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  1. #1
    Forum Regular jack70's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2002

    Any propellerheads here? (music software)

    This post is partially in response to Troy's recent post on his new Mac synth software. (not a bad tune for a rookie Troy... wait till you play with this baby!) Any comments from anyone with hands-on experience would be appreciated as I've never (fully) delved into this end of the digital pool yet:

    Has anyone here used REASON, the self-contained musical synthesizer software program from Propellerhead? I'd been curious about this for a few years, and finally downloaded the trial version (free), a few months back to play with.

    You think Photoshop is neat software? You think some of the 3-D digital games out there are neat? Let me say... this is neat. An awesome machine! The visual layout scrolls well down the page (depending on how many synthesizer add-ons you want to use). You could literally fill a dozen! pages of displays (if you wanted to)... the pic I made here shows just a tiny bit of it. It's reduced in size so you can see more stuff, but when it's actually displayed in full screen mode you have to scroll down, and down some more to access each module's controls. You can also access the rear, which is full of virtual patch cords... limitless possibilities.

    I've played with "Acid", a (slightly similar) music making program that uses "samples" of many types of instruments as it's source, which you can edit/change to compose new tunes. This software is a whole step up in complexity. I'm not plugged into music synthesis software, but I know Reason is considered one of the best music/synthesis programs because it's self-contained. It's not cheap, but when you consider what a simple trumpet or clarinet costs ($1k+), and the fact this machine has thousands of musical instruments in it, it's actually really cheap. You can write/assemble orchestration for any number of instruments... the possibilities are just as infinite as a blank sheet of paper is to an author.

    I had virtually NO knowledge of how to use this program when I opened it up. Like Photoshop, it would appear to need a few college courses to fully appreciate all the bells & whistles... it's very deep with possibilities if you have the mental facility to come up with them. Just as "normal" traditional instrument takes a few years to become halfway proficient with, I'd expect it would take awhile to become adept at this one... the total range of options is really mind-numbing. Just playing with the drum/percussion banks is ridiculous, as there are controls to change attack & decay, pitch, and hundreds of other aspects to any rhythm. Mind-numbing.

    At the same time, if you just wanna play for fun, you don't need much info at all. You can synthesize virtually any sound. I was able to get some sounds that duplicate those on my old Tangerine Dream albums. You CAN give Klaus Shlutze a run for his money. Beyond such electronic/psych/ sounds, it allows the making and mixing of virtually any drum, bass, melody, etc you can think of from an orchestra. It's specifically designed as an all-in-one machine, unlike the kind of mix 'n match machines that many electronic musicians use. One of the neatest toys I've ever played with. Warning: can be habit forming. Understand this is as complex a tool as your mind is imaginative.

    Here's the link for more info.

    There's a number of sample MP3's there you can download to get an idea of what this software can do, but it's really only limited by your imagination. This is one of the cut's linked on that Reason site:

    Symbiont - "Assembled Lifeform" - If you ever wanted to hear what a track using 65 devices in a Reason rack sounds like, here's your chance. Assembled Lifeform is an extremely well produced monster of a track that glides between musical styles as it's themes evolve.

    "Pluto" by The Green Man is another MP3 sample there, but there are 6 other (even better IMO) files included in the demo software that you can open/play and edit/change them with in real time as they're playing... very cool.

    The free demo software runs for 20 minutes before it shuts down (but you can immediately fire it up again for a new ride... any manipulations (control settings) you've done are reset of course). You also can't save anything. There are also limits to what you can edit with certain modules, and there's only a limited amount of presets etc. Of course, as a newbie I have little clue as to much of that anyway, but it's hardly a major drawback for just farting around. You can open/play any of 6 sample songs, and edit/change them in real time as they play. Just select "loop" at the very bottom, open a demo music file, and press "play".

    Finally, here's an edited copy/paste of an online review by someone who's used Reason... he gives some additional background some might find interesting (if you've read this far):

    Anyone who has made electronic music will know that analogue synths are revered. The warmth of their tones, the richness of their harmonics and the sheer fatness of their timbre makes them special when compared with their more modern digital counterpart. You'll also know they can be very expensive. Classic models such as the Roland TB-303 bass machine, famous for it's distinctive 'acid' bass line sound, will cost you a lot of cash (if you can even get hold of one).

    Now imagine how much a whole studio would cost you, complete with a virtually infinite amount of synths, samplers, mixing desks and effects would set you back? Not to mention the amount of space it would require to house them all. On top of that you then have the added hassle of having to wire them together, manually program them via clumsy interfaces and keep them in working order. Because of this, not many people ever get the chance to experience these classic instruments; for most they remain a far-off and unobtainable dream.

    This is where a small Swedish software house called Propellerhead Software stepped in and changed everything. In 1997 they released a small, fairly low-profile software application called Rebirth for the PC and Apple Mac that was destined to become a cult classic. What this did was accurately model, in software, the sound of the classic Roland TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines as well as two TB-303 bass machines. To quote the Props, Rebirth offered " All the quirks and subtle qualities of analog, combined with the convenience of modern computers (a minimum of cables, integration with your sequencer software, complete front panel automation, real-time audio streaming and much more)."

    However, Rebirth was not without it's flaws. In some ways it too accurately modeled the old synths, making it awkward to program and difficult to integrate into other sequencers (though rewire made this easier). Despite this it was still revolutionary, showing that the power of modern home computers could now accurately reproduce the subtleties of analogue synthesis. However, Rebirth wasn't the product the Propellerhead's wanted to make, this was yet to come...

    And, in early 2001, Propellerhead's released Reason 1. This was everything that they had hoped Rebirth would be, and then some. In effect it was a whole home studio, compromising of a virtual mixing desk, an analogue synth called the Subtractor (which, naturally, utilised subtractive synthesis), a sampler called the NN-19 (amusingly named after Paul Hardcastle's hit '19') plus a versatile sample-based drum machine called, naturally, Redrum. Throw in effects such as reverb, delay, distortion, chorus and phasers plus a full-blown MIDI sequencer, a REX loop player and you had everything you needed to make electronic music, but at the fraction of the price of hardware. Sure, other companies had released 'soft synths' before, but what made Reason special was the way it was all integrated together - beautiful design, an amazingly intuitive interface and a simple-yet-powerful sequencer all combined to make it such as joy to use.

    Propellerheads, though, were not just content to sit back on their laurels. In 2002 they released Reason 2 which added on new features to Reason whilst still being backward compatible with songs made in the earlier version. The new version introduced a powerful new synth module called Malström into the rack. This unit used a new type of synthesis - 'graintable' - that was a combination of granular synthesis and wavetable synthesis. Also new to Reason 2 was a more advanced sampler, called the NN-XT, which could handle multi-sampling and velocity switched notes in it's stride. For good measure the Prop's also threw in a brand new soundbank called the Orkester Refill, which featured top-notch 24bit samples of orchestral instruments.

    Finally, in 2003, Propellerhead's enhanced Reason's legacy by announcing Reason 2.5 - a free upgrade for Reason 2 owners. This upgrade added three new advanced effects units - the RV70000 digital reverb, the BV512 Vocoder and the awesome Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit. For good measure they also threw in three more units that helped make routing sounds much easier. Can you say fairer than that?

    Sounds great? Well, find out for yourself by downloading the free Reason 2.5 demo...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Any propellerheads here? (music software)-reason3.jpg  
    You don't know... jack

  2. #2
    AR Jumbo Member chrisnz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Hi jack, I've been dabbling with this stuff for a few years now and Reason is pretty much the one thing I've not tried :-) I think when I started it seemed rather expensive and there was a decision to be made on whether to go with a closed system (it's not so closed now with Rewire) or out into the scary world of VSTi's/DXi's.

    I went out with:-

    I still think it's a good place to start. These days it plugs in as a slave to all the big sequencers. It's not Mac and has no intention of going over so that could be a problem.

    There's an ocean of free synths that you can download, some of them like :-

    are every bit as good as commercial offerings (needs quite a grunty machine).

    The place to go for info on this whole scene is here :-

    Hope this helps, Chris.

  3. #3
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    below the noise floor
    Hmmm...not much to add. I've used Reason (at a friend's house), though I've not purchased it myself.

    It's cool. I don't know how to talk about making music, so I'll leave it at that.
    Eschew fascism.
    Truth Will Out.
    Quote Originally Posted by stevef22
    you guys are crackheads.
    I remain,
    Peter aka Dusty Chalk

  4. #4
    Forum Regular jack70's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2002


    Thanks Chris... it sounded like you knew your way around this end of the digital pool from your reply to Troy's post. I've actually played with ACID on & off for a few years, but not too deeply... it was bundled with SoundForge. I've picked up a few CM mags over the years, and even played with many of the free synth programs & add-ons on the CD-ROMs, but the whole landscape was just overwhealming with all the different (separate) modules etc... it was often impossible to get things working, or talk to each other, or have a clue at how they worked. Sorta like when you first get a PC... you find yourself pretty clueless for a long time.

    The thing that seemed so appealing about Reason is it's totally self-contained... less compatibility "problems" with externals etc... the same sort of "problems" I sometimes get with filters and external plug-ins for my graphics programs. They designed something intended to have as much flexibility and complexity as most anything else out there, yet fully integrated. As a tech guy, I really apreciate well-thought-out & desinged machines (tools) that simplify complex tasks.

    I've heard good things about Fruity Loops. That's a well designed flash site too (rare). It looks like a nice step up from ACID. No, I don't run a Mac... I've considered getting one when my PC dies, but don't know if the cost is worth it for my needs... besides, I've already learned way more PC/OS tech junk over the last few years than I ever imagined, so I can handle most geek-hell problems.

    I really don't know if I have the time to spend on a new toy like F.Loops or Reason, but I do find them really neat, especially if music AND digi-tech stuff are both up one's alley. Thanks for the links... some of those boards are smokin with lots of interest. If you have dsl or cable, you should download the demo and spin it... it's a small-footprint program and easy to uninstall cleanly. Comes with 9 demo cuts to play around with.
    You don't know... jack

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