Review: Propellerhead Reason 9

September 20, 2016

When I reviewed Reason 8, it felt like a rounding out of the program’s feature-adding spree with a proper interface overhaul to make it tidier and even more convenient to get great results fast. I wondered what Propellerhead would do next.

Fig. 1. Along with new devices, new sounds, and vocal Pitch Edit mode, Reason 9 sports a few aesthetic changes, as well, such as the optional color themes for the interface window; a blue one is shown here.
Sure enough, as time marches on, DAW software inevitably raises the standard for stock features, and part of the Reason 9 update fixates on giving its users nice options that other workstations have added, such as vocal pitch editing and exporting monophonic audio to MIDI data (see Figure 1). Of course, the passage of time also reveals new trends in popular music styles, and Propellerhead has hit us with the mother lode of new Instrument patches. Reason 9 keeps all of its old Factory Sound Bank while adding more than 1,000 new and meticulously designed patches, the bulk of which focus on synthesizer sounds for trending dance-floor genres.

Finally, some of the greatest new add-ons to Reason 9 have nothing to do with keeping up with the times, but rather they offer up some great homegrown Propllerhead tools called Players.

Don’t Hate the Players

Reason 9 adds a new class of rack devices, Players, to the Browser menu. All three of them are strictly MIDI tools to use in conjunction with Reason’s Instruments. They process, filter and/or generate MIDI notes to turn simple input into interesting musical phrases and progressions.

The Scales & Chords Player can confine any input note you play to a set key and scale, and you choose whether it mutes or corrects any played notes that fall outside the settings. The Chords function can generate chords of up to five notes from a single note (and keep them within the specified key and scale). But it really gets fun when you experiment with setting the chords to one of four inversions, or turning on Open Chords, which will play certain notes of a chord transposed by an octave up or down to space the notes wider apart. You can further beef up the chords by adding a note an octave above and/or below the root. Finally, the Color and Alter controls can introduce ninths, elevenths, thirteenths, or notes slightly outside the scale of the chord.

The Note Echo Player repeats the MIDI data fed into it up to 17 times (with tempo sync as an option). You have control over the number of repeats, the step length, changes to the pitch and velocity of the repeats, and the chance to “mute” repeats to create rhythmic patterns. Propellerhead described Note Echo as the easiest Player to understand, but the deepest to explore. It’s one of those things that you can just slap onto any Instrument track, dial in some settings, and you’ll always come up with something interesting.

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