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June 2017 Giveaway

Creating a Full Sounding Bass in Reason

As the music retail industry’s foremost propeller-hat wearing, “Peabody here, Sherman there”, techno-geek, Poindexters, it’s reasonably easy to forget that we’re musicians first. Speaking of propeller hats and reason(ably), today’s tech tip starts with bass, the very foundation of music harmony, and extends to the more arcane inner workings of Propellerheads Reason. In short, we’re going to discuss how to create a full sounding bass patch in Reason’s SubTractor.

The reason (sorry, no other word works here) for starting with bass is twofold: First, speaking as a musician, in harmony, bass determines the function of a chord. Our hearing organizes simultaneous pitches from the bass up. Therefore, if you play a triad with the notes C-E-G, you hear a C major chord. However, with A in the bass, (A-C-E-G), you hear an A minor 7th. As you can see (or hear) the note in the bass determines whether the chord functions as major or minor. In pop music, bass has another function. It carries most of the energy of the music. This is why a subwoofer shaking bass is an essential part of electronic dance music.

For those who are new to synthesis, using Reason can be a little daunting due to the complexities of the program. However, it’s not as hard to grasp as some of the other soft-synth packages available since all of the synth modules are designed to work like their hardware counterparts. This means that just about any book on analog synthesis writing in the last half century can give you a good basis for learning sound design and applying it.

Let’s get started: First, create a SubTractor, highlight it and create a Matrix sequencer. Input a simple pattern in the Matrix and press play. Move your mouse back to SubTractor to play with the parameters.

For starters, select a square wave in SubTractor’s Oscillator 1 section. When you play the Matrix pattern, you’ll hear a sound similar to an unfiltered TB303 – a somewhat hollow sound.

Next, select the ‘x’ setting for the Oscillator 1’s Mode button, which engages Phase Offset Modulation. This creates a copy of Oscillator 1, and multiplies the copied waveform with the original.

Adjust the offset between the two waveforms by moving the Phase knob slightly to the left to a value of 50. The sound will be much more rich and solid with almost a sub-bass feel, except it retains the definition and attack.

If the sound is too short for your needs, adjust the Release parameter in the Amplitude Envelope. To make the sound even more up front and defined, engage Oscillator 2 and set it up exactly as you did for Oscillator 1: square wave, ‘X’ in Phase Offset Modulation, Phase knob set to 50. The sound is now using four oscillators, which takes up more of your computer’s CPU resources. There will be a bit of random phasing to the sound which creates some interest, but try changing Oscillator 2’s Octave setting to 3. The sound will still be solid and deep, but the top octave gives you a cutting edge. The cutting edge can be further sharpened by moving Filter 1’s frequency slider down to about 45 and the Resonance slider up to around 50. You’ll hear a low frequency rumble with an aggressive filter driven blip to the sound.

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