Open a new project in Reason (any version from 3 upwards will do).
Create a Subtractor, and right click to initialize the patch. Take the filter cutoff down to around a quarter, and set the release value to 1/3 of the way open. The initialize patch on Subtractor isn’t anything special – it’s just a single oscillator Sawtooth with a lowpass filter on it – So if you are using another DAW, or a different Synth in Reason, you can create an identical patch using any subtractive synthesizer. One thing to note though – Subtractor’s Filter Envelope has some default setting which are very important – the Filt Env Decay and Release are set to ¼ open, while the Filt Env Attack and Sustain are set to 0 – important if you are using another synth!
Open up the sequencer window (Piano Roll) and put a note at 1/8 resolution, for 2 bars. The bottom note should be a C, put a D one octave above in the exact same position. The musicality is very important here, so take note that the bottom note is the root note of our scale (C major in this case), while the top note is the 2nd scale degree – an octave above. The combination of the Root note and 2nd note of the scale produce a suspended second chord which gives that characteristic ‘Longest Road’ sound for which Deadmau5 became so popular. The fact that the two notes are separated by an octave gives range and adds a ‘modern’ feel.
You can use other intervals – such as a minor 3rd or dominant, if you know them! You can also add a key change later on, I’ve used A minor in the example project – but any other key in this mode will work, E.g. Dm, Em, F, etc. Figure 2 shows the first part of the progression, while figure 3 shows the full progression from C Major to Am.
Open up a ReDrum and insert a 4/4 kick drum, snare on every second beat, and an off-beat hi-hat (from the 3rd 16th note and then every beat afterwards). I’ve also added a simple percussive sound, which I’ve put some reverb on. It’s obviously important to use the right type of sounds – the Vengeance bank is a good one to start with for this type of sound.
We’re going to use Sidechain compression to duck the main Subtractor synth underneath the kick drum. There have already been a few tutorials on this in IDM so I won’t go into detail here, but the routing is shown clearly in the Reason file, so if you aren’t sure, download and use as a guide – or check out another online tutorial on sidechain compression in Reason. Load a white-noise type sound into an NNXt or NN19 sampler, and use a spider audio merger/splitter to ensure that the kick drum is ducking both the Subtractor and the sampled white noise, while still being routed to the mixer so as to be audible.
It’s also a good idea to clean up the white noise with an EQ so that its frequency content doesn’t clash with the Synth or drums – try killing everything below 5Khz and boosting slightly around 8Khz-12Khz. I’ve also added a Malstrom with a single oscillator ‘Resonant Noise’ , which I’ve used to create my own ‘White noise rise’ effect just before the beat drops.
Automate the Filter Cutoff and AMP ENV Release parameters so that they increase gradually, with particular emphasis towards the end of each 4 or 8 bars. You will notice that in the file I have provided for download, these two parameters are automated to create a buildup, opening effect just before the drums kick in at bar 17 . The filter and envelope then close up as so that the listener is engaged and put into a state of suspense as they wait for the Synth to open up again.
Click on the mixer and Create a DDL 1 Delay line – this will attach itself to the 1st Return channel on the mixer. Highlight the mixer again and create an Rv7000 Reverb unit – which will be attached to the second return channel on the mixer.
Set the panning control of the DDL so that it is ¼ left. On the mixer, pan the Subtractor ¼ right and then send it out to the left panned delay. This creates some much needed stereo imaging and helps the sound to appear wider and more lush.
Make sure that the sound is sent out to the reverb on return 1 as well, but don’t over-do it!
Written By : Ryan Murgatroyd and Willie Els