64 – Creative Thor Synth Tricks

This tutorial is one that might show you a few new tricks with Thor. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of new sounds in the Reason rack, and I wanted to show off a few new things I’ve found out as I was creating inside Thor. This will also take you on a journey showing how I would come up with a simple synth lead in Thor.

This tutorial is one that might show you a few new tricks with Thor. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of new sounds in the Reason rack, and I wanted to show off a few new things I’ve found out as I was creating inside Thor. This will also take you on a journey showing how I would come up with a simple synth lead in Thor.

Trick #1: Creating a Dry / Wet control for the Kong effects using Thor’s Mod Wheel

This trick was one I stumbled upon when I was trying to figure out how to create a control which allows you to crossfade between the dry and wet control in the Kong effects device (since some of the Kong effects don’t allow you to automate the dry/wet knob directly. This method uses Thor as a pass-through for both the dry and wet signals, and then assigns them to the Mod Wheel. Once this is done, you can use the Combinator mod wheel to effectively switch between a fully dry signal (when the mod wheel is lowered), and a wet signal (when the mod wheel is raised).

This little strategy also has one other benefit: It doesn’t require you to utilize any modulation lines inside the Combinator programmer. This means that if you have a Crowded set of modulations for a particular device which uses all the Combinator modulation lines, you can still add this to the Mod Wheel of the Combinator without having to sacrifice any of those crafty modulations you’ve set up.

The general idea is that you use a Spider Audio splitter to send one split into the Kong effect, and the other split directly into 2 Thor inputs (input 1 & 2). Then you send the Main outputs of Kong into another 2 inputs on Thor (input 3 and 4). The 2 main audio outputs of Thor are then sent to a Mixer or to the final output.

Inside the Kong, you would add your effects devices in the Bus FX and Main FX slots. Set up the effects to your liking.

Then in the Thor pass-through, ensure that all the parameters are turned off or turned down (remove Osc 1, bypass filter 1, etc.). In the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS), you would create 4 lines as follows:

Audio In 1 : 100 > Audio Out 1 : -100 > Mod Wheel

Audio In 2 : 100 > Audio Out 2 : -100 > Mod Wheel

Audio In 3 : 100 > Audio Out 1 : 100 > Mod Wheel

Audio In 4 : 100 > Audio Out 2 : 100 > Mod Wheel

Now when you raise the Mod wheel in the Combinator, the affected split (going into Audio in 3 and 4) on Thor, is going to be heard. When you lower the Mod Wheel, you have a dry signal.

Bear in mind in the video below, I had these splits switched around in the back of the rack (Audio in 1 and 2 were the wet splits and Audio in 3 and 4 were the dry splits). Since this was the case, I had to switch the scaling on all four Mod Wheel lines in the MBRS. So Audio in 1 and 2 had a scaling of “100” and Audio in 3 and 4 had a scaling of “-100” — it’s really the same idea, just in reverse.

Here’s the video which outlines how to use Thor as a dry/wet control for your Kong effects:

Trick #2: Creating some Movement for your Thor Sounds

This isn’t so much a trick, as it is a way to add some modulations and movement to your sound. So here’s a quick way to introduce some LFOs and Looped Mod/Global envelopes to affect the various Oscillators, Delay and Pan in Thor. Let me tell you, there’s hours, days, and months of fun to be had in Thor just by adjusting various parameters such as these.

Here’s the video outlining how to get a bit more movement from some of the parameters in Thor:

Trick #3: Gating and Transposing your Thor Sequences along the Keyboard

I have to give a big round of thanks to James Bernard for stearing me in the right direction with this. And when I found out how to do this, it was a “D’OH!” moment. As soon as he showed it to me, I felt completely stupid for not realizing how to do this in the first place.

In this method, you create a wonderful sequence to play your Thor patch, but instead of having to hit the “Run” button each time you want to hear the sequence, you trigger it from the “MIDI Key Gate,” which is a fancy way of saying, turn on the “Run” button in Thor’s step sequencer whenever you press a key on the keyboard.

Next, you set up Sequence to follow the “MIDI Note value” that is input, which again, is a fancy way to say that where you play the keyboard will determine the notes that are played in the Thor sequence.

So putting this together is a piece of cake. Assuming you have a sequence set up in Thor’s Step Sequencer, and your sequence in, set the Run Mode to “Repeat” and direction to “Forward” (or any other direction you wish). Turn off the “MIDI” light on Thor’s global panel, otherwise you get duplicated notes playing the same instrument (probably not what you intended). Finally, enter the following in the MBRS:

MIDI Gate : 100 > S. Trig

MIDI Note : 100 > S. Transp

Now when you play the sequence, it will be tracked along the keyboard and will only run when a key is pressed down.

Here’s the video that shows how this is done (building on the Thor patch I was building in the video above).

Note, if you want, you can also add Velocity information into the mix. Just add a new line in the MBRS as follows: “MIDI Vel : 100 > S. Vel.” If you do this, be sure to change the sequence edit knob to “Velocity” and ensure that all the steps for velocity are set to zero (0). You “can” set them to values higher than zero if you want, but then this will affect the velocity in tandem with the MIDI velocity from your keyboard. It’s these two values “combined together” that merge to form the final velocity value of the notes that are played.

Trick #4: Using Frequency Modulation between Oscillators

This isn’t so much a trick really, but something I like to try out once in a while. When the patch you’ve created is pretty much finished and you like the way it sounds, it never hurts to try this out. Set one Oscillator to modify the FM Frequency (in Thor’s menu list, this is shown as “Frequency (FM)”). You can often get some weird and wonderful new sounds that you didn’t know were hidden behind the scenes. Add to that a few effects like a Vocoder and some Scream “Tape” compression, package it up in a Combinator, and you just found your new lead sound. Here’s a video that shows how to do just that:

So there you go. A few interesting ways to utilize Thor and create a nice little synth lead. Let me know what you think, and also let me know if you have any other tricks along the same lines. Perhaps I can keep going with this whole Thor idea and show off a few other things you can do in an upcoming tutorial. For now, thanks for stopping by, and good luck in all your creative Reason productions.

62 – Song without a Sequencer

After working with the Thor step sequencer, and in honor of Music Making Month at Propellerhead Software, I posted a challenge on TSOR (The Sound of Reason): Create an entire song without the main sequencer in Reason. So here is my attempt at a song without a Sequencer. And I’m here to say, it can definitely be done!

After working with the Thor step sequencer, and in honor of Music Making Month at Propellerhead Software, I posted a challenge on TSOR (The Sound of Reason): Create an entire song without the main sequencer in Reason. So here is my attempt at a song without a Sequencer. And I’m here to say, it can definitely be done! The following were the basic rules:

  1. You can’t use the main sequencer. This means you can’t have any note, audio, pattern or automation lanes or clips. Kindly step away from the Main Sequencer!
  2. The song has to be a decent length: about 3-5 minutes.
  3. You can use the L / R and End markers in the sequencer (to indicate the end of the song, or to loop the song over again so we at least know the song’s end location).
  4. It can’t be a “live jam” and it can’t consist of the same one note sound over 4 minutes in length (yes, I get the joke Mr. Marcel Duchamp — Har dee har har). In the spirit of a challenge, this is put out there to challenge you as a musician who loves making songs in Reason. So give it a good shot.

What you end up with is a song that is pretty much controlled via CV and the device sequencers (Thor, Redrum, and the Matrix). After a few days, here’s what I came up with:

Song without a Sequence by Phi Sequence

I thought this was an interesting challenge, given it’s not easy to throw the Main Sequencer aside. For one thing, how do you mute or fade in / out? For another, how do you automate your sends? All very interesting challenges and all will require those that participate to flex their CV muscles. And I strongly encourage you to do so, because the more you learn about CV and the back of the Reason rack, the more you will understand inner connections, and the easier it will be to take what’s in your head and spit it out in Reason.

So enough preaching. Here, I’m going to explore a few tricks to overcome the lack of the Main Sequencer in our song challenge.

You can download the project files here: Song-without-a-Sequencer. This is a zip file that contains a reworked copy of the 128-step forward sequencer Combinator that is used extensively below (works with Reason 4 & 5, and Record 1.5), as well as a finished song file I created without the use of the Main Sequencer or any automation, notes, or pattern lanes / clips (the Song file works with “Record 1.5 + Reason 5”). Note: please respect that the included song file, 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. 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! 😉

To start tackling this pickle, I first thought about how the song would be sequenced? Since I can’t use any note lanes, the notes would have to be placed inside one of two possible devices: The Thor Step Sequencer or the Matrix. You can also use the RPG-8 to help play your notes and the Redrum could be used as a sample player/sequencer. But I thought I would stick to the Thor and Matrix for most of my song. As I have already explored creating a song entirely using Matrix sequences on my blog, I thought it would be a better challenge to use Thor as my main sequencer. Note: it also helped that I just came off a Thor Step Sequencer bender in the last 2 tutorials I wrote. So it was fresh on my mind.

With that accomplished, I had to set out using Thor as the sequencer for the song. The next step is to figure out the length of your song. If my song is 120 beats per minute, and I use 4/4 time, each bar is 2 seconds long, or 30 bars per minute. If I set up Thor’s step sequencer rate to be 4/4, that means each step is one full bar long (2 seconds). Using this rate/resolution, I can calculate that I will need 8 Thors to sequence a song 4 minutes long (4 minutes = 120 bars or 120 steps in Thor. Thor can produce 16 steps, so 120 / 16 = 7.5 Thors). I promise that will be the only math you’ll need to do in this tutorial. 😉

So the way I started was to create a Combinator with 9 Thors all strung together. See the Generative Ideas tutorial for a complete explanation, or you can download the Project Files at the top of this tutorial. We’re using the forward running Thor 128-step sequencer as a starting point. This is a Combinator that you can modify for use as a forward running sequencer to control various sounds and their levels. You can set all the rates on these Thors to 4/4 and you’ll have yourself a 4-minute sequencer. Now comes the modifications:

Since we can’t use the Main Sequencer at all, we need a way to a) Trigger the Step sequencer via CV, and b) modify the sound source levels via CV. Here’s how you do that:

Triggering the Step Sequencer via CV

The biggest problem you will encounter when doing things this way is how to trigger the step sequencer to start, and ensure it is only triggered once, and never again. The solution I came up with is to use 2 Matrix Curves inside the step sequencer Combinator.

  1. Hold your Shift key down and create a Matrix under the set of sequenced Thors (we’ll call this “Trigger 1”). Switch to “Curve” mode, and on pattern A1, set it to 32 steps with a resolution of 1/2 (though I don’t think the step length or amount of steps really matters, as long the step length is above 2 steps, but as these settings worked for me, I’m not going to deviate from them). On step 1, set the curve to it’s full height (MIDI 127).
  2. Select this Matrix, right-click and select “Duplicate Devices and Tracks” to create a copy of the first Matrix (we’ll call this “Trigger 2”).

    The 2 Matrix Triggers (Trigger 1 and Trigger 2) with the exact same settings.
    The 2 Matrix Triggers (Trigger 1 and Trigger 2) with the exact same Curve settings.
  3. Now flip to the back of the rack and send the Curve CV from Matrix 1 into CV input 1 on the Combinator. Send the Curve CV from Matrix 2 (Trigger 2) into CV input 2 on the Combinator. Set the Trim knobs on both CV inputs to full 127, and switch to “Unipolar”

    Note: If you have Reason 4, you can still do this trick, just send the Curve CVs from both Matrixes into Rotary 1 and Rotary 2 CV inputs, set their trim knobs to full, and on the front of the Combinator, turn Rotary 1 and 2 down to 0 (zero; fully left).

    The two Matrix Triggers' Curve CV cables being sent to CV 1 & CV 2 inputs on the Combinator, respectively.
    The two Matrix Triggers' Curve CV cables being sent to CV 1 & CV 2 inputs on the Combinator, respectively.
  4. Flip to the front of the rack and in the Combinator’s Programmer, select the first Thor device in your sequence. Enter the following into the Modulation Routing:

    CV in 1 > Button 1 : 0 / 1 (For those using Reason 4, change “CV in 1” to “Rotary 1”)

    The first Thor Step Sequencer Triggered to start by the Curve of the Trigger 1 Matrix.
    The first Thor Step Sequencer Triggered to start by the Curve of the Trigger 1 Matrix.
  5. Select the Matrix 1 (Trigger 1) device and enter the following into the Modulation Routing:

    CV in 2 > Pattern Select : -1 / 0 (For those using Reason 4, change “CV in 2” to “Rotary 2”)

    The Trigger 1 Matrix's Pattern switched by the Trigger 2 Matrix.
    The Trigger 1 Matrix's Pattern switched by the Trigger 2 Matrix.

Now what happens is as soon as you hit the Play button on the Transport, the second matrix triggers the pattern of the first Matrix, which kicks off the first Thor step sequencer (provided Button 1 on this Thor is set to trigger the start of the Sequencer — turning it on, which should already be set up if you downloaded the 128-step sequencer). The great thing about this setup is that it’s a “one-time” trigger setup. Every time the Matrixes come around to trigger again, Matrix 1 will be one step ahead of Matrix 2, and so the first Thor will never be triggered twice. If it were triggered twice, you’d end up with all kinds of problems with multiple CV values output and summed together. Trust me, it’s not what you want to hear coming out of your sequencer.

Ask me why the steps of both Matrixes go out of sync or lag 1 step behind each other and I couldn’t tell you. I’m just happy that they do in this instance. I’m sure somewhere down the road I’ll be doing something totally different with the Matrix and need them in sync, and get all upset because they aren’t. But not here. Here I’m happy happy happy.

Modify your Sound Source Levels via CV

Now that we have the sequencer setup properly, it’s time to add in our sounds. If you look at the song I uploaded, you’ll see that I am using Curve 1 and Curve 2 of all the “Level” Combinators to output 2 level values from each “Level” Combinator. The final output of both curves are sent to the CV input on the Mix channels of the sound devices. This way, you can use the Thor Step Sequencer as a “Level” sequencer for each sound device.

The 2 Curve Outputs: The final Merged Output is sent to the splitter side of the Spider, and then one of the splits is sent to control the level of the sound device.
The 2 Curve Outputs: The final Merged Output is sent to the splitter side of the Spider, and then one of the splits is sent to control the level of the sound device.
The 2 Curve inputs: The CV controls the level of the sound device. Input is on the Mix Channel, and the Trim Pot is set to 100.
The 2 Curve inputs: The CV controls the level of the sound device. Input is on the Mix Channel, and the Trim Pot is set to 100.

If you need more level controls, just duplicate the 128-step sequencer Combinator and send the Merged Curve outputs to the devices you wish. Just make sure to keep all the Step Sequencer rates the same in all Thors so that you don’t go out of sync. Not that you can’t change the rates, but things will be much easier if all the Thors in each of the Combinators move at the same time through their steps.

Using this method, you can now fade in your song and fade out your song by adjusting the steps’ curve values in the first Thor sequencer (fading in) and adjusting the steps’ curve values in the last Thor (fading out). You can also control what is heard at any point in time along the song. For instance, I added a Trance Lead “Fill” in the middle of the song by adjusting the steps of the curve that controls the Fill’s Mix Channel Level CV. If you open up this Combinator, you’ll see that all the curve CV values of all the Thor steps are 0 (zero), except for Thor 4, 5 and 6. The curves in these Thors are raised up to around 64 gradually (fading in), and then lowered back down to 0 (zero) gradually (fading out). This has the effect of bringing the fill into the soundscape in the middle of the song. At the same time, most of the other devices except the Basses are lowered during the fill. If you wanted to mute any part along the way, just make sure that the curve value is set to zero. To have it sound, bring it upward to the level you desire (any non-zero level).

Alternately, if you want to mute the sound for a given device, you can just turn off the step where you want to mute the sound (the small red square beneath the steps). However, if you mute this way, it will mute both curves, so if you are controlling 2 devices with the 2 different curves of the same Thors, you’ll end up muting both devices. To get around this, have only one curve from Thor controlling one device (put another way, use only one 128-step sequencer Combinator to control one sound device).

So that shows you how to Trigger your song, change the sound device levels over time, and mute the sounds in your song.

Adding Send Effects

Another thing I wanted to try and accomplish is adding a send effect into the Record Main Mixer and control when and where this effect gets added. If you look at my song, you’ll see a Delay device connected to “Send 2” of the Master Section. This is a nice send effect to use because it already comes equipped with a “Dry/Wet” control on Rotary 4. The crux of the biscuit is this: You need to set up a similar Dry/Wet control for any send that you want to control during the duration of your song. This way, you can use another Curve from a 128-step sequencer Combinator into the Rotary 4 CV input on the back of the Combinator, and turn the CV Trim Knob all the way up to 127. Then flip the rack around and reduce Rotary 4 to 0 (zero; all the way left).

Rotary four (dry/wet knob) is reduced to 0 (zero) shown on the left, and a "128-step sequencer curve" is sent into the Rotary 4 input on the back (with the trim knob set to 127), shown at right.
Rotary four (dry/wet knob) is reduced to 0 (zero) shown on the left, and a "128-step sequencer curve" is sent into the Rotary 4 input on the back (with the trim knob set to 127), shown at right.

Next, you need to turn on the Send effect for the devices that will use it (you’ll see in my song that the drum and  Rex Loops take advantage of this delay send effect). Now, in much the same way as the sound devices are being controlled by the other step sequencer Combinators, the level of the “wet signal” of the delay is being controlled by yet another merged Curve value from another Sequencer Combinator. It’s as easy as saying “right-click Duplicate Device and Tracks” — of course you’ll have to go into each Curve and tweak the levels of the Curve’s step values in all the Thors, but I think by now you get the gist of it.

The Send settings for my song. The delay is set to Send number 2.
The Send settings for my song. The delay is set to Send number 2.

Now just for the fun of it go into the Main sequencer, and delete all the tracks (Don’t delete the devices, just the tracks). Set the End marker to somewhere after 4 minutes and press Play on the Transport. Your song will play through from start to finish. You’ve now created an entire track without the Main Sequencer. I knew you could do it!

Bye Bye Main Sequencer. Asta la vista. Adios. Arivaderce!
Bye Bye Main Sequencer. Asta la vista. Adios. Arivaderce!

Where do you go from here?

This tutorial touches on a few ways you can control your song via CV. It’s by no means the only way it can be done. Not by a long shot.

Another way you could control devices without the main sequencer is to send them through a 14:2 Mixer. If you place the mixer inside a Combinator, you can check the box in the Combinator programmer, to have the Mixer receive notes. Then you can send CV into the Combinator’s Gate/CV input and play the appropriate keys to Mute or Solo your tracks connected to the Mixer. You could also send the Curves from the 128-step sequencer into the Mixer’s Level CV input, much as I have done in my song. This would control your fade-ins and fade-outs.

You could also use a Matrix device inside a Combinator and string together patterns going from A1 – D8. Then map the “Pattern Select” to a Rotary and use a very long slow LFO to move the Rotary over time. The matrix can then control any number of other devices with the Note/Gate CV source, and then you can use the Curve CV to adjust levels of the device, in much the same way I have done here. The only downside to the Matrix is that you don’t have any read-out of the CV levels, as you do in Thor, and so this can be a little daunting.

I hope this creative exercise inspires you to try it out yourself. Or at least shows you a few new hints and tricks when working with the Thor Step Sequencer and CV. Now back to making more music. It is music making month after all. 😉

61 – Generative Ideas (pt. 2)

Continuing our story about creating some random generative musical ideas in Reason, I’m going to take the Random Sequencers we built previously and find some usefulness for them. So hold on to your hat. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Continuing our story about creating some random generative musical ideas in Reason, I’m going to take the Random Sequencers we built previously and find some usefulness for them. So hold on to your hat. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

You can download the project files here: Generative-Ideas-Part2. The files highlight the ideas I’m covering here. Note that some of the files work for Reason 4 and some work for Reason 5. C’est la vie.

Random Glitch Box

The Front panel settings on the "Glitch Box" Combinator
The Front panel settings on the "Glitch Box" Combinator

The first and probably best use I can find for these random generators is as a glitch box. Surprise surprise. This one really is a no-brainer. Just fire up the 128-step sequencer, duplicate the devices, and with a little reworking we have two separate randomizations: one for the notes and the other for the gate. Then load up a sample that spans the length of the keyboard, and this will be our “Grain Sample” which will be played via the sequencer Combinator. You can put the sample player inside the Combinator and just rewire the sound source CV / Gate inputs into your device of choice. Here, I’m going to use an NN19 for the sample.

 

The front of the Sampler glitch Box. It's almost like a Grain sampler, when you use the sequencer this way.
The front of the Sampler glitch Box. It's almost like a Grain sampler, when you use the sequencer this way.

 

The back of the Sampler. You could also randomize the "Sample Start Time" if you wanted to go further with this idea.
The back of the Sampler. You could also randomize the "Sample Start Time" if you wanted to go further with this idea.

 

Random FX

Remember that gargantuan “Key Flux FX Processor” I built oh so long ago? Well how about we fire up that bad boy and take it for the ride of its life. Using the same sequencer as above, we’ll plug it into the FX processor, and let it process any of your sounds. Just sit back and watch it cycle through all the various effects randomly. I think I could sit here for hours just listening to it doing its thing.

Crafting Some Useful Leads

Though this might not make any earth-shatteringly great lead tracks, you can make your sequencer more musical by implementing the following idea. First, take the 64-step sequencer, and change the notes around so that each of the four “Thor Sequencers” are 2-steps long. Then put the first two notes of your key (here we’ll use the key of C Major to keep it simple) into the first sequencer, the next two in the second sequencer, and so on. You will end up with this configuration:

Thor Sequencer 1: Step 1 = C3; Step 2 = D3

Thor Sequencer 2: Step 1 = E3; Step 2 = F3

Thor Sequencer 3: Step 1 = G3; Step 2 = A3

Thor Sequencer 4: Step 1 = B3; Step 2 = C4

Next, we’ll map the other steps so that we can add more of specific notes from the same key. In my patch I put more C, E, and G notes in the empty steps on the first Thor sequencer, and more of the D, F, A, B notes in the empty steps of the second Thor sequencer. I then added some sharps and flats into the third Thor sequencer, and additional suspended notes (and Octave shifts — i.e.: C4 notes) into the fourth Thor sequencer.

The steps in the first "Thor Step Sequencer" showing a C3-E3-G3-C4 pattern.
The steps in the first "Thor Step Sequencer" showing a C3-E3-G3-C4 pattern.

Finally, in the Combinator Modulation Routing section, I mapped the Sequencer > Step Length parameter of all four thors to Rotary 3 & 4, and Button 3 & 4 respectively. The min / max values on all were 2 / 16. This way, we can use the Rotaries and Buttons to add in further steps to increase the “weight” of them into the Random sequencer. For instance, if you turn up Rotary 1, you will introduce more C, E, and G notes. This has the effect of weighting those notes more than other notes in the key. In other words, the sequencer will “pick up” and “play” those notes more than the others.

The front of the Combinator, showing the Rotaries / Buttons. Note the Step Count is mapped to Rotary 3 to add more weight to C-E-G notes.
The front of the Combinator, showing the Rotaries / Buttons. Note the Step Count is mapped to Rotary 3 to add more weight to C-E-G notes.

Of course if the Combinator had more Rotary assignments, you could weight each key separately using 8 rotaries. But that’s just not the case. But if you look at my Kongtrol articles from a few weeks back, you could very easily build it using Kong (wink wink, nudge nudge).

The patch I built only uses 1 octave range, but there’s nothing stopping you from building this across multiple octaves, up to 128 steps, using my random sequencer here. Or you can use the Transpose feature to raise it to two octaves. Or you could use the RPG-8 to force octave switches, but then you’re going to be inputting values into the “Main Sequencer” in Reason, and I’m trying to stay away from doing that.

Modulation, Modulation, Modulation

Another interesting use of the random sequencer is when you start to get into modulation. With a random setup, you can use the CV output to modulate parameters on any of the Reason devices, even ones that don’t have a CV input (using the Combinator Rotaries as the CV pass-through). Included in the file is a “Mods” patch which show you how to create a random EQ generator and also use the same random sequence to affect some parameters to the Thor sound source directly (via CV1). The Thor’s CV1 is then mapped to the “Amp Pan” and “Osc 3 Position” parameters. Note that in order to get the EQ Frequency modulated, you need to send the random sequence CV to a Combinator rotary first. Then in the Combinator’s Modulation Routing section, you can map the rotary to affect the EQ Frequency. In the patch I’m providing, I set the Min / Max values to 600 / 100, which provided some nice movement to the sound.

The front of the Combinator showing the Thor sound source and EQ, Both of which are modulated with the Thor Random Step Sequencer.
The front of the Combinator showing the Thor sound source and EQ, Both of which are modulated with the Thor Random Step Sequencer.

 

The back panel showing the Note CV sent to the Spider and then sent to Rotary 1 and the Thor sound source CV 1 input.
The back panel showing the Note CV sent to the Spider and then sent to Rotary 1 and the Thor sound source CV 1 input.

 

The front panel of the Combinator with the Programmer displayed. Note that the EQ Parameter 1 Frequency is mapped to Rotary 1. This way a parameter without a CV input can be controlled via CV using the Rotary as a pass-through.
The front panel of the Combinator with the Programmer displayed. Note that the EQ Parameter 1 Frequency is mapped to Rotary 1. This way a parameter without a CV input can be controlled via CV using the Rotary as a pass-through.

In a nutshell, if you open this patch, you can press play on the transport, which starts the sound. No modulation is affecting the EQ, Pan, or Osc 3 Position parameters yet. In order to turn on these modulations, press button 1 (Run / Reset). You will then hear the modulations taking effect. To select the amount of modulation applied, use Rotary 1. To affect the Synced Rate of the modulations, use Rotary 2.

Note: in this kind of setup, I only used the “Note CV” value from the random sequencer. The gate CV value was not needed or used. I also removed the CV visualization DDL-1 devices, so that the patch would be accessible for both Reason 4 and Reason 5 users. Note also that the CV values are inverted through the Spider so that Rotary 1 will gain more modulation when turned to the right. If the signal wasn’t inverted, turning the Rotary to the right would produce less modulation, which is counter-intuitive in my book.

Where do you go from here?

These are just a few ideas I had when I was playing around with the Random Sequencer I created. As I went from having the first initial “problem,” I ended up with several interesting sequencer patches and ideas. This just proves that if you have a single thought or problem, and you can solve it, you can end up going in a lot of different directions which lead to even more ideas and creative projects. So I guess my point is this. Find as many “problems” as you can, and then work toward solving them. Because that just might be the creative spark you need to start an imaginative wildfire.

One other place you could take this is to build an entire “generative” song, in which all parts of it are randomized. In this case, if you used the Thor sequencer here, you would end up with a song that is never the same way twice, and one which bypasses the Main Reason sequencer entirely. As a creative project, that would be quite an undertaking. But if you want creative ideas, there they are.

Another creative “generative” idea is to blend multiple LFOs together, so that you end up with a lot of variety. You could then take a third LFO and use that to apply to one of the two LFO’s rate or amount parameter. There’s all kinds of ways you can layer LFOs to come up with some pretty intricate modulation sources. But I think I’ll save that one for another article at a later date. For now, I’m pretty much done looking at Thor’s sequencer for a while. And it’s Music Making Month, so it’s time to actually make some music right?

PS: If you come across any other ideas related to this idea of “Generative” or “Random” music, please share them. I’d love to hear and take a look at what you’re working on. All my best for now.

60 – Generative Ideas (pt. 1)

Enough about Kong already. Let’s try something a little more interesting. Let’s start with a concept: Generative Music. And let’s see what we can do with it in a Reason environment. For starters, let’s see how we can extend the Thor step sequencer a little bit. Well, okay, let’s make it go absolutely NUTS!

Enough about Kong already. Let’s try something a little more interesting. Let’s start with a concept: Generative Music. And let’s see what we can do with it in a Reason environment. For starters, let’s see how we can extend the Thor step sequencer a little bit. Well, okay, let’s make it go absolutely NUTS!

You can download the project files here: thor-extended-step-sequencer-ideas. This contains a lot of different ideas from EditEd4TV, Sterioevo, and myself. All of us had a hand in working out my little idea. And I just want you guys to know that you’re the best! Without your ideas, I never would have been able to make this thing work. So anyway, there are 5 Reason (.rns) files and 5 Combinator (.cmb) files. Read below to see what kind of mayhem you’ll find inside. Note: to “Run” any of the patches in the file, just press Button 1 on the Combinator. This will start the sequence/system going. To stop the sequence/system, press Button 1 again. There’s a “Sound Source” setup in each Combinator to test the sound. There’s also 2 DDL-1 devices in each Combinator which is used to visually see the CV Note / Gate values.

Defining Generative Music

There’s many definitions for what Generative music is. Put simply, it can be defined as music that meets the following requirements:

  1. It must be created by a “system,” which is to say that it requires an algorithm to generate the “structure” (such as algorithms, mathematical equations, number sequences, etc). There must be logic behind it, whether this logic is set up by the composer or the listener.
  2. It is ever-different and changing over time; non-repeatable and “emergent,” as wind chimes are.

Brian Eno provided a really great Generative Music lecture at In Motion Magazine. I would highly recommend giving it some time if you also enjoy this sort of thing.

Starting off with a Problem

First I’ll give you the problem: How do we create a step sequencer pattern that is 128 steps long and randomly selects values between 0 – 127 in real-time? Can this be done in Reason using Thor’s Step Sequencer?

When I was building my “Key Flux FX Processor” behemoth, I wanted a way to randomly select the MIDI note values from 0-127 (C-2 to G8). Using the Matrix was a workaround, however, you have to jump through some serious hoops in order to get it to use note values outside the typical 5-octave range of the device. And even then, the randomizations aren’t really random. You’re selecting from a set of pre-defined patterns that never change. You can click the “Randomize” function in the Matrix, but once the notes are assigned to the Matrix, they’re permanent. Thor, on the other hand, provided a way to assign a “Random” run mode that is random during “Live play” — and this is the crux of the biscuit. This is what can open you up to one area of Reason which is truly “Generative.” It’s like the Holy Grail of building a “Generative System” in Reason. However, like the Holy Grail, it’s elusive. You’ll soon see why.

As for the “Key Flux FX Processor” patch, I settled on the Matrix because I couldn’t solve a simple problem at the time: How to Merge the Note values coming out of Thor, so that you could create patterns longer than 16 steps (the total length of a Thor Step Sequencer). The idea was to set up a series of Thor Sequencers and increase each step by 1, and then randomize the whole lot, so that you can get something truly random going from 1 – 127 MIDI value. Of course, I soon realized that you can’t get something truly random like that with the Thor Step Sequencer because the way it would work is it would go from Thor 1 (randomized between 1-16 MIDI value), then to Thor 2 (randomized between 17-32 MIDI value) and so on. Not “truly” random, but still better than nothing.

However, there are two main issues with Thor’s Step Sequencer:

  1. The Thor step sequencer leaves the gate open from one step to the next and never fully returns to zero between steps. This means that merging the note/gate values sums the previous note value with the next note value. And using the “End Trig” CV to trigger the “Start Trig” of the next Thor sequencer sums the two values together. This could be seen as a bug or a feature, depending on what it is you want to do with the CV values given off by Thor. Sometimes keeping the gate and CV open is a good thing. However, not in this case.
  2. The second issue is that the Note CV values from Thor’s Step Sequencer are bipolar (-64 to +63). Not a really big deal if you understand that. But something that will leave you scratching your head if you’re trying to visualize your CV with a DDL-1 device.

These two seemingly harmless facts about the Thor Step Sequencer ended up in hours upon hours of frustration when I was trying to do something as simple as connect multiple Thors together and have them generate the exact note/gate values to apply to a single sound device.

To recap, here are the three limitations/hurdles we need to overcome in order to tackle the issue:

  1. We need to use Thor, because it’s the only device that can generate a real-time “Randomized” sequence. Using the Matrix is a non-starter because the notes cannot be changed or randomized in real-time (not to mention it uses only a 5-octave range out of the box).
  2. We need to be able to create a Step Sequencer that is 128-steps long, so that each MIDI value has a chance to be selected. Since Thor is 16 Steps long, we need 8 Thors to generate a step sequence from one end of the MIDI spectrum to the other.
  3. We need to build a method to Randomly “play” the entire sequence so that only one MIDI value is selected and played at any one time, and this value can freely jump from any value between 0-127 to any other value between 0-127.

The solution(s)

Hurdle #1:

Tackling the first issue is simple. We use Thor and forget about the Matrix. Check!

Hurdle #2:

The second issue was beautifully tackled by both Sterioevo and EditEd4TV, with two different solutions:

First, Steve (Sterioevo) came up with the brilliant idea of using the Global Sustain on Thor to shut the gate off between notes. This was perfect. You simply connect all your Thors together, send the CV from the Note / Gate outputs through Rotaries in Thor and then use the Global Envelope Sustain to scale the note and gate CV in the Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) in the Thors. This allows the Global Envelope Sustain to “shut off” the gate between the steps, and you can freely merge as many note CV and gate CVs as you like. In essence, you can string as many Thors together as you like and merge them properly. See the project files for his patch.

Next, EditEd4TV provided a more compact solution. His solution sends both the note / gate CV outputs into the CV1 and 2 CV inputs on the same Thor, and then outputs them to CV 1 & 2 outputs to the Spider Note / Gate CV mergers. This step is done to convert the note values from bipolar to unipolar (that so-called benign problem #2 was solved). Then in the MBRS, he programmed the following:

CV in1 : 100 > CV out1 : 100 > Last Gate

CV in2 : 100 > CV out2 : 100 > Last Gate

The Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS) of Thor showing the assignments and Steps
The back of the first Thor device showing the CV routings to set up the first set of 16 steps in the 128-step Forward-running sequencer where the Thors are strung together and play end to end.
The back of the first Thor device showing the CV routings to set up the first set of 16 steps in the 128-step Forward-running sequencer where the Thors are strung together and play end to end.

Brilliant. The “Last Key > Gate” (ie: Last Gate) is what shuts off the gate after each step, and allows you to merge the note / gate CV successfully. Now you are free to string up as many Thors as you like, without a hassle. See EditEd4TV’s patch which is also included in the project files. Hurdle #2 has been jumped and solved. Check!

Note: Due to EditEd4TV’s solution being easier to build, and more self-contained, I’m going to build on his patch to solve hurdle #3. Not that Sterioevo’s solution isn’t any less brilliant or usable by the way.

Hurdle #3:

Solving the third problem hit me in the head like a ton of bricks. What was needed was a set of recursive on/off triggers. One Thor needs to be set up to control the on/off state for every two Thor sequences beneath it. Once this is set up, you can then work backwards, building a pyramid of Thor controllers to turn things on and off. Visually, it looks something like this:

Master Controller > > Controller A > > Controller A1 > > Sequence 1 (Steps 1-16)
> Sequence 2 (Steps 17-32)
> Controller A2 > > Sequence 3 (Steps 33-48)
> Sequence 4 (Steps 49-64)
> Controller B > > Controller B1 > > Sequence 5 (Steps 65-80)
> Sequence 6 (Steps 81-96)
> Controller B2 > > Sequence 7 (Steps 97-112)
> Sequence 8 (Steps 113-127)

 

So I started to work from the bottom of the pyramid upward. It worked out well for Controller A1 controlling two sequences underneath. To see how this was set up, you can look at the “Thor 32-step random sequencer” rns or Combinator file in the Project files at the top of this article. Incidentally, it uses the “double-scaling” lines in the Modulation Bus Routing Section of the Pattern Sequence Thors (so that’s a little nod to Hydlide’s next tutorial all about the MBRS — See his latest on the Mod Matrix Filters and Amps — a great read).

The idea is to create another Thor (Controller A1 in the diagram above) which switches Sequence Thor 1 and Sequence Thor 2 on or off. I used the 2 Curves inside Controller A1, and set them so that they are both 16 steps which are set to “Random” mode, as follows:

Curve 1: Step 1 – 0; Step 2 – 100; Step 4 – 0; Step 5 – 100, and so on. . .

Curve 2: Step 1 – 100; Step 2 – 0; Step 4 – 100; Step 5 – 0, and so on. . .

Then I sent Curve 1 into CV 3 input on the first Thor Sequence, and Curve 2 into CV3 on the second Thor Sequence. In these Thor sequencers (1 and 2), set the following lines into the last 2 lines on the MBRS (the ones with 2 scalers):

The MBRS for the first Thor Step Sequencer
The MBRS for the first Thor Step Sequencer
The step sequencer on the "Controller A1" Thor, which uses both curves set in opposition to each other to control the 2 Thor step sequencers underneath it.
The step sequencer on the "Controller A1" Thor, which uses both curves set in opposition to each other to control the 2 Thor step sequencers underneath it.

So this creates the “Thor 32-step Random Sequencer” patch found in the project files at the top of this article. If you duplicate this same setup for the next two sequences (Sequence 3 & 4), controlled by “Controller A2,” you end up with one level tackled. Our next step is to figure out how to extend this to 64 steps. So let’s try doing that now.

You would think that using this same idea one level higher would yield the same results. What you find out instead is that this trick can only be used once. As soon as you use the double Curve trick one level higher (“Controller A”) to control the level below (“Controller A1” and “Controller A2”), you end up with completely messed up CV values coming out of the system. Trust me: I tried. So what we need to do is find a new trick to select between the two “A1” and “A2” Controllers.

Enter the Mod Bus switcheroo! This time, we need to separate the merged note/gate outputs from Thor Sequence 1 & 2 and Thor Sequence 3 & 4 so that they both are on separate Spider Merger/Splitters. Then send the merged outputs from all 4 of those Spiders into the “Controller A” CV inputs 1-4. Be sure to keep track of what is going where, as shown below:

Note Merge 1 & 2 > into CV 1 input

Note Merge 3 & 4 > into CV 2 input

Gate Merge 1 & 2 > into CV 3 input

Gate Merge 3 & 4 > into CV 4 input

The routings to split the 2 sets of Thor sequencers into their own Spiders, and send the merge outputs into the "Controller A" CV inputs. The CV 1 & 2 outputs are sent to the Combinator Rotaries.
The routings to split the 2 sets of Thor sequencers into their own Spiders, and send the merge outputs into the "Controller A" CV inputs. The CV 1 & 2 outputs are sent to the Combinator Rotaries.

Then you setup the Thor “Controller A” MBRS as follows:

CV In1 : 0 > CV Out1

CV In2 : 0 > CV Out1

CV In3 : 0 > CV Out2

CV In4 : 0 > CV Out2

While you’re there, set up the steps on the Thor “Controller A” the same way you did with “Controller A1” and “Controller A2”:

Curve 1: Step 1 – 0; Step 2 – 100; Step 4 – 0; Step 5 – 100, and so on. . .

Curve 2: Step 1 – 100; Step 2 – 0; Step 4 – 100; Step 5 – 0, and so on. . .

The MBRS and Step Sequencer of the Thor "Controller A"
The MBRS and Step Sequencer of the Thor "Controller A"

In the Combinator Modulation Routing section, select “Controller A” and enter the following:

Rotary 3 > Mod 1 Dest Amount : 0 / 100

Rotary 4 > Mod 2 Dest Amount : 0 / 100

Rotary 3 > Mod 3 Dest Amount : 0 / 100

Rotary 4 > Mod 4 Dest Amount : 0 / 100

The Combinator Modulation Routing for "Controller A"
The Combinator Modulation Routing for "Controller A"

On the back of the rack, send the CV Output 1 & 2 from the Thor “Controller A” into the Combinator’s Rotary 1 & 2, respectively. Note: in the setup shown above, these CV outputs are split with a Spider “Note/Gate” splitter so that I could send the signal to two additional rotaries to visualize the CV values in the two DDL-1 devices, but you don’t need to do this. This is so that I could test out the CV and make sure the values output are indeed random and working properly.

Turn up the CV trim knobs to 127, and on the front of the Combinator, turn the rotaries to zero (0). And there we have it. a 64-step random sequencer. Of course, you have to use 2 Rotary CV sources on the Combinator, but if you have version 5, you can set this up on the new CV inputs, without giving up any rotaries. Take a look at the “Thor 64-step Random Sequencer” patch included in the project files at the top of this tutorial to see it in action.

Finally, to gain access to the next level (Master Controller), I have to concede that I cheated a bit. I used a Thor and called it “Doubler” which essentially doubles the CV values of all the Thor Step sequencers. Then I used a curve value to send a series of random steps set to either a value of zero (0) or 100. This was sent into the final CV input on all the step sequencers, and the following was entered into the MBRS of each Thor Step Sequencer (Sequencers 1-4):

CV In4 : 99 > S. Transp (Step Sequencer > Transpose)

This has the effect of extending the range of the four Thor Sequences from 0-64 to 0-127. Of course there may be a limitation when it comes to changing other parameters of the step sequencers, like Gate Length and Gate Duration, because you essentially have 1 step which acts for 2 outputs. For example, the Gate Length for step value “1” will also double for value “66.” So this system is not exactly perfect. But it’s the best I could come up with at the moment. Perhaps someone smarter than I could come up with a better solution. If so, I’m all ears and would love to hear it. Check out the “Thor 128-step Random Sequencer” patch in the project files at the top of this tutorial and you can see the finished version.

So there you have it. This solves the third and final hurdle. Checkmate and your move!

Moving Forward

In the next part of this series, I’ll try to explore a little more about how you could potentially use this type of setup. For right now, just have a look and see if you can improve upon this or create a better way to create a fully functional 128-step random sequencer.

As for the “Generative Music” concept, I think this could have some interesting potential. For right now, I’ll just leave off with another interesting “Generative” site that I found online which takes mathematical number sequences and converts them into music. You can listen to thousands of sequences all based on these math sequences. I thought it was interesting. Check it out here if you have a minute: http://oeis.org/play.html. The site is a little cludgy, as you have to copy the database integer sequence number into the “Play” page, but once you do, you can hear that database record as a MIDI file and choose the instrument that plays the sequence.

And here’s another site which generates music (MIDI files) from paintings: http://www.synestesia.fi/ Now there’s something original.


In conclusion, you can indeed insert some “Generative” elements into your Reason projects. Hopefully you won’t have to spend hours upon hours figuring out how to do it like the three of us did, and instead spend hours and hours coming up with your own “Generative” systems a la Brian Eno. More to come on this later. . .

In the meantime, send me your best “Generative” music ideas and let’s see where this concept will take us in Reason and Record. Peace out!

59 – Komplete Kongtrol (Part 2)

There is always more to be discussed where Kong is concerned, and here we’ll build upon the first article about Kong control and figure out a few enhancements and other off-kilter things we can do with the Kong device. So step inside and prepare yourself for the journey.

There is always more to be discussed where Kong is concerned, and here we’ll build upon the first article about Kong control and figure out a few enhancements and other off-kilter things we can do with the Kong device. So step inside and prepare yourself for the journey.

The project files for this article can be downloaded here: Komplete-Kongtrol-Part2. There are a few upgrades to the old files from Part 1, as well as an .rns file / Combinator file for the Note Repeating example, and an .rns / Kong patch to show how to create a pitched sample player across all 16 pads in Kong. Enjoy!

Expanding on the Previous “Thong” Patch

Previously, we created an 8-way control of Thor (and the Malstrom) filters. In this patch, we provided step by step control of each elements of the filters via the Kong pads. This time, we’ll switch things around a little so that we can add the ability to hold the pad down and the parameters “glide” upward or downward instead of stepping through each parameter’s 0-127 MIDI value. This allows you to more smoothly and quickly glide each parameter upward or downward. And the truth is that it’s a very simple implementation. Thanks goes once again to Sterioevo for his simple solution.

The idea is to go inside all the up/down Thor devices, and switch the Run Mode on the Step Sequencer from “Step” to “Repeat.” Once this is done, you can press and hold the pads to move the parameter smoothly upward or downward, as desired. The rate at which the parameter glides is determined by the “Rate” setting of the step sequencer. I found a rate of 1/16 – 1/64 is  a good setting.

Taking this approach a step further, I modified the patch by also allowing you to control the rate of all the step sequencers at once using the two free Kong pads. Pad 10 now decreases the rate and Pad 11 increases the rate. The rates are synced, and the Pitch Bend wheel is used to map the rate to the Thor devices. Finally, I added a new DDL-1 device to show the 21 different rates that can be selected. 18 on the DDL-1 = 1/16 rate on the Thor Step Sequencers.

In order to achieve a proper up / down switch for Pads 10 and 11, I had to change the notes in the Rate Up / Rate Down step sequencers and Rate Merge Spider trim pots as follows:

Rate Up Thor device: Step 1 note value = C4

Rate Down Thor device: Step 1 note value = C2

Rate Merge Spider Trim Pot Values = 88

These settings will ensure that the up / down pads properly switch between all Synced Rate values in the up / down Thor devices.

The "Thong 8-type Filter" patch updated with a new global rate control.
The "Thong 8-type Filter" patch updated with a new global rate control.

Note: I also updated the FM Pair patch from part 1 of this tutorial. However, since there were no pads available to control the rate, I mapped the rate control to Rotary 1. Furthermore, I added a sync control on button 1, so you can control the rate either synced or free-form, depending on whether the button is on or not. When off, the rate is synced. When on, the rate is free-form.

Note Repeating

There’s been a lot of people asking if Kong can provide “Note Repeat” functionality found on their pad controllers. It seems every week I get one or two questions on this issue. One person actually emailed me a Battery tutorial video to ask how this functionality can be replicated in Kong. After watching that video, I put together this patch to show how you could indeed apply the same concepts in Reason. It’s really not hard at all, but it does involve the use of 2 pads for each drum or sample sound (which, coincidentally, works out perfectly to replicate that Battery tutorial, as he only uses 8 drum sounds/pads). Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Ensure you have a main mixer set up in your Reason or Record document. Then create an empty Combinator, and inside the Combinator create a Kong device. The Kong device’s main audio output will be routed to the Combinator’s “From Devices” inputs.
  2. Click the “Show Drum and FX” button on Kong, which opens up the drum modules. on Drum Module 1, add a Synth Snare into the drum module. Copy and paste this snare into the next three drum modules.
  3. Open up the fifth drum module and add a “Synth Hi-Hat” into that drum module. Then copy the hi hat into the next 3 drum modules. You now have pads 1-4 with the same Snare Drum sound, and pads 5-6 with the same Hi-Hat sound.
  4. In order to stay true to the Battery video, change the pitch of each Snare Drum and Hi Hat in the following way:

    Snare (Drum Module 1) & Hi Hat (Drum Module 5): Pitch = 24

    Snare (Drum Module 2) & Hi Hat (Drum Module 6): Pitch = 12

    Snare (Drum Module 3) & Hi Hat (Drum Module 7): Pitch = 0

    Snare (Drum Module 4) & Hi Hat (Drum Module 8): Pitch = -12

    Note: I changed the pitch of each drum Module’s “Pitch” parameter, as opposed to the “Pitch Offset” located on the main Kong panel. I don’t think it really matters one way or the other which pitch parameter you end up adjusting to be honest.

  5. Holding down the shift Key, create a Thor device underneath Kong. Then completely initialize it by turning down all the polyphony settings, removing the Oscillator, Bypassing the filter, etc. In short, ensure it makes no sounds, since we’re only using the Thor Step Sequencer to generate our rolls. Label the Thor device “Snare 1.”
  6. In the Thor Step Sequencer, change the Run Mode to Repeat. Now flip it around to the back and send the Gate Output from Pad 9 to the “Gate In (Trig)” of the Thor device (you’ll need to expand Thor fully to access the Step Sequencer CV inputs and outputs.
  7. Next, send the Gate / Velocity CV output from Thor to the Gate Input on Pad 1 in Kong. With this setup, you can use Pad 1 to trigger a 1-shot for the Snare drum, and Pad 9 to trigger a roll for as long as your finger is pressing the Pad (this is your “Note Repeat” functionality).

    The Gate in / out CV cables from Kong into the Thor. Pad 9 triggers the step sequencer to start, and the Gate output is sent to Pad 1 to start the roll of the Kong drum.
    The Gate in / out CV cables from Kong into the Thor. Pad 9 triggers the step sequencer to start, and the Gate output is sent to Pad 1 to start the roll of the Kong drum.
  8. Repeat this process by duplicating the Thor device 7 more times, and route it to the other pads in sequence. Pads 9-12 become the Snare Rolls (or Snare Note Repeat), and Pads 13-16 become the Hi-Hat Rolls (or Hi Hat Note Repeat).
  9. Finally, we want to provide a way to speed up or slow down the rolls. This can be achieved quite easily by mapping all the Thor devices’ Step Sequencer rate to a Combinator knob. Open up the Combinator programmer, select the first Snare 1 Thor device, and enter the following line in the Modulation Routing section:

    Rotary 1 > Synced Rate : 0 / 20

  10. Now enter this line for all the Thor devices so that the Rotary will globally change the speed or Rate of your drum rolls when you press pads 9-16. You can now create a pitched roll going from a high pitch to a low pitch by playing from pads 9 > 10 > 11 > 12 for the Snare, or pads 13 > 14 > 15 > 16 for the Hi Hat. If you want the rolls slower, turn Rotary 1 to the left. If you want them faster, turn Rotary 1 to the right.
Setting up the Combinator's Rotary 1 to control the rate of the Drum Rolls.
Setting up the Combinator's Rotary 1 to control the rate of the Drum Rolls.

Note: You don’t have to use a “Synced Rate” necessarily. Try letting the rate go freeform for speeds that are outside the normal synced tempo pace of the song. To do this, you’ll need to turn off the “Sync” button in all the Thor Step Sequencers and then change the Combinator Modulation Routing for all the Thors from “Synced Rate” to “Free Rate.” This can produce some chaotic results which might work better, depending on the type of beats you want to lay down on your track.

The Kong Drum Roll Setup.
The Kong Drum Roll Setup.

Pitching for any Sample or Sound (the Akai MPC “16 Level” function)

One other little trick that many people have asked about is the ability to take one sample and spread the pitch out across the 16 pads in Kong (Pitching it up or down). This, too, is an easy thing to setup, but it might not be that obvious at first. This is because on most pad controllers (like the Maschine, for example), you select the sample, press a button, and the sample is layered on all pads at different pitches. Kong is different. You can’t select one sample and hit a button and have that sample pitched across all the pads. Instead you have to select a sample, copy it across all the drum modules, and then pitch the sample differently in each drum module. Once done, you have your setup and can save it. If you think of it as a template, you can go back in and switch out the samples, and save a new version of the Kong device. Then you can create a library of pitched sample devices for any and all of your sounds. 1 Kong per sample.

I provided a hint to how these pitch changes can be made up above when I was discussing the “Note Repeat” function. This is what I’m going to call the “Easy way.” This time, however, we’ll use a sample; pitching it up and down across the entire 16 pads. Here’s how you set it up:

Pitching a Sample across 16 Kong Pads — The “Easy” Way

  1. Create a Mixer and then a Kong device (doesn’t have to be inside a Combinator).
  2. Click the “Show Drum and FX” button to open it up to the first drum module. Click the Drum Module drop-down arrow and select “NN-Nano Sampler.” Click the “Browse Sample” button and load up a sample of yours or a sample from the Factory Sound Bank.
  3. Right-click and select “Copy Drum Patch” (Ctrl+C) and then select Drum Module 2 by pressing Pad 2, and then right-click over the drum module area and select “Paste Drum Patch” (Ctrl+V). Do this for all 16 Drum Modules so that you have the same sample across all 16 pads.
  4. Now for each drum module, change the “Pitch Offset” parameter found on the main Kong panel. Since this parameter can go from -120 to +120 (range of 240), you can divide this up into increments of 15 or 16 roughly (240 / 16 = 15). So on Pad 1, change the Pitch Offset to -120, on Pad 2, change the Pitch Offset to -105, on Pad 3, change the Pitch Offset to -90, etc. all the way up to Pad 16.

Now you can play the sample back and have its pitch spread across all the Kong pads.

The front of the Kong device with the same sample copied into all drum modules and the pitch varied across all 16 pads.
The front of the Kong device with the same sample copied into all drum modules and the pitch varied across all 16 pads.

Pitching a Sample across 16 Kong Pads — The “Alternative” way

The hard way involves creating an up / down set of pads for the Pitch parameter in Kong and then loading the same sample into Pads 1-14. By now you should be familiar with how to set this up if you read the first part to my Komplete Kongtrol article here. So I shouldn’t have to repeat this setup here. But just note that this is another way you could set things up in Reason. The benefit to this type of setup is that you can control multiple samples at once (up to 14) with a global pitch up / pitch down set of pads. It all depends on what you want to accomplish.

Any thoughts on these Kongtrolling methods?

55 – Key Trig Patterns (Part 3)

In this tutorial, I’m going to go all out and create a one-finger band Combinator which makes use of MIDI Key Triggering to launch an array of patterns for all my instruments. In other words, I’m going to construct a song using a single Combinator and some Reason devices. You can use this as a template for your own ideas, and simply switch out the sound generating devices and patterns to create your own track.

In this tutorial, I’m going to go all out and create a one-finger band Combinator which makes use of MIDI Key Triggering to launch an array of patterns for all my instruments. In other words, I’m going to construct a song using a single Combinator and some Reason devices. You can use this as a template for your own ideas, and simply switch out the sound generating devices and patterns to create your own track.

You can download the project files here: one-finger-band. There are two .rns files for those using Reason 5, and 2 Combinator files (one for Reason 5 and the other for those still running Reason 4). You can also open up the Combinator inside Record and use it there if you like. 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!

Before jumping in, I just wanted to give a shout out to Hydlide, who did a great tutorial over at TSOR (The Sound of Reason) site which shows you how you can split several Thor patterns along all the octaves of the Combinator Key Range. Have a look at his creative Thor Step Sequencer tutorial for some fresh ideas. So thanks for ripping off my idea Hyd. Thief! 🙂 All joking aside, if it wasn’t for him wanting to see a third part to this series, I wouldn’t have written this “next part.” And now you’ll all have to suffer through more MIDI Key Triggering madness.

Here’s a video showing you what I’m explaining below. It’s a bit of a showcase for the song I created. Read on to see how the Combinator is setup.

Explaining the “One Finger Band (Latched – R5)” Combinator

The idea behind the Combinator builds upon the previous two tutorials I wrote about Key Triggering your Patterns. However, there’s a few new ideas in this one which I’m going to highlight below. I also have a few tips for those of you trying this out on your own.

The main thing I learned while doing this is that it’s much easier to program a song using the “Momentary” method of Key Triggering. The reason is that it’s easier to write notes into the sequencer. You place the note along the clip lane for as long as you want your pattern running. Simple enough. If, on the other hand, you are programming your notes in using the “Latch” method, you need to provide a start and stop note on the same key to trigger your pattern to turn on, and then turn off. Which can get a bit fiddly. Even so, I tried it using the “Latched” method, just to see how it would work. So to summarize, if you are programming your song in the studio, you’re probably better off using the “Momentary” method. If, on the other hand, you are playing “Live,” you’ll probably benefit more from the “Latched” method, because you don’t have to have your fingers on the keys to keep things running. BUT (and this is a big BUT), you DO need to remember which patterns are running at any given time, so you know which key to press to turn them off when you want them to stop.

It would be really nice if you had a keyboard that had lighted keys to note which ones are on and which are off. But I don’t know of any manufacturers that supply such a keyboard. Pad Controllers are a different story. And controllers with lighted buttons are even better (like the Livid Ohm64, Novation Launchpad, and Akai APC40), because you can assign a key note to each button and they will be lit when on and unlit when off, making this whole setup a piece of cake.

So back to the template. Here’s how the key range works for the Combinator:

The Key Mapping area of the Combinator, where we use the Key Range to map our Kong drum pads, Dr.OctoRex Loop Slots, and sound device pattern triggers to individual keys.
The Key Mapping area of the Combinator, where we use the Key Range to map our Kong drum pads, Dr.OctoRex Loop Slots, and sound device pattern triggers to individual keys.

The root of this method is in how you program the Combinator Key Range assignments for the various devices. And we went over most of this in the second part of the tutorial. However, I’ve added in a few Dr.Rex loops and some variations, as well as a Kong device to play our drums. Since both those devices already have default key assignments, you don’t need to do too much to get them working for you. The other sounds are placed on other free key areas on the keyboard. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • MIDI Keys D#0 – B0: Dr. OctoRex Loop Player (Drum Loop with 8 variations in the 8 different slots). D#0 Stops the Loop. E0 – B0: Plays Loop slots 1-8. You can switch between the slots in mid-stream. And depending on how you have your “Trig Next Loop” set up, switching from one slot to the next will follow one of those three methods: Bar, Beat, or 1/16th note.
  • MIDI Keys C1 – D#2: Kong Drum Designer (Main Drums with a Basic drum setup on all 16 Pads). Plays Pads 1-16.
  • MIDI Keys E2 – G#2: Subtractor Bass. E2 – G2 plays Bass patterns 1 – 4 in a “Latched” mode. Therefore, you need to press the key once to trigger the pattern, and press once more to stop playing the pattern. G#2 applies a delay / reverb effect to the bass patterns. You can play each of the bass patterns or all of them combined if you like. Then press G#2 to apply the effect to the bass sound.
  • MIDI Keys A2 – C3: Thor Pad Sounds 1 & 2. These keys play 4 different pad patterns. Both pad sounds are joined together, so the patterns here will play both simultaneously. That’s why I separated them by panning them left and right. The Pad patterns are also “Latched” to the keys. You can also shuttle both pad sounds left and right by using Rotary 4 on the Combinator. This applies an LFO waveform to pan the sounds back and forth inversely. Increase the amount of movement by moving the Rotary further to the right. Reduce the auto-pan completely by moving the rotary all the way left.
  • MIDI Keys C#3 – E3: Thor Synth. These keys play 4 different synth patterns also in a “Latched” mode.
  • MIDI Keys F3 – A3: Thor Rhythm section. Keys F3 – G#3 plays 4 different Rhythm patterns also in a “Latched” mode. A3 applies a distortion effect to the Rhythm patterns. In the same way as the bass works, you can play any patterns using the first 4 keys, and then press A3 to apply the distortion to the sound.

In just under 4 octaves, we’ve managed to provide all the instruments necessary to produce a track. That still leaves plenty more keys to assign to anything from sounds, patterns, and FX switches. Just because I stopped here doesn’t mean you have to. You can use the file as a template, but you’ll gain more out of understanding how the routings work, and what they are doing. This way, you can truly make the Combinator your own. So I encourage you to try your hand at creating your own template file along these lines. You might find it not only a creative exercise, but also a challenging and engaging way to work with the software. And finally, you might get a really nice reusable template that makes creating tracks quicker or “Live” play with Reason better.

This image shows the various Note Lanes for the Combinator. Each note lane represents a different sound source, Kong drum pad, or Rex Loop Slot selection.
This image shows the various Note Lanes for the Combinator. Each note lane represents a different sound source, Kong drum pad, or Rex Loop Slot selection.

If you are programming a song, you need to create a new note lane for each new track you introduce, because the Combinator IS the song. This is how I set it up in the project’s .rns file. So you can go through one track at a time on each note lane and place all your note triggers there. Alternately, if you are playing live, you can have the entire song on a single note lane.

In addition, when you load the Combinator into your project, you should be aware that the mastering is already built into the Combinator. Rotary 1 controls the Compression Input and Rotary 2 controls the Maximizer input. This mastering setup was largely borrowed from the “Hip Hop” mastering patch in the Factory Soundbank and then the devices were moved and rerouted into the Combinator. You can also create a “bypass” for the entire set of mastering devices and put that on button 4 of the Combinator if you like.

This brings up another point. All the sounds inside the file come from the Factory Soundbank or else were built by me (most of the Kong drums, Synth, and Effects were my creation, while the rest were default patches, drum samples, and Rex files that ship with R5). So you shouldn’t have any problems opening the Combinator or .rns files on your computer.

Differences with the “One Finger Band (Latched – R4)” Combinator

Since Reason 4 users don’t have the new Kong device, I replaced this with a Redrum. The clips and notes in the main sequencer are still the same, but the drum sounds will be different. Each Redrum channel is triggered by a Thor device, and the Thor devices are mapped to the Combinator Keys in the Combinator Programmer. So the key assignments for the drums are different than the R5 file. Those with R5 can, of course, open both .rns files. Those with R4 can only open the R4 Combinator.

One other difference is that I had to remove the Dr. OctoRex device, so there is no “Drum Loop” note lane for the R4 .rns file. You can, of course add in any number of legacy Dr.Rex devices and Rex loops in your own template. Since I do all my work in Reason 5 and Record 1.5 now, I have to stop working with the legacy Dr. Rex loop player. So farewell Dr. Rex. I loved you while you were with us. R.I.P.

Careful with that Pitchfork, Eugene (any Pink Floyd fans out there?)

When I was trying to streamline things a bit, I got into a bit of a pickle. Rather than duplicate all the sound sources over and over just to recreate new patterns, I decided to Merge the Note/Gate CV from the “Pattern” Thors into the sound source devices. In order to do this, you need to use 2 Spider CV Mergers; one for the Note and the other for the Gate. However, when you do this, you’ll notice that the pitch of your sounds will go upward, depending how many sound sources you have connected to the Spider. You’ll need to pitch downward using the trim knobs next to the CV inputs on the Merger side of the Spider. This is fiddly because you need to adjust all four downward until you get the pitch you want (assuming you have four pattern devices merged into one CV output). Even merging 2 note CV sources into one will force you to lower the trim knobs a bit toward the left. As for the Gate CV inputs, you can turn all the trim knobs way up to 127. I don’t think this has any noticeable affect on the Gate.

This image shows the attenuation of the pitch on the "Note" CV Merger on the left and the attenuation of the "Gate" CV Merger on the right, using the CV trim knobs.
This image shows the attenuation of the pitch on the “Note” CV Merger on the left and the attenuation of the “Gate” CV Merger on the right, using the CV trim knobs.

This also complicates matters a little bit because you now have 3 parameters affecting the pitch of your sound: The Oscillators in the sound source, the Note values of the Step Sequencers on the “Pattern” Thors, and the combined CV output from the Spider CV Merger (which is attenuated using the trim knobs). Just be aware that the combination of all three parameters will affect the pitch of your sound. You can, of course, play around with all three to affect your pitch, but I found it’s usually easier to first set up your trim knobs to be in the right vicinity of the Octave you want the sound source playing, then leaving them alone and using the Pattern knobs to adjust the pitch.

Suggestions for Using this Combinator setup

  • Live Play. Ultimately, this has the potential to create some really monster setups where you have a wide array of devices and patterns playing those devices all along a single keyboard controller. And with the new Ableton Controllers out there, you can make great use of them for Reason also. All you need is a lot of lighted buttons that are set up to trigger MIDI Key notes, and you’re golden. You can even set things up logically. If you have an 8×8 64-button controller, you can use the first two rows to control Kong, the third row to control a Dr. OctoRex with loop slots (use 1 slot to stop the loop from playing, and 7 other ones for loop variations or entirely new loops in the other slots. And so on and so forth.
  • Remixing potential. Change around the patterns inside the various “Pattern” Thors and/or change the sound sources to your own patches to instantly create a variation on the Midi data that’s in your main sequencer. This takes very little time to do and can generate an entirely new sound or track for you. The beauty is in the fact that you’ve already built the template and laid down midi data. All the hard lifting is done.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious you can set things up to trigger the instrument direction switches (currently set up on Combinator buttons 1-3) from MIDI keys instead.

So there you have it: Part 3 in our MIDI Key Triggering explorations. Should I delve into a “Part 4” or move on to something new? And let me know if you have any other ideas that come to mind where Key Triggering is concerned. In parting, I’ll leave you with the sweetly dark ambient glitch sounds of my little experiment:

54 – Key Trig Patterns (Part 2)

So here we are once again with part two in our series on key triggering our patterns. In this part, I’m going to bring both methods together so that you can switch between the two methods with the click of a button. I’m also going to add a few new tricks into the mix. And finally show you how to hook everything up to your Kong pads, in the event you want to use the pads as triggers instead of your keyboard. So let’s dig our heels in.

So here we are once again with part two in our series on key triggering our patterns. In this part, I’m going to bring both methods together so that you can switch between the two methods with the click of a button. I’m also going to add a few new tricks into the mix. And finally show you how to hook everything up to your Kong pads, in the event you want to use the pads as triggers instead of your keyboard. So let’s dig our heels in.

You can download the project files here: key-trig-pattern-methods-2. It contains 2 Combinators and the .rns file that showcases the 2 main patches we’re building here. Load up your sounds inside them and have fun tweaking the patterns and controlling them via your key controller or Pad controller.

Bringing together the “Momentary” and “Latched” Triggering Methods

The two triggering methods are great on their own, but think of how great it would be to have both of them right at your fingertips. This technique allows you to switch between “Momentary” and “Latched” key triggers. And if you’re not sure what the hell I’m talking about, then you haven’t read Part 1 of the series, so go back in and read it would ya! Because this is going to be fun. First, the video to show you how it’s done:

And next, the full step-by-step for those that prefer to read through:

  1. Create a Combinator, and inside create a 6:2 Mixer, Subtractor, and holding down “Shift,” create two Thors. Completely initialize the Thor by removing the Oscillator and Filter, and bring all the parameter values to zero.
  2. Label the first Thor “Trigger” and the second Thor “Pattern. Flip the rack around and send the Curve 1 CV output from the “Trigger” Thor to the CV1 input on the “Pattern” Thor. Then send the Note and Gate/Velocity CV outputs from the “Pattern” Thor into the CV and Gate inputs on the Subtractor.
  3. The Curve 1 CV going from the "Trigger" Thor into the CV1 Input on the "Pattern" Thor.
    The Curve 1 CV going from the "Trigger" Thor into the CV1 Input on the "Pattern" Thor.
    The Note / Gate CV Connections from the "Pattern" Thor into the Subtractor.
    The Note / Gate CV Connections from the "Pattern" Thor into the Subtractor.
  4. Flip the rack back around to the front and create a 2-step pattern in the “Trigger” Thor. Switch the Edit knob to “Curve 1” and then set “Step 1” to zero (0) and “Step 2” to 100. Switch the Run Mode to “Step” and enter the following into the Modulator Bus Routing Section (MBRS):
      MIDI Gate (found under MIDI Key > Gate) : 0 > S. Trig (found under Step Sequencer > Trig)
  5. The Modulation Bus Routing Section for the "Trigger" Thor
    The Modulation Bus Routing Section for the "Trigger" Thor
  6. In the “Pattern” Thor, enter any pattern you like. Set the Run Mode to “Repeat” and in the MBRS, enter the following lines:
      CV In1 : 0 > S. Trig
      MIDI Gate : 100 > S. Trig
      Pitch Bend : 53 > S. Transp (found under Step Sequencer > Transpose)
  7. The Modulation Bus Routing Section for the "Pattern" Thor
    The Modulation Bus Routing Section for the "Pattern" Thor
  8. Open up the Combinator programmer, and uncheck the “Receive Notes” checkbox for the Subtractor. Also set the Key Range for both the “Trigger” and “Pattern” Thors to Lo: C-2 / Hi: C-2.
  9. Still inside the Combinator Modulation Routing area, select the “Trigger” Thor and set up the following line:
      Button 1 > Mod 1 Dest Amount : 0 / 100
  10. Then select the “Pattern” Thor, and set up the following lines:
      Button 1 > Mod 1 Dest Amount: 0 / 100
      Button 1 > Mod 2 Dest Amount: 100 / 0

That’s all there is to it. Now when you play the C-2 key on your keyboard controller, the trigger method is Momentary (the pattern starts when you press the key and stops when you release the key). Press Button 1 on the Combinator, and now when you press the key, the trigger method is “latched” (the pattern starts when you press the key and only stops when you press the key again).

Note: One sticky issue with this setup is as follows: Let’s say you have the “Latch” mode turned on (button 1) and press a key to play the pattern. If you switch the “Latch” mode off (button 1 again) before stopping the pattern, the next time you turn the “Latch” mode on again it will automatically run / play the pattern. If you always turn off your pattern before switching from “Latch” mode to “Momentary” mode, then you won’t have this problem. So keep that in mind. And if you have a workaround for this, let me know and I’ll be glad to update the patch.

The Completed Combinator front panel. Note that I mapped a few more Sequencer controls to the Combinator Rotaries and Buttons.
The Completed Combinator front panel. Note that I mapped a few more Sequencer controls to the Combinator Rotaries and Buttons. The patch is in the Project files so you can open it up and play with it.

Kong Pad Triggering (Obviously for Reason 5 users)

One other method is to use the Kong pads to trigger your patterns (and sounds). What we’re going to do here is set up the same Pattern which can be triggered from two Kong pads. Pad 1 will be a “Momentary” key trigger, and Pad 2 will be a “Latched” key trigger. In this way, we simply need to translate the triggers from Keys to Kong Pads. And it’s much easier than it seems. I’ll start over from the beginning. But first, here’s the video:

And next, is the step-by-step tutorial:

  1. First, Create a Combinator and inside the Combinator create a 6:2 Line Mixer and a Subtractor (with a sound you like loaded into the Subtractor — note that you can select any sound source you like inside Reason, even another Combinator). Then, holding your “Shift” key down, create in order a Kong, and two Thor devices. Move the Subtractor to the bottom of the devices in the Combinator (this just makes it a little easier to follow along our CV paths).
  2. Initialize both Thor devices, so that all the levels are set to zero, and all the oscillators, filters, and envelopes are turned off. Label the first Thor “Latch,” and second Thor “Pattern.”
  3. Flip around to the back and Show the Combinator programmer. Then send the Gate Out CV from Kong’s Pad 1 into the CV1 input on the “Pattern” Thor.  Then send the Gate Out CV from Kong’s Pad 2 into the “Gate In (Trig) of the “Latch” Thor.
  4. Send the Curve 1 CV output from the “Latch” Thor into the Gate In (Trig) of the “Pattern” Thor.
  5. On the “Pattern” Thor, send the Note and Gate/Velocity CV outputs into the CV and Gate inputs on the Subtractor.
  6. The back of the rack showing most of the Thor - Kong - Subtractor CV routing. Hard to show this all in one screenshot.
    The back of the rack showing most of the Thor - Kong - Subtractor CV routing. Hard to show this all in one screenshot.
  7. With the routing all set, flip the rack back around to the front. In the Combinator programmer, ensure that the only device receiving notes is the Kong device. Uncheck the “Receive Notes” checkbox for all other devices. Also label “Pad 1” on Kong to “Temp Pattern” and label “Pad 2” on Kong to “Latch Pattern.”
  8. In the “Latch” Thor, create a 2-step pattern. Switch the Edit knob to “Curve 1” and then set “Step 1” to zero (0) and “Step 2” to 127. Switch the Run Mode to “Step” and enter the following into the Modulator Bus Routing Section (MBRS):
      CV In1 : 100 > S. Trig (found under Step Sequencer > Trig)
  9. In the “Pattern” Thor, set the Run Mode to “Repeat” and enter any pattern you like into the Step Sequencer. This will be the pattern that plays your Subtractor. Enter the following into the MBRS:
      CV In1 : 100 > S. Trig

Now when you press Pad 1 on Kong, the pattern starts and when you lift your finger from the pad, the pattern stops (Momentary). If you press Pad 2, the same pattern plays in “Latched” key trigger mode, which means the pattern starts and plays until you press on Pad 2 again. This is the easiest way I’ve found to set up both a “Momentary” and “Latched pattern on Kong Pads.

The front panel, showing the 3 Kong Pads setup to control your Pattern in the Thor Step Sequencer.
The front panel, showing the 3 Kong Pads setup to control your Pattern in the Thor Step Sequencer.

Taking Kong a Step Further (Stepping it up a Notch! — ok enough with the bad puns)

Let’s do one last thing. Let’s add a new element to a third pad which switches between the 1-shot and Repeat modes. This will affect the way the first 2 pads work a bit, but it will be worth it just to add this functionality.

  1. Duplicate the “Latch” Thor and label it “One Shot.” Then move it to the top of the other Thor device.
  2. Flip around to the back of the rack and send the Gate Out CV from Pad 3 into the CV1 input on the “One Shot” Thor device. Then send the Curve 1 CV output from the “One Shot” Thor into the CV1 input on the back of the Combinator (click the “Show Programmer” button if it’s not visible). Also set the trim knob to 127 and switch to “Unipolar” mode.
  3. Flip back to the front of the rack and in the Combinator’s programmer panel, select the “Pattern” Thor, and enter the following in the Modulation Routing:
      CV In 1 > Run Mode : 3 / 2

Label Pad 3 on the Kong device to “1-Shot / Rep.” and you’re done. Now you can switch between the two run modes using the Kong Pad 3. Note that if you switch from Repeat to 1-shot, both Pad 1 and Pad 2 will act the same way and play the Pattern through once and then stop. There won’t be any difference unless you have Pad 3 set to “Repeat” Run mode. But still, this can extend the Kong functionality just a little bit more. And with some ingenuity you can add other things to the Kong pads, such as an octave up/down shift (see my Kong Piano Roll tutorial for that little trick).

One Final Note about the Kong Setup

I know some people will say, “Well why can’t I put the ‘Momentary’ / ‘Latch’ on a single pad and then use that pad to switch between the two (as the Combinator button does)”? Truth is that I gave this idea a shot, and you can download the idea here: Kong-Pad-Trig-Sequencer(Alternate). However, I couldn’t seem to get around the fact that it was a little quirky. You’ll see the “Pattern” triggers from Pad 1 and the  “switch” toggle is on Pad 16. The problem is that if you press the pattern pad (Pad 1) an even number of times, everything works great. As soon as you press Pad 1 an odd number of times, and then switch from “Momentary” to “Latch” mode using pad 16, the pattern is set off and runs once Pad 16 is pressed. I traced it down to the fact that if the “Trigger” Thor’s step sequencer is left on the second step when switching to “Latched” mode, the pattern automatically runs (or remains open to run). Ultimately, I need a way to reset the Step Sequencer back to “Step 1” when Pad 16 is pressed (or rather, when sending the gate out from Pad 16). But it was very late last night and I couldn’t figure out how to do this. So if anyone has a solution, please let me know and I’ll fix the patch and re-upload it.


So what do you think? Does this setup work for you? Stick around. There’s going to be plenty more to come your way.

53 – Key Trig Patterns (Part 1)

I’m sure most of us have used the Matrix or Thor Step Sequencer to some extent. But how often have we thought about using our keyboard to trigger those patterns? I know I’ve never given it much serious thought, since I usually sequence all the parts into the main sequencer. But this time I’m going to explore the possibility of triggering patterns from our Keyboard. This has a lot of “live play” applications.

By now, most of us know how to use Pattern sequencers to play parts in their tracks. I’m sure most of us have used the Matrix or Thor Step Sequencer to some extent or degree. But how often have we thought about using our keyboard to trigger those patterns? I know I’ve never given it much serious thought, and it’s probably due to the fact that I don’t play “live.” I usually sequence all the parts into the main sequencer. So this time, we’re going to explore the possibility of triggering patterns from our Keyboard.

The project files can be downloaded here: key-trig-pattern-methods. This file contains some combinators and an .rns file with all the combinators inside. These Combinators outline some of the methods presented in the tutorial below. Try them out and see what you can do with these ideas.

Furthermore, we’ll see just how far we can take this idea. The whole thing will be contained inside a Combinator (or a Kong device, if you wish), and the notes on the keyboard will trigger different patterns playing different instruments. It’s like having full control of the band at your fingertips on your piano or controller keyboard.

Sound interesting to you? Yeah, it was interesting to me too.

Before I jump into the various methods of Key Triggering, I want to give a huge shout out to Peff for providing help on figuring out the “Latching” method below. Without his help, I would have spent several more hours tearing out my hair. So thanks Kurt! I really appreciate all the help you provide, not just to me, but to the whole community.

Triggering Matrix Patterns

Let me start off by saying this is a huge PITA where the Matrix is concerned. The main problem lies in the delay of Pattern triggering from the moment when you press the trigger key to the moment the pattern starts (variable, depending on when the key was hit during playback). Yes I know, you can plop your patterns down on the Matrix pattern lanes, but that’s defeating the whole purpose of this tutorial, which is all about triggering patterns via different keys on your keyboard. But for the sake of argument (and to be complete), I’ll show you first how to set it up this way using a Matrix, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. Maybe this is beneficial on some planet where delay is a “cool” and “hip” concept. Here’s a video where I outline 2 methods to key trigger a Matrix Pattern. The first method is not described in detail here because it introduces the dreaded delay. But the second method (outlined in detail below) can be useful in a somewhat chaotic and free-running way.

Note: Ed Bauman highlights a method you can use to Trigger Matrix Patterns “almost” instantaneously here: “When Reason’s Time Signature is set to 4/4, patterns will switch on every measure, a full 16 x 16th notes, but if you set the Time Signature to 1/16, patterns will switch on every 16th note, so it’s basically immediate. Of course, if you’re playing back a sequence, doing this completely screws up the measures in a song and makes the whole song gigantic as far as measure count goes, but it definitely works for the Matrix and ReDrum. It used to apply to Dr. Rex as well but with Dr. Octo Rex we now have the Trig Next Loop region which essentially does the same thing if you’re switching around rex files within one Dr. Octo Rex.”

  1. First, Create a Combinator. Then create a 14:2 Mixer, and a sound source (in this case a Subtractor). Load up a Subtractor patch or else create your own synth sound in the Subtractor. Then create a Matrix underneath. It should automatically connect the Note / Gate CV for you. Enter a pattern into the Matrix (or press Ctrl+R to quickly enter a random pattern).
  2. In between the Subtractor and the Matrix, we’re going to create a Thor and completely initialize the patch (this means removing any Oscillators and Filters, and dropping all the values down to zero.
  3. The Thor is simply used as the gate trigger. So flip around to the back of the rack and connect the Note / Gate CV from the Matrix into the Thor CV1 & 2 inputs. Also connect the CV 1 & 2 outputs from Thor back into the Note / Gate CV inputs on the Subtractor.
The back of the rack showing the CV passing from the Matrix through the Thor and into the Subtractor.
The back of the rack showing the CV passing from the Matrix through the Thor and into the Subtractor.
  1. Flip around to the front again, and in the Thor Modulation Bus Routing Section (MBRS), enter the following:
      CV In1 : 100 > CV Out1 : 100 > Midi Gate (under Midi Key > Gate)
    CV In2 : 100 > CV Out2 : 100 > Midi Gate (under Midi Key > Gate)
  • Open up the Programmer Modulation Routing on the Combinator and for the Subtractor device uncheck the “Receive Notes” checkbox. Then select the Thor device and enter the following for the Key Range: Lo: C-2 / Hi: C-2. This way, when you press C-2 on your keyboard controller, it will open the gate and play the pattern on the Matrix.
  • Now press Run so the Matrix pattern is running. You won’t hear anything yet. In order to hear the pattern (turning it on or off) you need to press the C-2 key. This allows you to hear the pattern. The crappy part is that there’s no telling when the pattern will be picked up when you press the key. Put another way, the pattern is continually running, but only sounds when you press and hold the key down. Not the most elegant solution.
  • To add multiple instruments or parts, select the Subtractor, Thor, and the Matrix (holding down your “Shift” key to multiple-select the devices), right-click and select “duplicate devices and tracks.” Enter your new pattern in the Matrix. Then flip to the back of the rack and route the audio out of the Subtractor to a new channel. Finally, go into the Combinator programmer, and adjust the Thor device so that only one key on your keyboard controller is used to trigger the Thor (C#-2, for example).
  • Repeat the above process for as many sounds as you need (up to the total amount of keys that your keyboard will allow: 88 for a full size piano or synth controller keyboard, or 128 for the full midi range which a Reason or Record Combinator allows — from C-2 to G8). This is more than enough of a range to create a complete set of instruments and sounds for most any standard songs or performances.
  • Using Thor’s Step Sequencer for Precise Pattern Key Triggering

    Now that you have an understanding of how the Matrix is key triggered, I’ll move on to a more robust way of accessing patterns via the keyboard. This method replaces the Matrix in favor of the Thor Step Sequencer. Since the Thor Step Sequencer can be programmed to start and stop precisely where you want it, using it is the best option when you want precise control over your sounds. It’s just too bad that it’s more of a pain to enter and edit notes into it. The Matrix, to my eyes, provide a simple visual way to add patterns. The Thor Step Sequencer is more tedious by changing rotary knobs all the time.

    The Momentary Key Method

    The first method is the easiest and allows you to create a “momentary” trigger via your midi keys. This means that when you press a key, the Step Sequencer plays the pattern. When you release the key, the pattern stops.

    1. To set this up, first create a Combinator, and then in order a 6:2 Mixer, a sound device (here, a Subtractor), and holding the “Shift” key, a Thor device. While you’re at the front of the rack, add a sound into the Subtractor that you’d like to hear. Any sound will do.
    2. Completely Initialize the Thor device. This means removing the Oscillators, Filters, bringing all values to zero as well.
    3. In the Thor MBRS, enter the following:
        Button 1 : 100 > S.Trig (found under Step Sequencer > Trig)
    4. Directly to the rght of Button 1 on the Thor, use the upward spin control arrow to set this to C-2. This means that the Thor Step Sequencer is triggered when the C-2 key is pressed. In the Step Sequencer, set the Run Mode to “Repeat” and enter a pattern into the Step Sequencer (note that to gain access to the full note range, you’ll need to switch the Octave setting to “Full”).

    Note that an alternate way to trigger the Step Sequencer is outlined in the Video. Though this is a more labor intensive way to trigger things. If you want to use this method, switch the “Button 1” source in the MBRS to “MIDI Gate (found under MIDI Key > Gate)” and then open the Combinator Programmer and adjust the Key Range of the Thor device to Lo: C-2 / Hi: C-2 (so one key is selected). This achieves the same outcome.

    1. Flip the rack around and in the “Step Sequencer CV Output,” send the Note and Gate/Velocity CV outputs into the Gate / CV inputs on the Subtractor.
    The back of the rack showing the Thor routing from the Step Sequencer into the Subtractor.
    The back of the rack showing the Thor routing from the Step Sequencer into the Subtractor.
    1. Lastly, go into the Combinator Programmer, and deselect the “Receive Notes” checkbox for the Subtractor (so that the Subtractor only receives notes from the Thor Step Sequencer).

    Now, when you play the C-2 key, the Thor Step Sequencer will start and play for as long as the key is held down. Cool right? If you want to create more instruments along other keys, create the new sound device (or even another Combinator), duplicate the Thor, connect the new Thor CV outputs to the new device, and move the button spin control to the new key setting. Done.

    The Latched Key Method

    No, this is not the latched key kid hanging outside his parents’ house with the key around his neck. This is the second method to trigger patterns via MIDI keys. It is is a little more complex because you need two Thors to produce it. This method is a “latch” or “hold” style of triggering. Another way to look at it is a toggled pattern on / pattern off method. In this procedure, you press a key and the pattern starts. The pattern then plays through even when you release the key. You then press the same key again, and the pattern stops. In this way, the pattern is “latched” by the key.

    1. Building on the first method, we need to change a few things. First, reset the Combinator by removing the key assignment (using the spin control to the right of the button — which should be set to “-“). We also need to remove the “Button 1” line in the MBRS (not necessary, but for cleanliness’ sake). Label this Thor “Pattern.”
    2. Create a new Thor and completely initialize it as we did previously. Label it “Trigger.” In the Step Sequencer, set the Run Mode to “Step,” change the Edit knob to “Curve 1” and create a 2-step pattern, with Step 1 set to zero (0) and Step 2 set to 100. Then enter the following line in the MBRS:
        MIDI Gate : 100 > S. Trig
    3. Flip the rack around and send the “Curve 1” CV output from the “Trigger” Thor into the “Gate In (Trig)” CV input on the “Pattern” Thor.
    The back of the Reason rack with the CV routings for the latched setup. One Thor triggers the other Thor's Step Sequencer to start
    The back of the Reason rack with the CV routings for the latched setup. One Thor triggers the other Thor's Step Sequencer to start
    1. Flip the rack back to the front and in the Combinator Programmer, ensure both the Subtractor and “Pattern” Thor is not receiving notes (uncheck the “Receive Notes” checkbox), and ensure the “Trigger” Thor is receiving notes (the “Receive Notes” checkbox has a check in it). Also set the Key Range value for the “Trigger” Thor to Lo: C-2 / Hi: C-2.
    The Combinator Programmer Modulation Routing
    The Combinator Programmer Modulation Routing

    Now press the C-2 key on your keyboard. The Step Sequencer starts and plays through even when you release the key. Press the key again, and the Step Sequencer stops. If you wish to add more devices to different keys that are “latch” triggered, create the new sound device (or even another Combinator), duplicate the 2 Thors, connect the new Thor CV outputs from the “Pattern” Thor to the new device, and adjust the Key Range to a new key for the “Trigger” Thor within the Combinator Programmer. Then you can set up your pattern in the “Pattern” Thor Step Sequencer, and you’re all set. Simple right?

    Where do you go from here?

    Here’s a few suggestions, which we will explore in the next part in our “Key Triggering Patterns” tutorial series:

    • Now that we have the hang of the way in which we can trigger the Thor Step Sequencer via your keyboard controller, you can duplicate the same sound source as many times as you like to create new patterns for the same sound source. Yes, you can merge the CV to control the same sound source (instead of duplicating the sound source), but it’s often quicker just to copy the whole thing and change your pattern.
    • You can create many different sound source instruments (any synths, samplers, Rex or Drum modules) that are controlled by different Thor Step Sequencers and map them to your keyboard to create complex multi-instrument Combinators. Using this method, you could even create an entire song within a single Combinator, and play the parts of the song by playing notes on your keyboard. In this way, you can bring the sounds in and out based on how you play the keyboard, or program the notes directly into the main Reason sequencer.
    • Instead of setting this all up in a Combinator, try setting it up on a Kong device, and using the Pads to trigger the patterns instead of the Combinator.
    • Feeling ambitious? Try combining the two methods: “Momentary” and “Latched,” then designating a key on your keyboard, a button on the Combinator, or a Pad on Kong to switch between the two methods.

    These ideas are great for setting up “Live Play” templates in Reason Combinators. It takes a lot of preparation to set up a complete song in this manner, but once it’s set up, it will make you look like a magician as you play complete part sequences with the press of a key.


    What do you think of these ideas? Have any others that you’d like to share here? Post a comment and let me know what you’re thinking. As always, thanks for watching, listening, and reading.

    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):
    Randomize
    Alter Pattern
    1 Option (via right-click context menu):
    Randomize
    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:
    Forward
    5 directions:
    Forward
    Reverse
    Pendulum 1
    Pendulum 2
    Random
    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:
    Off
    Step
    One-Shot
    Repeat
    Mute Light Yes Yes
    Sync Capability Yes Yes
    Synced Rate / Resolution 9 Positions (non-automatable):
    1/2
    1/4
    1/8
    1/8T (Triplet)
    1/16
    1/16T (Triplet)
    1/32
    1/64
    1/128
    21 Positions:
    16/4
    12/4
    8/4
    7/4
    6/4
    5/4
    4/4
    3/4
    2/4
    3/8
    1/2T (Triplet)
    1/4
    3/16
    1/4T (Triplet)
    1/8
    1/16D (Dotted)
    1/8T (Triplet)
    1/16
    1/16T (Triplet)
    1/32
    1/64
    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.
    Editability
    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):
    1/4
    1/3
    3/8
    1/2
    5/8
    2/3
    3/4
    7/8
    1
    5/4
    4/3
    6/4
    7/4
    8/4
    9/4
    3
    4
    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:
    Note
    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!