Terry Bozzio is one amazing drummer. He’s played with countless musicians and constellations, including Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, Mick Jagger and Jeff Beck. Terry doesn’t only play the drums though! For his own compositions he often turns to Reason.
How do you approach music making in Reason?
I use reason in so many different ways. Sometimes I just search through sounds until I find something I like & then create around that sound. When I use a keyboard I always like to try the sounds at the lowest & highest registers (where the sounds were not designed to be played) to find unique effects I can compose with. I like using the keyboard to get human or loose phrasing without quantization. On the other hand, I have used no keyboard & just use the MIDI sequencer to punch in notes one at a time. I’ve composed many classical pieces this way. I find it much like working a crossword puzzle! It has to make sense vertically & horizontally!
Join producer Justen Williams behind the scenes in his studio as he creates a track in Reason 7. Learn about his approach to track building, get some useful tips & tricks and see Parsec‘s vocoder feature in action!
You can try out Parsec yourself in the Propellerhead Shop.
When you come across a video where someone samples percussion and snoring (!) together with an older gentleman covered in tattoos, it’s hard not to be curious. Therefore we had a quick chat with New York-based mad audio experimentalist Hot Sugar to find out more about his approach to music production.
Your music is full of unique sounds, could you tell us a bit about how you create them?
I record a lot of sounds on portable recorders then import them to the NN-XT to make patches. I make everything from basses to keys or sustained organ type patches. I’ll compose a melody and add instrumentation surrounding it. After that I import drum samples i’ve recorded into Redrum or Kong and make a beat to accompany the riffs I created. Between the drum machines and the samplers you can make a whole song.
My favorite patches are the ones I’ve made using recordings I couldn’t hear at the time (usually because they were too quiet or even silent). Just because we don’t hear something doesn’t mean there isn’t a sound, tone or texture to present. I love recording “silence” and cranking up the volume afterwards to hear the intricacies our ears cant. I’ve made number of patches from roomtones that at first seemed silent but once distorted and compressed sounded like eerie whistles or even basses. I usually throw them into the NN-XT too.
When I travel to a place I haven’t been to before I turn on my recorder and capture it (whether a new place a couple blocks from my apartment or another country entirely). Sometimes I like to scroll through my folders of recordings and press play without reading the filename. Some are recognizable but most are confusing and disorienting. I try to picture the spot and by then my imagination gets the best of me. Once I’m lost in that world I can hear other melodies and things going on so the songs start writing themselves.
Any Words of Wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians?
There are plenty of stock sounds offered by a program like Reason but there are an infinite number of other ones outside that are just waiting to be recorded and brought back to your computer. The sounds that come with the program are incredibly impressive but the real gift Reason offers is the ability to transform whatever you want on your own.
We caught up with music production duo KOAN Sound to learn a bit more about how they use Reason in their music. Little that we know that they’d reveal some truly amazing tips for designing synths and bass lines. Read on to find out how they create those gut-wrenching bass sounds and mind-bending effects!
Could you tell us a little bit about how you guys approach sound design in Reason?
We use Reason mainly for creating synths and basslines. The Malström synth is used for pretty much every bass sound, and we normally use the different saw and square wave variations. By themselves they’re very chunky waveforms so they provide a great basis for an endless number of sounds. Most of our bass sounds are made by first making a long bass note and giving it some movement so we can later resample it in interesting ways. To get the movement we tend to go crazy with automation and effects until we get a dynamic but clean sound. For example we’ll add an EQ before a Scream 4 in the chain of effects because when you automate the EQ frequency and gain, it combines with the distortion to create really cool movement. Then we’ll usually export and resample the sound.
We resample a lot in Reason with the NN-19. It’s an easy way to get a bass sounding really techy. For example when we have a sound we like in the NN-19, we’ll duplicate it then apply different effects to each one, dedicating one to the low end and the other for highs and mids. For example we might add a bandpass filter to one of them and slightly detune it in the sampler so when the bandpass is automated it sweeps through the frequencies and phases them which sounds pretty nice. We could then export this again and repeat if needs be. Also, the notch filter on the NN-19 is awesome and we use it often to give bass more movement.
The Scream 4 distortion is probably our favourite thing about Reason. It’s such a versatile tool and can completely mangle sounds whilst keeping them relatively clean. We’ve used it to process snares too. The loud, metallic snares in ‘Meanwhile, In The Future’ were made by putting live snare samples through the Scream 4. It created these huge exaggerated tails which didn’t sound overly distorted.
Any specific sound design tips you got that really helped you out?
Best thing we learnt was to think about sounds in three parts: lows, middles and highs. This helps with the overall mix of the track because you can then add and remove frequencies so it comes together like a jigsaw. But it’s also incredibly helpful when thinking about bass sounds. Splitting bass into multiple parts and treating each part differently with filters and effects can create very sonically pleasing sounds.
Do you have any favorite sound or patch or do you create everything from scratch?
For our more melodic tracks we often use the Hall Strings from the NN-XT. When low pass filtered and with some reverb they can provide a very deep and warm layer to the track. Even when we’ve used live recordings of violins, like in our Sanctuary EP, we layered them with these Reason strings to thicken out the mix.