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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 47: Malström Graintable Synthesis

2011-02-10 at 18:16

If you think of last three weeks of Synth School as primary school, then this week we're graduating up to Middle School. Don't worry, though... there's no detention or pop quizzes. This week we'll move onto the Malström Graintable Synthesizer which was introduced in Reason version 2.0.

I think you'll be surprised with how comfortable you are switching to a new synth. You'll be applying a lot of what you've learned already, like ADSR envelopes, oscillator pitch controls, etc. You'll also be seeing new controls and knobs that come with the graintable synthesis territory, like Shift and Motion.


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James Bernard

James Bernard Product Specialist SmallAs the Propellerhead Product Specialist, James Bernard is constantly travelling the globe to spread the Propellerhead message. Tradeshows, Producers Conferences and in-store demos are just some of the events where you may find him doing his thing. He's also a well-known face on the Propellerhead website where numerous educational videos featuring James can be found, and we have now decided to give him a page of his own - the one you're looking at right now!

James' free ReFills

ReGroove Booster
Multiband Toolbox
Modular Madness
Weird and Wonderful

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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 46: Subtractor LFOs and Mods

2011-02-02 at 22:06

After watching the first two Synth School videos you've probably realized that the entirety of synthesizer sound design is simply about taking a basic sound wave and reshaping it with basic tools like filters, amp envelopes, phase, other oscillators mixed in, etc.  This week we'll look at the final piece of the Subtractor puzzle:  LFOs and Performance Modifiers.  When you're done this video you will have everything you need to start creating some seriously unique Subtractor patches.  More importantly, you'll be ready to tackle the more complicated Malstrom Graintable synthesizer.

Next week I think you'll be surprised with how much you already know about it having built a strong foundation in a fundamental synth like Subtractor.

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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 45: Subtractor Filters and Envelopes

2011-01-27 at 16:10

In the second installment of my "Synth School" series I'll be staying on the Subtractor synth but looking at the Filter sections, Amp Envelope, Filter Envelope, and Mod Envelope sections. The masters of synth production are masters of these tools. Something as simple as a Low Pass filter when paired with the right chord progression can lift the entire club crowd into a frenzy. The proper Amp Envelope can bring out the vibe in your song. These are powerful tools to conveying and even evoking strong emotion from what sometimes are rather sterile starting melodies or chords.

As always, I encourage you to play around with them on your own to get a feel for how they behave and interact with each other but today I'll walk you through each slider and button and show you a little of my own experimentation.



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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 44: Synth School with the Subtractor

2011-01-20 at 22:52

As electronic music producers, we rely on synths as our bread and butter sounds for leads, bass lines, effects, textures, and so on. Knowing that, how crazy is it that so many of us don't REALLY know how to use them?! I mean, it's not our fault in some ways. The presets we get from the factory soundbank and ReFills are very good. Usually one of those with a couple random knob adjustments get us off and going just fine.

But imagine the power you'd have if you could sculpt a sound and control a sound with precise knowledge of what you're doing and the effect it will have. Imagine if you had your own folder of custom patches that you created; your own stash of secret sauce that nobody else has. Imagine if you could think of a sound you'd like to create and to know instantly how to do it.

I'm going to embark on a multi-week exploration of synthesis theory to do just that for you. This week we're starting with the most basic synth there is - the Subtractor. But don't let its simplicity fool you. It's capable of some amazing sounds.


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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 43: The Side-Chain Compression Effect

2011-01-14 at 15:53

If you've been listening to a song in the past several years and found yourself overcome with a compulsion to bop, bounce, head-nod, or otherwise pulse to the music it maybe be due in large part to side-chain compression.

In a previous tutorial I've already shown you how tasteful compression works to level out a track like a bass guitar, for instance. "Side-chain" compression deliberately uses another sound source to tell the compressor how to behave and the desired effect is often anything but subtle. I'll show you one of the most common uses this week: using a four-on-the-floor kick drum to make a synth pulse to the beat.

Doing this gives your synth lines a near-hypnotic bounce effect. Get out your glow sticks and follow along!

Below is the link to my combinator patch for this tutorial:



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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 42: Stereo Width w/ The Haas Effect

2011-01-05 at 21:07

This week I'm going to show you one of the most tried and true methods we have to add stereo width and depth to our mixes: The Haas Affect.

Named after Dr. Helmut Haas for his early research into the effect, the Haas Effect essentially uses short delays to fool your brain into perceiving a stereo sound from a mono source. In mixing we can exploit your brain's gullibility to carve out wide stereo fields and provide our mixes enough room for center elements like lead vocals or bass guitar.

I've made a Combinator patch that accompanies this tutorial and it can be downloaded here:



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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 41: Mid-Side Processing for Great Masters

2010-12-09 at 11:59

When it comes to mastering, one of the hottest things right now is a technique known as "mid-side processing." As a basic description, mid-side processing uses phase cancellation tricks to isolate the mono information in a mix (bass, vocal, kick drum) from the stereo items (guitars, keys, effects) and then lets you master them separately and recombine them for a very nice sounding master.

This week I brought in two special guests to help me design a mid-side mastering patch for you as well as to help describe the technical intricacies of how this is done. Be sure to visit the links in this video, download the patches, and visit the websites I mention.

Big thanks to Kurt Kurasaki, Giles Reaves, and Southern.

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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 40: EQ Tips for the Best Mixes

2010-12-02 at 22:49

The biggest irony for mix engineers is that mixing songs is not really about "mixing" at all.

In fact, it's often more about creating separation and unique space between tracks than it is about mixing things into one homogenous mush of sound. If done correctly, a properly EQ'd mix sounds clear and polished. The bass drum has punch and isn't fighting with the bass guitar. The synths on the top end sparkle without detracting from the distorted guitar sound. If done incorrectly, a poorly EQ'd mix sounds like a jumble of instruments all fighting for the same sonic space (with none of them winning).

This week we'll cover how to approach EQ'ing tracks in your mix for the best results.


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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 39: Compression Tips for the Best Mixes

2010-11-19 at 11:44

For many people, compressors are the biggest obstacle between them and a professional mix. But if you know how to use them, compressors are your best tool to achieve that professional mix.

Most early interactions with compressors involve cranking them up until they sound horrible and then removing them - wondering why anyone would even want to use them in the first place.

This week I'll explain what a compressor's actually doing and how to make it work the way you want.

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52 Reason / Record Tips - Week 38: Using Neptune for Sound Design

2010-11-11 at 14:51

Neptune has its roots in pitch correction and harmony generation. In fact, that's exactly what it was designed for. But one of the things that makes Reason/Record such a creative environment to work in is that nothing has to be used in the way it was designed. In fact, sometimes the best ideas come from the misuse and abuse of a device.

This week I'll show you ways you can tweak your sounds with Neptune to create effects and tonalities otherwise impossible.

Get the files for this episode here:




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James Video Reason

Whether you need an introductory tutorial that covers installation or a more detailed introduction to the BV512 vocoder, there's a James Bernard video for you. Have a look in the video section.

Curious about James' music? Why not download his live set from the Producers Seminar in Stockholm? If you want the full story about the seminar, it can be found at the Producer's Conference web site.