Propellerhead Reason 8 Subtractor & Akai MPK Mini MKII MIDI Controller Experiment

I have recently started experimenting more with the control knobs on my Akai MPK Mini MKII MIDI keyboard controller. It’s a great way to control the synth parameters in Propellerhead Reason 8. I decided to have a real go at properly messing around with the synth controls on Reason’s Subtractor synthesizer to see how many different ways I could make it sound.

Here is the MPK Mini MKII MIDI controller:Akai MPK Mini MKII Controls
And here is the Subtractor Synthesizer in Reason:

Subtractor Polyphonic Synthesizer
I created an early-90s sounding beat using some sampled drum sounds, then programmed in a funky groove on the Subtractor, copied it, set the 2nd pattern to be 5 semitones higher, then repeated these two patterns many times.

Then I assigned the following controls on the Subtractor to knobs on the MPK Mini MKII:

  • Filter 1 Frequency
  • Filter 1 Resonance
  • Filter 2 Frequency
  • Filter 2 Resonance
  • FM (Frequency Modulation)
  • Mix (I think this determines the mix between the two oscillators)

I then recorded into the sequencer my actions on the MPK Mini MKII’s knobs.

Then I re-assigned 4 of the knobs to the envelope parameters…

  • Filter Envelope:
    • Attack
    • Decay
    • Sustain
    • Release
  • Amp Envelope:
    • Attack
    • Decay
    • Sustain
    • Release

…and again recorded myself playing with these controls during part of the music.

The end result was pretty crazy in places, and perhaps not particularly pleasant to listen to, but a good demonstration of what you can do with a MIDI controller and a software synthesizer:

I have to admit, there are moments where I lose the sound and then I’m struggling to get it back. That was all part of the fun of the experiment, though. But it’s amazing how many different sounds you can get from just one software synthesizer with two triangle waveforms.

What do you think? Are you tempted to try this kind of thing yourself? Or have you already done something similar? Why not let me know in the comments section below.

All the best,
Marcus

10 Comments

  1. James

    I had to read through twice to make sure I was soaking it all in. Very thorough and detailed which is helpful. The video tutorial was likely the most helpful part of it. I was curious if you’d dabbled in any additional configurations since you posted this and what the outcomes were.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      I haven’t done anything more with this particular piece, but I am often messing around with new bits of music, yes. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply
  2. Robert

    Hi, yes, amazing things you can do with a controller ( keyboard ) and a software synthesizer ( DAW software )
    I use a very cheap keyboard, called ion key49 . Unfortunately there are not much controllers on it. It has only two wheels ( modulation and pitch). Qua software I had several , but I stick to Studio one. I had the free version, and now I went a step higher and bought the cheapest package. I didn’t have time though to assign the two wheel to something else, for example resonance. Usually I don’t like much simple synthesizers with two oscillators, or use them sparely. I use more those virtual instruments with soundfonts, or similar. I used to play in bands, as guitarist and keyboard player, so I tend to create sounds that I recognize from that time. I mean real guitar, bass and drum sounds.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Sounds like fun, Robert. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply
  3. Pakiza

    Although I am a technical person. I have worked in the field of aviation for years but i never experienced things like this. This is amazing to do this. But one must acqure some basic knowledge on software handing before trying this. Who knows I may try myself to get the same experience you get today,ha ha ha.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Well, you could give it a go, Pakiza. You never know until you try 🙂

      Reply
  4. Eric

    Hey Marcus that is some pretty cool stuff. I love the video!

    I’ve not used the Reason software to any real extent but it does look enticing. I currently have Sonar as my DAW and several synths with an Alesis 61 key controller.

    See, I’m a guitarist and don’t play around enough with all my buttons on all my tools. After reading your post I am encouraged to dig in and ride some wave(forms)!

    Later on!

    E

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thank you, Eric. I’m glad to have been an inspiration to you. I will definitely be interested to hear what you come up with from playing around with some waveforms 🙂

      Reply
  5. Eric

    This was pretty cool. I play guitar and now I have some ideas for recording and mixing around with some sounds to see if I can come up with some new stuff.
    Maybe even just some backing tracks to make it sound like there is at least one more guitar with me since I don’t really have a band or anything right now.
    Great info and great video equals new perspective on things for me.
    Thanks a bunch.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Hi Eric. I’m glad you found it helpful. Please let me know how you get on with your music.

      Reply

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