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Sound Design Workshop: Back of the Rack

March 19, 2010
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Malström''s Mod A and Mod B LFOs are cabled to modulate pan and feedback on the DDL-1 delay.

Malström''s Mod A and Mod B LFOs are cabled to modulate pan and feedback on the DDL-1 delay.

The rear panels of most Propellerhead Reason and Record devices offer an enticing array of control voltage (CV) and gate inputs and outputs. Taking advantage of those is an excellent way to add motion and interest to your patches.

Most of the outputs are virtual-instrument modulators (LFOs, envelope generators, sequencers, and so on), but notable exceptions include the Gain Reduction CV on Record''s Audio and Mix channels and the MIDI-converter outputs on the RPG-8 module. Along with the inputs provided on the rear panel, you can target almost any parameter by housing the module in a Combinator, using the Combinator''s programmer to access that parameter, and then using the CV input of the associated Combinator knob or button.

One More for the Road
Many synths and samplers have limited modulators and routings. (Matrix-modulation synths such as Thor are the exception.) The NN-19 sampler, for example, doesn''t have an LFO routing to control amp level (tremolo), but it does have the necessary rear-panel inputs and outputs—just cable them together and use the input-amount knob to control the modulation amount. (LFO outputs are tapped before the LFO''s front panel amount control.)

If a modulator that has an output is being used internally and has settings that don''t match your purpose, add an instrument to the rack that has a similar modulator. Hold down the Shift key when you add it to prevent automatic audio cabling; instruments without audio cabling use a miniscule amount of CPU power.

Subtractor is the simplest to configure, and it gives you an LFO and two envelope generators. Malström provides outputs for its more versatile Mod A and Mod B generators, and its filter envelope. You can use Thor''s modulation matrix to route most of its control and audio modules to four CV outputs, and you can scale the output by another module or input. For example, you could route a Malström Mod A to a Thor CV input, scale it with the MIDI mod wheel, and then route it to a Thor CV output to modulate another synth or effect.

When you want to modulate several targets with the same source or mix several sources, use a Spider CV module. The splitter section even provides an inverted output; try cabling the straight output to filter cutoff and the inverted output to level, for example. When you find it hard to discern the shape of a CV signal, temporarily routing it to modulate pitch will instantly reveal its contour.

When cabling envelope generators between modules, pay attention to how the envelope will be triggered. Keep in mind that the envelope will not be applied polyphonically to the target instrument. I like to combine the envelope source and the target instruments in a Combinator and limit the source module''s keyboard range to a single key (which you do at the bottom of the Combinator''s programmer). That way, I can trigger the envelope monophonically while playing the target instrument from the same keyboard. Alternatively, cable the gate of a Redrum pad (in Gate mode) to the Gate input of the instrument containing the envelope generator, and then dedicate that pad in Redrum sequences to triggering the envelope (see Web Clip 1).

Just for Effect
Reason''s effects modules (even the basic half-rack effects) have modulation inputs that you can use to make tracks evolve and mutate. Here are a couple of examples for which you''ll find Combinators in Web Clip 2.

The half-rack DDL-1 delay offers modulation inputs for both pan and feedback. I like to patch Malström''s Mod A to pan with a random curve and a quarter-note rate, and to patch Mod B to the feedback with a square-wave curve and a very slow rate. That causes the delays (but not the dry signal) to move around in the stereo field while turning feedback on and off every few bars (see Web Clip 3).

The Thor synthesizer''s flexible step sequencer makes it an ideal envelope-triggering source. With Thor''s matrix modulation, you have access to all four of its envelopes. I often use those envelopes to modulate Scream 4''s Damage Control and Body Reso knobs while using LFO 2 to modulate the Damage parameters and Body Scale knobs. (Use a Combinator to target the Reso knob.) The sequencer''s Gate Len settings are especially useful when triggering envelopes (see Web Clip 4). 

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