Groundwork
Pro Tools and Reason Adapted: Upgrade your Drum Loops
By David Franz

One of the things I’m asked about by both new and experienced Pro Tools users is how to use Reason Adapted to create drum loops for Pro Tools sessions. Bringing Reason tracks into Pro Tools via ReWire is easy, and it has opened up some great new song creation tools.

But many users seem to get stuck on using the Reason Adapted drum sequencer instead of taking advantage of the advanced sequencing features built into Pro Tools software. So I’d like to explore the benefits of sequencing drum loops in Pro Tools, bypassing the sequencer in Reason Adapted while still utilizing its sounds.

Setting It Up
Figure 1: The ReWire window,
indicating that Reason Adapted is
an insert on the aux track and the
signal from Reason’s Mix L–Mix R is
feeding the aux input.
Here’s how you might set up a Pro Tools session to use sounds from the Reason Adapted Redrum module, without using Reason’s built-in sequencer:

  1. Create a new MIDI track and a new stereo aux track.

  2. On the stereo aux track, choose Reason Adapted as an insert. Reason will load automatically, if it’s not already open.

  3. Once Reason is loaded, go back to Pro Tools and make sure there’s an output chosen in the ReWire window. (The default is “Mix L–Mix R,” as shown in figure 1.)

  4. Choose “Redrum channel 10” as the output on your MIDI track.

  5. In Reason, choose the drum sounds that you want to use by clicking on the Browse Sample button for each instrument, as in figure 2, and navigating to the location of your Reason samples. (Note: When you installed Reason Adapted, numerous samples were loaded along with the program. To find these samples, try looking in the Reason Factory Sound Bank folder within your Reason Adapted for Digidesign folder. You can preview the samples using the preview play button in the sample browser window, as in figure 3.)

  6. After choosing the drum sounds you want to use in your loop, go back to Pro Tools and begin building your loop in MIDI.

Kicking It Out
Figure 2: Click the Browse Sample
button in Reason Adapted to
preview and choose samples for
your drum loop.
Why bypass Reason Adapted’s sequencer? First, creating a drum loop in Pro Tools is just as easy as creating one in Reason. When you use Reason alone, you tell Redrum where you want individual notes to play by selecting them on the drum machine interface. For instance, you might select the snare track and place notes on 5 and 13 to create a backbeat when working on 4/4 time. In Pro Tools, you use the same exact technique: Using the Pencil tool, you can draw in the notes where you want them on your MIDI track.

Personally, I like the Reason Redrum drum machine interface. But I don’t like the fact that you can only work on one instrument (sound) at a time. In Pro Tools, that limitation doesn’t exist. You can add or subtract notes from any instrument or part at any time, without having to select the individual track to make it active.

And although Reason Adapted is an easy-to-use tool for drum loop construction, it doesn’t offer all the features of a full-fledged sequence editing program like Pro Tools. For example, in the Reason Adapted drum sequencer you can choose from only three different velocity values (hard, medium, and soft), whereas in Pro Tools you can choose velocity values from 0 and 127, giving you far more control and flexibility in creating real-sounding, dynamically varied MIDI parts.

Figure 3: The Sample Browser
window is a handy way to
audition and choose samples
to use in your drum loop.
Human drummers don’t play at just three different velocities. Altering the velocity of the notes is a key technique for giving loops a human feel. For instance, if you make a beat that has all the same velocities on the hi-hat, it will sound very mechanical — no human drummer would play like that. Including small accents on the downbeats to mimic what a real drummer might instinctively play, or adding other accents to alter the feel, can really help make your drum loops groove. Check out figure 4 for an example of using velocities to improve the groove in a Pro Tools drum loop.


Figure 4. Pro Tools gives you the power to alter the velocities of
each note in a drum groove just by grabbing the velocity stalks.
And speaking of grooving, Pro Tools software offers a ton of features to help you quantize your loops and give the loops more swing. Although Reason Adapted and Pro Tools both offer quantization (locking a MIDI performance to a tempo grid), the options in Pro Tools are more advanced and offer more flexibility. For example, you’ve only got one button for adding swing to your drum loops in Reason Adapted. That button is called Shuffle. Shuffle works by delaying all sixteenth notes that fall between the eighth notes. However, the amount of shuffle is set globally for all Reason tracks by the Pattern Shuffle control on the transport panel. By contrast, Pro Tools gives you MUCH more control over the amount and type of swing you can add to your beats. You can apply separate swing quantization types and values to each individual MIDI track.


Figure 5. Applying a groove
template, like this MPC 51% 16th
swing template, can really improve
the feel of your drum loop.
In addition, Pro Tools allows you to apply a groove template to your beat, giving it swing based on eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and so forth, using common swing “feels” from other popular sequencers such as Cubase and Logic, Akai’s MPC devices (see figure 5), Feel Injector grooves, or any other template that you can make yourself. For maximum control over your drum loops, you can quantize the beat yourself using the quantization parameters in Pro Tools instead of groove templates. You can choose your own values for Swing, Strength, Randomize, and other quantization parameters to make your drum loop sound more original and groove much harder.

Download the Pro Tools session ( PC | Mac) and Reason Adapted song ( PC | Mac) (sample settings) used in the example.

Wrap-Up
There are many ways that Reason Adapted and Pro Tools software can work together harmoniously. Whatever method suits you best, go with it — but be aware that with every new version, Pro Tools software is becoming more powerful as a sequencer, and the MIDI features in Pro Tools can really help take your music to a higher level. Next time, I’ll share more techniques on how to use Pro Tools software to increase your creativity and productivity. See you soon. Peace.

Like what you see in this column? Check out my book, Producing in the Home Studio with Pro Tools (2nd Edition). Buy it online through Digidesign’s website, or visit www.protoolsbook.com. Interested in personal instruction on Pro Tools from yours truly? Visit www.berkleemusic.com and learn about several amazing Pro Tools learning experiences available online though Berklee College of Music. Wanna see my studio and hear some samples of my work? Visit www.undergroundsun.com. Feel free to drop me an email at groundwork@undergroundsun.com.