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Reaper - DAW - Recording Software

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Why Reaper?
 
First off, I did have that 2 page thread on Audacity and still find it be of value, even as I have changed to Reaper. And here is why. Audacity is free. And I made plenty of mistakes. But once I got the idea of digital recording more fully realized, I could make a better informed choice.
 
And, of all the DAWs out there I could buy, given enough money, I could have bought more expensive DAWs.
 
Probably the first and main reason is because of our fellow members, Felipe and David Lyon. They put out excellent recordings. I saw a few comparisons from others on youtube. And it is way easier to use than I imagined and as easy to use and in some ways, easier to use than Audacity.
 
Why not save up and buy Protools? Pro studios use it, right? Well, a lot do, yes. And it is proprietary. Protools is designed to work best with the equipment and interfaces that were built with it. But, more importantly, I was watching an interview with the chief mastering engineer at Liquid Mastering. Almost without exception, music is sent to him for mastering in the form of two-channel wav. That's right, the pros ship to each other in wav files. And any DAW, including Reaper can export to wav. 
 
What bit depth? Usually 24 bit. The file size is more managable. Sonically, you may not be able to tell the difference between 32 float and 24 integer. By doing this, you save the dithering down to 16 bit for the mastering phase because the mastering guy has to put out 44.1kHz sample at 16 bit to match the industry requirments for CD duplication.
 
Internally, in the DAW, Reaper works at 64 bit speed. I did like David and downloaded the 32 bit, for maximum use of other plug-ins. Though I imagine some boutique labs out there might be making 64 bit plug-ins.
 
And I did not bother with the free trial. I already know my computer can run it. I already like the results of others with it. And it seemed the easiest to use. So, I paid the $60 license because that is my stage of the game, right now. If I can record albums and sell them and make more than $20k, it is no problem to pay for the license upgrade and it is the right thing to do. There is no 60 dollar or 225 dollar version grades. It is the commercially viable version, regardless of the license you buy. At 60 dollars, it is equal to all the others in ability and way more affordable.
 
And because I "cut my teeth" on Audacity, I can more fully appreciate what I like about Reaper, though the other softwares are also good.

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Ron, congratulations on getting a real DAW. Audacity is not a DAW, its an audio editing application, it does tricks to sound files... DAW is a real recording software system.

 

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Generally speaking... Reaper is really great choice if your on a budget, but want a real, viable DAW and you are on a PC.  If you are on a Mac, the first choice should be Logic Pro X, in my opinion... if you are a hard core noob and get lost on software and technology, start with garageband, then promote to Logic Pro X. 

I like your Reaper discussion here Ron... its great content... Try embedding some tutorial videos from YouTube as well in here. There is a lot of great content from many Reaper teachers/creators of tutorials. 

 

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Here is a quick and easy vid on doing takes. And you don't have to delete the faulty part of takes. You can keep them but they create larger file sizes. I don't mind being ruthless about taking out the garbage. But you can keep them. When you collapse the track back to a single view, it is only going to play the highlighted sections of each take.

 

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Also, you can go to this channel in youtube "tutorialsforreaper"

https://www.youtube.com/user/TutorialsForReaper

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A good and short vid on both customizing your fx plug-ins for quick and easier access and how to do sends. Warning, the narrator has no problem stating where he prefers Reaper to Pro Tools in the case of this and some other things. Making routing changes in Reaper can be done in real time. In Pro Tools, you have to stop the session and re-do everything and choose busses, as if you were moving cables on an analog board. And to be fair, guys that were raised on Neve consoles, that might be more comfortable a path. But I happen to like Reaper because it is intuitive.

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What else can you do to mix effectively? Watch others do it. You will never run out of vids on youtube of people showing how they mix. Here is a guy that speaks clearly and his path is easy to follow, regardless of what DAW you are using and he tends to do final mix in Reaper.

Point being, if you want to know what to listen for in mixing, listen to and watch what these guys are or this guy is doing. By the way, he created this song with band in a box and then imports later into Reaper to edit and mix. So, he is the whole band, though I like his studio and his Akai 24 channel digital recorder.

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Are the stock plugins good for basic reverb - compression - EQ - Gate? Or are there "definitive" ones that people use?

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Are the stock plugins good for basic reverb - compression - EQ - Gate? Or are there "definitive" ones that people use?

Yes, and I apologize for not having a video ready to answer your question so, you will just have to put up with my words, for now.

In my opinion, I think the stock plug-ins are as good as others, though, I had mentioned before, and I don't have a video to explain this now, I found the drum sound synth to be a bit bland. So, I down loaded a nifty free drum VSTi from GTG Synth and here is the link.

http://www.gtgsynths.com/plugins.htm

I also revisited Felipe's thread on free stuff for a link to a free bass guitar VSTi. So, I have the option of that. Or my standby hack of playing my guitar like a bass and drop pitch -12 half-steps. Or using the Casio LK-165 for bass sounds, though I prefer the feel of a guitar. And that is my own cork-sniffing preference rather than any actual quality of real bass guitar over a synth.

And I will see if I can find a video that answers that question, one from the viewpoint of a guy owning a recording company, rather than just me, ol' ronws. My opinions don't mean much.

 

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The above is a video from a guy that used to use Pro Tools and he is using Reaper and the effects that come with it. "Bigbooty" does come with the installation and while he feels the eq is lackluster, I notice that he did not modify the set up. ReaEQ starts as a 4-band parametric but you can start more bands of eq if you need finer detail.

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Reaper does support and use "convolution" reverb.

Convolution reverb are algorithms built from actually recording sounds in various halls and rooms and digitizing what that does. So, you can import into Reaper convolution files and beef up your reverb ability. Though I have had good experience with stock reverb, even in Audacity, when I did changes to "Dust in the Wind."

Here is a good and simple comparison between the algorithmic reverb stock plug-in. And then you use Reaper's stock plug-in to import a convolution impulse from an actual cathedral and it models the reverb from that.

 

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So, let me ask you this, was there any DAW you picked up where you liked the stock plug-ins or did you feel the need to import other ones? And which producers' opinions would you feel are best? Maybe this guy and not that guy? And if so, why? I am not debating, just trying to learn.

​With regards to the boldface, I really don't have an answer for that yet. I just started going through Reaper and how to chain effects, add/modify tracks, add effects, etc. I was reading through the manual, very thorough stuff.

Thanks for the posts ron, I'll take a look at the videos!

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It's cool, either way. I am just not a professional recording guy and plenty of people have found plenty of things wrong with how I have mixed. And I have always attributed it to my lack of skill, rather than the quality of software available. Although, I must say, the noise removal in Audacity was detrimental for all but podcast types of sounds. So, I eventually learned just to generate silence between lyrics.

So, for me to say that the Reaper stock plug-ins are as good as any others is based on my view of ease of use. But a pro recording guy might have a different opinion. And I use to value brand names in my trade.

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So, some other things in Reaper to make mixing easier. If you have a zero latency interface, leave the Reaper default for audio buffering. But when it comes to mixing, increase the buffer. This will help to avoid clipping and skipping. You can lower it later if you are doing more recording.

Click on options, preferences, buffering and then make your changes. It is preferred that you use asio4all, if your interface supports that. Otherwise, you can change the size. If your interface defines low latency as 1048, change it to 2048 for mixing. You want to make small increments of buffer size until you are good, no more. Just because you can adjust everything in real time does not mean you have to. Take a load off of the CPU. Want to lengthen a fade in or fade out? Stop the playback, use the mouse to grab the fade-in curve and drag it to where you want then play that. Save real time adjustments for eq and compressor adjustments.

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Ron, awesome posts, full of info. Thanks for this.

Question: When recording the vocals for a track, do you have the effects applied when recording and monitoring? Or do you only monitor and record unprocessed vocals and then add the effects after?

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Personally, I sing and monitor dry for a few reasons. First off, a printed effect is when you sing with an effect in place. Trying to remove it later is usually not possible if it turns out that effect was a wrong thing to do. And most of the pros advise recording dry. Add effects later. That being said, you can record with effects in Reaper. Click on the fx button and choose what you are going to use and then arm the track and then press big red on the transport bar.

I usually monitor dry and I have seen a few pros suggest that, also. Some effects will throw off the pitch perception you need for singing. And there are times when I would add slight treble to the backing track because headphones have a near-field monitor effect and make things sound bassy, which can pull you down in pitch.

That doesn't mean it is wrong to record with effects. You certainly can, like if you get one of those vocal stomp boxes like by Helicon. Just make sure that is the sound that you really want and I have read of pros who actually have a singer's mic going through an outboard compressor before going into the mixing board or input array, whatever they are using.

It's just that my preference is dry so that hopefully my pitch is right.

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This should be really topical and helpful and I know it helped me when I watched it before and was considering getting Reaper.

You can do like he does and stop and start. You can also toggle the arm/disarm button on your vocal track while recording. Why? Because "Highway Star" is over six minutes long and you can save on file size and cpu cycles by not recording you breathing and sipping water for 1 to 2 minute instrumental break.

 

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Wanted to add, he was new to Reaper and made things work for him. Reaper does come with hard limiter, it is a JS plug-in. It does not come with an mp3 encoder. But you can use the same LAME mp3 encoder you had for Audacity or other softwares. If you didn't already have it, you can go to sourceforge or just google audacity and find the link to the LAME mp3 encoder.

Also wanted to add, to answer further, your question, Jabroni, yes you can record with effects and have a good result. He recorded with the compressor in Reaper going. He didn't bother with eq adjustments in Reaper because he had that mic going into an outboard mixer and then into the computer.

And I realize now that he (Ryan) did not use the auto punch feature. Which is fine. I like his workflow. One armed track to record. When you have a section of the take that you like, you move to a "keeper" track that is not armed.

And then, he does something that I would do in Audacity. Copy something to an additional track for whatever effects.

You can do that but don't have to. You can send to a track labeled as a buss or effects.

You can also do this with channel splitting and mixing, which I am finally starting to get a handle on. It is something unique to Reaper. Not a lot of other DAWs have channel split and mix.

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Side chains usually involve compression, gating, or both.

Compression brings the lowest and loudest volumes closer together by basically reducing dB by a factor or ratio over a certain trigger point decided by you. Such as, anything digitally going over -12 dB (a generally good point in most singers.) and reduces that volume per decibel increase. 3:1 means that it is reducing every 1 dB of increased volume by 3 dB.

Gate is more of a "noise" filter. you set the "floor" by deciding a level of dB below which you want nothing to pass. Let us say that your vocal signal is -12 dB and general room noise starts at -16 dB. You can set the gate at that and it will still get just a smidge of breath so that you sound like a human being but avoids that "singing in a wind tunnel" sound.

These two things are most often used on drums, though you can use them with vocals.

A quick drum example. I am not an expert but I can understand this enough to explain why. So, you are a drummer who does great things with a kick drum and a crash cymbal. (by the way, it is called the kick drum though it is technically a bass drum but avoid confusion of bass terms with the bass guitar, always refer to it as the kick drum for mixing and monitoring purposes.) Anyway, you don't want the cymbal continuing on over the kick because it creates "mud" when recorded. So, you have a gate on the cymbal and that gate is controlled by the presence of sound from the kick. So, on the channel or track for the cymbal, you would start a gate fx. For input, you need to change that to the track or channel of the kick.

I should make it simpler with vocals and a backing track. You want the backing track to drop a little when you are singing to let your voice stand out more.

The backing track is in the first track, which is channels 1/2. Your vocals are on the second track, which is channels 3/4.

On the backing track, you choose a compressor and for the control of that compressor, you choose L+R from 3/4. Now, whenever your vocal is present, the compressor kicks in to knock the backing tracking down a little or a lot. This may be easier than doing an automation. It depends on how you like to work.

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A lot of this you may not need. You can get any number of vocal plug-ins, such as the Izotope that Robert shared and he linked a video showing you how it works. It is very intuitive. You don't have to do math or be a recording engineer to use it. Just follow your ears, though it also has a pitch detector and tuner screen to visually show the pitch. That may help to see if you are off pitch.

The founder of the band Garbage is also a record company and developed his own vocal suite plug-in.

With things like this, you tweak and adjust to get what you want.

But if you like getting into nuts and bolts and asking yourself, "can I do it this way?" The answer is yes, you can. I think we have a mix here of people that just need a plug-n-play thing and those who want to get into fine details and what I like about Reaper is that you can do either. it works however you need it to and you can customize anything in it. From menu appearance and number of items, to the actual skin or look, to how you mix.

You can save project templates. If you like to record the way that Ryan does in that video, Start a project with 5 tracks and save that as a template. Then, for any cover song, start up in that template. Import the backing track into track 1. Track 2 is the only one that is armed. Record your piece and move it to track 3 or whichever is the main vocal track. Basically, you don't have to do the set-up over and over again.

Also, there are plenty of additional plug-ins and resources available at reaper stash. They have convolution impulses for convolution reverb if you like that. You want something sound like it was recorded at Westminster Abbey? It's there.

And you can use Ryan's model for other methods of tracking vocals. He records in snippets. You don't have to. You can start singing the whole song. If you make a mistake, stop. delete the mistake and move the good stuff to the "keeper" track. Then start up again just before the mistake and continue forth. This can save time.

Or, in the same track, with takes in lanes, you can do like David Lyon and record a number of takes as a standard practice. Either comp from all of those or use only the take you like the best.

You could do like James Lugo did in one video he linked a few years ago (I think it was after he was done recording with Nazareth) where the sound guy is having him do at least 3 takes in each section before moving on to the next section.

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Side-chaining. Often used on drums to control the decay or reverb of one thing with the presence of another. But you can also use it on these challenge songs, whether you make your own music track or import a karaoke backing track. What is the reason for it?

To give your vocal more presence. And for the purpose of challenges with a karaoke track, here is a short cut. Using "Highway Star" as an example, even though that challenge has ended, let's say the backing track is in track 1 and you labled it "music."

And track 2 is  your vocal track, labeled "vox."

So, on the music track, click on fx and go in the cockos folder and select reacomp, the compressor.

Now, go to the track control panel for vox and click and hold on the I/O button and drag it to the dialog or drop out window for the compressor on track 1, the music track. It creates a send to that effect from vox. Make sure in the compressor, that the "detector input" is set to "aux L + R". What this does is cause the compressor to act based on the presence of signal on the vox track. Lower the threshhold slider and move the ratio slider to at least 4:1.

Playback and you can now hear the vocal more present over the music when the vocal comes in.

How would you do that with music tracks you have created. Either make 1 track a folder and the last instrument the last in the folder or send all the music tracks to a new track you label "instruments." Then repeat the same thing you did with the music track in the example above.

To make a track a folder, go to the icon at the lower right of the a particular track control panel. Click and choose folder and click.

Go to the track that is to be the last in the folder click on it's lower right corner and choose "end of folder." This basically a buss for those tracks and you are essentially putting compressor on the "buss" and that compressor will act to lower the dominance of the instruments when your singing is present.

Or, you can create a new track called instruments and make all the separate instrument tracks have sends to it. 

 am learning more about channel routing, so there will be more about that, later.

One other cool trick that I had read about and then found it out for myself. These days, most any mouse as a roller wheel in the center of it, normally used to scroll a page up or down.

In Reaper, when you are in an effect or channel strip and you see that thing that looks like a dial or volume knob? Technically, it adjusts presence of the effect. Any, I would have the hardest time clicking my mouse there and trying to rotate it. Then, I realized, all you have to do is let the cursor arrow hover over that knob and roll your wheel back or forth and it adjusts that way. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy and just way cool.

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There is a neat trick you can do in Reaper. Once you get all the instrument tracks balanced the way that you want, you can reduce cpu load by rendering the tracks to a stem. 

This will create a new track with all of your instruments in it, mixed and balanced as you had before. And the original tracks will be muted and their effects no longer active, as the effects that you used are now part of a file that is the stem. Basically, you can make an "instant" karaoke file by going up to the drop down menus and choosing that render to stem.

The next thing I want to work on is creating a midi item then send it to two different tracks. And these other tracks will each have different VSTs on them. So that, for example, one midi file could drive a drum on one track and a synth bass on the other track. And have each of those tracks render the midi as an audio file, which it can easily do.

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Cool Ron. I really like your posts in here at the Reaper discussion. If you are a Reaper user, I think your posts would be really helpful for some people. Thanks for making such an important archive and educational tool for Reaper DAW in our community! Nice work... 

:grphug: :41:  :borgsmile:

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