Interview with Tom Pritchard about designing sounds for Reason devices

tom pritchardA couple of days ago I decided to buy the ThorKit II Reason ReFill made by UK sound designer Tom Pritchard. I was impressed by the quality of the patches. Reason’s Thor synth is one of the most flexible software synths around (and available for iPad as well!) and with its semi-modular design it is also a complex synth to program. Tom seems to be a true Thor expert. His technical knob twisting results in some very musical and inspirational sounds for Reason users.

Since when are you using Reason?

Since 2003, beginning with Reason 2.0.

What other tools are you using for music and sound design?

Reason is my main sound design environment, although sometimes I work with Reaktor 5 and Absynth 3. I use a wider variety of software and hardware for fun when I’m writing music as a hobby, but for work I find there’s not much I can’t do with the aforementioned software.

How did you learn the sound design trade?

I am self-taught. Back in 2003 I had no desire to be a sound designer, I just wanted to write music, but I couldn’t find the kinds of sounds I wanted to use and figured I would have a go at making them myself. My first attempts weren’t very good, but if you do anything for years then you get a little better at it!

How do you approach the creation of a bunch of patches?

I work very methodically. A lot of it is about having a clear direction, knowing what kinds of sounds you are going to make, and how to make them, but you have to think in terms of creating an instrument that the end user can play. If you look at an orchestra, each instrument sits in its own frequency range and they all complement each other. It’s helpful to think like this when patching as it encourages you to focus on creating sounds that will be useful in the context of a track rather than on sounds that are impressive for their own sake.

What is the hardest thing for you as a sound designer?

Running a business! Marketing, distribution, that sort of thing – it’s not that difficult to release something but to make it generate a decent return is quite challenging, especially if you aren’t well known as a producer or recording artist.

There are more synths to choose from than ever before, does that make it more difficult for you to make decisions?

Not particularly, all of my commercial ReFills are for Reason stock devices, mainly Thor, so these are synths to which all Reason users have access. The rest of my work involves patching for the factory sound banks of synthesisers that are still in development, in which case the synthesiser is specified by the developer. Sometimes I will work on a comission to create audio loops for private clients but they aren’t interested in the equipment you use so long as the loops sound good.

What kind of artists are an inspiration to you (both sound and music people)

Broadly speaking I listen to a lot of electronic music, especially anything atmospheric and melancholy, but I often find whichever synthesiser I am working with to be enough inspiration in itself. Once you have a handle on what any synthesiser does best, you naturally lean towards its aesthetic.

Something else you want to share?

Sometimes I get e-mails asking me what my music sounds like, so here’s a pair of collaborations for any interested readers, the first with my good friend Adam Fielding:

And the second with Adam and the wonderful vocalist Holly Nelson:

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5 Responses to Interview with Tom Pritchard about designing sounds for Reason devices

  1. john December 1, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Thanks for this Marco..I dl’d his demo’s and really like the way he works, especially the percussion/bell tone arps….very musical and useful as jumping off points. I want to use these in the Matrix for various 12/8 african bell patterns I have. Question for you: I love your work as well in patch/synthesis for Reason- and can usually ID your patches by the name as well as the sound signature…did he design a lot for the Reason factory banks too?

    • Marco Raaphorst December 1, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      Thanks John. Tom told me he didn’t do patching for the Factory SoundBank but has contributed to many Rack Extensions of the Pheads.

  2. Navi Retlav December 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Nice review. Tom is my favorite sound designer.
    You forgot to ask him about monitors and headphones that he uses 😛

  3. Olli Äkräs December 3, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    I have Tom’s song called “How the roses burn” on my hard drive. I think I downloaded it from propellerheads forum way back. Can’t find it on the web so maybe he never published it? It’s a supercool song with lovely bell sounds and polyrhythmic synths! Love it.

  4. mark tarlton December 3, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    Tom is a very nice guy and an incredible sound designer! I have had plenty of conversations with him on the old PUF…man I miss the forum! Thanks for the interview and keep em coming 🙂

    Also for anyone that doesn’t have any of Tom’s(Stompp) refills you must go out and treat yo self!

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