Getting To Know The Dr.OctoRex’s Slice Edit Mode

The latest version of Propellerhead Reason's Dr.OctoRex contains a nifty slice edit mode. Mo Volans slices and dices with the GUI of this mode to add effective changes to his loops.  

The Dr.OctoRex (and its previous incarnations) has always been one of my favorite devices in Reason’s sonic arsenal. With the latest update of the instrument came the awesome ‘Slice edit mode’.

The visual feedback this system gives the user is second to none, making non destructive editing more straightforward than ever. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to use this graphical editing system (in conjunction with some extra processing) to make subtle but effective changes to your loops.


Starting Fresh And Loading Loops

Let’s kick off by completely wiping the contents of the OctoRex. By default the device will load with a collection of loops taken from the Prop’s sound library. At this point we want an empty device, so they have to go.

You can easily empty all eight slots by right-clicking and selecting ‘reset device’. This is usually the most sensible place to start. We are now ready to start loading our own loops into the OctoRex and get stuck into a bit of editing.

All reset and ready to rock!

All reset and ready to rock!


As OctoRex’s name suggests we can load anything up to eight loops at a time here. In this tutorial, I’ll just be using a single slot. To load an individual sample into a slot, make sure it’s selected and use the load icon in the lower foldout section of the interface. The usual browser window will pop up and you are good to go.

My loop being prepped in Recycle.

My loop being prepped in Recycle.


The loop we’ll be editing in OctoRex:



I’ve loaded a musical groove here that I prepped in Recycle. It’s just a couple of bars long with nice clear transient events. I’ve also loaded a few processors to get the loop to useable point. 

The loop loaded and ready to go.

The loop loaded and ready to go.


I simply used a bunch of M-Class processors to cut low end, boost the highs and apply a little limiting. You can see the simple chain I used in the screenshot below.

The chain of processors used to prepare the loop.

The chain of processors used to prepare the loop.


A touch of processing makes things a bit punchier:



Initial Edits With The Slice Edit Mode

The window in the lower section of OctoRex’s interface always displays the file loaded in the currently selected slot. Extra info is also available here but most importantly you can always view the slices that your Rex file is divided into. 

The best way to see exactly which slice is playing at any time is to activate the ‘Select slice via MIDI’ button. This will ensure that the timeline is on the exact slice playing back. This works via playback in the sequencer or a MIDI keyboard. Perfect for quickly selecting a slice.

‘Select Slice Via MIDI’ is engaged.

‘Select Slice Via MIDI’ is engaged.


Of course you can access quite a few different slice based parameters in the default editing mode, but to get real hands on control and some solid visual feedback you need to activate the Slice Edit Mode. The button is just to the right of the main display area.

Slice Edit Mode is also turned on.

Slice Edit Mode is also turned on.


With this mode activated, the display will change slightly and you should be presented with a grid. You should also now be able to easily select any of the modes across the bottom of the display area. 

Our first edits are performed on the filter cutoff.

Our first edits are performed on the filter cutoff.


With any of these selected, the display will change to represent the current values for that parameter. For example you can see that I have selected filter and edited a value for each step. By lowering the cutoff and increasing the resonance settings in the filter you can hear these new edits take effect.


The filter edits in action:



Reverse And Pan Edits

To push things a little further I wanted to introduce some more edits, using a variety of the parameters available in the Slice Edit Mode. One of the most effective is the pan mode. This allows you to draw in exact pan positions of each slice. 

Creating an effective auto pan effect.

Creating an effective auto pan effect.


I used this to create a random auto-pan effect, panning key slices in the sequence. This was swiftly followed up by adding some tasty reverse sections. Just click on reverse and then a single click per slice will decide if it plays backwards. This can really improve the overall flavor of a loop and is staggeringly fast to implement. 

Pan effects and reverse sections are introduced:



Utilizing The Dr.OctoRex Synth Engine

With some slice based edits in place you can turn to the OctoRex’s internal synth engine for extra inspiration. I find that using the two together works extremely well and they complement each other nicely.

Here you can see the reverse sections and alterations to synth engine.

Here you can see the reverse sections and alterations to synth engine.


In this case I used a decay based filter to enhance the filter effect already in place. This clamps down on every slice and introduces a really dynamic, acidic effect. On top of this, I used a fast moving LFO to modulate the pitch of the entire loop. This resulted in a light vibrato effect. You can hear the results below...

The synth engine gets to work:



Sending Slices To Independent Outputs

The last slice based edit I performed here was a little different. One of the options in Slice Edit Mode is ‘Out’. This essentially allows you to send different slices to any of OctoRex’s 8 virtual outputs using the graphical system.

I chose two key snare sounds within the loop and sent them to the next available set of outputs. These were then routed to a small line mixer. The single aux send of this mixer was used to send out snare sound to a gated reverb patch in the RV7000 reverb unit. 

The routing used to break out the channels.

The routing used to break out the channels.


The result was an enhanced snare hit and the ability to mix this independently from the rest of our loop. You could use this feature to break out all of your key elements and create complex sub mixes from a single groove.

The mixer and RV7000.

The mixer and RV7000.


The larger snare hits are really effective:



Some Final Tweaks

Finally, I balanced my external processing chain to make sure the new settings were catered for. This really just involved in tweaking the EQ a touch and adjusting the input level of the limiter.

Some final processing to finish things off.

Some final processing to finish things off.


The final processed loop stays true to the original but is nicely enhanced:



With everything working nicely I felt the whole thing needed a little crunch. I used my favorite tape setting in the Scream 4 and inserted this pre-limiter. I you prefer, you can try adding a similar effect using the Pulverizer or even one of the new Rack Extensions!

The same loop with the low end re-introduced:



Mo has been a professional in the music industry for around 15 years. He has released material with the world's leading record labels and also produces music for TV and Film. Mo is also a prolific writer and is a regular contributor to magazines such as Music Tech, Future Music and EQ magazine. There isn't a piece of music software tha... Read More

Discussion

Interesting article.

But I do wish we could still have access to the original, unimproved single-mode Dr. Rex player - sometimes that's all you need, and the 8 channels are superfluous.

After all, we now have the NN-XT, and yet we still have access to the original NN-19.

Difficult I know to reintroduce old features as new ones. But if Propellerheads just added some basic filter to it, nothing too drastic, and brought it back in, I'd be made up....

Cheers

Matt

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