Using VST Plug-ins In Your Propellerhead Reason Workflow

Reason users have been asking for VST support for years and now it’s finally here, Hollin Jones shows you how to get up and running.  

1. The Initial Scan

VST plug-ins in Reason have the same priviliges as any other rack module or Rack Extension, so they can be used in exactly the same way. However there are a few extra things to know about. When you first launch Reason 9.5 it will scan your VST folders. In case you have any custom VST folders set up, you can go into the Preferences > Advanced tab and under the folder location section, add any custom folders. If you are only using your system’s default locations on Mac or PC, they should be set up automatically. 

2. Manage Your VSTs

 

Reason should warn about any incompatible plug-ins during the scan. Go to the Window > Manage Plugins option and you will see a list of available plugs. You can select any one to manually disable it, although it’s unlikley you would need to do this. If any plugs have been disabled by the scan you can choose them and press Enable to make Reason look at them again. If a plug has been disabled it probably means it needs an update, so try this via the plug-in’s own product website. 

3. Load A VST

With those initial steps out of the way, you’re ready to roll. The Browser now has extra sections under the Instruments and Effects tab so while you’ll see Propellerheads’ own modules at the top, if you scroll down either list you will see your VSTs grouped by manufacturer, and of course you can simply type in a search for the name of any plug that you want, or add them to a favourites list for quick access. Double click on any VST or drag and drop it to load just like you would any regular module.  

4. Add A Screenshot 

One fun thing you can do is add a manual screenshot of a plug. Since Reason can’t guess what every VST will look like, you can click on the black area of the VST rack module to open the instrument or effect’s own interface, just like it appears in any other DAW. This associates a thumbnail with the plug’s Browser entry, and it will stay there. This means you can now identify a VST by sight. If you want to replace the screen shot of any VST, just click the Screen Shot button on its window again to replace with the current view. 

5. Assign CV To VSTs

While VST instruments and effects can be patched, routed and played by MIDI just like any module in Reason, the VST rack module has a few new tricks up its sleeve. If you go to the CV programmer section and expand it, you can click on the Parameter column for any of the 8 slots and see all assignable parameters for that instrument. Each one will have a different set of controls that you can send CV to. This section also has Learn, Base Value and Clear buttons for each slot, so you can make custom configurations easily. The idea here is to take CV signal from elsewhere – other modules or generators – and send it to modulate VST parameters. Previously this would have required lots of workarounds and involved ReWire.  

6. A CV Example

One use for this might be to take one of Reason’s trigger modules like an arpeggiator and hook up some of its CV outs to the CV ins of the VST module using the rear panel. CV assignment works the same way it always did in Reason, only now you can easily patch that CV signal into your favourite VST instruments. 

7. Using VST Effects

Using VST effects in the rack works the same way – drag and drop an effect wherever you want it to go. The CV assignment from the front panel also works the same as with instruments. And around the back, the VST rack module has identical ins and outs. Although there are 8 additional audio inputs and 16 audio outs, these will only light up in green (meaning they can be used) when the VST supports them. So for example some plugs will just work in stereo, but others will have up to 16 or more outputs. You can see how many by looking in this area. 

8. Multi-Output Plug-ins

In an example where a plug supports multiple outputs, Reason won’t manually create mixer channels for every output as this could quickly cause the mixer to become overcrowded. If you want to use more than two outputs, right click on the multi-output instrument or effect (here it's Kontakt) and choose Create Mixer Channel for as many stereo channels as you want. Then name them and route the relevant outs from Kontakt to them. It’s quick and easy, and this screenshot shows you how to set it up. 

9. Connect VSTs To Remote

In cases where a VST uses the .fxb / .fxp preset format, presets will be accessible using the regular patch browser button on the VST rack module. Many do not use this format however so you will need to open their GUI in order to select a preset. The Props have made other Reason features available to VSTs. For example if you click on the Remote button on a VST’s window header, you can assign any physical MIDI control to a parameter inside the VST just like you can with Reason’s own modules. This means no tedious mucking about with MIDI maps. 

10. Automate Any VST

Another button on the title bar is Automate. For devices that don’t yet have a sequencer track like effects, you must remember to right click on the device in the rack and click Create Track For… so it can record automation information. With record enabled and while playing back, hit the Automate button and move a parameter, and data will be recorded in the new sequencer track. 

11. Export Your Stems

Finally, VST channels appear just like regular channels when it comes time to export stems, so you can esily export instrument or effect channels for mixing elsewhere. 

Learn Propellerhead Reason in the Ask Audio Academy HERE.

Hollin Jones was classically trained as a piano player but found the lure of blues and jazz too much to resist. Graduating from bands to composition then production, he relishes the chance to play anything with keys. A sometime lecturer in videographics, music production and photography post production, Hollin has been a freelance w... Read More

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