Propellerhead Reason – Subtractor and Malstrom – Subtractive and Graintable Synthesizers
by Endy Daniyanto

Synthesizers are an indispensable part of the modern music sound. Synths are the building blocks for various popular musical styles, particularly in electronic music production. Even the modern pop sound has benefited greatly by adding synth elements into the arrangement, a technique gradually accepted into the mainstream when Britain was hit with electronic dance music fever in the early 1990’s.

Reason as a virtual studio software package has its own array of powerful synthesizers. 2 of them are the Subtractor device and the Malstrom device. These 2 synths work based on subtractive synthesis for Subtractor and graintable synthesis for the Malstrom. Let’s look a little at how these two synthesis methods work:

1. Subtractive synthesis. This method of synthesis creates the sound by removing the harmonics of a sound signal, through the use of a filter (hence the term “subtractive”, because it subtracts). It’s one of the more simple ways of synthesizing sounds, and the Subtractor works based on this design. From my experience, the Subtractor is good for deep synth bass sounds, as it doesn’t need a large amount of parameters to control.

2. Graintable synthesis. Properly called granular synthesis, it works by taking an audio sample and chopping it up into “grains”. These sound grains are then played back using various pitch and volume, resulting in a “cloud” sound. The characteristic of the resulting sound is then appropriate for use when we want to create rich textures or pads into our arrangements.

This is a very short introduction to the synthesizers in Propellerhead Reason. There is still much more to learn about synthesis, if you are a synth-based musician. I hope this article can inspire you to learn more, or at least experiment on adding synth elements to your commercial pop arrangements.

To your sweet synth sounds,

Endy Daniyanto is a music production teacher who produces his own music from the comfort of his modest home studio. Read more music production tutorials on his website:

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