Hilton “Deuce” Wright II, is a record producer and songwriter from Detroit, MI. Along with his cousin B. Wright, the duo known as WrighTrax created music for some of today's top urban pop artists including: Big Sean, Mike Posner, Lil Twist, Drake, Rick Ross, and many more. Currently based in LA, Deuce is working on new projects for Lupe Fiasco, Elzhi (Slum Village), Gilbere Forte, and Mike Posner. An avid Reason user, we sat down with Deuce to talk music making.
Can you tell us a bit about how it works making music and producing for other artists? Every situation is different. Most times I’m in the studio with the artists and sometimes I’ll work on music with a couple co-writers and send it to the artists or one of their representatives. I’ve cultivated tons of relationships over the years and continue to do so. Relationships are everything and create the opportunities to work with the artists.
How do you use Reason in your music making? Reason is where it all starts for me. I’ve built a custom default song template along with numerous favorites list that have my most common used & needed sounds that are easy for me to access. I’ll usually start with a chord progression, drums in Kong, and/or a Dr. OctoRex loop.
What's the best music making tip you ever got? "Make something!" I actually heard that in a Props YouTube video! It’s so true though, even if it’s terrible, just the process of making music is good for your habit development. Also: stay objective! Detach yourself from the music and be able to critique it without your emotions getting in the way.
What do you do when writer's block strikes? I listen to & study other pieces of music that are similar to what I’m trying to make. I’ll usually have three references that I’m referring to sonically, musically, and production wise. They can be used as a starting point or as a creative boost when I get stuck.
What has been the best moment in your music making career thus far? I think the best moment for me thus far has been to watch/listen to music I made in my dorm room, bedroom, and basement get played on national television/radio, and be available in stores worldwide. To watch an idea grow to that level is truly awesome.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? As cliche as it sounds, DON’T GIVE UP! The only people that don’t succeed are those that quit before their time. It’s never too late.
To get you inspired, Deuce created some patches for use in your tracks. Download the archive, check out the demo song and then make some music!
Please note: The patch MeeKeys and the demo track requires the Radical Piano and Pulsar Rack Extensions.
Acclaimed music software designer Rob Papen knows a thing or two about creating unique sounds. The self-described “synth freak” and veteran of the Dutch electronic music scene honed his skills designing sounds for bands and synth manufacturers during the 80s and 90s. Nowadays he’s more likely to be found working on innovative new software instruments and effects.
From venerable soft synths like Predator and SubBoomBass to unique effects like RP-Verb and RP-Distort, Rob Papen products are known for their unparalleled sound quality, endless musicality and inspiring presets. We caught up with Rob to learn about his product design philosophy, and find out why he loves developing instruments and effects for Propellerhead’s Rack Extension plug-in platform.
Papen began experimenting with synths when he was a teenager, and played in several Netherlands-based electronic music groups including PERU, and later, NOVA. “At that time, it was important for electronic music groups to establish their own unique sound,” says Rob. “I was already the sound geek in the band, so naturally I helped create sounds that made us stand out from other groups.”
Rob also applied his sound design talents to create presets for early synth makers. His first foray into professional sound design was crafting patches for the Waldorf Microwave, a wavetable-based digital/analog hybrid synth used by artists like Nine Inch Nails, Hardfloor, Jimmy Edgar, Vangelis, and Crystal Distortion.
The philosophy behind Rob Papen ConcreteFX
After years of designing sounds for others, it was only natural that Rob started to create his own original product designs. “As a synth freak, I had my own ideas of how the features and functionality should be built up,” he relates. “The advent of software synths made it possible for me to pursue my ideas in earnest. In Jon Ayres I found a perfect partner—he’s an outstanding DSP programmer with amazing skills. Together we form RPCX (Rob Papen ConcreteFX), and this partnership has produced wonderful results.”
When Rob designs a product, he prioritizes musicality first. “My goal is to provide great-sounding products with presets that fit into a variety of musical styles, so customers can discover unexpected and inspiring new sounds. As a designer, it’s important to explore new directions while never losing sight of the fact that the products are built for making music.”
The Rack Extension difference
Papen sees a lot of value in developing products for the Rack Extension platform—both from the technological and business perspectives. “The Rack Extension platform opens up a whole new world for musicians,” he says. “And from the development side, the Rack Extension platform significantly expands our potential customer base. The Propellerhead user community is very big and it’s exciting to make Rob Papen soft synths and effects available right inside the Reason rack.”
“As with any development project, creating products for the Rack Extension platform takes time—but on the other hand, we save lots of time since Propellerhead handles the sales, distribution and support our marketing. That’s a huge support for us. And since Rack Extensions work across Mac and PC, we just have to create one version of the software and Propellerhead makes it available on both operating systems. We don’t have to worry about incompatibilities and differences between hosts.”
Rob Papen’s soft synths and effects have become some of the top-selling Rack Extensions in the Prop Shop. One of the most popular is Predator-RE, a workhorse synth that—in typical Rob Papen fashion—delivers scores of great-sounding, musical presets, and powerful sound sculpting features. And Rob’s not done—he plans on releasing even more incredible sonic tools for the Rack Extension platform.
“We want to release a dedicated Rack Extension synthesizer,” he concludes. “We’re going to introduce a type of synthesis that isn’t covered yet—as far as I know—and offer musicians more of a blank sheet compared to Predator or SubBoomBass, which come with tons of presets. I’m intrigued by the challenge of creating something new especially for Reason—something that will grow in Reason in its own way.”
Mackintosh Braun is a formidable indie electronic duo from Portland who blend crisp, sophisticated production with sharp, emotive songwriting. They find themselves drawn to the technical side of music: sampling, sequencing, and high-end production. We had a chat to find out more about their use of Reason and their upcoming releases.
You use Reason live quite a bit, how does your set up look on stage? Our live set up is ever changing, but at the moment our keyboard player uses Reason 7 for all of his sounds for the live show. We use the Malström a ton for synth sounds because we love how versatile it is since we're usually creating patches from scratch. We also love to put the Scream4 on almost anything, crunchy is good!
Right now you're gearing up to release new material, incorporating a lot of old analog gear. How do you incorporate this with Reason? We did make a pretty big shift on this new record. We went from using mainly digital instruments on previous recordings, to using very few this time around. A lot of that had to do with the feeling we were aiming for with this album and the warmth and nostalgia you get from using analog gear. Also working with producer Lars Stalfors (Cold War Kids, Mars Volta) on this album helped us shape our sound into something different, yet still very reminiscent. He heard the demos and said he really wanted to take this album in a analog direction, we loved the idea of that, and it turned out to be something that we both fell in love with.
Reason still makes it's way into some songs on the new album though, sometimes we'd create a sound in Reason that was so great, why try and top it? Reason synths still have a very warm and lovely tone to them, so they fit really nicely on this album among the mostly analog components.
You have had your music in Greys Anatomy among other things, how did that happen? Our lovely label Chop Shop Records is mainly to thank for the placements we've received thus far. Alex Patsavas who owns the label and runs the music supervision side of things, has a truly impeccable ear for not only good music, but good music that fits particular shows and the scenes within them. Also, her crew that work beside her (Kasey, Brittany, Ginger, and Justin) are just as amazing. We also love John Rubeli, the president of Chop Shop Records, he's believed in our music from the start and has always fought for us. We have a great team behind us, it's a really nice feeling.
What do you do when writer's block strikes? Oh man... the dreaded writers block can be a tough one. I think for us, the less critical we are with our own writing, the more freeing it is. Sometimes you judge yourself at such a high level that it closes you off to things that might really be great. If you can finish a song, without critiquing yourself at every turn, then that writers block usually starts to fade and creative freedom can blossom.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? It's a cliché said time and time again, but stay true to who you are as an artist. If you do that and believe in what you're doing, other people will take notice and gravitate in your direction. There's enough room in this world for all types of creative minds, so don't try and be like anyone but yourself.
Harald Austad is a producer and songwriter from Norway. He's worked with artists such as Spellemanns winners (Norwegian Grammys artists of the year) Karpe Diem, Madcon and Jaa9&Onkl P and winner of Norway's Got Talent, Sirius, selling platinum albums and singles. An avid Reason user, we sat down to talk music with Harald.
How do you use Reason in your music making? I use Reason to make all my beats! Maybe start out with some drums or browse sounds and play with melodiesto get a groove going and then building layer by layer and arranging until the track is there. I mostly use midi, but love the new features for audio editing. I used to combine it with other DAWs, but now I'd say I use Reason for 90% of all the work I do. It's just the best workflow for me, being fast and intuitive. Also, by using the racks in Reason I've learned how to operate in an analog studio better than any other DAW could have.
What's the best music making tip you ever got? Don't think. Just do. There is no right or wrong, and instead of pondering whether you should do this or that, just go with the flow and create. It doesn't work out perfect every time, but hey, you can always make a new track..
Do you have any favorite sound or patch? Doing a lot of hiphop, the MPC60 ReFill is great for 808s. Also I love the Reason Electric Bass and Piano ReFills. Simply amazing! Whenever I need orchestra stuff I tend to use the Orkester Soundbank, but whatever sounds I'm using, they're always processed with eq/comp/filters/reverb etc so the final sound will have it's own expression. With all the new Rack Extensions, the possibilities are just endless! I use the Rotor a lot to add warmth to sounds and the Softube Saturation Knob is never wrong. The Korg Polysix and MonoPoly is great for tweaking sounds, as is Rob Papen's Predator, but Thor is still maybe the best there is..
What do you do when writer's block strikes? Turn on Reason. If Reason is not up and running, I'm not making any music. If I'm uninspired and the process is going slowly, I'll still make something.. It's better to make a slightly boring idea than no idea. You never know, it could be useful in the future, or fit an artist or writer you didn't think about at the time. What inspires me are the sounds, so try out a new Rack Extension or a ReFill and that should help you on the way.
When it comes to writing lyrics, Stargate gave me a good tip that I've been using ever since; Write what you see, not what you feel. When you write 'through your eyes' it's much more easy for others to relate and you can show people your story rather than just saying 'I love you baby'..
What has been the best moment in your music making career thus far? The next track! It's always about making the next one. I try no to dwell, but constantly keep making new music. It's just like training for anything else. Nothing beats the feeling of starting with nothing and ending up with a great new track. Obviously, hearing my tracks on radio for the first time was pretty cool, but the best moment so far was when the National Broadcasting Orchestra of Norway rearranged and performed a song I did and played it with full orchestra, drums, guitar, choir etc on primetime TV with the King of Norway throwing his hands in the air!
Any Words of Wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? The only thing you can do better than anybody else is you. Although I take inspiration and ideas from listening to others, the more honest your own expression is, the better the song will be. It's not always easy, but keep working and learning your skills. It's a craft, and you get better by doing and experimenting. Hard work beats talent, but if you got both, you will make it! Be persistent.
Who or what is Reset Robot? The chances are, if you've been more than an occasional visitor to any of the world's more discerning dancefloors, you'll most likely have been exposed to the sound; you may have already given yourself up to the techno and house excursions that have become the Reset Robot blueprint.
The man behind the moniker is David Robertson, Portsmouth based DJ/producer of some repute. Influenced by clubs such as Fabric and Slinky, DJs such as Sasha, Digweed and the Wiggle boys, with time served behind the record store counter, he sculpted his sound meticulously over time, honing it until he was fully ready to deliver a newly crafted sonic signature. And since he uses Reason as his main production tool, we decided to ask him a few questions!
You work a lot with other artists, how do you approach that? Do you work remotely or in person? I always work in person. I have never engineered a track without the other person being there. Its not something I believe in. I would make minor changes to a track if needed like level changes or touching up some automation but the creative process needs to come from both engineer and producer being together. I always wonder what people who use a ghost writer are thinking when they play the tracks in a club. Do they persuade themselves that its their own?
Got any sound design secrets you'd like to share? If I'm using a synth I don't like to use presets. I'd rather start with 1 or 2 oscillators and build something up from scratch. I always find something interesting from a sine or sawtooth when I use the shaper on Thor. I add a Scream 4 to pretty much everything, it always improves a sound in my opinion. I also love using samples, turning one sound into something completely different can give great results for textures and fx.
How do you use Reason in your music making? Reason is my main production tool! I use it from start to finish on my tracks. I have tried logic and do use Ableton Live sometimes but never seem to get what I'm looking for as quickly. I really like the mastering in Reason, it always gives my tracks the extra 5-10% I'm looking for.
Do you have any favorite sound or patch? I made a sound in one of my tracks 'Snow Leap' about 2 years ago. Its featured in quite a few of my tracks since. It's a dirty little sawtooth/square combination which sounds fantastic with some echo or reverb on the sends.
What do you do when writer's block strikes? I cry! No, I tend to keep going. I'll start something but even if its not quite clicking I'll see it through to the end because sometimes that process can bring me out of it. If it's really bad I will start making little 1 or 2 bar loops or strange sounds and just keep making them until I have a groove or a sound which I could listen to for 6 minutes.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? I always say the same for this. Be patient! I was way to eager to send out my music when I first started producing and always get sent music that isn't ready. You will do more damage than good if you send out music that isn't quite up to scratch, for example if someone hears something they don't like they are less likely to click play on the tracks that might be good enough.