Over the last decade, dozens of electronic music subgenres have starting popping up all over the Internet. Around 2009 Chillwave was all the rage. Often criticized for relying too heavily on nostalgia, artists like Daniel Lopatin, James Ferraro and Xavier began making Chillwave tracks that ironically featured slowed down samples of smooth jazz, easy listening and elevator music from the golden age of dial-up internet.
Fans instantly fell in love with the new sound, affectionately dubbed Vaporwave for its celebration of sights and sounds from early Internet culture. Vaporwave is all about dreamy synths, lo-fi drums, and pitch manipulated vocals—with a heavy dose of reverb and delay. In this article and accompanying video, we’ll explore how to record a Vaporwave track in Reason.
Spacey Synths and Smooth Loops
Most Vaporwave songs start with a spacey, ethereal synth pad—often created by sampling easy listening music from the 80s and 90s and significantly slowing down the tempo. Reason is loaded with plenty of retro loops and samples to get you started, but the Vaporwave Collection from Sample Magic features chunky Linn drum loops, dusty synth keys and resampled vocal grooves tailor-made for Vaporwave.
Find an inspiring loop and dial the BPM down in the 70s—then use Dr. Octo Rex to chop and screw it beyond recognition. Add your own drum parts by triggering vintage drum machine samples with Reason’s legendary Kong drum machine. For even more vintage vibe, check out Sample Magic’s Lo-Fi Beats sample pack, loaded with hundreds of samples and loops expertly tracked to tape from a host of revered synths and drum machines.
Reason has a secret weapon for creating dreamy Vaporwave synth sounds—Grain Sample Manipulator. Simply drag and drop any sample intro Grain to create a unique synth patch based on the waveform of that file. You can make a synth out of anything—a fax machine, your old modem, even the audio from a corporate training video.
Reason is packed with authentic vintage synth sounds—Subtractor for classic subtractive synthesis, Thor for rich polyphonic synths and Malström for glitchy, grainy goodness. For even more 80s era bleeps and bloops, check out some of Reason’s retro Rack Extensions like Layers Wave Edition, modeled after the legendary Waldorf Wave synthesizer, or Super Audio Cart, which features sounds from eight classic video game consoles.
Unique Vocals and Melodies
No Vaporwave song would be complete without a heavily effected, pitched down vocal. Drag and drop a vocal recording into NN-XT and use the auto-pitch detection to create a playable synth patch. Use your MIDI keyboard to trigger samples and create a brand-new melody.
When it comes to mixing, start by creating a lo-fi vibe using low-pass filters to remove some high end and Scream 4 to add a little distortion. Add vintage textures using the Audiomatic Retro Transformer to simulate VHS hiss and random pitch shifts caused by cassette tapes. Last but not least, apply a health dose of reverb and delay using the RV7000 MkII Reverb and The Echo for a washed-out dreamy feel.
Reason has everything you need to create the perfect Vaporwave aesthetic—from samplers to synths to effects. Check out this video to learn how to use Layers Wave Edition to create the perfect pads, drum sounds, and synth leads with Layers Wave Edition.