It’s been a long time coming, to say the least. But you can be sure that even when Propellerhead do something as basic as MIDI output, they’ll do it in, well, a Reason way. So, it was intriguing to hear Reason was adding MIDI out precisely because in Reason it’s integrated with virtual patch cords and connections that make it work differently than in other hosts. And that means we wanted details.

Propellerhead’s Leo Nathorst-Böös answers some of our questions, as CDM awaits the beta version.

Most helpfully, we have some new images, so you can see better what’s going on. To handle MIDI output to your external, physical hardware, Reason 7 has a virtual device and connections that correspond to the outboard gear. The External MIDI Instrument device in the rack is fairly basic, with connections for gate and “CV” (Reason’s nomenclature for internal, virtual control signal), and pitch and mod, plus an assignable output for Control Change messages.

Note, analog fans, that when we say “CV” we don’t mean external analog signal. If you are lucky enough to have some analog or modular gear, you’ll need to use MIDI somehow to connect to them. (That’s not to rule out future possibilities, though; in comments on the last story, we got a very interesting thread on the possibility of providing this functionality via a Rack Extension.)

Back to this device, just how does that “CC assign” work?

The CC assign sets what the knob on the front and the CV input on the back currently controls.

The knob is there on the front to make it easier for those who record automation by turning knobs in the rack with the mouse. All CC values are always accessible through Remote (from a hardware controller) and in the sequencer for automation, regardless of what the knob is set to.

If you select a CC# on the front, record automation by turning the knob, and then change what the knob controls, your automation will remain on the original CC#, and you can continue to record additional automation for more parameters using the knob on the front.

Of course, the big deal here is that you can route virtual control signal from other Reason devices out to your external gear – something you can’t necessarily do in many other software environments (or not without some effort or translation).

And how does that assignment work? Leo gives us a basic idea:

The External MIDI Instrument has inputs for Gate and Note CV, to be controlled from Reason’s Matrix or RPG-8 devices—or other sequencers, like some of the Rack Extensions available. In addition to that there are inputs for Mod Wheel, Pitch Bend and one selectable CV->CC input.



The External MIDI Device lets you connect outboard gear to the virtual instruments, sequencers, and control inside Reason itself. Click for larger versions, from front and (for modular connections) back. Images courtesy Propellerhead.

Q. Are the Program and MIDI Channel controls, etc., themselves MIDI assignable? That is, could you take a ReMote device and use it to map program changes on outboard gear?

Program Change can be automated, but not MIDI channel. You can control both from a hardware controller through Remote.

Q. Why does the device have pitch and mod on it – so you can test these from a mouse?

Yes, and for visual feedback when it is automated in the sequencer.

Hopefully that gives you a basic idea of what’s at work. I’m sure this in turn prompts new questions, so ask away. Reason 7 is now hitting beta, which means you testers out there should have something to try first-hand soon, and a final release will follow in the near future.

Next, I want to talk more about slicing and audio loop workflows, also something I’ve been waiting for a long time in Reason. So, if you’ve been eager, too, send us your questions, here or via Facebook.

More on the upgrade:

  • Jim Aikin

    Leo doesn’t quite say that the External MIDI instrument can have a sequencer track, but I’m sure that’s part of the deal, right? I’m also guessing you can set the MIDI channel for a particular External MIDI device, so as to be able to send MIDI to several hardware devices on different channels at the same time.

    One significant question, I think, is whether the External MIDI device can transmit MIDI via ReWire to a ReWire host. Could be yes, could be no.

    • buddard

      If you look at the screenshot you’ll see that there is a sequencer track for the MIDI instrument. The uppermost lane (“Lane 1”) is a note lane, and the ones below it are automation lanes.

      I don’t think it can transmit MIDI to a ReWire host, I think they would need to update the ReWire protocol for that, and there’s been no mention of that so far… (Correct me if I’m wrong!)

    • Jim Aikin

      The question, I guess, is, can ANY ReWire client transmit MIDI to a ReWire host? I haven’t tried it. If the answer is yes, then the ReWire spec wouldn’t need to be updated.

    • gunboat_d

      this is my hope too, although there are apparently workarounds using virtual midi interfaces to send Reason MIDI to NI Synths (for example). I haven’t tried it because until recently i was 100% Reason-contained, but there are tutorials on the Props forums on how to set it up.

    • Mattias

      Yes, they can have a sequencer track and yes you can select the MIDI output on a per-device basis. :)

    • foljs

      Or maybe send the midi out to a fake (ie. computer internal) MIDI device? That forwards to a VST? And then a fake AUDIO device that you record from?

      Sounds doable with the tools already available in OS X — am I missing something?

  • Chris SW Anderson

    So MIDI program change messages can be sent to external devices. My question is, is it possible to also send MIDI program change messages to the internal rack devises as well? For years I’ve been waiting for Reason to implement this. You’d think that if Reason is to control outboard gear like internal racks, they’d have their racks be able to change patches via MIDI program change instead of mapping a controller to the patch scroll or up and down buttons. I remember a couple versions back they were emphasizing its use for stage performance. I sure hope they’ve made patch changing easier.

    • gunboat_d

      short answer: No.

    • foljs

      “For years I’ve been waiting for Reason to implement this.”

      What problem exactly would that solve?

    • Chris SW Anderson

      I like to use Reason as a virtual rack. I’m not really using Record as I tend to Rewire into Live. I also like the option of changing individual patches on the fly in a live setting. NI plugins allow this. I’m not really using Reason the “normal way”. I’m building generative systems that can select timbres based on preset classifications. I’m trying to use Reason as a real-time rack of instruments rather than a DAW extension. Propellerheads were pushing the live thing a few years ago…

    • gLOWx

      As a former Reason user, i advice you to take a look at their Remote protocol. You can even make your own custom file. I done it for my Korg PK. And there is preset change for each device, if i remember well. It will not be program change, but will act like it :)

  • EnochLight

    Peter Kirn: in your last Reason-related article announcing 7.0, you said that you “lacked the resources to fully wrap my head around the Rack Extension ecosystem”. What does that mean? Having been out for the better part of 10 months, you haven’t tried any yet???

    Would like to see an actual review of Reason 6.5 and RE’s from createdigitalmusic…

    • gunboat_d

      +1. I’d like to see Re’s receive even half as much attention as M4L patches. I imagine that more people use Re’s than M4L across a broader genre spectrum.

    • youngcircle

      Hmm, to me it’s kind of hard to compare M4L and Re’s. M4L cost me $150 on sale, has a huge library of devices to start with AND a community of users who are constantly creating new devices. Plus I can build my own devices tailored to my particular needs now…and build new ones in the future as needed. All for that initial investment.

      I may be mistaken, but I believe you have to pay for each and every one of those Re’s, don’t you? How much will Reason’s system end up costing you in the long run? I’m pretty sure with Re’s you can’t build your own devices you can only buy. Maybe this blog is just more in tuned with the DIY aesthetic that’s a big part of Max for Live, and that’s why it gets the coverage it does.

    • EnochLight

      Well to be fair – Reason has been on the market far longer than M4L, is very popular with the DIY crowd – from the bedroom producer to the recording artist – and has a massive user base. The author of this article – Peter Kirn – has admitted to being a poor journalist when it comes to Rack Extension reviews (see his other article announcing Reason 7). I think all we’re asking is that a proper piece is written as such, since there’s no way the writer can form an opinion without testing thoroughly.

    • gunboat_d

      youre right about cost structure. m4l possibly is a gift that keeps on giving and only a fool would buy every single Re on the site. As a Max user, I see a lot of utility in M4L, but I’ve been using Reason (and DP) for well over 10 years now and i’ll be damned if i’m going to plunk down the money for Live 8 Suite.
      I think that anyone can program an Re, as long as you register with Props and you learn the system. M4L is great if you know Max already. so I won’t word it as bluntly at enoch here, but it would be nice if CDM gave a little attention to Re’s. that said, I know Peter does this himself so he’s limited by his own energy and you can’t do a write up of every redundant CV router on the Prop Shop. But still, it’s a nice little marketplace and CDM is really the only place that puts together Mainstream Music + the DIY Scene +Experimental Scene in such a well written way so I wish CDM would “show us a little love.”

    • gLOW-x

      RE are plugins limited to Reason usage.Nothing more, nothing less. Max/M4L, like PureData, are a whole world in themselves. May be you could complain about RE not being more reviewed than VST here…but it would not work on this website 😉

  • Rua Haszard Morris

    Will MIDI out be supported in Reason Essentials 2?

    • Leo Nathorst-Böös

      Reason Essentials 2 will include the audio slicing, stretching and REX file conversion features from Reason version 7. It will however not have the External MIDI Instrument device or MIDI clock sync capabilities from version 7—if you need those there are discounted upgrade paths from Reason Essentials to the full Reason available!

  • James Webster

    What happens with the audio from the external device? Does this ‘External MIDI Device’ rack device also allow you to assign audio inputs (perhaps to be processed through Reason effects), or is it assumed that you will be capturing audio in a DAW (that presumably is hosting Reason as a Rewire slave?)

    • Nikola

      Reason 6 is already capable of handling audio inputs – is that what You mean?

    • Leo Nathorst-Böös

      The External MIDI Instrument does not have any audio inputs itself. You can record your synths (or whatever you’re sending MIDI to) on a regular audio input channel in Reason. It is assumed that you will be capturing the audio in Reason.

    • Max

      The latter, James. E.g.: EZ Drummer Toontrack. You can drag the midi files onto the sequencer or record your own drum midi notes through E.M.I. but if you want to capture and bounce its sound you gotta use a (possibly rewired) DAW. That’s it.

  • gesslr

    I’m having a hard time getting my head around this personally. Let me see if I’ve got this right. “Reason’s External MIDI Device lets you connect outboard gear to the virtual instruments, sequencers, and control inside Reason itself.” So this Reason device is presumably patched to something like a MidiExpress 128 or other midi interface that in turn is connected to your physical synth modules? So, is there a way to connect the device to a virtual midi interface and route the midi to a VST instrument in a stand alone host like Audio Engineering’s Rax?

    • gLOWx

      Yes, as long as you use virtual MIDI ports, Reason will see them as hardware ports, so you can route anything, real hardware or software. The opposite work too.

  • Hide

    You can control analog synth by thor! even Reason4. (using CV signal.)

  • esolesek

    Seems like anyone making a moderate income can afford both Live and Reason and a few vsts as well. I like the U-he stuff myself. Of course you gotta buy twice to buy for both platforms and that’s when things get out of control. Reason has a few advantages over live, but there’s a Reason I left Reason a few years ago and dove into Live, which was primarily about forgetting the workflow. Reason kept fouling me up, although I love the visual nature of the rack approach and the Redrum.

    Also, requiring buying a separate priced Recycle just to create REX loops would be like Adobe making you buy a license to create a JPEG. It was a bad idea to say the least.

  • mothergarage

    next step: bidirectional rewire

    • Ianto_Jones


  • Augure Zera

    The real question is : will Reason 7 only work with a locked DRM usb key like R6 ?

    Because if it does it will continue to get marginalized and used by almost none of the producer I know anymore

  • Art

    is the External MIDI Instrument included in Essentials 2?