Creating a Key Switch Combinator in Reason

Reason, by Reason Studios  , is truly a fun and exciting way to make music. Whether it's EDM, Pop Rock or even Classical, Reason provides a vast library of samples and loops, synthesizers, sampling devices and various utilities to come up with some really inspired and innovative ideas for music creation. It even looks cool with its rack-based and cleverly designed studio components which mirror realistic hardware, as well as its neat cabling and routing abilities when you flip the rack around to view the back side.

But it does have its quirks! For starters, it still doesn't support third party VST3 plugins, and yet its own Reason Rack Plugin is VST3. Hmmmm. And, probably more frustratingly, it doesn't support midi channels on its sequencer tracks. Now this can actually be a major issue when working with sample libraries from other manufacturers. And in this case, I refer specifically to Play from EastWest / soundsonline . The East West Play device uses midi channel numbers to activate the articulations and instruments that you can load into Play. Then it's fairly straight forward to assign a midi channel number to the track and send it out to Play. With a base 16 midi channels to work with, you can fill a Play device with at least 16 articulations or instruments. No need for multiple instances which can begin to hammer the CPU and RAM.

Well, unfortunately you can't do this in Reason because Reason does not support midi channels by default. So you would need to create multiple instances of Play if you wanted a range of articulations and/or instruments. It all just becomes a little messy!

In the video that follows, I decided to see how well Reason could do to emulate the Play device by loading samples into a bog standard NN-19 sampler and extending that to create a keyswitched device using the Combinator and the Thor synthesizer. I think it's interesting in how one can get it to work within the Reason domain and thereby save on resources and processing strain. The keyswitching principle is by no means as extensive as a full keyboard that you find the third party sample libraries, but it is a way to achieve  basic keyswitching if that's something you need in a Reason production.