Chapter 8: Arranging, Comping and Editing Takes

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8 Arranging, Comping and Editing Takes[edit]

Earlier, in Chapter 3, we looked at how you can create multiple takes when you are recording. In particular, make sure you are familiar with the sections that cover Showing Takes in Lanes, Using Color Coded Takes and Working With Multiple Takes. The editing and arrangement techniques covered in Chapter 7 can also be applied to editing a project with multiple takes. This example is intended really to get you thinking about how you might approach the task. You have two main methods at your disposal. You can either:

Explode the takes to new tracks. You can then work on and edit each track separately and (if you wish) join them all back to a single track when you have finished, or

Work on and edit the various takes all within the single track on which they were recorded. We'll get to this method later in this section.

Note that unless specifically stated otherwise, the instructions in this section assume that you have the free item positioning option disabled for the tracks that you are working on. This is the default setting. (For more information about free item positioning, see chapter 3).

8.1 Using Item FX with Individual Takes[edit]

In Chapter 7 you learnt how FX can be added to individual media items. Where multiple takes exist on a track, each take can be assigned its own FX and FX chain. For example, you can insert separate FX plug-ins into individual takes, as shown in the example here. Select the required take, then press Shift E to open the take add FX window.

If you have enabled the options Display media item take name and Draw labels above the item (both under Preferences, Appearance, Media), then any FX chain for the currently selected take will be included in the information displayed. In the example shown on the right, Take 2 is currently active: the FX names displayed are those FX assigned to Take 2.

If you wish, you can insert the same FX into each take and apply different parameter settings for each one.

8.2 Exploding Takes to Multiple Tracks[edit]

We'll start by looking at the first of these two methods. Let�s suppose that we have recorded three takes of a vocal track. We can right click over the item and use the Take, Explode all takes to new tracks command.

This command creates (in this case) three extra as yet unnamed tracks � the original track with its three takes is still intact. Now suppose that after auditioning we have decided which parts we want to use from each take. In the next illustration, we have edited the various takes to leave only the portion of each take that we wish to keep. This has been done using various editing techniques that have been covered in Chapter 7.

Finally, we select the various items from tracks 3 and 4 and use the Num Lock 8 key to move them up to track 2. Track 1 is now muted and could of course be hidden. Tracks 3 and 4 could be deleted.

You could now select all of the items in track 2 and use the Glue Items command to bind them together as one media item. Note that the original muted track with the three takes on it is still available. This makes it easy at some later time for us to change our mind about what to include in the vocal track if we wish.

8.3 Crossfades with Takes[edit]

If you intend to arrange your media items so that they overlap, then you should first decide whether or not you want REAPER to add a crossfade. This feature is turned on and off using the Auto Crossfade button on the main toolbar (or the keyboard shortcut, Alt X).

The curves of crossfades can be edited. You can extend the crossfade in either direction by dragging the vertical fade bars. If you hold Shift while doing this, you can move the crossfade itself left or right to a new position. Right-clicking over the crossfade reveals a menu of different crossfade shape options (see left). Using these techniques can ensure that an otherwise abrupt edit is made into a gradual transition at the best edit point.

Various options are available to you for customizing mouse behavior when crossfade editing. These can be selected from the Editing Behavior, Mouse Modifiers page of your Preferences � see also Chapter 15. An example of this shown here. For more advanced crossfade editing, you might wish to use the Crossfade Editor (see Chapter 7)

8.4 Exploding Takes in Place[edit]

Another option is to use the Take, Explode all takes (in place) command. This has the effect of merging all takes on the track into a single lane. Here's an example of when you might wish to do this. The track shown here includes three lead vocal takes. You have made your selection of the best parts of each take. These have had their individual item properties (such as volume) adjusted to give you the sound that you want.

By exploding all takes in place, the selected items are placed over the others takes in a single lane, and are played together.

8.5 Play All Takes[edit]

Here's a really interesting trick you can do with takes. Shown here is a vocal track with an overdubbed vocal harmony for just a short part. Both takes at that point have had individual pan and volume envelopes added, and some delay and perhaps pitch shift FX to the second take's FX chain.

After selecting both these media items, right-click over either one of them and choose Item settings then Play all takes. We can thus have our complete vocal and harmony mix on one single track! This setting is also available from within the Item Properties window.

8.6 Editing and Comping Multiple Takes and Multiple Tracks[edit]

You don't need to explode takes to multiple tracks in order to manage them. In this section we'll see some of the ways in which you can manage your takes all within a single track. In overview, this essentially consists of selecting the best parts of each take and comping them together into a single take of your preferred selections.

Slice and Dice

When you choose the Option to Show all takes in lanes (when room) there is a neat technique known as slice and dice that helps you combine the best of each take together, to play as one track. To do this, you simply Split the track in as many places (and at the exact points) that you think appropriate, then select from each slice your preferred section. The different methods that you can use for splitting are explained in Chapter 7.

A clever trick is to make all of the items that together make up a complete set of preferred takes a different color from the others. To do this, first choose your takes and select all of the media items (use marquee to do this), then choose from the right-click menu Item and take colors, then Set active take to custom color or Set active take to one random color. These commands are also available from the media item right-click context menu. An example of how this can be used is shown below.

Suppose that one of these takes consists of an overdub of just a small portion of the song. The option to Display empty take lanes (Options, Take lane behavior menu) can be enabled to ensure that your takes are displayed more clearly. An empty part of a take (such as exist in Take 2 here) cannot be selected unless you enable Allow selecting empty take lanes (Options, Take lane behavior menu).

Note: If you prefer not to see the empty take lanes, you can hide them by disabling Display empty take lanes (Options, Take lane behavior menu).

Comp Sets

You can save multiple comp sets for individual tracks (example shown above) and even for multiple tracks (as shown right). This latter example is a project with two vocal tracks, each of which has been sliced and diced and colored at random.

With all media items in this set selected (use marquee), you can right-click over the selection and choose Comps then Save as new comp from the context menu. You will be prompted for a name: this name will then be added to the Comps menu and can be used to recall this comp from the menu at at any time. One benefit of this is to make it easier for you to compare different combination of slices from different takes, and hence arrive at the best outcome. There is no limit to the number of comp sets that you can save and use.

Saved comp sets can be applied by selecting the media items (all takes) of the relevant tracks in arrange view, then right c licking over the selection and choosing Comps then the comp name from the context menu.

Here is a summary of the commands on the Comps sub-menu.

Command Explanation Save as new comp Saves your current selection of takes on all currently selected tracks as a new comp set. You will be prompted for a name.
Rename active comp Lets you change the name of current active comp set.
Remove active comp Deletes selected comp set and removes it from the Comps menu. Does not remove any takes or media items from the project itself.
Crop list to active comp Removes other comp sets from comps menu list.
Move active comp to top lane Moves all items in take selection to the top lane of its track. This action respects both item grouping and undo.
Comp names Your comps will be listed at the end of the Comps menu (see example right). Choosing any of these will cause that set of takes to be selected.

In this example, we have created a second comp set and colored it green. We can now switch between comp sets at will.

In this example, with our preferred comp set selected we have used the command Move active comp to top lane.

Don't forget also that by pressing Ctrl L you can toggle lane display on and off, as shown below.

Tip: When you use lanes and slice and dice in this way, you can use the Num Pad keys 1 and 3 to slide items left or right if their timing is slightly out of sync with other takes. The exact amount by which these keys will slide your selected media item(s) will depend on how closely you are zoomed in or out.

You might find that in the earlier stages of post production you are more likely to want to create and save comp sets for individual tracks rather than for groups of tracks. This will offer you a great deal of flexibility in how you �mix and match� your various tracks together. Note also that comps are preserved when items are split. Moreover, as your mix progresses towards its completion, you may find that it more advantageous to save comped sets for whole selections of tracks, so that they can be recalled and used together.

Take Lane Behavior Options

Note the four take behavior toggle options on the Options menu. These are mostly self-explanatory:

Show all take in lanes (when room), Display empty take lanes, Allow selecting empty take lanes and Select takes for all selected items when clicking take lanes. Disabling this last option allows you to work with takes on individual tracks within a track selection without losing the selection.

8.7 Take Menu Command Summary[edit]

The table below summarizes other Take menu management commands that are available to you:

Command (Shortcut) Explanation Next take (T) Makes next take the active take for all selected media items.
Previous take (Shift T) Makes previous take the active take for all selected media items.
Delete active take (X) Deletes currently selected take on all currently selected media items.
Crop to active take (Alt Shift T) Removes all non-active takes from currently selected media items.
Duplicate active take Adds a copy of the active take to the item as a new take.
Lock to active take This is a toggle command. It locks the current active take selection. When take locking is applied to a media item, its active take cannot be changed unless this toggle is unlocked.
Show FX chain for active take Opens the FX browser to allow you to add FX to the active take for the selected media item.
Remove FX for active take Removes FX previously added to a take's FC chain.
Take envelopes... Opens a window from which you can choose to add a volume, pan, mute and/or pitch, and/or any take FX parameter automation envelope. Automation envelopes are explained in Chapter 18.
Explode all takes to new tracks Copies each take to a new track.
Explode all takes in place Places selected takes on the same track on top of each other, so that all will play at once.
Explode all takes (in order) Places selected takes on the same track in sequence, one after the other. This command turns this � . into this: (sic)
Implode items across tracks into takes: Copies all selected items to a single track as a series of takes. This command turns this ... � into this: (sic)
Implode items on same track into takes: Moves all selected items to the same start time as a series of takes on the same track. This command turns this �� ... into this: (sic)
Paste to takes in items Pastes previously selected and cut or copied takes into selected tracks as a new item

8.8 More Take Commands and Actions[edit]

The third section of the Items context menu contains a series of commands that involve creating a new take from an existing item. These commands open up for you a number of interesting and creative options.

The first four of these involve applying track effects to an existing media item and are in principle quite similar � the first three create a new audio take and the fourth of these creates a new MIDI take. he table below summarizes these commands.


Command Explanation Notes for items 1 to 4 Apply track/take FX to items as new take - creates a new stereo take for the selected item.. One use for these four commands is to free up CPU if your system is becoming stressed. Consider an example of a track with some FX in its FX chain, say EQ and a compressor (continued next row):
Apply track/take FX to items as new take (mono output) � creates a new mono take for the selected item. After applying track FX (mono output), we have a new take with the FX applied to it. The original FX chain can now be set to bypass (continued next row):
Apply track/take FX to items as new take (multichannel output) � creates a new take for the selected item, with the same number of channels as are defined in the track's routing window. This reduces CPU overload, and opens up creative options- e.g. you can select Play all takes then use pan and volume envelopes to vary their placement and relative volume throughout the song.
Apply track/take FX to items as new take (MIDI output) � creates a new MIDI take on selected MIDI item
Render items as new take This command is another CPU miser. It will render the existing media item as a new take. Any MIDI items with take FX (such as VSTi) will be rendered as audio.
Reverse items as new take You can have some fun with this one. It does what it says � it adds a new take to the media item with the material reversed.

As well as these commands, REAPER's Action List (see Chapter 15) includes a number of actions you can use to deal with empty take lanes. These actions (which can be assigned to shortcut keys or toolbars) are:

Item: Remove all empty take lanes

Item: Remove the empty take lane after the active take, and

Item: Remove the empty take lane before the active take

Don't forget how many options you now have � slice and dice, play all takes, volume, pan and mute envelopes, pitch and/or playback rate shifting, take FX � and so on!

Footnote: Confused about colors?

REAPER's Preferences, Appearance, Peaks/ Waveforms settings includes many color options. These options may be disabled by some color themes, including the default theme. Where they are enabled, their order of precedence is not obvious.

In the example shown here, we have asked for media item peaks and backgrounds to show both track colors and take colors. Clearly to show both of these will not be possible.

In cases like this, the option furthest to the right will take precedence. In other words, for a particular media item, if takes have not been colored then the track colors will be used. If, however, take colors have been specified, then these will take precedence over track colors.

8.9 Managing Comps with the Project Bay[edit]

Takes and comps can also be managed from within REAPER's Project Media/FX Bay.

The Project Bay is a one-stop center which allows for the convenient management of a project's media items, FX, item groups, takes and comps. It is explored and explained in detail in Chapter 12 of this User Guide.

To open and display the Project Bay, use the View, Project Media/FX Bay command. Click on the tab labeled Take Comps to display the takes and comps management section.

Clicking on the Options button (bottom right) displays a menu. This menu is explained in detail in Chapter 12. For now, notice the option to Mirror selection in bay and project. When enabled, this allows you to select any media item or segment by clicking on it either in the project itself or in the list shown in the project bay.

Within the project bay window (see below) you can right click over any listed comp to display its context menu. Choices include commands to Activate comp, Rename comp and Delete comp (keep takes).

You can also create a new comp from your current take selection by clicking on the Actions button (bottom right) and choosing Create new comp from the Actions menu.

An example of a project with the Project Bay open and the Take Comps window selected is shown above.

The illustration on the right shows how within comp sets you can also select and manage individual takes and items. For example, you can activate or deactivate individual takes, or remove them from the comp altogether.

8.10 Propagating Takes[edit]

In Chapter 7 you were shown how to copy a media item's properties and characteristics to all similar media items on the same track or on all tracks. The same principle can be applied to takes, using either of the Item processing commands Propagate take to similarly named active takes on track or Propagate take to similarly named active takes (all tracks). Here is an example.

In this example, we have three takes of a media item, which has also been split into three sections. All three takes share the same name (Vox.mp3). Notice that some FX have been added to the active take for the first section, together with an envelope and a fade out.

By choosing Item processing, Propagate take to similarly named active takes on track from the context menu, we ensure that these features are copied to the other active takes on this track:

Notice that although the envelope is copied, the envelope points are not.