You can tweak the parameters of individual REX file slices in the NN-XT sampler to get that Aphex Twin/Squarepusher sound.
Although it's now at Version 3, Propellerhead's Reason is as easy to use as ever. However, there are a number of cool things you can do with it that go beyond the obvious. Many of these tips work with older versions of the program, but I suggest upgrading to the most recent version, which is 3.0.4 at the time of this writing.
TWISTS AND TURNS
Adding a little spice to your sequences with subtle variations at the ends of phrases makes for a nice finishing touch. Reason can create these twists for you with the Change Events function. Select the range of notes you want to change and choose Change Events from the Edit menu. At the bottom of the dialog box is the Alter Notes function, which lets users set the amount of change as a percentage: The higher the number, the more of a change you'll hear. (Seventy percent and above is a good place at which to start.) When you hit Apply, you'll hear a turn-around in the music that is based on notes and timing you recorded. You can use the Alter Notes function on multiple tracks, as well, which results in a greater amount of variance and adds more of an interactive ensemble feel to your track.
SLICE, DICE AND STRETCH
Take your ReCycle files to the next level by individually processing each slice. Load your file into the NN-XT sampler. Select each slice and tweak its parameters. For example, you can adjust the settings for the filter, the modulation and amplitude envelopes, and the LFOs, as well as change the playback direction and sample start or loop points of the individual slices. Next, create a Dr.REX Loop Player and call up the unedited loop. Select the NN-XT track, but push the To Track button in Dr.REX. When the warning dialog box appears, select OK. Now you're ready to play your tricked-out creation. This technique is also useful if you want to send individual slices to separate outputs.
You can create a time-stretching effect using the NN-19 sampler. Take your sample and, using the root note, program a 64th-note roll for the duration of one beat using the Piano Roll edit mode. Use Copy and Paste to create a bar or two of the roll. As you play the sequence, twist the Sample Start knob to get the time-stretch effect: Clockwise creates a forward stretch effect, while a counterclockwise turn creates a backward effect.
After you've enabled the bus as a control surface, MIDI messages sent over the bus will automatically be routed to the Reason device that is currently selected for MIDI input. The MIDI messages will be mapped to that device's control according to Reason's generic MIDI Controller mapping (documented in the MIDI Implementation Charts PDF). You can also see (and edit) the generic routings by selecting the module in Reason's rack and choosing Remote Override Edit Mode from the Options menu. This method differs from using ReWire — which can also be used for automation — in that ReWire routings are always locked to a specific device. The multichannel options in the setup dialog should not be used because they require that you manually set up all MIDI assignments.
TIPS FOR V. 3
The Combinator function can help you save patterns on a device that cannot save patterns on its own, such as the ReDrum drum machine. Begin by creating your patterns using your favorite drum kit. Pack it into a Combinator by selecting the ReDrum device and then choosing Combine in the Edit menu. Save the Combinator patch by clicking on the floppy disk icon in the Combinator. If you modify the pattern, then save it as a patch and your changes will be kept. This technique also works with the Matrix Pattern Sequencer.
If you want to do simple frequency-based processing, you can use the MClass Stereo Imager to divide a stereo signal into upper-and lower-frequency bands. Set the center frequency using the X-Over control to divide your signal into high and low bands. On the rear panel, use the separate out jacks and select Hi Band or Low Band to select the band you want to process. Use the stereo spread control to tighten or widen the stereo image of the signal leaving the separate out jacks.
When you want to use an audio signal as a control voltage, call up the MClass Compressor. On the rear panel is a gain-reduction CV output. You can use the CV signal to control a knob or to duck the signal on a mixer in time with an instrument that has sharp transients (such as a kick drum).
Laura Pallanck is a freelance musician based in Northern California. Special thanks to James Bernard and Len Sasso for their assistance.