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How to Make a Trance Lead Synth in Propellerhead's Reason 4

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Reason 4 is a brilliant synth-creating tool. The Thor Polysonic Synthesizer is one of the most powerful synths about and this tutorial will explain the basics of using it to create a massive trance lead synth patch.

Step 1: Setting Up Thor

Before we do anything, we need a mixer in our rack. If you don't already have one, right click and click create > Mixer 14:2. This will be what our synth is fed into so we can control its overall volume.

Right click on your Reason interface and click create > Thor Polysonic synthesizer. This will make a brand new instance of Thor that we can get started on!

Thor in the Reason Rack.

Right click Thor and click "Initialize patch" to remove any the existing default patch settings and give us a clean slate to work with. Also, before we forget - double click on the name tag and change it to "Trance Lead" so it's easy to see in the mixer what the device is.

Now we have our device, it's time to add in some notes. In the Reason sequencer window, select the pencil tool (the shortcut key to select the pencil tool is "W") and draw out the section you want to make notes in. I've drawn out an 8 bar loop for our trance loop, giving time for a decent chord progression. Select the selection tool (the shortcut key is "Q") and double click the area you have just drawn out.

Now, using the pencil tool again, draw some notes for your synth to play. Click the "Loop on/off" button to turn on the loop - but make sure the L and R loop points are around the whole of the area you've created so you're hearing the entire loop.

The Reason sequencer window with the notes drawn in.

So far, your loop should sound something like this:

Step 2: Make the Three Multi Oscillators and Mix Them

Now it's time to start making this synth patch! We'll be using all three of Thor's oscillators to make a massive, epic sound. Click the "Show Programmer" button to open Thor up. Change each oscillator to a "Multi Osc" oscillator by clicking the drop down arrow and selecting it from the menu.

A Multi Oscillator makes lots of single waves, and then allows you to detune them against each other to make a very thick sound, perfect for the trance lead synth we're making. Click the "2" and "3" buttons near the top of the opened up part of Thor to send the 2nd and 3rd Oscillators through into the rest of the signal chain.

Change the "AMT" knob to about 3/8ths of the way around - this detunes the waves, thickening the sound. Take oscillator 2 up one octave with the "OCT" knob and oscillator 3 up two octaves - this makes a three octave spread, making it sound even bigger. We still want the focus to be on the lowest octave, however, so in the mixer, take the balance towards oscillator 1, and turn oscillator down to about half way.

Thor with the 3 Multi Oscillators.

Your loops should now sound like this:

Step 3: Remove the Filter and Alter the Amp Envelope

Click the drop down on the filter and click "Bypass" - hear how it's now a lot brighter? That's because none of the high frequencies are being filtered out any more.

The "Bypass" filter option.

If you have any long notes in your loop, you might notice they are losing volume over time. To prevent this, turn the "S" up in the "Amp Envelope" section to full - this is the sustain of the note - by turning it to full it means it will not lose any volume at all, which is great for big synth sounds.

The loop should now sound like this:

Step 4: Add the Chorus and Delay

Now we're going to make this epic lead synth even more epic with some effects - Chorus widens the synth effect in the stereo field, making it feel bigger. Thor has a chorus unit built in, so just click the "Chorus" button and voila! Instant width to your synth effect. Turn the "D/Wet" knob (Short for Dry / Wet) down to about a quarter of the way around so the chorus isn't too overwhelming - if it is too wide, the synth loses its punchiness.

Next, we're going to add Delay to really make the synth bigger. Delay is an effect that echoes out what has been played. Again, Thor comes with this built in, so just click on the "Delay" button to add the epic effect. Click the "Tempo Sync" button to make the echoes in time with the music. Again, change the Dry/Wet knob to about a quarter so it isn't too overwhelming.

The Chorus and Delay section set up for a big sound.

The loop should now sound like this:

Step 5: Add the Reverb

Finally, we're going to add some reverb to the high end of the synth so it really fills out the track. Right click the mixer your Thor device is going in to and go create > RV7000 Advanced Reverb. This will automatically connect it to the next available auxiliary knob on the mixer - in this case aux 1. Turn up the knob to about half way round.

Now we've got reverb - but we want it more focused on the high end. Turn the "HF Damp" down to 0 so none of the high frequencies are being dampened and turn the "HI EQ" to full so the High frequencies are even more prominently reverberated. Turn the decay knob up to about 3/4 of the way around so it is reverberated for a longer period of time, making it seem even bigger.

The RV7000 Advanced Reverb unit in the rack. Note how the Aux knob on the Trance Lead Channel is turned up.

The loop should now sound like this:

And there you have it - a massive trance lead synth made in Reason 4. Here is an example of it in context with a simple loop incorporating a drum loop and a bass synth:

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