “Amp Gain.” And turn the amount between the Source and Destination up to around 66, so we can hear the effect better. That’s pretty easy stuff right?
Ok. Let’s take things a little further by creating a cross-over between Tremolo & Vibrato and place it on Rotary 1 instead of the Mod Wheel, by replacing the line we entered previously with the following two lines in the MBRS:
LFO 2 : 25 > Osc1 Pitch : -100 > Rotary 1
LFO 2 : 66 > Amp Gain : 100 > Rotary 1
This is a great way to use one Rotary to control the Vibrato & Tremolo effect of your patch, however, it means that the effect is always applied to the sound in your patch. There’s no way to turn the Vibrato & Tremolo “off.” To do this in a very clean way inside the Thor MBRS, you can utilize the “double-scaler” rows located in the bottom right part of Thor’s MBRS. Be sure to delete the above lines in the MBRS and replace them with the two lines shown below. Also don’t forget to label the Rotary 1 and Button 1 as shown below:
This process of adding a second scale to both lines allows us to scale our modulations with two different controls. Put another way, the pitch and amp gain are always controlled by Rotary 1 from left to right when Button 1 is on, but they are not controlled by Rotary 1 when Button 1 is off. With a little extra thought, and a few more MBRS assignments, you can use Rotary 1 to control something completely different when Button 1 is off as well. This way, Button 1 becomes a switch between the Vibrato/Tremolo effect AND something else. It also means that Rotary 1 will be modulating something inside your patch, whether Button 1 is On or Off. But I’ll let you take it from there and figure that one out on your own. If you’ve been following all these tutorials, that should be child’s play for you.
More Great Sound Design Ideas
The Props are putting on a really great video-based series centered around Sound Design, and they’ve been kind enough to post my articles on their Facebook page in conjunction with this series. So I wanted to return the favor and provide a link to check out their videos here (in the event you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard about them). You’ll learn a lot from each one of them. Check them all out in the following playlist:
So far, we’ve gone through the discussion of keeping Consistent levels, working with Performance parameters such as Velocity, Key Scaling, Aftertouch, and Wheel assignments; and dealing with the User-assignable Rotaries and Buttons. Along the way, I hope I’ve also given you a thorough introduction to the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) in Thor. In the next part, I’ll go through a few more examples to take what we’ve learned here and translate it into some patch design ideas and improvements to existing patches. More thoughts on all this later. In the meantime, tell me what you think of this series, and let me know if you have any ideas that have come out of these articles. As always, I’d love to hear from you. Happy music-making!
This is a problem that plagued me for a long time but with Thor, I found a very easy workaround. The idea is simple. I wanted to gain access to more than 32 patterns with a single Rotary on a Combinator. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks and I had one of those “of course!” moments. I mean come on. Doesn’t everyone feel limited with only 32 patterns accessible from a Combinator rotary? How about 64 patterns?
Let’s take a breather from all the Reason 5 action. Since many people are still on Reason 4, let’s do something that everyone in 4 & 5 can do together. This is a problem that plagued me for a long time but with Thor, I found a very easy workaround. The idea is simple. I wanted to gain access to more than 32 patterns with a single Rotary on a Combinator. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks and I had one of those “of course!” moments. I mean come on. Doesn’t everyone feel limited with only 32 patterns accessible from a Combinator rotary? How about if I showed you how to double the amount of patterns you could access. Would that be worth 10 minutes of your time?
Here is the project file for this tutorial: 64-patterns. It contains an .rns file (it was created in Reason 5, so I’m not sure if those with Reason 4 can open it or not. If not, let me know and I can create the same file in R4 for you). In the rns file there are two Combinator ideas. One that contains 64-pattern switching, and the other contains 128-pattern switching. Note that I have not populated all the matrixes with fully loaded patterns. Instead there is a single pattern on A1 for all the Matrixes. This way I was able to test switching from one matrix to another. It’s up to you to load the Matrixes with your own patterns, random or otherwise. Both Combinators are connected to the same mixer, so you will need to mute one channel to hear the outcome of the other and vice-versa. Have fun with these!
So let’s get down to business. . .
So why would you ever want to do this. Well, it gets me closer to what I would like to see out of Reason: a way to create truly generative music, where you can press a button and set sail a sea of sound that is ever-changing. Great if you want to have some Pad or Ambient sounds drift on in the background, ever changing and always new and interesting. You could also incorporate this into your glitch effects as a controlling device to provide an endless range of chaotic buzzes, blips and shazams. How you use it is really up to your own creativity. But at least with 64 (and even 128) different patterns, you can create a pretty long string of variety that, if played through from start to finish, no human could discern the repetition (think of it this way: at 120 BPM, a normal 4/4 bar with 64 patterns shifting at every 4 bars would last 8.5 minutes before any repetition occurs. In the case of 128 patterns, you could end up with an ever-changing pattern lasting 17 minutes long without any repetition.
Yes, it’s a little spastic and insane, but it can definitely prove interesting, even as nothing more than a creative experiment. So let’s take a look at how you can create 64 patterns on one Combinator rotary knob.
First, create a Combinator and inside create a 6:2 line mixer. Then, holding the Shift key down to force Reason not to autoroute the devices, create a sound source (let’s take a Subtractor so that we can differentiate from the Thor device which we’ll use as a CV switcher). Also create 2 Spider CV Mergers/Splitters, a Thor, and one Matrix pattern sequencer.
Load up the Matrix sequencer with 32 patterns, then duplicate the matrix so that you have another copy with the same 32 patterns. At this point, change the patterns on the second matrix so that you have a new set of 32 unique patterns in the second matrix.
You may want to temporarily tie the matrix to a sound source device so that you can audition the patterns and how they sound. You may alternately want random patterns, in which case you can select the Matrix device and press Ctrl+R in order to randomize a pattern into a pattern bank. Go to the next pattern (A2) and do the same. And so on, until you have all 32 pattern banks filled.
Next, flip the rack around and start making connections. Send the Audio output of the Subtractor to the Audio Input of channel 1 on the Line Mixer. Send the Note CV output of Matrix 1 to the CV 1 input on the Thor. Send the Gate ouput of Matrix 1 to the CV 2 input on Thor. Then send the Note CV output of Matrix 2 to the CV 3 input on the Thor. Send the Gate ouput of Matrix 2 to the CV 4 input on Thor.
Send CV 1 & CV3 outputs from Thor into the Merge input 1 & 2 on the first Spider. Then CV 2 & CV4 outputs from Thor into the Merge input 1 & 2 on the second Spider.
Send the merge output from Spider 1 to the CV input on the Subtractor, and merge output from Spider 2 to the Gate input on the Subtractor. Also, turn the trim knobs on all the CV merge inputs that are occupied fully right (set to 127). If you don’t do this, you won’t get what you expect when you start playing the patterns.
Now that everything is routed, we need to tell Thor what do do with all that CV stuff. So flip the rack around to the front again, and click the “Show Programmer button on Thor.
Note: Since the Thor device is only used for CV purposes, you can remove all of Thor’s audio settings (bypass the Oscillator and Filter, turn off all the envelopes, etc.). Alternately, you can open up the Combinator Programming panel and deselect the “Receive Notes” checkbox for the Thor device. Either way will work.
Once the Thor programmer is open, enter the following in the Modulation Bus Routing System (MBRS):
CV In1: 0 > CV Out1
CV In2: 0 > CV Out2
CV In3: 0 > CV Out3
CV In4: 0 > CV Out4
Now let’s do a little programming in the Combinator. Open up the Programmer panel for the Combinator. Select the Thor device and enter the following:
Button 1 > Mod 1 Dest Amount: 100 / 0
Button 1 > Mod 2 Dest Amount: 100 / 0
Button 1 > Mod 3 Dest Amount: 0 / 100
Button 1 > Mod 4 Dest Amount: 0 / 100
Then select each matrix and tie them both to Rotary 1 as follows:
Rotary 1> Pattern Select: 0 / 31
Press button 1 twice to initialize it (turn it on and off). Also turn Rotary 1 in order to initialize it. Now when you play the sound source, moving Rotary 1 around will select pattern 1 – 32 on Matrix 1. When you press Button 1, the Rotary switches to Matrix 2 and you’ll be hearing pattern 1-32 on Matrix 2. This switch is instantaneous simply because both Matrix patterns are running at the same time. Thor and the Spiders are used to switch from one matrix to the other on-the-fly. It’s really that simple.
And now let’s go for broke!
Awesome. We have 64 patterns. Let’s go for broke. Let’s create 128 patterns! Because you can never have enough patterns. In this case, you essentially have to duplicate what you did for the previous section, and create a second set of 64 patterns on Rotary 2 / Button 2 in your Combinator. Once you’ve created those, and routed them up and programmed them (Tip: duplicate all your devices, that way you don’t have to reprogram the Thor again, and instead just need to set up the routings).
Once that’s done, you’ll need to create yet one more Thor and 2 Spider Mergers/Splitters. This time, you’re going to take the merged output from the two spiders hooked up to Thor #1 and the merged output from the two spiders hooked up to Thor #2, and send them through the third Thor. The CV outs from Thor will then go into the 2 Spider Mergers/Splitters you just set up (on the merged side), and then the merged output from both will go into the CV / Gate inputs on the sound source device (in this case, the Subtractor).
Now the only thing left to do is to program the Combinator. Open up the Programmer, select Thor #3, and again enter the following:
Button 3 > Mod 1 Dest Amount: 100 / 0
Button 3 > Mod 2 Dest Amount: 100 / 0
Button 3 > Mod 3 Dest Amount: 0 / 100
Button 3 > Mod 4 Dest Amount: 0 / 100
Matrix 1 & 2 will need to have their “Pattern Select” both tied to Rotary 1, while Matrixes 3 & 4 will need to have their “Pattern Select” both tied to Rotary 2.
This way, Rotary 1 controls which pattern is selected on Matrix 1 & 2 (64 patterns in total), and Rotary 2 controls which pattern is selected on Matrix 3 & 4 (64 additional patterns). Button 3 acts as a toggle switch between the two sets of Matrixes (Matrixes 1 & 2 on Rotary 1, and Matrixes 3 & 4 on Rotary 2). Phew. That’s it. You’re all set to play with the Rotaries/Buttons to switch between 128 unique patterns programmed into 4 Matrixes. If that’s not enough patterns, then even Reason can’t help you out.
I know this might get a little confusing for some of you. It was confusing to set up the first few times. But if you run into trouble, just download the project files up at the beginning of this tutorial. There’s a fully-functional 128-pattern switcher Combinator in there. Good luck!
So as far as practical applications, if you really need 64 or 128 unique patterns affecting the same sound source, you can do it all within a Combinator. With a little routing ingenuity you could probably access the Redrum patterns in much the same way and extend your creativity further. How’s that for an idea? Do you have any comments or questions? please jump in and post them here. Until next time, happy reasoning!
The Question: How do you switch between multiple devices using a single Combinator Rotary. There are two methods to do this, one being good for those who have Reason 3, and the other more advanced method for those that have Reason 4 or Reason+Record. Learn both of these methods.
The Question: How do you switch between multiple devices using a single Combinator Rotary. There are two methods to do this, one being good for those who have Reason 3, and the other more advanced method for those that have Reason 4 or Reason+Record. The first method I’m going to call the “Matrix” method. The second is brought to us by Ed of EditEd4TV fame, and I’ll call this the “Thor Step Sequencer CV” method.
You can download the project files here: instrument-switchers. These include 2 .rns files outlining both methods below. I’ve also included the proper way to create an “Equal-Power Crossfader,” which seemed appropriate given that we’re talking about how to switch from one instrument to another. So if you have only 2 instruments and want to crossfade between them, you can look at the .rns file in the project file download to see how it’s done. If you want to learn more about it, you should read Peff’s detailed tutorial explaining this process over at the Propellerhead User Forum: One Hand in the Mix — Building Crossfaders using the Combinator. Anytime Peff offers something for you to read or download, you should always take advantage of that. His work is several notches above everyone else. And I’m not kidding!
This crossfader method has always been one of my favorites and one of the most useful building blocks in Reason, simply because you can use it in a variety of interesting ways, and map it to your hardware controller’s crossfader, if it has one.
The “Matrix” Method (for Reason 3 and up)
This method is the less preferred of the two methods, because there is a delay or lag involved in using the Matrix in this way. You can, however, change the time signature to 1/4 to reduce the lag, but any way you slice it, there will be a slight pause when transitioning from one instrument to the other using the Combinator Rotary. This just can’t be fixed. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t find some use from this method, and if you’re using Reason 3.0, then this is really the only solution you have, short of programming your mute/solo buttons in the sequencer. The method works like this:
In the combinator, let’s say you have 8 NN-XT devices, and all the devices are connected to a 14:2 mixer on their own channels. Create 8 matrix devices under the mixer and set them all to “Curve.” The curve should be unipolar. Program each of the matrixes to have the same 1-note, 1-step pattern. The level of the 1-step pattern should be raised fully. Now each subsequent matrix will have the pattern programmed on the next bank that follows, like below:
Matrix 1: A1; Bank A2-A8 should have the curve set to zero (fully off)
Matrix 2: A2; Bank A1 and A3-A8 should have the curve set to zero (fully off)
Matrix 3: A3; Bank A1, A2, and A4-A8 should have the curve set to zero (fully off)
Matrix 4: A4; Bank A1-A3 and A5-A8 should have the curve set to zero (fully off)
and so on. . .
Flip the rack and connect the curve CV from each of the matrixes to the levels in on each of the 14:2 mixer channels for each of the devices. Then turn the trim knob all the way right for all the level CV ins on the mixer.
Flip the rack around to the front, and set all the fader levels for all 8 channels on the mixer to zero (fully down).
Finally, program the same Combi Rotary for each matrix to affect the “Pattern Select” parameter with min: 0 and max: 7.
Now, when you turn the Rotary knob, it will run through all the matrix patterns and essentially only have one device playing at any given time. Each Matrix controls the level of each device, and only opens one device’s level at any one time.
It sounds much more complex than it is. But with this method, you can actually have the rotary adjust up to 32 different device levels; 1 device for each matrix pattern bank. There’s probably even a method to control more than this using 2 combinators linked together, but I haven’t delved that deeply into it, and I doubt you’d ever need to control more than 32 devices with a single Rotary. Perhaps that’s something which could be explored in another tutorial down the road. For right now, I’m much more excited about the next method below, used to control your instruments.
The “Thor Step Sequencer CV” Method (for Reason 4.0 or Reason+Record 1.0 and up — we hope!)
The second method capitalizes on a quirk in Reason which applies only to the Reverse or Random modes of the Thor Step Sequencer. Since this is a quirk, if the Props decide to “fix” this quirk in a future version of Reason or Record, we may be out of luck (and stuck with several Combinators that need to be redesigned), so hopefully this is a quirk that stays with Thor on into the future.
First, let’s build on what we previously did with the “Matrix” method. So open up the Combinator that you just built, and delete all the Matrix devices. Instead, in their place, create a Thor sequencer, and turn everything off. All the green lights need to go off, all the polyphony and pitch bend settings should be set to zero, and all the sliders in all the envelopes need to be turned down. Then bypass all the oscillators and remove all the filters. Just start at ground zero.
Next, in the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS), enter the following settings:
S.Curve 1: 100 > CV Out1
S.Curve 2: 100 > CV Out2
Seq.Note: 100 > CV Out3
In the Step Sequencer, set the Run Mode to “Step” and the Direction to “Reverse.” Also set the Octave setting to “Full.” Set the Edit knob to “Curve 1,” and set up the Step 1 curve to “100.” Then set curve 1 steps 2-8 to zero.
Move the Edit knob to “Curve 2,” and set up the Step 2 curve to “100.” Then set curve 2 steps 1 and 3-8 to zero.
Turn the Edit knob to “Note” and set up the Step 3 note to “E6.” Then set the note value for steps 1, 2, and 4-8 to “C-2.” C2 gives off a CV value of zero, while E6 gives off a CV value of 100. In this respect it acts just like the Curve values.
Flip the rack around and pipe the first 3 CV outs from Thor to the first 3 Level CV ins on channels 1-3 on the 14:2 Mixer. Duplicate the Thor two more times. The second Thor will handle steps 4-6 (Mixer channel 4-6 level CVs), and the third Thor will handle steps 7 & 8 (Mixer channel 7 & 8 level CVs).
Finally, go into the Combinator Mod Matrix and program the following for each of the Thor devices:
Rotary 1 > Step Count: 1 / 8
Now, when you turn the Rotary 1 knob, it will run through all 8 devices acting like a mute/solo button for all devices. If you think about the way this is working, it’s exactly like the Matrix idea, except you’re using the Step Sequencer in Thor. Each Thor handles 3 different mixer channels, and you can handle up to 15 devices at once with a Rotary (you can’t use the 16th step in the Step Sequencer in this way — but you can use all other 15 steps to control your instruments).
And here’s the magic numbers for the transitions between the 8 devices, using the Rotary:
Instrument 1: 0-18
Instrument 2: 19-36
Instrument 3: 37-54
Instrument 4: 55-72
Instrument 5: 73-90
Instrument 6: 91-108
Instrument 7: 109-126
Instrument 8: 127
Looking at these numbers, you’ll see that everything matches up just fine except the transition between instrument 7 and 8. Not sure why that is, but it’s a little quirky. Still, this technique is instantaneous between all the switches.
I haven’t yet taken a look to see what else can be done with this technique, but it certainly opens the door to a lot of other possibilities. If I get a chance, I’m going to try exploring some other avenues with this little trick and I’ll keep everyone posted. Let me know what you think of this tutorial, and if this will help you build your own patches. And thanks go out to Ed for taking the time to show me how this worked. If it weren’t for guys like Ed, we’d still be working on our patches in a cave.
Since Ed’s Thor Shaper article, I’ve been thinking about how to use this information in real-world examples. One idea is to crossfade the Grain Samples in the Malstrom and another idea is to crossfade all 4 Thor filters to affect one sound source. Lots of fun!
Since Ed’s Thor Shaper article, I’ve been thinking about how to use this information in real-world examples. One thought came from a post I saw on the Props forum. Basically, the issue was that you can’t assign the Malstrom Grains to a Combinator Rotary to effectively switch between the 80+ Grain Samples. It’s pretty easy to assign and switch between Modulator waveforms using a Rotary, but not the actual samples in the Malstrom. So this got me thinking of how you could go about switching between these Samples. And truth be told, there’s probably some really obscure way to do it which uses Thor and some heavy CV connections. But here is something that might just inspire you and be the next best thing.
You can download the project zip file here: crossfading-malstroms-and-filters. This file contains 2 rns files with the Combinator setups explained below. One is a 16-Malstrom crossfader, and the other is a 4-way Thor filter crossfader. I would recommend you download them and open them up as you read. It will make things a little easier that way.
Crossfading 16 Malstrom Grain Samples
In this setup, I’m using 16 Malstrom devices and each device is sent to a Mixer Channel in two 14:2 Mixers. The CV from the various Thors are sent to the Mixer Levels, where the level trim knobs are pushed all the way right, and the Mixer channel Levels are set to zero. If you haven’t already seen Ed’s interesting and enlightening tutorial on the subject, you should read it here: Ed’s Thor Shaper Tutorial. It goes through using the Sine Wave Shaper in Thor to create a 4-way Crossfader. In this way, you can cross-fade between 4 different Malstroms. Each Malstrom’s Oscillator A is set to a different Sample.
Since you have 4 Rotaries, each Rotary is set to 4 Malstrom devices. Giving you a total of 16 different Oscillators. Also, since one or more oscillators will be playing at any one given time, I’ve set up each button on the Combinator to mute the specific series of Oscillators. Button/Rotary 1 affects the first group of 4 (Malstroms 1-4), Button/Rotary 2 affects the second group of 4 (Malstroms 5-8), and so on. Only 10 Malstroms should be applied to a single Mixer because you can only map 10 parameters from any one device to the Combinator, and you need all 10 channel mutes mapped to the various Combinator buttons.
To take this a step further, you could create 6 Combinators, which together would contain the full 82 Oscillator Samples used by the Malstrom. Then you could crossfade between any oscillator you like. The sweet spots for each of the rotaries are as follows:
0 = Oscillator 1 Full Level
42 = Oscillator 2 Full Level
85 = Oscillator 3 Full Level
127 = Oscillator 4 Full Level
Any integer between those values will provide a crossfade between the two Oscillators on either side of the value. This can be seen as a downside or an upside. If you want a pure switch between Oscillator 2 and 4 for example, you can automate the Rotary to go straight from 40 to 85 in your sequencer using a Rotary automation lane. In this sense, you can use the Rotary as a 4-way button switcher between each Oscillator.
On the downside, you couldn’t effectively crossfade between Oscillator 2 and Oscillator 6 (on Rotary 2) the way the current Combinator is set up. But if you Reorganize the way the buttons mute, you could effectively do this. I’m open to anyone who has any other suggestions on how this could be achieved. Another downside is that since a different Malstrom is used for each Oscillator, you’ll have to tweak the settings on each Malstrom to get exactly the sound you want. If you want to keep everything consistent between all Malstroms, you’ll have to do it through automation (the easiest way I think). Simply automate one parameter on the first Malstrom in the sequencer, and copy that automation clip into every other Malstrom’s automation lane. It’s a bit of a pain, but it will keep all Malstroms in line, if that’s what you want.
On the upside, since there are 16 different Malstroms, you can fine tune the sound of each of them separately. If you have all the mutes off, you can effectively crossfade between 4-8 Malstrom sounds/devices at once just by shifting the Rotaries around. This adds some very interesting Sound Layering potential.
As it stands, the first 16 Oscillators from the Malstrom are applied to the 4 Rotaries on the Combinator. As I said, you could build up a stack of 6 Combinators to include all the Malstrom Oscillators. In this way you can build up various sounds and switch between the various Oscillators. Does this help anyone out?
Crossfading all 4 Thor Filters, and then some. . .
Next, let’s take a look at how we can crossfade all of Thor’s filters to affect one synth sound. In this case, it’s fairly simple to set up. First, create a Combinator, and set up Ed’s 3 Sine Shaper Thor’s to handle the CV like the previous example (along with a 14:2 Mixer). Then create a Thor and load up a synth sound. Start off with something simple so that you can really hear the different filters affecting the sound. Then create a Spider Audio CV Merger / Splitter, and send the synth’s Left and Right Audio Outputs to the splitter’s inputs. Create 4 Thors underneath the splitter and send each of the 4 splits to these respective Thor’s Audio Inputs 1 and 2. Finally, send the 4 Thor’s Left and Right Audio Outputs to the first four 14:2 Mixer channels.
On the front of the Rack, add a Low Pass Ladder Filter in the first Thor’s Filter 3 Slot. The settings for this filter are shown in the image below. In addition, add the following into the Modulation Bus Routing System (MBRS):
Audio In1: 100 > Filt3 L.In
Audio In2: 100 > Filt3 R.In
Enter the same settings in the other 3 Thors, but with different filters, so you have the State Variable filter in Thor 2, Comb filter in Thor 3, and Formant filter in Thor 4. While you’re at it, play around with the Global ADSR envelope so that it sounds to your liking for the 4 different filters. It’s ok if these settings are different for each filter. This will just make your sound more interesting. One thing I kept the same across all 4 Thor Filters is the FX section (Delay and Chorus). This way, when the filters are transitioned, the FX remain similar across the board.
Now let’s turn to our Combinator section and do some serious routings in the Mod Matrix. Here’s the settings you will need for each of the Thor Filters (they are the same for all 4, but must be applied to all 4):
Rotary 1 is reserved for the Filter Crossfade, so I’m not going to go over it here. You can see it in the Project File rns.
Rotary 2 > Filter 3 Freq: 0 / 127
Rotary 3 > Filter 3 Res: 0 / 127
Rotary 4 > Filter 3 Global Env Amount: 0 / 127
Button 1 > Delay On: 0 / 1
Button 2 > Delay Sync: 0 / 1
Button 3 > Chorus On: 0 / 1
Button 4 > Filter 3 Global Env Invert: 0 / 1
Mod.W > Filter 3 Drive: 50 / 127
Now, what’s happening is that the Mod Wheel controls the drive amount on each of the Filters, While Rotary 1 cross-fades all the filters. This is the main Rotary, and it has the same sweet spots as the previous Malstrom patch. Rotary 2 and 3 control the Frequency and Resonance of the filters, and Rotary 4 adjusts the Envelope of the filter. Button 4 inverts this envelope. The remaining buttons are left for the Delay, Delay Sync and Chorus. Since all the parameters are the same for all the filters, they all shift together. This can be a positive or a negative. You can’t individually set the filters, but at least they sound pretty good when transitioned. Depending on your ADSR settings for the Global Filter, the Envelope Rotary and Envelope Inversion Button may be different for each filter. But as I said before, this can add some nice variety to the sound.
Use this Combinator as a template for your own sounds. All you have to do is add your own patch into the Thor “Synth” or change the Thor “Synth” to any other Synth or Sampler device if you like. Then you’re in filter crossfading heaven.
A huge thanks to Ed for being the inspiration for these patches. Please let me know what you think and if you can think of any other applications that this crossfading technique can have, by all means share it with us. Until next time, have fun with these.