Reason 6 Tutorial: How To Create a Hip Hop Combinator

Creating Combinators in Reason 6 provides a custom mix of your own sounds in one 'box', and allows for all sorts of wizardry and creativity. G.W. Childs brings it all together for Hip-Hop lovers.  

Hip-hop is more of a science than most people tend to understand. You need certain elements that aren't just drums, bass, leads. They need to be a certain style of drums, bass, and lead. Now, these elements are always being expanded,  as the years pass by. New artists are constantly evolving the sound and pushing things in new directions. But three elements are always around:

  • Bass
  • Beat
  • Vocals (be they present in rhyme, or through singing)

It goes without saying that these elements must be carefully balanced. Through balance, through mixing, the science has evolved that has allowed many an artist to go from obscurity to greatness.

Every producer/artist has their own style of mix, their own sound. With this in mind, wouldn't it be wonderful if you could put your sound in to a single box, and then have the ability to pull this sound back up on a whim. The mix is still intact, the sounds are all there. All you need to do is add lyrics and bake!

In this tutorial, I'd like to guide you through an exercise that will allow you to capture/create a mix for Hip-Hop in Reason 5 or 6 that you can bring up when ready. You will have:

  • Beats that you made, and beats that you can reuse.
  • A bass that you enjoy and can employ through a step sequencer, when ready, and easily modify.
  • A simple lead to incorporate melody in to your mix.

Step 1 - The Beats

Anything Hip-Hop will need drum beats first. And, we'll get to that shortly. First off, when we build a combinator, we need a mixer. Create a Remix 14:2.

Remix 14:2

Now, let's add in a Redrum drum machine, and select the Hip Hop 03 Kit, which is, in fact, a default kit to Redrum.

The Hip Hop 03 Kit

At this point, and in order to create a suitable project environment for ourselves, lower your project tempo between 77 and 90 BPM.

Project tempo between 77 and 90 bpm

So far, so good! In your Redrum Drum machine, program some beats of your own that you have used during Hip-Hop tracks, or would like to use. Fill patterns 1-8. 

Fill patterns 1-8

Note: After this exercise, you can fill up as many as you'd like. Let's keep it simple for the time being, though!

Step 2 - The Bass

Once your Redrum is programmed, create a Subtractor Synthesizer. Choose the patch 'Attack Bass' from the Reason Factory Soundbank. 

Attack Bass patch

Next, create a Matrix step sequencer directly underneath the Subtractor. Program this Matrix with bass grooves that work for your style of Hip-Hop, etc. Make sure to make your bass patterns with the Redrum above, just to make sure the beat and bass work together.

Matrix Step Sequencer

Program patterns 1-8.

Step 3 - The Lead

For the lead synth, create another Subtractor. From the Reason Factory Soundbank, locate the Subtractor > Mono Synth patch, and choose a patch that you like.

Step 4 - Combine

We have all of our pieces now, this means it's time to Combine all of our parts! The way that you do this is to hold the Shift button and click each device that you'd like to use for your Combinator. If you are doing this in Record 1.5, it's important to note that you do not select the Mix devices, only the mixer, subtractors 1-2, Matrix and Redrum.

When all of the devices are selected, right-click on one of the selected devices and choose 'Combine'.  

Note: If any Mix devices are selected within this list, the Combine option will be greyed out. The finished combination will look like the device below. Be aware that I shrunk each device so they can all be seen in one screen shot.

The combinator being built

At this point, I'd suggest labeling each device as seen below. This makes it easier to program your Combinator later. From top to botton: Mix, Drums, Bass, Bass Seq and Lead Synth.

Label each device

Step 5 - Program

Now that all of the pieces are in place, it's time to make the Combinator work. Press the Show Programmer button on the Combinator.

Show Programmer button

In the Combinator programmer, select the Drums device and uncheck Receive Notes.

Uncheck Recieve notes

On Rotary 1 Target Pattern > Selected Pattern.

Target Pattern > Selected Pattern

Set your Min to 0, and your Max to 8. This causes Rotary 1 knob to switch between Patterns 1-8 on your Matrix.

Min to 0, Max to 8

Next, select your Bass Seq. and on Rotary 2, target your Matrix's Pattern Select.

Target the Matrix's Pattern Select

Set your Min to 0 and your Max to 7. This will set your Rotary 2 knob to change your Bass patterns.

At this point, the only device that should be triggerable from your MIDI controller will be your Lead Synth, which you can manually control at your leisure. 

I would highly recommend labeling your rotary knobs at this point. This is a great way to keep tabs on what you've done. Additionally, you can set up more assignments toward Redrum, and the Matrix, Subtractor, etc. 

Label the rotary knobs!

By default, your Mod Wheel will still be assigned to the two Subtractors and the Drum machine. I'd suggest removing Mod Wheel and Pitch assignments from the Bass and Drum devices, this way your Lead synth has exclusive control. 

Closing Comments

This is a very bare bones Combinator, but it's a great building block towards devices that can largely be the back bone of each performance. You can add in a Kong in place of the Redrum module, make certain pads Sample triggers, or Loop triggers. There are tons and tons of possibilities. Also, FX can and should be added. Run a delay device on the main output to simulate a stutter, run a filter device to simulate a filter sweep. There's really a lot that can be done here. 

In my personal live performance patch list, I have a Combinator for each song!

Get the low-down on the latest version of Reason with this full range of Reason 6 tutorial-videos.

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Sound Designer, Musician, Author... G.W. Childs has worn many hats. Beginning in the U.S. Army back in 1991, at the age of 18, G.W. began learning electronics, communications and then ultimately audio and video editing from the Department of Defense. Upon leaving the military G.W. went on to work for many exciting companies like Lu... Read More


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