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Lesson 2 - Reason Overview (2/4)

In This Lesson:

  1. Creating Instruments 
  2. Setting Up Your Keyboard 
  3. Recording and Editing MIDI Notes 
  4. Adding Effects

How To Use This Lesson

Watch the video below and take the quiz at the bottom of the page. If you need a bit of extra help with the videos, then by all means read the accompanying written content (the written content on this page simply restates what was said in the video).

Make sure you set the video below to at least "720p HD", if not "1080p HD", and then set it to Fullscreen as well. Otherwise the video won't display properly, and it will be quite difficult to follow the tutorial.

You can set it to 1080p HD by clicking the little Gearbox icon at the bottom of the video, and clicking "1080p HD". You can set the video to fullscreen by choosing the very bottom-right button in the video.

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Creating Instruments

To create an instrument:

  • Right click the empty space at the bottom of the rack, and then choose the instrument that you would like to create.
  • You can choose a variety of preset instruments by scrolling through the Reason Factory Sound Bank

Purchasing A MIDI Keyboard

A MIDI keyboard allows you to play music in Reason. Without one, there's not very much that you can do with the program. I suppose you could try and use Reasons on-screen piano using your computer keyboard, but I really wouldn't recommend that as a permanent solution.

Most keyboards plug in through the USB port of your computer, which makes them quite easy to set up.

A good MIDI keyboard (if you don't have one) is an M-audio Oxygen 49. The 49 stands for 49 keys, and runs for about $150.

Another good option if you don't mind only having 25 keys is the Akai MPK Mini. It has 8 very high quality drum pads on it, and 25 keys. The keys aren't very good at simulating a real piano (no pressure simulation), but for a cheap and portable solution, you can't get much better value. I personally use this keyboard, and it fits right in my swiss army laptop bag.

Because you've only got 25 keys, you'll probably have to use the "octave" buttons to go up and down into higher and lower ranges of pitch. An experienced piano player will likely find this very annoying, while it might be very suitable for a beginner musician.

The MPK 25 Mini also has a wonderful arpeggiator on it that can very quickly be used on the fly. The arpeggiator won't beat Reason's RPG-8 arpeggiator (covered in lesson 12), but it certainly is handy if you're quickly coming up with ideas and don't want to fiddle with any settings.

If you want an even cheaper solution, Akai sells the LPK 25, which is very similar to the MPK except without the drum pads. They usually run for under $50. It still has the arpeggiator, just no rhythm pads.

Setting Up A MIDI Keyboard

To set up a MIDI Keyboard:

  • Click on Reason > Preferences > Keyboards and Control Surfaces
  • Start with "Auto-detect Surfaces". If it detects your keyboard, great! If not, click "Add" and then find your keyboard from the list. If your keyboard is not on the list, I recommend contacting Propellerhead as I won't be able to make any difference in your issue (That's a software problem, not something I have any control over)

Your keyboard should now work! Click on an instrument in the sequencer panel, and as long as a preset is set up, you should be able to hear whatever notes you hit on the keyboard.

Recording & Editing MIDI

To start recording:

  • Press the red "Record" button to start recording. Press spacebar to stop recording.
  • You can edit MIDI by double clicking on a clip, or pressing the "Edit Mode" Button.
  • You can use the arrows on either side of a clip to shorten or lengthen a clip.
  • Change the "Snap" settings in order to have more control over which types of notes you want to snap your MIDI to.
  • Press "Command + C" to copy, and "Command + V" to paste clips (CTRL if you are using windows). This is a good way to reuse clips and notes that you have recorded.
  • Press "Command + Z" to undo a move (CTRL for windows)
  • Select two or more clips, Right Click > Join Clips (To merge two clips together)
  • "Command + S" to save. (CTRL for Windows)

Adding Effects

  • Right click an Instrument and select an effect to attach an effect to that instrument.
  • Some possible effects include: Reverb, Distortion, Delay, Phaser, Arpeggiator, etc.

In the next tutorial, we will go through creating note lanes, and learn how to change the tempo.

I recommend taking the Quiz below if you feel unsure of your knowledge of Reason.

If you felt that you really understood the lesson, then I'll bet you can skip it, but if you feel you need some extra review, take the quiz to see if you need to review even more. No one is marking your work, it's simply to help you learn + remember everything you can about making music.

Main 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Final Quiz


  1. How do you create an instrument? Bonus: Discover 1 more way to create an instrument in Reason.
  2. Exercise: Set up your own MIDI Keyboard using the steps in the lesson above.
  3. There are at least 2 ways to get into "Edit Mode" to edit MIDI, what are they?
  4. Name at least 4 different snap settings that you can use. Here's one to get you started: 1/4 (Quarter Notes)
  5. Where is the record button located?
  6. What is the keyboard shortcut for Copying + Pasting Clips and notes?
  7. How do you add an Effect to an Instrument? Bonus: How do you add an effect on top of ANOTHER effect?


  1. Right Click an empty space in the Rack. You can also click "Create" at the top of the screen, and then create any instrument or effect.
  2. Exercise (No answers)
  3. You can edit MIDI by double clicking on a clip, or press the "Edit Mode" Button.
  4. Bar, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/8T (Triplet), 1/16, 1/16T, 1/32, 1/64.
  5. At the bottom of the bottom of the sequencer. If the sequencer is detached from the rack, you can also see the record button at the bottom of the rack (The area where you see the Play/Record buttons is also known as a "Transport".
  6. Command + C, and Command + V (CTRL for Windows).
  7. Right click an instrument and select the effect from the menu. You can right click an effect, and the select another effect to stack effects.

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