Using Reason For Live P.A. by Acid42

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Information about Using Reason For Live P.A. by Acid42
How-to & DIY

Published on July 26, 2009

Author: acid42



An overview of several ways to use Propellerheads Reason software to perform live music on your laptop. Originally written in 2005, revised 2009.

USING REASON FOR LIVE P.A. By Lionel Zivan S. Valdellon [acid42]

About this guide • Originally created in 2005 • At the time, only Reason 2.5 • Most principles are still valid however 2

What is Reason? • Sequencer • Virtual synth racks • Song info: mainly MIDI • Small song file sizes 3

What do you need? • Laptop • Good soundcard • MIDI controller • Good cables An example of a live setup I used in 2002. 4

#1. Use Reason as a sequencer

#1. Use Reason as a sequencer [A] Go Linear. For ultimate control. – Sequence entire songs. – Play them from start to finish. – Problem: Not much variety. 6

Add variety by: A) Playing with loop points – Loop entire song, or – Loop certain sections by dragging loop Left and loop Right markers and clicking “Loop On.” 7

TIP: Changing loop points 1. Manually dragging the loop indicators with your mouse (HELL!!!) 2. Typing in the loop start and end measures in the L and R boxes at bottom right of transport panel, and then pressing ENTER. (PRONE TO ERROR!!!!) NOTE: Wait for box to appear before typing the new measure number and pressing ENTER. I’ve stopped my set numerous times by pressing ENTER without looking. 8

TIP: Changing loop points 3. Positioning your mouse over the measure numbers and then use these shortcuts – CTRL + mouse click (for start loop point) – ALT + mouse click (for end loop point) 9

Add variety by: B) Playing live keyboard on top – Live playing adds energy, spontaneity – Hence the need for a USB controller of some sort 10

Add variety by: C) Randomly replacing rhythm patterns – Introduce a Dr.Rex module – Load a random REX pattern – Mute your regular rhythm tracks – See what happens next. Sometimes accidents produce great results. 11

#1. Use Reason as a sequencer [B] Play short repeating grooves. – Pre-sequence short phrases (think 16, 32, 64 measures) – Play with loop points. Here is an example of a track I made with only two sections, each 16 bars in length. Toggling between sections is the tricky part. 12

#1. Use Reason as a sequencer [C] Build it from scratch • Most radical method. Most stressful. • Start with basic drum loop • Build parts as you go • Spontaneity results in either pure genius or massive error 13

#1. Use Reason as a sequencer [D] Mix pre-made songs like a DJ. – You can have several songs open at a time (watch your CPU) – Match the BPMs of your songs (Beat matching) 14

TIP: Beat matching 1. Latency check: • Make sure your latency settings are optimized, otherwise impossible to match up beats. • Adjust buffer size till no dropouts 15

TIP: Beat matching 2. Visual Beat-matching: • Watch bottom of transport panel (position meter) • Get the beat numbers to match. Here are 2 songs with the beat counters next to each other for easier monitoring. 16

TIP: Beat matching 3. Layered parts: Bonus tip • Set 2nd song to loop for 8 bars or so • Use 2nd song's rhythms as a layer over the 1st song's melodic parts, or vice versa. 17

TIP: Beat matching 3. Layered parts: Bonus tip Here, the first song’s kick drum is soloed while the 2nd track is playing. 18

#2. Use Reason as a tone module

#2. Use Reason as a tone module • Harness Reason's power with a MIDI or USB keyboard controller • Control just one tone module at a time, (default) • Or layer several instruments for a fat, lush sound 20

TIP: Layering synths Taken from 1. Go to Preferences >MIDI. Ensure the correct port is linked to your keyboard. 21

TIP: Layering synths 2. Go to “Advanced MIDI" Select the same port for both Bus A and B (and C and D, if you want). 22

TIP: Layering synths 3. Check which MIDI channel your keyboard is set to send MIDI messages from (usually channel 1). 23

TIP: Layering synths 4. In your MIDI interface (top of Reason rack), select bus A and from the dropdown arrow beside channel 1, select the instrument you want to layer (say a Subtractor 1). 24

TIP: Layering synths 5. At Bus B, go to channel 1 and select the next instrument you want to layer (say, a Pad ). • Repeat for as many as 4 busses or layers. Now all MIDI info from your keyboard is routed through the busses and through a dedicated channel 1 path to all instruments on that channel. 25

#3. Changing parameters

#3. Changing parameters • Beauty of Live P.A.= full control over all your sound parameters • You have built-in effects units to control your sound. • Effects, filters, envelopes, panning, EQ, anything with a knob or slider! 27

#3. Changing parameters [A] TWEAK EFFECTS • Easiest way to "play" with your sound • Effects in Reason are built-in, thus stable • Play around. Experiment. 28

#3. Changing parameters [B] ALTER NOTES • Highlight some sequenced notes, right-click, and pick Change Events> Alter Notes. Choose % • Randomly changes note position. New melodies and rhythms from old. 29

#3. Changing parameters [C] TWEAK THOSE KNOBS • Parameters such as: filter, resonance, attack, decay, sustain, release. • Find out what each can do to a sound. And then play with your sound. • Some examples… 30

TIP: Knobs and Filters Frequency sweeps • Set the Matrix going with a cool rhythm pattern on a Subtractor • Grab the filter FREQUENCY knobs as the pattern plays. • Min: gurgle Max: wide full sound 31

TIP: Knobs and Filters Envelope decay variations • Get a pattern going on a Subtractor • Grab DECAY slider. (“D”) • Min: notes are cut short, Max: wall of echoing sound. 32

TIP: Knobs and Filters Resonance boost • Grab RESONANCE slider (“R”) • High resonance w/ short decay: quick rhythmic blips • Low resonance: filter will woof. • Turn down resonance for a more even sound. 33

TIP: Knobs and Filters Oscillator sync sweeps • Subtractor:2 oscillators • Lower the pitch of less dominant oscillator by a couple of octaves: metallic sweep of the overtones. 34

TIP: Knobs and Filters Waveform crossfades • Set up an oscillator tuned an octave or two below the first • Fade it in and out with Mix knob. If your synth has a Distortion effect, tune the second oscillator to some other interval (a fifth above the first oscillator, for instance) and bring it in with a knob for a great thickening of the tone. 35

#4. Personalized settings

#4. Personalized settings [A] KEYBOARD MAPPING • Allows you to activate something without using mouse. • Options > Edit Keyboard Remote • Assign QWERTY keys to buttons you’ll need • Personally, I have set it up so that each mixer channel mute button, each Redrum pattern and each Matrix pattern is mapped to a QWERTY key. 37

#4. Personalized [A] KEYBOARD MAPPING settings ACID42's Keyboard Map: Mixer Channel mute buttons: 1: Q. 2: W. 3: E 4: R 5: T 6: Y 7: U 8: I 9: O 10: P Redrum Pattern enable buttons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Redrum Bank A enable: shift + 1 Redrum Bank B enable: shift + 2 Redrum Bank C enable: shift + 3 Redrum Bank D enable: shift + 4 Matrix Pattern enable buttons: 1: A 2:S 3: D 4: F 5: G 6: H 7: J 8: K Matrix Bank A enable: shift + A Matrix Bank B enable: shift + S Matrix Bank C enable: shift + D Matrix Bank D enable: shift + F 38

#4. Personalized settings [B] YOUR OWN DEFAULT SONG • Save your keyboard mappings and all shortcuts as your "Default Song.rns" • Start every new song with "Default Song.rns" 39

#4. Personalized settings [C] SONG INFO = USEFUL INFO • Pressing CTRL+I > Song Information window • Place useful info for your performance: a.) Chords (in “Text in window title”) b.) List relevant measure numbers where sections change (in “Text in window title”) c.) Lyrics even! (in “More information”) 40

#4. Personalized settings [D] MAKE FILENAMES USEFUL • Make it is easy to find songs which can be beat-matched. • Put BPM before song title. • Put genre after BPM. 41

END Hope this tutorial has been useful. If you have any questions or comments or even your own tips, I’d love to hear them. Email me at Thanks for reading! Lionel Zivan S. Valdellon [acid42] web: http:/ / Twitter: Email: 42

About the Author • Acid42 = Lionel Valdellon • Live P.A. since 2002 [Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, USA] • Originally from Philippines, now based in California • Member of ElectronicaManila • All Acid42 music = Creative Commons • Netlabel releases on QED Records • Web: • Email: 43

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