Applying Groove to Your Sequences in Reason

I’ve recently been teaching quite a lot of Reason and Record techniques and one thing I’m often asked about is applying groove to step and MIDI sequences. Luckily Reason 5 has an excellent groove engine built right into its interface.

So in this tutorial we’ll be taking a look at how you can translate your step sequences to MIDI and apply groove to them and other parts using the excellent ‘ReGroove’ mixer.

Step 1: Programming Your Step Based Pattern

In reality I’m rolling a couple of techniques into one here, and the first is how to get your step sequenced drum patterns from Redrum into your sequencer. Of course to do this first up you’ll need a step sequenced beat. I’ve just gone for something pretty simple and used one of Reason’s built in kits.

If you’re a Reason user this really is a great way to program your beats and can be quicker and ultimately more enjoyable than using MIDI. The only problem is that if you want to perform intricate edits, or indeed apply a groove template, your step based work needs to be transformed into MIDI data.

The step based sequence in Redrum

Download audio file (1.mp3)

The original step based sequence

Step 2: Translating the Step Data to MIDI

So with your step sequence firmly in place and playing back in a way that makes you smile, right click on the device and choose ‘copy pattern to track’ from the drop down menu. This will convert your step pattern into MIDI data and send it straight to its own track in the sequencer, all in one command. Nice.

The step sequence is copied to its own track.

With your pattern in place as MIDI you will need to turn off the step sequencer in the ReDrum or you will hear the pattern play twice. Do this by hitting the ‘Enable pattern section’ button, once this is deactivated you should only hear your new MIDI version playing back.

The MIDI is now in place in the sequencer.

Turning off the step playback is essential.

Step 3: Adding Your Initial Groove

As you can hear the groove is OK, but it’s lacking any sort of groove and is therefore a touch robotic and sterile. To get things swinging a little we need to open up the ReGroove mixer. This is accessed by opening the transport panel and hitting the large ‘G’ in the lower right hand corner of main interface.

The Regroove mixer is opened

Once open you will be presented with eight faders, these represent eight different grooves that can be applied to any track in your Reason mix. It doesn’t stop there either, as there are actually four banks of faders in total, giving you huge 32 different grooves that can be loaded in any single Reason project.

You can load preset grooves by hitting the load icon in each slot. You should automatically be taken to the groove presets area of the factory sound bank. From here you can choose from a good selection of grooves, including some great live performance grooves and of course the classic MPC-60 templates.

The Reason library contains a good selection of groove templates.

There are also loads of variations you can use.

Once you have chosen one and loaded it up, the name of the groove file should be clearly displayed in your selected slot in the ReGroove mixer. You can now turn up the amount of groove using the fader, add shuffle and note glide. Of course you won’t hear it yet as it’s not been assigned to any sounds!

The groove is loaded.

To get your newly loaded groove associated with a sound in your mix you need to use the simple drop down menus present on each track. You can select any of the four banks here and subsequently any of the eight grooves within that bank.

Associating the new groove with our MIDI data

With your groove applied you should be able to hear it in full effect. You can now easily change the groove file used in realtime and adjust the amount of groove or shuffle used.

Editing the groove amount.

Download audio file (3.mp3)

The MIDI pattern with groove applied.

Step 4: Editing the Groove’s Advanced Parameters

By hitting the edit button the groove tool window is brought up. Here you are presented with more in depth editing of your groove.

Editing the grooves other parameters.

Step 5: Adding Groove to Other Parts

You can easily add this groove or others to new parts in your track. Simply follow the process we just used and assign any groove from the ReGroove mix to your new part. You can experiment with using several different grooves across your mix or the same one on every part.

Adding the groove to other parts

Download audio file (5.mp3)

The groove on two parts simultaneously

Step 6: Exploding Drum Patterns and Extracting Grooves

This is only an introduction to the groove system in Reason and obviously you can take things quite a lot further. I’ll just give you an idea of a few little tricks you can do.

One thing to try is creating your own groove files. Start by importing one of your favourite drum loops or Recycle files. Once in Reason’s sequencer you can right click on the file and select ‘Get groove from clip’. This will immediately extract the groove and insert it into the ReGroove mixer ready to use. This can then be saved for later use in other projects.

Grabbing the groove from a clip

Another thing to try is ‘exploding’ you drum patterns. When you bring a MIDI drum pattern into the sequencer you may find that all the drum parts are in one clip. This means that if you apply any groove to the clip it will affect every part recorded. Often this is fine but if you want to experiment with applying different grooves to each sound you will need to split them up.

By going to the tool window and scrolling right to the bottom you should see an ‘Extract notes to lanes’ section. With your clip selected choose the explode option and execute. This will put every separate hit onto its own lane within the track. Now you are free to apply any groove to each sound.

‘Exploding’ some drum parts

The drum part on different lanes

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