Reason’s new Player device specialises in the often overlooked art of sequencing chords.
Despite providing the fundamental structure of most modern music, chords sometimes take a back seat in the world of sequencers, synth software and music production technology in general. If you’re tinkering with your DAW or a groovebox and struggling to make something that sounds like a song, your best bet might be to step away from loops, rhythms and melodies, and get back to the basics of chord progression. Even if you’re an accomplished keyboard or guitar player and are used to this idea, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of familiar chords, finger shapes and progressions.
The idea of chord assistants is not new. Take the accordion (no, really) with its chord buttons as an example. Arranger and performer keyboards have one‑finger chord accompaniment features too. Closer to home, workstations like the MPC and Komplete Kontrol have ‘easy play’ chord modes which present groupings of chords on the pads or keys. They also have modes to turn single notes into chords, and Reason has a Player that does this too: Scales and Chords.
However, the latest Player device to arrive for Reason takes a different approach, and does a lot more. Reason Studios say Chord Sequencer addresses the question, ‘What comes next?’, and I can’t think of a better way to summarise it. It presents sets of chords to play, and makes colour‑coded suggestions about what chord to play next. It also has a built‑in mini timeline where you can arrange chords into sequences.
Like all the Reason Player devices, Chord Sequencer drops into the Rack right above whichever instrument you want it to play. Notes from your MIDI controller which would have gone directly to the instrument are intercepted. In the case of Chord Sequencer you don’t strictly need to have a MIDI input as it can play by itself, but you can trigger chords with MIDI and record with velocity, and you can also play notes over the top of pre‑programmed chord arrangements if you switch off the little MIDI icon in the chord grid.
The device is dominated by a central 4x4 grid of circles which store chords. You can trigger these from the mouse, or from MIDI notes C1 and upwards, repeated from C3. The chords that appear in the grid are determined by the Chord Set selector to the left, and the root note. The sets are genre/mood based. Notice that you don’t set a scale as you would with the Scales and Chords Player. The chord sets can have a mix of major and minor...