Propellerhead Reason tutorials made by Hydlide

Published on Reason Experts

Chemical beats using Kong Drum Designer

Published: 2017-04-23

In our previous article, we high lighted the idea on how chemical beats are originally created. While normally the origin is based on hip hop beat. While hip hop beats are played by artists, it will not be a surprise that you can (if you want to) build a chemical beat from the ground up. In theory it is still based on loose samples that get chopped. Thus we can also use static content (lets say: bass drums, snare drums, hi hats, wood blocks, claps and so on) to create a complete beat from scratch. The only real "tricky" part to this is to make it feel groovy. Since with out the groovy part the whole idea is quite lost and it feels soulless. Kind of like mortal kombat (your soul is mine), but then different.

Creating a Bass Drum Snare Pattern

While creating a drum pattern in reason this could be done in multiple ways:
- use Kong the Drum designer to load up the drums and manually enter the sequence
- use the Redrum drum computer and load up the samples there and manually enter the sequence
- use the NN-XT advanced sampler, layer the drums (this can be the most time consuming part) and enter the sequence
- use multiple NN-19 samplers and build it up using those

These are just the native device options. Alternative route would be using audio tracks. Just saying that you can.

The most important element in the Bass Drum / Snare drum pattern is that sometimes you need to move up / down a note in a 2 bar phrase. This is something you normally would not do in terms of (lets say) techno or trance. Most genres are heavy build on 4 to the floor rhythms. Well, you guessed it right... chemical beats does not! It is still 4/4 based, but it is not a 4 to floor rhythm. And this is partially why these type of genres are quite hard to re-create in terms of sequencing it manually. But... it can be done.

For these particular examples, I am going to use Reason 5 as my DAW (while I have reason 6 and up I prefer to target a wide range of listeners). For the drum track I am going to use (ow boy) Kong the drum designer. Because I really dislike using this thing (honest opinion, thus biased, thus I don't care posting it). But hey boy... hey dj... it fits in this genre. So why not.

In terms of Kong there is one feature you may need in terms of Layering a drum. Inside the pads section you can find a link option. 

Kong link pads. Layering drums

This options is handy later for tying up different percussion elements to layer specific drums. In chemical beats the most important layers would be the bass drums and the snare drums. If you use the Redrum, you can you the gate output to connect to the gate input to tie up the different drums. In the NN-XT you can assign different zones. With the NN19 you basically play the same drums twice (or use a combinator with multiple NN19 samplers).

In terms of Kong, if you want pad 1 to connect to pad 2. You set up the pad 1 AND pad 2 to link with for instance Link D. In this case it does not matter which pad you trigger (pad 1 or pad 2) they will both play at the same time.

For the first example file I have set up pad 1 to link up pad 2 using Link D. So when ever drum 1 kicks in, drum 2 will play along. For the samples I prefer to choose samples that are usable in terms of hip hop. So they sound tight, with a rumble and some "noise" on the sound itself. This creates warmth.

To enhance the "tightness" of the sound, I love compressors and transient shapers. A Transient shaper is different than a compressor. An awesome explanation about these is shown in the following video:

In Kong there is a transient shaper. The transient shaper can be plugged in to FX1 or FX2 (since it only is set once, you do not want to make adjustments later while the track progresses). 

Transient Shaper Kong

And for the compressor the Bus FX is ideal. Since in this case you have access to a parallel compression at your finger tips. By increasing the "Bus FX" in the Send, you can determine how much parallel compression you want. This also goes in conjunction with the Make up gain in the Compressor of Kong.

Parallel compression Kong Drum designer 

For the sequence, one idea here would be using 1/16th notes. Yet let the groove mixer in Reason "solve" the groove later. A good starting point will be using the bass drum on 1/16 and 10/16th. And alternative route will be 1/16th and 11/16th. The first snare is the rhythmic element and plays a static 5/16th and 13/16th. So in terms of this, the snare has the same gaps between the notes, while the bass drum does not.

Chemical Beat sequence.

The groove for this lane is connected to groove A1, and currently the state is set to 58% (this may change later when applying hi-hats). In context of setting up the groove in an early stage, I wouldn't really worry about it that much yet. Since it will start to have a larger impact when the hi-hats start to play using multiple 1/16th note. So the groove setting I have applied in this example may not be the best setting just yet.

Download Reason 5 RNS

Ghost notes

A lot of time, ghost notes are used to "fill up" the gaps. Often these are snares, bass drums or hi hats to put just this little accent on the rhythm and the groove. In theory, ghost notes are notes (or sounds in general) put in the back ground. In Propellerhead reason you have a lot devices that use a setting like Velocity to Level to accomplish this task. This means the more velocity you apply to it, the louder the sound will become. 

Also, ghost notes are notes that compliment the rest of all the other elements. Meaning they should be sounding like they are the same, yet they are not exactly the same yet they are not totally different also. For instance, in this particular example I am using the SD Blockrock as a snare drum (which sits in the Redrum Snare drums). At some point I could use the exact same sound, pitch it just a little bit different. That is one method. However sometimes I prefer using a total different sample that has a similar character as the original snare, yet sounds a little bit different from the original snare drum. 

In this case I am using a snare called HotValve as a ghost note. Which has a similar character, yet sounds a bit more "muffled" compared to the BlockRock snare drum. Selecting a ghost note instrument might be a time consuming task at times. If everything fails, use the exact same sample yet tune it a little bit different and use some different filters to make them sound a bit different from that angle.

Hot Valve

As far sequencing the ghost notes, they should normally play around the bass drum and the snare drum. The notes may vary in velocity a lot. Since the idea is to have them in the back ground. This play a lot with lower velocities rather than to make them too loud. Some ghosts may have a bit more "loudness". It kind of depends on the drum track you want to set up. So a lot of time will be spend on experimenting with playing with different velocities to see what works and what does not work.

Snare ghost notes

As you may see in this particular picture is that the ghost notes will normally not play with the snare or bass drum. They surround the whole main elements while playing "around" them.

Download Reason 5 RNS


For creating the hi hats, its is quite similar as placing them on all 1/16th notes, yet at the same time play a lot with different velocity settings to adjust the groove in different directions. Most often, I would use a different note lane to create the hi hats and later on merge these tracks (when needed). Since in this case the work flow is much easier to change the velocity on the hi hats them selves.

Hi hats in chemical beats

So first we'll create the new note lane. Second, we'll have to select the exact same groove from the original drum track. In this particular case this would be A1.

Select groove

When done, we can create the hi hat session on note lane 2. For the 'best' results to use the velocity settings, you could set the Velocity to Level to its Max in terms of the hi-hats.

Next up, draw 1/16th notes on all the different places. Like the following:

Next, place the velocity settings where they need to be. As a decent reference you could decide to play the max velocity on places the hard hitting snare plays (5/16 and 13/16). Or you could play along with the bass drum for the max velocity. Or do both. It is a decent starting point. At times you may want to throw it in a total different direction. It kind of depends on how it feels. And which direction you want to go for.

In this particular case I love to play around the note on the 13/16th snare and the first bass drum (1/16th). The off beat note will then sit around the 4/16th note where the snare sits at 5/16th. These are choices that need to be made, and they may vary per drum track.

Download Reason 5 RNS

The open hi hat

This may vary per drum track. Some chemical beats do not even have an open hi hat. But at times you may want to play a single open hi hat per 2 or 4 bars. In most cases you want to keep it subtle, since if you would do it too often, it gets repetitive. 

Download Reason 5 RNS

play it just once could do the trick nicely

From this point on, it should give you enough fuel to create your own chemical beat from the ground up. Experimenting is the major key element to this!

Have fun! and I will type to you later!


Published on Reason Experts
Written by
Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2017-04-23

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25 Apr 2017 


Nice. A reason to use Kong for a minute. Wish they would redo kong, and make it easy a pie to do separate outs to the ssl just by right clicking.
23 Apr 2017 


I really like this approach

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