Get your brain outside some crafty cuts with Reason 7's hot new slicing tools.
In last month's Reason column, I looked at some basic techniques for working with sliced audio clips in Reason 7. The way Propellerhead have implemented the scheme, and the fact that all audio clips get the sliced treatment all the time, makes it trivially easy to make little tweaks and quantises here and there without having to remember any complex preparation and editing procedures.
However, sliced audio can also be the starting point for less obvious and immediate techniques, like isolating individual slices within a clip for use elsewhere, stutter editing, and turning clips into REX-format loops prior to mangling.
Here's a scenario for starters. You've got a drum loop in an audio format, perhaps downloaded from the web, and you want to plunder it to load the individual hits into Kong. Essentially, what you do is import it into a Reason audio track, split all the slices into separate clips, then bounce them as samples instead. In Kong, you can then access those samples when choosing a sound to load into a pad.
Let's cover that again in a bit more detail. First, go to the File menu and choose Import Audio File. Navigate to your loop, use the audition facilities if you need to, and then finally click Open. You have to be a little careful here, because Reason will always place the file where the playback wiper happens to be in the sequencer time ruler, and in an existing audio track if it was selected before you began the Import. So for total clarity, it can sometimes be worth making sure that no tracks are selected before you begin, in which case Reason will create a new, separate track just for the audio file.
Find your new audio clip in the track lane and double-click it to edit it in-line, and see its slice markers. Now, click and drag a selection over all the markers, or just type Command-A (Mac OS) or Ctrl-A (Windows) to Select All. Right-click the clip and choose Split At Slices. Then, making sure that all the new abutting clips are selected, right-click one of them and choose Bounce Clips to New Samples. If you check out Reason's Tool Window now, and click on its Song Samples pane, you should see a bunch of new samples in both the Unassigned Samples and All Self-Contained Samples folders.
Now go into your rack and create or find your instance of Kong. Select a pad by clicking on it, then click the Browse Drum Patch button (which looks like a folder, right beneath the mod wheel). In the dialogue box that appears, click Song Samples in the sidebar; this is how you access those samples you just made. You'll discover the same selection of sample folders, including Unassigned and All Self-contained, that we saw before, so click into either of those and choose one of your sliced samples, before clicking OK.
The Kong pad loads up automatically with the chosen sample. Now you can keep repeating this last part of the process — selecting a pad, and choosing sounds from the special Song Samples location — until you're done.
Ways of varying this basic technique include loading your samples into another device instead of Kong: Redrum or a sampler (NNXT or NN19) are obvious choices. But you could also play with the audio much earlier in the process, while it's still in the sequencer track. For example, you might want to override Reason's default slicing — adjusting, adding or removing slices — to get just the hits you want. Auditioning single slices by using the Speaker tool (keyboard shortcut: letter 'I') helps with this. You might also use the audio clip's Transpose parameter to change its overall pitch and character.
Although increasing numbers of Rack Extensions dedicated to glitch, repeat and stutter edit treatments are available, sometimes it's quicker and easier to work it in the sequencer.
In the example screen I've got a strummed guitar loop, during which I want to drop in some little fragmentary repeats. Let's look at how to do that. Assuming that the timing is otherwise good, and you're viewing the slices in the in-line editing mode, select all the slice markers that span the region you want to repeat. Right-click the clip and choose Split at Slices. Enable Snap to Grid, and set the grid resolution to match the rhythm of the repeats you want to create; perhaps 1/8 or 1/16. Then create duplicates of the new clip that has appeared by dragging it while holding down the Alt key (Mac OS) or Ctrl key (Windows). The Snap to Grid behaviour keeps everything rhythmically aligned.
Working like this is very direct and rewarding — much more so than using some effects devices, in fact — but you can occasionally run into layering problems, where clips you want to hear get hidden (and silenced) behind ones you don't. Reason currently has no specific commands to properly control layering, so the solution is to be ready to resize the overlapping clips, or cut sections of them away using the Razor tool and Erase tools, to reveal your repeats.
Remember, you can further spice up manually created stutters by reversing some of the clips involved; select them, right-click, and choose Reverse Clips. You can also drag their Level handles to create rolls that change in volume, or use clips' Transpose parameters to 'bend' their pitch over the course of the repeats.
For another set of creative options, try converting your audio clips into REX-format loops that you can then use in the DrOctoRex device.
Assuming you've chosen a typical loop-length region of an audio track you'd like to use, begin by making sure that all's good with its slice-editing: that you've got an appropriate number of slices representing the musical events, and that the timing is as you'd like it. Then you need to create a single clip for the region that is some number of whole bars/measures in length, probably 1, 2 or 4. If your chosen region exists within one much larger audio clip, go ahead and enable Snap to Grid, set the resolution to Bar, and click with the Razor tool at the beginning and end of it. If your region consisted of multiple clips, though, you'd have to consolidate them first by selecting them all, right-clicking and choosing Join Clips. Then you could do the Razor tool work.
So, with this new audio clip created, double-click it to edit it in-line and reveal its audio slices. Now right-click the clip, and choose Bounce > Bounce Clip to REX Loop, and it'll get added to the Song samples pane of the Tool Window, as we saw earlier.
At this point, you could manually load the new REX loop into a DrOctoRex's Loop Slot, by clicking on the 'display' section beneath one of the eight loop buttons, and choosing Open Browser. Once more, via the dialogue box that appears, you'd find the loop somewhere inside the Song Samples folder. However, there's a quicker way to get up and running: just find the loop in the Tool Window, and double-click its name or icon. That creates a new DrOctoRex in your rack and loads the loop into it, in one fell swoop — nice!
What can you do now that your loop is in DrOctoRex? Primarily, trigger all the slices from your MIDI controller, to construct entirely new patterns. But if you're not so familiar with what else is possible, check out the Reason column from SOS January 2011; there's amazing flexibility and creative potential on offer.
A feature of bouncing clips from the sequencer, as we've been doing this month, is that Reason purposely excludes any subsequent processing, using rack devices, or mixer EQ and dynamics. That's sensible, and keeps things simple, but what if you want to source your audio with added delay, gating, reverb EQ, drive and goodness knows what else in place, just as it sounds during playback? The answer is to use the Bounce Mixer Channels command. This can create new samples that include the effects (literally) of tracks' entire signal chains.
Let's look at that DrOctoRex bounce again. Now, when you've found the whole-bars-length portion of your song you want to turn into a loop, the first thing to do is surround it with the L and R locator markers, perfectly aligned on 'beat 1' bar divisions. Go to the File menu and choose Bounce Mixer Channels. Tick the track or tracks you want to bounce and make sure 'All' is selected under the Apply Mixer Settings section. Under Range to Bounce, choose 'Loop' (to include those L/R locators) and then opt to Bounce to: New tracks in song.
After you click OK, Reason performs an off-line, faster than real-time bounce that results in a new audio track containing a 'wet' clip of your chosen loop region. That can now be your starting point for more sliced editing, and subsequent bounces to samples and REX.