I'm trying to remember my first version of Reason. It was a long time ago. I was just getting started making music on my computer. As a keyboard player, I was excited about the prospect of being able to take my music with me. (After all, you can't conveniently carry a piano around with you.) I found Reason to be a great way to make some of the musical concepts floating around in my head come to audatory life.
When Propellerhead came out with the Balance audio interface, that really kicked things up a notch. I was able to plug a bunch of different instruments into Reason, and it made it extremely easy to collaborate with others and to lay down tracks easily. Reason was really a song writer's dream.
Then Propellerhead started focusing on Rack Extensions. For a couple of versions, it seemed like Reason was slowly turning away from its roots. Don't get me wrong. All of the features I loved were still there, but it just didn't seem like Reason was growing with me. Instead, Reason started to feel a little like a teenager drifting away from the parent who had embraced him so lovingly for so many years.
"I haven't been this excited about Reason in a lot of years, and I'm sure that anyone who loves creating music will feel the same way."
And then Reason 9 happened. Welcome back, old friend! Once again, Reason feels like a great song writer's companion, largely because of the introduction of what Propellerhead calls Players, but there are other features new to Reason 9 that really help inspire.
Players are new devices that are uniquely suited to help inspire you. Reason 9 comes with three Players; Dual Arpeggio, Note Echo, and Scales & Chords. Players are designed to "play" an instrument. By themselves, they do nothing, but connect them to an instrument, and magic can happen.
The Dual Arpeggio player features, as you might have guessed, two arpeggiators with identical settings. Each arpeggiator can be enabled or disabled independently. All of your typical arpeggio features are here in an easy-to-use device, and the usability of the device is excellent. Add in the second arpeggiator and some really cool patterns are possible.
There are plenty of patches for the Dual Arpeggio player included in Reason 9, and playing around with them is a great way to learn how to take advantage of all of the features available. However, you'll eventually want to reset the device and create your own patterns. If you want some pointers on how to do that, check out Propellerhead's excellent video on their YouTube channel.
Note Echo takes a single note and repeats it. Boring? Certainly not! By altering the pitch and step length, you can create some really great strumming effects, one of my favorite things to do with Note Echo. I even like using Note Echo to play instruments you wouldn't typically combine with it; things like dump pads and the like. Let your mind go wild with it and you can really come up with some cool sounds.
Scales & Chords is a revolutionary device for me. It's crazy how many ways you can use it to free yourself as you're creating music. Sure, you can use it to play complex chords when you play a single note, but for me, the real power reveals itself when you combine Scales & Chords with other players. For example, I mentioned that you can configure Note Echo to play a cool strumming pattern, right? Well, since each of those notes progresses a certain number of steps, you can end up with some funky (and out of key) note progressions. However, add in the Scales & Chords player and the notes played by Note Echo are automatically transposed to match the selected key signature. Pure genius!
Of course, you don't have to let Scales & Chords transpose notes. By turning on Filter Notes, you can cause Scales & Chords to simply filter out notes (replace them with silence) that don't match the selected scale. You can also use Scales & Chords to play chords in your selected scale, and combining that with some of the great inversions and other options, you can discover some rich and layered chords that you likely would have never thought of on your own. It really is one of those devices that creates many "Oh, wow!" moments.
Another really cool new feature in Reason 9 is Pitch Edit. Pitch Edit in Reason feels a lot like Melodyne to me, but because it's right within Reason, the workflow is much more convenient. If you've ever used Neptune to try and clean up pitches, you're going to be blown away by Pitch Edit. Gone are the strange transients that could sometimes happen with Neptune. Don't get me wrong. Neptune still has a place on your rack, but if you need to do some serious pitch editing and cleanup, Pitch Edit is sure to impress.
Reason 9 also comes with 1,000 new sounds, all of which are easy to find in your Browser because they're in the "Reason 9 Sounds" folder. That's not all. You also get the ability to bounce tracks in place (and it's fast!), export monophonic clips directly to MIDI easily, use Ableton Link to link apps to Reason wirelessly, a new generation of Rack Extensions (starting in Reason 9.2), and more.
Are you thinking maybe Reason 9 is for you? Are you one of those folks still using an older version of Reason while you hold out for that special feature that you just can't resist? If so, all of the above coolness may just be enough for you to pull the trigger on Reason 9, but if it's not, what I have to say next will be. I promise!
"If you need any convincing at this point that Reason 9 is a must-have upgrade for existing Reason users, you simply haven't been paying attention."
Propellerhead has just announced that with the upcoming Reason 9.5 (a free upgrade for Reason 9 owners), Reason will finally be able to use your VSTs! That's right. All of those magical VSTs that have been stuck in the world of Pro Tools will soon work right in your Reason rack. Truthfully, Propellerhead could have easily added this single feature and released it as Reason 10 and people would be flocking to buy it. I think the fact that they are making this a free upgrade for Reason 9 users is a clear sign of how connected Propellerhead is with their customers, and I applaud them for taking this route.
I could wrap up this review by telling you that Reason 9 is the Reason you've been waiting for since many versions back, but I really don't need to. If you need any convincing at this point that Reason 9 is a must-have upgrade for existing Reason users, you simply haven't been paying attention. I haven't been this excited about Reason in a lot of years, and I'm sure that anyone who loves creating music will feel the same way.