Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Simple Reaper Setup to get started..

A quick post to help people who haven't used Reaper before get setup at least far enough to do some basic recording / noodling and fx..

Probably all pretty straightforward stuff.. but might be useful if you haven't messed with PC based music for a long while and now have a shiny modern PC sitting there looking a bit bored..

Step 1 : Get Reaper

Why Reaper? because I like it, and I'm writing this ;p I'd hardly try to walk you through the setup of a program I don't use now would I ;p .. Ok.. rambling aside.. goto and use the magical Download button.. when I wrote this, it was up in the top right of the page..

That will give you a few options to pick from.. at this point I'm just going to assume you are using Windows 7 (sorry Mac & Linux people, I do most of my music on Windows.. and the rest on a Piano). If you know you are on a 64 bit version of win7, get the 64 bit one, else get the 32 bit one.. in the words of the immortal meerkat.. "Simples".

Now.. go find where you downloaded it, and run the installer, you are good for 60 days of trial usage from now.. hurrah! order a pizza and celebrate.

Step 2 : Get ASIO4ALL v2

You can skip this step if your soundcard has native ASIO drivers.. if you don't know if it has, it probably hasn't.

Run the installer, and just accept the defaults..

Grab ASIO4ALL from

Step 3 : Configure Reaper Audio..

First launch Reaper, you'll have to agree to the little license window, which might make you wait a short while, but beyond that the trial IS fully functional, which is pretty awesome..

Once it's all loaded up.. hit Ctrl-P to open the prefs window (or go Options->Preferences from the menus).. and select 'Device' under 'Audio' on the left,  here we get to pick some way of sending sound to the sound card.. If we can, we'll want to use ASIO, WDM or WASAPI .. they offer nice low latencies.. if you have a cheap el-realtek soundcard, I'm going to assume you want to input live audio .. which sadly means not using WASAPI .. (if you only want to input MIDI, and output audio, WASAPI is great.. I get supposedly 1ms latency.. sadly enabling any input at all with my realtek destroys the output sound with glitchy pops & crackles)..

So we'll be using ASIO, via the ASIO4ALL v2 driver we installed earlier.. select ASIO from the top dropdown on the right, then ASIO4ALL v2 in the next drop down.. then hit the button marked 'ASIO Configuration...'

You are now at the ASIO config panel, click the spanner icon bottom right so it has a nice red cross thru it, then expand your sound card in the top left pane by clicking the little [+] icon.. now you can see a list of all your cards inputs & outputs.. click the power icon to the left of the card itself to make the little power icon light up (if it isn't lit already).. then light up each input & output you plan to use, and unlight all the ones you don't plan to.. (eg, for my card, I light up Realtek High Definition Audio as the card, then Realtek HD Audio output , then Realtek HD Audio Line input) Set the ASIO Buffer size to around 128 (works for me, you may want to play with this value if your audio glitches later). then close the ASIO4ALL window.

Now tick the 'Enable Inputs' box back in the reaper prefs panel, select input 1 and input 2 as your inputs.. then do the same for output, selecting outputs instead.

Step 4 : Configure Midi input devices

Under 'Audio' where you selected 'Device' in step 3, now click 'MIDI Devices' and find your midi controller, and tell it you wish to use it as enabled, and control, by right clicking the device and ticking the menu entries.

Finally hit ok on the prefs dialog, and it will close.

Step 5 : Add a virtual instrument on a track.. 

Right click the area above the start /stop/record button, and select 'Insert virtual instrument on new track...' a dialog will open, where you can pick 'ReaSynth' by double clicking it..

Next you see a small window saying FX: Track 1 "ReaSynth" , and you can already now play the instrument via your midi controller.. play with the sliders for other sounds.. The default tone should be a nice clean sine wave type sound.. if it's popping & crackling like old vinyl, then you need to go play with the ASIO settings to try to resolve it.. if you look top right of the main reaper window behind the synth controls, you can see the predicted latency for your sound output path (mine says ~10/38ms ASIO). If the tones nice & pure, move on =)

This instrument is pretty basic, but before we give up with it.. lets add some reverb..

Hit the 'Add' button bottom left of the synth controls window, select 'ReaVerbrate' and your synth controls go away, replaced by reverb controls.. Select the 'No Preset' dropdown & pick 'Send Cannon Toms' and notice how you have a nice reverb now ;p untick it in the list to disable that fx .. add more fx if you like, they run in order as an fx chain thru each one.. (so if you put reverb before the synth, its kinda pointless)

Step 6 : Find some better syths.. 

Lets start with a classic synth..  install the 32 bit one, and then lets go get and install that too (it can be handy to tell them all to install to the same dir, usually thats something like.. C:\Program Files (x86)\Steinberg\VstPlugins)

Close down Reaper, relaunch it.. open the preferences panel (Ctrl-P or Options->Preferences menu).. then scroll down on the left, find Plug-ins, then VST.

Then make sure the path you just installed Pedals and TAL-U-NO-LX to is present in the top text box 'VST plug-in paths...' and hit 'Re-scan' then 'OK'

Now insert virtual instrument on new track again (right click in track area, select menu option..) and now pick the TAL U-No-LX-V2 option by double clicking it.. when it loads it will display it's own control window, click where it says 'Startup' at the top, then explore the sounds in the banks at the bottom to find something fun.

Now lets add some effects.. close the TAL control window hit "Add.." bottom left again, then select the Pedals plugin (you may need to use VST on the left to find Pedals, and VSTi to find TAL).. You should now have Pedals & TAL loaded on the same track.. again, pedals will load it's own control window.. click where it says 'init' and pick cave reverb..  hours of amusement about to be had..

To reopen the TAL or Pedals UI just select them in the list on the left.. to reopen the track fx window click the green FX button on the track..

Step 7 : Live Audio.. 

Connect up your line level source to line-in on the pc (usually the blue edged socket)... now in the track area, right click, and just 'insert new track' no virtual instruments this time. Then click the tiny speaker next to 'IN' bottom right on the new track control panel, and click the drop down that likely says something like HD Audio Lin... select input stereo->your input name.

You should now hear what you play in, and can add effects by pressing the FX button on the track, and adding something like Pedals to the track.

Step 8 : ...

Step 9 : Profit!

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