Tech Tip:Computer Recording for Guitarists by Line 6, Part 4
Using Reason, Live, and POD Farm Together
By Philip De Lancie
In our previous articles on computer-based recording we've looked at several aspects of the recording process: using an audio interface (e.g. Line 6 POD Studio™) to get sound into the computer, using digital audio workstation software (Ableton® Live Lite 7) to record guitar and to sequence an accompanying MIDI drum track, and using Line 6's POD Farm™ software to add effects, including modeled guitar amps and cabinets. POD Farm and Live Lite are included with all Line 6 POD Studio interfaces, giving many guitarists everything they will need to get started recording. In addition, two POD Studio interfaces (UX2 and KB37) offer another software application, Reason® Adapted 4, which combines with POD Farm and Live Lite to create an even more powerful package. In this article, we'll look at how to use these programs together to increase the range of sonic textures you have available to present your musical ideas.
As we've seen in earlier articles, Live itself is a very capable program, offering not only traditional DAW recording and mixing capabilities but also a built-in MIDI sequencer and a unique set of on-the-fly looping features designed for live performance. Live also comes with a wide range of synthetic and sampled sounds for use with its sequencer, as well as audio and MIDI effects. With all this to offer, it may not be evident at first glance what additional benefit is offered by Reason Adapted, which is also a sequencer with sounds (sampled and synthetic) and effects, but not an audio recorder. The answer boils down to three main factors: variety, control, and interface.
Variety comes from the fact that Reason provides an additional set of built-in synth patches, sampled sounds, and audio effects to work with, giving you greater choice and variety than you have with Live alone. And Reason gives you extraordinarily detailed control over those sounds, allowing you (if you choose) to tweak envelopes and filters to your heart's content. As for interface, Reason's mimics a real rack of samplers, synthesizers, and effects that are controlled by virtual knobs and switches on the "front" panel and connected via virtual patch cords on the back. This hardware-inspired look is the polar opposite of Live's minimalist 2D aesthetic, which means that you'll likely interact with the programs in different ways and come up with different sounds than you would using Live alone.
Before we delve into how these programs work together, let's briefly clarify a couple of points about Reason Adapted. In the full version of Reason you custom-configure your Rack by choosing components from the Tool Window, and you can use multiple instances of any component. In the Adapted version, the Rack is preconfigured, so while duplicates of some components (e.g. Dr.Rex) are included there is only one instance of others (e.g. the NN-XT sample player). Adapted also comes with a smaller Reason Factory Sound Bank (set of included sounds), and cannot play Refills, which are additional sounds for sale from Reason's maker, Propellerhead Software. However, all included components offer the same quality as in the full version, so Adapted is still very valuable as a complement to the sounds and effects in Live Lite.
Because there are so many different components, each of which has its own unique controls, Reason's possibilities are endless, and there's no space here for a comprehensive review of its capabilities. Instead we'll stick with a simple scenario that will allow us to demonstrate using Reason Adapted and Live Lite together.
Rhythm with Reason
Let's get started by laying down a drum loop in Reason Adapted:
» With Reason launched and initial setup completed, you'll see the Rack at the top of the Reason window and the Sequencer at the bottom. To give yourself more space in each, separate the two by detaching the Sequencer (Window menu).
» In the Rack, look for the electric blue Dr.Rex Loop Player, which we'll use to play a ready-made drum loop. If the component is "folded" (minimized), click the right-facing triangle at the far left to show the hidden controls.
» Click the Browse button (folder icon) at the upper left of the component, thereby opening the browser dialog, and select one of the available loops (e.g. ACS01_StrghtAhead_130.rx2), and click OK.
» Switch to the Sequencer window with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+2 (Windows) or Cmd+2 (Mac). You should be in the sequencer's Arrange mode, which displays a series of horizontal tracks that each correspond to a sound source in the Rack. If you're in Edit mode instead, toggle views with Ctrl/Cmd+E.
» Find the track corresponding to Dr.Rex. It should contain a one-measure clip representing the drum loop. Double-click in the name label at the far left of the track, and enter a clever name like "Drums."
» Drag at the right of the clip to extend it out to 8 measures, which should be enough for our test sequence.
» At the bottom of the Sequencer window you'll find Reason's Transport controls. Enable looping with the Loop On/Off button (right of the red record button), then set the loop to the first 8 measures using the L and R markers in the ruler at the top of the sequencer.
» Drag the ruler's song position marker to the start of the sequence (measure 1, beat 1). If your computer keyboard includes a numeric keypad, you can do this by pressing 1.
» Switch back to the Rack (Ctrl/Cmd+1) and find the fader on the mixer that's labeled "Drums." Make sure the fader is up.
» Press play in the Transport controls (or hit your computer keyboard's space bar). You should now hear the drum part loop until you press stop (or hit the space bar again).
Synths and Samples
Now let's create a synth bass clip to go along with our drum loop. Adapted includes several synthesizer components, each with a different synthesis method for a distinctive character. We'll use Subtractor, a polyphonic synth that uses subtractive synthesis for a classic analog sound:
» In the Rack, find Subtractor and, if needed, unfold it with its triangle button.
» Use the Browse button to open the browser window, then select one of the available sounds (e.g. "Bass Guitar.zyp"), and click OK.
» Switch to the Sequencer, name the Subtractor track (e.g. "Synth bass"), and click on it to enable it for recording.
» Enter a synth bass line:
- If you have a MIDI keyboard like Line 6's POD Studio KB37 USB MIDI controller/audio interface, you can play your part while listening to the drum loop. Check the settings of the transport's click, pre, and quantize buttons, then click the record button and begin playing.
- If you don't have a MIDI controller, you can enter notes individually. Switch to Edit mode and choose the pencil tool (upper left of sequencer). In the "piano roll" area that represents notes (vertical) and rhythm (horizontal), click and drag to draw a clip spanning the first two or four measures. You can then draw individual notes within the span of the clip. When you're happy with the line, switch back to Arrange mode and copy/paste the clip as needed to repeat it for the remainder of our eight measure sequence.
» In the Rack, find the mixer fader labeled "Synth bass," and make sure it's up. Hit the space bar to hear the drums and bass together.
We now need to add one more part, this time with a sound that's sampled rather than synthetic. Follow the steps above, but use the NN-XT sampler as the instrument. When browsing for the instrument's sound, choose "Strat Edge w Mutes.sxt." Then enter some kind of melody or riff in the NN-XT's track in the sequencer. With the NN-XT fader up in the mixer, you should hear your melody part along with the bass and drums. By default, the mixer's Aux 1 is assigned to Reason's Reverb component, so you can sweeten the melody by turning up the Aux 1 send (red knob at top of input strip).
Rewiring Reason to Live
Now that we've got drums, bass, and a melody, we can move on to using Reason and Live together, which will allow us to enhance Reason audio with effects from Live (including POD Farm) and also to play live MIDI parts on Reason instruments (samplers and synths). Note that the following sections assume that you have already read the previous Computer Recording for Guitarists articles that cover recording with Live (Part 2 and Part 3).
We'll start by enabling a cool Propellerhead technology called Rewire that slaves Reason to Live (as well as to most other popular DAWs) so that the two programs play back in sync:
» Save changes in Reason and quit the program.
» Launch Live.
» Re-launch Reason. The LED display at the left of the Hardware Interface component at the top of the Rack should now say "Rewire Slave Mode." Audio output for both programs is via Live, and playback is controlled by the transport controls of both programs (record functions remain separate).
Next we'll bring the output of the Reason mixer into Live:
» By default, a new Live session opens with one audio and one MIDI track. In Live's Arrangement view, set the audio track's monitoring switch to In, then select Reason from the track's Input Type chooser (drop down menu).
» In the Input Channel chooser just below, select "1/2: Mix L, Mix R."
» Set Live to loop the first eight measures.
» Check that the Track Activator is on (track is not muted), then press play. You should now hear the sequence (drums, bass, and melody) from the main L/R outputs of the Reason mixer playing in Live, and see the mix in the meters at the right of the track.
With what we've done so far you can see that by combining the two programs Live Lite users can transcend track count limitations and Reason users can access Live's audio recording capability, which Reason lacks. Next we'll see how to use the two programs together to add plug-in effects to audio from Reason, which does not itself support plug-ins:
» In Reason, press Tab to view the back of the Rack.
» Find the patch cords that connect the sampler to the mixer, and drag them up to inputs 3 and 4 of the Hardware Device instead. The sampler playing the melody part will now no longer be going through the Reason mixer.
» In Live, press play. You should hear the drums and bass, but not the melody. Now create a new audio track and set its monitoring to In. Set the track's Input Type chooser to Reason and its Input Channel chooser to "3/4: Channel 3, Channel 4." Assuming that the track is activated, you should now hear the melody part.
» In Live's Plug-in Device Browser, find POD Farm in the Line 6 folder, and drop it onto the melody audio track. The POD Farm window should open, and you can then choose a single or dual POD Farm tone to apply to the melody (see article Part 3, Applying Guitar Effects).
Another great thing you can do with Reason and Live together is to play MIDI tracks from the Live sequencer using instruments from Reason:
» Start by choosing an instrument from the Reason Rack to play the MIDI part. This time let's use the Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer. Choose a sound by clicking on Malstrom's Browse button, then name the instrument by double-clicking the label on the front panel.
» In Live, create a MIDI track and set its monitoring to In. From the track's Output Type chooser (just below the monitoring switch), choose Reason. Then, from the Output Channel chooser just below, choose the name you used for the Malstrom instrument. Assuming that the track is activated, you should now hear the instrument when you play your MIDI controller. If you don't have a MIDI controller, Live will let you play a part on your computer keyboard (Options menu).
» Arm the MIDI track, press the master record-enable button, and then press play. As the loop plays, Live will record whatever you play on your controller.
» After the new clip is recorded you can then quantize and edit it in the MIDI note editor of Live's Clip View. You'll need to switch monitoring to Auto to hear the track during playback. If you change the sound selected in the Malstrom instrument, the track will play back in Live with the new sound.
The steps above let you use Reason sounds even if you prefer to keep your MIDI tracks in the Live sequencer alongside your audio. It also means that you can switch to a Reason sound even if you've already sequenced a part in Live (you must first open the Track View at the bottom right of the Live window and delete the existing instrument assigned to the track). This flexibility is another example of how the software included with Line 6 POD Studio interfaces can be even more powerful when you know how make the entire package work together to bring your musical vision to life.