Chapter 2: REAPER Project Basics

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2: REAPER Project Basics[edit]

2.1 Section Overview[edit]

In this chapter you will be taught the essential basics about working with a project file in REAPER. Topics include opening and closing files, navigating the REAPER environment, working with tracks and audio effects, and more. Most of the topics introduced here will be covered in greater depth and detail later in this guide.

2.2 Opening an Existing Project[edit]

To open an existing REAPER Project File, use the File, Open Project command, or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl�O. As with other Windows Apps, you will need to navigate to the appropriate folder to find your project. Recently used projects can more easily be opened using the File, Recent Projects command. This causes a list of up to the last 100 recently used project files to be displayed. You can then select any file from that list.

The General page of your Options, Preferences window offers a number of options. In particular, you can:

Manage your Undo preferences.

Specify whether or not you want the most recently used file automatically loaded when REAPER is started. Choose the Last active project option for this. Other startup options are explained in Chapter 22.

Specify whether you want to Automatically Check for New Versions of REAPER on Startup.

Determine the number of files displayed on the Recent project list.

Other General Preferences settings are discussed and explained in Chapter 22.

Notice too the toggle command Continuous scrolling on the Options menu. If disabled (the default), the play cursor will scroll from left to right during playback. If enabled, this cursor will find and then remain stationary in the center of the arrange window during playback, while the media items scroll across the screen.

The examples used throughout this guide use the project file All Through The Night.RPP. This can be downloaded from It might help you to keep that project open while using this documentation. Take a copy of this file and work with that. You will then be able to experiment freely without fear of damaging any of your own important projects.

2.3 Project Settings[edit]

REAPER project settings can be defined to meet the requirements of individual projects. The Project Settings dialog box is accessed by choosing the File, Project Settings command, or by using the keyboard shortcut Alt Enter. The dialog box has five pages of settings - Project Settings, Media, Video, Advanced and Notes. If in doubt, leave most settings at their default values, at least until you understand better what they are and how they work.

Project Settings: Project Settings

These include:

Project Sample Rate: for example, 44100 Hz (CD standard) or 48000 Hz (DVD standard).

Option to force the time signature to beats or whole samples.

Project beats per minute and time signature.

Method for setting the timebase for items/envelopes markers and for tempo/time sig - essentially you have a choice of Time, Beats (position, length rate) or Beats (position only). See notes below.

Project start time and measure. Leave these at their defaults for now. In Chapter 12 you'll see when, why and how to change them.

There is an option to Base ruler markings off any specified start measure. The default is the first.

Playback and render resample mode � from Lowest (point sampling) thru Medium (64 Sinc) to Extreme HQ (768 HQ Sinc).

Default mode and parameter to be used for pitch shifting. See Chapter 10.

Project Settings: Media

These include:

Paths (primary and secondary) to store media files. For example, if you specify "Audio" then your media will be stored in a folder called Audio, as a sub-folder of the project folder. If left blank, REAPER will use the same folder as the project file.

Option to use or over-ride the global preference for copy media on import. You can opt to copy the media items to the project file folder.

Recording format - typically WAV or MP3, but there are others , e.g. AIFF, DDP, FLAC, OGG Vorbis Video (GIF) and WavPack. Each of these comes with its own set of options and settings.

Settings and specifications for chosen recording format � e.g. for WAV files this includes Bit Depth.

Whether to include markers and/or regions.
Whether to embed the project tempo.

Preferred media formats when FX are applied, or items are glued or frozen, and when media items are rendered. Also, default media format for project and regions. You have the same range of formats, options and settings as you have for recording format.

Project Settings: Advanced

Item Mix Behavior. Determines how REAPER should behave when one media item is placed directly on top of another. The options are for Enclosed Items to Replace enclosing items, Items always to be mixed, or for the newer item to always replace the older item.

Track mixing depth. If unsure, leave at the default setting.

The option to allow feedback in routing. Feedback routing can be useful for some advanced mixing activities, but can be dangerous for audio equipment. If you are in any doubt, do not select this option.

The option to synchronize the project with the timecode of an external device.

The option to limit project length and recording time.

There is an option to set the default state for Preserve pitch when changing rate.

Specifying a default pan law for your tracks. The pan law determines how the relative volume of a track behaves when that track is panned more or less to one side or the other. Gain compensation boost can be enabled or disabled. Pan laws are discussed in more depth later in Chapter 2. Meanwhile, if you are unfamiliar with how pan laws work, leave these at their default settings.

Default track pan mode. You have choice of pan modes, some mono, some stereo. See Chapter 11.

Rewire slave settings. These are shown on the right.

Project Settings: Video: These are explained in Chapter 20.

The Project Timebase Settings

The project timebase controls how media items, envelopes and project markers behave when the project tempo changes. When possible, get your project timebase settings right before you record or import any items. The default settings are Beats (position, length, rate) for items/envelopes/markers and Beats for tempo/time sig envelopes. For more information about the timebase, open the Actions list (from REAPER's main menu) and run the action Project settings: timebase help. For more about the Actions List, see Chapter 15.

It's worth also noting that you can still over-ride the project timebase setting for individual tracks within your project. To do this, select the track(s) and choose Track timebase from the track control panel context menu. To do this for an individual item, select the item then press F2 to display the Item Properties dialog box.

Project Settings: Notes

This very handy section lets you enter any notes and comments that you would like to be included with your project file. You can specify that the notes should automatically be displayed each time the project is opened.

Tip: You can save all these settings as the defaults to be used for future new projects. Of course, for any individual projects you can over-write your defaults.

2.4 The Transport Bar[edit]

If the Transport Bar is not visible in your REAPER window, use the View, Transport command to display it, or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl Alt T to do this. The Transport Bar might appear as shown here, as a floating window (undocked) inside REAPER, or it might be docked just below arrange view. At this stage, the exact position of the Transport Bar is not important. The main Transport Controls are shown below, though your exact layout might not be identical: whether docked or not, the controls will appear in a single row if the window is wide enough.

The first five transport buttons are fairly standard � Go to Start, Go to End, Stop, Play, and Pause. The Stop button stops playback and returns the play cursor to the position it was in when playback started. The Pause button pauses playback without moving the play cursor.

The Record button starts and stops recording, without stopping playback. Clicking on the Stop button when recording is taking place will both stop playback and recording. The Toggle Repeat button turns on and off the option for any looped time selection to be played over and over again during playback.

The Global Automation Override feature will be explained in Chapter 18. To the right of this the current time selection is shown (start position, end position and length). Working with and managing time selections is a theme that will recur throughout this User Guide.

The current play cursor position is also shown: in the above example this is 29.2.54/0:56.722. Next to this is the playback status (Playing, Paused or Stopped). Next are edit boxes that show the project Tempo (BPM) and Time Signature values. To change the value of either box click in the box and type the new value. Depending on your mouse preferences (Chapter 22), you can also use your mousewheel to adjust this. Finally (in the above layout) is the playback rate. This can be made faster or slower by adjusting the horizontal fader. If adjusted, the fader background is colored green. Double-clicking resets the rate to 1.0. You can also hover your mouse over the box and use your mousewheel to increase (up) or decrease (down) the value.

Three other useful transport control keys are Ctrl Left (go back a little), Ctrl Right (go forward a little) and Alt Space (play, skipping loop selection.

Right clicking over the Transport Bar displays a context menu. This may seem slightly intimidating at first. We'll get to the more advanced stuff in Chapter 10, but for now just notice that there are menu options available to:

  • Select your preferred time display format.
  • Dock or Undock the transport in the Main Window. You can choose the main docker or any of four other positions � Below arrange view, Above ruler, Bottom of main window or Top of main window.
  • Flash transport status as yellow if a possible audio underrun is detected.


The top of the edit cursor is marked by an upside down triangle. You can grab this with your mouse and drag to move the edit cursor without affecting playback. Depending on your preferences settings, you may need to hold down the Shift key while you do this. If you do this when the project is not playing, it will have the effect of �scrubbing� your audio.

This topic is covered in more detail in Chapter 5 of this User Guide.

2.5 Track Controls[edit]


If you play All Through The Night.RPP you will notice that the same sound is coming out of both speakers and that the different instruments and vocals are all competing with each other for the same acoustic space. That�s because no adjustments have been made to any track's Volume or Pan controls. The exact position of these faders varies with factors like width and height of the your control panel and which of the available track layouts is in use.

The rotary fader shown here is used to adjust a track�s volume. With some layouts, this will be shown as a horizontal fader. The rotary not far to its right adjusts the panning, sending the signal more to the left or the right as preferred. If you see a second pan control, ignore it for now. This is used with some pan modes to control stereo width: this is a more advanced concept, primarily used for folders and tracks with stereo media files. This will be covered in Chapter 11. For now, we will be working with just the one pan control. In any event, to adjust any horizontal, vertical or rotary faders in REAPER, you can:

Click and hold down the left mouse button over the fader, then drag in the direction required, releasing the mouse when finished. For rotary faders, drag up to rotate clockwise, down for anti-clockwise. Hold Ctrl while doing this for more subtle adjustments.

Hover your mouse over the fader, use the Scroll Wheel to adjust the level down/up. To enable this feature, go to Options, Preferences, Editing Behavior, Mouse and deselect Ignore mousewheel on track panel faders and on all faders. See also mouse behavior preferences in Chapter 22.


By default, a track's VU meter will show the level of the signal after being adjusted by the volume fader. If you wish, you can instead show the pre-fader level by choosing from the Options menu the command Pre-fader track metering.


Right-clicking on the volume control opens the routing dialog box (shown right). You can enter values as dB for volume (e.g. -6) and as percentages for pan (e.g., 25R for 25% right) and width directly into this box.

By default, the volume and pan controls apply to a track's audio output. If you want to use these to control its MIDI signal, right-click on the track number in the TCP, then choose MIDI track controls, then Link track volume pan to all MIDI channels from the context menu.

Tip: To audition possible changes, hold down the Alt key while dragging the fader with the mouse. When you release the mouse, it will then return to its original position.

Tip: To work with more than one track, hold down Ctrl while clicking in the Track control panel on each track number required. Then release Ctrl. Any fader or other movement will be applied to all selected tracks.


The two buttons to the right of the width control fader on each track�s control panel have these functions:

Mute Toggles Mute on/off for selected track(s)
Solo Toggles Solo on/off selected track(s)

Note: Both the Mute and Solo controls can also be used with modifier keys such as Alt and Ctrl for various functions. See Chapter 5 for details.

By default, track Solo causes the track itself and the output of any sends originating from that track to be played. If you wish to hear only the track without these sends, hold the Alt key while soloing the track. Notice that your track controls also include a phase control button. This can be used to reverse track polarity.

2.6 Pan Law and Pan Mode[edit]

You can also change the pan law for individual tracks. Right-clicking over a track�s pan fader opens a window where you can select from the list (in a range 0.0 dB to -6.0 db) or type in your own value. A negative setting causes the signal at the center to be attenuated as panning increases. The Gain compensation (boost pans) option can be enabled to cause the signal's audio strength to instead be boosted as it is panned.

Another option is to select your preferred pan mode (see right). This will be explained and dealt with more fully in Chapter 11 when we look at stereo panning. In brief, however, you have a number of options � Stereo balance/mono pan is the default (see Project Settings). This is equivalent to the panning mode used in versions of REAPER before REAPER 4. If you select REAPER 3.x balance, stereo pan or dual pan, the width panner will also automatically be displayed. Several of the screen shots used in this guide illustrate dual pan controls. The various pan modes are explained, along with stereo and dual panning, in Chapter 11.

2.7 Navigation and Zooming[edit]

Navigating within the Track Control Panel

The following keyboard shortcuts can be used to navigate within the Track Control Panel:

Function Keystroke Go to next track. Ctrl Alt Down
Go to previous track. Ctrl Alt Up

Adjusting Panel Width with Mouse

To adjust the width of the track panel area, place your mouse over the vertical border that separates the track control panel area from the main workspace area, until the mouse indicator changes to a horizontal black double headed arrow. Click and hold down the left mouse button while dragging the mouse left or right. Release the mouse button when the desired track control panel width is reached. Note that double-clicking on this vertical border will toggle track panel visibility on and off.

Adjusting Track Height with Mouse

Function Action Adjust height of single track Click/drag up/down on lower track boundary
Adjust height of selected tracks Alt + click/drag up/down on lower track boundary
Adjust height of all tracks. Ctrl + click/drag up/down on any lower track boundary
Adjust height of all tracks. Click/drag up/down between + and � on vertical scrollbar

Toggling Track Height with Keyboard or Mouse

Function Keystroke Minimize height of all tracks, or, if already minimized, restore tracks to most recent previous height. ` (this is the key immediately to the left of 1, usually directly above the Tab key).
Maximize height of all tracks, or, if already maximized, restore tracks to most recent previous height. ~ (on most keyboards, this is the Shift key in combination with the ` key).
Expand height of selected tracks, minimize all others. Press again to restore tracks to previous height. ! (on most keyboards, this is the Shift key in combination with the 1 key).
Minimize all tracks. @ (on most keyboards, Shift with the 2 key).
Toggles height of all tracks between minimized, normal and maximized. Double click mouse on vertical scroll bar
Lock/unlock current track height. Use Lock track height command on track right-click context menu.

Zooming In and Out with the Keyboard

The following keyboard shortcuts can be used for zooming within a project:

Function Keystroke Zoom Out vertically, decreasing track height Page Down
Zoom In vertically, increasing track height Page Up
Zoom to current time selection Ctrl Num Pad +
Zoom Out to entire project length Ctrl Page Down
Zoom Out horizontal - (the minus sign)
Zoom In horizontal + (the plus sign)
Zoom Out media peaks Shift Down
Zoom In media peaks Shift Up

Scrolling with the Keyboard

The following keyboard shortcuts can be used for scrolling within a project:

Function Keystrokes Scroll View down Alt Down
Scroll View up Alt Up
Scroll View left Alt Left
Scroll View right Alt Right

Zooming and Scrolling with the Mousewheel

The mousewheel can also be used for zooming in and out when you are navigating a project file. The table below summarises how the mouse wheel behaves.

Behavior Modifier Key for Mousewheel Horizontal Zoom (no modifier)
Vertical Zoom Ctrl
Horizontal Scroll Alt
Vertical Scroll Ctrl Alt

Note: REAPER's zoom center settings will determine exact zoom behavior. These can be found in the Editing Behavior section of your Preferences. See Chapter 22 for more information.

You can change any default keyboard and mousewheel assignments. For example, you could use just the Down and Up arrows (without Ctrl Alt) to go to the next or previous track, or the mousewheel without a modifier to scroll rather than zoom. You can also use other customized mouse modifiers for zooming, especially within the Arrange view and Ruler contexts. Mouse modifiers are covered in Chapter 15.

Tip: Making and using a zoom/navigate toolbar. Zooming and navigating are activities that are performed a lot. You might wish to consider making your own Zoom/Navigate custom toolbar. It isn't as complicated as it might sound. How to create your own custom toolbars is explained in Chapter 15.

2.8 Keyboard Shortcut and Mouse Defaults[edit]

You can use the command Help, Keybindings and Mouse Modifiers (or just press Shift+F1) to open your web browser with a list of REAPER's mouse modifiers and keyboard shortcuts. As you will see in Chapter 15, you can also define your own mouse modifiers, keyboard shortcuts and action keys, so that your mouse and keyboard behavior is determined by the context in which you are using it.

2.9 Directing Audio Output[edit]

Audio output will by default go from your master to the first available pair of outputs on your soundcard (usually outputs 1 and 2), and only to this pair. If your sound card has multiple pairs of outputs and you wish to change this, you can do so via the Routing Matrix (View, Routing Matrix or Alt R).

Your available hardware outputs are displayed along the top of the grid. Here you can select and/or deselect any of the available outputs.

2.10 Using the Navigator[edit]

The REAPER Navigator shows you an overview of your project. It can be useful to display this when you are zooming closely on an area of your project.

To display the Navigator, choose the View, Navigator command. The keys Ctrl Alt V can be used to toggle the Navigator display on and off.

You can also use the Navigator window to scroll thru your project. Simply position the mouse over the box within the navigator window that represents the on-screen area of your project. Then hold down the left mouse button, and click and drag to scroll the display. Release the mouse button when finished. Other ways of using the Navigator are:

Activity Method Define new area to be displayed in REAPER workspace. Hold down right mouse button, drag and release
Reposition rectangle an1d workspace display area. Left click mouse
Reposition and relocate play cursor. Ctrl Left Click
Use as in workspace to scroll and/or zoom. Mousewheel

2.11 Track FX Basics[edit]

Track FX (JS, VST, VST3 and Direct X as well as VSTi , VST3i and DXi, and, for Mac users, AU) can be added to any track by directly inserting the FX into the FX Chain for the required track. A good selection of audio FX plug-ins is supplied with REAPER, including Jesusonic and Cockos effects. We'll be taking a closer look at many of these individually later in this User Guide, especially in Chapters 6 and 16. REAPER also includes a bundle of programmable video effects, which we will look at in Chapter 20. For now, let's just focus on some general aspects of how audio FX fit in to the REAPER scheme of things. To use any of these FX, simply follow this procedure:

  1. Click on the FX Button in the Track Control Panel of the track to which you want to add the FX. This opens the FX window for that track. If the Add FX window (see below) is not automatically displayed, click on the Add button to open it.
  2. Select a category, e.g. All Plug-ins, DX, VST, JS, Cockos. All FX in that category will be listed.
  3. Double click on the required FX name.
  4. To add more F1X, click on the Add button in the Track FX window, then repeat steps 2 and 3 above.

Note: When you add any plug-in to any track's FX chain, that plug-in will then be displayed in the FX Browser's Recently Used FX folder.

2.12 Using the Supplied FX Presets[edit]

The excellent FX that are shipped with REAPER can be used to improve the sound of your tracks. The use of these FX is a huge topic. You will find many examples in Chapters 14, 15 and 16 of this User Guide. For more detailed information and more advanced examples, you should consider obtaining a copy of ReaMix: Breaking the Barriers with REAPER which is available from the Reaper Bookstore at href=" (link is broken).

However, as a means of getting started you might wish to explore some of the presets that come with these plug-ins. For example, Cockos ReaDelay includes presets which as a starting point you can try with your various tracks. Simply display the drop down list and select the item that you want (example shown right).

Most of the Cockos Rea series of plug-ins include a number of presets. You can explore these for yourself to discover what is available. Of course, you can also make any adjustments and changes to these that you like, in order to customize them more precisely to your own needs.

To set any FX preset as the default for that FX

  1. Select the required preset from the drop down list.
  2. Click on the + button to the right of the list and choose Save preset as default from the menu.
  3. Type your own name for the preset and click on OK.

As well as the presets supplied with REAPER, you can download further sets by visiting and following the link to FX Preset Libraries.

To import downloaded presets into REAPER, follow this sequence:

  1. Insert an instance of the plug-in into any track.
  2. Click on the + button (just left of the Param button in the FX Chain window).
  3. Choose Import Preset Library.
  4. Navigate to and select the required file then click on Open.

To select a preset when loading an FX

  1. Open the track FX window and click on the Add button.
  2. select the required category (e.g. Cockos).
  3. Right click on the FX window and click on the Add button.
  4. required FX (e.g. required FX (e.g. ReaEQ).
  5. From the context menu, choose presets then select the required preset (e.g. Intimate female vocal).

2.13 Controlling Track FX[edit]

REAPER provides you with a number of tools to help you manage your Track FX. For example, you can:

Change the order in which they are applied.

Copy or move any FX from one track to another.

Save (and retrieve) any sequence of FX as a chain that can be easily inserted into other tracks.

Bypass individual FX or an entire FX chain.

Specify a default set of FX to be automatically inserted into new tracks for your project.

Task Method Dock the FX Chain Choose the FX, Dock FX Window in Docker command.
Adjust the values for Track FX parameters Drag with the mouse, or scroll the mouse wheel over, the fader that controls the value of the parameter that you wish to change. For fine adjustments, hold down the Ctrl key while you do this. If you prefer, select the control with the mouse, then use the up/down keys on your keyboard.
Adjust the wet/dry mix of any FX Select the plug-in in the FX chain, then use the mouse to adjust the small rotary control next to the UI button on REAPER's FX window interface, as shown here. 100% equals completely wet: 0% is completely dry.
Change Track FX Order for a track Drag and drop FX name up or down within the Track FX window.
Float an FX window Double-click on the FX name in the FX Chain window (toggles). The title bar of the floated window will display the track name, the FX name, and its place in the track FX chain. For example: VST: ReaEQ, Track 1 �Vocal� [2/3],i.e. the 2nd FX in a chain of 3.
Keep FX or Add FX window on top Click on the pin symbol at right of title bar.
Close a floating FX window Double-click on FX window title bar.
Copy an FX (or FX selection) from one track to another. Hold down Ctrl, drag the FX from the source track FX window and drop on the track panel for any other track. To copy automation envelopes with the FX, use Shift Ctrl drag.
Move an FX (or FX selection) from one track to another. Hold down Alt, drag the FX from the source track FX window and drop on the track panel for any other track.
Rename an FX Instance Select the FX name in the FX Chain and press F2
Bypass an FX Untick either the check box left of the FX name in the Track FX window or the check box in the top right corner of the FX window.
Replace one FX with another Select the FX in the FX chain, then press R. In the Replace FX window (now displayed) double-click on the required replacement FX. Any existing routing configuration will be preserved.
Make the current Track FX the default for new tracks Within the Track FX window, choose FX, Save Chain as default for new tracks.
Remove an FX from a track Select the FX name within the Track FX window then click on the Remove button.
Remove all FX from a track Hold Alt while clicking on the track�s FX button in the TCP.
Search for an FX Enter text in the Filter List at the bottom of the FX window.
Save the current sequence of Track FX as a chain In the Track FX window, choose the FX, Save FX Chain command. FX parameter settings are saved with the chain.
Save selected Track FX as a chain Select the names of the FX to be included in the chain (use Ctrl Click), then choose FX, Save Selected FX as Chain
Retrieve an existing previously saved FX Chain Within the Track FX window, choose FX, Add FX Chain command, or within the TCP right-click over the FX button and select Add FX Chain from the menu.
Load your default FX Chain Within the Track FX window, choose FX, Load Default Track Chain from the menu.
Access the FX Preferences settings Within the Track FX window, choose the Options, FX Plug-in Settings command. These are discussed in Chapter 22.
Bypass all FX for a track In the Track Control Panel, click on the FX Enable/Disable toggle button. Click again to reverse this.

2.14 FX Window and Keyboard Shortcuts[edit]

For your convenience the FX window makes various keyboard shortcuts available to you when you are working in it. These include navigation shortcuts (such as Down and Up to select next/previous FX in chain) and command shortcuts (such as Ctrl S to Save FX chain...). The command FX keys are displayed on the menus.

You might prefer to instead use these keys in arrange view even when you are working in the FX window, so that (for example) Ctrl S can still be used to save the project file and the Down and Up arrows to zoom out/in horizontally. In this case, you should enable the menu option Ignore FX chain keyboard shortcuts (send to main window).

2.15 Creating a Default FX Chain[edit]

If you have used other DAW software such as Sonar, you might be used to having an EQ Plug-In automatically inserted for you in every track. REAPER allows you to do this by creating a default FX chain which is then automatically applied to every new track that you create. Of course, this default chain can contain any FX that you wish. To do this, you simply follow this procedure:

Open the FX Window for any track.

Add as many FX you require.

From the FX window menu, choose FX then Save chain as default for new tracks.

Tip: If you switch the FX to bypass mode before saving your FX chain, then the FX chain will be saved in bypass mode. This means that the FX in your new tracks will not require any CPU usage until such time as you open the FX window and enable them.


In this example, we will create a default FX chain consisting of ReaEQ and ReaComp, both set to bypass mode.

  1. Open any project file and add a new track at the end. We will use this track to create our FX chain.
  2. Click on the FX button for this track to open the FX Window.
  3. In the first (left) column of the Add FX window, click on Cockos.
  4. Select in turn, first ReaEQ (Cockos) and then ReaComp (Cockos). In each case, either use the OK button to add the plug-in to the track FX chain, or drag and drop them into the chain.
  5. Make sure that both these FX are unticked � this sets them to bypass.
  6. Right click over one of the FX and from the context menu, choose Save chain as default for new tracks.
  7. Close the FX window.
  8. You can now exit REAPER if you wish. There is no need to save the changes to the project file.
  9. Re-open REAPER and open any project file.
  10. Insert a new track anywhere you wish in this project file.
  11. Open the FX window for your new tracks. You should see that the two plug-ins, ReaEQ and ReaComp have already been inserted into this FX bin, in bypass mode.

Tip: If you wish to make changes to the contents of your default FX chain, simply repeat the process described above, this time with the changed set of plug-ins, or (to remove it) with no plug-ins at all.

Tip: If you hold down the Ctrl Shift keys when opening a project file, the file will be opened with its FX off line. This can be useful if you need to conserve CPU, or if there is a plug-in which might be causing problems.

2.16 Using an FX Bus[edit]

If you have used other DAW software, or an analog (tape) recording and mixing desk, you are probably already familiar with the concept of a Bus. The exact meaning of the term can have several variations, but most commonly (and in this example), a Bus is used to enable a number of tracks to share the same resource (such as perhaps Reverb or Chorus FX).

This saves on valuable computer resources such as CPU. For example, instead of requiring multiple instances of the same FX in perhaps three or four tracks or more, by using a Bus you can ensure that only one instance of the FX is required. Note that when you use a Bus in this way:

The output of each track is still directed to the Master.

In addition, a copy of the signal from each track is directed to the FX Bus.

At some stage, the output of the FX Bus is then mixed back in with the original signal. Typically (and in the example shown here) this is achieved by directing the output of the FX Bus to the Master, although other more complex routing arrangements are also possible.

The Bus can be inserted anywhere in the project that you like. In this example, we will place it just after the last track. This example uses the sample project file All Through The Night.RPP. Open this file, then save a copy to a new name such as All Through The Night with Bus.RPP before embarking on this example.

In this example, we are going to create an FX Bus and insert into that bus a Chorus effect. We will then ensure that both of our guitar tracks use the chorus. You will see that REAPER is different from other audio software in that it makes no inherent distinction between a Bus and a Track. The difference is determined solely by how you use it. Notice that the illustration below shows that for a more pleasing sound, the guitar tracks have been panned somewhat to the left and right respectively.

To Create the Bus and add the FX to it:

Select track 4 (in the Track Control Panel).

To insert a new track either choose the Track, Insert New Track command, or press Ctrl ,T or double click in the vacant track control panel area beneath the last track.

To name this new track, click in the area where the name is to go, type FX Bus then press Enter.

To insert the Chorus FX into this bus, click on the bus�s FX button. From the list of plug-in types, select Jesusonic, then in the list of plug-ins double click on JS: Guitar/Chorus. Close the Bus FX window.

To Create Sends from the two guitar tracks to the Bus:

Select the two guitar tracks in the TCP. Right-click over the ROUTE button for either of these tracks.

From the context menu, choose Sends then Track 5: FX Bus.

Note that for every send there is an equivalent receive, and vice versa. For example, if you now open the Routing window for Track 5 (click on the track's ROUT button) you will see that it has two receives, one from each guitar track. You'll learn more about REAPER's routing later in this chapter (Routing Essentials) as well as in Chapters 5 and 17.

Making Adjustments

When you now play the song, you�ll probably find that there�s more chorus on the guitar tracks than you would like. There are four main ways to adjust this. Experiment until you find what gives you the results you want:

  1. Adjust the chorus FX parameters. In this case, you could lower the amount of Wet signal in the mix.
  2. Adjust the levels of one or both of the receives in the FX bus routing window.
  3. Display the routing window for either guitar track and adjust the send levels for that track.
  4. Adjust output volume fader for the track called FX Bus.

Speed Tips

In Order To Do This ... Do This Toggle on/off send from track to Master Hold Alt while clicking on ROUTING button. Works with single track or multiple track selection.
Create a quick send on the fly from one track to another. Drag and drop from ROUTING button of send track to the track panel of receive track. This can also be done in the mixer view. See Chapter 11 for a description of the full range of options.
Send a track's output direct to any hardware output. Right-click on ROUTING button and select Audio Hardware Output or MIDI output (as required) then choose from the sub-menu. This can be used with a track selection and is independent of the track's master send status.

2.17 Analyzing FX Performance[edit]

FX plug-ins can impose a heavy load on your computer's CPU. To help you overcome this, you can use the Performance Meter to closely monitor your FX in the following ways:

  • You can check how much CPU is being used by the FX in your various tracks and in the master.
  • You can disable and enable FX chains for individual tracks, quickly, easily and conveniently, all together in one place.
  • You can toggle on and off the mute status for your tracks, again all in one convenient place.

To display the Performance Meter, press Ctrl Alt P, or use the View, Performance Meter command.


In the example shown (right), the Master track with 1 plug-in is using 0.14% and the Vox, also with one plug-in, is using 0.05%.

If any track shows an unexpectedly high reading, you can examine the FX for this track, to help you to identify the reason for this. To open a track FX chain, double click on the track name or number in the Performance Meter window.

This feature is useful if you have a large number of tracks in your project. You can use the Performance Meter window to browse thru your project file, checking it track by track, without having to scroll or navigate thru Track View. You can of course also toggle FX Bypass for any track, selection of tracks, or all tracks in the Track View or Mixer View. The table below summarises these options.

In order to do this In Mixer or Track View, do this Toggle FX Bypass On/Off for that track. Click the FX Bypass button for any track.
Toggle FX Bypass On/Off for all tracks in the selection. Select a number of tracks (Ctrl Click) then click the FX Bypass button for any track in the selection.
Toggle FX Bypass On/Off for all tracks. Hold Ctrl key while clicking FX Bypass button for any track.

In addition, the Performance Meter has two right click menus, each with a number of options (see above). The first is accessed by right clicking in the track list area. |{ ! In order to do this … ! In the Performance Meter window do this …

|- Open FX Window for that track. | Right click on track name, choose Show FX Dialog. |- |-Toggle FX Bypass On/Off. | Right click on track name, choose Toggle FX Bypass. |- | Toggle track mute for that track. | Right click over any track, choose Toggle Track Mute. |} Tip: You can select several tracks -- using Ctrl Click -- then right click over any of the selected track numbers in the Performance Meter window to Toggle FX bypass and/or Track Mute status for all tracks in the selection.

In order to do this In the Performance Meter window do this Open FX Window for that track. Right click on track name, choose Show FX Dialog.
Toggle FX Bypass On/Off. Right click on track name, choose Toggle FX Bypass.
Toggle track mute for that track. Right click over any track, choose Toggle Track Mute.
Show in/hide from Performance Meter track list tracks with no FX. Right click on any track, enable/disable Show track FX when empty.
Show in/hide from Performance Meter master track/monitoring when these have no FX. Right click on any track, enable/disable Show master FX when empty and/or Show monitoring FX when empty.

The other menu is used mostly to select what information you want shown in the window. Right click anywhere in the main Performance Meter area to display this. You can also use this menu to move the window to the docker. Note: You’ll find more information about the REAPER Performance Meter in chapter 22}} of this guide.

2.18 The Big Clock[edit]

Use the View, Big Clock command (or press Alt C) to toggle on and off the display of the Big Clock, which clearly displays the current position of the Edit Cursor. This window can be sized and moved at will, or docked in the docker. Right clicking over the Big Clock gives you a context menu of options, including changing the display format.

2.19 Selections and Loops[edit]

Often you will want to work with just a part of your project for a while. In order to do this, first check the Options menu to see if Loop Points Linked to Time Selection is enabled. If it is enabled (ticked) then making a time selection and defining a loop are the same thing. If it is disabled (not ticked) then making a time selection and defining a loop become two different things. Whichever is the case, you can define your loop area by clicking and dragging along the timeline.

Stop the playback at or near the point where you want your loop to begin (or click your mouse in the background area) to move the Edit Cursor there.

Place your mouse over the Timeline (just above the first track), then click and drag along the timeline, releasing the mouse to define the exact area that you want to loop. The effect of this is illustrated above. Notice that the start and end of the loop are marked by two small triangles. If when you attempt this, the selection snaps outwards to define a larger area than you want, then REAPER has snapping enabled. Snapping will be discussed in detail in Chapter 7, but for now you can use the shortcut keys Alt S to toggle this feature on and off.

Tip: To set the loop selection to match a media item, hold Ctrl while you double click on that item. To set the time selection to match a media item, hold Shift while you double-click on the item.

Now when you play the project, provided that the loop (toggle repeat) button on the transport bar has been engaged, it will replay over again the area selected for your Loop. This is known as the repeat function. If loop points are linked to time selection, the start time, finish time and duration of the selection are also shown on the Transport Bar. In any event, pressing the R key toggles this repeat function on and off. There is also the option (under Options, Preferences on the Playback page) to stop playback at the end of a loop when the repeat function is disabled.

To change the region defined as your loop, simply repeat the original procedure. To clear the loop altogether, without defining a new one, just press the Escape key.

If loop points are not linked to the time selection, you can define a time selection by clicking and dragging in the space underneath or between the media items, in the arrange view background area. An example of this is shown below.

Right clicking on the Timeline then gives you a menu of commands which you can apply to a time selection, including Zoom Selection. You can also use this menu to change the units used on the timeline � for example, Minutes:Seconds, Measures:Beats, Measures:Beats and Minutes:Seconds, Measures.Beats (minimal), Measures.Beats (minimal) and Minutes/Seconds (as in the example above right), Seconds, Samples, Hours:Minutes:Seconds:Frames or Absolute Frames.

The other commands on this menu will be discussed elsewhere in this User Guide, as the need arises. These are features that you are likely to find useful when editing your files.

Incidentally, to zoom out of a time selection and restore a whole project length to view, press Ctrl PgDown.

There's more about loops and time selections elsewhere in this guide, e.g. Chapter 9.

2.20 Managing Time and Loop Selections[edit]

In the previous section you learnt how to click and drag within an empty area of the track view to define a time selection. This may or may not also change the loop selection, depending on your Options, Loop points linked to time selection setting. As you progress thru this User Guide, you will see that time selection plays an important role in REAPER, for example when it comes to editing your media items. You�ll probably find at first that it�s too easy to perhaps select too large an area, or to miss part of the area that you intended to select.

To modify a loop selection using the mouse, hover the mouse over the edge at the start or finish of the loop selection on the timeline, then click and drag left or right. Dragging left from the start of the selected area extends the selection left, dragging right shortens it. Dragging right from the finish of the selected area extends it to the right, dragging left shortens it. Holding Ctrl while you do this cause any snap settings to be ignored.

To move a loop selection, hold the mouse over the selected area on the time line, then hold down Shift while clicking and dragging the mouse left or right.

You can also modify a time selection by first clicking then scrolling the mousewheel over the Selection area of the Transport Bar. Scroll over the start area to adjust start time, end area to adjust end time, or over the length of selection area to move the entire selection. If you wish, you can enter actual times in the start and end time boxes. There are also several keyboard shortcuts you can use for managing Time Selections, summarised below. If loop points are linked to the time selection, then the loop area will also be modified.

Function Keystroke Nudge Entire Time Selection left a little. , (comma)
Nudge Entire Time Selection right a little. . (period or full stop)
Extend Time Selection to left by nudging left edge left a little. Ctrl ,
Shrink Time Selection from right by nudging right edge left a little. Ctrl Alt ,
Extend Time Selection from left by nudging right edge right a little. Ctrl Alt .
Move Time Selection left by time selection length. Shift ,
Move Time Selection right by time selection length. Shift .
Copy portions of selected media items in Time Selection. Ctrl Shift C
Remove Time Selection. Esc

If you wish, you can use the keyboard rather than the mouse to define your time selections. First you need to position the cursor at either the start or the end of the loop, then use one of these:

Function Keystroke Drag cursor to the left and create time selection. Shift Left Arrow
Drag cursor to the right and create time selection. Shift Right Arrow

The following keystrokes can be used to zoom when you are working with a time selection:

Function Keystroke Zoom to Time Selection. Ctrl PageUp
Zoom back to Project. Ctrl PageDown

Tip: If you are unable to position your cursor exactly where you wish when creating a loop selection, it may be that you have snapping enabled. Alt S will toggle snapping status on and off.

2.21 Navigating by Jumping[edit]

You can jump to any point on the timeline using the View, Go To, Jump To command, or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl J. In specifying the place to jump to, you should use the same format as is used on the timeline. In the example used here, the timeline displays Measures and below it Minutes and Seconds. You could therefore use either format, e.g. 33.1 or 1:04.

If your project uses markers and/or regions, you can use this box to jump straight to any maker or region. For example, typing M1 will cause it to jump to marker 1, R2 to jump to the start of region 2, and so on. Markers and regions are explored in Chapter 9.

Tip: Another easy way to open the Jump to dialog box is to double-click on the time on the transport bar.

2.22 Time and Loop Selections and the Transport Bar[edit]

There are two special ways in which the transport bar can be used with a loop selection or a time selection.

In order to do this ... � you should do this Repeatedly play the selection over and over Make the required loop selection, make sure Repeat is enabled (the button next to Record on the Transport Bar), position the play cursor within the loop and press Space.
Play back project skipping over time selection Make the required time selection and position the play cursor anywhere before the start of that selection. Press Alt Space.

2.23 Keeping a Window on Top[edit]

The small pin shown on the right of the title bar of most windows (just before the X) can be used to pin a window to keep it on top. Click on this to toggle its on top status. When the pin is shown in the down position, the window is locked on top.

2.24 Item Names, Buttons and Icons[edit]

Depending on Appearance, Media preference settings, you may (or may not) see item names displayed above the media item rather than on it (see right). You might also see some media item icons (or buttons). You'll learn more about this when we examine media items in Chapter 7.

2.25 REAPER Routing Essentials[edit]

This section will teach you more about an important core function of REAPER � Routing. Routing lets you ensure that your media (audio and/or MIDI) are directed to where you want them to go, so that your project can be heard exactly as you want it to be heard. You were introduced to some basic examples earlier in this chapter, when we looked at creating and using an FX bus. Routing can be very simple or extremely complex � and anything in between. This section introduces you to basic routing concepts. More complex routing options will be covered later in this Chapter, also in Chapters 4 and 15, and elsewhere.

Each track includes a Routing Button in its panel toolbar (shown right). Hovering the mouse over this button will display a tool tip. This will also show any sends and/or receives already associated with that track. Clicking the button causes the routing window for that track to be displayed. To close the track routing window, either press the Escape key, or click on the little X in the top right corner of the window, or click anywhere outside the window.

The actual contents of your Track Routing window will vary according to your project structure and your DAW hardware setup (e.g. sound card and audio devices, MIDI devices etc.).

Depending on the nature of your project, your display should be similar to that shown above, but not necessarily identical. Notice in particular:

Master/Parent Send � Enabling this ensures that the track�s output will be directed to the Master. In the sample files provided, you will want to direct the output of all tracks directly to the Master, as shown for Track 1 (above). If in doubt, leave this item enabled.

Sends � In the FX Bus example earlier in this chapter you created sends. A track's output can be routed via a send from any track to any other track or tracks. This topic will be covered in more detail later.

Audio Hardware Outputs � in addition to (or instead of) directing output to your Master Bus, you can also direct output of any track directly to Hardware Outputs on your audio device. If your audio device has multiple outputs, this can be useful, for example, for creating a separate headphone mix, or as series of separate headphone mixes.

MIDI Hardware Output � Use this option to direct MIDI output to an external device or to the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth.

Receives � For every send (source) track there will be a receive (destination) track. In the earlier example, the FX bus included two receives, one from each of the two guitar tracks in that project file.

Notice (picture below) that when you create a send, you are presented with volume and pan faders which can be used to control this. You can also specify whether to send audio output, MIDI output, or both.

Whenever you select any listed track, audio hardware output or MIDI device to be used for a track�s routing, controls such as Level and Pan are automatically added to this interface.

When you create a new project, by default the output of each new track is routed to the Master track and from there to the output of your sound card. If that is all you need, you do not need to study the routing options right now. However, understanding REAPER�s routing capabilities will almost certainly enable you at some stage to get more benefits from the program.

The illustration below shows an example of the Track Routing Window for a track for which both a send and a receive have been created. You will be shown how to do this later in this User Guide, starting at Chapter 5.

Approach track routing gently at first: it is very powerful. The early chapters of this User Guide will take you thru the basics of track routing. After you have mastered these, you will find more complex examples elsewhere in this User Guide, especially in Chapter 17.

Note: Sends and Receives can be any of three types. These are Post Fader (Post Pan), Pre-Fader (Post FX) and Pre FX. The differences will be discussed in Chapter 17. Meanwhile, if in doubt accept the default option Post-Fader (Post Pan). See also the flow charts at the end of Chapter 6.

Tip: Drag and drop routing. A quick way to create s send from one track to another is to drag and drop from the route button on the source track to the destination track. This is explained in detail in Chapter 17.

2.26 The Routing Matrix[edit]

REAPER's Routing Matrix is a �one stop� window where you can manage and arrange a project's entire routing structures. For example, you can add and delete sends and receives and manage their various parameter controls, such as volume and pan.

Press Alt R to display the routing matrix. For the project file All Through The Night with Bus it should resemble that shown right: of course your hardware outputs will not be the same.

Observe the cell in the matrix where the Gtr Body row intersects with the FX Bus column. It contains two small blobs.

By right clicking over this cell, you can cause the controls to be displayed which determine how the signal from the Gtr Body track is sent to the FX Bus (see illustration below).

Simplifying the Routing Matrix Display

If your sound card has multiple outputs, then by default, REAPER�s Routing Matrix will display multiple permutations of paired outputs, including several that you may feel that you do not need. By default REAPER will allow you to use any two consecutively numbered audio outputs as a stereo pair. It is quite likely that you may want to use, for example, outputs 1 and 2 as one pair (perhaps for your speakers) and outputs 3 and 4 as another pair (perhaps for your headphone amp). However, it would be unusual to want to use outputs 2 and 3 together as a pair.

If you wish, you can prevent these unwanted combinations from being displayed by choosing the Options, Preferences command, then selecting the Audio settings page. This includes a Channel naming section, where you can turn off the option to Show non-standard stereo channel pairs (see right). If for some reason you did wish to direct your output to any non-standard pair, you could still do so by selecting each of them individually on the matrix.

2.27 Docking and Floating[edit]

Too many views on the screen at once creates clutter. That�s when the Docker becomes useful. Right clicking over the title bar or background area of most windows causes a context menu to be displayed which will offer a list of choices relevant to that window. Usually their purpose will be obvious. This will include an option Dock in Docker.

When a number of windows are docked, at the foot of the Docker you will see a series of Tabs. These are used to select which item is displayed by the Docker at any time. In the illustration here, the Docker includes several items. Notice also that:

If you close a Window, next time it opens its docking status will be the same as when it was closed. If a Window is docked when it is closed, next time it is opened it will still be docked.

To undock a window, right click over the background or tab area of the window and deselect the Dock in Docker option.

The Docker can itself be attached to the main window or detached and floated. Click over the small exclamation mark in the bottom left corner of the Docker and use the option to Attach Docker to Main Window to toggle.

By default the docker will be attached to the bottom of the main window, but you can use the same menu to change this position to left, top or right.

Clicking over the exclamation mark after detaching the Docker from the Main Menu will also give you access to the Set Opacity feature. This can be used to ensure that when floated and not in focus, the Docker is transparent. Opacity can be set between 25% and 100%.

Tip: The keyboard shortcut Alt D can be used as a toggle to show or hide the Docker or Dockers.

More experienced users might be interested to know that if you wish you can work with multiple dockers. This topic is covered in Chapter 12, Project Management Features.

As an alternative to docking windows, you might consider the toggle command View, Show/hide all floating windows as a method of handling screen clutter. Another useful command can be View, Cascade all floating windows.

2.28 The Undo History Window[edit]

REAPER�s Undo feature is user friendly and very powerful. The View, Undo History command (or use Ctrl Alt Z) toggles open and closed the Undo History Window. You can double click on any event displayed in that window to go back to that point.

The General settings page under Options, Preferences includes a section which you can use to determine the behavior of the Undo History. In particular, you can:

Specify the maximum amount of memory to be allocated to Undo. Setting this to zero will effectively disable this feature.

Specify whether item, track, envelope point and/or time selection and/or changes in cursor positions are to be included in the Undo History.

Ensure that if the allocated Undo storage area becomes full, the most recent actions will be retained in the Undo History.

Save your Undo History with the Project File and ensure that this file is loaded with the project. This means that even after retrieving the project file at some later date, you will still be able to revert the project to an earlier state if you wish.

Store multiple undo/redo paths. Within the Undo History window you can even store alternate sequences of commands and actions, then switch between them!

Tip: On the Appearance page of your Preferences settings, you can enable or disable the option Show last undo point in menu bar. If you enable this, your last undoable action is shown after the last command on the menu bar. You can click on this at any time to open and display the Undo History window. Click a second time to close this window.

Note also that the Undo History window is dockable. To do this (as with most other windows), right-click on the title bar and choose Dock in Docker from the context menu.

2.29 REAPER's Right-Click Menus[edit]

You will soon discover that often there are several ways to give a command in REAPER- for example, from the main menu, by a keyboard shortcut, or from a toolbar icon. Which method you use is largely a matter of preference. One tip is that if you are not sure where to lick, click your right mouse button over the item or area that you are working on, to display a context menu of commands and actions relevant to that item or area. For example, you can right-click on a media item, the track control panel, the transport bar, the timeline, and so on

2.30 Multiple Project Tabs[edit]

By using multiple project tabs you are able to keep more than one project open at the same time, thus making it easy for you to jump between different projects if you are working on more than one song, or to move or copy media items (audio and/or MIDI) from one project to another. To create a new project tab when you already have one file open, simply use the File, New Project Tab command (Ctrl Alt N). A new tab will be opened (labelled Unsaved), but the previous project will also remain open on a different tab. You can jump between projects simply clicking on the tab.

To open a file in a particular project tab, select that tab, then use the File, Open Project command in the usual way. To open it in a new project tab, simply select this option from the dialog box when opening the project. Right click over any project tab for the project tab menu:

New project tab, This inserts a new tab.

Close project. Closes the current project and the tab with it (or click on the X at the left hand end of the tab).

Close all projects but current. Closes all project tabs except current one.

Close all projects. Closes all open projects.

Always show project tabs. Shows project tabs, even if only one project is currently open (toggle).

Show project tabs on left side of window: Displays tabs on left of window instead of top (toggle).

Hide background project FX/MIDI windows. Ensures that when one of a number of open project tabs is selected, any open FX windows etc. belonging to other open projects are not displayed on top of it.

Run background projects. This allows you to play the project in one tab while working on another.

Run stopped background projects. Commences playback of projects in tabs not currently selected.

Play stopped background projects with active project: Causes background projects (open on other tabs) to be played with the current project. When this is enabled, you can also select Synchronize play start times w/play background projects. This will ensure that all open projects are played/stopped in synch.

These commands and Offline background project media are mutually exclusive.

Force project tabs visible when monitoring FX in use. Displays tabs whenever FX monitoring is active.

Monitoring FX � This opens the monitoring FX window.

Note there are other options relating to parent projects and subprojects - see Chapter 12.

Tips: Multiple project tabs can be reordered using drag and drop. Also, you can use the File, Close All Projects command to close all open projects at once. Note that the small X button used to close a project tab can be positioned to the left or the right: just drag and drop according to your preference.

2.31 Opening Multiple Project Tabs Together[edit]

You can open several projects together at the same time, each in its own project tab, provided all the .RPP files are in the same folder. Simply use the File, Open project command, then navigate to the required folder. Use Ctrl Click to build your selection, ensure Open in new project tab is ticked, then click on Open.

2.32 Managing the Play Cursor[edit]

By default, when a project is playing, pressing Stop (or Spacebar) will stop playback and return the play cursor to its previous starting position. Pressing Pause (or Enter) will pause playback at the current play cursor position. You can also specify that the play cursor should be moved when you click on the Time Ruler, an empty area of any track and/or in the empty area below tracks. These three options can be enabled/disabled in your Seek playback when clicked. (Options, Preferences, Audio, Seeking settings).