Grey Christmas (ReFX Contest Entry)

by Ruben on December 9th, 2012 2 comments »

This was my entry for the ReFX Christmas Contest. The challenge of the contest was to make a Christmas song using only the free expansion pack provided by ReFX and only using effects and tweaks of the Nexus². I decided to not take the “make a Christmas song” route, but emphasis more on using the effects in the Nexus to tweak the patches up to being unrecognisable. Most entries I heard so far only used the sound as provided, totally ignoring the “hidden message” in the contest to use effects possible on the Nexus². In the end, for me, it became more of a sound design challenge rather than a composition challenge.

This song was made in Logic Pro 9 using only the ReFX Nexus² with the free Christmas Expansion Pack from ReFX. No external delay, reverb, tracegate, arp or distortion used. About 20 instances where used and a lot of editing on the presets has been done. Most abused effects are trancegate, arpeggiator, distortion, switching off layers in the presets and modifying ADSR settings. Pushed my old MacBook to the limit. Couldn’t add more tracks.

I originally intended to call the song “Dark Christmas”, because it was supposed to be a Christmas Song, but didn’t at all end up sounding cheerful and jolly. Before I was able to submit my entry, someone else already used the intended title, therefore I changed it to Grey Christmas.

Most time was spend on the lead sound, which is a sound totally not present in the free Christmas Expansion, at least not in the form I eventually used it. It is made up from the “Recorder” preset, which is some sort of flute. I made it sound a bit different using various filters and made it portamento, something a real recorder obviously can’t do. Then I layered it with the “tail” (last part of the sound) of a cinematic piano preset and put that through the ring-modulator filter. The final result is the main lead sound you hear in the song.

Presets used (and abused):

  • 00:00 “Storm” (without rain) and “Big Ben” (trancegated from 00:16).
  • 00:16 “Drumkit” (distorted), “Handbell” (going down) and “Santa is coming 2” (from 01:47 with sniplet of Santa’s “Hoo”). Added a low subtone from the “E-Bass” oscillator 3 to give the big kick more punch.
  • 00:29 “Choir” (practically untouched, I really love this patch!).
  • 00:55 Effected portamento “Recorder” with Ring Modulated “Cinematic Piano” tail on top. High voice note is from “The Bells 2” layer 2, but I think it’s just the same sample as in the Choir patch.
  • 01:47 “Cinematic Piano”, Effected “Jingle Bells”, arped and distorted “Santa”. Distorted, arped and trancegated “Christmas Lead 4” layer 2. Cut-off “Game Clock” as an alternative tiny kickdrum.
  • 02:13 Arped, trancegated and distorted “Drumkit” to simulate hihats (and fail I’m afraid). “Clarinets” and “Dream Piano” layer 1.
  • 03:05 Bass created from the “Gospel Organ” preset.
  • 03:31 Distorted “Jingle Bells 2” in a sorry attempt to create some sort handclap sound. “Christmas Bells 2”.

You can read the original post about the contest on Facebook here and listen to some great entries from all the participants who posted it on the ReFX Facebook page.

And here is the post where the winners were announced. Originally ReFX wrote there would be one winner getting 5 free expansions, but in the end they decided to have two winners and a third one as a “runner up”, which was me, yeah! There were also some very nice comments about my track from other participant. Very nice and very sportive!

This was the mail I received from ReFX telling me I “didn’t quite win” but won something anyhow.


You didn’t quite win, but your song is so good and original, that we want to give you two expansions anyway. Please contact us though the ticket-system and leave your song online and public, so we can re-share it.

The two winners (we couldn’t decide) had their tracks private, so nobody (except us) could hear them, but they will be made public soon.


…and when I responded that I would like two expansion which (in my opinion) had good 70s synth sounds, because I was working on something that needed that kind of sound, Mike generously threw in another free expansion that he though also would provide me with some nice and useful sounds. Three expansion for the price of none!

Thanks a lot ReFX!


2 Responses

  1. Angelique says:

    still a great piece!

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