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Comping Multiple Takes In Reason

Reason Tips & Techniques By Simon Sherbourne
Published February 2016

1: How a  punch-in appears in an audio clip’s Comp Edit view.1: How a punch-in appears in an audio clip’s Comp Edit view.

We get to grips with Reason’s individual approach to multiple takes and overdubs.

Reason has its own tidy way of handling multiple takes and overdubs on audio tracks. This came up last month in the context of vocal tuning, where I explained that my workflow is to treat sections separately and bounce them down to a new track as I go. Let’s have a detailed look at the way Reason handles multiple recordings on a track, then my tuning scenario should make sense.

Sound On Sound

If you record some audio into a track in Reason you get a simple ‘Single Take clip’ on the timeline. If at any later time you record audio over the top of existing audio the result is a ‘Comp clip’, with the original and new recordings residing on different lanes within the clip.

Let’s take the simple example of a punch-in on a previous recording. In screen 1 I’ve recorded a bass part, then gone back and punched in to fix a bit that I fluffed first time around. In the normal top-level sequencer view, the punch-in appears to record directly into the previous clip, so the result looks like a single piece of audio. While it looks like your new recording has destructively overwritten the original audio, Reason has in fact kept everything in the background.

Double-clicking the audio clip will switch the track to the Comp Editor view (as in screen 1) which shows all the audio takes that make up the clip. Each recording is shown in its own lane or ‘comp row’, with the most recent at the top (although note that Reason currently displays the take numbers incorrectly in this workflow). In my example you can see my punch-in on the top row. The parts of each recording that are actually heard are shown in colour, with the unused (‘masked’) audio greyed out. At the top you see the resulting clip as it appears in the normal sequencer view.

Editing Crossover Points

Having dropped in this section of bass, I’ve used the Comp Editor view to fine-tune the punch-in and -out points. The lane just under the master clip view contains silver tabs to indicate the cut points between the different recordings. These ‘Cut Handles’ can be moved to trim the point at which the audio switches from one comp row to another. In the picture I’ve dragged them so that only the exact part I need of my punch-in is being used. (You can also drag anywhere on the vertical line that runs down from the Handle.) The cut points obey grid snapping, so when editing here you’ll probably want to disable Snap to achieve the most accurate placement. The ‘S’ key is the quickest way to toggle Snap.

2: Icons indicate if an audio clip has multiple layers, and if it’s in Single Take or Comp Mode.2: Icons indicate if an audio clip has multiple layers, and if it’s in Single Take or Comp Mode.Clicking and dragging left or right just above a Cut Handle adds a crossfade at the switch-over point, letting you smooth the transition between recordings. Each row also has its own volume fader on the left, allowing you to match levels. To exit the Comp Edit view, hit Return or Esc.

Managing Multiple Takes

Now that you understand the fundamentals of using this multi-lane approach, let’s look at how Reason handles multiple takes on a single audio track. There’s no strict rule for how you capture multiple takes, but here are some good practices. First, place the Left Locator at the point you want to start recording (shortcut: Alt-click in the time ruler). Next, press 1 on the keypad section of your keyboard to locate the Play position to the Left Locator. Now enable a count-in by clicking the PRE button in the transport bar. To start recording press * on the keypad. Press 0 on the keypad to stop. To cue up the next take, press 1 again.

If you prefer you can use Loop Record to record multiple takes without stopping. To do this follow the same procedure as above, but add a Right Locator (Command- or Ctrl-click) to set the end of the loop, and make sure Loop is enabled in the transport bar. After you’ve finished the last pass, let Reason start the next loop, then Stop, and do an Undo. This will remove the last empty pass and leave you with a neat set of takes of all the same length.

Single Take Sorting

One potentially confusing part of this workflow is that, depending on the circumstances, you may end up with a clip that is in ‘Single Take mode’ or ‘Comp mode’, indicated by the icon in the bottom right of the clip. Multitrack clips are in Single Take mode when one of their lanes has its speaker icon active (as in pic 3), meaning that only that take will play. This mode can be chosen at any time, overriding any cuts, but it’s also selected by default when you record a series of takes of the same length (as with looping) or if the last take is longer than all the others.

3: Multiple Takes in a  clip after Loop Recording.3: Multiple Takes in a clip after Loop Recording.The lane speakers give you a simple way to audition and select which take you’d like to use in the track. When auditioning you can further organise your work by selecting and deleting unusable takes, re-ordering lanes by dragging the dotted tabs at the left, and renaming takes by doubling-clicking their names.

Le Comping

Often at this point you’ll want to edit together, or ‘comp’, the best bits from different takes. To enable comping, simply disable Single Take mode by making sure none of the speaker icons are activated. Next you need to choose which sections you want to use from each take. To mark out a section for promotion to the comp, hold down the Command or Ctrl key to switch to the Cut/Razor tool, then click and drag across the section you want to use. Cut Handles will be added at the boundaries.

You can also make a single cut by clicking with the razor: if you click in a specific track, the region after the cut will be promoted; if you click in the Cuts lane at the top, Cut Handles will be added without changing the take priorities. As with the punch-in example, you can now fine-tune and crossfade the cuts.

4: A Comp edit from multiple takes.4: A Comp edit from multiple takes.

You don’t have to figure out all the sections you want to use ahead of time. You can easily change the active section between any two Cut Handles by double-clicking on a take in that section. This can also be achieved with shortcuts. With Command/Ctrl held, the up/down cursor keys allow you to set which take is active within the selected zone. Zones can be selected by clicking in the Cuts lane, or by holding Shift-Alt-Command/Ctrl and using the left/right cursor keys.

Advanced Editing

Multiple Cut Handles can be selected by Shift-clicking, allowing you to move both the in and out points of a region at the same time. It’s also possible to move takes in time, by simply clicking and dragging them. This will slip the audio while leaving the cut points at the same place. Alternatively, you can shift an audio region and associated Cut Handles at the same time. To do this select the lane first, then select the Cut Handles you want to move, and finally hold Shift while moving the Markers. Adjusting timing like this affects the whole lane, so you might want to Duplicate it first if there are other parts of the same take that you don’t want to be moved.

Lastly, you can use the Silence lane (immediately below the Cuts lane) if you should need areas where none of the takes are active. Use the same Razor Tool or double-click methods directly in the Silence lane to add blank regions. You can crossfade into and out of sections of Silence.

5: Multiple drop-ins to a  vocal track after pitch processing.5: Multiple drop-ins to a vocal track after pitch processing.Once you’ve finished with editing and have a comp or take that’s ready to use in the song, you might want to click the Bounce button in the Comp Editor. This creates a flat audio file of the finished comp, places it at the top in a new lane and switches the clip to Single Take mode. This allows normal processing such as warping, reversing and normalising to be applied to the audio clip.

Voc Coda

All of which brings us to a point where we can complete the vocal tuning workflow I presented last month. As we saw, when using Neptune to process an exposed vocal, I tend to work one section at a time so I can use the most appropriate settings for each problem. Rather than using Automation, I bounce each section of audio to another track (see screen 5). I first Duplicate the original track and mute it, then route the original to it internally (by clicking the Rec Source button in the original vocal Audio Track). I can then punch in any processed sections to the copy of the original vocal, and afterwards use the Comp Editor to clean up all the transitions.

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