Assignment 1

MIDI Sequencing

You will create a multi-track sequence using Reason, in whatever style of music you like. This can be your own music or an arrangement of someone else’s music.

You’ll learn how to set up for recording, use the metronome, correct mistakes, quantize notes, edit velocities, create loops, and set initial tempo, volume, and panning.

Requirements and Advice

  • Make a sequence with at least 6 instrument tracks. (No audio tracks yet, please.)
  • If you use someone else’s music, please give credit in a Canvas comment.
  • Your sequence should last between 1 and 3 minutes.
  • For this assignment, please create music that has a clear pulse — that is, music that you can tap your foot to. It is not necessary to use drums to create a clear pulse. Most other instruments can do this.

    (If you want to do something ambient and without a clear pulse for a later assignment, that will be fine — just not in this assignment.)

  • The pulses that your music puts out — whatever lets you count “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4” while it plays — should align with the beats shown in the sequencer. In other words, the way the rhythm sounds should be the way the rhythm looks in the sequencer. Using the metronome while recording is one way to ensure that this happens.
  • Use the tools available to you to ensure that your tracks have decent timing. This just means that if your rhythm is a little shaky when you record a part, then you should quantize or otherwise correct it. This does not mean that your tracks have to sound robotic, but your sequence should not sound like a drunken garage band.
  • Think about how to create repetitive patterns that vary over time, so that you continue to interest your listeners as the sequence plays.

    Get in the habit of listening to your sequence and asking, “when should this pattern change?” Ask a friend or classmate to listen, as a reality check.

  • Provide some rhythmic, harmonic, melodic, and/or textural contrast during your sequence, such as a verse/chorus structure.
  • Instead of having all your instruments playing constantly, vary the orchestration by saving some instruments for later in the song. It is normal, and even desirable, for some instruments to be more active than others.

    However, please do not create a sequence in which there is only ever one instrument playing at a time.

Submitting Your Assignment

  1. Verify that you have satisfied all the requirements by consulting the Assignment 1 checklist.
  2. Turn in a Reason song file, with the assignment number as part of the file name. Submit this in Canvas, in the Assignments section, following the submission instructions.

The Basic Process

A multi-track sequence contains two or more tracks, each of which plays notes using a sound you’ve chosen on a synthesizer. You record tracks one after the other. You can record as many takes, or versions, of a track as you want, and you can correct mistakes you make while recording. So don’t feel like you have to play perfectly!

Before doing anything else, watch the Beginner’s Guide to Experimentation with Reason. This covers some techniques that are more advanced than we should tackle in this assignment, but it gives a good sense of how to make music with Reason. The video makes it clear that trial and error are a natural part of the process. So don’t feel discouraged!

It is important to use the sequencer’s metronome while recording. It’s best for the sequencer program to have the same idea about the measures and beats in your music as you do. For example, when you play straight eighth notes, you want those to appear in the sequencer as eighth notes, not as dotted sixteenth notes. Not only would the latter make it harder for you to find places in the music that you want to edit, but certain sequencer commands, such as Quantize, will work only if the beats sounding in your music align with those shown in the sequencer. For this reason, we record at least some of the tracks (typically the more rhythmic ones, like drums) using the metronome.

As an alternative to the metronome, try programming a drum pattern, as in Exercise B, and recording a new track while listening to the drum track play.

It is also possible to enter notes directly into the sequencer, without recording.

After recording, you should edit and mix your sequence. There is a wide range of editing features available once you’ve recorded notes. In addition to changing the timing, pitch, and velocity of individual notes in the Edit/Arrange pane of the Reason Sequencer, you can use the tools in the Tool Window to manipulate notes.

Mixing means that you adjust the volume and panning (position in the stereo field, from left speaker to right speaker) so that your tracks sound good together. Making a good basic mix of several tracks is an important goal in this assignment.

The assignment has a number of requirements that you must satisfy to get a good grade. The requirements are summarized in the Assignment 1 checklist.

More complete information is available in the online help, found by choosing Reason Help from the Help menu. The most useful information for this assignment will be found in the following chapters, which appear in the Contents list on the left side of the Help Viewer window: Sequencer Functions, Recording in the Sequencer, Arranging in the Sequencer, Note and Automation Editing. Get in the habit of looking in the manual for help.