The latest juicy Reason 10.2 update serves up a generous scoop of workflow smoothers.
The last couple of main Reason releases have been all about instruments and devices. Version 10.2 focuses on workflow enhancements, including some long-time feature requests.
Most DAWs offer some form of mix channel grouping. Reason's main mixer has submix groups for splitting a mix into multiple busses, but has never had any kind of fader ganging or VCA grouping. In Reason 10.2, you can now link together multiple faders and adjust them all from any individual in the group. The link is set simply by selecting the channels in the mixer, and lasts only as long as the selection is in place. Faders in the group keep their relative levels when adjustments are made.
This might sound like a rather simple implementation, and it is, but it's exactly what many users have been asking for, allowing for fast level trimming of multiple tracks with no pre-configuration or commitment to a group. In most music mixes, the existing submix 'stem' workflow is perfect for managing a large project and facilitating group audio processing. Situations that require a VCA-style approach may be better managed in this new temporary fashion.
Even when using submix busses, there are often times when you want to trim a subset of the tracks within the group together. For example, If you have all your drums split out to the mixer and then routed to a bus fader, you'll probably still want to adjust your hi-hats as a pair; or you might have multiple synths stacked up to build a single sound.
Another example is gain-staging. Perhaps during the composition stage you got a bit carried away and ended up with a bunch of faders pushed right up. Now you can just select all the faders and trim down a bit. This can also apply to a collection of tracks that you are already submixing to a group fader. The headroom and footroom in Reason's floating-point digital mixer means that there's no real difference between adjusting all the source channels or the group fader, but it does make a big difference when there's dynamics processing on the group bus. Inserts and the channel processors are pre-fader, so changing the group fader adjusts the level post any processing. By selecting the source channels and adjusting these, you can drive the submix into your bus compressors and change the dynamics.
It's not just about faders: the temporary group also links mute and solo buttons. This is obviously useful for quickly auditioning sections of your production. The linking doesn't extend to any other parts of the mix channel, such as aux, EQ or insert controls.
One thing to look out for is that in Reason when you click anywhere in the fader area of a channel the fader jumps straight to that position. This can give unexpected results when Shift-clicking to link channels. If you Shift-click in the fader zone, all other selected faders will be immediately affected. To avoid this, Shift-click in the name plate, then make your adjustment afterwards.
A final tip: temp fader groups make it easy to write fader automation (see November's Reason column) to more than one track at a time. When mixing, I often want to ride the levels of subgroups of backing vocals, guitars or synths at the same time. When writing automation with multiple faders selected together, automation will be written to each track individually, so you don't need to have them linked later on to hear the correct results.
Again, this has been a popular ask among users who have seen similar capability in other DAWs. Multi-lane editing is a new Sequencer feature, allowing you see and edit MIDI from multiple tracks/lanes. To use this feature, drag out a selection in the Sequencer across multiple tracks, or select clips from multiple tracks. Enter Edit mode by hitting Return or clicking the Edit Mode button. You'll see the notes from all selected tracks superimposed on the Piano Roll, and can edit them all in the same view. There's a lot more to explore here, and we'll devote a whole column to it another time to do it justice.
I love this. Like most DAWs, editing in Reason's Sequencer can be constrained to a grid. This is all well and good, but when switching between finely editing a performance and making larger-scale arrangement decisions, you often require different grid resolutions. A new grid mode changes grid resolution automatically based on how zoomed-in you are in the timeline.
This nugget makes it faster to get work with MIDI controllers. Traditionally, you need to go into the MIDI Preferences and manually enable any MIDI device you want to use in Reason. This way of working is still there, and is still preferable when setting up a device that benefits from a dedicated controller script. But now you can just plug in any controller and Reason will make it available automatically. You'll see these devices at the bottom of the Control Surfaces tab in Preferences, listed as 'Easy MIDI Inputs'. The list shows all MIDI devices detected by your computer, with a simple 'Enable' tick box for each port.
There's been a couple of tweaks to device handling in the Rack. Firstly, 'Add Device' buttons now appear floating in the empty space at the bottom of each Rack column. This gives you a fast new way to add devices to the Rack, as an alternative to dragging from the Browser, right-clicking, or using the main app menus.
The Sequencer also gets an 'Add Track' button at the bottom of the track list, with the options to create a new audio track, or add an Instrument. There is also a nice new shortcut for opening the Rack device associated with each track. Before, you could click a track and it would blink it in the Rack to show what the device was. Now, you can double-click a track (in the name area) and it will scroll you right to the device, and even open the Rack if it was hidden. If it's a VST plug-in, it will also automatically open the plug-in window.
Finally, if you're new to Reason, or if you want to check out new features, Reason now has its own built-in Tutorial view. Much like the Help view in Ableton Live, this slides in as a resizable sub-pane of the main window. This can be opened either from the Window menu ('Show Tutorial') or by clicking the button at the top right of the window. (I'm not super keen on the fact that even when closed this new area steals a strip of valuable screen real estate). Right now the Tutorial zone is sparsely populated, but has a handy beginners' guide to navigating and working in Reason. It has lots of potential, though, supporting animations and links. Hopefully, like in Ableton, this area will also be opened up to third-party Prop Shop products.