How To Master Audio Mixing At Home Music Studio? Reason Subtractor Tutorial: The Basics, Tips & Tricks 2022

About the Subtractor Synthesizer

As you may be aware, the Subtractor is a polyphonic synthesiser that belongs to the analog(type) family and employs subtractive synthesis. If you don’t mind, I’ll give you some specifics: Essentially, subtractive synthesis is characterised by a certain amount of circulation among the various modulation-parameter combinations.

In the first place, the Oscillators (VCOs) generate particular fundamental waves by layering subwaveforms on top of one another. Consequently, you may change the fundamental nature of your music by switching between the many waveforms available in Subtractor (please refer to the manual for further description of each of those). You will, however, be familiar with the fundamental kinds of waves, which include the sine wave, sawtooth wave, square wave, pulse wave, and triangle wave.

As a result, the newly created wave wanders into the filter-section (VCF), where particular frequencies of the wave are damped/cut off by restricting oscillation at certain frequencies depending on the set values. The fundamental form of your sound-baby is also determined by this.

It is necessary to intensify the wave oscillations that come from this stage, which is done in the VCA (or the Amp section of Subtractor). Given that the mere usage of an amplifier would result in a loss of time-dynamic, we should be thankful for the existence of envelope curves. As you can see in the illustration, when a sound is triggered, there are four components that are responsible:

Attack – Decay – Sustain – Release. They all are sequentially setting in, a key is pressed.

  • Attack controls how fast a signal goes from zero to maximum level.
  • Decay determines the amount of time it takes for a signal to reach the Sustain level.
  • Sustain is important for the level which is held until a note ends (key is hold).
  • Release, finally, is responsible for what happens after a note ends: how fast the envelope fades to zero, to be precise, how long a note keeps on sounding after the key was released.

The technical components of crafting the body of your sound have been discussed thus far. This body may be modulated further in the following method, making it rougher or clearer or anything you like. If we talk about component four (see figure 1 for more information), there you can control how the filter grows up and lasts by manipulating its envelope; you can do the same with the modulation envelope. In accordance with ADSR, each of them determines the manner in which the specified destinations are activated.

Finally, there is the LFO part (number five), which is detailed in detail below. The waveforms created by the LFOs are not intended to be heard, but rather to modify the sound produced by the Oscillators and other instruments. In order to do so, they oscillate at low frequencies, which is how they got their moniker. Subtractor’s LFO1 allows you to choose the shape to be formed at low frequencies, while LFO2 generates a variety of somewhat independent shapes. Depending on your filter settings, you may make tones that steadily swing up and down by modifying the rate- and quantity values, or you can create harsh and distorted sounds by raising these two values. Further technical details may be found in the reason-manual [for further information, please see the reason-manual].

What the Subtractor is ‘good’ in (or at least my way of working with it)

It’s more common for me to utilise the subtractor as a source for ‘regular sounds’ since it has basses, string- or bell-like melodic parts, and other such elements. When it comes to special effects, the Malstrom is my first pick. That’s how I see it, and that’s how I keep it in mind when producing songs. The Subtractor offers a plethora of settings that, when used properly (which, in my opinion, requires a lot of patience), can produce amazing sweeps as well as pounding basslines, whereas I adore the Malstrom for being so capable of performing alienated effect-work in a reasonable amount of time, whereas (due to its power, the combined granular- and wavetable- synthesizes). But, I suppose, everyone has a preference for various jobs that they like to use.

(My) System of sound-shaping with Subtractor

Basically, the path you take to change all of the wonderful tiny knobs and buttons in Subtractor should be quite similar to the one described and depicted above in terms of flow (pic 1). I’ll attempt to explain my approach to Subtractor to you in the following way:

In order to begin, I choose an appropriate waveform from the available spectrum, which is determined by the kind of sound I wish to produce. Switching on the second OSC, which has been prepared with a waveform that complements the first, and accentuating it more than the first allows the sound to become more powerful and voluminous, particularly if the two OSCs play at different octaves. The phase-off of each OSC, as well as increasing OSC1’s frequency modulation by OSC2, may be changed if I wish to ‘rough up’ the resultant sound structure. If this was the intention, it often results in a loss of cleanness in the tone. I then proceed to cut the signal’s body using the frequency filter, which I find to be quite effective. For damp/smoother sounds, I keep the frequency and res levels low, while raising the frequency if I want them to be sharper or more piercing. You may try using resonance to make more acid-like sorts, since it has the ability to modify the frequency’s characteristic or range, as well as the quality of the frequency.

Then it’s time to restrict the size of our baby’s body: utilise the attack-value to select how smooth the sound begins to play before limiting the size of our baby. For the time being, changing the release level is sufficient to produce a discernible difference. To obtain longer sounds and strings, raise the volume. For example, I may utilise the filter to vary the tone’s build-up by editing the filter envelope, which results in a damp start and crisp conclusion, depending on the situation. Now is the time for me to make a decision regarding the quantity of random or rhythmical movement that should be included in my signal. This is accomplished by varying LFO1 and LFO2. A clever method to do this is to mix modifications that start instantly (LFO1) and are followed by some vibration or other effect that seems somewhat delayed in LFO2. Of course, the final decision is yours. Keep in mind that with Reason 2.0, it is now possible to synchronise the initial low-frequency oscillator with the beat rate of the music being played. This is a very preliminary sketch of how one would go about the process of ‘creating’ sounds.

Worxample – Creating a smooth bass

I’ve picked waveform 10, which plays the 2nd octave on the first OSC and as support nr. 9 on the second OSC for our little demonstration (also at 2nd octave). As I was leaving LoPass12, I adjusted the Filter-Freq to 30 and the Resonance to 18. (leaving away Filter 2 this time). In order to completely sculpt its body, I boost the Amp’s Attack value to 44, both Decay and Sustain values to their maximum levels, and Release to around 61. Isn’t it true that we should have arrived at this point with a lovely, smooth bass? That’s all there is to it 😉 No, we’d want to make it a little more engaging for everyone… For starters, we introduce a little but noticeable’slip’ into our bass-tone by decreasing the Decay-value to 30 and increasing the Filter-Envelope Attack-controller from 63 to 63 while keeping the Amount-controller untouched. If you crank up the volume, you’ll notice a distinct change. After that, we’ll add some ‘shaking’ by switching to Amp inside the LFO2 section and increasing the Rate- and Amount-values by roughly half a step each (64 or so). See? Alternatively, mild attempts resulted in a sound that might be appropriate for a downbeat track or something similar. It’s easy to rapidly add darker features to this initial attempt by tweaking a few additional settings. You can then, of course, use effect devices like as Reverb to make it even more unique.

Overall, things are going well – thank you for paying attention 😉 I hope that this little review of the facts regarding this powerful gadget, offered by Propellerhead’s Reason, has piqued your interest in some way. If this is the case, please notify me immediately since I’d want to proceed with certain Malstroem-related activities.

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