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Published on Reason Experts

LFO and the Malstrom in Propellerhead Reason

Published: 2017-07-11

Welcome back to another Propellerhead Reason article about LFO (or Low Frequency Oscillator in short). In the last few articles I mainly touched these settings using the Subtractor. While the Malstrom feels limited at times, one should never underestimate the flexibility of the Modulators (Mod A and Mod B). In theory the modulators are used to modulate different parameters inside this synthesizer itself. While in practice a lot of LFO patterns I designed back in the day was all based on the Malstrom Mod A and Mod B. The benefit behind this device in particular is that it has most of the interesting patterns to use and to manipulate. While other stock devices come with their Sine, Triangle, Saw, S/H (Sample and Hold) and Drift. Sure, these are nice. But sometimes you need something else. And the Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer is just what it is... something else.

The Essentials about the Malstrom LFO

Malstrom LFO

By default the modulators of the Malstrom are quite 'boring' to say the least. Since that are quite fixed at some extend. You have the following:
Modulator A:
- Pitch
- Index (wavetable position)
- Shift (harmonics)

Modulator B:
- Motion
- Volume
- Filter
- Mod B to Mod A amount

Partially the reason why these lfo's internally are not really interesting and 'stiff' is that they lack the ability of KBD (Keyboard tracking). The only good news though is that the Modulators from the malstrom while using non sync mode are polyphonic internally. Meaning they start the pattern per note. This sometimes gets handy while triggering the index motion, while with every note press the sound needs to start with the exact same waveform while the modulator takes over the movement.

The Mod A is interesting to creating moving effects or textures while Mod B is more interesting while making gated volume changes or sweeping filters. From this point of view, the malstrom gets as straight forward as it gets. Since these modulators change settings inside the Malstrom itself. And if you have no clue what the malstrom does, we have a wide range of Propellerhead Reason tutorials on the subject matter. 

An example of gating sounds using LFO

To give a quick example on using the Malstrom Graintable synthesizers while using an LFO you could do the following:

- Create a Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer
- Initialize the patch (or Reset the device). This will result in a straight sine wave while triggering the sound.
- Select for waveform A the Sawtooth *4
- Turn the motion to -64 (this means there is no motion in the waveform)
- Set the index halfway (around 59 / 64 will do)
- Set the Mod A Index to around 40-ish

This will generate a moving Sawtooth sound which sounds different compared to the original Sawtooth*4. To turn this in to a gated type of lead use the following settings:
- Mod B goes in Sync (turn Sync mode on)
- Turn the Rate on 3/16 (this may vary on the speed)
- Select the curve 2 (Ramp)
- Turn up the Mod B to Volume till around 49-ish

All of this should result to the following patch.

Malstrom LFO 2

In theory what will happen here is that the gate gets linear (tempo sync) while the movement of the sound is not. So ever time the gate triggers the saw tooth will remain being a saw tooth. Difference here is that the harmonic content of the saw tooth will vary per gated event.

So here is that patch:


Using the Malstrom as an Extenal LFO

Now where things really get awesome is the point where you Combine the LFO as an external Control voltage. Because the malstrom holds most of the patterns out there, I would normally use a Thor as a Scaler in between to modify the amount of changes of the LFO. The scaler LFO was discussed in our article last week: Creative LFO. While using the scaler, you can also use a similar setting to invert it with a different LFO. While the Malstrom owns two LFOs, it is pretty simple to set this up.

Malstrom LFO

The scaler gets set up like this. The Scale amount in this case is handled by the rotary (similar as the original scaler I set up before). The different here is that the CV2 input will be an additional scale amount. Now lets just assume if Mod A is the CV input 1, and the Mod B would be CV input 2. What if we would change the rates of Mod A (making it slower) and have the Rate of Mod B a bit faster as Mod B. And what if both patterns would be a sine wave? The outcome would be a random sine wave pattern that has an increase and decrease of the curve from Mod A, while at the same time Mod B will have an impact on the amount of changes in the curve of Mod A. Still follow? An example file explains more then a 1000 words right?

Malstrom LFO

In the following Combinator we'll be using the Subtractor as a synthersizer. The Mod A and Mod B are used as the modulators. While Mod A is the LFO source, Mod B is the scaler. This gets tied up in a Thor as defined in the process mentioned above. The rotary 1 of Thor acts as a scaler for the Mod A + Mod B Scale amount. By increasing the Rotary 1 of the Thor patch, you can hear what will happen with it.


The more interesting part would be adding an additional scaler where you can scale the Mod B. So you have an additional control to modify the amount of changes that get applied to Mod A. But I will let it up to you to figure this one out (it is not too complicated though).

Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2017-07-11

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