Cut to the chase with Reason templates.
Whatever DAW you use, the most effective way to boost your productivity is to master templates. This is not just a matter of reducing the number of mouse clicks between launching your software and getting down to actual creative work, it can also be about limiting the amount of abstract choices you have to make before making some music. It can be liberating to set up a Rack which is pre-populated with instruments, devices and inputs that you want to use on a particular project. If you’re working on an album or collaboration this also helps define a consistent sound palette.
Templates have more potential uses in Reason than in many other DAWs. Some Reason Songs are neatly divided into independent tracks with associated device groups, much like a typical set of DAW tracks with their own plug-in chains. But the Rack means devices can soon get intertwined, with cross-connected audio and CV, so that a Reason project ends up somewhere between a DAW document and a giant modular studio patch. It would make no more sense to start from scratch every time than to unplug all your hardware synths and modules between songs. I have an old Rack that I used to use for jamming and live shows (Screen 1). It’s a familiar template starting point: I know where everything is and can swap sounds, loops and step sequences out to quickly get something new going.
My current template (Screen 2) is a bit more conventional, combining a few choice starter instruments, physical input channels for hardware synths and guitars, and some structure and effects in the Mixer. This gives me a completely working studio as soon as I launch Reason, based around my Zoom eight-input USB mixer connected to a few portable hardware synths. There’s a guitar track fed from the high-impedance input on the Zoom with my go-to amp sim Rack Extension inserted. In an earlier version I had independent input channels in Reason’s mixer for these instruments, which I enabled as record sources for bussing to audio tracks. However, it was a bit fiddly to manage the monitoring so I now come straight into audio tracks with Input Monitoring enabled. There’s a Kong drum machine, the Komplete Kontrol host for Native Instruments integration, and my current favourite RE instrument, Grain.
There are several ways to access templates in Reason. In fact there are three different ways that new songs get created in Reason: automatically when you launch Reason; when you choose New from the File menu; and when you choose New From Template from the File menu. The last option lets you pick from a list of templates, while the other two use a specific file that you set as your Default Song.
The new song behaviour is set up in the General tab of Reason’s Preferences (Screen 3). The Default Song section lets you choose between a completely empty Rack, or a Reason Song file. If you’ve not changed this before you’ll notice that Template is chosen by default and set to a factory template called Empty+FX. This starts any new song with two reverbs, an Echo and a delay hooked up to the mixer. You might have thought this was the minimum starting point in Reason, but if you change the Pref to ‘Empty Rack’ you’ll get a true blank slate when creating a new Song.
To choose your own Default Song you need to point to a .reason Song file. There’s no special document type for templates, although the factory templates use the .rsndemo file extension. To set the file, click the folder icon next to the Templates entry in the Preferences. This will open the Browser in Reason where you can navigate to your Song file of choice. The Default Song becomes the starting point for the auto-created project that pops up when you launch Reason, but there’s also a Preference to have the last song you were working on reload on start-up.
The File/New From Template command lets you select from a pre-prepared list of Templates instead of the Default Song. Several factory templates are provided for scenarios such as multitrack audio recording, song-writing or mastering. You can add to this list with your own Song files by dropping them into the folder. As this folder is fairly well buried, the quickest route is to go to the New From Template drop-down menu and choose Show Template Folder. This will open the directory in the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer. Files copied here will subsequently appear in the template list. Unfortunately you can’t make subfolders.
One challenge I’ve found is trying to set a template from the Song Templates folder as the Default Song. There’s no quick way to do this, you have to navigate to the folder manually when setting up the Preferences. On Macs the Song Template folder is located at (user)/Music/Reason/Template Song. Windows users can find it at \AppData\Roaming\Propellerhead Software\Reason\Template Songs.
Song Templates are great, but sometimes you only want to re-use part of a Rack or Mixer Setup. This is catered for in some DAWs via Track presets, Track Import, etc. In Reason, where your environment is not rigidly structured into tracks, it’s not always quite so simple. There are a couple of different cases: re-using a collection of Rack devices, and re-using mixer channels and sequencer tracks. A typical way for packaging up a collection of devices for use elsewhere is to use the Combinator. We’ve done this many times before in these pages: simply select the devices in the Rack and choose Edit/Combine. The resulting patch file can be dropped into any other song. This is particularly useful for saving effects chains, modular sound constructions and combinations of instruments and effects.
However, Combinators cannot include mixer channels, so they’re no use for importing tracks or mixer groups. Luckily, it’s perfectly possible to do this via simple copy and paste. Reason allows you to have multiple Song files open simultaneously, so you can grab stuff from one project and put it in another. This means you can re-use whole chunks of a Song’s structure, or even create a special Song file full of building blocks. You can either copy from the mixer or the Rack. Select all the devices or Mixer channels that you want to move, then Copy. From either source this works with the standard Copy keyboard shortcut for your OS, but if you look in the Edit menu the command will be ‘Copy Devices and Tracks’, or ‘Copy Channels and Tracks’. You can Paste into either the Mixer or Rack areas of the destination Song; either way the result will be the same, with all mixer channels and associated Rack devices and Sequencer tracks being brought in. You can also copy and paste Mixer channels that don’t have associated Tracks.