Choir sounds are quite epic to use in a musical production. In Propellerhead Reason there are different ways to create a rich full scale choir sound. If synthesizers are you game, then using the Malstrom or Thor could do the trick pretty well. When it comes to some form of realism an NN-XT patch could be ideal. Sometimes we need a bit of both. In this article we'll be looking in to our top picks to create a full scale choir using samplers, synthesizers and effects. So lets just scream right in to this.
NN-XT Sampler and Choirs
When looking at the NN-XT sampler (and the factory sound bank samples that come with it), we have a section called "Voices". These voices sometimes borrow samples from the NN-19 sampler sound bank. This is most likely obvious while loading up the Choir Wash patch. This patch in particular uses the exact same sounds from the NN-19 sampler patches. Which isn't a real problem though, since the part where the NN-XT sampler shines is layering the different sounds. This is partially the beauty behind Propellerhead Reason, sure it may seem limited at times, once you start really understanding the tools your using they tend to open up a lot of new doors. Sure, it might be a bit more work just to accomplish the task. And sometimes it is worth while to do so (why else would I be writing down this article).
The different voice layers in the sample section
Before getting started with the process, you need to understand which locations to look for. For the NN-19 sampler you have the following location:
Factory Soundbank > NN19 Sampler Patches > Voice > ChoirFemaleAhh
Factory Soundbank > NN19 Sampler Patches > Voice > OhChoir
Factory Soundbank > NN19 Sampler Patches > Voice > SmallChoirUhh
Factory Soundbank > NN19 Sampler Patches > Voice > UhhChoir
From the NN-XT you have the following location:
Factory Soundbank > NN-XT Sampler Patches > Voice > Monk Choir Samples
Factory Soundbank > NN-XT Sampler Patches > Voice > VP Voice Samples
So in theory you have 4 different types of female voices. One male voice and one 'synthetic' type of voice (VP). This leads up to 6 different layers to choose from. However, every layer can be manipulated inside the NN-XT using zones and its settings.
Loading up one pair of choirs
To load up one set inside the NN-XT, we can start with adding an instance of the NN-XT.
Init patch, no samples loaded. In case you have a preset loaded, use "reset device" or "initialize patch" (depending on the version of Propellerhead Reason you are using).
Next up, open up the remote editor (this is where it gets scary). Click on the little arrow (>) next to where it says "Remote Editor".
Inside the remote editor you can add the different samples by clicking "Browse Sample" button.
From here on you can load up any sample you like. You can either dive in to the NN-19 sampler folder or jump to the NN-XT folder. Depends on what want. In this case I am going to go for the combination of :
NN19 - ChoirFemaleAhh
NN19 - OhChoir
NN19 - UhhChoir
NN-XT - Monk Choir Samples
Every sample section will get its own zone (load the samples, select them, then right click and select "group selected zones"). Or read the operation manual on how to operate the NN-XT. Or watch my youtube video on how to use the NN-XT sampler.
When done so you will have the following NN-XT patch.
The issue here at the moment is that all samples are mapped to all the keys. And this is where the whole "time consuming" part comes in to play. Since every zone needs to be mapped through the complete keyboard. The benefit with most samples that sit inside the NN-XT or NN-19 already contain the mapping information in the sample data. So the only thing that remains to do is to do the following steps for every zone:
- right click on the zone
- click on "set root note from pitch detection"
- right click on the zone
- click on "automap zone"
In this particular case we need to do this 4 times (since we are using 4 different layers). And when done so, we have 4 zones mapped through the keyboard, resulting in to the following patch (yeah, I will safe you some work on this one). And this should work in Propellerhead Reason 3 and upwards I believe.
Tweaking things in the full scale choir
Partially the beauty behind zones in the NN-XT is that every zone can have its own unique set of attributes regarding to envelopes, amplitude, modulation etc. Heck, it could be done per sample even (but just for sake of simplicity, let us not go there).
To tweak the stage of a zone inside the NN-XT sampler, select the zone first. Then start making the adjustments. For instance in this particular patch I find the first layer (FemelaAh) way too much up front. So we'll select the femaleAh zone. Adjust the level a bit more downwards.
A similar thing can be done with the filter type per zone, setting up the modulate envelope per layer and so on.
Horror style choirs
In case you have seen my video about the vocoder in Properllerhead Reason you may already know that the BV512 vocoder has its charm while using this on vocals.
A similar thing could be said for setting up voices inside an NN-XT patch. You can layer them with an additional BV512 vocoder and use that to blend between the vocoded signal and the dry signal. If you want to go for the more 'synthetic' type of voice you would use a simple saw wave or pulse. If you want to turn these things in to the more 'horror' type of breathing sounds, I would suggest using a multi oscillator or noise to pull this off.
The idea is to use the NN-XT as the modulator (since it is the microphone in this case) and the carrier should be the synthesizer. In the following patch I am using a combination of a multi oscillator with a noise oscillator.
You can see this in the following combinator patch I have setup in Propellerhead Reason 9.5 (it will most likely work in Reason 5 too).
Happy Choir making!
Written by hydlide