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The Reason to make Music on your Computer


As I have written elsewhere on this site, I got my first Synthesizer (a Roland D-10) while I was finishing my education in Informatics (back in 1989), but I didn't have it for long and replaced it with a motorcycle. Many years later (in 2003) I got interested in making music again, and since I have never had any formal education in music I had to start from scratch, and there were many things to learn.

At some point I decided on writing a book intended for people who are at the same level where I was in 2003, where you want to learn how to make music using your computer, but has to learn everything from scratch. Hopefully this book will ease you into it, by teaching you the basics. Actually it was the fact I got myself a Kindle Reader, that started this process (since I liked the format), but I am still not 100% sure about the where it will end (if this will end up as an ebook, a paper-book or perhaps both).  Everything has been written in Open-/Libre-Office and I have done all Illustrations myself in InkScape, so formatting it for eBook format will be a big task (even though all graphics has been optimized for Black-and-White, and is done in a size suitable for a Kindle device).

The book is still a "Work in Progress" (+550 pages so far), but I still have a full chapter to finish and a few sub-chapters to add to a few other chapters. The book have taken a long time to write, as I've chose to only write when I want to write. This in itself is also delaying the project as Propellerhead Reason (which the book is based on) have been updated a few times since i started the project, and every time I need to update the book to these new changes.

Below you can read the Preface, About Me and Disclaimer from the first page in the book (to tell you a little more about the book), and below that there will be a few miniature pages from the book. To the right you see an (incomplete) Table of Contents, so you should have a good understanding what will be covered in the book.

If you have any questions, suggestions or comments feel free to drop me an email. 


Preface (from the Book)

This book will not be “The Book” that tells you everything you need to know about everything, but in stead this book will give you an introduction into making music on your Computer. It will start with the basics and tell you about the hardware/software needed to get started and tell you about some of the theory and there will be illustrations and screenshots to back it up. Having read this book you should have a good understanding of what is possible and have enough knowledge to get up and running making music.

Since there are many ways to proceed (regarding to which software/hardware to use), and I can't cover them all, this book will be based on Propellerhead Reason. I chose to base this book on Propellerheads Reason for 2 reasons (no pun intentioned). First Reason is available as a free Demo version, and also the way it is build, it is very intuitive what you are doing, and it mimics the world of hardware, so often it fells more like a “hands on” approach than other software that often require a much steeper learning curve.

In some context you can see this book as a supplement to the official (Propellerhead) documentation for Reason. In order to learn how to make music on your computer, you can use this book on its own, and it will both teach you the background (why you do certain things), and how you accomplish it in Reason. Also this book is meant to be read from page 1 and then continuing through the book explaining things in a structured pace. However if you want to know every detail on and every knob/button on every device you should in stead turn to the official Reason documentation, witch is perfect for reference lookup (I think the two supplement each other, and I hope you will agree).

I wish you happy reading, and if you have any ideas for me to improve this book (things that are not clear, things that should be removed, things that are missing), feel free to drop me an email – I would like to hear your opinion.

About Me (from the Book)

By trade I am a Software Developer and in my professional life I have nothing to do with the music industry at all. While I was studying Informatics (back in 1989) I got my first Synthesizer (a Roland D-10) hooked up to an Amiga 500 running some Sequencer software (the name of the software is long forgotten). But I only had it for a few moths and then I sold it all to be able to buy my first Motorbike.

Much later (in 2003) I again started to get interested in making music. This time armed with Cubase SL and a Yamaha MOTIF 6 Synthesizer. About 6 months later I got my first version of Propellerhead Reason (version 2.5). Over the years more hardware were added to my arsenal of “noise-making tools”, but during the last few years I have moved more and more away from the Hardware, towards Software. I still keep and use some of my hardware Synths and I am still using Cubase, but today most of my work is done using Propellerhead Reason. Since the release of Reason 7, much of my hardware have had a second life, since I now can hook it up directly to Reason without the need of connecting Reason with Cubase using ReWire.


Disclaimer (from the Book)

As I am self-thought and have never had any formal education in music theory, there are things I don't know (don't ask me to read notes, unless you are not in a hurry). Also I don't have much experience in vocal recording (beside for some vocoding), so don't expect me to tell you all there is to know about Microphones and Preamps – but I will say a few things about Microphones and Preamps though :-)

While starting this book I was a 100% PC guy (I have been using- and working professional with PCs “for all my life”), however recently (while still writing this book) I got myself my first Mac (a 27” iMac). I primarily got the Mac since I wanted to try writing software for iPhone and iPad, however now that I got it, it was only logical to try to run my music software on this Mac also (both Propellerhead Reason/ReCycle, and Steinberg Cubase/WaveLab comes with a DVD- or can be downloaded in versions- that can both be installed on PC and Mac). In this book I have tried to be as PC/Apple-Neutral as I can.

This book have been a long way to complete as producing music and writing is “only” a hobby of mine, so I have to earn my living elsewhere. In the process I have moved a couple of times, changed job, and was married. Beside Reason has also been updated a few times since I started (meaning I had to do new screen-shots, and rewrite parts), so to the very keen spotter you might spot a few screen-shots from older versions. I dare you to look for those :-)

But I will be honest and tell you what I know and for you (I hope) it will be easier to find the information you need to get started, so you don't (like me in 2003) have to start from square-one and browse the internet for information. I am Danish so English is not my native language, but I am used to English in my work-life, so beside a few typos every now and then I hope it will not cause too much problem reading this book. Fell free to laugh if I write something stupid :-)


Example pages

Here below you will see some (miniature) example-pages from the book. All illustrations have been made for the format of the book to ensure they are as clean/easy to read as possible (not noticeable in these miniature examples). Likewise all photos have been manually optimized for size and black-white, to ensure they would look clear and sharp on a Black-and-White eReader (like the Kindle):

Table of Contents

The list below is an incomplete outline (work in progress) of the TOC for the book, and as such it is subject to change (especially in the chapter on The Sequencer, since this is where I still has the most work to finish).

  • Gear
    • Computer
    • Audio-Interface
    • Headphones and Speakers
    • MIDI-Interface, -Keyboard and -Controller
    • Microphones (Vocal/Instrument-Recording)
    • Software
    • Cables and Connectors
    • How to find "The Right Gear"
  • Setting up your "Studio"
    • Speaker/Monitor Position
    • Acoustic Treatment
  • Introduction to Audio
    • AD/DA Conversion
    • Sample-Rate / Bit-Depth
    • Audio Editing
  • Intro to CV and MIDI
    • CV (Control Voltage)
    • MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)
  • This is (NOT) Music Theory
    • Octaves and Notes
    • Time Signature (Bars and Beats)
    • Tempo (BPM)
    • The Elements of your song (Patterns)
    • The structure of a Song
  • Intro to Reason
    • Demo-version of Reason
    • Initial Setup of Reason
    • Overview of Reason
    • Nice Rack :-)
    • Connceting the Devices (using wires)
    • ReFills
    • File-browser (Loading Patches/Samples)
    • Working with Songs (Projects)
  • Essential Devices in Reason
    • Hardware Interface and Big Meter
    • Master Section
    • Mix Channel- and Audio Track-Devices
    • Rack Mixers in Reason
    • 14:2 Mixer
    • 6:2 Mixer
    • Spider Audio (Merger and Splitter)
    • Spider CV (Merger and Splitter)
    • Matrix (CV Pattern Sequencer)
    • Combinator
  • Methods of Synthesis
    • Subtractive Synthesis
    • FM (Frequency Modulated) Synthesis
    • Additive Synthesis
    • Wavetable
    • Granular Synthesis
    • Samplers
    • Rompler
    • Physical Modelling
    • Modular Synthesizer
    • Arpeggiator (RPG-8)
    • Learning to use "other" Synthesizers
    • Sound Design
  • Sampling and Samplers
    • Legal Aspect
    • Organizing your Samples
    • A little theory
    • NN19 (Digital Sampler)
    • NN-XT (Advanced Sampler)
    • Dr.OctoRex (Loop/Slice-player)
    • Redrum (Drum Sampler)
    • Kong (Drum Designer)
    • Sampling with Reason
    • Editing Samples in Reason
    • Managing Samples
    • Multisampling
  • Effects
    • Reverb
    • Delay (Echo)
    • Compressor, Limiter and Maximizer
    • EQ
    • Filters (and Phaser)
    • Stereo-Effect (Stereo Imager)
    • Vocoder
    • Pitch Correction
    • Unison / Chorus / Flanger
    • Distortion (Speaker/Amp Simulation)
    • Pulverizer
    • Gate
    • Additional (Rack Extension) Effect devices
  • The Main Mixer
    • The "Purpose" of the Mixer
    • Channel Strip
    • Master Section Strip
    • Side Chaining
    • Group Channels
    • Sub Mixes
  • The Sequencer
    • Quick Overview of the Sequencer
    • Navigating the Sequencer (your song)
    • Tracks and Lanes
    • Clips
    • Audio Tracks
    • MIDI Tracks
    • Exporting your song
  • Appendix-A: Making ReFils
  • Appendix-B: Tips and Tricks
    • Learn your Hardware and Software
    • Use Templates (Don't start with a clean slate)
    • Save and re-use Patches
    • Stay organized
    • Backup, Backup and Backup
    • Be experimental
  • Reason or not?
  • Where to go from Here?