I’m recovering from lecturing at the Reason Workshops this past weekend at the Asphodel Records compound, Recombinant Media Labs in San Francisco. GW Childs and I presented two classes on Reason 3.0 in the amazing surround sound/video performance venue. The sound system is a custom 16.8.2 surround system. There are 8 speakers that circle the top of the room, and a matching 8 that circle the bottom of the room. 8 bass speakers are paired along the bottom of the room, and two Low Frequency Emitters are set up on each end. It’s unbelievably loud, and the room is virtually anechoic, so every little detail is clearly audible. We had an absolute blast, but it was indeed exhausting.
I came up on Friday afternoon to load in and get everything set up for the workshops on Saturday and Sunday. I brought in my main workstation rig which consists of a Quad Tower, a Cinema Display, and the Korg Kontrol49. I didn’t bring in an audio interface, since they had a MOTU 828mkII available, and I planned to connect into the system via firewire. GW was obviously not as concerned with convience, and brought in his massive laptop and Radium controller - no where near as portable as my rig :-p
As we were getting the audio system configured, I sarcastically prodded Bryan Gibbs, the RML engineer, that a facility like this should at least have optical feeds available…He boastfully replied “We can do that!” From the 828mkII, a Digital feed from the ADAT lightpipe output was redirected to the house system into Apogee Converters. So my audio was going digital right into the converters housed with the amplifiers in the control room. The sound was awesome! I was having too much fun sending out low frequency sine waves from the Malström to find the resonance frequency of the room and make it shake.
The Beginners workshop covered basic workflow procedures like the various preference settings; adding devices to the rack; pattern devices and sequencing patterns; cabling and auto-cabling rules; transport features including metronome and loop points; ReCycle, and the Dr.REX Loop Player; Sequence recording, editing, groups and automation; and adding parallel aux effects. We had to cram things during the last 3 hours in order to cover everything planned in the outline.
During one of the breaks of the Beginners Workshop, Bryan Gibbs, the house engineer, fired up the system and replayed the multichannel audio/360° Video performance of Curtis Roads. Bryan also took everyone on a tour of the rest of the facility. They have a Vintage analog synth production room as well as a control room with a Neve VR72. This was a great way to compare the tools of the Real World with devices in Reason.
Plans for the Advanced workshop were a little more ambitious, and we did not manage to cover everything planned. We started off with various ways of using insert effects like the vocoder and Scream 4, then moved into explaining the process of Mixing and embellishing a track by inserting equalizers and compressors. I spent about 45 minutes dissecting a file provided by one of the participants and showed how it could be refined with the use of effects and careful mixing.
Before discussing a bit about mastering, Hayden Bursk demonstrated using ReWire with Ableton Live as a host application which many people found invaluable. Hayden was incredibly helpful in answering questions, and his demo of the Tone Port was definitely a highlight. The Props and Line 6 sent up some Reason 3.0 T-Shirts and Reason USB Thumb Drives that were given to those who attended.
We covered the basics of using the MClass mastering tools and demonstrated the various patches, then we went into details about setting up the gain structure for properly using the compressors and maximizers. As time was running short, we started to merge synth programming with combinator patches. People also started to field more questions about using samplers, and I had a few demos set up to demonstrate synchronizing long audio files with the tempo in Reason. Finally we ended up demonstrating how to use the Combinator to create insane modulation routings and rhythm patterns being morphed by random LFOs.
Backbeat Books also provided books that we raffled off at the end of the class. These included copies of Jim Aikin’s “Player’s Guide to Chords & Harmony”, Rikky Rooksby’s “How to Write Songs on Keyboards”, and a copy of David Battino & Kelli Richards book, “The Art of Digital Music”. David was present on Day 2 and spoke about the interviews with Propellerhead Software published in his book.
I’m guessing things went over well with Recombinant Labs, since they’ve suggested making these workshops a regular event. I love working on that sound system - i just need to develop some visuals to take advantage of the video. I’m really grateful to Propellerhead Software and Line 6 for their help with the workshop, and to everyone who came to support the workshops. Meeting other Reason Users was really cool, and the event was really nice, and If there’s enough interest, I would love to do this again in the near future.