Reason: Write Text Notes When Browsing Instruments

Here’s a trick I’ve developed over the years when using Reason. When you’re browsing different instrument sounds and you’re trying to compare and choose the best sound, instead of trying to remember which sounds are the best, instead write notes (text) while auditioning sounds. But don’t bother doing this in a note pad or on a piece of paper, do it directly in the rack. How? You do it with the free ReMark Rack Divider (Propellerhead Shop link) by Selig Audio.

Taking Notes While Auditioning Sounds & FXs

When auditioning sounds, many times I’ll come across a patch, device or effect that I think is okay, but feel that I can find something much better. After 10, 20 or 50 different things later, I realize the thing I had before was probably the best thing. Yet, in trying to go back to find it, I end up not finding it and just giving up.

Instead, when I find something I think might work, I load a ReMark device and make a note of it of each thing I find interesting. I then continue with the audition process.

This method has been great as it saves me the stress of wondering if I should stop auditioning or risk losing something that sounds good. Many times, I’ll have a list of 6 items written down. What I feel is my weakest item on the list, once I go back and audition each one with a fresh set of ears, I realize the “weakest” one is the best one. So why use this device?

ReMark Rack Divider (Free)

The ReMark isn’t the only blank rack plate device available for Reason, but it’s arguably the best one and it’s certainly the best free one. The only other like-quality alternative cost $10, which I feel is way too much money for a simple device like this.

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The ReMark Rack Divider has a simple design, simple function… and it doesn’t break the immersion of the “Reason rack”. In keeping with immersion, there’s only two ways to add notes to items in the rack realistically. Either write on tape with a pen or via an LCD text display. With the ReMark, it chooses the later and does it via LCD displays. Other devices, such as the one that costs $10, just places text on top of the device, totally breaking immersion. With the ReMark 2.0 update, there’s now three lines of text to take notes in. Here’s an image of the back of the device.

The device has the option of color-coding the front of the device, like most other blank rack devices, but I personally never use it and always leave it black. For one, I feel doing colors breaks the immersion and is also tacky and not needed.

So not only does it seem to be the best functioning and performing device of its kind out there, but being that it’s free makes it my only recommended product for taking notes in the rack.

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When You Should And Shouldn’t Take Notes

Just because you can take notes in the rack doesn’t mean you should. There’s many uses for taking notes in the Reason rack but I recommend leaving the rack as unmolested as possible. You shouldn’t be minimizing devices (such as synths, effects or drum kits) because, again, it breaks immersion (it’s impossible to “minimize” real music studio hardware screwed into a rack). So, without minimizing hardware (closing Combinator panels is fine), the rack’s going to get pretty large quickly. See the enlarged thumbnail of one of my songs-in-progress to get a visual idea of a fully non-minimized rack. (I may be the only person who refuses to minimize things.) So you don’t want any hardware up in the rack unless it’s absolutely necessary.

My recommendation is that you really shouldn’t have any ReMark devices unless you absolutely have to take a note for some reason. During the creation process, my project racks will have a ReMark device in it for maybe 2% of the time. The times I use a ReMark device have been when closing out an unfinished project to remind me of something special that needs to be done. This is because, even though it’s fresh in my mind now, it could be hours, days, weeks or months before I come back to the project and having notes in the rack ensures I don’t forget something.

Another great reason is when something major has to be done to the project, such as retiming elements or tempo in the sequencer; basically very hard tasks that I’m likely to put off. Having a ReMark device on top of the rack staring at me… it bugs me. It makes me want to complete the task to remove the device that shouldn’t be there.

Better To Take Notes Than Start All Over Again

If you use Reason, try taking notes when auditioning and see if it makes a noticeable difference.

Later. – MJ