Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

5 Minute Instruments: #2, a la THX

So last week was the beginning of the series that youtube user MrBrandonPeoples and I started. Here's week 2.

Here's Brandon's video

5 minute instruments: #1

Last week I was messing around in reason and wondered what kind of instrument I could come up with if I had a time limit. One thing led to another and I ended up having a Youtube account and the beginning of a video series. I'll warn you now: I am by no means a video producer, so I expect the first few videos will be rather dry.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New stuff all around

So I've got the new versions of Reason and Record now, and am just getting out of the "whoa" phase. Gotta say, Propellerhead did a great job with the Kong Drum Designer. The new machine does for drums what Thor does for synths. I'll still be making drums with Thor for the refills, at least until most people have upgraded to version 5, though I may program them in Kong as well and release v5 refills too. It seems like refills made in this version with the new refill packer will work in reason 4 as long as the new features aren't used, but I'll be doing a bunch of testing to make sure before I release the next refill--which I'm in the home stretch on right now. Lots of drums in this one. One more thing I'll have to test out is whether there can be a folder of v5-only instruments within a refill and it will still be able to be opened in v4, just with those specific instruments being unusable until Reason is upgraded. If not, we'll figure something out.
In any case, the instrument emulations are nearly done for the next release. Off to do more right now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How Far We've Come

Today I was searching for the name of a sound that was on every early 90's drum machine and I fell into researching the history of the drum machine--which is 45 years older than I thought--and that led to a search into to history of synthesizers. Suffice it to say I learned quite a bit and got nothing done that I meant to. It turned into a very long post on the propellerheads forum. Here are the results...

1875 Elisha Gray, Electric Telegraph For Transmitting Musical Tones

1916 Arseny Avraamov, Graphic-Sonic Art "By knowing the way to record the most complex sound textures by means of a phonograph, after analysis of the curve structure of the sound groove, directing the needle of the resonating membrane, one can create synthetically any, even most fantastic sound by making a groove with a proper structure of shape and depth"

1920 Leon Theremin playing the... Theremin

1928: Ondes Martenot - h/t to SSGamelord over on the propellerhead forum for this one

1930: Theremin's Rhythmicon (craziness! at 2:45)

1939: Hammond Novachord

Novachord and Theremin - incredible sound here

1947: Chamberlin Rhythmate

1959: Wurlitzer Sideman

1964: Raymond Scott's Rhythm Synthesizer (make sure to check out the creepiness at 3:10)

1965: Good ole Bob

1967 - Ace Tone (roland) Rhythm Ace

1969 Robin Gibb - Saved By The Bell (drums)

1971 Can - Peking O

1972 Eko Computerhythm

1978 Roland CR-78

1980 Linn LM-1
Roland TR-808

1983: MIDI!!!

1984 Apple and C64

1985: Atari ST

1989: "Sound Tools"

1991 General MIDI (and TMBG)

1992: Samplitude

1994: ReCycle

1996: Cubase VST

1997: Rebirth

2000: Reason

After looking over this collection I think this could make one hell of an ad for PH (leaving out any competitors of course)
Oh, I never did find the name of that sound, either.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Blob Has Spread

Oh look at that - "The Blob" from my Possession In Reason post showed up over on Reason: Patch A Day here - .558 Reader Contribution: The Blob
Thanks Robb!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Combinator: Inferno Sweep

This instrument—from an upcoming refill—is good for transitions, accents, and maybe even as an atmospheric pad depending on how you set it up. Turn off the filter envelope and hit the “poly/mono” button and it could be useful as a lead instrument as well.
My favorite settings: All buttons on, Amount: 60 – 75, Unison and Chorus: 0, and played on the bottom two octaves.
Download from 3rd Floor.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Possession In Reason (and Happy Independence Day)

Occasionally you’ll come across an instrument in Reason that—while it looks unassuming on the outside—on the inside it appears to be a living entity. Dials are moving on their own, waveforms are switching, the pea soup is flying. Eh, maybe not that last part, but you get the idea. It’s all in the CV: By routing Control Voltage to the right spots you can create one of these mystery machines and creep out the next guy.

1 - We’ll start by creating a combinator, and for the sake of cabling ease later on we’ll add in everything at once.
In the combinator: create a 6 channel mixer, an RV7000, then hold shift & create a Thor (shift stops the auto-routing) and lastly, create a malstrom. The thor is the CV device, it won’t be generating any sound of its own for this patch. The malstrom should be connected to channel 1 on the line mixer.

2 - Now it’s time to put thor (our ghost) in control of the malstrom.
A. Right click thor and select “initialize patch” to bring it back to basics.
B. Open it up, and in the programmer section—for the uninitiated, it’s at the bottom, above the sequencer—in the first line click the first dropdown and select Filter Env as source 1, amount: 100, destination dropdown: CV Output > 1.
Now, through CV, the filter envelope is being sent outside thor.
C. Flip the rack around by pressing tab, and in the “modulation output” section drag a cable from CV 1 up to the Rotary 1 jack on the combinator, and turn the knob next to it all the way up. This puts CV 1 in control of whatever you set the combinator’s rotary to affect.
D. Flip the rack back around and click “Show Programmer” on the combinator. Select malstrom 1, and on the right next to Rotary 1 click the Target dropdown menu and select “Modulator A Curve.”

3 - It doesn’t sound like anything is happening yet. It’s OK, your ears aren’t lying.
Down on the malstrom take a look at the Mod A section: thor is set up to control that waveform and if you play and hold a note right now you’ll see it do that, but the sound isn’t changing yet because the modulator (the waveform) has to be set to change something.
A. I set it this way: Rate = 88, Pitch = 0, Index = 34, and Shift = 28. Now you’ll start hearing a difference.
B. I didn’t like the FemaleChoir in Oscillator A so I changed it to JewsHarp, which is 3 clicks down on the voice selector. I always thought it was called a jaw harp, but anyway, now we’ve got a bit of a formant sound going on, and a dire need to turn off Osc B by clicking the little yellow power button above it. It sounds a lot better without it, try playing a note down around the 1st octave and, well, I’m not sure what to call that. Turn the “spread” knob (lower right corner) off so the sound is centered.
C. The waveform isn’t changing quick enough for my taste, so in thor’s Filter Env section change the decay time (D) to 1.24 seconds.

4 - Lets make this more useable:
A. On the combinator I renamed Rotary 1 to Mod A Curve, adjusting this changes which waveforms the motion begins and ends on.
B. You’ll want to be able to turn it off, so in the combinator’s programmer click thor on the left, and in the target dropdown next to Button 1 on the right select “mod 1 dest amount” (way at the bottom of the list). To the right of that change the first number to 0, so when you turn off button 1 what you’ll be doing is changing that parameter in thor’s programmer to 0, so the filter envelope will be sending nothing to CV Out1.

5 - I’m going to run through the rest of the settings pretty quickly, because they go through the same pattern:
A. Thor, programmer line 2: Source = LFO1, Amount = 81, Dest = CV Output>2
B. Flip the rack, connect CV 2 to combinator rotary 2 and turn the knob up.
C. Combinator programmer: select malstrom. Rotary 2, target = oscillator a index
D. Rename rotary 2 to Index Point. This changes the center point of the index
Take a look at the Malstrom and play a note and you’ll see what you just did. Oscillator A’s index now shifts back and forth when you play a note and gives it a sort of vibrato feel

6A - Thor, programmer line 3: Source = Mod Env, Amount = 60, Dest = LFO 1 Rate.
Now thor’s mod envelope controls the speed of the Index setting, so we have to set that as well: In the Mod Envelope section of thor: Delay = 0, A = 0, D = 552ms, R = 105ms.
B - Combinator programmer:
Thor – rotary 3 – mod 2 dest amount – 0 – 100 – Name: Index Amount.
Line Mixer – rotary 4 – channel 1 aux send – Name: Reverb Amount
RV7000 – button 4 – enabled – 2 – 1 – Name: Reverb
So what you just did is set the combinator up so you can turn on reverb (button 4) and adjust the amount (rotary 4). Rotary 3 now controls how much the index shifts back and forth on malstrom’s osc. 1.
The last thing to do is right click the malstrom, create a DDL-1 delay unit, and to give the sound a bit of a robotic feel set it like this: 30 ms, feedback = 54, dry/wet = 64, and in the combinator programmer select delay 1. Button 2, enabled, 2, 1. Name: Delay. There’s your on/off button, and button 3 is still empty for you to put whatever you want there.
If you don’t think much of this strange sound, all you have to do is change the voice in oscillator 1 on the malstrom. My personal favorite is FX: Resonant Noise.
By routing thor’s CV to the combinator’s rotaries there are infinite possibilities, the key is to play with the programmers, buttons, and knobs. Just don’t do that to my car stereo.
Download the finished combinator from 3rd Floor.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Combinator: Blenderific

Blenderific is one of those instruments that happens while attempting to make something else, but sounds interesting so you save it for later. It’s a basic square lead that took a wrong turn and got caught in an LFO and a Scream box. It opens in an “unblended” state, but crank up the Rate knob to 127, and bring the LFO knob up slowly and you’ll hear it slide from a basic lead into an unsteady sounding white noise. Leave the rate knob somewhere in the middle and turn up the LFO and there’s no telling what notes you’ll end up with. Blenderific will be included in a future refill.
My favorite settings: LFO-22, Rate-127, Distortion-on. Those settings will give you something reminiscent of an old style electronic alarm clock on the higher notes, around the 5th octave. Download it here

Monday, May 10, 2010


I'm on it. I run the 3rd Floor twitter account (@3rdFloorSound) and if I ever figure out how to do it, I'll put a permanent link somewhere on the page. Follow me, I don't post constantly, but I'll always send a message when there's a new post here or a new refill up on

Thursday, May 6, 2010

3rd Floor Sound

3rd Floor Sound makes refills for Propellerhead’s music creation software, Reason. Each refill is crafted to ensure they are highly useable and of the best quality.
This is the blog of 3rd Floor's sound designer, btc.