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Getting started with REAPER for free

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Getting Started with REAPER Part 1: Setting it up

I figured I'd write a tutorial for this since I use REAPER, but I don't really hear about anyone else here using this excellent piece of software. It's unexpiring shareware (So you can use it as long as you like without any limitations) and the full version is only $40. Alright, so, first thing's first; get REAPER.

http://www.reaper.fm/

REAPER is constantly updated, so get the newest version and install it. The community makes some pretty cool skins for it, so if you want to check those out, head over here:

http://www.cockos.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=26

The next thing you're going to need are ASIO drivers. These give you a lot lower latency (Delay between user input and hearing the sound you made) than your default sound drivers. Go to:

http://www.asio4all.com/

Download them and install them. Now, load up REAPER for the first time. Along the bottom of the screen is your Docker. This is a little tabbed area that lets you dock the mixer, FX chains, etc. As you can see, the mixer is there by default. Along the left side of your screen are the tracks. Right now there probably aren't any. In the middle of the screen is where you'll actually be putting audio files and the like, and moving them around / lining them up as you see fit. We'll get to this more later. First, click the little text in the upper right that gives information about your audio device. For "Audio System" on the top, select ASIO. For ASIO driver, select ASIO4ALL for now, but if your device has its own ASIO driver listed, that might work better. Select the first and last inputs and outputs in the drop down menu and click OK.

Now you should have a basic, functioning REAPER set up. To make sure, open up the demo project "BradSucks_MakingMeNervous" and hit play. If it sounds ok, we're good. If it's crackly and distorted, try increasing the buffer size in your ASIO settings. The larger the buffer, the smoother audio will play, but the more delay there will be when recording and adjusting values.

If all went well by this point, we're ready to get some more plugins that will be useful. REAPER comes with its own set of "Rea___" plugins that are quite nice (I really like ReaEQ), but there are some other things we can get that will help a ton. (Note: When I say a plugin or effect is good, I'm speaking only relative to the other free software I've used. I've never used any of the expensive stuff, so I'm not saying it'll rival Waves or anything like that).

Free VST Instruments

sfz soundfont player - http://web.archive.org/web/20060616173559/www.rgcaudio.com/sfz.htm

In order to play soundfonts (Collections of sounds; sound fonts), you'll need a plugin. This works great, but when you use more than one in a project you might get a nasty crackling noise, in which case you should use...

FontSF2! soundfont player - http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jez.price/Vst/Font%21SF2.zip

Similar to sfz, except it doesn't have velocity support as far as I can tell.

TriangleII synth - http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Triangle/Default.asp

Use the VST link on the left.

Unifyer - http://67.18.247.83/2007_holidaygiveaway/freeware/am_unifyer%202.2.dll

Awesome awesome free VST synthesizer.

Vintager - http://67.18.247.83/2007_holidaygiveaway/freeware/vst_vintager2_win.zip

Another good synthesizer

Synth1 - http://www.geocities.jp/daichi1969/softsynth/synth1v107.zip

Excellent polyphonic synth, used in zircon's tutorials.

Free VST Effects

GVST Plugins - http://www.gvst.co.uk/downloads.htm

I really like the compressors and the tuner.

Voxengo Free Plugins - http://www.voxengo.com/downloads/

Some of these are free, some aren't. Check out Boogex and SPAN, those are both really useful.

mda vst plugins - http://mda.smartelectronix.com/

Lots of useful stuff.

Classic VSTs - http://www.kjaerhusaudio.com/classic-series.php

The compressor, phaser, chorus, flanger, and reverb are all pretty good in this set.

Free Soundfonts

NS7Kit Free - ftp://ftp.futurenet.co.uk/pub/computermusic/ns_sf/

Right click, save target on nskit7_freesf2.zip. Awesome free drum soundfont. The other ones here might be good, I have yet to try them out.

Darkesword's Soundfonts: - http://soundfonts.darkesword.com/

A great little selection of some soundfonts to start out with.

How to Install Plugins

-Make a folder somewhere where you're going to keep these. A lot of plugins default to C:\Program Files\VSTPlugins, but you can put it where ever you like.

-Put the dll files for the plugins to install in this folder. If the plugin uses an installer, install it into this directory.

-Open up REAPER. Go to "Options > Preferences > VST". Click the Add button on the top, and find the directory you made with the plugins in it.

-Press Rescan Directory. Now all of your plugins should show up in the FX browser.

With all of this stuff, you've got everything you need to make music except maybe a good audio interface and something to monitor with. You're not going to get that stuff free. On the next update I'll go into actually using the software. I hope you found this useful!

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Getting Started with REAPER Part 2: Using the Software

Alright, this is the second part to my REAPER tutorial. This time we'll go into actually editing a song, loading soundfonts and effects, and MIDI editing.

Basic Editing

To start off, we'll insert an audio file into the project. Start a new project, and click "Track > Insert New Track." This just added a new audio track to your project. Anything that is played on this track will go through the track's effects chain and sends, and will be affected by the gain (volume) and pan sliders for that track in the mixer. Usually you'll have one instrument per track, with some things being routed through multiple tracks (We'll get to that later).

A track is useless if there's no audio being sent through it, so let's fix that. Click "Insert > Media File..." and select "bassline.ogg" from the BradSucks_MakingMeNervous demo project folder. After a quick loading screen, you will now see bassline.ogg inserted as a media file on your new track. If you click play, you should hear the little synth bassline play once as the cursor scrolls through the song. Play with the sliders on the mixer or the track view a little bit; increase the gain, change the pan, see what it sounds like. The pan slider is the smaller one while the gain slider is the large vertical one.

As you can see, when sound is playing, the meters in the mixer show how loud it is at a specific time. If a track clips (Gets too loud, essentially), the top will turn red. You never want to let this happen on any track. Always keep your levels below this. The number on the top of each meter shows the highest point it has hit; you can click it to reset it. Also, double clicking any slider returns it to its default position, so if you mess something up and can't get it back, try that.

In the track view, try dragging the media clip around. You can move it to a different place in the song, or drag it down to create a new track. We don't need that right now though, so place it back where it started and right click on the new track and select "Remove Selected Tracks" if you made one. If you move the mouse to the edge of the media item (try the right side), you'll get one of two icons. The double arrows let you change the duration of the clip; if you drag it longer than it is, it will loop back from the beginning. You'll see two notches on the top and bottom that signify where a track loops from. The other icon, when the mouse is closer to the inside of the track, you'll get a paper with two arrows. This lets you fade in or out a track. You can drag to set where the fade starts, and if you right click on the line where the fade begins you can select the shape it follows. This lets you do quick fades, slow fades, etc.

The FX Chain

Next, we'll look at how the FX chain works. This is where you distort or refine the audio signal to sound exactly how you want it. To open up a track's FX chain, click the track's "FX" button on the mixer. Make sure you click the actual letters; the area nearby is a button that enables / disables FX for that track. The FX chain is empty right now, so let's add some effects. Click the "Add" button along the bottom.

Along the left of your FX browser are a few predefined groups of effects to use. To start off, go to the VST group and double click "Classic Reverb" (Assuming you got that effect in the tutorial above). You've just added this effect to your FX chain. Each plugin in your FX chain takes in audio input, and then feeds the audio output into the next plugin in the chain. Once it hits the last plugin in the chain it goes to the master out, which you hear. Right now we only have one effect in our chain.

Hit play and hear how it sounds. It should sound pretty echoy, like you heard it in a grand hall or something. Well, that's just what it's supposed to sound like, since that's what the preset is called; Click the drop down menu where it says "Default" and select another preset to hear some variations on the sound. Not all VSTs come with presets, but a lot do, and sometimes it's worth checking out how they sound. Note that the VST's presets are not in the drop down menu labeled "Presets"; Those are for user made presets, the ones that come with the plugin itself will always be in the lowest box of the three.

Lets try adding another effect to see how the order in the chain makes a difference. Use the same method above to add a "Classic Compressor" to the FX chain, and select the "Vocal Definition" preset. If you play it now, you'll hear that it sounds louder in general, and the echo doesn't fade out much at all; it stays the same volume. This is the compressor in action. Uncheck the reverb plugin on the left to bypass that effect. This makes it act as if it wasn't in your FX chain at all. You should hear the same bassline you started with, but it'll be punchier and a bit louder. It might clip here, but don't worry about it now, since we're just experimenting. Just make sure it doesn't happen in an actual mix. Now, re-enable the reverb, but put it after the compressor. Now the snap that was added from the compressor is really noticeable. As you can see, the order of effects can make a big difference, so keep that in mind. Note that this wasn't supposed to sound good or anything, I just used this as an example to show how the FX chain works.

MIDI Instruments

The FX chain can also be used to turn MIDI data into actual sound. Start a new project, add a track, and open up the FX chain. This time, go to the "Instruments" category on the left. Try adding "ReaSynth", a very basic synth that comes with REAPER. Any instrument you add should probably be the first in the chain, as that's the point where audio data is generated. Only plugins that change MIDI should go before the instrument. Close the FX chain and go to "Insert > New MIDI Item." If this adds a new track, drag the MIDI item back to the first track and remove the new one. Double click the MIDI event to bring up the MIDI editor.

This is where you can actually write music. Click on the piano keys to hear what note your mouse is over (Or look at the note name in the bottom right corner). You can double-click to place a note. Click and drag to move the note around, or drag near the edge of it to stretch it out. The "Velocity" on the bottom is essentially how hard the note is being hit. The play / pause / stop thing on the bottom should be pretty obvious. On the right side of the midi editor, inside the window where you place notes, there should be a large vertical bar that you can drag left and right. This bar sets where the end of your pattern is; if you drag a midi item in the main window (Where the tracks are, not the editor), you can extend it so it loops. This bar sets where it will start to loop. Keep it lined up with the numbers on the top for the most part (These show what measure you're on, that'll keep timing in sync). That's pretty much it for the MIDI editor, play around with it and see what you can make. If you put a MIDI media item on a track without an instrument in the FX chain, you aren't going to hear anything, so keep that in mind. MIDI data only keeps track of the notes, not an actual audio signal. That's why we have to add an instrument plugin to change it into an actual sound wave.

Soundfonts

One of the best uses of MIDI is soundfonts. To use a sound font, we'll need a soundfont player. Start a new project as above, and for your instrument add either "sfz" or "FontSF2!". sfz sounds a little better because it supports velocity changes, but it doesn't like having multiple instances of the plugin; it makes this hideous crackling noise. To get around this, either use FontSF2!, or when you have a track sounding how you like, right click on the media item and select "Apply FX to item as new take." This will render the clip into actual audio data, so you can remove the sfz plugin from the effects chain and keep the instrument. To open a soundfont, click "[Load]" on Font! or the "FILE" box in the sfz plugin. Soundfonts will have the *.sf2 extension. You can get them in a lot of different places, check the first tutorial for a few or some of the other guides here. When you've loaded up a soundfont, you can sometimes change what instrument to use. Click the third arrow in Font! or the arrow next to "PROGRAM" in sfz to see what other choices are available. Click on it to change to that instrument. Soundfonts will now work like any other MIDI instrument, so follow the instructions above to start actually using them.

That's about it for this segment of the tutorial, next time I'll probably cover recording and signal routing. Hope this was helpful!

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hey overcoat what daw do you use.I remember you saying it one time, but I couldn't remember or find it in search.

to add to the guide -

awesome site for free and good vsts

kvraudio.com

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kvraudio.com

Wow, thanks, this site is awesome, I wish I knew about it earlier.

Nice tutorial, DBS. REAPER seems like a really interesting program, I might check it out when I have the time.

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Here's another really good freebie

Rebirth

http://www.rebirthmuseum.com/downloads/main.htm

complete with downloadable free patches

http://h1.ripway.com/max97230/reaperbouncyball.RPP

here's a little ditty I made in reaper. It requires synth1 and crystal.

WTF IS GOING ON!!!?!?! I just reopened that project and listened to it and it is WAY WAY DIFFERENT. All the mixer volumes are messed up, and I could be wrong, but I don't think it played the right synth patch either (I altered the presets a bit)

well this sucks ass if I can't even save a fucking song. Might as well just stick with working in the FL demo because I can't save there either and it has a way faster note entry.

Hmm maybe I just didn't save lol cause it's working fine now.

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Hey, can you use a Electronic Keyboard (With a MIDI output, of course), to enter MIDI notes and stuff in REAPER?

Yup! Once it's connected and everything is installed correctly (This depends on your specific keyboard, I'll just outline what to do in REAPER), open up REAPER and go to Options > Preferences > Midi Devices. Right click on your keyboard and select "Enable." Now add a new track, and give it a VSTi of some sort (ReaSynth works for testing). Click the "R" button to arm the track for recording; a VU meter should show up on the track, and something like "Input 1," or the name of your audio capture device will be on it. Right click the VU meter, go down to MIDI inputs, and select the device you just enabled. "All Channels" or "Channel 1" should work. Now, click the little speaker icon that's on the left of the VU meter to turn on input monitoring. Now, when you play something on your keyboard, you should hear it. You can now record input from it as well. If there's a large delay between pushing a key and hearing something, it's because of the latency settings of your audio device. Use the button in the far upper right to configure this, try setting a lower buffer size.

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What button was it you were referring to in the top right to fix latency issues? I can't seem to find it.

EDIT: Found it. Didn't really look so much like a button, threw me off.

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Hey guys,

I've been making a series of REAPER tutorials on youtube that I'd love to share:

http://www.youtube.com/user/RogetMusic#g/c/B139E95D3313AFDF

These assume some basic knowledge of DAW functions, and are geared towards sound designers and musicians with experience in Logic, Cubase, Sonar, Protools, or other similar programs.

Even as a 10+ year Sonar veteran, I'm very excited about REAPER and use it at work every day. Give it a try!

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WOW Busta these Youtube tutorials are absolutely amazing. I tried Reaper a couple weeks ago and my head just exploded, mainly because I've only ever used FL Studio. But watching your tutorials I feel absolutely ready to not only try it, but use it and take advantage of its neat features and ability to optimize the workflow.

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I'm having a frustrating problem with REAPER (I'm a new user trying to learn the ropes): I have my soundfont players (SFZ and the Font! one) both installed, and I've got two different sound libraries (one orchestral and one guitar-based) as well. My first problem is that when I assign the SFZ soundfont player to a track, IT ONLY PLAYS THE FIRST INSTRUMENT ON THE LIST. Even if I change the instrument on the SFZ player in the FX settings, when I actually hit "play", it always reverts to the first instrument on the list and ONLY plays that one...then when I open the FX options to check, sure enough, it automatically reverted to the first instrument. I'm not sure how to fix this.

My second problem is, with the Font! player, I can't hear any sound at all when I play back the instrument (although the player can load instruments and I can see it playing them "digitally", I don't hear sound!). This problem is puzzling because I can hear the playback of the SFZ player, but for some reason I can't hear sound with the Font! player.

Any advice is appreciated - thanks.

-ContinueTheEnd

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I'm having a frustrating problem with REAPER (I'm a new user trying to learn the ropes): I have my soundfont players (SFZ and the Font! one) both installed, and I've got two different sound libraries (one orchestral and one guitar-based) as well. My first problem is that when I assign the SFZ soundfont player to a track, IT ONLY PLAYS THE FIRST INSTRUMENT ON THE LIST. Even if I change the instrument on the SFZ player in the FX settings, when I actually hit "play", it always reverts to the first instrument on the list and ONLY plays that one...then when I open the FX options to check, sure enough, it automatically reverted to the first instrument. I'm not sure how to fix this.

My second problem is, with the Font! player, I can't hear any sound at all when I play back the instrument (although the player can load instruments and I can see it playing them "digitally", I don't hear sound!). This problem is puzzling because I can hear the playback of the SFZ player, but for some reason I can't hear sound with the Font! player.

Any advice is appreciated - thanks.

-ContinueTheEnd

Double click the midi track to edit, zoom in and right click any note and select 'note properties' observe the midi track value. Make sure the sfz player is set to the same midi channel as the midi track itself.

As for fx control, it's an option inside the fx window but I can't remember which off the top of my head.

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I've been playing with Reaper and some VSTs (mostly from here: http://www.dskmusic.com/ ) and I encountered some strange issues.

Some of the VSTs sound out of tune. It happened with the ChoirZ (slightly with this one) and Synthopia (very out of tune) ones. Is that because the VST is meant to sound like that or I'm doing something wrong?

Also, when I load a piano soundfont and a drum soundfont, the piano seems to "lag" and starts playing quick arpeggios instead of straight chords. How can I fix that?

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I'm having some problems with Reaper.

- First of all I can't find the demo project mentioned in the first post, or any demo project at all for that matter.

- Also when I'm using Reaper I can't hear sound from YouTube videos.

- I can't find the plugin that I installed for Reaper.

- Lastly my demo isn't unlimited, it only lasts 60 days.

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I went to this thread before, but I somehow missed Bustatunez tutorial :o. Thanks for bumping this.

@YunTajento: As for the 60 day trial thing. I'll post here tomorrow about that, mines is supposed to end today. 8-O

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- I can't find the plugin that I installed for Reaper.

- Lastly my demo isn't unlimited, it only lasts 60 days.

Try setting up a folder labeled VSTs. It should have REAPER automatically scan it upon opening. If not, then download the PDF that's on the site. It'll tell you what to do (It's what I used to get started).

As for the 60 day trial thing, mine just passed and everything's working fine. So don't worry about that :).

Hope this helps :D.

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I'm having some problems with Reaper.

- First of all I can't find the demo project mentioned in the first post, or any demo project at all for that matter.

- Also when I'm using Reaper I can't hear sound from YouTube videos.

- I can't find the plugin that I installed for Reaper.

- Lastly my demo isn't unlimited, it only lasts 60 days.

I believe the demo projects were removed from later versions of Reaper. Nothing to do about it sadly...

When you use Reaper, the DAW "takes control" of the ASIO driver, so nothing else can use it. You'd need an audio interface or something to get sound from Youtube.

If you go to Options -> Preferences -> VST, you can set the folders where your plugins are installed (the .dll files). Then, open the FX tab in a track, click with the right button and select "Scan for new Plugins". Your plugins should appear now.

The demo is unlimited, despite the 60 day warning.

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The demo project All Through the Night is located here.

To find yer plugin, open up the FX Browser and type the name into the filter list. If it doesn't appear, check Preferences->VST to make sure the path is represented. If it still doesn't appear, make sure you actually installed it correctly.

I've never had trouble getting other apps to produce sound while Reaper is running. Check this. Make sure top box is checked. If it doesn't work, try the other one. If it still doesn't work, post on the Reaper forum.

The demo works after 60 days, but by the Reaper TOS you must either delete it or purchase a license. I know, treating people like responsible adults instead of criminals, who'd have thunk?

Edited by Argle

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I do have a few questions about Reaper myself.

Can a track be "stretched" in Reaper? As in stretching the sound?

Does Reaper have Automation? Or is it only able to arm the volume on each track?

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Can a track be "stretched" in Reaper? As in stretching the sound?

Yep, alt-drag the side of an item. You'll see a Rate label appear on the item to show how much you've timestretched it.

Does Reaper have Automation?

Yep, go to the Track Envelopes/Automation button on the TCP. Click the visible box for anything you want to see.

Incidentally, the action FX: Show/hide track envelope for last touched FX parameter is very useful. Wiggle a parameter and run the action. Assign it to a key and it's much quicker than searching through hundreds of VST parameters for the one you want.

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