Complete Guide on How to Chop Samples in Reason DAW

Propellerhead software makes is so anyone can learn how to chop samples in Reason. It’s so easy, in fact!

There are at least four different ways to chop samples in Reason, and each of them has their own pros and cons.

Note – this post may contain affiliate links, which means that I receive a commission if you purchase through them, nonetheless, this did not affect which products I recommend. 

Update (2/2/18): These days I’m pretty much exclusively using Serrato Sample to chop samples. It is like the future of sampling. It makes chopping so fast and easy! Much better than any of the methods described below, but it costs $99. 

You can use the sequencer, Kong, Dr. OctoRex, NN19 or the NN-XT.  This article will tell you how to chop hip hop vocals in Reason and explore when you may want to use each of the devices.

And if you’re looking for a good source of vocal samples to chop, I’d recommend Loopmasters. I get most of my samples from their massive library.

How to chop samples in Reason with the Sequencer

Reason 9 has added a bunch of new features to the sequencer that may make the Reason 9 sequencer the most powerful sequencer in the DAW workspace.

The huge benefits of using the sequencer – unlike Kong, NN19, and the NN-XT – are that you can time stretch a sample without affecting the pitch. And you can change the key of the sample without affecting the tempo.

These two features are huge.

Here’s an in-depth video tutorial on using Propellerhead’s Reason sequencer to chop samples.

But wait, there’s more….

Using Reason’s sequencer, you can easily edit the pitch of individual notes and move the time of transients. You also have access to the forment control to create unique effects.

And it also makes it really easy to cut tails, mute small sections and re-arrange fragments.

The downside to chopping samples in Reason’s sequencer is that it’s not very creative.

When you use Reason’s sequencer to chop samples, you’re not going to be able to use a keyboard. Instead you need to hunt through your sample library and place the samples you want directly on the sequencer timeline to use them.

As a result, it doesn’t lead to nearly as many happy accidents as the other methods, and can be quite time consuming.

How to Chop Samples in Reason with the Kong

The Kong is my preferred way of chopping samples in Reason. To me it feels the most natural and musical, like old school hip hop chops.

Aside from feeling highly musical, chopping samples with Kong has a few other benefits. You can use the pad groups to create mute and choke groups, easily set up round robins, and get easy access to certain effects only available in Kong (there’s a workaround for this, though).

Here’s an in depth video on chopping vocal samples in Kong.

The big downside to the Kong (aside from the pitch and timing issues mentioned above), is that it’s a bit of a pain to actually set the sample start and end point.

Chopping Samples in Reason Using Dr. Octo-Rex

Dr. Octo-Rex is probably my favorite way of chopping samples in Reason. It makes it really easy to pick slices, apply the most typical types of filtering, and loop things, if necessary.

You can easily make quick changes to the sound of individual slices, like reversing them, changing the pitch, or volume. However, it’s not that easy to move the location of the slices. You’ve basically got to convert the loop to an audio track, then move around the slice points. Then reconvert to Rex. The video details this more.

But yea, moving slices in Dr. Octo-Rex ain’t the easiest.

How to Chop Samples in Reason Using the NN-XT

Reason’s NN-XT Sampler is a super powered tool for creating complicated layers of sampled sound. Learning how to chop samples in Reason using the NN-XT is very similar to chopping samples in the Kong. In fact, the sampler used in Kong is just a striped down version of the NN-XT sampler. So if you understand the basics of setting the stop and start times from the Kong video, you’re off to a good start.

When you first create an NN-XT, you’ll want to right click on the interface and select “Reset Device.” This will clear out the current samples. From there, you want to click on the tab to expand the NN-XT’s “remote editor” and click on the file icon to load up your sample.

When sampling in Reason’s NN-XT, you can easily layer multiple samples. You can also chromatically map the samples  across the keyboard, or just assign them to one note each. Please note that when chopping samples in the NN-XT, changing the pitch will effect the speed of the sample. Sometimes this creates cool effects, so experiment with it.

The NN-XT also provides a ton of tools for modify the pitch, amplitude, filtering, and velocity, among other things, of each sample. When used well, these additional tools can add a lot to a performance. However, if you don’t need the full flexibility these tools provide, it is often simpler to chop samples in Reason using the NN-19 or the sequencer.

And, of course, here is a detailed video on how to do it.


Chopping Samples in Reason Using the NN-19

The NN-19 is really just a stripped down version of the NN-XT. It’s easier and faster to load samples in the NN-19, and it provides a little less strain on your CPU.

The cost is that you have fewer filtering and modulation options, and layering samples isn’t nearly as powerful.

But if you are perfectly content with the sample you’ve got, there’s no need to use the more complex NN-XT, and this is probably the most light weight way how to chop samples in Reason.



Creative Sidechain Compression Effects in Reason

Last week I showed you an ultra-detailed tutorial about all the cool ways that you can trigger sidechain compression in Propellerhead Software’s Reason 9 DAW. Now that you know how to use sidechain compression though, I want to help you think about some creative ways that you can use it to further your sounds.

This guide includes a lot of really cool, unique sidechain compression effects. These techniques work in Reason 9, but should work in most versions.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Sidechain reverb for a rhythmic pumping effect
  • Create a free dynamic equalizer
  • Duck multiple instruments at once
  • Throw sidechain compression on a delay for other worldly effects

You can download some of these creative sidechain patches here.

Now without further ado, here’s an in-depth exploration of all the cool things that you can do in Reason with sidechain compression.

Did I miss any? What creative ways do you use sidechain compression in Reason?

Reason Tutorial: How to Use Sidechain Compression in Reason

Whether you’re new to Reason or an Expert, this you’ll find this Reason tutorial on how to use sidechain compression in Reason useful. I’ve been using Propellerhead’s Reason DAW for about 15 years now, and I’m going to share all of the secrets to unlocking Reason’s incredible sidechain options.

Be sure to check out this in-depth tutorial on all sorts of cool, crazy ways to use sidechain compression for cool effects!

You can download the patches I use for free here.

This Reason tutorial is going to start simple, explaining what sidechain compression is and offering simple examples. You can skip directly to whatever section you might find useful.

  1. What is sidechain compression?
  2. 2 ways to use a source to sidechain a single sound
  3. 3 ways to use a source to sidechain multiple sounds
  4. How to use a loop to trigger a sidechain compressor
  5. How to setup a ghost sidechain to create unique pumping sounds

I think video is probably the best way to teach DAW lessons, so I’ve put together this 30 minute guide. But if you prefer reading or are looking for a reference, keep reading

What is sidechain compression?

Before showing you how to use sidechain compression in Reason, and before even answering the question about what sidechain compression is, let’s dig into the concept of compression.

Compression is basically automated volume control. In its simplest form, if you put compression on the drums, it will turn down the loudest parts. If the peaks are reduced by 3db, this allows you to turn up entire drum track by 3db without losing clipping or interfering too much with other tracks.

The threshold control determines how much sound is needed to trigger the compressor to turn down the volume. The ratio control determines how much the volume is turned down once the threshold is crossed. The attack determines how quickly the volume is turned down, and the release determines how quickly the volume returns to normal.

For a much more in-depth guide to compression, check out the free guide by Rob Mayze.

But isn’t this Reason tutorial about sidechain compression?


So how is it different?

Well, sidechain compression, separates the sound that is being turned down and the signal to turn it down.

Say what? How would you sidechain a synth?

Basically, with sidechain compression, you can have a kick drum act as the trigger for the compressor, but the compressor turns down the volume of the synth! All of the compressor controls (threshold, ratio, attack, release) control how the kick drum triggers the compressor. But the compressor doesn’t affect the compressor. It affects the synth.

2 ways to use a source to create sidechain compression in Reason on a single sound

Ok, now let’s look at to ways of using a compressor in Reason.

The first way is the simplest, most straight forward method. This should work in Reason 5 through Reason 9.

In Reason create an mClass compressor on the channel you want to sidechain, for example, a synth. It will be automatically created as an insert effect, and by default, it will just be compressing the synth. Then you take the parallel output from your kick (or whatever sound you want to trigger the sidechaining) and connect it to the sidechain input of the compressor on the channel you want to sidechain.


Reason tutorial how to use a sidechain compressor

Reason tutorial how to use a sidechain compressor


Adjust the compressor setting until you get the sound your looking for. Voila. You’ve got a sidechain.

Another equally easy way to do this in Reason 6 and above is to take advantage of the SSL Mixer’s sidechain option. While this requires less routing, you’ll notice that the SSL Mixer gives you fewer options to control the signal. For example, it lacks an attack control, which is really important for sidechaining.

But here’s how to do it.

Take the parallel out signal from your kick, but this time connect it to the dynamics section of the synth. Connect it to the sidechain input.

How to use a sidechain compressor with the SLL console

How to use a sidechain compressor with the SLL console

The key button will light up when sidechain mode is activated. Then go to the mixer, turn on the compressor on the synth channel, and dial in your sound.

3 ways to use a source to sidechain multiple sounds

The first two methods are great if you only want to use the kick drum to trigger one synth. But what happens if you’ve got multiple sounds you’d like to sidechain? Let’s say you want the kick to control a sidechain compressor on a synth and a bass. This is one of the most useful ways how to use sidechain Compression in Reason

Don’t worry. This Reason Tutorial has you covered.

Method 1 – using a Spider Audio Merger & Splitter to create multiple audio streams.

This is probably the most straight forward method. You use one of Reason’s most useful tools (it’s under the Utilities menu), the Spider Audio Merger & Splitter.

Create the Spider in the Kick’s mix channel. Then connect the kick’s parallel output to the Spider’s to the A and B inputs on the right side of the Spider. Create an mClass Compressor on the Bass and Synth channel. Then go connect the outputs from the right side of the Spider to the sidechain inputs of both mClass Compressors.

Using spider audio splitter for multiple sidechain compressor channells

Using spider audio splitter for multiple sidechain compressor channells

If you need to side chain more signals, you can chain multiple spiders together (see the diagram) or go to the Prop Shop and get the Polymodular Splitter for free.

How to link multiple spider audio merger and splitters

Spiders on spiders!

Method 2 – Get on the Bus!

The second way how to use sidechain compression in Reason is to get one signal to use a single signal to sidechain multiple signals is to bus all the signals to a single bus, then insert a compressor on the bus channel.

For example, you could send 4 synths to the Synthesizer bus, and then use the first method to create an mClass compressor on the Synthesizer bus controlled by the kick drum.

Finally, you can setup an mClass compressor on a send effect channel. Let’s say it’s on Send 1. You can use the kick drum to trigger the sidechain. Then you could go to the mixer, and click the Send 1 button on the channels that you want to send to the compressor. If you click the “pre” button and turn down the mixer volumes, only the send level will control the volume being sent to Send 1.

This can be useful for cool sidechained send effects if you add a reverb or delay after the compressor. Or it can create a cool pumping parallel sidechain compression.

How to use a loop to trigger a sidechain compressor

But what happens if you have a drum loop that you want to use to trigger the sidechain compressor on a synth?

You can’t just set up a Rex loop to trigger the sidechain compressor on the synth, because EVERY loud hit on the drum loop will trigger the compressor.

That’s right, the snare, the kick drum, and the crashes are all going to be triggering the compressor. This is going to sound like garbage, because there won’t be a consistent rhythm the sidechain compressing.

But I’ve got you covered.

Enter the Stereo Imager

The easiest way to do this is to use the trusty MClass Stereo Imager. This let’s you split the signal into high and low frequencies.

I made an easy patch for you to use here.

But let me explain what’s going on because teach a man to fish.

To get the kick drum of a drum loop to trigger the sidechain input of a separate compressor on a synth track, create an MClass Compressor on the Synth track. Then hold down the SHIFT key, and create an MClass Stereo Imager below the Compressor.

Holding down the SHIFT makes it so that the MClass compressor is not automatically connected to other effects.

To wire in the MClass Stereo Imager, connect the parallel output from the Rex Drum track to the audio input of the Stereo Imager. Then connect the “Separate Out” section of the Stereo Imager to the “Sidechain In” of the MClass Compressor.

Using an mclass stereo imager for sidechain compression

Using an mclass stereo imager for sidechain compression

Make sure the “Lo Band” switch is flipped on the back of the Stereo Imager. Then hit Tab to flip to the front of the Stereo Imager and adjust the X-Over Frequency down to 100HZ. The X-Over frequency determines which frequencies are sent through the lo-band. So by setting it to 100HZ, only sounds below 100HZ will flow into the sidechain. This ensures that the kick drum will be driving the sidechain compression. Now you know how to use sidechain compression in Reason with loops.

How to setup a ghost sidechain to create unique pumping sounds

Sometimes, however, you want a sidechain compressor, but you don’t want to have a pounding drum track.

Thankfully, the Reason DAW is flexible enough to handle this, too.

The final great trick for triggering the sidechain compression effect in Reason is what I’d call using a “ghost” kick drum.

Now don’t get scared.

It uses the same basic technique described in part one, but the kicker (get it? Kicker?) is that the kick drum is not actually plugged into the mixer, so it doesn’t create any sound in the song.

Here’s a ghost kick drum patch you can work from.

But again, I’m gonna teach you how to fish.

So you create your synth track. Then you create an MClass Compressor. Then you hold down SHIFT (remember, no connection) and create a REDRUM drum computer. Take the stereo out portion from the REDRUM and connect them to the Sidechain In on the MClass Compressor.

How to create a ghost compressor in Reason daw

How to create a ghost compressor in Reason daw

Then flip the REDRUM around and create a patter that fits the sidechain compression you’d like.


Now you’ve got a ghost sidechain compressor.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this exhaustive (and exhausting to write) guide on how to use sidechain compression in Reason. Feel free to share it with your friends!

Can you think of any other ways of how to use sidechain compression in Reason? Let me know in the comments.