An Open Letter to Dissatisfied, Restless or Otherwise Less Than Happy Reason Users
First a Disclaimer: Even though I have been toying with Reason on and off for more than three years, I am for all intents and purposes, still a noob. I am not a musician in the traditional sense — I have no expertise with any traditional instruments. Furthermore, I have no personal experience with hardware synthesizers and/or studio equipment. I came to this pretty much cold. So, I don’t pretend to have much “street cred.” When I post on these forums, it's always with a bit of trepidation; in most cases there is a degree of guessing in my posts. I do know a fair amount about computers and if I add any value to these forums, it is probably in that arena.
With that said, I want to comment on the flurry of Reason/Record lamenting that I’ve been reading lately, perhaps spilling over from the Feature Request Forum: It’s missing key features … it’s not competitive ... It’s old. For my part, I feel that I have so slightly scratched the surface of Reason (let alone Record) that I find it hard to believe that anyone has truly plumbed its depths, even if some of those depths have stood unchanged for several years. But by the same token, I recognize that using software is a personal experience, and that each user has certain expectations of how they wish software to behave. If a Reason/Record competitor offers a feature that a user considers important, e.g. robust drag and drop, then Reason/Record’s lack of said feature will stick out as a glaring deficit for that user. It’s a legitimate complaint — for that user. And if that user can garner enough support for that feature, then I reckon Propellerhead starts taking notice. After all, while I’m guessing their software is a work of passion at Propellerhead, they’re also in business. And all businesses (unless sales and profits are for some reason not an issue) are market-driven. So if you feel features are missing, particularly UI features, by all means, suggest away.
This brings me to a pet peeve, however, this harping on Propellerhead’s one to three year update cycle which many users apparently feel is positively glacial. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, quality takes time, especially for a small shop. Maybe the fact that I am a geezer has something to do with it, but I do not understand the obsession with “newer, newer, newer … now, now, now!” Good God Almighty! Slow down and smell the roses. Propellerhead has done an amazing job evolving Reason and Record, adding new features while at the same time maintaining a cohesive interface that behaves pretty much just as it did from the beginning. I’m in IT and I’m also a designer of sorts. I understand the complexity of software development and I can also appreciate a good user interface. Reason/Record has one of the slickest, most tightly integrated and just plain fun to look at interfaces out there. Personally, I think it’s pretty magical.
I had a recent experience with another company’s offerings with which I can draw a comparison. Native Instruments recently lowered the price of Komplete Essentials, their stripped down version of Komplete to 50 bucks. For that kind of money, I said, “What the heck.” Not the end of the world, but even for only $50, I was disappointed. You see, using Reason, I had grown complacent with music software, taking for granted an interface where everything meshes and UI elements behave uniformly and predictably. A UI where every pixel is in place. Komplete Elements taken as a whole is kind of a mess. At least in ways that bug me: Buttons in different places and different shapes from program to program; browsers and option windows that behave differently; etc. Unlike Reason/Record, there is a lot of UI variation between NI’s different tools. Reason/Record’s UI on the other hand is impressively uniform.
Finally, I want to address one final line of griping, that being that Reason’s instruments are at best, long-in-the-tooth, and at worst, pitifully inferior and incapable compared to “modern” tools like OmniSphere. As usual, I am going to step out on a limb here, because I’m a noob and also because I’ve not personally used other tools like OmniSphere. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Reason is capable of creating possibly any conceivable sound. Crimeny! Just load up the simplest instrument, Subtractor, with the default patch, Bass Guitar. Tweak the knobs and the range of sounds you can coax from that one patch alone treads close to infinite. If you can’t get the sound you want from any one particular instrument, then load two or three — or ten — into a Combinator and the options explode exponentially. What you may be faced with, however, is work. And perhaps that what some users are really complaining about. For some, it’s the destination and for others it’s the journey. I have a feeling that Reason/Record’s conceivers and developers fall squarely into the latter category. By their own admission, they are all lovers of old hardware. The imaginative cable patching; the tweaking of knobs — I imagine that’s the joy of music production for the Props, not the quick selection of a ready made patch from a dropdown list.
I wish someone would post some of the most “current” and complex sounds offered by other packages and then challenge some of the more Pantheonic Reason users to duplicate the sounds. Unfortunately, there would be copyright issues, I reckon.
Well, enough harping; like everyone else’s, my opinions are just that, opinions. In my opinion, Reason/Record is not the worst piece of crap music software to fall off the back of the truck. If it doesn’t get updated for another 15 years, I’ll still be fiddling with it. YMMV.
Wow. Fantastic post.
Jon - Tell it like it is!!!
Thanks for posting this - it explains exactly what I was thinking.
The artists in music making month - you don't hear them complaining about what the software doesn't do.
Completely agree, I was thinking the same just today.
Who can honestly hold their hands up and say they have got all they can out of R&R? I certainly can't, I love finding out new elements and seeing new tutorials from the pros on here, the Boyinabands, Hydlides, PhiSequences etc
You are right to highlight things need work. Those that think a song will come to them on a platter are mistaken. If there is a feature that you have worked on for hours, thought about and can't replicate in R&R, then OK, you need alternatives. Still doesn't mean Reason is rubbish or that it didn't inspire you originally!!
In the early 90s people wrote some great tunes (ok I am from the ravey era) with basic synths and samplers and very little of the technology we have today. It didn't stop their being creative and the songs memorable!
And who's to say there aren't lots of folks on Protools, Ableton, Cubase etc forums moaning about features that we have and take for granted in R&R.
We all want perfection, but nothing is perfect. There is not a perfect DAW out there. If there was, there would only be one on the market, unless it was so hideously expensive on price grounds that only the very rich could afford it anyway. That would create a separate barrier of entry to the music business, and deny all of us the joy of making music.
Plenty of people use R&R as part of a wider music process, including those on the MMM videos. If that is the way to go, so be it. Let the Props do what they are very, very good at in writing some great software that helps us all create, and developing new elements with high quality when they can!
Of course I would love to see updates, they are very exciting, but right now i have a lot to learn on Reason 5 and Record 1.5.
Moan over, thanks for reading
jon this is an awesome post, i can really feel the love , well done bro
Short letter to overly satisfied users who have no understanding of why some users are dissatisfied:
Over the years I've been using Logic, Live, Mulab, Studio One, Garageband, Cakewalk, R+R and even Pro Tools (yuck!). I ended up using R+R in my home studio, because it's self contained and runs smoothly on my Macbook Pro. I still use Logic at work.
My problem isn't that R+R can't do everything, but it's just that it doesn't have the "simple" things I expect, like drag'n'drop, midi-clock out, dynamic note grid, built in browser etc.
This makes R+R feel old, since it's basically standard in every other audio application I use and can have a huge impact on workflow.
The other pivotal thing is that Propellerhead need to eventually break out of their pattern of not updating and enhancing the rack. To solve this issue they've started to add built-in effects into the new instrument devices, so there will be no "overlapping" type of effects like the overdrive or reverb.
If Propellerhead can make the entire Reason rack up to date and start implementing basic UI features that are missing they will at least be catching up.
IMO it would be even better if they dared to completely redefine and rebuild Reason for the new decade and yet again be the pioneers of industry.
Trust me I love Reason and the whole rack system, but I love innovation and new technology even more. Technology has always been one of the pivotal driving forces of modern popular music - just look at Ableton Live or Recycle.
Well thought out message and I generally agree with the sentiment, but I personally wouldn't want to see the forums dumbed down to people just patting Propellerhead on their backs. That's not the way to provide feedback (even if it is terse or comes across whingey from time to time).
The fact that people are investing their time to criticise and provide feedback is generally an indication they're sticking with the software and want to see it made better (from their perspective). That's better than disgruntled users disappearing from the forums never to be heard of again.
I don't think that Reason and Record is just fine, just because it's better / more stable / easier to use than the competition. Great software vendors don't innovate by looking over their shoulders.
I'm sure the Props team don't take the negative messages personally. They extract the essence of what seems to be bugging users, then qualify as they see fit, pass through their product strategy and marketing filters as an input into where they want to take their product.
The more feedback the better. It's up to the rest of us not to be disaffected by the opinions of other users.
Great post! A lot of people on this forum treats Propellerhead like they're doing charity work.
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