The HarderFaster guide to Production: Reason - Part Two
Reported by Voodoobass
Submitted 25-08-09 09:40
Continuing our Reason special, this week our man Voodoobass will talk you through the basics on how to make a track in Reason. Mice at the ready please.
Making a track with Reason
In this tutorial we will cover a few of the major functions of the Reason rack. I am going to go straight in with an intermediate level approach. I'm not going to go through the entire song-making process, but I will be showing you how easy it is to build a fairly decent base to get started from, using mostly patches from the Factory Sound Bank. I am sure you will want to experiment with making your own, so we will touch on that as well. I am also assuming you have some kind of MIDI or USB controller keyboard, have set it up and got the audio working according to the manual. I'm also going to introduce a couple of engineering basics along the way that if you don't already use them, will make your track sound much cleaner.
An Empty Rack
Right, so let's open a new document. Reason usually defaults to opening with its built-in Demo track, but that gets annoying really quickly, so let's go into the preferences ('Edit Menu'), then under the 'general' tab, select 'Empty Rack'. Now when we hit CTRL-N (or 'new' from the File Menu), we should get a nice, virgin rack, ready to defile with our evil beats. We can close the default one that initially appeared.
Now let's create some devices. First of all, create an M-Class Mastering Suite (right click anywhere empty in the rack and select it from the context menu). On the left of the newly-created device you should see a button marked 'on/off/bypass' - set this to bypass. Then create a Line Mixer 6:2 and label it 'MAIN'. Now create another Line Mixer 6:2 (label it KICK/BASS) and a Mixer 14:2 (label it EVERYTHING ELSE) in that order.
If you press the 'Tab' key to flip the rack round, you will see that Reason has automatically connected cables between the devices.
Now create an M-Class Equaliser but this time hold down SHIFT. You will see that Reason did not automatically connect it this time, since we didn't want the default connection this time. Route the master out from the Mixer 14:2 'EVERYTHING ELSE' into the input on the M-Class Equaliser and the output from the equaliser into the mixer marked 'MAIN'. Now label the equaliser 'CUT'.
Press tab again so we can see the fronts of the devices, then click the switch labelled 'lo cut' on the EQ. By doing this we have cut all the frequencies below 30hz on all the instruments we route through 'EVERYTHING ELSE' meaning they won't steal headroom from our kick and bass. Now set the tempo (near the transport bar) to 133 BPM. Make sure you label all your devices clearly as you go along as it saves so many headaches later that will ruin your creative flow. Not only this, but if you ever intend to collaborate with anyone else, clear labelling will help them work out what's going on much quicker.
Next, we need something to make a beat, so let's right-click on the Mixer 14:2, go to 'create', then select ReDrum. Then let's load a patch up by clicking the small folder icon. Navigate through the Factory Sound Bank to get to the Redrum Patches folder, and find 'Click House 1'. Select the Kick and lay down a basic 4 to the floor kick drum by clicking 1, 5, 9 and 13 on the step sequencer. Then right-click the ReDrum and select 'Copy Pattern to Track'.
If you look at the sequencer, you should see that there is now a coloured bar in between the Left and Right loop markers in the sequencer. However, 8 bars isn't really enough, so let's make the loop 32 bars, and copy the pattern to track again. If you double-click the coloured bar, you should see the kick-drum all neatly laid out. If you want, you could add some hats by either drawing them in the sequencer with the pen tool, or you can enter them in the same way that we did the kick drum, which I did, making an alternating pattern.
It's worth mentioning here that once you've copied the notes to track you can make them longer or shorter, copy, move or delete them within the main sequencer. On the ReDrum you will see a small switch marked 'enable pattern selection' - switch it off to disable automatic playback of the ReDrum so that when we play the track we don't get double hits as the step sequencer and main sequencer both attempt to control the device simultaneously.
Once you've finished making your drum part, let's make a nice beefy bass sound to go with it. Sidechained electro basslines are all the rage at the moment, so let's make a nice dirty one of those to pump along and be generally groovy. Right-click on our KICK/BASS mixer and create a Malstrom synth and label it 'BASS SYNTH'. Right click the synth and reset all the controls by selecting 'initialise patch'. Play a few notes round C1 on the keyboard. Weak, huh? But if you keep playing notes as you change the settings you'll quickly get a feel for what does what, so first set both oscillators from sine to 'square'. Set 'polyphony' to 1, 'legato' to ON then portamento to 49. Switch Oscillator 2 on, and turn the 'semi' knob for Oscillator 2 up to 7.
Once you've dialled this in, you should start to hear the bass sound come to life. Set the pitch bend range to 3. You should easily be able to come up with a funky bass line playing in a few notes and bending the pitch. You could also experiment with some bigger bend ranges - 14 is a good one, but for the purposes of the exercise, let's stick with 3.
Next we need to make the sound pump, so right-click on the Malstrom and create an M-Class Compressor. Now flip the rack again with the tab key. SHIFT + create a Spider Audio Merger/Splitter. Now connect a cable (left-click and drag) from the kick drum audio (normally channel 1) on the ReDrum to the input on the 'splitter' area on the right-hand side of the Spider Audio, then run one of the split outputs into 'sidechain in' on the M-Class Compressor and the other into a free channel on the KICK/BASS mixer.
Flip the rack again.
Now press 'Play' so you hear the kick drum then start playing your bassline. As you're playing, set the knobs on the M-Class Compressor to the following: 'InputGain' 4.9, 'Threshold' -33.2, 'Ratio' 30.5.1, 'Attack' 22, 'Release' 600. You should start to hear that familiar pumping bass effect take shape.
While we're at it, let's grunge it up a bit. Right-click on the compressor and select a Scream 4 Distortion. I set it to 'Fuzz' and rolled off about half the 'hi' on the 3-band EQ. This made the attack of the synth start to seem a little harsh, so I smoothed it out by going back to the Malstrom and set the attack on the ADSR sliders of both oscillators to 54. I also noticed the kick was starting to get a little lost, so I created a COMP-1 compressor with SHIFT held down, then placed it between the Redrum and the Spider Audio, setting the knobs to 'Ratio' 104, 'Thresh.' 20, 'Attack' 40 and 'Release' 64, then right-clicked the COMP-1 to attach a PEQ-2 Parametric EQ with Filter A 'Freq' at 112, 'Q' 27 and 'Gain' 50. You should hear the kick drum becoming brighter.
Hopefully by now we should have a proper-sounding foundation to build the rest of the track. Before we continue, let's tidy our rack up a little bit. Left-click the Malstrom and then with the shift key held, click the Scream 4 and M-Class Compressor - you should see them highlighted blue - then right-click and select 'combine' from the context menu. This will then put them in a Combinator - a rack within a rack, all controllable from a single sequencer lane, and if you minimise it, obviously you save a lot of screen space. Do the same again with the Redrum, Spider Audio, PEQ-2 and COMP-1 making sure you label the Combinators 'BASS' and 'DRUMS' respectively.
After listening to our loop over and over, those hats are probably starting to sound a bit dry and lifeless. A bit of reverb will certainly add something, so right-click the 'EVERYTHING ELSE' mixer and create an RV-7000 Reverb and select the patch 'DRM Drum Hall' You will see it auto-routes to Channel One of the mixer's four Aux sends. Bring the Aux send knob up to about 84. I then tweaked the reverb so 'Decay' was at 92, 'HF damp' at 31 and 'Dry/Wet' was 84.
Now, let's add some sort of texture. Create a Thor synth and open the patch 'Scan Dance' from the 'Rythmic' subfolder. It's pretty loud, so bring its volume channel way down on the mixer. Now record in a basic melody that fits over the bass.
I then added a bit of life to it by creating a DDL-1 Digital Delay Line ('Feedback' 80, 'Pan' -13, 'Dry/Wet' 65) and a ECF-42 Envelope Controlled Filter ('Freq' 69, 'Res' 68). Now we want to make the filter evolve, so right-click 'Freq' and select 'Edit Automation'. When we go back to the sequencer, we should see a new lane has been created for Filter One. Use the pencil tool to draw in a 32 bar block. Switch back to the arrow tool and double-click the newly drawn block. You should see it is now labelled 'Frequency'.
Using the pencil tool again, make a point on the beginning of the first bar. You will see there is an arrow labelled '68' - put the dot right there. Now put another one at the end of the 32 bars. You should see a line join the two up. You can put in as many dots as you want, but a long smooth transition is what we want here. One last bit of automation, the 'length' knob on the kick channel of the Redrum was brought down to 0 for 8 bars at the end, to act like a little mini breakdown. You can hear that it has a direct effect on the bass sidechain.
Finally I decided to add a more complicated effect to the 'Scan Dance' synth. Right click on the 'EVERYTHING ELSE' mixer, select 'create effect' then browse 'all effects patches', selecting 'Mod Panner Remix [Run]. A new Combinator will appear, connected to Aux Send 2. Turn Aux Send 2 up to about 112, then using the same method as on the filter frequency, create an automation lane for the knob labelled 'LFO Speed'. This time I drew in a slightly more complex automation running from 0 up to 46 at bar 29, 60 at bar 30 and right the way up to the end. Then combine the synth, delay and filter, for the sake of good housekeeping.
All we need to do now is make sure the volume levels on the various mixers are making everything sound nice. Normally I would wait until I had finished creating a tune to do this, but let's just check this out now, so you know what it does. Remember the very first device we made, the M-Class Mastering Suite? While the track is playing, switch it from 'bypass' to 'on'. You should hear the whole mix become much smoother, louder and punchier. I chose the Kompakt Mastering preset and cranked the bass up to full, but all the presets are solid, and, of course extremely tweakable. However, you will find you need to readjust the mixer levels before it sounds right, and it is best to always bypass the mastering suite when composing or adding new elements to the track.
The Finished Rack
So there you go - we've got 32 bars that are cool to listen to - and by now you should be starting to appreciate how to put things together using the sequencer as well as manipulate the devices, and you're well on the way to making a track already. Of course we have only just scratched the surface - there are several more devices we did not even touch, but this should show you how you can achieve decent sounds in Reason very quickly and efficiently. Experimentation is key - save often and make sure you save different versions before doing anything drastic so you can go back if you cock up.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask in the production forum.
The project file can be downloaded here
The mp3 can be downloaded here
Next time we’ll take an in depth look at Fruity Loops.
Screengrabs used for educational purposes only. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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The HarderFaster guide to Production: Reason - Part One
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The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.