When I started playing in live bands the hottest synthesizer on the market was the Yamaha DX7. Back then it was great to have a keyboard that could play lots of notes simultaneously and do a decent job of sounding like the instrument it was emulating. Most keyboard players brought multiple keyboards to the gigs and there was a lot of setup time involved. I remember spending hours working on the perfect soundpatches for my Roland keyboards. The thing about playing keyboards is you can never have too many sound options. It was an expensive proposition to be a keyboard player as it would cost the player thousands of dollars to get the necessary equipment to play in a live band. The dream was to have racks of synthesizer modules at your disposal to create the incredible soundscapes that you could hear in your head. But only the top paid musicians could afford to live that dream. The rest of us had to make do with whatever synthesizer equipment we could afford. It’s amazing how times have changed with the development of incredibly powerful, software based synthesizers like those found in Reason 4.0.
If you’ve never heard of Reason which is developed by Propellerhead it’s basically a virtual studio rack into which you can load mixers, effects and synthesizer modules. If the equipment that you have access to in Reason 4.0 was sitting in a rack in your studio it would cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. You can place multiple copies of the same equipment into the rack to work with for sound creation. So if you want 15 analog synthesizers to work with, you got it. The virtual rack is infinitely expandable as long as your computer is powerful enough to run all the devices you can load into it. What types of devices can you load? Reason 4.0 comes with synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, REX file loop player, mixers, vocoder, studio effects, mastering tools, pattern sequencers and more! It’s amazing how many devices come in this software package. If you have the urge to load 11 compressors and 10 samplers with 5 synthesizers, you can do it. You can chain as many mixers together as you wish to mix all of your devices. You can keep adding gear until your computer chokes but it will take a lot to do that as Reason 4.0 is quite conservative on your system.
You can control each device in your virtual rack from it’s own individual front panel controls. You can twist knobs, slide sliders and turn filters on and off with the push of a button. Reason also has a powerful built-in sequencer that will record all of your knob and slider tweaking in real-time. If you’re using this software while playing live you can do the same thing on the fly. One of the best aspects of jamming is changing the sounds around on your keyboard by tweaking filters and you can do that easily in Reason 4.0.
Another extremely cool feature is the way you control signal routing using Reason. With a single keypress you can turn the entire rack around and look at the back of all your devices. Everything is routed using virtual patch cables between the devices and you can grab a plug with a mouse click and move it wherever you want. If you want to patch the output of one device to the input of another it’s as easy as dragging the cable from the output to the input. It’s so convenient to be able to trace patch cables between the devices to see how everything is wired up. You can move cables around on the mixer to whatever mixer channels make the most sense to you for mixing your music.
Reason is really a dream come true for keyboard players. All that equipment that almost nobody could afford together in an affordable software package. I’m telling you it’s almost endless hours of fun just playing with the sounds alone. To use Reason in a live setting all you need is a controller keyboard, a computer and a MIDI interface. If you get a MIDI keyboard controller like the M-Audio Keystation 88ES all you’ll need to do is plug it into the USB port of your computer and it will fully interface with Reason. If you have Reason, a laptop and a keyboard controller then you’re ready to play some keyboards. This is an extremely affordable way to get out and playing live with a world of keyboard sounds at your fingertips. If you’re looking for a sound solution for your keyboard needs then look no further as Reason will supply you with everything you need.
I use Reason extensively in my home studio as it interfaces seamlessly with Pro Tools. The sequencer that’s included in Reason 4.0 is very capable and handles all the keyboard parts easily. Reason 4.0 also works perfectly with Sony Acid 6.0 which I also use in my home studio. The sounds in Reason 4.0 are simply amazing and the sounds you can create by tweaking parameters and mixing and matching devices is pretty much limitless. The only limitation I’ve found with Reason 4.0 is my imagination. It’s honestly one of the best pieces of software I have ever used in my life and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to make music with a keyboard.
Make sure you check out the Reason 4.0 introductory videos as well as the excellent M-Audio Keystation 88es MIDI controller which integrates perfectly with Reason 4.0. The documentation that comes with Reason 4.0 will get you started but to really get a good grasp on the software, make sure you pick up the Reason 4 Power comprehensive guide to this powerful software.