Reason 101 Visual Guide to the Reason Rack – Reviewed

Visual-Guide-to-the-Reason-RackFlu season has hit the western United States, and if you’re like me your muse doesn’t visit often when the nose is running. Which makes it’s a great time to study up on the gear you use to create music. Now there’s been a lot of great books written on Reason, from author’s like G.W. Childs, Holin Jones, to Peff’s classic Power Tools for Reason 3.0. With all these available tomes it makes me wonder whether the world really needs another guide for Reason? We’ll answer this question and more while looking at Robert Anselmi’s Reason 101 Visual Guide to the Reason Rack. ¬†Read on for the full review!

Visual Breakdown

Robert Anselmi’s Reason 101 Visual Guide to the Reason Rack can be purchased in many variations, from black and white copies to a full color version with coil binding and an included ReFill that will set you back $129 USD! For those with a lighter wallet there’s PDF versions available thru the end of the year starting at $39 USD. Still not cheap by any standard, so let’s look at what’s included in the book.

Upon opening Robert Anselmi’s Reason 101 Visual Guide to the Reason Rack one finds a table of contents, showing the breakdown of the chapters. Starting with an Introduction section, complete with forwards by Kurt “Peff” Kurasaki and Ed “EditEd4TV” Bauman, followed by in depth chapters on Reason’s devices split into Instruments, Creative FX, Studio FX, Utilities, and Rack Extensions (which details 8 of the most popular Rack Extensions.) Beyond the device chapters comes Tutorials, broken into categories like Basic, Utility-Based, Sound Design, FX Design, Advanced and Rack Extension Tutorials. Obviously a lot of ground is covered in the 360 pages making up Robert Anselmi’s guidebook.


Visual Format

In my opinion the device chapters is where the visual guide format of the book really shines. Not only are there diagrams of the devices with in depth explanations of each control, as one would expect, but side bars with tables and graphs explaining creative uses of the controls! I asked Robert about the decision to go with this style of format:

The decision came about from a few tutorials I posted on my site. For example, 68 – All about the Alligator Part 1, Ed Bauman had commented something to the effect of “wow. That’s great. It’s just all there” and I thought to myself, yes. This is exactly what was missing from the Operation Manual. A way to view all the devices visually, and explain them all in a concise way on a few pages. Make things simplified for learning purposes. As Reason evolves and gets more complex with so many different Rack Extensions. What we need is a simple, easy-to-follow organized approach to navigating through the rack. And that’s how the first half of the book was born. The second half was expanding on how all these wonderful devices worked together, and became an extension of all the tutorials found on my site. The two halves go hand in hand.

Visual Tutorials

We’ve touched upon the device chapters, now let’s look at the tutorials! Well over half of the book is made up of tutorials, ranging from basics like Understanding MIDI & CV, Organizing your Reason Files, to the awesome Keyed FX Processor in the Advanced Tutorials section. However, my favorite tutorials were in the Sound Design section. With in-depth guides to drum synthesis on multiple Reason instruments to creating your own grain sampler with an NN-19, this is the place for synthesis geeks to get their game on. While perusing this section it hit me what this book really reminds me of – a picture book for Reason users, however I don’t think my two year old nephew is going to dig it as much as I do.


Visual Rack

Robert Anselmi’s guidebook includes in depth guides and tutorials on not only all the devices that come with Reason 7, but also 8 of Reason’s Rack Extensions (see above rack for reference.) The 8 included devices are Polar, Buffre, AutoTheory, Audiomatic Retro Transformer, Etch Red, Directre, Shelob Audio Bypass Splitter, and Pulsar. With over 180 Rack Extensions in the Propellerhead Shop I asked Robert how he decided which REs to include in the book:

The decision to include Rack Extensions at all came a little later in the process. I originally wanted to include only the core Reason devices and Core Reason device tutorials, and release that as a complete book. But since I had worked closely with several Rack Extensions since they were introduced in Reason 6.5, I decided to include as many as I could. The 8 Rack Extensions included are the ones I had used and worked with the most and understood the best. I felt comfortable about including them.

Visual ReFill

If one buys the premium versions of Robert Anselmi’s guidebook a whopping 250 patch ReFill is included! I asked Rob a little about the ReFill, is it all new patches? Do some of them tie in with the tutorial chapters?

There are many new patches, as well as patches that were available from my website in the various tutorials found there. It’s about half and half. The idea was to provide patches for all the tutorials I provided inside the book. But there’s a whole section of extras inside the ReFill, with further ideas to explore. It’s a huge learning resource for those that want to understand how routings work in Reason.


Visual Planning

Looking at the amount of information packed into this 360 page book I had to ask how long it took to go from planning to publishing:

You could say planning started when I first started using Reason. I was looking for other books on Reason but very little existed at the time. So I thought then that I wanted to create a comprehensive resource. A few years later, after I had developed more skills using the software, I created my website. That was 2007. Then I just started creating more tutorials, experimenting with different setups and sound designs. Then in 2013 at the beginning of the year (around March actually), I decided to stop working on any new projects and focus entirely on creating the book I’d always dreamed of having. It took me about 4 months to complete the device sections, and then another 4 months to complete the Tutorials section. This was an expanded reworking of the material on my site, as well as a lot of additional tutorials and ideas that I never posted. So the entire book was compiled in about 9 months total.


Visual Conclusion

Perhaps the best summation I can make for Robert Anselmi’s Reason 101 Visual Guide to the Reason Rack is after studying an advanced PDF copy for two weeks while writing this review I ended up buying a coiled color bound copy for my home studio! Do you need another guide to Reason? I did.

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Lewis Osborne

Lewis Osborne is a professional sound designer, dog walker, blogger and musician. A fan of classic 50's Jazz, Sci-Fi, detective novels, downtempo electronica and field recordings, his favorite song is "On Green Dolphin Street." While a notorious recluse, he can be found regularly hunting for vinyl in thrift stores across the western United States.
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