I’ve got to say, the new features in Reason 7 are killer!  I’m having a whole lot of fun working with everything from the new Spectrum EQ Window, to the buses and parallel channels on the Main Mixer.  And of course all the rocking Rack Extension devices, especially the Korg Polysix and Propellerhead PX7 instruments, and the Pef Buffre and FXPansion Etch Red Filter effects, and iZotope Ozone for mastering.  Way too much fun and not enough time in a day to play with all these new shiny toys!

And did I mention that you can turn audio loops into REX loops directly in Reason now?  No more need for the ReCycle program.  This is so cool!

About the new bus paths in Reason’s Main Mixer.

And it’s so easy to create parallel channels now.

My Berklee Online Courses:

I’ve worked in a lot of DAW programs: Digital Performer, Cubase, Pro Tools, Logic, Live, and Reason.  I keep coming back to Reason for its amazing sonic palette (which has grown immensely with the release of Rack Extensions) and its inspiring interface for developing custom sounds.  I’m a big believer in taking the time to design sounds that fit each production, and then recycling these sounds for future productions.  Over time, I believe this helps you to develop a voice as a producer.  Your productions will be recognizable not only from your arrangements and writing, but also from your personal bank of synth and sampler patches.

Reason makes developing such sounds as easy as plug and play, like simple object oriented programming.  You don’t need to be a technically minded, sound designer whiz to cook up great sounding patches using just a combinator and some simple layering techniques.  This is how I make a lot of my sounds that you can hear in my productions.  In this video, Easy Sound Design with Reason (or, Building a Cool Electro Bass), I demonstrate how you can easily and quickly build your own custom sounds without needing to understand anything to technical.

There once was a DAW program called Record, and then there wasn’t.  In its place rose Reason 6, with all of Record’s features (audio tracks, a new Main Mixer, and Line 6 Guitar and Bass amps) but without its marketing cloud of confusion.  Or, so it would seem, I’m not really sure since I’m not privy to such top secret information.  But, as an end user, the sudden drop of Record like it was a scalding hot potato and the Release of Reason 6, with a name your own price upgrade path, made me feel awfully uncomfortable about what might be going on inside Propellerhead.  Fortunately, the heads at Propellerhead appear to have a plan, a path back from the precipice that was Record.

With the release of Reason 6.5 (due sometime in the second quarter of this year) featuring a newly unveiled third party effect development system called Rack Extensions, and a spanking new iOS App called Figure, I’m excited to report that Propellerhead is definitely back in action and firing on all cylinders.  I think that Rack Extensions is a brilliant move both from a business and creative standpoint, and the complaint that Reason doesn’t support third party plug-ins will be a thing of the past.  Plus, Figure looks like an absolute blast and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

While I’m talking about Reason, I should mention that we’ve been having a ball with Reason 6 in my Producing Music With Reason course at Berkleemusic.  The projects students have been cooking up with all its new features and the audio tracks are amazing.  It’s really exciting to be hearing students put all these creative tools in Reason 6 to good use.  I can’t wait to hear what our community does with Rack Extensions in the next version of Reason.  But now, enough of me talking, check out this video detailing the new music-making wonder tools from Propellerhead.

Headed to SXSW

Mar 06 2012

I just want to let everybody know that I’ll be in Austin for the SXSW Conference next week.  I will be presenting a workshop on producing music in Reason in the Artist Central area on Thursday, March 15th, from 4 to 5 PM.  If you’re around, definitely drop in and say “Hi!”  (Or is it “Howdy!” in Texas?)

If you would like to hear a couple of the EDM tracks I’ve been producing in Reason lately, check out my new singles,  “Energy” and “Hiccup”.  “Energy” is out now (available everywhere, including iTunes, and soon Beatport), and “Hiccup” will be released next month on my Synchronized Music label.

“Energy” on Juno Download

“Hiccup” on Soundcloud

 
Hiccup (Original Mix) by Erik Hawk Music

It’s super easy to sidechain compress in Reason.  And this is the key to producing that classic, pulsing synth pad sound you hear in dance music.  You know, the synth pad that throbs in time with the kick drum.  Here’s a video on how to set this type of sound up in Reason.  Plus, I show you how to keep it going even when your song’s main kick drum drops out, so you can produce inspirational breaks in your arrangement without ever losing the pulse of the kick.

Here’s the completed combinator patch that I demonstrate in the video so you can explore how it’s put together right in your own Reason Rack.

Combinator Patch [COMING SOON]

 

Lucky Date Interview

Jan 15 2012

I recently had the opportunity to chat with up-and-coming electronic music producer and DJ, Lucky Date (Jordan Atkins-Loria). He uses Reason to produce these fantastically phat dance tracks and remixes. Plus he regularly shares his production secrets on his YouTube channel, luckydatevideos. The music that he pumps out of Reason is truly inspirational, so I wanted to ask him about how he gets such a huge sound and what other software besides Reason is part of his production and DJ arsenal. He gave a great interview and had a lot of wonderful insight and advice. Watch out for Lucky Date, I predict he’ll be producing many mega-dance-floor hits in the coming years.

 

I recently had the opportunity to remix a previously unreleased Scatman Crother’s song, “Scoot On Over To Scat’s” (produced by Andrew Melzer in 1979).  It was a lot of fun to work on a track from such an icon of the 70s.  It was also a serious challenge because all I had to work with was an unmastered, stereo mix.  The multitrack tapes had been lost long ago.  But, as the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Or, at the very least gave me a serious work out using the Pro Tools Elastic Audio’s warp markers, and writing my own music on top of a preexisting disco groove. Whew!

Here’s a video tour of my Pro Tools session explaining how I pulled off this remixing magic.

You can hear the original “Scoot On Over To Scat’s” song here, http://youtu.be/jsXxRFxATaU.  And this is my remix. Enjoy!

Scatman’s Background

Benjamin Sherman Crothers, born May 23rd 1910 in Terre Haute, Indiana (passed away November 22nd, 1986 in Van Nuys, California), started performing in the speak-easy circuit of Chicago in the latter part of the 20s.  In 1931, he got his own radio show on WFMK Dayton, Ohio, billing himself as “Scat Man”. In 1935, he made his first appearance in a film, a short called “Symphony In Black” with Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. He would go on to act in 45 more motion pictures including “The Shining”, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Bronco Billy”, “Aristocats”, “The Shootist”, “Silver Streak”, “The Lady Sings The Blues”, “Scavenger Hunt”, “Twilight Zone: The Movie”, and “Transformers: The Movie”.

In 1943, Scatman moved to Hollywood, California and hired an agent. In 1948 he was one of the first African-Americans to land a recurring role on a network TV show, “Dixie Showboat”. Over the next three decades, Scatman appeared in hundreds of TV programs including 65 episodes of NBC’s sitcom “Chico and the Man” as Louis the garbage-man, 18 guest appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”, and “Colgate Comedy Hour”, “The Jack Benny Show”, “Nat King Cole Show”, “The Steve Allen Show”, “Casablanca”, “Hong Kong Phooey”, “Roots”, “The Super Globetrotters”, and “Sanford and Son”. Scatman Crothers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of the Egyptian Theatre.

After returning from summer vacation in Hawaii I needed a little remixing exercise to get me back into a music production mood. The Kerli’s “Army of Love” remix opportunity on www.indabamusic.com looked like just the ticket. I signed up and downloaded the vocal stems. Technically speaking, they weren’t the best vocal stems I’ve ever heard. They downloaded as WAV files but sounded like they had been converted from MP3 files. And, there was some type of parallel effect or headphone bleed mixed in with the backing vocals. You could hear the original music in the backing vocals stem. But this is what everybody had to work with, so I got busy.

I timed the vocals into my Pro Tools session, made a slight tempo change, a few beats per minute faster, and found one of my tracks that sort of matched Kerli’s performance. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on this so using one of my already produced tracks made the most sense. With a key and tempo change, a few new chords, and a couple of structural modifications to the drums I was able to get a tight sounding mashup.

Then, I spent a lot of time making the vocal stems pop in the mix. The magic bullet for this job was iZotop’s Nectar, the “complete vocal suite” plug-in, and the always fun Stutter Edit plug-in (which I’ve blogged about previously, Stutter Edit by BT). I also did a lot of automation on the vocals to remove breaths, background noise, and bleed from the original tracks.

Whew, a lot of work, but I think it came out sounding pretty cool. It was definitely a good warm up before getting back into my busy composing and production schedule. Plus, I got to play with Nectar and Stutter Edit. All the synth and drum sounds are being produced by Reason 5, rewired into Pro Tools 9. Here’s the video tour of my remix session.

I also threw together a cool video montage to go with the remix. You can find it on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/erikhawkmusic. (Like me on Facebook please.) And, if you feel inspired to do so, you can listen to and vote for my remix on the indaba music site.  Thanks!

Here’s a common mistake I see over and over, producing and mixing a track with a gain maximizer on your mixer’s main output. Examples of gain maximizers are the Waves L2 Ultramaximizer, Avid Maxim, or if you’re working in Reason or Record, the MClass Maximizer. These devices are designed to limit a signal’s peaks and then automatically optimize the output (called automatic gain makeup), in relation to a given threshold, to a specific level you’ve set (such as 0 dB, or –0. 2 dB). Or, to put it in simpler terms, to make your audio sound as loud as possible.

If you don’t realize that you’re working through a gain maximizer, you’re probably thinking that your production sounds wonderfully loud and full. Indeed, some software programs actually feature default templates with a maximizer on the mixer’s main output (such as Reason). This is a great sales pitch, since it makes your track sound totally bombastic, but it’s not reality. The reality is that if you bypass the maximizer you’ll most likely discover that you’re clipping (exceeding 0 dB) your main output, badly. It’s only because of the maximizer that you can’t see or hear your woefully out of balance gain structure. Instead, the clipping is being rounded out by the maximizer’s brick-wall limiter algorithm in order to sound more palatable to your ear. But, the clipping is still there, your overdriven mixer channels are still there, your poor gain structure is still there.

As a dramatic example, I often demonstrate this mistake in Reason. With the default Mastering Combinator inserted on the mixer’s main output I create a Dr. Octo REX, press Play, and then turn up all the levels to the max: Dr. Octo’s Master Level, the mixer channel’s level, and the mixer’s Master Fader. It sounds great and there’s no clipping indicated on the Audio Output Clipping Indicator on the Transport Bar. But, then, I Bypass the Mastering Combinator and the Clip Indicator immediately illuminates, and stays on nonstop. In fact, in this extreme example you can actually hear the clipping, and this is difficult to do in Reason because its main outputs seem to be pretty forgiving even when you’re seeing the Clip indicator.

So, now, the obvious question is, if everything sounds fine with a maximizer on my main output why should I care? There are a few reason’s why it’s not a good idea to produce and mix with a sonic maximizer on your main output:

Just because you can’t see or hear the clipping doesn’t mean it’s not there. And, if it’s there, then when you master your mix all you’re doing is trying to smooth out the clips. You’re gain maximizing your entire mix, clips included, and this can only lead to an inferior sounding master.

If the maximizer is trying to turn up, or turn down, your signals for optimum loudness, then whenever you adjust a level or EQ a signal in your mix the maximizer is automatically countering your move. Consequently, you won’t have the full dynamic range to work in, you’ll be limited to the dynamic range that the maximizer is setting for you. With the maximizer countering every move you make in the mix you aren’t really hearing your work. Talk about counter productive.

As a rule, maximizers are serious processor hogs. Think about it, they have to look ahead at the digital signal and adjust every upcoming peak according to their Threshold and Gain Output settings. So, with a maximizer inserted on your main output, can you imagine how much latency you’re introducing? The answer is, a lot, in the thousands of samples. Just try monitoring a live signal (such as a vocal or guitar) through a maximizer inserted on your main output and you’ll immediately hear what I’m talking about. It’s a disturbing amount of latency and there’s no reason to be fighting for processor resources when all you have to do is delete the maximizer from your signal path. (When you’re mastering, this sort of latency on your main output isn’t an issue.)

If you’re already slamming your mix through a maximizer, you’ve pegged 0 dB, and everything is as loud as it can possibly be with hardly any dynamics left in your mix, what’s left for a mastering engineer to do? The answer is, not much. If you’re serious about releasing your music, leave some dynamics in your mix for a mastering engineer to work with.

Having said all this, I think it’s a great idea to fine tune your mix through a maximizer when you’re mastering directly in your multitrack mix session. I do this all the time, after my mix is complete, especially for reference mixes (tracks that need to impress clients), and background music for film and TV. However, if it’s for an album cut that I plan to send out for mastering, the maximizer effect (some maximizers, such as the L2 and Maxim, have dithering and bit reduction that can be used independently of their gain maximizer functions) is out of the signal path altogether.

I’ve received many requests for tutorials on writing/producing a hip-hop or dance beat. In theory, this is a nice idea. In reality, there’s just no way you can encapsulate all of the creative and technical know-how that goes into writing and producing a great sounding beat in a single tutorial. Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped me from trying, because even if I can’t pack all of the relevant information into one tutorial, it’s still worth doing for the information that I can share in about a ten-minute video.

So, I threw on some clothes, my Remix Miami T-shirt, didn’t bother to shave, set up the camera (top view down so you could see my hands on the control surfaces), and wrote a hip-hop style beat off the top of my head. It took me around 40 minutes, but I edited the whole process down to about a 12-minute video. Obviously, there are some parts missing, such as playing with MPC backdrops for Kong, or running the hi-hats through a compressor. But, if you watch carefully, it’s all there, because in addition to the techniques I describe as I’m working, you can also see all the device settings and the connections when I flip Reason’s rack over. The video is in HD so you can totally see all the details. I used Reason 5, Kong for all the drum sounds, and Thor for the bass line. Enjoy!