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Matrix combinator toolbox

Published: 2017-08-23

In this propellerhead reason tutorial I will mainly look at one device in particular: the Matrix Step sequencer. While by default the matrix is used as a step sequencer. This device is still used in my production as my go to Control Voltage device. Today I want to share a single combinator which contains four different matrix patterns step sequencers using up to 8 slots each. The whole idea here is that it could be used as 4 different outputs to control 4 different inputs. Let me divide this article up in to a few different segments. For those who are new to this DAW might learn a few things here. Others might want to skip the first few segments though in case you already know what this device is doing.

The basics about the Matrix step sequencer in Propellerhead Reason

 The Matrix pattern step sequencer is a utility that is used to control an instrument by default. To set this up we'll do the following:
- create an instrument
- create a matrix step sequencer

Matrix pattern step sequencer

The middle section of the matrix will then define which notes are played in a sequence. By pressing the run button the sequence will run in an endless loop. What you are looking at this point is the note information of the matrix. When you look at the rear of the rack (press Tab) you will see the following connection:

Matrix pattern step sequencer in Propellerhead Reason

In theory what will happen is that the matrix sends out two different type of information to the instrument itself. These are:
Note CV - which contains the note information (pitch)
Gate CV - which contains the on / off state to play the note + the amount of velocity that goes with it.

This information gets translated as followed:

Matrix Pattern step sequencer in Propellerhead reason

You can then define up to 32 different patterns to create different patterns. By default it starts with pattern A1. The range for A goes from A1 to A8. Then it goes to B1 to B8 etc. The A/B/C/D switches are banks. While in theory you can build up 32 different patterns in total (which you can subdivide in different banks to clarify different segments in a song for instance).

Using patterns in two different ways in the Sequence

There are two major ways to use the matrix pattern step sequencer in Reason:
- use the pattern lane to alter the way that the patterns are played in a sequence. To access the pattern step sequencer real quick is to right click and select "edit automation" on the pattern section at the left of the matrix.

Matrix pattern step sequencer in Reason

Or: 

- use right click and copy pattern to the track.

The first method is usually the route to use this device when you just get started with reason. Since it is much easier to be pattern oriented to create a song, rather then focusing too much on midi notes in a sequencer (heck, I will admit, I started this way too). The second method (copy pattern to the track) is a more advanced route. Since in this case you will use the matrix as a quick prototype device where you write the original idea. Then you copy the notes to the track, move the track to the instrument itself (in this case a subtractor) and then bypass the matrix (turn off the pattern switch at the left top corner) and use the notes to manipulate the sequence (and the way the instrument is playing the notes).

There are however different ways you can use the matrix. For instance in a live performance environment using Reason I would still go for the following route: Advanced usages for the matrix

The Matrix Curve Control voltage output

This kind of brings me to the subject: Control Voltage. Control Voltage in a nutshell is an easy way to automate parameters with a generated pattern. The issue with Control Voltage here is : you either love it. Or you simply hate to use it (just because you don't understand how it works or really do not want to understand how it works). The thing with CV I have done a lot on this subject to cover the basics about control voltage. A very basic guide is located on my Reasonexperts Youtube channel

The matrix can kind of act like a custom made waveform that sends out a Control voltage path defined by the waveform in the matrix. This is done by the following steps:
- Set the Curve/Key switch to curve

 Matrix pattern step sequencer curve

- Draw in a curve inside the middle section of the matrix (this can be done by clicking an holding the mouse and draw in a curve, or set values per step)

Matrix pattern step sequencer curve

- Toggle to the rear of the rack (press tab)
- take an aspirin (in case you need it)
- Connect the Curve CV output to any setting of an instrument

Matrix pattern step sequencer curve

In this particular case the Curve CV output is connected to the Filter 1 filter frequency of the Subtractor Analog synthesizer. What will happen in theory is that the filter 1 frequency will change accordingly to the pattern we have drawn inside the curve itself. While in most cases you will use an LFO in most cases to do this. Knowing that you can do any parameter in such a way is quite the essential piece on information you will need to move on to the next section. So that is what I will do.

The Matrix Toolbox

Right with the introduction out of the way let me start talking about the Matrix toolbox I have been setting up. The toolbox I have created contains 4 different matrix pattern step sequencers which have been designed in the following way:
- Gated
- Sweeping
- Random
- Ramps / Ramps reverse

At some extend this would not be any different then using a gated LFO or a Gradual upwards moving LFO. Difference here is that the timing of these curves are sometimes different then the default 16 / 32 steps. This usually turns in to off-beat patterns. Thus giving it a more organic / natural / un-rythmic type of feel.

Matrix toolbox

This toolbox is programmed inside a Combinator patch. Where rotary one controls the first curve, rotary 2 controls the second curve and so on. The benefit behind this set up is that you can launch the toolbox pretty quick by grabbing the patch, load it up in the rack. The only thing that remains to do is to connect all the different Curve outputs to different Control voltages where they need to go to. In the following Reason music file I have done this for you. So the only thing you will need to do to make it work it press play, play some notes and you can hear the magic happen more or less. Remember the rotaries will define different patterns thus the result may vary per setting.

matrix-toolbox.zip

To Be continued

I will leave this for now. Hopefully tomorrow I will come up with a second version for this since I had this idea about scaling / merging different curves with different results. So to be continued.

Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2017-08-23

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