More Than a Mashup

Jan 18 2008

A mashup (AKA bootleg) is taking two songs and beat-matching them together to create a new blended mix of both songs. For example, the classic mashup of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and New Order’s “Blue Monday.” It’s often done using full stereo mixes (with vocals), or, alternately, an a cappella and a stereo mix (possibly an instrumental). To hear a variety of well crafted mashups, check out Party Ben.

Mashups became such a hit on the dance-floor that some producers (such as Richard X) went on to remake parts of the original songs in order to clear the entire mashup for commercial release. For example, the 2002 UK hit by the Sugababes, a combination of the lyrics from Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me” and the music of Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric?”

The point behind my little history lesson is, you don’t always have to play a traditional instrument, or even record a track, in order to be wonderfully creative with music. I have the privilege of working with music production students at all levels of experience, some are seasoned musicians while others are just starting piano lessons. Obviously, for our production project in class, I expect students to create their own tracks, one way or another. It’s a snap for experienced players to record a performance, but a serious challenge for students just beginning an instrument to record something decent. As an alternative, I encourage the use of MIDI files, a cappella mixes, and sampling. (For educational purposes only, of course.) These resources can provide a signal and a musical performance with which to practice your production chops whether you play an instrument or not.

However, if you have never worked with samples or imported a MIDI file, taking advantage of these resources can be intimidating. One of the best ways I know to explain the whole process is to show you in a song. So, without playing a darn thing, just using my ears and production skills, I produced a mashup in Reason 4 using an a cappella, a MIDI file of a cover tune, and a sample of the original tune — all items I found for free on the Web. This mashup features Tone-Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” and Kraftwerk’s “The Model.”

You can download the Reason 4 song file below (it’s about 8 MB) and explore the production, from its samples to its mix. To download an MP3 of the mashup, visit my myspace page.

Cold Medina Mashup

Why You Need Reason 4

Oct 25 2007

Is Reason 4 Cool? Is Tony Hawk a good skateboarder? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” But the question I inevitably hear is, “Why do I need to update Reason if I just use it as a virtual sound module.” Now, that’s an easy answer, the Thor Polysonic Synthesizer and the RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator.

You’ve heard of Thor the Norse God of Thunder, right? Initially, I thought the guys at Propellerhead were just being silly, but this new synth is aptly named because it does produce some thunderous sounds. Take for example the Moog influenced Fat Boy bass patch, or the endlessly entertaining sequenced and rhythmic patches (such as Elastic Overdrive or Modular Funk Machine). Thor has a built-in step sequencer for some amazingly complex and funky sounds. And, if designing sounds isn’t your thing, the Reason 4 Factory Sound Bank comes with a dozen folders packed full of earth shaking Thor patches: Bass, Fx, Lead Synths, Pads, Percussion, Poly Synths, Rhythmic, Sequenced, Textures, Voice and Choir, Signature Patches (patches created by well-known artist and producers), and several uncategorized patches in the Thor Patches parent folder.

At the Reason Producer’s Conference in San Francisco, just before the Release of Reason 4, I distinctly heard Propellerhead product specialist James Bernard answer a question on the possibility of having an arpeggiator function in Reason with, “There will never be an arpeggiator in Reason.” Clearly, he was pulling our collective leg. The RPG-8 is dope! It is a comprehensive arpeggiator with a load of parameters for shaping arpeggios. For example, Hold, Octave Shift, Velocity, Gate Length, it can generate up to a four octave arpeggio, and there are controls for introducing random and sequenced variations (such as the Pattern Steps with which you can mute specific steps in the arpeggio). Better still, the RPG-8 can be controlled by your ReWire master application. For example, in your ReWire master, assign a MIDI track’s output to the RPG-8, send it a chord (or even a single note) and it will play an arpeggio using the instrument device that it is connected to in the Reason rack. Talk about cool!

For those of you with Pro Tools 7.3 and Reason 4, I’m attaching a ReWire session to show you how the RPG-8 can be controlled from an Instrument track in Pro Tools and sending an arpeggio to Thor at the same time. In the Zip folder you’ll find the Pro Tools 7.3 session file and Reason 4 song file. Remember to launch the Pro Tools session first, then the Reason song file. (For those of you without Pro Tools 7.3 and Reason 4, I’m also attaching an MP3 so you can at least hear what I’m going on about.)

1) Session Zip

2) MP3 Audio File

Thor and RPG-8