Reason 4 Ignite [Book Review]

reason4igniteI have used Propellerheads products in the past (Rebirth, Recycle, etc.) so I was loosely familiar with some of the technology already.

But Reason is a beast. A complicated, intimidating, but amazingly powerful beast. The interface looks so complex if you have no prior experience with hardware synth programming, it can be nigh impossible to find an entry point without feeling completely overwhelmed.

Front-side view of a Reason rack

Front-side view of a Reason rack

If that sounds like how you feel about the software, then you’ll absolutely love this book. Matt Piper is the host at a social mixer, and all the Reason instruments are guests; He leads you around the party and introduces you to each one. You never stay with any one guest too long, and you don’t get too deep in conversation with any of them, but by the end of the night, you’ll be familiar enough with them all that you’ll know how to strike up a conversation on your own next time.

This book does not walk you through the production of a full-song, which would have been really useful — it sticks with doing 2-4 looped bars and focuses more on the exploration of what you COULD do with the instruments. After reading this book, I felt like I had a better understanding of what is possible (although certainly not *ALL* that is possible). It also does not cover *EVERY* module in Reason, but it does cover all of the Instruments, including in-depth programming with Thor, Malstrom, and Subtractor, as well as many of the sequencing / accessory devices (RPG-8, Matrix, some of the sound fx modules), Combinator, and the samplers (NN-19 and NN-XT, although only at the surface).

Back-side view of a Reason rack

Back-side view of a Reason rack

One of the most helpful aspects of this particular text was that Piper includes screenshots that illustrate the steps of each exercise, with numbered arrows indicating where each step happens (this was EXTREMELY useful on the Thor exercises, since it has so many knobs).

If you’re already familiar with Reason (any version) this book will probably not be very helpful to you at all; as the subtitle says, it is a “visual guide for new users”.

One additional note:
Ideally, you will want to have a MIDI keyboard (I just picked up an M-Audio Oxygen 8 on ebay for right around $50); if you do not have one handy, you can still get through the book quite well with a keyboard emulator such as “Sweet Little Piano”. It doesn’t have velocity sensing, so 2 or 3 of the exercises won’t be possible, but it works well enough for everything else.