Saturday, October 24, 2009

Soundcloud Song: Separation

Here's a more recent track, made up almost exclusively from patches that can be downloaded here. Called "Separation," its more of the usual ambient stuff I work on, but much more recent than that last track I shared.

Separation by Reason Patch A Day

As I said, with the exception of just one patch, Separation uses sounds that can be found here on the Reason Patch A Day blog. A list of each patch, linked to its post, is provided below:

Instrument Patchs: Cautious Steps (not posted yet), Humicolous, Lustral, Memory, Orange Nectar, Solar Bells - Uranus, The Stillness Following Rain, Then, Sleep Overtakes Them

Effect Patches: Airport Music, Ambience, Borealis, Borealis2, Elusive, Softer Tones, SubWide

The process for getting your tracks featured here on Reason Patch A Day are pretty simple. Send me a Soundlick link to your track or email me your MP3 or RNS file and I'll post it here. The only requirement is that you use a patch or sound from this blog somewhere in your track. You don't need to use as many patches as I did, obviously, but I'd love to hear what you've done with the patches shared here and I think some of the other readers would to, so let me know what you've come up with.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reason Patch-A-Day Is On SoundCloud!

I've been promising and hinting at this for a while now, but I finally set up a SoundCloud account for Reason Patch-A-Day. And, to borrow an old and tired phrase, since I would ask you to do anything I wouldn't do, I've uploaded one of my own songs.

13.6˚S 131.7˚E  by  Reason Patch A Day

The song is fairly old and so not all of the patches used in it have been posted here on Patch A Day, but half of them have been shared here before. You'll find Bug Chorus, Charon Bells, Thin Metal Sings, Titan Bells, Bug Hiccup, and Naiad Bells all within the song and on this blog.

Surprisingly, I haven't posted Soft Protest, Cough Tone, Snare Boost, Enoch Mod, Elusive Pad or Bass Bellows, the other patches I used when putting together this song. Enoch Mod is a modification to the Enoch patch provided, I think, in one of the Flatpack demos, so I don't think I'll be posting it here (that's a little too close to outright theft for my tastes), but the others may appear here in future posts if I can find them.

So, do you have any songs you would like to share? Send me an email at patchaday (at) earthlink (dot) net with your MP3 or RNS and I'll drop it into SoundCloud. Your songs aren't required to feature only Patch A Day patches, but please be sure to let me know which patches you did use, so I can mention it in the post and possibly link to those patches in your song write-up.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Patch-A-Day FAQ (Redux)

Well, I'm back. Thank you for your patience while I took a little time off from the blog and patch design. It felt a little weird having a "vacation," but it's good to be back, and I'm really looking forward to trying out some new things in Reason.

How many of you, after finding this blog, went back through all the old posts? Did you ever take the time to read my very first post: The Patch-A-Day FAQ? It's been a long while since I looked at it myself, so during my break, I went back and read through the FAQ, trying to determine if I've deviated very far from my original intent. I was surprised to learn that while I've posted quite a few more Combinators than I thought I would, the blog has stayed pretty close to my early vision for it. I suppose that's either a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about my original goals, but I've been pleased with the output so far.

I'm reprinting the FAQ below for those of you who haven't seen it yet.

What Is "Patch-A-Day?"

At its most basic level "Patch-A-Day" is a challenge, to myself, to create a new Reason patch every day. I've been trying to wrap my brain around synthesis for a long time and creating a new patch, every day, seemed like a good tool to finally hammer home the concepts I've been learning and force myself to actually work through crafting some sounds. After a couple of weeks of creating new sounds and effects for Reason, I decided to share them, rather than just keep them to myself. Hopefully, some of these patches will be useful to you.

What Will I Find On "Patch-A-Day?"

I expect that the majority of the patches you find here will be instrument patches, so expect a lot of Subtractor, Malstrom and Thor patches, with the occasional NN-XT patch from time to time. A lot of people talk about the death of the Subtractor, claiming there really isn't any need for it now that we have Malstrom and Thor, but even given these new, shiny, terrific synthesizers and what they're capable of, Subtractor remains my "go to" synth when I'm drawing up a new track. I think, with a little care, it can sound every bit as good as its CPU hungry commrades, so you're going to find a lot of Subtractor patches posted here. The old girl still has some life in her.

What you won't find are a lot of complex combinator patches, with layered synths backed up by forty or more effect units. While these types of patches usually sound extraordinary, my focus is going to be fairly "raw." It will be up to you to complicate things with your own effects and routing. I'll just be providing the basic building blocks for a sound.

Most of the combis I build for personal use are effect units that I'll slap on top of an intrument to get an interesting sound. I'll probably post some of them, as I come up with them, but the focus will be on raw instruments.

Why Not Just Release A Refill?

I still might, but for now, I'm going to be more productive getting out a new patch every day, than I am "saving up" patches for some nebulous date in the future that may or may not arrive. In three months, six months, or a year from now, I might package them all together, but for now, the blog format is the best way for me to get these out.

Can I Participate?

Yes! The patches provided here are all "bragware." If you use one of them in a project, I hope you'll let me know. I'd love to hear about it, and if possible, listen to what you've done. Provide a link and I'll post it on the blog for others to hear. If you tweak one of the patches or build one into a combinator, send me your updated patch and I'll post it here, giving you credit. There's no reason why I couldn't post reader patches, as well, so if you have something you want to share, send it over.

Please do not use my patches in your own refills or repost on other sites. Give credit where it's due. I certainly plan to, if any of my fellow Reason users participate.

Let's see where this next year takes us.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reason Patch A Day Is One Year Old!

The Reason Patch A Day blog started one year ago today, and while there have been a few missed days here and there, not to mention the occasional gaps due to holidays and work, over 400 patches have been posted in the last year.

It's been an interesting year for me. I've learned a lot about how to coax sounds from Reason's instruments, learned a little about blogging, and generally had a great time interacting with all of you in the comments sections and via email. So, thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to make Reason Patch A Day one of your daily (or frequent) internet destinations.

To celebrate this anniversary, I'll be taking a short break from the blog to work through some tutorials and try to gain back some of my energy regarding patch and sound design. I'll probably spend some time sampling some strange noises, as well, so there's no telling what I'll come back with when I resume posting next week.

Do you have any tracks you've put together using one of the patches here? It's always been my intention to share the musical creations people have made, using these tools, but so far no one has stepped up with anything to share. So, let's start the second year of Reason Patch A Day right. Send me your tracks (MP3s or RNS files) at patchaday (at) earthlink (dot) net and I'll get them posted here. If you send a MP3, please be sure to let me know what patches you used. I'll probably set up a Soundcloud account to host everyone's tracks.

Again, thanks for dropping by and spending your time here at Reason Patch A Day. I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Korg nanoKey Review

As you might have seen in my "nanoRack" posts, I recently picked up a Korg nanoKey, and after a couple of weeks of using it, I thought I'd pass along some thoughts regarding its use.

The nanoPad, which I reviewed several months ago, had 12 pads which was more than enough to cover Redrum's 10 channels. Given that the nanoKey is just a portable two octave keyboard, there are no Reason-specific advantages or limitations to using the nanoKey. It "fits" all of Reason's instruments just fine, so its effectiveness really comes down to how it works as a keyboard, so this review will concern itself primarily with that, rather than any specific issues with regards to using it with Reason.

While the nanoSeries saw a lot of positive buzz when it was first announced, the nanoKey was largely seen as a disappointment when it was released. The keys are responsive and pressure-sensitive, but as you probably already know, have more in common with laptop keys than any musical keyboard, making them a little awkward. If you're used to hammering out a few notes using a "virtual keyboard" like the one in Logic (and now Record, Propellerhead Software's newest app), the nanoKey will probably feel comfortable, even spacious, but if you're more used to a traditional keyboard, or possibly even a mini-keyboard like an Oxygen 8, you'll find the nanoKey a bit lacking.

The the left of the keyboard are six buttons which control Pitch Bend (up and down), Mod Wheel, CC Mode, and two buttons to toggle up and down in Octave. These keys feel like the keyboard keys, so again you have that laptop keyboard feel, but don't appear to be pressure or velocity sensitive. The Mod Wheel button, for example, is either on or off, with no variations between, making its use rather limited. The same thing is true of Pitch Up and Pitch Down, so while its nice to have those options, they're not very practical in "real world" use. Using Korg's Kontrol Editor you could certainly shorten the range of these keys, so that your Mod Wheel goes from 0% to only 40%, instead of 0% to 100%, for example, but because you seem to be limited to either on or off, your "performance range" will be limited to whatever presets you design for your gear.

Of course, having said all of that, even with access to a few other keyboards at home, I tend to use the nanoKey quite a bit, as its simply more convenient. I think I've mentioned it before, but my "studio" is also my home office, so there's usually a bit of setup time involved with getting out gear for music making, especially if I've moved away from the office to the kitchen table or patio. The nanoKey effectively removes that barrier for me, as its small enough to just pull out and use, without hunting for the wall warts and USB cables needed to get my Oxygen 8 or Yamaha keyboard setup and ready to go. No, it's not as nice as even my first generation Oxygen 8, especially if I'm hoping to add a little more human performance to my playing via the mod or pitch bend wheels, but its immediate, which tends to suit my needs when getting down an idea quickly.

One point of interest is that the nanoKey is by far the thinnest piece in the nano series of controllers, about half of the thickness of the nanoKontrol, and slightly thinner than the nanoPad. The differences don't seem like much when you look at them, but even as slight as they are, the nanoKey feels like the most portable of the three units. I packed my nanoKey in my bag today, along with my laptop and my usual work stuff, while out running errands and it took up very little room, so little, in fact, that it might find a permanent place in my bag during my long commutes.

So, do I recommend the nanoKey? I do, but with some caveats. If you want something portable and fast to set up, the nanoKey can't be beat. Korg is marketing the entire nanoSeries for use on the train or bus, in-between classes, or wherever else their cartoon spokesman needs to make music, and it suits that grab-and-go mentality very well. Its the very definition of "quick and dirty." What you get in exchange for that portability and size is unnatural key action and almost useless pitch and mod capabilities. If that's a deal-breaker for you, and I would guess that for a great number of you it is, you should look elsewhere.

Note: The nanoKey uses the same USB driver as the nanoPad and nanoKontrol, so if you already own one of the nanoSeries devices, your drivers will already be installed and you should only be required to add it as a new device in Reason.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reason Resource: Download Stompp's New FreeFill

In the last poll, many of you expressed an interest in seeing more links and resources from around the web. I guess I just assume that all of you are reading the same blogs I am, so anything I stumble across on, say Synthtopia, you've already seen. I'll try to change that and post links to resources I found interesting, even if they are just stolen from other blogs (with credit, of course).

If you don't read the Propellerhead Users Forum, you may have missed Stompp's announcement for his September '09 FreeFill. I highly recommend you take a look at Stompp's latest creation, so download it by clicking here.

I recently went through a refill purging on my computer, but Stompp's refills always make the cut. His sound designs are nearly always clever, lush, and best of all, useful. I can't say enough good things about what he can do from within Reason. I also noticed some of his patches were in the recent Record+Reason FX refill, so take a look at those, as well.

Check out the announcement thread on the Propellerhead Users Forum for more information or to let Stompp know what you think of his latest free release.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Review: Homemade Electronic Music

For Father's Day (a commercial-driven psuedo-holiday in June, for those of you outside of the US) my wife, who is patient, kind, and keenly in-tune with the nerdy man she married, got me the book "Homemade Electronic Music," written by Nicolas Collins. I've always been intrigued by kits and simple circuits and have been breathing in the occasional solder fumes since I was ten years old, so the book is a great fit for me, and I've really enjoyed looking through it, reading the occasional project, and building mental parts lists.

If you took my advice and picked up the Get LoFi Fuzz Kit, this book is the next obvious step. It is aimed at beginners, with a fair number of pages dedicated to building your soldering skills, but quickly ramps up to simple, but intriguing circuits, built either on breadboard or generic circuit boards. Unlike a project-driven manual, "Homemade Electronic Music" encourages experimentation and seems to be written with the expectation that you will take what you've learned and keep adapting it, modifying your projects to make them your own, and coming up with sounds and ideas that are unique to your own needs and workflow.

I know, my praise for this book is being laid on a little thick, but it really is a great little book, written with a relaxed, conversational tone, and as a gateway into circuit-bending and design, I don't think you're going to be able to find a better book. I haven't set up an Amazon affiliate account, so it doesn't do me any good to provide links to them, but if you want to get your own copy you can find it here.

I've had the book for a few months, but aside from some electromagnetic eavesdropping with a telephone coil, as described in one of the early chapters, I haven't had a chance to really tackle any of its projects. Once I finally get a parts list together, I hope to start spending more time with it, so you might be seeing some new samples here on Patch A Day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Unofficial Korg NanoRack, Pt. II

Do you remember the ridiculousness of my homemade Korg NanoRack earlier this week? Well, despite my better judgement, the NanoRack is now filled with the entire nano Series line.

It's hard to really justify the purchase of the nanoKey, given that I have a couple of different keyboard controllers available to me, but seeing as how my "studio" is also my home office, I don't always have the keyboards out and ready. The nanoKey, with its odd keys and limited usefulness, is much easier to pull out and set up. So, despite it not being as expressive or versatile as my other keyboards, I suspect the nanoKey will see quite a bit of use.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Unofficial Korg NanoRack

I've been pretty open about my love of the Korg NanoPad controller. And, my review of the Korg NanoPad has shown this blog quite a bit of love, turning my review into an impromptu tech support chat room. So, inspired by my frequent use of it, as well as the purchase of a new Korg NanoKontrol, I decided to build a simple tool to house my Nano series devices.

It's a pretty simple design, actually. A piece of 11.25" wide board, cut to a length of approximately 13" inches, with a few chunks of shaped molding glued to its front, is the extent of it. I also took another piece of wood (a 1" by 1" square), then glued and nailed it to the back, to provide a small rise to the rack surface.

Finally, I took a couple of eyehooks and screwed them into the underside of the holder to help hold and organize the USB cables running to the Korg devices. They're ugly, but functional, and keep the cables nicely organized. If I added a third Korg device to my "rack" I suspect I'd be even more thankful for the eyehooks keeping the wires in control.

I didn't bother sanding down the edges on the bottom of the rack to make it flush with whatever surface its sitting on, which would have make it even more stable, but I added little adhesive feet to give it some cushion and to keep it from scratching things beneath it.

As you can probably see, I applied a couple of coats of stain to finish it. It's a little darker than the can seemed to suggest it would be, but it looks nice enough.

If you plan to build something like this yourself, I have a couple of suggestions for you. First, make sure that the main board you use is nice and sturdy. When I was originally planning the NanoRack, I was thinking I'd use a small piece of press board, similar to what you get with a clipboard. While the piece would have been much lighter, I'm not sure I'd feel very comfortable with really pounding on the drum pads of the nanoPad if there was just a skinny piece of particle board behind it. The board I used was about 3/4 of an inch wide and feels rock solid.

Second, try to use or borrow a good saw. The one I used to cut the molding for the front had too course of a bite and really tore my pieces of wood apart. Closer inspection shows big, ugly gaps where the wood splintered and broke. So, either use a better saw, or buy plenty of extra molding in case you have the same luck I did.

Third, if I were building another one for myself, I think I'd want a higher riser, so consider the angle you want for your devices while you're in the hardware store purchasing wood. The 1" x 1" piece I used to give my holder its angle is fine, but I think I'd be even happier with a 2" piece. I have more of the 1" x 1" board, so I suppose I could glue it to the bottom of the first piece, but more pieces means less long-term strength. It might work, but I don't know how long it would last.

I'm not what you would call "handy," so someone with a bit of wookworking skill and access to quality tools, should be able to make something a lot nicer without a whole lot more effort. Still, for a simple hunk of wood, its surprisingly nice, turing "portable" control surfaces into something a little more sturdy and useful "in the studio." I'm imagining all sorts of possible improvements, such as drilling a hole into the piece of wood I'm using as a riser to allow you to run your USB cables out the back of it. Or, even better, building a mini USB hub into the rack, making it possible to run just one cable from your Korg Rack to your computer.

I was concerned about the strength of the molding on the front of the piece and thought about using some nails, in addition to the wood glue, to hold them in place. However, my fear of splitting the wood by hammering into it with nails eventually made me decide against it. It should be fine, but might also be an area where you could improve on my design, if you try this yourself.

As you can see, I designed it to hold all three of the Korg nano series devices, even though I only have two at the moment. Use a smaller piece of wood or increase the size of the gaps between the nano controllers, if you want to build something like this for two devices. Or, build it for three, and find something else to put in your controller rack, like I did. The Casio VL-Tone is nearly a perfect fit.

What does this have to do with Reason? Not much, but I was pretty pleased with my weekend project, and thought I'd share.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Check Out Ned Rush's YouTube Channel

Fellow Reason and Renoise user Ned Rush, who I "met" over on the Renoise forums, has been posting a number of really clever Reason videos on YouTube. There's some interesting stuff to be found in his conversational style videos, so if you enjoy watching tutorials on YouTube, definitely take a look at what he has up.

Ned's videos are great proof of how flexible Reason really is and really show how far a little creativity can go in this "closed" piece of software.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Get LoFi Fuzz Kit demonstration

Okay, I admit it, I'm a bit smitten with this thing. Here's a short video showing off the Get LoFi Fuzz Kit, as per Circuitmaster's request:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

.125 Yamaha RX120 Digital Rhythm Programmer

I just picked up another oddity from eBay this week, the Yamaha RX120 Digital Rhythm Programmer. Unlike a traditional drum machine, the RX120 doesn't actually allow you to write or setup up drum patterns using its built-in sounds. Instead, the Yamaha RX120 provides you with a number of preset drum patterns, grouped into songs/genres (Rock 1, Rock 2, Funk, Ballad, Slow Jazz, etc.), that you can then program into sequences to build a complete song. Each song/genre has 8 patterns, so you're able to line up Intros, Fills, and Pattern Variations, to program a rhythm track for a song. Think of the RX120 less as a drum machine and more as a dedicated (and closed) loop player and you'll get a better understanding of how it works.

The design on this gadget is very strange. It doesn't provide a Midi Out, so you can't use it to trigger other devices, but it does have a Midi In allowing you to trigger its built-in sounds from an external keyboard. It's many buttons are used to select the rhythm patterns and their 8 variations, not individual sounds, but it does have buttons to trigger Cowbell and Claps, so you can manually play along to a pattern using these two samples. I get the impression that the RX120 was dreamed up by someone who wanted to create a drum machine for people who didn't know anything about how to program rhythms, so rather than give you sounds to mold into a song, it provides you with preset pieces to build up a song. This impression is reinforced by the fact that the RX120 doesn't provide any panning controls. Each sample is stereo and is panned across the soundstage in a predefined way, essentially laying out a set drum kit.

Having said all of that, the RX120 does contain some intriguing sounds inside its strange, little box. It's list of "38 percussive instruments" doesn't have anything that stands out as particularly intriguing, except maybe it's Electric Toms, FM Percussion, and China instruments, but what it does provide under the usual descriptors (Bass Drum, Rim Shot, etc) are pleasant to the ear, and like the RX11, RX15 and RX17 machines I already own, have a different character than the tried and true Roland machines everyone seems to be sampling.

Download the full RX120 sample set and a Combinator backdrop below:

If you find yourself with an extra forty or fifty bucks in your pocket and are looking for something from an earlier generation to experiment with, I don't know if I would recommend the RX120, unless you'll be using outboard gear to overcome its lack of pattern editing. I think the RX11 and RX17 are incredible values, given their going prices on eBay, and the RX17 is quickly becoming my favorite little piece of gear (outside of my laptop). The RX120 isn't going to be replacing either of those machines for me, but it's still a lot of fun and I found myself really enjoying the samples as I was recording them. While not necessarily "natural" it does sound more like real drums than a lot of drum machines out there.

Did you miss the drum hits I shared from my other Yamaha machines? Check out the previous posts:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Don't Forget to Brag!

As I mentioned a few times before the patches provided on the Patch-A-Day blog are "bragware" meaning that if you use a patch in one of your projects, I want to hear about it. Leave a link to where you've hosted your project in the comments section or send me an e-mail and I'll highlight your project and the patch you used here on the blog.

Of course, you're also free to submit patches of your design. Mad Wax submitted a few patches in October, and then again in January, and Meowsqueak provided a patch last month.

Let me know what you've done by posting in the comments.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Meowsqueak's New "Off White Noise" Blog

Meowsqueak, who recently submitted the Wealthy Pad Combinator to Reason Patch A Day, has started a blog of his own called Off White Noise. The blog is quite a bit more technical than what you might find here, but if you give the tutorials a little time, I think you'll find a lot of value in them. Be sure to check out Designing a Noise Gate in Reason 4. Not only is it a useful effect to add to your Reason toolbag, but it's also a great step-by-step walkthrough that outlines what Meowsqueak did to get the effect he wanted. Really excellent stuff!

Note: Have you noticed that all of my "editorial" style posts have the tag "Boring?" It's not meant as any disrespect toward Meowsqueak. His blog is anything but "boring."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Korg nanoPad Review... Sort of

I'm not shy about admitting that I am, when it all comes down to it, a mouse-slinger. The notes I "play" are usually just the notes I've painted on to the piano roll view and while I do know a few chords and could likely play them if someone held a gun to my head, I just don't feel comfortable sitting in front of a keyboard. As much as I'd like to say otherwise, I'm just not a musician.

When I first got Reason, all those years ago, I immediately bought a Oxygen 8, which was the hot midi-controller at the time, but I never really used it much. I did most of my composition "on the road," sitting in a coffee shop before work, so nearly everything I did happened in Edit Mode with a mouse or trackpad.

New controllers came out since Reason 1, of course, and I've looked at them with varying degrees of interest, but ultimately knew they'd be joining my Oxygen 8 in the closet, rather than becoming a daily composition tool. Getting another controller would just be a waste of money, once the initial thrill of having a new toy wore off, so there wasn't much reason to get a new controller or keyboard.

Then, I saw the announcement for the Korg nano line, three USB controllers designed to be paired with laptops, small and portable enough that they were perfect for on the go work. The nanoPad immediately jumped out at me, as I had been looking at getting a drum pad style controller for a while now, so I kept a look-out for them during my occasional trips to Guitar Center. I wasn't doing much composition in coffee shops anymore, but these controllers looked to fill a need for me.

You've probably seen the announcements and reviews yourself, so I'll skip the basic descriptions of the nanoPad and get right to how the nanoPad works with Propellerheads Software's Reason 4. In a word: great. I did have some minor issues with it out of the box, which I'll explain, but it's a great little piece of hardware and I cannot recommend it enough.

Check out Sonic State's review, Stray411's review and AudioMidi's review if you're in the dark about this device and want a good introduction.

The nanoPad is essentially plug-and-play in Mac OS X, so you can immediately start using it just by plugging its included USB cable into your computer. However, if you want to use the Korg Kontrol Editor to modify its controls (and you likely will as I'll explain below), you'll need to load its drivers, a painless process, but not immediately obvious considering that it seems to work perfectly without them until you try to communicate with it via the Kontrol Editor. The Kontrol Editor and the nanoPad drivers are all found on Korg's website and are not included in the box.

Why was it necessary to modify the plug-and-play settings? The Korg has four Scene settings that you can toggle through by pressing the Scene key. At its most basic level, the various Scenes serve as octaves, letting you move higher up the octave range with each press. I bought the nanoPad specifically for use with Reason's Redrum, so it was the first instrument I tried, and found the nanoPad sent strange midi messages into Reason. Pad 7 would trigger the first channel in Redrum, Pad 8 would trigger the second channel, and Pad 9 would mute channel 3. Pads 1 and 2 didn't seem to do anything and while these settings might have made sense to someone already experienced with using pad controllers with their Software, I found it confusing. It seemed to work fine with Logic, which was even more odd, but wasn't keyed up the way I wanted in Reason.

Using the Korg Kontrol Editor software, I went back and reprogrammed it so that Pad 1 would trigger Redrum's Channel 1 sample (C2), Pad 2 would trigger Channel 2 (C#2), and so on. I also modified the nanoPad's Scenes 2-4 to build on the new settings on Scene 1, as its Chromatic scale in its factory settings started at C4 in Scene 2, rather than C3, skipping an entire octave.

The rest of the nanoPad's controls, such as its X/Y pad and Hold, Flam, and Roll buttons, all work perfectly in Reason without needing any further tweaking. The X/Y pad, for example, will give you some expression in the Bend and Mod wheels of synthesizers, and is used to help control the Hold, Flam and Roll buttons when using it with Redrum or a sample device like NN19 or NN-XT.

Download my basic nanoPad setup here.

Of course, what's really exciting is that you have quite a bit of flexibility with the nanoPad's control settings. While I have mine set up to be used as a basic midi controller, someone a bit more clever could find a number of interesting possibilities in configuring its "Pad Behavior" settings and modify its Off/On values. For example, by changing the nanoPad's "Assign Type" to "Control Change" you could change the nanoPad into a real-time remixing tool, allowing you to mute and solo tracks on the fly by sending midi messages to Remix or triggering passages in NN-XT.

Interestingly, I find myself "playing" the nanoPad using Reason's synthesizers quite a bit. There is something very pleasant about its rubber pads and I find them really comfortable for triggering long, droning synths, like the Saturn's Rings patches I've been posting. The nanoPad is polyphonic, of course, so you can easily play chords over its twelve pads, assuming you're playing out simple key combinations.

When I picked up the nanoPad, I was trying to decide between it and the M-Audio Trigger Finger controller. I had used the Trigger Finger a few times in stores and really liked it, but I think I made the right decision in getting the nanoPad. First, Reason's Redrum only has 10 channels, which is still two below nanoPad's 12 pad controllers, making the Trigger Finger's 16 pads a bit overkill with Reason. And, the Trigger Finger has a number of sliders and pots I just didn't need for hammering out quick beats and notes. The smaller size of the nanoPad fits my needs a bit better and I actually like the feel of the nanoPad's pads better than the Trigger Finger's harder plastic. At more than one-third the price, it's a great little device.

My experience with the nanoPad has been so good that I'm already looking at picking up the nanoKontrol and the nanoKey units. The nanoKey has a bit of a reputation as being kind of cheesy, but it might be fun, especially on the go.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Polar Elements Refill From New Atlantis Audio

I rarely purchase refills. Its either due to stubbornness or pride, but I often feel that with a little creativity and time, I can come up with my own sounds, rather than surf through someone else's presets. Sure, you can learn a few things by studying a patch that someone else has put together, but with only a few exceptions, I tend to shy away from commercial refills.

However, having said that, the price for New Atlantis Audio's Polar Elements refill makes it hard to beat. At just $5 there are some nice sounds to be found in its 50 combinators. I especially liked Cold Sunrise, Dall's Horn, Dense Descent, Gakkel's Secret, Inupiaq Bells, Sagging Moraine, and Uria Flutter. The combinators for Orca Straight and Welcome To The Top are just beautiful.

Check it out if you're looking for something cheap and fun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tutorials: Rolling Your Own Drum Sounds

Tom, at the excellent blog Waveformless, has been running an ongoing series of tutorials aimed at creating your own, custom drum sounds using various synthesis techniques. If drums are a big part of your tracks, and I don't think very many of us go without them, I highly recommend you check out Tom's tutorials and try your hand and building some unique sounds.

Tom's tutorials are really great. They're well-written and easy to follow, and while they're never Reason-specific, he explains things so well that you should be able to follow along with the instruments and effects contained inside of Reason. I plan on spending some time with these tutorials myself and building my own custom kit.

One of the first posts on Reason Patch A Day was a recreation of Tom's Tape Flutter Logic effect, which was inspired by the Boards of Canada sound.