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10 March 2011


There are some big, fat dirty lies which capture the zeitgeist: 1 The economy is turning round, no, really. 2 'Of course I'll love you in the morning'. And 3 Propellerhead Software’s Reason may be just for beginners because it's so easy to use. Wrong, wrong, wrong and rong. And no, I don't really know what kind of tranquilizer dart you need to take down a zeitgeist either; I just put it there as a big, liberal newspaper kind of a word to make me sound more erudite. Well you're not here because you want to talk politics or love, so we'll leave the first two BFD lies, but what of Reason? Even when version 1 came out it could get pretty complicated. It's got more knobs and cables than the San Fransisco bondage scene. So, faced with this, you need a man like Scott Griggs talkin' to you on Groove3's Reason 5 Explained videos.

What we have here is a series of videos aimed at a newbie to Reason 5. That's Reason 5, not Propellerhead Record 1.5, so let's get that right from the off. Now any damn fule can look at the default demo song and hit a key on their MIDI keyboard and with little effort can select some patches and play different sounds. Then they can look at the mixer and wonder what it is. And it all goes downhill from there. The series of videos we are looking at aims to throw a lifebelt at them. So does it give them something to grab onto, or knock them out? I wish I'd had something like this when I got my copy of Reason 1 a decade(?) or more ago. Because it's good for instant gratification, but making songs and knowing what good practices are is another matter. Scott assumes nothing about the level of knowledge of the viewer and gives an overview of Reason rather than going into great detail over the individual modules. And that hellish plate of spaghetti that awaits the poor, hapless beginner when they accidentally hit the Tab key to see what's on the reverse of the module.

I agree with the philosophy behind this series. Reason is way too big to cover in detail in this bunch of videos, and I'm hoping that it will act as a foundation for further sets of vids covering things like Thor synthesis, producing a song start to finish in Reason, or spaghetti recipes round the back (remember the Tab key?). And, of course, a sister set of videos covering Record would, I'm sure, go down a storm. It seems Groove3 has the philosophy of keeping the video run times down to 5 to 20 minutes if possible. This is a good thing. It's a pity to watch something and find yourself getting bored, impatient for the speaker to shut up or, ever worse, starting to nod off. These videos are bite-sized. I'll take a wild guess that Scott is from the Southern US. Actually, it's not that wild a guess, since he has a marked accent that I found engaging and comfortable; like someone lounging on a chair next to me having a chat. That said, I occasionally found myself listening to the way Scott was talking rather than what he was saying. But Scott, if you are reading this, then let it be known that I've reduced a professional linguist to sniggery titters when I gave him both barrels of my West Midlands accent, so Pot. Kettle. Black.

I've used Reason on and off since it was first released. I was in the position of knowing a lot of what Scott had to say while picking up a few nuggets along the way. But (and I don't know why) I'd never taken the time to get to grips with ReGroove or the RPG8 arpeggiator modules. So I was able to look at these two videos with the eyes of a big inner and the two bear some comparison. The first of the two is for the ReGroove mixer and it's here where I can't give an unqualified thumbs up.

The video is around 9.5mins, but the first 8.5 are given over to explanation. I found myself trying to juggle concepts and memorise things without a practical example or the sound of the module coming through the speakers. It became a bit confusing, even frustrating until I heard the first example of ReGroove affecting Redrum, coming through at 8:26mins, that the penny started to drop. Sure, I could go back and listen again when I'd got the concept, but compare it to the following video in the series about the RPG8. Scott dives in here and right off the bat there's examples galore while he's telling you what he's doing, while he's doing it and there's the example as he speaks. This was exactly what I wanted and 10 minutes after I'd started the video I was wondering why I'd ever scratched my head about it. Which, if you think about it, could be a good real-world definition of a successful tutorial video.
Simon Foster

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