Making friends with clips

Posted by Mattias in Tutorials

The main sequencer in Reason 4 has undergone some serious improvement since version 3. One improvement is the introduction of so called clips. In this article, we’ll try to describe the philosophy behind clips and give an example of a basic music production process using the sequencer in Reason 4.

What’s a clip?

A clip is essentially a take. Everything you record in the Reason 4 sequencer will end up in a clip. A clip can contain different types of information; note events, device parameter automation, pattern automation, tempo automation etc. Personally, I like to picture a clip as a dynamic piece of transparent tape containing a short piece of music information. A selected clip in the Reason 4 sequencer is indicated by a black frame with handles on either side:

Discovering Part18 Clips

When recording, a note clip will always snap to the closest bar to make it easy to arrange afterwards. A clip is not fixed but can be modified in various ways; extended, shortened, joined with other clips etc. etc. Everything in a clip can also easily be modified by entering Edit Mode from the sequencer toolbar or by simply double-clicking the clip.

Why clips?

The reasons for choosing the clips concept are many but first and foremost to make for creativity and ease when creating and arranging music. Everything you record in the Reason 4 sequencer ends up in clips. This way you can rest assured that no information or data will be lost by mistake during editing and arrangement.

Some introductory clips tips

Too many clips on the lane?

Sometimes, if you do several overdubs on the same region of a lane, you could end up with a lot of small clips which eventually could be difficult to overview and to manage. If this happens, just select all clips in that region of the lane with the Arrow tool and choose Join from the Edit menu (or Ctrl [PC]/Option [Mac]+J). Now, everything will end up in just a single, easily manageable, clip.

Discovering Part18 Joinclips

Drawing notes in clips

If you want to draw note events using the Pencil tool it’s important to remember that you have to do this in a clip. If there is no clip present in the lane you have to create one first. The nice thing is that you create a new clip with the Pencil tool as well. So, in Edit Mode, select the Pencil tool and draw the empty clip to cover the number of bars you like. Then, right after and without switching tool, begin to draw your notes in the clip.

Discovering Part18 Drawnotes

Joining masked clips

If you decide to join clips that contain masked notes, be aware that any masked notes in the “joint section” will be deleted. The reason for this is that it’s not possible to mask notes in the middle of a clip. And if you join two clips, the “joint section” will be in the middle of the new clip. However, a rule of thumb is that what you hear before joining clips is exactly what you’re going to hear after joining.

The recording process

The following is a basic example of how a recording process could evolve using the Reason 4 sequencer. Let’s start from scratch with a new document.

Drums

First we create a Redrum device. We record a couple of patterns in the internal Redrum pattern sequencer. Then, we click the Create Pattern Lane button on the main sequencer toolbar, hit Rec and record some of the Redrum patterns into the main sequencer.

Discovering Part18 Createpatternlane

By clicking the rightmost clip handle and dragging to the right we can now expand the patterns to cover as many bars as we like. By clicking the small pull-down triangle next to the pattern name in the clip we can easily change to another pattern without re-recording. We can also move the clips if we like.

Discovering Part18 Redrumpattersnexpand

We add some more bars manually with the Pencil tool until we have filled up 8 bars. Finally, we select Pattern A1 for the last two bars by clicking the pull-down triangle next to the pattern name.

Discovering Part18 Redrumpatternspencil

Bass

Next, we create a bass instrument and record a 2-bar bass line. We resize the clip to exactly two bars with the rightmost handle before we copy and paste the clip to fill up all 8 bars. When you copy and paste a clip, the copy automatically ends up after the last clip on the lane – you don’t have to manually define any insertion point.

Discovering Part18 Bassnotesrecorded

Now, we want to mute the notes of bar 4 to get some variation in our bass line. We select the second clip and place the cursor on the right handle and drag to the left across the last notes. The notes will still be there, only you won’t hear them since they are now masked. If we change your minds later on we’ll just expand the clip to make the masked notes sound again.

Discovering Part18 Bassnotesmasked

If you know you’re never going to use these notes again you could permanently delete them by selecting the clip and choosing Crop Events to Clips from the Edit menu. This command will delete all masked events in a clip.

Melody

Now, let’s move on to the melody line. We create a new instrument and choose a nice piano-ish sound. We record in a single clip throughout the entire 8 bars and then stop the sequencer. We’re not entirely happy with the result but most parts of the melody line sounds OK so we’ll keep it. We want to record an alternative take to see if we could nail it this time. We click the New Alt button on the transport bar to automatically create a new lane and mute the previous lane.

We record the second take on the new lane and stop the sequencer. Now, we want to record an alternative ending of the verse. Again we click the New Alt button to create a third lane and mute the other two. We place the ruler at bar 7 and record the last two bars.

Discovering Part18 Pianolanesrecorded

Now, we have three clips on three separate lanes for the melody. We decide to make one single melody clip out of the three separate ones – i.e. take the “goodies” from the three clips and merge into a single clip.

We use the Razor tool to cut up the three clips in smaller “good” and “bad” clips. Then we mute the bad clips using the Mute Clips command on the Edit menu (or by pressing M on the computer keyboard) to verify that the melody sounds the way we want. We also click the M buttons to un-mute lanes 1 and 2 to be able to hear the clips on all three lanes.

Discovering Part18 Pianoclipscutandmuted

The good parts turned out to be bar 1, 2, 5 and 6 on lane 1, bar 3 and 4 on lane 2 and bar 7 and 8 on lane 3. Now, let’s merge all the clips on the three note lanes to one single lane. Select Merge Note Lanes on Tracks from the Edit menu and the clips end up on a single lane. The muted clips are automatically deleted after the merging.

Discovering Part18 Pianolanesmerged

Finally, we want to join the separate clips on the lane to have the entire verse in just one clip. We select all clips on the lane and choose Join Clips from the Edit menu

Discovering Part18 Pianoclipsjoined

Pad with parameter automation

We now have the backbone of our song; the drums, bass and melody. Let’s add a pad so the melody has something to “float” on. We create a new instrument and choose an “airy” pad sound. We record the pad chords in a single 8-bar clip. In bar 3 we accidentally hit the wrong notes. We enter Edit Mode by selecting the clip and pressing the Enter key (new in V4.0.1). We correct the wrong notes and exit to Arrange Mode by pressing the Esc key (new in V4.0.1).

Let’s introduce a slow filter sweep to the chord in bar 5. We place the song position marker at bar 5 and hit Rec. A new clip is automatically created on the note lane since the sequencer doesn’t know what data we’re going to record yet. When we start changing the Filter Frequency parameter on the SubTractor device, the parameter automatically ends up in a new clip on a separate parameter lane and we can see the value changes appear as a grey line in the new clip.

Discovering Part18 Padfilterparamrec

As soon as we record a parameter change in the sequencer, the parameter has been automated. By automated we mean that this particular parameter will always have defined values throughout the entire song – also before and after the actual clip.

Let’s take a closer look at the Filter Frequency clip by double-clicking it. We can see that in the beginning and end of the clip, dashed lines expand on either side. These dashed lines indicate the first and last values of the Filter Frequency parameter in the clip.

Discovering Part18 Padfilterparamopen

The first Filter Frequency parameter value in the clip is called the static value. The static value, indicated by a blue line, is the value to which the parameter will default to when outside the clip. The static value will follow the parameter until any new changes of the Filter Frequency parameter are recorded anywhere in the song – before or after the clip. This way, you’ll never have to bother about any “send controllers” command at the beginning of your song – or any “chase controllers” functionality. Everything is automatically and neatly set up for total recall functionality – wherever you are in your song.

If you like, you could also change the static value for an automated parameter afterwards. Do this in Edit Mode either by dragging the Static Value handle up or down or by entering another numeric value in the Static Value handle. Parameter changes in clips will not be affected by this.

Discovering Part18 Padfilterparameditmode

If we would have wanted our automated parameter to be embedded in the note clip on the note lane instead of in a separate clip on the parameter lane, we would have clicked the Automation As Perf Ctrl button on the transport bar before recording the parameter changes. This is a nice feature if you want to make sure the parameter changes are kept together with the notes at all times. For example, Modulation Wheel, Pitch Bend and Sustain Pedal controllers are by default recorded as Performance Controllers in the note clip.

Discovering Part18 Automationasperfcntrl

Song build-up and arrangement

When we’re finished with the verse, we’ll continue with the chorus, bridge, intro and anything else we want to put in our song. We’ll build up the other parts the same way we did with the verse; clip by clip, lane by lane and track by track, until we’re happy with the result. To make it easier to visually identify the different parts, we rename and color the clips by selecting them and choosing Add Labels To Clips and Clip Color from the Edit menu. We also choose to join the separate clips on the Bass and Pad note lanes respectively to keep down the number of clips per lane and make it easier to manage. We copy and paste our verse so that we now have an intro, two verses, a bridge and a chorus.

Discovering Part18 Introversechoruscol

Now, we want to copy only the last four bars of the chorus and repeat a couple of times in the end of the song. A very handy method for doing this is using the Razor tool in the sequencer toolbar. We place the Razor on the track background just above the topmost track, click and draw a rectangle starting in the middle of the chorus part and covering the last four bars of the chorus

Discovering Part18 Choruspartcut

Then, we switch to the Arrow tool and press the Ctrl [PC]/Option [Mac] key and drag away two copies of selected clips to the end of the song.

Discovering Part18 Partsarranged

We continue to build up our song until we have a rough complete arrangement. Finally, we’ll do some fine adjustments and editing in the different clips to complete our song.

Text & Music by Fredrik Hylvander

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