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Automating LFO Speed In Reason's Thor

Mo Volans on Oct 18, 2012 in Reason 0 comments

Everyone knows how to make wobbles in Reason now, right? Well, even if you do (or don't) this tutorial shows how to keep wobbling in sync with your project using Thor.

Everyone loves a good filter wobble but these effects work so much better if they are tightly synced with your project. Here we’ll take a look at how to not only change the speed of your LFO based mod mappings in Thor but also how to keep them in time with your project...

Step 1 - Applying LFO

To demonstrate the process of automating synced LFOs, I’ve started with a pretty basic unmodulated patch. I did this by initializing the default Thor patch, adding a few oscillators and putting the whole thing through a lowpass filter, with a good dose of resonance. 

Thor is initialized ready for programming.

Thor is initialized ready for programming.

At this point the sequence and patch sound a bit dull and static. Even with portamento, delay and chorus added, it still needs something else. You can see and hear the result at this stage below. 

A basic patch that we’ll be using here.

A basic patch that we’ll be using here.

The basic unmodulated patch we’ll be using:

Modulation is usually the key to more interesting patches so effecting the filter cutoff with an LFO seemed the obvious choice here. By using Thor’s mod matrix, LFO1 was mapped to the cutoff frequency of Filter 1. The amount was turned up to 100%.

The initial modulation routings are put in place.

The initial modulation routings are put in place.

You can hear the effect is interesting but also pretty messy. The whole thing is out of sync with our project and the modulations appear random at best.

The unsynced LFO modulating the filter cutoff frequency.

The unsynced LFO modulating the filter cutoff frequency.

The patch is modulated with an unsynced LFO

Step 2 - Syncing The Effect

The solution to our messy modulation problem was creating a synced LFO. By simply hitting sync in the LFO1 area we immediately link the LFO’s speed to our Reason’s tempo. This means that now when we adjust the speed, values are shown in musical measures, as opposed to simple frequency values.

Even with the sync activated, you might find the effect to be a little confusing. This is because the phase or position of the LFO’s waveform is still free running. If you want a more focused effect you will also need to use the key sync parameter. This ensures that the LFO’s waveform starts from the same point every time a key is depressed. 

The LFO is now fully synced.

The LFO is now fully synced.

The patch with tempo synced LFO applied:

With both of the sync modes enabled and the LFO set to 1/16th we are starting to get a much more coherent effect. Now let’s look at how we can change the speed in real time.

Step 3 - Automating Synced Speed Changes

The final step is to automate the modulation speed in realtime. Luckily as the LFO sync in Reason is extremely tight, everything will stay synced even if we adjust the speed. The key here is to record your movements so that you can edit the automation produced.

Start by right-clicking on the LFO speed and selecting edit automation. This will automatically create a fresh automation lane in the sequencer and you are now ready to start recording data.

Record and make some movements in time with your sequence, and don’t be too afraid of making extreme changes, everything will stay in time. Once you have recorded everything you need... Stop and save.

The LFO speed modulation is recorded as fresh automation data.

The LFO speed modulation is recorded as fresh automation data.

The patch with its LFO speed changing over time:

You can now edit the automation recorded to get a bit of a tighter result. You might want to make the changes occur on the bar or at least to the nearest musical measure. Also experiment with stepped and faded changes in speed. You can see the mixture I used below. 

The automation is edited to created tighter speed changes

The automation is edited to created tighter speed changes.

The result is a much more interesting and evolving sequence. Remember this can be used on any patch. Try it on effects, pads and basses. Also try automating changes in the waveform and depth of the LFO for an extra special touch.

Mo has been a professional in the music industry for around 15 years. He has released material with the world's leading record labels and also produces music for TV and Film. Mo is also a prolific writer and is a regular contributor to magazines such as Music Tech, Future Music and EQ magazine. There isn't a piece of music software tha... Read More