Computer Music Reason Combinator Tutorial

March 14th, 2006
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I just finished up a selection of combinators for an upcoming article in Computer Music Magazine. The article isn’t a tutorial, but more or less a feature that describes several patching configurations, the device chain(s), and explanation of controls. The combi patches include an expanded Matrix Triggered Dr.REX players, a Pattern Filter, a Wavetable Sequence Synth, a super-charged DnB performance/split patch, and PhaTractor, a stereo subtractor patch that uses a unique EQ system to warm up the sound. Space permitting, there is also an auto-scratcher patch that relies on the Scratch REX loops on the Factory Sound Bank.

So, CM readers keep on the lookout. There are demo RNS files as well as the patches, and I inadvertently included a multiband mastering suite in one of the demo songs - this is an older version of a patch i’m currently working on.

Computer Music has made this article publicly available and you can download the PDF file from their archive:

Free CM tutorial PDFs

Specifically: the Reason Combinator Tutorial (7.5mb) and associated example files

Peff isn’t my Middle Name…

March 7th, 2006

My friend, John Hinson, has developed a new solid state amplification circuit that he has dubbed the “Shoichi” – my Japanese Middle Name. I haven’t heard it yet, but he says that it sound remarkably like tubes. This is a unique honor, and who knows…someday there will be Shoichi Amps driving world class hardware and a slew of plug-ins modeled after the circuit :-)

John’s Design Announcement

Recombinant Media Labs Workshops

March 3rd, 2006

Well, I have a bit of interesting news. Today, I was up at the new Recombinant Media Labs in San Francisco’s SOMA district. This is unique performance space with a 16 channel surround sound system along with a 10 projector video system that spans 360° around the entire room. Sorry, I forgot to bring by camera today.

Recombinant Media Labs is starting to develop educational workshops that focus on music software. In conjunction with Cycling 74, they’ve offered a Max/MSP workshop. Tomorrow, they will be holding a two day workshop on Ableton Live 5. The course is being offered by Brian Jackson, author of the Thompson Live 5 CSI CD-Rom.

I’m excited to say that GW Childs and I are planning to present a Reason workshop tentatively scheduled for April. The details have yet to be ironed out. It might be a beginner/intermediate course, or perhaps something a little more intensive. I’ll definitely make it a point to go through some of the new Reason techniques I’ve developed as well as some expanded Power Tools for Reason 3.0 stuff.

As the details unfold, I’ll post up more information. In the meantime, anyone interested in coming, please post up a comment.

XySpace Combinator Patch

February 28th, 2006

XySpace is pseudo stereo spatialization combinator patch. It’s designed is to take a mono signal and position the sound around a virtual stereo room environment. A standard pan control positions the sound between the left and right channels, while a front-rear fader controls the distance away from the listener’s position.

The patch works by setting up a two different attenuation systems so that there are a total of four outputs from a mono input signal. Obviously, the four outputs correspond to front left, front right, rear left and rear right. The environment is setup as a large room, so reflections and reverb from the rear walls blend with the dry signal as the signal is positioned to the rear.

To simulate the effect of distance, a low pass filter is applied to the incoming signal to roll off high frequencies from sounds that are distance. This filter opens up as the sound is positioned closer to the front. A set of Malström comb filters are also applied to the front - rear attenuation to simulate the effect of doppler shift. As the sound moves toward the listener, the comb filter frequency decreases to induce the illusion of motion.

This patch is still somewhat in it’s infancy simply because it’s only been tested on headphones and the monitors of my workstation. The results could very easily vary depending on your set-up. The archive includes a couple of demo files that illustrate how the patch sounds and can be incorporated into various projects. The RPS XySpace example.rps has a couple of Matrix Pattern sequencers that modulate the position to constantly rotate sounds around the environment, while the XySpace Demo.rns file has controller changes recorded from a joystick control.

Many thanks to the guys on the messageboard who inspired the idea. I’m not sure how useful this is, but it’s certainly fun to play with.

Download XySpace.cmb

XySpace Parameters

Left - Right controls the stereo pan position of the incoming signal. The stereo separation is narrower for signals positioned towards the rear.

Front - Rear controls the source distance from the listener. The attenuation modulates several settings simultaneously, including a low pass filter as well as the comb-filter controls for the doppler effect.

Doppler trims the level of the comb-filter signals being combined with the dry signal. The doppler signal runs parallel with the dry signal, and the effect can be overwhelming depending on the source.

Room Decay adjusts the length of the decay time of the reverberation of the two RV-7000 reverbs used to define the expanse of the environment.

Hi Freq Shuffle Switch enables and disables the MClass Stereo Imager. Having this enabled is intended to create a proximity effect when the source signal is positioned towards the front.

Depth Filter Switch enables the the ECF-42 Low Pass Filter that rolls of high frequency signals on the front-rear signal.

Doppler Filters Switch enables the comb filtering to induce the doppler shift effect.

Rear Reflections Switch enables the second RV-7000 which is used to define the center rear wall of the environment.

MPC Groove Template Tutorial

January 28th, 2006
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I love the Akai MPC-3000. The drum grooves created with this instrument consistently yield a very musical flow that inspire beat oriented tracks. The design of legend, Roger Linn, combined with Akai’s sampling technology is still used by many to this day. This project was inspired by necessity to bring the feel of the MPC into Reason. I’m consistently asked how to use this song file, so the following tutorial explains the procedure of using Reason’s user groove feature.

Background

The MPC-3000 Groove Templates are MIDI sequences extracted from sample loops created with an Akai MPC-3000 MIDI Production Center. Originally, this project involved creating MIDI files on the MPC and transferring them to a computer for import into Reason, but the results did not quite have the same feel as loops created with the MPC. The timing does not seem to capture the groove when using imported MIDI files. The problem could be the difference in PPQ (Pulse Per Quarter Note) resolution on different sequencers, or perhaps the latency and timing of the circuitry in the sampler engine.

As an alternative solution, loops, programmed on the MPC, were recorded into a digital audio workstation. Each loop is a series of 16th note hi-hat events with a length of four measures. These loops have different quantization swing settings, which range from 50% (16th Notes) to 75% (triplets). Each loop was processed in ReCycle. Once converted to REX files, these loops were loaded into Reason via a Dr.REX Loop player, and the slice data was extracted into individual sequencer tracks. The REX files provided the ideal solution as they capture all of the timing idiosyncrasies of the MPC-3000 with the precision of digital audio rather than MIDI PPQ.

Reason User Groove Feature

If you are unfamiliar with the “User Groove” feature in Reason, try the following exercise to discover how to set a groove quantization template.

1. In an empty Reason song file, create a Dr.REX Loop player.
2. Load the ReCycle Loop, “Hse06_Strictly_130_eLAB.rx2” from the Factory Sound bank \ Dr Rex Drum Loops \ House Directory.
3. Click the “To Track” button on the Dr.REX player to export the loop slice data to the Reason Sequencer. The slice data is 2 measures and will appear grouped in 2 measure segments.
4. Position the mouse cursor over a grouped segment in the sequencer, and right-click (MacOS: Hold Control & Click) to open the contextual menu.
5. Select the “Get User Groove” item from the contextual menu list. Notice that the Quantization setting on the sequencer changes from “1/16” to “User”. This indicates that the template is stored in the song, and from this point, any quantization will conform to the template extracted from the loop slice data.
6. Create a second Dr.REX Loop Player and load the ReCycle Loop, “Ahp05_Live_087_Chronic.rx2” from the Factory Sound Bank \ Dr Rex Drum Loops \ Acoustic \ Hip Hop Directory.
7. Copy the Slice data to the Dr.REX 2 sequencer track by clicking on the “To Track” button.
8. Run the Sequence to hear the two loops play at the same time. You should notice that certain timing issues conflict when both loops play simultaneously. Stop the sequence.
9. Right-Click on the Dr.REX 2 Sequencer Track name to open the contextual menu, and select the “Quantize Notes” item. This method will quantize all events on the sequencer track.
10. Run the sequence to hear the quantization of the first loop applied to the second loop.

This is the basic procedure for setting the template (User Groove) and applying a groove quantization to other tracks. While the example describes quantizing a second loop, the process can be applied to basslines and other tracks in the song.

Auditioning the ‘Peff-MPC Grooves MIDI.rns’ File

The MPC Groove Template file is simply a Reason Song File with 26 sequencer tracks-each track having a different groove. When you open the song file, you will see all 26 tracks assigned to the Dr.REX Loop player. The following example describes simply how to audition each of the grooves.

Download Peff-MPC Grooves MIDI.rns

1. Open the file “Peff-MPC Grooves MIDI.rns”
2. Run the sequence, and you should hear a sequence of hi-hats played from one of the sequencer tracks (61%).
3. Mute the sequencer track. You should hear nothing now.
4. Unmute a different sequencer track to hear a different groove setting.
5. Continue auditioning the sequencer tracks to gain familiarity with the quantization templates.

Applying the MPC Grooves Quantization templates

To apply the groove quantization to a song, a sequencer track from the ‘MPC Grooves’ file must be copied into the sequencer of the song. This means you should first audition the grooves and find one that suits your tastes. (Refer to the previous example)

For the following example, you will need the file:

Download NoGrooveSong.rns

1. Open the Reason song file, “Peff-MPC Grooves MIDI.rns”
2. Select the sequencer track labeled “64%”
3. Right-Click (MacOS: Hold Control & Click) to open the contextual menu, and select the “Copy” item.
4. Close the ‘MPC Grooves’ song file.
5. Open the Reason song file “NoGrooveSong.rns”. Run the sequence and listen to the song with its rigid 16th note quantization. Stop the sequence and proceed.
6. Click on the sequencer track list.
7. Right-Click to open the contextual menu, and select the “Paste” item.
8. You will see the MPC “64%” track appear at the bottom of the track list. Right click on this track and select, “Get User Groove”
9. From the Edit menu, select the item “Select All”. This will select all of the sequencer tracks so that quantization will applied over the entire song.
10. Right-Click over the track list and select the “Quantize Notes” item on the contextual menu.
11. Run the sequence to hear the MPC 64% swing quantization applied to the Reason song.

You will hear a distinctive bounce in the track after applying the MPC swing quantization. It’s as simple as that. This process can be applied to your own songs, however quantization only affects notes in the Reason sequencer. Redrum and Matrix patterns are not quantized. In order to apply the MPC Groove to a pattern sequence, you must first convert the patterns using the “Copy Pattern to Track” or “Convert Pattern to Track Notes” features from the edit menu. Further explanation of these procedures can be found in the Reason Documentation included with the software.

NAMM 2006 Day 4

January 25th, 2006

Day 4 started off fairly slowly. I know I didn’t cover the entire show in detail, but I paced myself and in some ways saved the best for last. It was definitely nice to see the number of analog modular synth systems slowly growing. Despite all of the new software applications and plug-ins, there was definitely a resurgence of hardware. There was plenty to see between Analogue Haven’s and Big City Music’s booths, but I saved the best for last. The last day was quite leisurely, so I took my time to take a closer look at some of the more interesting things.

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Propellerhead/Line 6’s Hayden presenting his demo on Reason 3.0. Hayden, wants me to redo Vintage RDK and rename the patches with proper names rather than the numbering mnemonics. This is not the first time i’ve heard this request, so it’s a likely project for the near future.

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The new Dave Smith Instruments, monophonic “evolver” keyboard. It’s the little sister of the Polyevolver and can be chained up with rack and pedal versions for multiple voicing.

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Magnus and Marcus check out the PolyEvolver.

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And the mother of all modulars, the Buchla 200e. Don was at the show doing press stuff, but I spoke with Yasi about the possibility of getting a new chassis and power supply for my old modules.

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I sometimes regret not picking up a Thunder controller, but alas, a cool new touch interface is being offered. The 222e Multidimensional Kinesthetic Input Module with a look very similar to the thunder.

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At the moog booth, I had a chance to speak with Craig Anderton, who recently contacted me about a review for PTR-3. He had some very nice things to say, which really made my day. I also met with Brian Kehew, friend of John Hinson. He told me that his new book, Recording the Beatles, is coming out really soon. John Hinson has been lending his technical expertise to the details of the recording gear used at Abbey Road for Brian’s book.

This poster has been up since the show started, and visitors were invited to write a message to Bob. It’s going back to North Carolina, and will hang in the Moog offices. I posted a few detail shots on my flickr page.

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Native Instruments Introduced some interesting updates to their software line, including a teaser for their new control surface and software package “KORE”. Details were sketchy, but it sounds like a wrapper system for all native instruments products. Sort of like a modular system for NI software. ‘Sources’ suggested that they plan to package the Komplete software suite included with the KORE control surface, but even this is uncertain.

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Chris Petti presenting a demonstration of the basics of using Reason. He was taking requests, so I asked for a sequence of 64th notes at 180 bpm.

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Producer and DJ, Arabian Prince of NWA and other affiliations, demonstrated using Reason for Hip-Hop production. The hugeness of his sound was really impressive.

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AP’s Crazy desktop pattern… It’s like having a Reason Seizure.

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One of the most amazing announcements was “Tronical”, a non-destructive automatic tuning system for electric guitars. Synthax Audio AG from Germany have patented a unique system of tuning electronics and servo controlled Tuner pegs. Preset tunings (open strings, intonation) can be stored and recalled in a manner of seconds. It was pretty amazing to see the tuning pegs twist the strat into tune.

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Richard Devine is indeed the NI master. Towards the end of the show he put on an amazing set using Tracktor with a glitchy remix of “Feel for You” by Chaka Kahn. After the show ended we had a chance to chat about crazy synth stuff and sound design. He’s truly a workaholic and is so involved with a variety of different projects.

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End of the Show Toast back at the Prop’s booth. Pictured: The Bitplant crew, Tage, Michael, and booth designer, Fredrik.

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Ulrika and Johan, polishing off the last of the sparkling wine.

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Tage working out the breakdown and load out logistics. “You guys work, and I’ll watch”

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The crew loading up the shipping crates, for the long trip back to Stockholm.

Fortunately, the Props came in large numbers this year, and I didn’t have to lend a hand dismantling the booth like last year. Rather than wait for the crew, the Merkles, Magnus, and I planned to head off to dinner with a couple of people from FXpansion. In the end, FXpansion brought their entire staff so the evening went from a small intimate dinner with friends, to a big dinner party.

NAMM 2006 Day 3

January 24th, 2006

Saturday night wasn’t too crazy, but i’m feeling the effects of old age combined with loud music, disrespectful punks, and junk food. Even with the triple shot espresso beverage my brain isn’t quite working yet, so this entry is going to rely more on the pictures rather than the words. I took a lot of photos…of gear :-p anyways, this was started sunday morning, but i’m finishing up today.

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Another vintage analog synthesizer plug-in from Arturia is something quite exciting. It’s a combined Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and Prophet VS synth. Most people are probably familiar with the 5, but the VS is a wavetable synth with analog filters with vector control - meaning there are four oscillators which are balanced using a joystick control. You can access one or the other, or create hybrid patches. I’m looking forward to seeing this one when it’s released.

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MOTU introduced an interesting new virtual instrument plug-in called “Ethno” which contains a virtual cornucopia of world instruments. I didn’t have a close look, but it had some very cool exotic sounds for those who want to add that exotic spice to their productions. You never know when you need a bazouki riff on that epic trance remix.

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While cruising through the guitar section, I stumbled across a little theremin device from Hiwatt. I found the interface interesting as it uses a dome antenna rather than an arial. There’s only one conductor which controls the pitch, and when you move your hand away the sound diminishes. It has an interesting twist however: They’ve added a little delay circuit to create reverberant vintage sci-fi effects.

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I’ve seen the Roland V-Synth XT before, and this piece really caught my attention because it uses the Variphrase Technology. Besides the analysis and resynthesis features, it has all of the bells and whistles including the D-50 soundset. This unit has a cool hybrid look with a futuristic touch panel interface embedded into a hefty vintage looking chasis with knob and button controls.

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Another interesting unit from Roland is the SH-201 with a look reminicent of the old SH-Synths, the TB-303, and the old Junos, and yes, it has an arpeggiator. The heart of the unit is an analog modelling synth complete with 303ish knobs and SHish sliders and bank and patch select buttons that control all of the synthesis parameters. The layout is basically the same as a typical vintage Roland synth, but there’s more. You can route external audio through the filters. The SH-201 is also a MIDI control surface as well as a MIDI interface that connects via USB to your computer. The USB connection also provides audio routing to and from your computer. Yes, the keyboard itself also acts as an audio interface with inputs and outputs. There’s also a plug-in which controls all of the synth parameters and drives a second instance of the synth engine. In other words, the synth engine allows you to have one patch live on the keyboard and second patch running from the sequencer. The $700 price tag seems more than fair considering you get a keyboard controller, an audio interface, a MIDI interface, and a synth all in one package.

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Forat Music based in Los Angeles, also had a few customized Roland pieces showcased in the Roland pavillion. Pictured is the tricked out MV-8000 in fire-engine red. They also customized an MC-909 with a black powder coat finish and added a vintage touch with oak side panels. A perfect match for your old Oberheim units!

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Analogue Haven’s display down in the “Dungeon” of the convention center always attracts a lot of attention from synthesis fanatics. This year, they had an abundance of step sequencers on display which i found quite interesting. Pictured is the the Infection Music Zeit Sequencer. A monster system with interesting features like LFO that can modulate values for each step.

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The Manikin Electronics Schrittmacher is a MIDI/CV step sequencer with a digital programming interface.

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Also from Manikin is the “Memotron”, a digital version of the mellotron…when you really don’t want to deal with tape racks and still want to look cool.

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Electro-Acoustic Reasearch Modular system comprised of their Livewire and PlanB modules.

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The Macbeth M5 looks like an Arp on Steroids.

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Sequentix P3 Step Sequencer has step buttons that remind one of the 909, and even has programming features for 909 like swing and shuffle.

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Out of all of the modular systems, the one that really caught my eye was the Modcan Modular synthesizer.

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The modcan step sequencer has slider controls like the old arp step sequencer. A simple difference from the standard type of knob interface, but this feature makes it very easy to visualize the sequence and CV levels.

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This is one of those devices that people constantly think about, especially for those who use several pedal effects in the signal chain for tweaky processing of whatever. Mpathx displayed the “Smart Rack” a power distribution system that provides both AC and DC voltages for a variety of applications. For studios and musicians the system can replace those pesky wall warts that not only clutter up a power strip, but can induce pesky EM. The voltage settings are set using software that sends the information via a USB connection.

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I’m not sure if i caught the Musicpole at previous shows, but this is a cool little MIDI controller that uses touch sensitive contacts intuitively placed around a shaft. The placement is based on the circle of 5ths, and provides an interesting way to visualize intervals.

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Opensys, makers of the Eko introduced his little sister, the Niko. Niko has a 3 octave keyboard with two customizable expansion panels and the cool touch screen interface.

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The booth next to opensys featured a unique looking instrument called the Keytar, a stringed instrument with a metal body and a funky keyboard mechanism fastened to the chasis. you simply hold down a chord and strum. It was a little odd looking, but you have to give the guy kudos for trying to come up with something unique.

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Walking by the Sony booth, i saw an interesting little recording system. The PCM-D1 is A portable digital audio recorder with coincident XY mics. It records 24bit audio @ 96kHz and looks extremely expensive - about $2k.

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Apogee Electronics introduced their “Ensemble” 24/192 Firewire interface for MacOS X core Audio. The device is specifically designed for Apple DAWs using Logic & Final Cut Pro. The 8×8 interface includes four mic pres and the standard apogee bells and whistles.

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At the end of the day, GW Childs, one of the Reason 3.0 sound designers, presented a demonstration of sound design techniques he used on various video games using Propellerheads Reason. For those who know, GW works for a famous company owned by a guy named George, who makes films about Jedi.

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I don’t know why, but the Swedes really enjoy going to Red Robin. It’s become a tradition to make the trek down Harbor Blvd. to enjoy a greasy burger and bottomless fries. The weather has been rather cold this week, and the crew, despite being acclimatized to cold weather, were all freezing in the Southern California.

After a long day on our feet, and taking the 1.5 km trek, Ulrika, Marcus, Magnus, & Patrik sit in the waiting area.

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Louis, Mikke, Tage, and Ulrika relaxing after ingesting various meat products.

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An unusual shot of Marcus with his eyes open. He claims that he always closes his eyes when someone takes a photo of him. After several attempts i finally managed to catch him off guard.