Discovering Reason is a series of articles created especially for people who have been using Reason for some time, yet can't help but feel they've only scratched the surface. While many of them were written for much older Reason versions, they're more retro or classic than out of date.
Reason's endless possibilities are not always obvious and there's a myriad of nifty tricks hidden in this open-ended production environment. We are creatures of habit, and it's easy to become lazy and get stuck in routines - routines which are often a heritage from other production environments that emphasise on quantity and diversity rather than flexibility and experimentalism.
The articles will assume that you have a fair amount of experience with Reason, and will not cover all the details of certain basic operations. Consult the Reason Operation Manual if you stumble upon something unfamiliar.
Want your tracks to really groove? Tired of using the same shuffle setting for everything? ReGroove is there for you and product specialist Mattias will help you understand how to do it! Learn how to change the global shuffle, assign a groove to a track, create your own groove templates and some other tips and tricks in this Reason Tips video.
Have you ever found yourself using a recent version of a software product like it was the same old version you used ten years ago? When you work so much with an application that the workflow migrates from your conscious mind to your muscle memory, it automatically becomes more difficult to pick up new tricks, and instead you will follow the path of least resistance and use the old method of doing things.
Over the years, Reason has seen many additions of new features, big and small. In this article we’re going to take a closer look at some of the small and sometimes overlooked items that were overshadowed by new instruments and other major features that stole the spotlight when Reason 4 was released.
The Inspector strip
The context-sensitive inspector strip on the sequencer’s toolbar is great for both micro- and macro-editing recorded events. In Arrange mode, selecting a single clip will bring up two fields in the inspector: Position and Length. You can then enter numerical values or use the up/down buttons to change the position or length of the clip.
If you select multiple clips, however, two additional items will appear: The Match Value buttons (represented by red equal signs to the right of their respective parameter fields), which allow you to match the position or length of the first selected clip in the timeline.
The inspector serves a similar purpose when you edit automation data; by double-clicking on an Automation clip and selecting one or multiple automation points, you’ll tell the inspector to bring up the position value and the automation value of these events.
The Edit mode is where the Inspector really shines, as it allows you to macro-edit note parameters such as Position, Length, Note (pitch) and Velocity. Here are a couple of situations where the inspector comes in handy in Edit mode:
Let’s say you’ve recorded some chords and quantized the clip, but you also want all the notes to be of equal length because you didn’t release the keys with perfect timing. First, make sure the first note has the correct length (tweak the note in the inspector to achieve this), and then select all notes inside the clip.
Then, simply click the equal sign to the right of the Length field, and all the notes will be adjusted accordingly.
The notes in this example were already quantized, but had they not been, you would’ve been able to use the inspector to quantize them one by one by selecting each chord and clicking the Match Value button for Position. This will move all notes in the chord to the same starting point.
Here’s another case scenario: Let’s say you’re working on a drum track, you’ve recorded some notes and you want all of them to have the same length and velocity. Once again, make sure the first note in the timeline has the desired properties by adjusting these in the inspector, and then select all notes you want to apply these properties to.
Now, click the two Match Value buttons and you’ll have a neat row of notes with identical duration and velocity.
The Tools Tab
In the space now occupied by the Inspector, there used to be quantization tools in older versions of Reason. These were moved to the Tools tab in the Tool window, your one stop supply of note-tweaking tools. Here you can quantize – the old way, not the ReGroove Mixer way – as well as transform the pitch, velocity, length, tempo and order of recorded events. We’ll go over these tools from top to bottom.
The Quantize tools include an Amount percentage setting. The value is 100% by default, meaning that the selected events will be hard-quantized to the exact value currently selected on the Value drop-down menu. If the value is, say, 50%, notes will only be moved halfway to their closest quantize value positions. This is useful if you want to tighten up a sloppy take while still retaining some human feel. If for some reason you want more human feel than the original recording can offer, you can add this artificially by using the Random setting.
The Pitch tools feature a basic transpose function plus a randomization tool. When Randomize is active, the pitch of the selected notes will be randomized within the specified range. This may not be of much use on tonal instruments, but it’s very useful for REX loops since randomizing notes on a Dr.REX track will result in the loop segments being completely rearranged.
The Note Velocity tools are: Add, Fixed, Scale and Random, and their functions are pretty self-explanatory. The Add field lets you add (or subtract) an integer value to (or from) the velocity on all selected notes. A value of 20 will change velocity 92 to velocity 112, and velocity 115 to 127 (since 127 is the maximum value). The Fixed tool will apply a fixed velocity value to all selected notes. The Scale tool will change velocity values according to a percentage value, as follows: If Scale = 100%, nothing will be changed. If Scale = 50%, velocity 110 will become 55, 26 will become 13, etc. The Random tool uses a percentage value to randomize velocity values. For example, with a Random value of 10%, velocity 100 will be changed to anything between 90 and 110.
The Note Lengths tools let you extend or shorten note lengths, or make them equal. When Add is selected, notes will be extended by the amount specified in in the Add field. The Sub (subtract) tool has the opposite effect. The Fixed tool will simply apply the note length specified in the Fixed field to all selected notes.
Legato adjustments lets you fill the gaps between notes by tying them together, even to the point where they overlap. Side By Side (Abut) will extend a note to the exact point where the next note begins, Overlap will extend notes beyond that point, and Gap By will truncate notes in order to leave gaps of equal length between them. One situation where legato adjustment comes in handy is when you have rearranged the notes for a REX loop so that the slices will play back in a different order (this can be done with the Alter Notes function, more on this below). When you use the Alter Notes function on a Dr.REX track, the notes will be shuffled around, but since REX notes are often of different lengths, this will leave gaps between some notes, while other notes overlap. For example, this…
…may end up looking like this:
Notice the overlapping notes in the beginning and the gap in the middle. After applying Legato Adjustments > Side By Side (Abut), the result will be…
…which eliminates the gaps and the overlapping.
Scale Tempo does exactly what it says, although it has nothing to do with the global tempo or automation thereof. What it does, rather, is stretch out or compress a sequence of notes. This is useful when you want to mix double-tempo or half-tempo elements (such as drum loops) with “normal” tempo elements.
Alter Notes lets you randomly rearrange the positions of recorded notes. This is a more musical function than Pitch randomization, since random pitch will lead to atonal results more often than not. It works best on drum loops, drums and monophonic parts such as basslines and arpeggios.
Finally, there’s Automation Cleanup. When you record automation, you will often end up with large clusters of automation points out of which many are redundant, since automation in Reason 4 is vector-based. For example, you may have an automation clip that looks like this:
As you can see, many of these automation points are located along straight lines between other automation points, which renders them useless. The Automation Cleanup function can spot the redundant points and delete them automatically, so that the above clip will look like this:
This was achieved with the Maximum setting. If you’re worried about the risk of nuances getting lost you should go for a more moderate setting.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.