Mention the name Abbey Road Studios to any seasoned professional musician and they’ll rapidly become misty-eyed, recalling the days of the Fab Four on that pedestrian crossing. The quality of the recordings there have attracted classical giants like Maria Callas and Placido Domingo, and more modern pop artists such as Coldplay and Take That, as well as being a favourite venue for movie scores including the Lord of the Rings trilogy and most of the Star Wars films.
Thus one of the biggest attractions of the Premium Edition of Propellerhead’s virtual music studio software, Reason 4, is the additional Abbey Road Keyboards disk which is one of four ‘ReFills’ that have been included in this enhanced package.
Samples were recorded using original mics and a vintage mixing desk of some classic pianos (Challen and Mrs Mills) as well as a Hammond Organ, Mellotron and even the famous Tubular Bells, using multiple microphones that picked up every nuance of the instruments.
The remaining three ReFills in the box are Reason Electric Bass (which, like Abbey Road Keyboards, comes in 24-bit as well as 16-bit versions), Reason Drum Kits 2 (which houses 58 unique drum kits for the Combinator plus 96 additional ReDrum sets) and Reason Pianos, the latter including two Steinways, recorded using six separate microphones to give you a greater ambience.
Whether or not you’re familiar with Reason, if you’re serious about wanting to compose or arrange your own music, this software has been designed to operate as closely to a real music recording studio as possible.
The interface looks identical to a real rack system, even down to one-click reviewing of the patching at the back, and you can add loop players, mixers, pattern sequencers, effects processors, etc., at will or even create your own. Then you can plug in your own keyboard and you’re ready to compose your first album.
If it all seems very daunting at first, there are some excellent tutorials on Propellerhead’s website which will guide you through all the functions of the different pieces of kit. If you’re already a fan of Reason then you’ll be especially pleased by the four newest arrivals on the rack.
The king of these is the Thor Polysonic Synthesizer which features six different oscillator types and four unique filters (three of each can be used simultaneously) which feed into a powerful modulation matrix. Used in conjunction with the built-in step sequencer you have at your command thousands of sound combinations.
Alongside Thor is the RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator, which, although its name sounds like a cartoon space-gun, actually takes your arpeggios and customizes their speed, sequence and patterning and offers a single note repeat function. There’s also an updated Reason sequencer with vector and tempo automation, multiple lane tracks and a new Tool window; and finally the ReGroove Mixer that is dedicated to turning rigid sounds into something more personal and, well, groovy.
It’s worth noting, however, that you still don’t have the facility to record live vocals or instruments and it would be helpful in future editions to be able to maximize the work area to fill your whole screen (or even multiple screens) rather than fill just two-thirds of it.
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