808 reasons why we should help Japan

March 14th, 2011

The news from Japan is terribly sad and this affects me deeply on a personal level. I have family there. Fortunately, they are safe but still feel anxious over the events of the past few days. I also have many friends there, and if you’re involved in the world of music, believe it or not, you too, have many friends in Japan!

These are your friends who work at Akai who made your MPC; the friends at Korg who made your Kaoss Pad; and the friends at Tascam who assembled your old Portastudio - to name a few. These are also the friends at Technics, who built your 1200s; friends at Yamaha who made your old DX-7; the friends at Sony who developed your CD Player; and these are the friends at Roland who invented the TR-808 that was sampled so you could download a fat bass drum for your new beat.

The devastation of the 2011 Tohoku – Pacific Ocean Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami has put a tremendous toll on our friends, their families, and neighbors, and right now they need a favor. One way to help is through the Red Cross: People in the United States can text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Also, people in Canada can text “REDCROSS” to 30333 to make a donation.

I can also vouch for the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund set up by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California where funds are not reduced for administrative costs: JCCCNC.org

It’s ok if you can’t help with a donation. Next time you hear that 808 bass drop, just think of your friends in Japan, and hope for better days ahead.

Livid Instruments OHM64

February 25th, 2011

I recently performed a live set [video] where I was asked to use ReBirth for iPad. To complement the 303s and RB drums, I built an effect and loop system in Reason 5 that would allow me to process the ReBirth audio in real-time. Additionally, I had all of the Reason parameters mapped to a Livid Instruments OHM64 control surface. This “live set” configuration used the hardware interface audio inputs to route the iPad audio into the Reason effects, and the ReBirth patterns and Reason sequences were switched in and out via the OHM64.

In practice this live setup worked great…but at the party, I couldn’t hear the tracks over the noise. This made it nearly impossible to synchronize ReBirth with the Reason song file, so things went pretty badly. Were it not for the OHM64 (and the open bar), it would have been a complete mess. I had enough material preprogrammed and mapped to the controller, so it was easy to fade out the ReBirth parts and improvise on the fly. It’s too bad that I couldn’t pull off the set better, but I left with a better appreciation for the OHM64.

OHM64 Control Mapping

The video above demonstrates the layout of the controls mapped to Reason. The remote files and livid lua codec are hacked in a manner that bypasses the midi note mappings. The controls are manually assigned to the various parameters in the Reason rack. The image below describes the various knob, slider, and button assignments.

The Measure Counter and Beat Counter section are triggered with a MIDI sequence that toggles the state of buttons on Combinators. These buttons are then mapped to the top row of the OHM64 and change state as the sequence runs. It’s not a perfect solution, but it certainly helps me keep track of the relative position in a musical phrase. With the beat counter and transport controls mapped to the controller, it becomes unnecessary to look at the computer screen. The song file is essentially a 16 measure phrase that endlessly cycles.

The two Bus effects are beat repeater/jugglers based around the CycleOn combinator, and the master fx are two custom patches with one-shot insert controls that engage and disengage in time with the track.

REX Jockey Signal Path

A battery of Dr.OctoREX loop players are routed in parallel through two mix busses. Each bus has an insert effect which can be triggered to drop automatically on beat. This allows you to trigger an effect and fade into a different loop. In addition to the loop players, there is a Kong drum machine loaded with 16 NurseREX modules. The Kong is controlled by a Thor step sequencer which sequentially triggers loops over two measures. The image below describes the signal path from the Dr.OctoREXs and the NurseREX sequencer through the switching matrix, effects, and crossfader.

The flowchart illustrates one way of organizing sound sources. The Dr.OctoREX Loop players could easily be replaced with Redrum Drum Computers, Synths, or Samplers, and controls for pattern sequencers can be mapped to allow real-time switching.


peff-rexjockeylividohm64.zip archive

The archive includes a Reason song file with the remote override mappings set for a Livid Instruments OHM64. Also included are the Livid.lua file and Livid.luacodec which replace the default lua codec files. Also the Ohm64.remotemap file must also replace the default map before the setting function properly.

For more information on hacking remote maps and codecs please see the Discovering Reason article on the topic: Control Remote

For the end user who has both Reason 5 and an OHM64, this Reason song file can be used as a template. Customize the setup by loading your own ReCycle loops into the four Dr.OctoREXs, and by modifying the loops loaded in the Kong embedded in the “NurseREX SEQ” combinator. Save the song file and the mapping will remain unchanged. Certain features like the effect triggers will not function without proper mapping, so this file is not compatible with devices other than the OHM64.

Demo Session


The following file is a demo session sequenced in real time using the OHM64 using the sample set from the video. The file is in the published song file format, but the controls are still mapped to the OHM64. Users with other control surfaces can experiment with this file to get a feel for the system. In the future, I will break down some of these structures, and will post some generic example files for the control system.

Music Production with Reason & Record

February 16th, 2011

I’m happy to announce that the Music Production with Reason & Record tutorial video is finally available from Groove 3! In this edition, we look at Josh’s track, “What’s the Reason” which features the talents and writing of a new artist, Blackjack. You can download the Record+Reason session file from the Propellerhead website here: demo song download

Following the tradition of the Reason 4 tutorial, Josh and I go through and deconstruct his production process and recreate the track from the ground up starting in Reason and moving the project over to Record+Reason duo. It is designed to complement Music Production with Reason 4.0 which focuses more on musical applications, while the latest title focuses more on using OctoREX, Kong, and Audio manipulation in Record. If you are a total novice, I personally recommend that you also look at MPR4, some of the concepts in this title explain a different approach on production.

Surrogate Valentine Video

February 14th, 2011

Surrogate Valentine Trailer and Video Download now available on iTunes

For your Valentine’s Day viewing pleasure, here is the title track from a new film by Dave Boyle, Surrogate Valentine, from Tiger Industry Films. The Film features Goh Nakamura in the starring role along with Chadd Stoops, Lynn Chen, Mary Cavett, Joy Osmanski, Parry Shen, Calpernia Addams, Dan “Damage” Bjornson, Di Quon, Joe Polhemus.

The World Premiere of Surrogate Valentine is at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX on March 12. At the SF International Asian American Film Festival, the film will be screened at closing celebration on Thursday, March 17 at 7pm at the Sundance Kabuki Theater.

Richard Wong directed this video piece for the SV single which will be released in March 2011. Produced by Seng Chen, the music video features Theresa Navarro. Goh and I recorded this track at my home studio, and the project will be released on 7″ vinyl and as a digital download. Here’s a video of the test pressing:

Surrogate Valentine Test Pressing

For the gear enthusiasts out there, here’s a list of the equipment used:

Wunder Audio CM-7 microphone
AKG C-12 VR microphone
Revolution R.47 MkII preamp
Neve 1095 preamp
RS-124 type Altec compressor
UREI LA-22 comp/limiter
Manley/VTL limiter/compressor/amplifiers
Universal Audio 2192 converters
Dangerous Music D-Box

Propellerhead Record+Reason duo used for recording and mixing.

Mastered by Mike Wells

Mix and Mastering Comparison

January 29th, 2011

I have a fairly standard response whenever asked about mastering tracks: If this is a serious project headed for a physical or digital product, take it to the mastering studio of a great engineer. A good studio will have the equipment to reveal and correct problems, and balance the tracks to meet current standards and trends. Naturally this presumes you’ve done a good job with the mix, but that topic will have to be covered in a different post.

Once again, I’ve been working again with Goh Nakamura, who is starring in an indy film titled after his song, Surrogate Valentine. The film is due to hit film festivals throughout 2011 starting in March, so Goh has been hustling to get a product available for the release. We tracked the titled song at my place into Propellerhead Record using our collective nice gear. The Rhythm section for the B-Side was recorded in Portland and we redid the lead vocals here. I mixed everything in Propellerhead Record relying heavily on the Record SSL emulation EQs.

Mike Wells in San Francisco mastered the project and provided two versions. One version is the standard PCM master for CD Redbook/MP3, and the second version is for vinyl pressing. I just received the mastered files and took a look at them in a waveform editor. The comparison between the original mix and the mastered versions is quite interesting and I wanted to share some of my observations.

The top set is the final mix (mixed in Propellerhead Record). The Middle set is post mastering, a 16bit 44.1kHz CD master. The bottom set of waveforms are the 24bit 96kHz masters headed for Vinyl pressing.

At first glance the most noticeable difference is the gain between the mix and the mastered versions. I left plenty of headroom with the highest peaks around -9dBFS.

The MP3/CD Master is second set of waveforms. The target for this file is a Digital Download, so Mike optimized this version for typical CD/PCM format or a high resolution MP3 file. The density in waveform and the brickwall limiting reveals that this is pretty tightly compacted making it sound pretty steady, but not overly loud by todays standards. There’s a touch of low end lift which translates well across the board from small format listening systems clock radios and iPod earbuds to home stereo and automotive environments. This file is used for the video which is available for download from iTunes

The Vinyl Master is the bottom set. Straight away you can see that the dynamics are well preserved as the peaks are not jammed to 0dBFS. This version is definitely my favorite. Being that this target format has certain physical limitations, I really needed Mike’s expertise to help get everything balanced. Going into this project, I wasn’t sure if it would be my favorite rendition of the masters, but it best reflects the feel of the original mix.

Audio Examples

I’ve put together a 24/96 Record session which has three 30 second clips which allow you to hear the difference between each version. The session file will play fine at any setting, but for optimal playback fidelity, set the sample rate to 96,000 in the Record audio preferences. The loudness drastically increases from the first clip to the second is drastic, so watch your monitoring levels.

Download the file here: peff-GNSV-mixmastercomp.record.zip

Kong 808 Refill

December 2nd, 2010

I thought this would be easy… Sample the Roland TR-808, load the files into the Reason 5 Kong Drum Designer… Bam… done! Nope, that definitely is not how things went down.

The primary goal was to create a set of Kong patches that effectively simulate the classic 808. This involved selectively sampling variations of each sound. For example the bass drum required sampling 6 different tone settings, with a normal hit and accent hit at seven or eight different decay settings. This is probably overkill, but I approached this from an archival perspective and wanted a lot of detail. The initial sampling resulted in over 500 individual audio files. The actual sampling part was pretty easy into Propellerhead Record, and I used my standard signal path for sampling: ADL D.I./Neve/UA-2192, from a Roland TR-808 bestowed to me from composer, Stuart Diamond

To address the 808 Accent sound, each combination of the drum tones required velocity switching, where the normal and accent hits could be easily accessed. Initially, the switching threshold was set to a 125 velocity level. According to some testers (Thank you Ph WTF Crew!), this was too high for effective playback on pad controllers, so a second set of patches was created with more moderate velocity switching levels at 101. In the end, this required that all the patches originally programmed with velocity switching zones at 125 needed to be duplicated and modified with lower switching thresholds.

Accent Programming

To take full advantage of the velocity mapped accent switching, there are a couple of production strategies you can employ. One approach is to manually program patterns in the sequencer with the pencil tool and manually make velocity lane adjustments. The second approach still requires some editing, but after setting up the initial pattern, a regroove template can be used to apply accent patterns to multiple sequencer lanes. See the following video tutorial on how both techniques are applied in Reason 5: Accent Programming with the Kong 808 Refill

Analog Variations

The TR-808 is an analog device, and one of the characteristics of the analog charm are the inconsistencies. Certain tones like the Bass Drum and Toms/Conga are fairly consistent, but snares and other percussion tones have subtle, sometimes very noticeable variations. To emulate this characteristic, a set of Kong drum patches with alternating sample zones was created. Each time a NN-Nano sampler is triggered, one of three or four different samples is randomly selected for playback. For example, the patch “808 Hi Hat Alternating.drum” has four closed hi-hat samples and four accented closed hi-hat samples. Each time the drum channel is triggered, a different sample is heard. When a string of hi-hats is sequenced to this drum channel, the variations mimic the analog nature of the device.

While most productions probably do not require the detail of the analog variations, a few Kong Kits were created around this programming method. The patch, “Classic 808 v3.kong”, has several alternating kong drum patches for the snares, hi-hats, claps, and percussion.

To further enhance this experience, the refill includes several ReGroove templates which are extracted from programmed 808 patterns. These quantization templates render slight timing inconsistencies, and when combined with the alternating drum tones, the experience of the TR-808 comes to life.

Hit Types

Programming sampled instruments in the Kong Drum Designer is time consuming, especially with so many details to address. The NN-Nano sampler allows you to program four different sounds in the drum patch, and each sound can be accessed by selecting the HIT TYPE parameter on Kong. You will find that some patches only have one type programmed, however, many have multiple types programmed. While there are only 180 kong drum patches, these patches contain one to four different Hit Types.

There are certain areas where the sounds are a little rough around the edges, so some tweaking might be necessary to make the sounds fit in your productions. Provided it’s available, first try a different hit type.

At the suggestion of ph user, dioxide, the patch, “Classic Pallete 808.kong” uses the hit type feature to switch between percussion tones in the same manner as they are established on the TR-808. For example, the Toms and Conga sounds are switched, so the Low Tom and Low Conga cannot be triggered at the same time. This applies for other tones like the Hand Clap and Maracas.


The Kong Kits are mapped to a general MIDI keyboard layout, meaning that the drum channels are designed to be triggered from a MIDI keyboard from C1 through D#2, and the upper register keys. If you prefer the pad controller layout, bring the Kong device into focus, then from the edit menu or right click contextual menu, select the item “Convert GM Mapping to Pad Mapping”.

If you prefer these mappings, it’s recommended that you save the patches into your kong patch library.

Refill Contents

The following is a description of the file organization structure of the refill:

Example Sessions - a few example files in Record 1.5 and Reason 5 file format

Kong Drum Patches - Various Kong Drum Sound patches of the standard 808 set and variations.

Kong Drum Patches (v100) - Duplicates of the 181 Kong Drum Patches with Velocity Switching Accents at 101. Velocity to amp scaling patches are straight duplicates

Kong Patches - 33 Complete Kong Kits based on the TR-808 sample set.

Kong Patches (v100) - The Kong Kits with velocity switching accents at 101. Velocity to amp scaling drum channels are straight duplicates.

NN-XT Patches - a couple of sampler patches based on granular 808 bass drums

Redrum Patches (.drp) - a few Redrum sets from the TR-808 samples

ReGroove Patches - Groove templates extracted from TR-808 ReCycle loops

REX Loops - several ReCycle Loops of TR-808 patterns

Samples - The sample archive of the straight TR-808 samples, and some processed samples including DSP, Bitcrushed, granular, and distorted 808s. Over 800 samples.


Ok, I’ve bored you enough with the details… Get it now for only $8.08!!! While supplies last - limit one per household. kidding of course, this is a free download.

Download the Peff- 036 Kong 808 ReFill 146Mb zip archive

As if it needs mentioning… This refill requires Propellerhead Reason 5.0.1 or the Reason + Record 1.5.1 duo

ReBirth for iPad

November 10th, 2010

Propellerhead ReBirth is not only back (again), it is better! The classic RB-338 techno micro composer software has been adapted for the iPad. The ReBirth for iPad app has several new features. Most notable of the improvements is the new standard ReBirth 303, 808, 909 graphic user interface from bitplant and multi touch support!

The YouTube Video is an infomercialistic advertorial, and in the eight minute video, we managed to present a little tutorial on the basics of programming patterns and sequencing pattern automation. Kudos to Ryan Harlin, who did a great job producing this segment! (and thanks for not making me look too goofy)

I’ve received a few inquires about the props in the video. It was shot in the parlor at my house, where the old hammond and rhodes suitcase reside. However, most people have been asking about the iPad stand: the Joule from element case. It’s a great design that complements the iPad extremely well.