Electronic Instruments and Sequencing in Reason

Topics This Week

Music Production Tools Overview

There are a wide variety of tools used to produce music today, whether on the computer desktop or in an actual physical production studio. These may be divided into the following categories:

Today, these tools may be divided into two categories: physical tools and virtual tools.The following is a brief introduction to each of the types of tools you'll be working with in desktop production.

Physical Tools

These are actual devices that occur in physical space. You can see and touch them, and they usually cost considerable amounts of physical money.

There are many advantages to using physical tools; they feel good, there is a real human interaction with them, and if your computer crashes, they generally will still work. Some disadvantages are that they are expensive, take up a lot of space, are difficult to interconnect, and they are not easily portable. Here are some examples of physical tools and their role in the production process:

Virtual Tools: Intro to Reason

These are software tools that exist only in the bits and bytes within your computer. You can see them, but can only touch them with a mouse or some other computer input device. While these do cost real money, their cost is typically only a fraction of their hardware counterparts.

Theoretically, the power of these tools is limitless. Unfortunately, in practice, they are limited by your computer's horsepower. The faster your microprocessor (CPU), the more random access memory (RAM) you have, and the bigger and faster your hard drive, the more you can accomplish with virtual tools.

Comparing Reason and GarageBand

Reason is a software emulation of a hardware environment. All the components in the Reason rack are modeled after similar devices in the physical world. Where GarageBand attempts to make the process of producing music as easy as possible, Reason tries to make it familiar to those already producing music using common tools and techniques. Take a look at the following chart for a more detailed comparison:

Comparing Reason and GarageBand
Issue Reason GarageBand
The number of software instruments used is only limited by the host system’s memory. The number of software instruments used is only limited by the host system’s memory.
Devices that are wired as Serial and Auxiliary send and return Part of the Track Info dialog box
Modeled after the functions in a hardware mixer Track-based mixing
Full automation of every device parameter Volume and Panning, device parameters
Record Overdub
Yes Yes
MIDI Editing
- Graphic editing of all device parameters
- Notes and control can be drawn in the editor
Limited editing of recorded data
User defined grooves and variable strength Fixed grid and swing templates
Swing Feel
Only 16th note shuffle 8th and 16th note swing
Audio Tracks
No Yes
Audio Loop Format
REX2 Files Apple Loops
MIDI Loop Format
Pattern-based rhythm sequencing Track-based loops


Intro to Reason and Sequencing

Reason is a new kind of product that integrates sequencing, software synthesis and project mix down in one application. It's a very powerful, easy to learn tool that will give us a good overview of the different technologies used in desktop music production. Check out the Propellerhead Software web site to get an overview of Reason.


  • What's in a Reason file?
  • Sequencer Tracks
  • Real-time recording
  • Setting the click
  • Record Modes
    • Linear Recording
    • Loop Recording
    • Replace
    • Overdub

To get an overview of the basic functions of Reason work through the Getting Started PDF tutorial. This can be found in the documentation folder inside the Reason application folder, or you can follow this link: Getting Started. (5 MB)

Working With Rhythm


Topic Support Links:

The following links provide some background on how a drum machine and a MIDI sequencer arrange rhythmic musical ideas:

Reference and Tutorial Acrobat files :

Reason Sequencing Project

Choose a piece of music in any style, original or not, and produce an instrumental arrangement using Reason. This would be a great opportunity to produce a tune that you’re working on in your private lesson, so that you can use it as a backing track in your practice routine.

In your writing skills class, you've been talking about various basic techniques for rhythm section arranging. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate what you’ve learned.

Your sequence should fulfil the following requirements:

1) The Reason sequence should be one approximately one minute in length, at least once through the form of the piece you choose. In the case of a twelve-bar blues, you will need to repeat the form.

2) The project should include the following musical parts:

- Melody
- Keyboard accompaniment
- Drums
- Bass
- A textural part such as a string or brass pad

3) The drum part should be done using Redrum. Although you can use either pattern or real-time sequencing, the completed drum part must be saved as notes in a track using the Copy Pattern to Track command in the Edit menu.

4) The drum part should demonstrate some type of variation. Use fills to set up each new section. Do not loop a single one or two-bar pattern throughout.

5) Both the bass and drum parts must be in time and work with each other rhythmically. If you enter the drum part as Redrum patterns, make sure the bass follows it closely.

6) Name all the tracks that you use in the project.

Consult the assignment posted in the class Course Companion Website for the due date and submission instructions.

Review Questions

In addition to the review questions from Week 4 on MIDI and sequencing, know the differences between Reason and GarageBand.


Groove Quantize
Track automation
Pattern sequencing
Pattern to Track
Step Entry