Our Synchronous Video Challenge is now over and the time has come to pick the winner. There were some great entries and the choice was hard but the esteemed judges at PropellerHQ finally came to a conclusion:
Not only does Seán Murray deliver no less than four different Synchronous tips in five minutes but he does so with high production values, excellent music and careful explaining. A fantastic effort and a worthy winner of all Propellerhead Rack Extensions, congratulations!
If you want even more Synchronous tips and tricks, you can check out all of the entries. If you don't own Synchronous yet, you can check it out in the Propellerhead Shop.
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.”
Max Rehbein is back to show you the ins and outs of Synchronous, the timed modulation effect Rack Extension from Propellerhead. Learn how to take a sound from dull and lifeless to interesting in no time. And when you've spiced up your sounds and it's time to mix, Synchronous is a toolbox of useful features. Max shows how you can save tons of time by using it for quick and easy side-chaining.
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.
Always right on the cutting edge of sound design, Max Rehbein is back with another tutorial. This time he dives into the Parsec Spectral Synthesizer to create a rich pad sound and then take it further, morphing it into a beautiful ambient drip.