I do like a good book. In particular, I like a good manual. Yeah, I know, pretty geeky, but I’m a trainer by profession, so I like to learn, but I also have an attention deficit thing (nothing medically proven, just that I have a short attention span on occasion) so I like to learn at my own pace, and books are great for that.
And the kinds of manuals I like are visual ones. The kinds with pictures as well as copious amounts of texts. I’m a very visual person, so this really helps me. So, good detail, great pictures and lots of things to try. I like following guides on how to achieve stuff. I can do a few of these and then find myself becoming incredibly proficient.
With this in mind, when a fellow Reason user told me he was publishing just such a book on my DAW of choice, I was a little excited, to say the least. Robert Anselmi has been a regular at the Reason forums for a long while, as well as having his own Reason tutorial website, Reason101, that provided the basis and inspiration for this book, entitled “Robert Anselmi’s Reason101 Visual Guide to the Reason Rack<". So Robert is well placed to write such a thing, as well as possessing the skills of a technical author!
A few weeks ago, Robert very kindly afforded me some time for an interview. This is how it turned out…
Failed Muso: Why have you made this book? What was the inspiration?
Robert Anselmi: Well, about 10 years ago when I first started working in Reason, I read through the operator manual and sought out information on how to use Reason. But I found that there weren’t a whole lot of books on the subject. At that point I decided I wanted to write a book that went above and beyond anything that came before. I decided to write the book I envisioned as the manual for the program. Then in 2007 I started my Reason site and as my knowledge grew, so did the amount of “how-to” tutorials did. Then in 2013, I took the year off to expand on the material on my site, and add to it, and this formed the second half of the book.
FM: So the book is a combination of material from the site and new stuff too?
RA: Yes. I reworked all the material from my site and then went beyond it to include many more tutorials on top of that information. The “Tutorial” section of the book, or second half of the book, is a combination of updated tutorials from the site, as well as new material.
FM: So, the book covers up to Reason 7, yes? We all know that Props don’t rest on their laurels. How will you deal with updates? Did you get to cover Parsec, for example?
RA: The book covers all Reason 7 core devices, including the MIDI Instrument device, which is new in 7.0. It also covers 8 additional Rack Extensions. Parsec is not covered because it came very late in the process of me writing the book. Currently, the book is available “as is” with 51 devices covered comprehensively, concisely, and visually. All 43 core devices, as well as 8 Rack Extensions.
FM: Very comprehensive! Many years ago, Props had a “Teaching Music with Reason” package. Did you take any inspiration from this?
RA: No. Although if that’s what I think it is, I have the CD somewhere, and I did go through it.
There were a few motivations and inspirations for this book. One inspiration was a comment from Ed Bauman on one of my Pulveriser tutorials (http://www.reason101.net/101-creative-reason-projects/72-pounding-the-pulveriser-part-1/) He took a look at the image, and commented on how much he liked the fact that everything was visually explained and “right there” in front of him. That’s when I started to toy with the idea of presenting all the Rack devices in this formatted style. And it’s what I present in the book.
Another source of inspiration was from the PH forums, where I had seen a few posts from people seeking out high quality Reason books to help speed up their learning process. I felt that the market lacked a comprehensive book such as this.
FM: I can see Ed’s point! So, if I’m not mistaken, you’re a technical author by trade, yes?
RA: Yes. I’ve been working as a Technical Writer for the past 15 years, so I’m used to explaining software to people. At the same time I also do QA work while I write, testing out software as I go. This project was the perfect marriage of my Technical Writing skills, QA skills, and passion for using Reason to get the musical ideas out of my head and into the computer.
FM: So are you of the opinion that Reason is an ideal environment for the electronic musician? It’s often said that the modular rack based paradigm provides a solid foundation in the basics of synthesis. Do you agree?
RA: Personally, I think Reason is an ideal environment for myself. It was a natural fit for me. I also think it’s the perfect tool to use for anyone trying to understand Music production. One of the key aspects to Reason is that since it mimics what you find in the Hardware world, you’re not only learning about creating music via virtual instruments on your computer. You will also have an easier transition going into the hardware world because it will be familiar. Reason started out trying to help people transition from the Hardware world into the Virtual world. Now that we are here, Hardware has made a comeback of sorts, and Reason can help you transition from the virtual world back into the hardware world, if you choose. For those that never had the chance to use Hardware, and grew up on virtual synths and DAWs, Reason can help them understand how this Hardware works. It’s an invaluable tool in that regard.
FM: Almost like things have come full circle?
RA: Exactly. I think it’s an exciting time because the lines between the Hardware and virtual music production world are becoming more and more blurred. And it’s easier now than ever to mix those two worlds together. The introduction of the MIDI Instrument Device helps aid in this respect. Just to add, this book project follows the same hardware/virtual model because I’ll be providing both a hard copy and an electronic PDF copy of the book with all options.
FM: So, for the price of the hard copy, users will get a PDF too?
RA: There will be a few options available, but all options will include both a PDF and hard copy book.
FM: Just going back to the MIDI Instrument for a second, Props took their time to bring MIDI out to the Rack. Do you think that was deliberate as part of their plan or them bowing to pressure?
RA: I’m not sure I can speculate on why the Props provided MIDI out when they did. This is purely speculation on my part, but it may have been because that was one of the primary request from their user base. The Props have a long tradition of listening to their customers. And it may also have something to do with the resurgence in companies such as Moog and Korg releasing new Hardware.
FM: So, back to the book. Is this something that needs to be gone through from beginning to end or is it something that can easily be dipped in and out of as and when the user requires? Or maybe it’s a bit of both?
RA: There are a few ways you can use the book. You may want to read it cover to cover to go through everything (the “complete” approach), or you may want to use it as a desk reference if you’re looking to find out what a slider, rotary, button, or routing input / output does.
To make navigation easier and more intuitive, I’ve also cross-referenced the “Devices” section of the book (first half) with the “Tutorial” section of the book (second half), so that each device lists all the related tutorials, and each tutorial lists all related devices.
At every step, I tried to make the book both easy-to-follow and intuitive.
You could also read about a specific device you want to learn about, or jump to a tutorial that sparks your interest.
FM: Yes, that’s how I found it when looking through. So, what are the plans for the website? Will it carry on? Do you see it as a complement to the book? Any plans on how these two things will work together in the future?
RA: I think just as the book is an extension of the Operator Manual that ships with Reason, it’s also an extension of my own website. It meshes both of those two things together and expands on both.
As for the website, I have no intentions of stopping. It’s still an extension of my explorations in Reason, and as long as I have new things to learn in Reason, I’ll still keep up the website with new tutorials and information. Especially since we have so many Rack Extensions out there. There’s always new things you can do in the software.
In fact, I may be able to post a little more frequently since this book project is complete. I haven’t posted as much on the PH forums, my website, and YouTube this year as I would have liked, precisely because I was focused on compiling this book. Now that it’s complete, you might see me a little more frequently.
FM: Well, your input, wherever you make it, is always welcomed by the entire community!
So, now this book is out there, I assume a period of recovery is on the cards, but what are your future plans?
RA: Recovery? What’s that? I tend to work very heavily in one area, and then switch and work heavily in another. If I’m not writing, I’m working on sounds, if I’m not creating sounds, I’m working on composing. It’s all about switching gears every so often or switching your focus. I think right now I’ll take a little interim time to look at what’s going to come next. But for the time being, I’m heavily focused on bringing this book to the Reason community at large. I want to focus on sharing my 10-year journey working with Reason.
FM: Haha! Well I, for one, look forward to your continued contribution. Just don’t burn yourself out!!
Robert has very kindly given me four samples from the book in PDF form. Feel free to download to get a feel for this excellent tome!
“Reason101 is proud to present Robert Anselmi’s Reason101 Visual Guide to the Reason Rack. Complete coverage of Reason 7.0 Core devices & 8 Rack Extensions, with 101 in-depth Tutorials focusing on Basics, Utility constructions, Sound Design, Advanced usage and Rack Extension integration. This book is built from the ground up to explore all aspects of the Reason Rack. The first half covers all core rack devices & 8 Rack Extensions front and back. All sliders, rotaries, buttons, and audio & CV connections are explored visually. The second half of the book provides 101 different ways you can integrate those devices together to create practical applications. No stone is left unturned. This manual provides all you need to know to start out using reason and take your skills from Basic to advanced, and beyond. Save time learning the Rack in the most intuitive way possible, and keep your copy handy as a desk reference while you work.”
Reason101 is available exclusively via www.reason101.net/shop. Prices start at $39.99 USD. Options include, PDF, Coil Binding, Perfect Binding and combinations thereof. Coil Binding options come with free PDF and ReFill.