Large scale musical compositions can present a number of daunting problems: how does one gain access to an orchestra, or other ensembles? Where does one find the time to organize these bodies, make sure they practice, find venues for them to play in, and make sure the composition sounds the way it’s supposed to?
Or, in other genres, how does one afford all the equipment, all the effects units, compressors, and recording tools? In the past, this kind of activity was the privilege of full time composers and financially backed performers. However, Virtual Music Composition has opened up this world to anyone with the enthusiasm and artistic vision to take part in it.
Propellorhead’s Reason software is a brilliant place for the virtual composer to start. It comes with a broad range of virtual instruments and sound samples, catering to most needs (other ‘refills’ are available on top of the standard ones, of course), and it allows for incredible freedom in arranging and producing a track.
The graphically rich interface is simple and intuitive enough to allow the new user to play with the dials, move the faders, and hook up the wires, in a safe (no risk of damaging thousands of dollars worth of equipment!) emulation of using the software’s physical, ‘real world’ hardware counterparts.
Yet Reason has enough depth, complexity and potential hiding underneath that user friendly exterior to allow for infinite ways to organize signals, arrange instruments, and process audio – all allowing artists to achieve the kind of sound that they can already hear in their heads.
With automation abilities, allowing for volume, stereo panning, and a host of other functions to be programmed for each virtual device, the opportunities for complex art to be realized are manifold.
The software has a full compliment of orchestral sound samples, with a variety of articulation types and recorded volume levels present for each instrument.
Though not nearly as extensive as some other higher-end sound packages, such as East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra, Reason provides more than enough to give someone who wants to start out in the world of virtual orchestra a rich, intuitively arranged toolbox.
This comes together with its ‘Core’ sound bank, one that covers a huge range of instruments, from organs, pianos, guitars and drums, to African percussive instruments and didjeridoos. It also includes a comprehensive range of preset synthesizer sounds and present effects-device settings.
For the more advanced user, the synths and effects devices can be tweaked and toyed with to produce any number of possible results.
The software’s usefulness extends into the realm of cross platform compatibility: through Propellorhead’s Rewire technology, built into Reason by default, Reason can be used in conjunction with other software, such as Logic, Cubase, or Pro Tools.
This allows it to be used side by side with more audio recording oriented software, while giving a virtual composer the same access to the enormous sound banks and high quality synthesizers that are its real benefits.
Coming in at $299 on Amazon – with hugely discounted major updates for life – Reason is the affordable alternative to extensive, $1000+ sound banks.
One aspect of the program that is quite remarkable is how little system-resources it takes up: a full scale orchestra, with EQ and reverb, playing a complex run in a symphonic piece, will play smoothly, without having to be mixed down to fixed audio, on a 2Gb RAM, 2.4GHz CPU system.
The program and all the sound files take up little more than 2Gb of HD space; the individual song files take up next to no space at all.
Not only does a composer no longer require a real orchestra or a real recording studio to create epic and diverse pieces, but neither do othey require a high end system, with 8Gb of RAM or more, multiple high speed processors, and endless amounts of HD space – costing several thousands of dollars.
So, as both a long term investment, with lots of complexity to discover, and lots of potential for producing or contributing to the production of professional, high quality sounds, and a starting point for anyone sitting at their computer wanting to get into the world of large scale compositions, Reason is a safe bet, and one that comes highly recommended.