Chapter 5: Project Arrangement Basics

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5 Project Arrangement Basics[edit]

5.1 Managing Tracks[edit]

In Section 2, we introduced some very basic REAPER track management features, such as Volume, Panning, Mute and Solo. In this section, we will be exploring these features in more depth, as well as introducing several others, including moving and removing tracks, the use of track folders and track parameter grouping.

Many of the commands and actions involved in track management are available from the menu that is displayed when you right click over any track number. The illustration (right) shows these.

Remember that at any time you can use Ctrl Z to undo your last action. REAPER�s Undo capabilities are described in more detail in Chapter 2.

Tip: Before continuing, you might wish to open the supplied project file All Through The Night.RPP and save it to a new name such as All Through The Night EDITS.RPP. You can then use this file to try out and experiment with some of the ideas presented in this section.

Basic Track Management

A number of techniques can be used for carrying out these various track management tasks.

Task Method Move a track up or down the track order Click on the track number, then click and drag the track up or down the track list, then release the mouse. Media items are moved with the track.
Move two or more adjacent tracks up or down Click on the track number for the first track, then hold Shift while clicking on the track number(s) of the last of the tracks that you wish to select. Then click and drag up or down. Again. all media items are moved with the tracks.
Delete a track Click on or around the track number, the press Delete, or right click and choose Remove tracks. All media items are removed with the track.
Delete two or more tracks Use Ctrl with the left mouse click to make your selection, then press Delete, or right click and choose Remove tracks. All media items are removed with the tracks.
Copy a track as the next track Right click over the track number, choose Duplicate selected tracks. All media items are duplicated with the track.
Copy a track to a specified location Click on the track number. Press Ctrl C. Move to the required location then press Ctrl V. All media items are duplicated with the tracks.
Display the Master in Track View Right click anywhere in the Track Control Panel area, below the last track. Choose Show master track, or use the keys Ctrl Alt M to toggle.
Make the Track Control Panel wider/narrower Click and drag right/left on the boundary between the TCP and the arrange area. As the TCP becomes narrower, some controls may disappear from view and faders may change to knobs.

5.2 Track Control Modifiers[edit]

Four of the items used when auditioning tracks are the Volume, Pan, Mute and Solo controls. These controls were introduced in Chapter 2.

The Width control is also shown here. A width control is displayed only if you select the stereo pan or dual pan law (from the pan fader right-click menu). This will be discussed in Chapters 10 and 11.

By default, volume and pan faders control audio output. If you wish instead to use them for data on MIDI channels for any track(s) you should first select the tracks, then right-click over the track number and choose MIDI track controls then one of the Link track volume/pan to MIDI options from the menu (see Chapter 13).

Volume and Pan Controls

Modifier key With volume fader with Pan Rotary Alt When mouse is released, fader returns to its original position. When mouse is released, fader returns to its original position.
Ctrl Shift With more than one track selected, only the current track is affected. With more than one track selected, only the control for the current track is affected.
Ctrl Allows more precise control of fader level. Allows more precise control of fader level.
Double click Reset to zero. Reset to centre.

Mute and Solo Controls

Modifier Key with Mute Button with Solo Button Shift When more than one track is selected, only the current track is toggled. When more than one track is selected, only the current track is toggled.
Ctrl Clears all mutes. Clears all solos.
Alt Unmutes selected track(s), mutes all others. Solo selected tracks only, excludes output from any sends.
Ctrl Alt Mutes selected track(s), unmutes others. Solo exclusive: Solos selected track(s), unsolos all others.
Ctrl Shift Not applicable Toggles Solo Defeat mode for the track or track selection. See comments below.

Note: When a track is muted, a small red M icon is shown in its VU meter. A !S icon indicates that the track is not being heard because another track or tracks is or are soloed.

Solo Defeat

Solo Defeat can be used to ensure that a track will still be heard even when another track or track selection is soloed exclusive.

The Mute and Solo control context menus

The options shown above are also available by right-clicking over the Mute and Solo buttons respectively. These context menus are shown on the right. They can be applied to an individual track or to a selection of tracks.

Bulk Track Mute/Solo

To mute or solo a range of tracks in one action, click and drag in the TCP from the mute or solo button of the first track in the range to the same button on the last track in the range, then release the mouse button. Repeat this action to unmute/unsolo all muted or soloed tracks within a range.

Volume and Pan Faders

Right clicking over the volume fader of any track or folder will open a window displaying volume and pan faders not only for the track itself but also for any sends and receives associated with that track. An example is shown here.

Right clicking over the Pan fader opens a window which can be used to change that track's pan law. This subject was discussed in Chapter 2.

Tip: By default, double-clicking on a track number in the track control panel will cause all media items in that track to be selected. You can change this behavior if you wish on the Mouse Modifiers page of your Preferences. For more information about customizing mouse modifiers, see Chapter 15.

5.3 Solo In Front[edit]

Solo in front allows you to hear the other tracks quietly in the background when one track or a track selection is soloed. This feature is toggled on and off by the Options, Solo In Front command.

The level at which the background tracks are heard can be specified via the Options, Preferences, Audio settings page. This setting (in the example shown it is set at 18dB) determines the extent to which the background mix is reduced. This means that the higher the setting the quieter will be the background mix and vice versa.

5.4 Auto-Naming Multiple Tracks[edit]

In one action, you can create and automatically name any number of tracks that serve a common purpose � for example, a number of backing vocal or percussion tracks. This can be done using the Insert, Multiple tracks... command.

In the example shown here, we are creating three Backing Vocals tracks (B Vox) at the end of the current track list. These will be automatically be named B Vox 1, B Vox 2 and B Vox 3, as shown.

5.5 Searching the Preferences Settings[edit]

You have already come across a number of REAPER�s preferences settings. For example, we have looked at some of the preferences settings for Audio Devices, MIDI Devices, Recording and Projects. The more you work with REAPER, the more you will realise how very many preferences settings there are. In fact, there are so many that it can sometimes be difficult to remember which page you need for a particular setting.

To help you there is a text box and a Find button near the bottom of the Preferences window. You can enter any word or phrase in the box, click on Find and the first occurrence of that word or phrase will be shown. If this isn�t the item that you�re looking for, each time you click the Find button the next occurrence of that word or phrase will be shown. The item will be displayed with a colored highlight.

In the example shown here, a search for sends has turned up some information about various options for setting the default parameters for track sends when they are created.

Tip: By default, double-clicking on a track number will cause all media items on that track to be selected. You can change this, and/or add mouse modifiers of your own via the Editing Behavior, Mouse Modifiers preferences page. For example, you could assign Alt Double-click to the action View:Toggle track zoom to maximum height. Instructions for customizing mouse modifiers can be found in Chapter 15.

5.6 Track Colors[edit]

You can use color as an effective means of helping you visually identify different tracks. To do this, simply select the track (or tracks) in the Track Control Panel, then right click, choose the Track Color command, then use any of these commands from the submenu:

Command Effect Set tracks to custom color� Opens a Color Selection dialog box for you to select a color for the track�s media items.
Set tracks to random colors Sets the media items for each track in the selection to a different randomly chosen color.
Set tracks to one random color Sets the media items for all tracks in the selection to the same randomly chosen color.
Set tracks to default color Restores the track's color to the default for the current color theme.

The illustration (right) shows an example of how the Colors interface (displayed by choosing the Set tracks to custom color� command) can be used to specify different colors for different tracks and groups of tracks.

On the Appearance page of your Preferences settings (Options, Preferences) you can use the Track Control Panel options to apply your colors to the track label background, the track panel background, or both.

How the colors will be displayed for your track media items will depend upon which options are selected on the Appearance, Peaks/Waveforms page of your Preferences settings. Waveform peaks and/or the Background can be selected. You can also set the color strength (between 0 and 4) for both selected and unselected tracks. More details of these and other Appearance options are listed and explained in Chapter 22.

5.7 Color Themes[edit]

REAPER also supplies a number of color themes that you can use to present your projects attractively.

To select from the themes supplied with REAPER, use the Options, Themes command. You can modify the colors and other characteristics of your preferred theme by selecting the action Show theme tweak/configuration window from REAPER's action list editor. More details of this can be found in Chapters 10, 11 and 13. In addition, a very large number of complete themes are available in the REAPER stash. These are available for free download at You can also visit the REAPER User Forums for more themes. Be aware, however, that changing themes can also result in changes in such areas as your track control panel layout.

5.8 Track Icons[edit]

Icons can be added to tracks as you wish. You can drag your own .PNG or .JPG files from Windows Explorer and drop them on to any track in the track control panel, or right click over the track number and choose Track Icon then Set track icon... from the track menu to use any of those supplied with REAPER. This opens the Load Image Resource dialog box. You can view the icons as thumbnails (shown here), tiles, or a list. Make your selection and click on Open.

Shown left is an example of a project which uses track icons. Remember that if you create a track template from a track which displays an icon, then the icon will be saved with the template. To display these icons also in the Mixer, open the Mixer, display its menu and choose Show Track Icons in Mixer. To remove icons from any track or selection of tracks, first select the tracks (in either the track control panel or the mixer) then right-click over any selected track icon and choose Remove Track Icon from the menu.

If you don't care for the icons supplied with REAPER � or you can't find what you want � you can download more track icon sets from the REAPER stash, at

5.9 Track Layouts[edit]

Different people and different projects have different needs. That's one reason why REAPER's default theme makes available to you a selection of different track layouts. You can select any of these for your tracks and, indeed, if you wish even use different track layouts for different tracks. This topic is examined in more detail in Chapter 12, where we deal with track, mixer, transport and envelope layouts. Here is a basic introduction.

First select the track (or tracks), then right click over the track panel. From the context menu choose Track layout then Track panel, then select from the list. New layouts are developed and added or modified from time to time. Be prepared to explore! Some examples are shown below:

Default: the theme default track layout.

Default + value readouts: Volume and pan settings displayed as text.

Small: uses less screen real estate.

Large: easier to read but uses more real estate.

Standard media: with horizontal volume fader (rather than rotary).

5.10 Headphone Monitoring[edit]

While you are listening to and evaluating your various recorded items, it�s usually recommended practice to use the monitors (speakers) in your studio or control room. However, you may wish also to use headphones from time to time, perhaps for those occasions when you need to focus in detail on a particular track or media item.

Assuming that you have a PCI sound card or other audio device (Firewire or USB) which supports multiple outputs, here�s a neat little trick.

  1. Assign Output Aliases to your outputs, as explained in Chapter 1.
  2. Display your Routing Matrix and assign the output from the Master to the Control Room speakers.
  3. Put on your headphones.
  4. As you play the song, click on the appropriate cells on the routing matrix to also direct any particular track on which you wish to focus to your headphones. Of course, you can change from track to track, or add as many or as few as you want at any time.

In the example shown (above), the entire mix (from the Master) is being heard thru the Main Speakers, but only track 1 Vox is also being heard thru the headphones.

Remember that you can right click over this grid cell to display the controls for this send (such as Volume). This can be also a good technique to use when you have with you a musician who wants to particularly hear her own track while you are mixing!

When you are mixing down, you might not wish to see all of the available routing information available � it can get quite complex. You might wish to keep the routing matrix display as simple as possible for the job in hand. For example, if you are focussed purely on mixing, you might not need to see all the various input assignments.

Right clicking over the background area lets you customize its display. In the example shown here, by unchecking Show audio hardware as sources we have simplified the display. If you have installed ReaRoute, consider also disabling the options to Show ReaRoute as destinations and Show ReaRoute as sources.

5.11 Creating a Headphone Mix[edit]

Provided your sound card includes at least two pairs of outputs, we can make the process of headphone monitoring easier and more flexible by creating a headphone mix. This is how it is done.

  1. Connect your Headphones to your Headphone Amp, and your Headphone Amp to one pair of outputs.
  2. Create a new track and name it Headphone Mix. Create sends to this track for any and all tracks that you want to be able to monitor thru your headphone mix.
  3. Choose the Options, Preferences command, select the heading General then click on the Advanced UI/System tweaks � button. Enable Allow track envelope/routing windows to stay open.
  4. Click OK then OK again to close the Preferences window.
  5. Select your Headphone Mix track and open the Routing Window. Add an Audio Hardware Output to the paired outputs to which your Headphone Amp is connected. Disable the Master/Parent Send for this track.
  6. You can now use the Pan and Volume faders for your receives, together with the Mute buttons, to control your headphone mix.

5.12 Displaying Grid Lines[edit]

REAPER lets you determine whether or not to show grid lines in your projects. If you choose to show them, you have a number of options to determine how they are displayed. In this section we will look at three examples of how you might choose to use grid lines if you wish. The display of grid lines is toggled on and off using the Grid button on the toolbar, or the Options, Snap/grid, Show grid command, or the keyboard shortcut Alt G.

Grid line display options can be found in the Appearance page of your Preferences. Grid and marker lines can be displayed over, thru, or under media items.

image: Show grid disabled. Show grid enabled. Spacing 1 beat, minimum 10 pixels. Grid line thru items, Marker line over items. Dotted grid lines selected.

Show grid enabled. Spacing 1 beat, minimum 5 pixels. Grid line under items, Marker line over items. Dotted grid lines not selected.

Show grid enabled. Spacing 1 beat, minimum 5 pixels. Grid line over items, Marker line under items. Dotted grid lines not selected.

You also have an option to set the grid line spacing to frame or measure rather than to a fraction of a beat. Frame can be useful when working with video media. (Frame rate is set in Project Settings, see Chapter 2).

If measure is selected, the grid setting will be determined by the time signature.

Later in this guide (Chapter 7), you will be shown how to use grid settings to automatically snap various objects and items into position.

5.13 Understanding Sends, Buses, Submixes and Folders[edit]

You have already seen that each of the tracks in your projects has its audio output routed by default to the master, and that from here the audio signal is directed to your preferred output device or devices, such as speakers or headphones. The signal flow that occurs here within REAPER can be represented by the first diagram on the right, which shows a simple project with just three tracks.

In Chapter2 of this User Guide, you were shown how to use a track as an effects bus, for example to add the same reverb effect to a number of tracks. The signal flow for this arrangement can be represented by the second of the two flow charts (below right).

The sends that you create for each track carry a signal to the Bus track, which applies the effect, and then sends the processed (wet) signal on to the Master. At the same time, so long as the Send Master/Parent option remains enabled, the dry signal for each track is also sent directly to the master. Here it is finally mixed together with the �wet� signal from the bus before being directed to your speakers and/or headphones.

These two example models use routing arrangements that you would expect to find in probably any DAW program. However, we are now about to enter territory where REAPER may be substantially different from other software that you may have used before. This relates to how you can create and use submixes.

With most programs, to create a submix (perhaps for your various drum tracks or vocal harmonies) you will need to create a bus, add sends from each track that is to be included in the submix, and then disable the direct sends to the master from each of these tracks.

You can use this method in REAPER. Holding the Alt key while you click on a track's ROUTE button will toggle on and off the direct send to the master. If a track's output to the master is enabled the first of the green �lights� on the ROUTE button is turned on. If disabled, it is turned off. This distinction is shown on the left. In the first (top) track, the output from the track to the master is enabled. In the second (bottom) track, it has been disabled. If there are no other sends or receives on that track, the word ROUTE is then shown in red.

However, a smarter and potentially more powerful way of creating a submix is to use folders (sometimes called track folders). We'll look at how this is done shortly, but first let's get our heads around the concept.

A folder track is created initially in the same way as any other track. You then tell REAPER to treat this as a folder track - and essentially that's it. You now have your submix (as shown here on the right). Direct output to the master from the individual �child� tracks within the folder is automatically disabled. Instead, they are passed thru the folder. Note that you should not manually disable the master/parent send for child tracks within a folder, or their output will no longer go to the folder (the master track).

Anything that you do to the folder will be done to the entire submix. For example, if you adjust the volume up or down, the volume of the submix will be adjusted up or down. If you add an effect such as a compressor to the folder then that effect will be applied to the submix.

Before we see exactly how a folder and its child tracks are set up, there's one more scenario to consider. Even when you have a folder which contains a submix of other tracks, you can still use buses for the folder itself or for individual tracks inside the folder (see right). In this case our folder (submix) still consists of the same three tracks as before. In addition, however, a send has been created from the folder to an FX bus, perhaps to add reverb to the submix. We'll see an example of this soon.

There are three types of send � Post-Fader (Post Pan), Pre-Fader (Post FX) and Pre FX. These are explained in Chapter 17 and illustrated by the flow charts at the end of Chapter 6. For the time being, accept the default option, Post-Fader (Post Pan).

5.14 Track Folder Essentials[edit]

When a number of tracks are collected within a folder, you will probably want to use both the individual track controls and the folder controls. For example, you can use the Volume controls for individual tracks within a folder to set the volume levels for the different tracks relative to each other. You can then use the Volume control for the folder itself to control the overall combined volume level of the tracks in that folder.

Another example is that the Mute and Solo controls for the folder will act on the folder as a whole. However, you do still have the option of using each track�s individual Mute and Solo controls.

The example illustrated (right) shows a folder called Instruments that contains three individual tracks. The faint peaks that you see in the folder's lane in arrange view represent the combined contents of the folder's child tracks. This can be disabled on your Preferences, Appearance, Peaks/waveforms page. Identify the little icons that you can see below the track number of each item in the track control panel. These are used to determine a track's folder status. Ordinarily, this can be one of four states:

An ordinary top level track (the default). The icon is displayed as a faint image of a folder. Hover the mouse over this image and it changes to a+ sign.

A folder track. This is displayed as in the Instruments track above, as a stronger image of a folder. Hover the mouse over this image and it changes to an X (see right).

A child track within a folder. The track is nested and the icon is displayed as a faint image of a folder. Hover the mouse over this image and it changes to a+ (see below right)

The last track in a folder. A folder icon is shown and the track is nested. Hover over this icon and it displays a down pointing arrow.

You can click on this icon to set a track's status. Let's work thru an example.

  1. Open the file All Through the Night.RPP and save it as All Through the Night Folder.RPP
  2. Make sure the Vox track is track 1, Gtr Body track 2, Gtr Neck track 3 and Bouzouki track 4.
  3. Press Alt Enter to display project settings. Select Stereo Pan as project pan mode. A width rotary control is now added to every track.
  4. Select track 1. Press Ctrl T to insert a new track immediately underneath this track. This becomes track number 2. Name this track Instruments.
  5. Click once on the folder button for this track. It becomes a folder and the tracks below it are indented.
  6. We want the bouzouki to be the last track in the folder. Click twice on that track to set this. Adjust the panning of the three child tracks as you wish.
  7. To illustrate a point, select the Bouzouki track and press Ctrl T. A new track is added outside the folder.
  8. Name this track Reverb and insert ReaVerbate into its FX chain. Drag and drop in turn from the ROUTING button of the Vox track and the ROUTING button of the Instruments folder to this Reverb track. This will create two sends.
  9. Lower the Reverb track volume to about � 10.0 db (see right) and save the file.
  10. Play the file. Experiment with folder controls. For example, mute the folder and you mute all instruments. Solo it and you solo all instruments. Adjust the volume and the overall volume of the instrument submix changes.
  11. Use the width control on the folder track to bring the different instrument tracks closer together or further apart. Use the pan control to move the whole instrument mix further left or right.

To restore a folder as a normal track, click on the folder control icon as many or as few times as are required to cycle thru the various options until you see the one that you want.

5.14.1 Drag and Drop Folder Management[edit]

Another way of creating folders is by dragging and dropping. You identify which track is to be the folder, which are to be its children, then select and drag and drop the children into the folder. When you know what you are doing, this method is probably quicker, but it can be tricky at first. This process is illustrated below.

Here's the same project file as before (except that this time the Reverb track has already been added).

Three tracks have been selected and we have began to drag and drop them up. Notice that the thick horizontal bar shown above the first of these tracks occupies the whole width of the track control panel.

Carefully and slowly drag them a little higher and you will notice that the horizontal bar is now indented slightly.

Now release the mouse and you will see the three tracks have been placed as child tracks within a newly created Instruments folder (see below).

If you hover the mouse over the folder icon for the Bouzouki track you should see confirmation that it is the last track in the folder.

The drag and drop method can also be used to add tracks into an existing folder, and/or to remove them. However, the technique may take a little getting used to.

Experiment with this now if you wish.

Notice the small down pointing arrow just above the track number of the folder track (in this case Track2).

This can be used to toggle the display of child tracks in the folder between normal (as shown above left), minimized and collapsed (as shown below left).

Notice that when you view the routing matrix, child tracks of folders are indicated by the letter F being displayed in the master/parent column (see left). The parent destination is also shown in tooltips (see below).

The parent track is also shown in the track routing window (see right).

5.14.2 Nested Folders[edit]

REAPER allows you to nest folders within folders, to as many levels as you like. This feature is probably more suited to relatively experienced DAW users than it is to newcomers.

To create a nested folder, first create an empty track within an existing top level folder, then use the folder control icon to make that track into a folder. Because the track is itself contained within an existing top level folder, it will automatically be made into a second level folder. The project shown here is an example of this. Notice that:

There is a top level folder called Instruments which holds two sub-folders (Drum Kit and Guitars).

The two second level folders which are sub-folders of the Instruments folder each contain child tracks of their own.

There is another top level folder (Reverbs) which itself contains two reverb busses.

Any action taken on a folder will effect its entire contents. For example, if in this case you were to mute the Instruments folder, then you would automatically also mute the contents of the Acoustic Guitar and Other Instruments folders.

REAPER does not limit you two levels of folders. You can have more if you like. Be warned, however, that if you do, life can get complicated!

5.15 Track and Track Parameter Grouping[edit]

Note: As well as conventional grouping, REAPER supports VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) grouping. To help avoid confusion, VCA grouping will be considered as a separate topic later in this chapter.

The topic of track and parameter grouping is a huge one with an extraordinary range of options designed to help you especially in your mixing and arranging. It is based upon this principle. You can define group relationships between different tracks and their controls so as to ensure that when you make a change to one track in the group, changes are also made to the other tracks in the group.

The nature of these relationships can vary from being quite simple to rather complex, and everything in between. Everybody will have their own different ways in which REAPER's track grouping feature can be helpful. Let's look at some possible examples. These examples have been selected primarily for learning purposes. You might or might not find the actual examples themselves to be useful for you.

  • You might have two tracks that you wish to keep at a constant volume relative to each other. In this case, you could ensure that whenever one is faded up or down then so is the other.
  • You might have two tracks that need to be panned opposite each other. In this case, you can ensure that when one is panned in one direction, the other is automatically panned in the other direction.
  • You might have two or more tracks that you wish to treat as a group so that they are always soled or muted together.

In a moment, we'll work thru some examples. There are two main ways to create and manage your groups. This can be done either using the Track Control Panel or the Track Grouping Matrix. Here is an overview of both methods.

Method 1 uses the Grouping dialog box (shown right), which can be accessed from the Track Control Panel or the Mixer Control Panel. The method is as follows:

  • In the TCP or MCP, select the tracks whose parameters you wish to group.
  • Right-click over any track number in the group and choose Track grouping parameters from the context menu (or press Shift G).
  • When the Grouping dialog box is displayed (see left) specify those parameters that you want to group, then click on Close.
  • Make sure that the option Track grouping enabled on the TCP or MCP menu is selected (ticked).

You can use this same method later to make changes to your grouped parameter definitions.

This interface might appear a little overwhelming at first. For this reason, it may be easier, especially at first, to use the second method. Method 2 uses the Track Grouping Matrix. This is illustrated overleaf.

The grouping matrix, which can be docked, can be used to manage up to 64 different groups. To display this, choose the View command, then Track Grouping Matrix, or press Ctrl Alt G. The picture that follows shows just two groups on display. We can create a special project file for our examples. You can then group any selection of tracks that you like: in this example, we will be working with two of three tracks enclosed within a track folder. Note that you do not need to place tracks in a folder in order to be able to group them.

5.15.1 Basic Track Grouping[edit]


In the examples that follow, the optional Width control is shown, but not included in any groups. Whether or not this is visible will depend on your choice of track layout. This is explained in Chapters 10 and 11.

  1. Open the file All Through The Night.RPP and immediately save it as All Through The Night GROUPS.RPP
  2. Select Track 1 (Vox) and press Ctrl T to create a new track immediately below it. Name the new track Instruments. Using the techniques explained earlier in this chapter, make this track into a folder. Enclose in the folder the two guitar tracks and the bouzouki track. Make the bouzouki the last track in the folder. Save this file. First, you need to make sure that the track grouping is enabled, Choose the Track command from the main menu. If Track grouping enabled (near the bottom) is not ticked, click on this command to select it. If it is already ticked, just click on the REAPER title bar.
  3. Choose the View, Track Grouping Matrix command to display the Grouping Matrix.
  4. Pan one guitar track about 50% left, and the other 50% right.
  5. In Group 1 on the Grouping Matrix, click in the cells representing Gtr Body and Gtr Neck in the Volume column.
  6. Click in the cells for Gtr Body and Gtr Neck in the Pan column. In this column, click also in the Pan Reverse cell for one of the guitars, as shown (right).
  7. The volume controls for these two tracks are grouped so that when you adjust the volume for either track, both volume faders will move together in the same direction.
  8. Perhaps more interesting, when you now move the pan control left or right for either of these tracks, the other track's pan fader will move in the opposite direction.
  9. Save the file.
  10. Now click in the cells for the two guitar tracks in the mute and solo columns and again save the file. The solo and mute controls for these two tracks are also linked together. Try them out!
  11. To temporarily override the grouping, hold Shift while you adjust the volume of one of the guitar tracks. Notice only that one fader is adjusted. You can use Shift to temporarily override any grouped track parameters.
  12. To temporarily disable the group altogether, click where shown (right) on the Group 1 enable/disable toggle control. You will now find that all group controls for this group are disabled.
  13. Click in this same cell again to again enable the group. Save the file.

The table that follows on the next page summarizes what you might have discovered about grouping track control parameters from this exercise.

Note: A item's group control status can be master only (M), slave only (S) or master/slave (the default). In this exercise, all grouping has been of the default type, master/slave. We'll get to the other two options shortly.

5.15.2 Track Grouping Matrix Basic Controls[edit]

In order to do this � Using the Track Grouping Matrix Define the tracks in a new group Display the Track Grouping Matrix. Select at least one parameter (such as Pan) for each track in the group.
Adjust all linked faders for a group In Mixer or Track Arrange view, adjust the fader for any one track in the group.
Adjust the fader for only one track in a group containing linked faders In Mixer or Track Arrange view, hold Shift while adjusting the single fader.
Define a pan or volume relationship as reverse for a track within a group In the track row, click on the intersection cell for Pan Reverse or Volume Reverse.
Change an existing toggle parameter relationship (such as Solo, Mute or Record Arm) into a reverse one In Mixer view, hold Shift while clicking on the appropriate button (such as Solo or Mute) for the individual track. Use Shift again to restore the positive relationship.
Link more parameters for tracks in an existing group Click on the intersection cells where the required parameter column meets the track rows.
Add another track to an existing group Click on intersection cell where the required parameter column meets the row for the track that is being added.
Remove a track from an existing group Click once, twice or three times on the appropriate intersection cell until it shows blank. If more than one parameter is linked, do this for each parameter.
Enable/Disable group Click in the group's Enable/Disable box.
Select all tracks in a group Click on the group name.
Ensure automation mode of slave tracks automatically follows that of master Use the Automation Mode column of for tracks in the group.
Fine tune behavior of groups which share common tracks. Use the Flag: No Slave-Master settings to ensure, for example, that a track which is a master in group 1 and a slave in group 2 will not act as a master in group 1 when being slaved in group 2.

5.15.3 Track Grouping Indicators[edit]

By default, colored ribbons are used on the Track Control Panel to identify grouped track parameters (see right).

Under Options, Preferences, Appearance there is a sub-section Track Control Panels whose contents includes the option to instead use lines on the edges, or not to use any indicator at all.

5.15.4 Master and Slave Group Relationships[edit]

Each parameter that is included in a grouped relationship can take one of three states � Master/Slave (the default), Master only, or Slave only. The different ways in which this affects that parameter's behavior are:

A Master/Slave item can control other Master/Slave and Slave only items, but not Master only items. It can itself be controlled by other Master/Slave and Master only items.

A Master only item can control other Master/Slave and Slave only items, but not Master only items. It cannot be controlled by any other item

A Slave only item cannot control any other item, but can itself be controlled by Master/Slave items and Master only items.

Don't worry, this isn't as complicated as it sounds. To make sense of it all, let's work thru a couple of examples.

In the previous exercise, all items within our group had Master/Slave status. This meant, for example, that when you adjusted the panning or the volume on either of the two guitar tracks, the equivalent parameter on the other guitar track would move according to the defined relationship. This happened regardless of which of the two tracks you used to make the adjustment. Let's now look at some different scenarios.


  1. Open the file All Through The Night GROUPS.RPP that you made in the last example. We are going to add the Bouzouki volume control to this group as a slave only.
  2. Make sure the grouping matrix is displayed. Click in the Bouzouki row of the Volume column for group 1 to add this to your group. It is assigned the default status of Master/Slave.
  3. Click in the same cell again. The display changes to M. It now has master only status. Click again, and the display will change to S for slave only status (see right).
  4. Observe this track in the track control or mixer panel. You will see only one colored ribbon on the track's volume control (instead of two). In the TCP this will be on the right, in the MCP (mixer control panel) this will be at the bottom. This indicates its slave status.
  5. Play the song. Adjust the volume for either of the guitar tracks, first up, then down. Observe that because of its slave status the volume of the bouzouki track will be adjusted with it.
  6. Now adjust the volume of the bouzouki track, first up then down. Because of its slave only status, it cannot control any other track. The volume faders of the guitar tracks will not move as you change the volume of the bouzouki track.
  7. Now, for learning purposes, let's change the bouzouki volume status to master only. Click on that cell several times to cycle thru the options. Stop when it displays M.
  8. This is the opposite of what happened at step 3. First, the colored ribbon indicator for this item is now shown only on the left instead of the right. This confirms its master only status (see right).
  9. Play the song. If you adjust the volume fader on the bouzouki track, the faders on the two guitar tracks will also move. However, if you adjust the volume of either guitar track, the other guitar track will also move, but the bouzouki fader will not.
  10. Save the file when you have finished.

5.15.5 Track Grouping Window[edit]

Earlier we introduced the track grouping window, and said that this interface offered a different method of working with track grouping and with grouped track parameters. Let's now see how.

The Grouping window displays all group information about the various parameters for any selected track or selection of tracks. Most commonly (and most usefully) it makes sense to use it with individual tracks, one track at a time. Again, this will be more readily understood if you work thru an example.


  1. With the project file All Through The Night GROUPS.RPP open, select the Gtr Body track in the track control panel.
  2. Either right-click over the track number and choose Track Grouping Parameters � from the context menu, or press Shift G.
  3. This causes the Grouping window for the selected track to be displayed (see below left).
  4. In the TCP, select the Bouzouki track. The display in the Grouping window changes (above right), to show the currently grouped parameters for the bouzouki � in this case, just the master control on the volume track.
  5. In this dialog box, click and select Mute Master, Solo Master, Mute Slave and Solo Slave. These group parameters are now also selected for this track. This is confirmed by the display in the track grouping matrix.
  6. One more thing we can do here is to rename the group. Click on the Rename button, type Instruments and press Enter.
  7. Close the dialog box. Observe the track grouping matrix. Save this file.

You can define up to 32 groups in a project file. In the example below, a second group has been added, to help when adjusting the balance between the volume of the vocal track and the instrument mix.

Note: You can right-click over the matrix empty background area for a menu which allows you to toggle on (above left) or off (above right) the option to Show individual group details.

5.15.6 Track Grouping Window Basic Controls[edit]

In order to do this � Using the Track Control Panel Define the tracks in a new group Select the tracks in the Track Control Panel, press Shift G then select at least one parameter.
Name a group Press Shift G, select the required group number and click on Rename.
Adjust all linked faders for a group Adjust the fader for any one track in the group.
Adjust the fader for only one track in a group containing linked faders Hold Shift while adjusting the single fader.
Define a pan or volume relationship as reverse for a track within a group Select the track in the Track Control Panel and press Shift G. Click on Reverse Volume or Reverse Pan as required.
Change an existing toggle parameter relationship (such as Solo, Mute or Record Arm) into a reverse one Hold Shift while clicking on the appropriate button (such as Solo or Mute) for the individual track.
Link more parameters for tracks in an existing group Open the Grouping dialog box for the group and select the required parameters.
Reset a track's volume, pan or width to its default value and adjust settings for other group members accordingly Double-click on the volume, pan or width value displayed in the track panel.
Add another track to an existing group.. Select the track in the Track Control Panel and press Shift G. Display the drop down group list and select the required group. Select the required parameters
Remove a track from an existing group Select the track in the Track Control Panel and press Shift G Unselect all selected items except Group enabled
Enable/Disable group Press Shift G, select the group from the drop down list then click in the Group enabled box.

Tip: When you are playing back a song, in the course of editing you may from time to time wish to reset your VU Peaks without needing to stop and restart playback. To clear one peak, simply click on the peak number shown at the right hand end of the VU meter in the TCP or top of the VU in the MCP. To clear all peaks, hold down the Control key while you do this.

5.16 VU Meters on Multichannel Tracks[edit]

Where a track has more than two channels you have the option of showing the output of all channels on the track's VU meters in the TCP and Mixer.

This feature is toggled on and off for any track or track selection by right-clicking over the track panel area (for example, on the track number) and enabling or disabling Multichannel track metering on the context menu.

Shown right is a track with audio on four channels, as displayed in the Mixer using the default theme and layout.

5.17 VCA Grouping[edit]

The origins of VCAs (Voltage Controlled Amplifiers) predate digital audio. Today, REAPER's contemporary implementation of VCAs opens up interesting mixing opportunities for you.

By way of analogy, VCAs in REAPER are a form of track grouping which allows tracks to be slaved within a group to a single track master. VCA slave tracks will have their volume dBs added to that of the VCA master track: thus, with VCA grouping the process is additive. With conventional grouping, however (such as that explained in section 5.15) nothing is added, the tracks are simply linked.

VCA groups can be set up and managed using the same grouping matrix that was introduced earlier in this chapter. With experience and experimentation you will come to learn that VCA grouping can be a very useful mixing tool. To begin with, however, we will keep to simple examples, designed primarily to help you understand the concept and how it is applied. The basic procedure for creating a VCA group is:

  1. Add a new track to your project and give it a suitable name, such as VCA Control. Ordinarily, this track should contain no media items.
  2. Display the grouping matrix and select a currently unused group. Optionally, you may give this group a name.
  3. Set the VCA status in this group for your VCA Control track to M (for master).
  4. Set the VCA status in this group for any tracks that you want it to control to S (for Slave).

You might find the example that follows easier if you understand the basic functionality of the grouping matrix, as explained in section 5.15.


  1. Open the file All Through The Night.RPP and save it as All Through The Night VCA.RPP.
  2. Pan the first of the guitar tracks about 35% left and the other about 35% right.
  3. Add a new track (Track 5) and name it VCA Control.
  4. Display the grouping matrix (Ctrl Alt G). Make sure that the other tracks are in the same order as shown here in the matrix (below right).
  5. In the grouping matrix, right-click over the text Group 1 to open the Grouping dialog box (above). Click the Rename button, then type VCA, then click on OK, then close the dialog box.
  6. Set up this group as shown (right), so that track 5 is your VCA master track and tracks 2, 3 and 4 are VCA slave tracks. In order to do this, click once on the appropriate cell for each of these tracks to add it to the group, then click once more to make it master (M) and (for tracks 2, 3 and 4) once again to change this to slave (S).
  7. Play the song. As you raise the volume fader on the VCA control track, the three instrument tracks will each become louder. As you turn down the volume on track 5, the instruments will become quieter.
  8. Notice that the VU meter levels on the slave instrument tracks will change during this. The adjusted volume of these tracks (added to that of any audio produced by any items that might be in VCA control track itself) is sent to the master. Thus, the master's VU meter levels will change as the VCA control track fader is adjusted.
  9. In addition, you are free, if you wish, to adjust the volume of any of the individual instrument tracks without affecting any other tracks in the group. Save the file.
  10. Now let's try something different. Make sure that the pan law for all tracks is set to Stereo balance/mono pan. This is done by right clicking over the track's pan control and selecting from the pan law drop down list (right).
  11. Click on the Bouzouki/VCA matrix cell to remove it from the group.
  12. Now play the song again. As you do so, adust the pan setting on the VCA control track. You will find that the panning of the three instrument tracks will each be adjusted accordingly. Save the file.

VCA Grouping Parameters

This table summarizes the VCA grouping matrix options and parameters:

Parameter Comment Volume Adjust the volume fader on the VCA master to adjust the volume of all slave tracks in the VCA group. Note that the slave track faders themselves will not be moved.
Pan Provided either Stereo balance/mono pan or Stereo pan has been selected as the pan law, changing the panning on the VCA master will cause the panning of all slave tracks in the group to be changed. The pan faders on the slave tracks, however will not be moved.
Pre FX Slave If the grouping matrix option Flag: VCA pre-FX slave is selected for any VCA slave track, then the signal volume will be adjusted before it is fed into the that track's FX chain.
Automation Volume, pan and width changes on slave tracks can be automated by adding envelopes to the VCA control track. The envelopes will be applied to all slave tracks in the group. Slave tracks may also have their own automation envelopes. Chapter 18 includes more about envelopes.
Mute A mute envelope can be added to the VCA master. This envelope will be applied to all VCA slave tracks in the group. Automation envelopes are explained in Chapter 18.

Note: Defining a track as a VCA master causes that track's volume and pan faders to control volume and panning on all of its slave tracks. Keep in mind that a VCA control track is not a track folder or submix. No audio passes thru a VCA master/control track. Thus, for example, it would make no sense to add any audio FX directly to a VCA control track.

Further Examples of VCA Grouping Models

Here are some more examples of situations in which VCA grouping can be helpful. Doubtless you will in time find further and perhaps more complex applications of your own.

VCA with Automation Envelopes

You will need to understand something about automation envelopes if you are to understand this section. Automation envelopes are explained in Chapter 18.

Problems can arise when using automation envelopes with conventional groups. For example, a volume or pan envelope on a master track in a conventional group will, on playback, adjust the volume or pan settings on that one track only, not on its slaves.

With VCA grouping, however, an envelope on a VCA control track will be applied to the summed total of its slave tracks. Moreover, you can have separate automation envelopes on both the VCA master and any of the slave tracks within the group. Shown here is the same project as in the previous example, with the same groups as before, and with volume envelopes added to the VCA control track and one of the slave tracks (Bouzouki). The summed levels of both slave and master envelopes will, on playback, be sent to the master.

Actions to Manage VCA Envelopes

Two actions are available which add extra functionality to VCA envelopes. These are Envelope: apply all VCAs from selected tracks to grouped tracks and reset volume/pan/mute and Envelope: apply all VCAs to selected tracks and remove from VCA groups. Actions are explained in Chapter 15, but, in short, you can assign your own keyboard shortcuts to these actions, and/or add them to REAPER's menus.

The effect of the these actions is illustrated here.

Tracks 2 and 3 are slaved to track 4 in a VCA group. A volume envelope has been added to the VCA master track. This track is selected.

Running the action Envelope: apply all VCAs from selected tracks to grouped tracks and reset volume/pan/mute causes an identical envelope to be added to each of the group's slave tracks and to remove it from the master. This is shown on the illustration to the right. The VCA group settings remain intact.

Running the action Envelope: apply all VCAs from selected tracks to grouped tracks and remove from VCA group would also cause identical volume envelopes to be to each of the slave tracks, but these tracks would be removed from the VCA group and the envelope on the VCA master track (in this example, track 4) would remain intact.

Note that if any of the VCA slave tracks already contain a volume envelope, then the values on the VCA master track envelope will be added to those already on the slave track envelope.

These actions can applied to VCA master pan, width and/or mute envelopes as well as volume envelopes.

VCA with Overlapping Groups

Conventional grouping does not fully allow for overlapping group membership. For example, on the right tracks 1 to 3 volume faders are grouped as masters and slaves in one group, tracks 4 to 6 in a second group.

We might want to also group, say, volume faders on tracks 1 and 6 so that they and they alone could be moved together when required. VCA grouping makes this possible. We add a VCA control track (track 7) and set up a third group as shown below:

You would now find that you could adjust the volume of tracks 1 and 6 together by adjusting the volume fader on track 7, the VCA control track. No other track would be affected.

VCA for Mix Control

This is a rather more complex and subtle example: newcomers to working with DAWs or REAPER might be best advised to stay away from this one until your knowledge and experience have grown a little!

This example uses VCA grouping in a project that includes folders as well as tracks. Three VCA groups have been set up, each with its own control track. The track layout shown on the right needs to be interpreted in conjunction with the grouping matrix shown below.

The groups are:

Group 1: Vocals VCA Control, track 14 (controls Lead Vocal track and Harmonies folder).

Group 2: DrumsBass VCA Control, track 15 (controls Drums folder and Bass track).

Group 3: Guitars VCA Control, track 16 (controls Guitars folder and the Bouzouki).

The use of the three VCA control tracks can assist in mixing, making it easier for us to achieve the required balance of sound between the vocals and various instruments in this mix.

The mix has effectively been divided into three groups. Individual track volumes and pan settings can still be adjusted in the usual way, but in addition the VCA controls can be used to adjust the balance between the three groups.

This setup is illustrated in the grouping matrix shown below.

5.18 Audio Jogging and Scrubbing[edit]

Jogging and scrubbing are techniques originated in the days when all recording was done with magnetic tape. They help you to move within a project, or track, or group of tracks, to audition or locate a particular section. This is usually done in REAPER when your project is not playing, but you can over-ride this default setting.

To jog a portion of a song, simply position your mouse over the triangle that is located on the top of the edit cursor, as shown on the right. This causes the mouse pointer to change to a white hand. You can then click and drag in either direction. You�ll probably find when jogging that you will want to zoom in quite closely on your project.

By default, holding down the Ctrl key while jogging will enable Scrub mode. In this mode, playback will be much slower. This can help when looking for very short glitches, for example when zoomed in close.

You can set your jog/scrub preferences in the Audio, Playback page of the Options, Preferences window, as shown below. Notice in particular that:

You can limit the maximum jog/scrub rates (speed) to no more than normal playback speed. This makes it easier to identify the audio material when jogging or scrubbing.

You can also choose to be able to engage jog/scrub mode to over-ride normal playback.

If you enable the Only play selected tracks option, then only those tracks currently selected will be heard when you apply jogging or scrubbing.

You can modify REAPER's jog/scrub behavior by opening the Preferences window and using the Mouse Modifiers page to define your own modifier keys for Edit cursor handle left drag behavior. The default assignments are shown on the right.

Looped segment mode can be used to audition a section of your material as a loop. For example, if in Playback preferences (above right) you specify a range of -1000 ms to 1000 ms, then holding Alt while you click and drag the edit cursor handle briefly left or right will jog a two second portion of audio over and over for as long as you hold down the mouse button.

You can also assign modifiers for jogging and/or scrubbing to your Arrange View middle mouse button drag behavior. For more information about assigning mouse modifier preferences see Chapter 22.

5.19 Default Toolbar Summary[edit]

REAPER's default toolbar is located near the top left corner of the screen. The various tools and their functions are introduced throughout this guide as and when they are required: in addition, you might find the summary diagram below helpful.

The actual appearance of the individual icons will depend on which color theme you are using. Themes can be selected using the command Options, Themes and then making your selection from the list available. Shown below are the icons used by the default themes for both REAPER 5 and REAPER 4.

Toolbar keyboard shortcuts summary (equivalent to left click):

New project Ctrl n
Open Project Ctrl o
Save Project Ctrl s
Project Settings Alt Enter
Undo Ctrl Z to undo last action
Right click to view undo history
Redo Ctrl Shift z to redo last action
Right click to view undo history
Metronome: no default shortcut: Left click to toggle on/off
Right click for settings
Auto Crossfade Alt X to toggle on/off
Item Grouping Alt Shift G to toggle on/off
Ripple Editing Alt P to toggle on/off
Right click for menu
Envelopes, move points with media items: Left click to toggle on/off
Right click for menu
Grid Lines Alt G to toggle on off
Right click for settings dialog
Snap Alt S to toggle on/off
Right click for settings dialog
Locking L to toggle on off
Right click for settings dialog

You can edit this toolbar, for example adding more tools for other commands and actions. You can also create additional toolbars of your own. This topic is covered in Chapter 15

5.20 SWS Extensions[edit]

As you get to know REAPER better you will find that there are a number of editing and related actions that you will want to use frequently. This might include, for example, actions as diverse as lining up a number of media items with the edit cursor, or setting the volume of an entire selection of media items in one action. You will find that many of these actions – and more - are available as a plug-in to REAPER by downloading and installing the SWS Extensions Pack. To do this, you simply follow this sequence:

  1. Go to
  2. Follow the instructions to download the correct version for your operating system.
  3. After downloading, run the install program, then start REAPER in the usual way.

The contents of this extension pack include not only hundreds of useful actions for editing and more but also whole modules which bring extra functionality to REAPER, including mixing snapshots and marker management. So comprehensive are they that they come with their own PDF manual.