Reason: Create Tension Using Classic High Strings

Learn how to titillate your listeners by creating tension using classic strings in Propellerhead Reason. Mo Volans creates exciting buildups and breakdowns.  

If you are putting together an electronic track and you are thinking about a buildup you’ll somehow need to create a feeling of tension. If you can achieve this you’ve won half the battle and creating the rest of your buildup should be easy.

Here I’ll turn back the clock and show you a trick that’s been used since the ’90s. This high string effect is perfect for buildups but can be used in breakdowns and intro sections as well. You can create this with literally any string patch, in any DAW.


The Project In Question

The project I’m using here is a house track I’ve been working on. I’m thinking about a build that will take me into a breakdown section. Before I get to this, I’d like to create a subtle feeling of tension and this is where our high string comes in.

The project that we’ll be inserting the effect into.

The project that we’ll be inserting the effect into.

The project without the high string effect:



You can hear that at this point things are really simple and there’s not a huge amount going on. This gives us plenty of sonic space to work in and the perfect opportunity to insert an epic string patch.


Loading And Adding The ‘Solina’ String

As I said in the introduction, pretty much any string patch can be used to create this effect but there are some specific sounds that were originally used. Samples of early analog string machines were always popular, in particular the Solina. 

The Reason factory sound bank contains just the patch we need.

The Reason factory sound bank contains just the patch we need.


Luckily, Reason has a Solina string multi-sample included in its factory sound library. This patch can be loaded into the NN-19 and is just what’s needed here. Once loaded you are only a few steps away form completion.

The patch loaded into the NN-19.

The patch loaded into the NN-19.


Find the route note of your track and play a single note high on the keyboard. Repeat or loop this note throughout the entire section you want the effect to be heard. Now mix the string sample quite low in the mix. You should already start to get the idea at this point, all we need is a little extra processing.

Programming the string effect is straight forward.

Programming the string effect is straight forward.


The new string effect in action:



Some Extra Processing

Although the string effect is nearly there, a bit of spatial processing will help to give it an epic feel. A hall reverb patch from the RV7000 is used here as an insert at about a 25% mix level. 

An RV7000 is used for extra atmosphere.

An RV7000 is used for extra atmosphere.


If after mixing the string pretty low in the mix you still feel it’s too intrusive, you can use some side-chaining. Use the kick drum in your mix as the key input and dial in around 4-5 db of gain reduction. This should help marry the part to your other musical elements. 

Side chaining in Reason.

Side chaining in Reason.


The processed high string:



So there you have it! A quick, easy and effective retro string effect for your electronic projects. Give it a go yourself and bring this ’90s technique back to life!


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

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