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Creating Thor Patches in Reason & Packaging a Refill

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In this tutorial, we're going to work through a hands-on workshop and create several Thor synthesizer patches. Then we'll take our new patches and combine them into a redistributable Reason refill using Reason Refill Packer.

Introduction

Several months ago, I published Your Guide to Getting Started with Synthesis in Reason. Since then, many readers have been asking for a more 'hands-on' article to using Thor, one of Reason's polyphonic synthesizers, so today, that's what we're going to cover.

For this tutorial, we're going to need the following:

It is also highly recommended that you read Your Guide To Getting Started with Synthesis in Reason before attempting this tutorial, as that article contains much needed background information about synthesis and, in particular, the components of the Thor synthesizer.

Step 1

The first thing that we need to do is install the Reason Refill Packer. This is available as a free download for registered Reason owners from the following download link: Reason Refill Packer. Download the installer, and install it into your Propellerheads Reason directory.

Running the program should reveal the window as seen above, which we will come back to after we've built the synthesizers.

Step 2 - Synth Piano

The first synthesizer that we will be building today is a synthesized piano, with a sort of "outer space" feel to it. This particular synth would be something you might see in various electronic genres.

The first thing we need to do is open Reason, create a Mixer 14:2, and then create a Thor synthesizer. Note that "Epic Poly" is the default synthesizer patch, so we need to reinitialize the patch before we start building. Right click on the Thor synthesizer, and select "Initialize Patch". Now we have an essentially blank synthesizer to work with.

Click on "Show Programmer". We can see that the default is a single analog oscillator, with a low pass ladder filter. If you play a few notes, you notice that it's a standard analog synthesizer sound.

Let's start seeing what we can toy with. Click on the down arrow next to Low Pass Ladder filter, and change it to a Comb Filter.

If you're listening, you probably noticed that the synth now has a "grainer" sound to it. Okay, now let's move to Filter 2 and Filter 3's empty spots, and let's choose a State Variable Filter for both of them. You probably won't notice a real difference in the sound, maybe just a faint whisper sound in the background.

Okay, now we've got the essential base for our synth piano. Doesn't really sound like a piano, does it? That's because we haven't touched some of the essential components of the Thor synthesizer yet. Turn the shaper on, and set the mode to "Saturate". Again, not a big difference, right?

Here comes the really fun part. Turn both Delay and Chorus on.

Big difference there. The delay and the chorus are both taking our oscillator sound that is run the filter, and adding to it.

Time to modify some settings to get a better sound here. Set the following values:

Analog Oscillator:

  • OCT: 3
  • PW: 93

Comb Filter:

  • FREQ: 2.69 kHz
  • RES: 93
  • ENV: 59
  • VEL: 47
  • KBD: 6

LFO 1:

  • RATE: 3.80
  • DELAY: 220 ms
  • WAVEFORM: #1 - Triangle

Mod Env:

  • DELAY: 0
  • ATTACK: 0
  • DECAY: 122 ms
  • RELEASE: 3.82 s

Shaper:

  • Drive: 25

State Variable Filter #1 (Filter #2 Slot):

  • FREQ: 9.30 kHz
  • RES: 0
  • ENV: 0
  • VEL: 0
  • KBD: 0

Amp:

  • VEL: 24
  • GAIN: 0

Delay:

  • TIME: 4/16
  • FBACK: 74
  • RATE: 0.59 Hz
  • AMT: 39
  • D/WET: 35

Chorus:

  • DELAY: 13.6 ms
  • FBACK: 13
  • RATE: 0.76 Hz
  • AMT: 46
  • D/WET: 18

State Variable Filter #2 (Filter #3 Slot):

  • DRIVE: 103
  • FREQ: 39.4
  • RES: 79
  • ENV: 0
  • VEL: 0
  • KBD: 0
  • SELF OSC: ON
  • LP/HP: PEAK - 66

Filter Env:

  • ATTACK: 0
  • DECAY: 3.82 s
  • SUSTAIN: -00
  • RELEASE: 29.6 s

Amp Env:

  • ATTACK: 0
  • DECAY: 705 ms
  • SUSTAIN: -5.2 dB
  • RELEASE: 1.6 s

Global Env:

  • DELAY: 0
  • ATTACK: 0
  • HOLD: 0
  • DECAY: 1.24
  • SUSTAIN: -21.8
  • RELEASE: 1.24 s

Now, flip the arrow on the Shaper > State Variable Filter > Amp. Previously, the shaper was heading straight to the amp, but now we're routing it through the State Variable Filter first. However, for this patch, we'll keep the Osc1-Filter2 button turned off, if we turn it on, it will act as an amplifier for the sound.

Now, as a bonus, we can create a synth run pattern. Turn the "Run" button on, choose "Repeat" as the mode, "Pendulum 1" as the style, 1/8 as the rate, and then program this pattern: G4-G3-D4-G4--G2-G4-C5-D#4--C3-G2-D4-G4--G3-F3-C5-F4.

You should hear a nice synthesizer pattern that you can use in your music.

Step 3 - Lead Synth

The other synthesizer that we will be building for this tutorial is a lead synth to accompany our synth piano. Again, start by creating a new Thor synthesizer, and reinitializing the patch by right clicking and choosing "Initialize Patch". For this synthesizer, we'll be using 3 analog oscillators, a low pass ladder filter, a formant filter, and a state variable filter.

Start by choosing "Analog Osc" from the drop down list for Oscillator 2 and Oscillator 3 on the Thor synthesizer.

Next, choose a formant filter for Filter 2.

Lastly, choose a state variable filter for Filter 3.

Let's take a listen to what this 'default' setup gets us.

Curious, it sounds just like our other synthesizer. Let's try to see why. Look at the buttons next to "Low Pass Ladder Filter" and "Formant Filter" that are 1-2-3. Notice that only 1 is lit. What happens if we turn on all 3?

It sounds louder, but still the same. Let's turn on the Formant Filter for just #3, and let's also toggle the arrow so the Formant Filter is routed through the amp.

Now we're getting somewhere. If you listen carefully, you can detect a 'metallic' sound to the synthesizer now. If you were paying attention to the last synth we built, you'll probably remember that most of the magic occurs when we turn on Delay and Chorus. Let's see if it happens again. Turn on Delay and Chorus.

Sounds different, a bit more like a lead style synth, however, it doesn't sound all that good at the moment. Let's fine tune our synth by setting the following values:

Time to modify some settings to get a better sound here. Set the following values:

Analog Oscillator #1:

  • KBD: 127
  • OCT: 3
  • TUNE: 17
  • PW: 93

Analog Oscillator #2:

  • KBD: 127
  • OCT: 3
  • TUNE: -17
  • PW: 93

Analog Oscillator #3:

  • KBD: 127
  • OCT: 4
  • TUNE: 0
  • PW: 127

Low Pass Ladder Filter:

  • DRIVE: 64
  • FREQ: 41.4 Hz
  • RES: 8
  • ENV: 79
  • VEL: 47
  • KBD: 16

Mixer:

  • OSC 1 and 2 BAL: 64
  • OSC 1 and 2 LEVEL: -0.9
  • OSC 3 LEVEL: -7.6

Mod Env:

  • DELAY: 0
  • ATTACK: 0
  • DECAY: 4.35 s
  • RELEASE: 4.35 s

Filter Env:

  • ATTACK: 0
  • DECAY: 105 ms
  • SUSTAIN: -00
  • RELEASE: 29.6 s

Amp Env:

  • ATTACK: 0.4
  • DECAY: 423 ms
  • SUSTAIN: -0.0 dB
  • RELEASE: 705 ms

Global Env:

  • DELAY: 0
  • ATTACK: 0
  • HOLD: 0
  • DECAY: 1.24
  • SUSTAIN: -21.8
  • RELEASE: 1.24 s

Formant Filter:

  • DRIVE: 67
  • GENDER: 38
  • INV: ON
  • ENV: 33
  • VEL: 47
  • KBD: 0
  • X-Y: 78, 67

For the above audio clip, the sample audio was raised an octave.

Amp:

  • VEL: 24
  • GAIN: -4.2

Delay:

  • TEMPO SYNC: ON
  • TIME: 3/16
  • FBACK: 72
  • RATE: 0.5 Hz
  • AMT: 31
  • D/WET: 38

Chorus:

  • DELAY: 17.6 ms
  • FBACK: 31
  • RATE: 0.66 Hz
  • AMT: 34
  • D/WET: 40

State Variable Filter:

  • DRIVE: 104
  • FREQ: 39.4 Hz
  • RES: 77
  • ENV: 0
  • VEL: 0
  • KBD: 0
  • SELF OSC: ON
  • LP/HP: PEAK - 66

Okay, now that's done, but it still doesn't sound exactly how I was thinking. The Formant Filter section sounds pretty good, but something doesn't sound right about the sound from the Low Pass Ladder filter.

To fix this, we're going to manually program some values into our source/destination programmer.

Refer to the image below and set the values accordingly. I would list them out, but in this case, images speak far better than words.

Essentially, the image above is a routing table, that defines routing of various Thor components. For example, the first two things we routed (the Key Velocity and the Mod Wheel), correspond to the components on your MIDI controller. We also programmed the rotary wheels and the buttons on the Thor, and did some other routing as well. Let's have a listen to our finished product.

Now, let's program something into the sequencer like we did for our piano. Let's try the following pattern: C4-G3-D#3-C3--C4-G4-D#4-C5--C4-G3-D#3-C3--D#4-G#3-C4-F3. Set the sequencer mode to "Repeat" the style to "Random", and the rate to "1/8". Also, let's go back to our piano synth, and set the rate to 1/8 there as well, so they are in the same time.

Now if we play the two synthesizers at the same time, we get something like this.

Pretty cool, not exactly the prettiest composition, but each of these synthesizers would work perfectly in an electronic or atmospheric song, or a space-themed soundtrack.

Step 4 - Build the Refill

We now have two pretty awesome synthesizer patches. Let's build a refill using them, allowing these sounds to be distributed around the internet. Run the Reason Refill Packer that we installed before. In order to create a refill, we need sounds, a splash image, and an info.txt. If you navigate to where you installed Reason Refill Packer, you should notice a folder titled "Sample Folder". Inside this folder is a splash.jpg image that has the typical Reason Refill icon as the image, and an info.txt with the following contents:

NAME="Sample ReFill"
COPYRIGHT="© 2001-2005 Propellerhead Software AB"
URL="www.propellerheads.se"
COMMENTS="Sample ReFill for ReFill Packer"

Now, create a new folder on your desktop, and title it "The New World". Open Reason again if you closed it, and hit save for any sounds you want in the refill, and save them into our new folder.

Copy the info.txt and splash.jpg into the new folder as well. You should now have 2 sounds, info.txt, and splash.jpg in the folder. Open info.txt and edit the contents to the following:

NAME="The New World"
COPYRIGHT="© 2009 AudioTUTS+/Envato"
URL="http://audio.tutsplus.com/"
COMMENTS="The New World Refill by Eric Shafer"

Now, click the browse icon next to the "input folder" textbox, and choose "The New World" as the directory.

Alright, we're ready to go, so click "Create Refill".

Congratulations, that's all there is to it. You're now the proud owner of your own Reason refill!

The files associated with this tutorial are downloadable from the Play Pack, including the Reason refill with the two sound patches. They are yours to use, but if you create anything awesome with them, at least leave a link to it so we can all hear it. Enjoy, thanks for reading, and hopefully you learned something. If you have any questions, I am always willing to answer them in the comments section.

Download the Play Pack for this tutorial (65KB)

Contents

  • Reason Source Files
  • Refill
  • Thor Patches
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