Artist Drop: Chimp Spanner

Posted Nov. 5, 2015, 10:39 a.m.

Paul Ortiz is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer from the UK. His solo instrumental project Chimp Spanner is widely considered to be at the core of the new wave of technical and progressive Metal, and has seen him tour Europe and North America. More recently his attention has turned to commercial sound design and library music composition for various clients across the world.


When you load up a brand new Reason song, what’s the very first thing you do?
I usually head straight for the device I've been using the least! There are so many great sound sources, it's easy to over-look them. Even with the stock devices there's still stuff to learn or new ways of using them to find. And that's not even counting  all the third party ones I have. So yeah, I pick the instrument that needs the most love.

How do you use Reason in your music making? Do you have any examples of where you've used it?
Virtually all of my library music and sound design work at the moment is Reason, including a series of Kontakt instruments for trailer composers I'm working on. And it appears throughout my Chimp Spanner material; generally wherever I need some kind of soundscape or ambience, or super modulated/evolving sounds, I go straight to Reason. But fingers crossed, you'll be hearing Reason in a few adverts and trailers in the near future!

What’s the hardest thing about making music, what do you struggle with the most?
Over-thinking things, whether it's the actual music or the mix; you can spend hours working on a song but without really writing/creating. Lately I'm trying to work faster and more spontaneously. If I have an idea I just get it down, save it, catalogue it. The moment I start to dwell on the idea and over-complicate it, the "spark" is gone. I've been finding Blocks to be super helpful in that regard because once a section is done I just move on, and work on the next without constantly going back and fiddling.

Being a guitar player, do you have any go-to guitar rig presets in Reason or special tricks on nailing "that" sound?
Pre-tone shaping is where it's at, especially for low tuned or heavy guitar tones. I like to cut the lower frequencies and boost the high mids to really tighten things up. Scream 4 is good for this, or Blamsoft's DC-9.

What's the best music making tip you ever got?
Many years ago, a guy on a forum whose name I completely forgot gave me some feedback on a song, and was talking about the concept of the uncanny in music; making the listener feel like they know the song, even if they're not sure why/how. It's about leaving little signposts and recurring motifs, rhythms and phrases throughout. That's how I try to approach my writing. I guess it makes it more accessible, but it also naturally leads to more depth because you're constantly finding ways to reference the song within itself through mimicry, variation, all sorts!

You do a bit of sound design as well. Tell us a bit about your process there!
I'm a very "visual" kind of person, so when I'm making a sound effect I try to imagine what's making the sound; what space it occupies, how big it is, how it's moving or what it's doing. I find it helps me make decisions as to where to place emphasis, what kind of effects to use, etc. Sometimes it's a cool idea to just browse through concept art or watch trailers with the sound off and see what sound comes to mind. Or just coming up with a cool, descriptive or evocative name for the sound first can work too. I also try and keep things really clean/minimal. Not just for the sake of the mix but because large projects scare, confuse and frustrate me.

Do you have any production trick that you always use?
I love tape saturation effects, especially on low end stuff. Scream or Audiomatic is really good at this. I also like using ducking on my sends, so you'd send a bass to a reverb, but also to a compressor after the reverb so the effect stays subdued until the bass is silent. Stops things from getting too muddy.

What do you do when inspiration just isn't there?
I stop trying. Seriously there's nothing so frustrating as being surrounded by all the gear and software you could ever want and not being able to make a note with it. So I just do something else, which usually involves drinking tea and watching Star Trek, or sometimes just disconnecting completely and giving myself some silence to re-think what it is I'm trying to do.

What’s your three all-time favorite albums?
Ah! I don't know about all-time but Meshuggah "Nothing", Burial "Untrue" and In Flames "Reroute to Remain" - those albums will never get old!

The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
Thor, Antidote and Kong for sure. If I only had those three devices I think I'd be okay!

What motivates your creative ideas and creative activity?
An over-active imagination and the ability to enjoy my own company haha. But more than anything I just love to tinker and experiment and try new things out. I think I'd be doing it even if it wasn't my job. It's a great feeling to be able to take something from my mind and turn it into something that other people can enjoy!


Posted Nov. 5, 2015, 10:39 a.m.

Artist Drop: AnonXmous

Posted Oct. 14, 2015, 11:02 a.m.

Born in Brooklyn, Grammy nominated producer AnonXmous (a.k.a. Jonathan Solone-Myvett) started out at the young age of 11 and began his path in music in his room using only Reason, which he continues to use loyally until this day. Fast forward through years of positive energy and work, he's worked with artists such as Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, FOX's Empire, Timbaland, Fergie, Will.I.Am, and Tink amongst others.

We spoke with AnonXmous about collaboration within a team of song writers, how he's using Reason and more. He has also dropped a few beats for you to build on so when inspiration strikes, open up a piece in Reason or Take and add your spice! Check it out!

When do you load up a new song in Reason, what’s the very first thing you do?
I instantly open Redrum. DRUMS:)

Do you have any production trick that you always use?
My 808s are what I've been told by Timbaland that I've "innovated" and invented, in the way that I trick them out and make them do cool things they normally wouldn't. So I'd say that.


Can you tell us a bit about your work with Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda"?
Originally it was titled "Big Fat A$$" and there was no Sir Mix a Lot voice sample at all in the song. As well as some crazy 808's, sound effects & crazy drums. It also had a third verse that isn't on the released version. The big bros the Internz added their spice & voilà.

Check out the unused third verse from Anaconda below:


What's the best music making tip you ever got?
I'd say just have NO restrictions. Do EXACTLY what you think in your mind because it's possible, that's when the true fun of your love (music) shows itself.

Can you tell us something about your relation with Timbaland and his "TeamTimbo"?
Timbaland is a great mentor of mine and I met him through Polow Da Don, who is also mentor and he's always been encouraging me and letting me know that I'm on the right track to make an impact in the industry. As far as #TeamTimbo, it's like an elite all star team of talented beings. It's a beautiful thing!

As a producer, writing tracks for other artists, you're often collaborating with other songwriters and producers to reach the end result; tell us about your experience of collaboration, and how you keep the inspiration going throughout a session!
It's all about the vibe with me, so from anything to making sure if anyone wants candy, it's there. Just to keep things happy you know? That's just one example but, energy is everything and the vibe is everything.

The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
NN-XT, Redrum, Scream 4 :)

Your best advice for other music makers out there?
Just believe in your sound and perfect it to where nothing can stop you. A positive mindset goes A LONG way. I want to be an example of that. I feel that's a part of our purpose as creators.


Timbaland posted one of AnonXmous' beats:


Posted Oct. 14, 2015, 11:02 a.m.

Artist Drop: Dan Briggs

Posted Oct. 6, 2015, 4:44 p.m.

Dan Briggs is the bass player in progressive metal band Between the Buried and Me, jazz fusion trio Trioscapes and the project Orbs.  He's been an avid Reason user since 2003 and uses it both when composing and on stage with his band. Currently he is on tour with Between the Buried and Me and we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions when they made their stop in Stockholm for a show.

Be sure to play Dan's music pieces and when inspiration strikes, open in Reason or Take and collaborate with him!

How do you use Reason in your music making? Do you have any examples of where you've used it?
I use it from the very first note while composing to the very last. I started using Reason when I was in college in 2003, and really it was to use the ReDrum and I would import it into my session in Sonar. As the years went on I was implementing more keyboards into my writing, and then the Reason updates allowed you to record audio and have a session just like I had in Sonar so I just stopped using it altogether and moved my whole operation into Reason and it has been so easy and wonderful ever since.

When you load up a brand new Reason song, what’s the very first thing you do?
Well, my saved rack is Piano, a KONG drumset I put together with drummer Matt Lynch (Trioscapes), two Guitar tracks and a Bass track. That way at the very least I'm able to capture an idea just by starting the program, finding the BPM and rolling.

How do you use Reason in Between the Buried and Me? Do you use Reason in a live environment?
Both in the studio and now live. I had been arranging full songs in there, especially for the new Coma Ecliptic album, and a lot of the key sounds we ended up using on the record were straight from the demos Tommy and I did. So when it came time to put a rig together to play live, I didn't want to get a keyboard and try to replicate sounds as best as I could, so I ended up running Reason on a Microsoft Surface. It runs perfectly and the Surface is a super powerful and reliable device.

How does collaborating work for you in a band context? How does Between the Buried and Me usually write and arrange a song?
It's different for every band I'm in, which is kind of cool. Between the Buried and Me is very much about writing on your own and bringing it together after the fact. We're not super productive sitting in the rehearsal room trying to write songs, and especially the direction the songs have gone it's kind of like a singular vision and less chaotic like everything was in the past. That was literally the result of 4 or 5 minds all throwing ideas against the wall. I would think if someone listened to the new album it might make a little more sense as to how it's written. In Trioscapes, you know it's like a jazz/fusion trio ensemble so it's really about vibing off each other, a lot of magic happens on the spot. Orbs functions as a duo of musicians trying to bring other things out in each other; Ashley [Ellyllon] has really helped harness my creative energy and I've helped expand her mind as to what song formats can be. My new group Nova Collective is a cross continent group with two Americans and two Brits, so Reason has been a real life saver there. We're able to share the same Reason session with each other and everyone can learn a song based off of the midi, or I can show a guitar idea that can then be manipulated and changed, or key ideas that our keyboardist can expand upon. So easy considering how much distance was between us while we were writing!

Have you ever experienced writing blocks? If so, how did you overcome them?
I know when to step away, but honestly I'm usually locked in with a new project almost all the time when I'm home. I like to stay creatively active, and when there's new outlets and people to bounce ideas off of I feel like it could never end. I'm inspired by so many different things; obviously a million different kinds of music, film, sometimes even just reading interviews with creative minds or people in different art fields, or grey days, beautiful days, when the Cleveland Indians win, who knows.

What do you like the most: creating and writing in the studio or touring and playing live?
I like a balance. I like to keep things fresh creatively, so I love living in a project and then kind of moving on to the next thing, so touring on an album for two years I don't really mind, as long as I have other things going on, keeping me active creatively. Between the Buried and Me has been able to tour less the last handful of years which has been good for everyone starting familes and what not, but I stay feverishly busy in my "down time" so I love having time away from touring for that.

What’s the hardest thing about making music, what do you struggle with the most?
On the creative front, nothing really. Creating music is a joy, it's fun to constantly push and challenge yourself. The real struggle is after you've created something. Between the Buried and Me has a great team of people to help push it, but I don't really have that with any of my other projects. It's insanely frustrating because you feel like you're starting from zero every time even though you've been touring and putting out albums for over a decade.

What’s your all-time favorite album?
Impossible question! Some favorites: Oingo Boingo "Only a Lad", Dream Theater "Scenes From a Memory", Mahavishnu Orchestra "Visions From the Emerald Beyond", Genesis "Selling England by the Pound".


The three most used devices in your Reason rack?
KONG, Thor, and ReTron.

What advice would you give to other people who are motivated to become more creative in their music making?
Just do it! Find people to create with, don't limit yourself, just have a blast.

What’s your best music making tips for someone that is just starting out?
Just be adventurous, explore a ton of different music, find out what your favorite artists are inspired by and really dig deep.


Posted Oct. 6, 2015, 4:44 p.m.

Get into the swing with Mocean Worker

Posted Sept. 4, 2015, 3:43 p.m.

Fresh off the release of his new, eponymous album, Mocean Worker has shared a stack of loops and pieces in his signature electro-swing style for you to use. He was also kind enough to talk a little bit about the role Reason plays in his productions. Dive in below and we strongly recommend that you hit play while reading!

In what way is Reason helping you in your music making?

I've been using Reason since version 1.0. I came from using only an MPC 3000 and upon discovering Reason coupled with Recycle my mind exploded. I think it says a lot about a piece of software and its development over the years that I'm still constantly finding inspiration from it. I cannot think of a company that does a better job of adding features and work flow enhancements than Propellerhead (take a bow humble Swedish people! do it! ). Reason is where everything starts for me. All groove ideas, melodic ideas, sound design ideas START with Reason. For my latest album "Mocean Worker" (It's nice to have a self titled album when its your 8th full length) I left Reason exactly one time for a synth in another program (breakdown section of "Soul Swing" @ 1:38 into the track is Cyclop from SugarBytes mangled with) and I mixed 2 songs of the 11 outside of Reason. In other words 95.6% of this album was created and stayed at all times within Reason. There really was not a reason (coughs) to leave the Reason environment. It's just constantly turning into a better and better tool.

When you load up a brand new Reason song, what’s the very first thing you do?

I've created a very simple template. It consists of 4 REX players and a Kong Drum Machine and One Audio track. I've been recording audio into Reason since the Record days. It's just so straight forward. I find that this template works best for me. Also by default I have the Bus Compressor turned on. It's probably not the best idea on the planet but I love writing into a slight compression setting as it makes everything feel glued together from the get go. Ever since the console came into the Reason/Record workspace I've been really excited. The console is probably my favorite feature. While it existed in a way since the beginning of Reason's existence this current console is ridiculously cool. Everyone I show the console to kind of freaks out especially engineers because everything you could need is there and now with groups and parallel, the sky is the limit.

What’s the hardest thing about making music, what do you struggle with the most?

For me it's mixing. I have the ideas and I can do arrangements and play instruments. I struggle the most with getting a sound that's my own, like the actual sound, not the notes and the groove. I've gone a bit crazy with Rack Extensions and creating suites of effects to write into. What I mean by that is I use a combination of effects sometimes on the Master Section just to see what happens. We all have the same tools now. We all have access to so many of the same sounds and presets. My goal is to find ways to make those same sounds have their own sound. It's very difficult. It's tempting to just write something funky and by happy enough with the results. I just can't bring my self to settle for presets though. It's a bit of a drag sometimes as it makes the process of making records take so much longer. I know I can't wait 3-4 years between full length albums anymore. I think I'm gonna definitely head into a cycle of digital only EP releases and be happy with groupings of 4-5 songs and release material more often. We've definitely headed into strange days within the recording industry. I struggle the most with staying ahead of the curve. For example, this latest release is digital only. I found no need to release a physical CD this time. Streaming is here. It's not going away. Folks still purchase MP3's ( yes , people still buy music! It's a good thing too ).

Do you have any production trick that you always use?

I think I mentioned it earlier. The Bus Compressor in the mixer is no joke. It's an incredible tool. I should clarify that I use it as a way to keep things musical and glued together and in a subtle way, until of course I don't want something to be subtle. I think it's really important especially for any kind of sample based electronic music to be mixing and writing sort of at the same time. Constantly be aware of how things sound and work together. Watch levels!! It's important to leave headroom. I know now everything is loud and squared off and super super loud. Don't fall into the temptation of making everything screamingly loud. Leave headroom and if you have the budget for a real mastering engineer you'll be happy you left the headroom in your mixes because the mastering engineer will really be able to do some tricks if you haven't over compressed your mix and made it 300 db's in level. One of the most sort of thrown away things now is mastering. Don't sleep on mastering. Also, I know it's tempting to pre-master or try to master on your own. If you do this, just understand the more you take a mix and compress it, eq it, limit it, maximize the volume, the less mastering can do for you.

The three most used devices in your Reason rack?

Dr. OctoRex (I almost called it Dr. Rex, I'm kind of old school ) , Kong Drum Designer, and a surprise non Props Rack Extension the fxpansion Etch Red Dual Filter. I've fallen in love with this filter (and as a 3B answer, the D-Filter by LabortorialT) both of these filters are all over my album and automated and just amazing sounding.

Can I add that I also almost always use some sort of thing from the Props Radical Keys ( sorry, I mentioned five).

As a bass player, are there any particular devices or tricks  that you use in Reason to get the bass sounds you want?

I compress the bass as it's going in. I love the compressor on the mixer. It's really musical. I tend to play one of two styles when I play (especially for this new album ). Either slap technique in the style of Larry Graham or Marcus Miller or a back pick up sort of Victor Bailey / Jaco Pastorious type of sound. Either way I do compress the bass. I just evens things out.  As an aside though I will say for bass players that the sound ultimately is all up to you. It's in your hands. If you are a bass player: practice, practice and really get to know your instrument. The more you play an instrument the better it will sound. I know that sounds weird but it's true. Speaking about devices I don't really use any specific Rack Extensions in recording my bass parts. I like to keep it simple. Like I said earlier I trust that the sound I want is already happening as a result of years of practice and knowing the instruments I have very well.

On your new album “Mocean Worker”, could you tell us a bit about how Reason played a part in the production of it?  

Reason is at the funky, swinging, grooving center of everything. The goal for this album for me personally was two-fold: 1. Re-discover my roots as a bass player. This is my eigth album and to date even though I tell folks I'm a bass player, I had never played bass on my own albums! Kind of weird, no? I'm incredibly proud of the bass playing on this album. I think that my not playing on my other recordings was more to do with the fact that as a player I felt like I had reached a certain level but as an artist I really didn't feel like I had a real voice yet. Now I feel like I've settled in and found my voice. The second goal was to write and mix everything myself. The last three Mowo! albums were made with so many amazing guests joining forces with me. It was an incredible experience but this time out I wanted to see what would happen with very little input from anyone else. Sort of the same way I started out in my room wearing headphones with a bunch of ideas and the limitation of me being the sole voice to get them out. This is where Reason comes in.  ALL of the songs were written in and with the exception of 2 out of 11 ("Soul Swing" and "PunkDisco(Jaco)" were mixed by my main man James Saez in another DAW) were  mixed in Reason. I'm extremely happy to say I mixed 9 of the 11 songs myself. That was a gigantic hurdle for me as I have never really been confident in my mixing. The goal for this album was to not only write the music but also make the music sound the way I really heard it in my head. Reason is the lead starring "actor" in this process. It's the tool that enables me get my ideas out and finished. I know that sounds kinda hokey maybe but it's really the truth. The same way I mentioned really knowing an instrument that you own applies to really knowing the software you use. I've been using Reason since version 1.0 and there are a ton of tricks and tips I still don't know. I still watch tutorial videos just like someone who maybe is just getting started with the software. Knowing the tools you use as well as possible and getting the most out of the least amount of bells and whistles is really the secret here! Less is more folks.

You did a widely appreciated video for our Pulsar Rack Extension, care to talk about that experience?

No I cannot. Ever since the court case and those documents I signed as a result  I've been sworn to a vow of silence.........

What do you do when inspiration just isn't there?

Keep trying. I don't like to walk away but honestly sometimes just getting a cup of coffee and walking away is the best medicine. I did that a LOT in the last 3.5 years. It's a really tough process to make an album. It's really worth it in the end though. Just fight through it. Writers' block is what it is. Things always come back around. Take a deep breath. You'll get through!

What’s your all-time favorite album?

Wow......thanks. This isn't hard enough to answer at all...........sheesh.  For me it's always a couple of albums: Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue",  Peter Gabriel "Passion"-Music For The Last Temptation Of Christ". I like other artists to note that what inspires you and what your own music actually sounds like very often are not one in the same. I draw inspiration from a wide range of music based on what it makes me feel. The outcome of that inspiration rarely sounds like the music that inspired it. Some folks find that to be odd. I just like what I like it doesn't mean my music has to sound like it. I actually DON'T want my music to sound like it because at that point I'm just copying something else. Right?

Any Words of Wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians?

Yes, find your voice. I know it's easy to follow trends and try to keep up with the cool kids. Don't fall into that temptation. Follow what you're hearing in your head. Get the music out. Everything else will sort itself out when it's all said and done. If you're in this to have fun and not make it your life's work, then really enjoy the process and have a great time. If you want to make this your career? Learn the business. It's not just about the music at all. Trust me on this one. The music is the one place you'll always have fun regarding "the music business". Learn what managers do. Learn what booking agents do. Learn about publishing and registering your music to protect yourself in whatever country you live in. Entering into a career in the music business now is akin to walking into a saloon in the 1860's in the American West. Make sure your weapon is loaded and ready for use. It's not a fun environment out there "pardner".

You can find all the loops and pieces that Mocean Worker wants you to collaborate with on his profile page.

Posted Sept. 4, 2015, 3:43 p.m.

Elite Session with Lucky Date

Posted July 20, 2015, 2:15 p.m.


House producer and long time Reason user Lucky Date recently joined up with Pyramind and held a two hour Elite Session which is now available online over at their website. Among LOTS of other things, Lucky Date talks about his production process and workflow in Reason and also how he came to the name "Lucky Date". We get an in-depth exploration of his own tracks and how they came about, as well as a discussion about collaboration techniques when working with other producers and musicians.

Check out the video teaser below and then head over to Pyramind's website for the full two hour Elite Session.


Click here to watch the full two hour Elite Session with Lucky Date!


Pyramind Training, the San Francisco music production school, operates side by side with Pyramind Studios. Pyramind offers a wide range of programs; Music for Picture and Games, Electronic Music Production and Rock & Acoustic recording as well as four online programs centered around specific DAWs.

Click here to learn more about the courses at Pyramind Training!



Posted July 20, 2015, 2:15 p.m.

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