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Reason Studios Chord Sequencer review

The latest Rack Extension is an interesting take on automatic chord generation. We take it for a spin…

  • £64
Reason Studios Chord Sequencer
(Image: © Reason Studios)

MusicRadar Verdict

A unique spin on the increasingly popular ‘chord generator’ format, albeit slightly limited by its Rack Extension format.

Pros

  • +

    More unique than many other ‘auto chord’ tools.

  • +

    Easy to use.

  • +

    A nice way to discover unusual chord shapes.

Cons

  • -

    Rack Extension only.

  • -

    Fairly steep standalone price.

  • -

    List of genres isn’t all-encompassing.

Reason Studios Chord Sequencer: What is it?

To be a successful electronic musician, you don’t necessarily need to be a talented ‘musician’ in the traditional sense. 

However, unless you’re operating in the furthest depths of noise, at some point you may need to get to grasp the basics of writing melodies and progressions. Hence why a whole genre of plugins, guides and premade MIDI packs has emerged in recent times, aiming to help producers bluff their way through the rudiments.

Chord Sequencer, from the developer formerly known as Propellerhead, is the latest entrant into this market. Launched as a Rack Extension for Reason, and included in the Reason+ subscription deal, this is a MIDI play device aimed at helping producers move beyond their go-to chord progressions. It does this by serving up a variety of genre-themed chord ‘sets’: collections of 16 chords themed around different genres and moods. There are 50 sets included, containing a total of 900 chords.

The crucial difference between these sets and some other, similar plugins, is that they are created by real musicians, as opposed to being programmatically generated around a scale or common chord progression. As a result, the chords in a given set don’t necessarily adhere to a certain scale or key, but rather are selected to suit the genre and mood.

Reason Studios Chord Sequencer

(Image credit: Reason Studios)

Reason Studios Chord Sequencer: Performance and verdict

The 16 chords are assigned across a virtual pad grid, and can be triggered from a MIDI keyboard or assigned to a MIDI controller. It uses a neat colour code system to help users pick chords, where different shades of green show the suitability of other chords in relation to the most recently played one. Again, these assignments are based on style as much as standard theory rules, so the results are often more interesting than those of more straightforward chord triggering tools.

As well as triggering the chords via MIDI, as its name suggests, the plugin includes a simple, drag-and-drop sequencer that allows users to build, save and trigger full chord progressions. There are also controls to add swing, as well as velocity and timing humanisation.

Its unique focus means it can be genuinely inspiring

Chord Sequencer is an interesting twist on the chord auto-generation format, and its unique focus on musically interesting ‘sets’ means it can be genuinely inspiring. It’s not perfect though – the sets feel a bit scattershot, with large gaps in the list of genres and the occasional vague name (‘Heads in Clouds’).

It’s also currently Rack Extension only, and requires Reason to run. Reason itself can now be used as a plugin in another DAW, you can use Chord Sequencer easily with any third-party tools or hardware, but it’s obviously limiting. A VST version would be nice. It also means that the £64 price tag feels fairly steep.

MusicRadar verdict: A unique spin on the increasingly popular ‘chord generator’ format, albeit slightly limited by its Rack Extension format.

Reason Studios Chord Sequencer: Hands-on demos

Reason Studios

Jef Gibbons

Stock Music Musician

Matthew Stuart

Reason Studios Chord Sequencer: Specifications

  • KEY FEATURES: Reason Rack Extension equipped with 50 chord ‘sets’. Also available as part of a Reason+ subscription for €19.99 per month.
  • CONTACT: Reason Studios (opens in new tab)

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.