…and without Max for Live getting involved.
The one thing I really enjoy about both Ableton Live and Reason is the amount of tweaking they’ll allow you to do. In most cases there is no “right” or “wrong” way to solve a problem, instead there are a dozen different ways to get something done and each will have its advantage or disadvantages. But the best part is that both programs will easily allow you to do totally crazy stuff, things totally out of the ordinary. And here is yet another example of that…
Live and Reason over rewire usage; the dry theory…
Normally when you want to use Reason together with Live you’ll setup a rewire connection. In this setup Live will control the communication with your hardware (midi controllers, audio interfaces, etc.) as well as provide Reason with midi data to process after which it will pick up the produced audio by Reason again and sent this across its regular channels.
Rewire is all about sending out midi and receiving audio. People are working on the next version of the rewire protocol which should allow for more extensive communication, but in the mean time we are limited to sending midi out and getting audio back whenever we’re using rewire slaves.
That is, up until now…
Getting midi from Reason into Live
As mentioned above both Reason and Live allow for much tweaking. In Reason you have both the environment itself which provides massive routing capabilities just like some of its devices. In particular Thor; the routing capabilities of this synthesizer are rivalled only by the Reason environment itself. And these capabilities are what we’ll be using here.
Although it is not possible to send midi over rewire channels back into Live you can send audio into Live. And that made a few people think about this; Thor’s extensive routing capabilities provide all the facilities you need to send out midi data over an audio channel.
So when this “midi audio” comes into the rewire master all you’d need is to somehow process the audio and “extract” the midi data which was sent. And that is basically what we’re going to do here…
Don’t worry, it sounds much more difficult than it actually is.
First of all let it be well known that in this case I’m but the messenger. I was one of the first people who picked up on this with Ableton Live and set it up (after being quite the unbeliever and critic over it as well) but I’m not the one who thought it all up. That credit belongs to a guy named Zenmonkey, you can find him on both the Reaper and Live forums (more active on the Reaper forums). See for all the details the last part of this blog post.
ReaPlugs VST FX Suite
The ReaPlugs need to be installed in a place where they are reachable by Live. Keep in mind that merely creating shortcuts to the .dll files will not cut it since ReaJS depends on a specific directory structure, as can be seen to the right.
As you can see I keep all of my vst’s in the VST sub directory of my ‘Ableton’ data directory. This ‘Ableton’ directory also contains stuff like my library, samples, some Komplete related data and some of the freely available livepacks which Ableton provides for download.
The next requirement is to setup Reason so that it acts as a rewire slave for Live. You can easily test this by pulling in an instrument such as Thor and use this to play some sounds. If that works you know that Reason is ready.
Now that we’re all prepared start by pulling the reajs plugin onto a midi track in Live. Because it is an audio effect you’ll notice that there will be some space left before it; that’s quite ok, just ignore that for now.
Once the file is loaded you should end up with a window like the one which you can see below.
However, do pay close attention to the audio channels on which it expects to receive midi data. By default, as can be seen here, note cv data comes over the left channel whereas gate cv data is picked up on the right channel.
Be very careful to always keep the option “audio passthrough” set to its default of no.
The reason for that should be pretty obvious; under normal circumstances you do not want to hear the noise which your midi data will produce. And believe me; it can produce some very horrific and unwanted noise indeed. Now its time to setup Reason..
Configuring the Reason part
In your Reason rack all you basically need is a Thor synth and obviously the RPG-8 arpeggiator.
The patching is pretty sub standard, as can be seen here. Connect the Gate CV out of the RPG8 to the CV1 inlet of Thor and the Note CV out should go to the CV2 inlet of Thor.
Next you can simply connect Thor’s audio outputs to those of the hardware device. If you pulled in Thor without keeping the shift key pressed its likely that Reason will have already setup these connections for you.
Now comes the “hard” part; telling Thor that it should send out the data coming into its cv inlets right to its audio outlets.
Now, this could be a bit confusing but we actually need to do a little cross wiring. Remember the situation above? reajs expects gate CV to come into the right audio channel and note CV to go into the left audio channel.
So; CV1 input should be send out of audio outlet 2 whereas CV2 input should be send out of audio outlet 1. Of course you can also easily do some “cross patching” by connecting the left outlet with the right inlet of the hardware device, but that’s all up to you.
I prefer to do the routing in the routing section of Thor itself, this also makes the cable section look less confusing and will possibly prevent any mistakes from getting made (I can see myself loading a Reason song but only to conclude that audio out 1/2 should be connected to outlet’s 1/2 of the hardware device).
Configuring the Live part
The easiest way to setup the rewire section in Live is by pulling in an external instrument before the reajs plug-in. Now be careful to set it up so that it will send the midi output to the arpeggiator (the Arp device) and not to an instrument like Thor. Also be sure to setup the incoming audio to the first 2 audio channels.
This may sound confusing at first but don’t forget that Thor is only being used to route the midi data, and nothing else. In our setup Thor is not an instrument but merely a crude “relay point”.
The thing which really matters to us is the arpeggiator, and to make it process any midi data we obviously need to send it some, that’s what we’ll be doing here.
Now we’re almost done…
The only problem we face now is to make some good use of the incoming midi data. On first hand this may seem very tricky since the ‘reajs’ plug-in is picked up as an audio effect by Live. In other words; the only kind of data which Live expects coming from reajs is audio data.
I think the best way to overcome this problem is to pull in another midi track and tell that one to accept only midi coming from the “rewire track”. As you can see I prefer pinpointing the midi data to come from the reajs plugin, but you can also use the “post fx” option, that will make no real difference.
To make it easier on your end I’d suggest switching monitoring to “In” so that you only have to worry about having to arm 1 midi track; the one which will directly control the Reason arpeggiator.
After that you should be all setup…
Configure the Reason arpeggiator in a specific way, arm the midi track and start playing a note. For example; I really love the “3-1” kind of options combined with an octave change (‘up + down’ for example).
That is the kind of effect which Live’s native arpeggiator effect simply doesn’t support at this time.
And before I forget.. Don’t worry if you spot a signal coming in from Reason which seems to stay constant all the time. This is perfectly normal, see for an example the screenshot below. This is why I warned you earlier to keep the option “audio passthrough” set to no.
And there you have it
Obviously you’re not merely limited to just the arpeggiator, I’d also advice you to experiment a little more. Although Live’s midi editor can easily prevail it might still be an interesting experience to check up on the Matrix effect to see what you can do with that one.
However, its been my experience so far that out of all devices the arpeggiator works the best.
Now, to give you a quick recap of the interesting URL’s again:
- This got also discussed on the Ableton forums, you can find that thread here.
- You can grab the excellent ReaPlug suite here.
I think examples like these are solid proof that although a DAW may seem “small” (like Reaper) or “limited” (like Reason) one shouldn’t judge a DAW by its appearance or even common reputation alone. Get your hands dirty, look into it and who knows.. you may come out surprised at the sheer impact too.
To close.. While speaking of other DAW’s I can’t help mention / sharing this video which shows you some of the upcoming features in the next FL Studio version. FL Studio, formerly known as Fruity Loops, is one of those DAW’s which many people approach with a certain bias and maybe even some disdain. When I first came into contact with FL Studio I felt completely lost, never really tried it again.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to keep up… Quite frankly; a video such as this, and especially the sound track which accompanies it, makes me very glad that I didn’t.