Reason Tutorial: Become a Power User Part 4 – Audio Editing

There may be an initially bewildering array of options, but getting to grips with audio editing in Reason is actually easier than you think. Hollin Jones reveals how it all works. Reason was always a supremely capable MIDI sequencer, but it was only when it gained the ability to track audio that it became a […]

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There may be an initially bewildering array of options, but getting to grips with audio editing in Reason is actually easier than you think. Hollin Jones reveals how it all works.

Reason was always a supremely capable MIDI sequencer, but it was only when it gained the ability to track audio that it became a truly all-round package for music production. With version 7 it has become even more powerful, including things like automatic slicing of recorded and imported audio and the ability to quantize sound as easily as MIDI. You can even bounce audio parts to REX loops inside a project or export them for use in other applications. REX (Propellerhead’s own format) essentially slices up audio using its transients as markers so that it can be time-shifted to fit with a new project tempo. The transients are also the basis for quantization, letting you pull markers towards a musical grid.

You might be a great performer, but, realistically, no one manages a perfect take each and every time. To address this inherent human shortcoming, Reason features some excellent compositing tools that enable you to comp together the best parts of different takes in order to come up with the perfect end result – a far more achievable proposition than continually re-recording takes until you finally get it absolutely right. These tools also enable you to get really detailed, so that you can, for example, set tiny crossfades between different takes, ironing out any glitches that occur as a result of transitioning between two individual audio clips. It’s therefore easy to replace a single word, a note or a chord that’s been performed incorrectly with a better version. When comped parts have been nailed down you can leave them editable or bounce them to new clips.

One of the other cool things about the way in which Reason deals with digital audio is that any files that you import can be time-stretched to adjust to the project –that great drum loop at 102BPM, for example, can now easily be tweaked to run faster or slower without altering in pitch. Conversely, it’s also possible to make Reason ignore stretching for any given clip – say, for example, if you need a sample to stay at its original speed regardless of the project tempo. Reason records at the highest quality, of course, but you can also import MP3s and other compressed formats straight into a project. Read on to uncover the secrets of audio editing…

Audio Editing Techniques

1: The first thing you will need to do is import or record some audio onto an audio track. Here we have imported a drum loop, which as it happens was originally faster than our project tempo. Reason has automatically stretched it to fit. If for any reason you want to disable stretching you can do it using the right-click menu.

2: Double-click on the audio clip to open it in Edit view and you will see that Reason has automatically added slice markers. These may look familiar if you’ve used ReCycle, and they work in much the same way. Zoom in and note that slice markers have been placed at transients. The more rhythmic the material, the better the slice detection will be.

3: Try picking up a marker and moving it. They obey the project’s snap settings, which you can see just above and to the left, so if you want to keep a beat or a note in-time it makes sense to use a snap setting of something like 1/16. To move a marker with more precision, switch to a finer resolution, like 1/32 or 1/64.

4: To make a completely free edit to a transient marker, disable snapping from the Snap area by simply unticking the box. This will enable you to zoom in and move any transient freely, which is great for making small corrections, especially if a sound needs to be off the beat. Remember to re-enable snapping after you’re done.

5: If you have edited the slices but gone a bit awry or you have a clip that just needs tidying up, you can quantize it. Select the clip in Edit mode, right-click on it and choose Quantize. This will pull the slices into time based on the currently selected snap value.

6: If you right-click on a clip with slices selected you have the option to split the clip at the slice markers. Try this out and you will find that it creates multiple separate clips from your sliced audio. This is useful for extracting a loop or a sound from an audio clip and using it elsewhere in a project.

7: If you have made slice edits and decide that you want to go back to the original version of the clip, right-click and choose Revert Slices. This will undo any quantization and other movements you have performed and simply play back the clip in its original state.

8: Next, try recording an audio clip in a loop, as we have outlined in a previous tutorial. You should end up with a few different takes and you can view these in the Comp Editor by double-clicking on the main clip. Double-click on any take in a lane and it goes from grey to green, indicating that it is audible.

9: At the left-hand edge of the clips you will see the comp handles. Moving one of these will change the portion of the take that is audible – again, green means audible and grey means silenced. Drag the handles to change the parts of each take that is heard. You can re-order the take lanes by dragging the bar next to the volume fader.

10: You will probably want to make more than one edit, so use the Razor tool or hold [Cmd]/[Ctrl] (Mac/Windows) and click to insert another comp marker anywhere inside the clip. This can be freely dragged to flip between takes, and you can add as many of these as is necessary to comp the perfect take.

11: It may be the case that flipping between audio takes introduces glitches or unwanted artefacts, as different takes may not be perfectly aligned. To fix this, use the fade handles present in the Comp Editor. Move the mouse over the top of a comp marker and you will see a new icon appear, pointing left or right.

12: From this position, drag the mouse left or right and you will see fades introduced, covering the transition. The further you drag, the longer the fades will be. The trick here is to get the fade to cover any glitches but not make it so long that it sounds strange by over-fading between two sounds. You can enter a precise fade length using the numeric field if required.

13: If for any reason you decide that you want to hear an original take in isolation, again you can press the button at the far left of a take lane (the one with a speaker icon on it). This mutes all edits temporarily and puts the track into Single Take mode, whereby just the original is heard. To return to Comp mode and hear your edits again, deactivate this button.

14: When you have the perfect take you can simply return to Song mode and leave it as is. But if you want to make the edit more permanent – perhaps to move the clip to a new track for processing –click the Bounce button in Comp view. This leaves your edits intact but muted and creates a new, single version of the comped take.

15: For any clip in an audio track you have various bounce options regardless of whether you have performed any edits. If you select a clip, right-click on it and then go to the Bounce menu, you will see you can bounce it to a new sample, bounce out to disk or bounce to a new audio track within the same project. These are all useful tricks to know as they create new versions of your part.

16: If you double-click to open a clip in Edit view and then access the Bounce menu you will see it gains a new option: bounce to REX loop. If you select this it will create a REX loop of the part and place it into the project’s audio library, though not automatically place it into the project timeline.

17: The Tool window will appear, open at the Samples page. Locate the REX loop you just created, then double-click on it or click on the To Rack button and it will be placed inside a Dr. Octo Rex in the Rack, ready to be used in a project. This is a quick-and-easy way to take a time-corrected vocal, guitar or other recording and then mash it up using the power of the Dr. Octo Rex.

18: You can even output a REX loop from Reason by going to the Tool window, finding the loop and pressing the Export button. Choose a name and a destination and output the file. Using this method you can create your own sample collections and libraries without having to use ReCycle as a separate application.


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