Posted July 17, 2017, 8:02 a.m.
Artist Feature: Key Wane - Beyoncé, Drake, Big Sean
It would be easy to forget when looking at his album credits that Key Wane is just 27 years old. He has the producer/artist roster some work decades to rack up. In fact Key Wane seems to have a knack for not just working with A-List artists at the top of their game, but providing them with hit single after hit single.
But with all that success and more platinum records than he even has time to hang on his walls right now, Key Wane is staying humble, hungry and active. We caught up with him to talk shop and hear his story.
Try Reason free for 30 days!
Follow Key Wane on Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud.
Posted July 7, 2017, 8:38 a.m.
ZETA is a collaboration between Paul Ortiz (Chimp Spanner), Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT) and Katie Jackson. The UK artists seek to push their own creative boundaries by exploring epic soundscapes that intertwine with stunning visuals.
This unique project fuses the retro synth heavy decade of the 80s with futuristic and breathtaking imagery, bringing past and future together in a Cyberpunk-esque package. With a huge span of influences ranging from metal, future garage, retrowave, prog, classical and various game and film soundtracks, their music embraces the sounds of electronica, but with textures and layers inspired by the whole musical spectrum.
We had a chat with Paul about creating music for ZETA and how Reason plays a big role in the creative process.
Tell us a bit about how ZETA came about and what your intention was when launching the project!
I guess it kinda formed by accident! So I'd known our singer Dan for a while through the Progressive Metal scene - I was busy with my project Chimp Spanner and he sings for TesseracT. We'd always planned on working together but just never got around to it. It wasn't until I shared a song of my partner Katie's that he approached me, thinking it was a song of mine. After I explained the mixup we decided that it'd be awesome to all work together and, here we are! Originally we'd intended to make a futuristic/chill kind of album, and then for a while it was all-out Synthwave, and then it naturally settled somewhere in the middle. I think it works because we all have a shared love of influences old and new, ranging from Tears for Fears, George Michael and Vangelis to Ghost in the Shell, Future Garage, sci-fi games and all of that.
Being an (almost all) electronic album, what was your approach on producing the album, as opposed to any guitar centered albums you've done previously?
Well the workflow was very different for me. I'm used to just writing on my own, instrumentally. With Zeta what'd usually happen is Katie would give me a MIDI file and a demo mixdown from Cubase. I'd listen a couple of times for reference and then dump the MIDI in Reason and basically start from scratch, then embellish with guitars or add new sections, chord changes, etc. So I guess it was more like re-mixing than anything. Then we'd send it off to Dan to do his thing, get the stems back and edit them in Reason, then figure out what needed to stay or go in the mix to make them fit. So yeah; for someone who's used to doing everything all at once it was a very different experience to bounce the songs around between three people. But it seems to have worked well. Of course some songs I wrote directly in Reason from start to finish but in either case the focus was on drums and bass. I found that once I nailed the rhythm section everything else fell into place, which really isn't too dissimilar to how I approach guitar music.
I've accumulated so many REs over the years that I had a device for just about every job, and where I didn't, I just made one myself in the Combinator.
How did Reason help you creatively when writing music for the album?
It's just fun! We tried Cubase at first; Silent Waves is actually the only track not made in Reason, and it would've been if I had been able to find the project. But I just wasn't happy with the sounds I was getting. Everything was kind of "cold", and I found the environment kinda taxing to work in, especially when it comes to automation. So we made the decision early on to switch. With Reason it felt like I was playing with a bunch of cool toys rather than working. I've accumulated so many REs over the years that I had a device for just about every job, and where I didn't, I just made one myself in the Combinator. But yeah more than anything it's just that fun factor. And then of course on a technical level the clip based automation is just such a time-saver. You can go really crazy with it and not have to worry about setting things back to the right position afterwards. In Cubase I'd normally just leave stuff as it is because I can't be dealing with my parameters being left at the wrong value after MIDI or host automation.
OK, synth nerd alert: what was the most used synth on the album?
Tough one! I'd say Antidote, just because it's so versatile. It's great for those dark unison Future Garage style basslines, as well as pads and leads. But beyond that, I used a lot of The Legend and Viking (wanted that authentic Moog kinda feel). And I'm pretty sure Quadelectra's Jackboxes are on every track (707, 808, Linn Drum). The Kings of Kong ReFill is also fantastic if you want even more retro drum machines. That features a lot also.
Any special, secret Reason production trick used in the process?
Well there's a tonne of side-chaining haha. Kinda comes with the synthwave/future territory. Typically what I'd do is take all my melodic elements (except for lead instruments and vocals) and put them in a group channel called "SC". Then I'd either key the compressor using audio from the kick, or more often than not I'd just use Pump RE and trigger it via MIDI. Having certain instruments outside of the side-chain group keeps the mix from sounding too ducked and keeps those elements more in focus. Also Audiomatic's Tape and Bottom presets got a lot of use on the album. I have no idea what they do, but they make the mixes sound kinda warm and fuzzy, and I like that. Scream's Tape setting is also great for warming up basses and kick drums. Distortion isn't necessarily a destructive tool. It can be really musical.
Scream's Tape setting is also great for warming up basses and kick drums. Distortion isn't necessarily a destructive tool. It can be really musical.
Any tips and tricks for mixing vocals in Reason?
Hmm, considering this was my first time mixing vocals, I think it might be me who needs a few tips and tricks! But I mean, it was a learning
experience. I'd say automate. Lots. I'm kind of a set-and-forget guy normally, but for vocals it just doesn't work. You have to really ride the faders and "play" the mix. Also try using ducking on your reverbs. So you could send a lead vocal to a nice long reverb with a compressor after it. Then use the Spider to take a copy of that dry vocal and send it to the sidechain input of the compressor. Kinda like lazy-man's automation. When there's singing there's less reverb. When there's no singing, there's more reverb. Works pretty well most of the time.
Could you share any synth patches used on the album?
Well a lot of the patches are really not that complicated; most of the basses and pads are really sort of "naked", in that they're not dressed up with a lot of effects or complex routing. It's mostly sawtooth oscillators (either dual detuned or something with a rich/wide unison section like Korg MonoPoly or Antidote) and then a suitable amp/filter envelope depending on whether it's a bass or a pad or whatever. I've included a few patches here, although they're not much to look at!
Download Zeta's Reason presets here!
(Please note that some of the patches requires Rack Extensions)
A few people have asked about the snare on The Distance. And I can tell you it's a layered 707 snare, 707 low tom, and the BBGunSnare_BSQ sample from the Reason FSB, all running into a gated reverb! Ohhh and guitars are almost entirely presets from Kuassa's excellent amp REs!
Follow ZETA on YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Bandcamp.
LIsten to ZETA's new album here:
Try Reason 9.5 free for 30 days here!
Posted April 19, 2017, 10:54 a.m.
Here’s a thought experiment… how many musicians can you name that invented an entire musical genre from a single song which the genre even takes its name from? Is there a song called Jazz? Did someone write a track called Blues? No. That unique honor is reserved for Phuture and their song Acid Tracks, from which the global cultural movement of Acid House was born.
DJ Pierre sat down to tell us the stories of his early days, show us around his latest work, and share some of the new talent and artistry he's nurturing in his creative incubator space at Afro Acid Digital in Atlanta.
Try Reason free for 30 days!
Follow DJ Pierre on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Spotify.
Posted Feb. 14, 2017, 8:23 a.m.
The way they both got into making music, by embracing mistakes and deviations in their piano lesson homework, is just the beginning of a highly compatible and equally unique take on songwriting and production for Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf. As the two producers in Niki & The Dove, they work together as a set of checks and balances - as much musical collaborators as editors, carefully crafting their sound. In this artist feature we sat down with Gustaf and Malin and had them both take us through a couple songs on their latest album, "Everybody's Heart is Broken Now."
Try Reason free for 30 days!
Follow Niki & The Dove on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube.
Posted Jan. 16, 2017, 12:42 p.m.
Meet Tobtok, a.k.a. Tobias Karlsson, a 24 year old house DJ/producer hailing from Uppsala, Sweden. Growing up with Michael Jackson and Nile Rodgers being huge influences, Tobtok took the natural route via French-sounding house and nu-disco before delving deeper into his own niche of electronic music, where Reason always has played a big part. Tobtok is currently signed to legendary UK label Ministry of Sound and in 2016 he released the song "Fast Car" which to date totals over 30 million streams on Spotify and Soundcloud. Be sure to download the Reason lead synth combinator patch from that song further below!
We spoke to Tobtok about his song writing process and how he uses Reason in his productions. Check it out!
What's your favorite new Reason 9 feature?
It's definately the new Pitch Edit feature! I've always tried to stay in Reason for all sides of production but it's been hard working with vocals up until now. I love to work with samples in all its shapes and with this new feature it can be applied and used with all kinds of sounds. I've been editing guitar-leads with the pitch-edit and it gives the sound a whole new and interesting character.
How do you get started with a new song? What sparks your creativity?
I often start out with a Radical Piano to write basic chords, usually around a vocal. Sometimes you stumble upon an interesting sound or sample and play around with it which engages the rest of the music making. I usually ignite my creativity with hours of listening to music. Later on, bits and pieces that caught my interest kind of gets imprinted into my memory and in to the music making. Today for example I was listening to some Swedish pop song and found a specific percussion sound that I got obsessed with. After a good few hours of investigation I found out that it was a "Wooden Frog". It is now sitting nicely in my latest tune!
Sometimes creating a new track can be easier than finishing one. How do you decide when you're done?
My archive of unfinished clips has really stacked up over the years. I'm very fortunate to work with a lot of the major labels and with it comes deadlines. Usually the record has to be done in a few days so you have to make big choices and just let it be finished when it sounds right in the moment. It's so easy to think that you are finished when the arrangement is good and the mix is sounding tight, but after a few listens you always hear new stuff that you want to change. But sometimes you have to say to yourself that this is a finished product, let it go and move on to the next project. The industry is moving very fast and it's all about keeping up with it.
Do you have any special Reason production trick that you always use?
Well, I think the biggest advantage in Reason is that it has its own sounds, which a lot of people are missing out on. I always use a lot of Reason's own sounds because it stands out and always maintains a standard.
The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
Radical-Piano, NN-XT Sampler, Audiomatic Retro Transformer
What’s your all-time favorite album?
I have to be a bit boring and say Michael Jackson - Thriller! It's hard to beat.
Any words of wisdom for other music makers out there?
Have fun and just keep learning new ways of working, because the beauty with softwares and computer-made music is that there's no limits to what you can do! Also, believe in your own talent and respect the craft. It's hard to stand out with your music in this day of age, and a lot of people are following the same formulas so it's a big advantage to try and take yourself out of those barriers and create something people have never heard before. Although it's always good to take inspiration from others but try to put it into your own perspective! Lastly, don't be driven by fame, because you should do music for your own pleasure, and if others enjoy what you're doing it's a bonus but your own passion is the most important thing!
Download Tobtok's Combinator patches
Fast Car Steel-Synth
This is a synth-based steel-drum sound which I used to layer the lead melody and plucks in my single "Fast Car"! I've used variations of this patch in a lot of tracks and it has this carribean vibe to it!
Radical Piano - Nice Standard
Probably my favorite and most used instrument in my productions is the Radical Piano. I usually start out with this patch because it fits well with house records as I've boosted the highs to make it more stabby and pop out in the mix.
Pretty Dope Xylophone
Used in a bunch of my remixes. This Xylophone sound is quite heavily compressed to give it this "in your face" attack. Great if you are looking to do a nice tropical lead!
Follow Tobtok on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram!
In August 2016 Tobtok opened for Avicii during his Ushuaia residency on Ibiza.