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My experience with Reaper

rudi

Member
The following is a short summary of my experience with Reaper...

I have used Cubase since the days of the Atari, mainly for pop/rock type music and basic song arrangements, but I have always wanted to dabble in orchestral / cinematic / media type music.

After some research I came across this forum, and was floored by how good the compositions and mock-ups sounded. I tried to make my own attempts sound better, but found that that I needed better sounds, easy realtime control, and much more practice...

I was looking at various ways of using articulations (expression maps, control surfaces etc.) when I came across something called Reaticulate http://reaticulate.com/ which looked extremely impressive. Later I found out that it was developed by @tack of this very forum :))... and that it ran on a DAW I had never heard of before called Reaper.

So I decided to try it out....

My First impressions

My initial impressions were rather mixed... the software was very compact and launched really quickly. It was easy to setup in terms of ASIO and MIDI.

Based on my first impressions, I didn't have any great expectations of Reaper, or how it would measure-up to what I thought of as more "professional" packages. Most of that was down to its interface that looked very... basic, dated, and amateurish...

If this sounds superficial, it's not, because first impressions do matter, and when you work day in and out with any software package, things like GUI, colours, fonts, ergonomics etc. count for a lot!

Nevertheless, I decided to carry on, mainly because of Reaticulate, and its generous trial period (60 days).

The other major obstacle was getting to grip with a whole new set of commands and terminology - basically that feeling of being lost when switching to a new programme.

Most of my questions boiled down to: "how do I?" for the most basic of stuff.

There were also plenty of terms that were new to me: actions, regions, items, how to create MIDI tracks vs Audio tracks... and huge menus filled with hundreds of commands. There was so much to take in, wrapped in an unfamiliar interface.

What I like

Here are my thoughts after the 60 days evaluation period (I bought the personal license in case you wondered :))

- incredibly customisable, from the GUI itself to the menus, and custom actions.

- after a bit of research I found you can theme Reaper extensively. I switched to a more Logic like skin, which I upgraded to a more elaborate one for a small donation. I have been extremely happy with it (see screenshot in post below) :)

- I love creating my own menus, placing the actions I use the most often at the very top; creating custom sets of actions; creating / editing toolbars; and the easy way you can create and manage screen setups.

- the very fast loading times make it easier to start writing music.

- it is incredibly flexible (a huge amount of choice). One example is how tracks can contain different items such as MIDI and Audio) or be used as sends or aux.

- ditto routing... the interface do do so is a bit... crowded!

- it's very easy and direct to save and load templates, be they single tracks, groups of tracks, FXs, FX chains, even entire projects.

- I love the ease of creating folders per project -- just tick a box in the save dialogue box.

- there is a nice collection of basic but useful built-in FXs... and the chance to roll your own if you like programming!

- the VST/VSTi integration (I only use VST) is very nice. I haven't encountered any problem.

- having automation lanes underneath the tracks and being able to add them and edit them is done very easily.

- the piano roll MIDI editor is nice and includes lanes for Velocity and CC... it also has a basic Score view which I need to explore more.

- it is very easy to automate controls via MIDI.

- I also like the "save project as a new version" facility.

- there is wealth of further options to discover!

Things that baffled me at first...

- recorded items be they MIDI or Audio are treated the same way and can co-exist on the same track... once you get used to the idea, it actually makes sense.

- recorded items are set to 'loop' by default - if you try to extend them they repeat instead of just enlarging the item. It was easy to change the default.

- there are literally thousands of actions (built-in commands). I spent hours trying to find certain commands not knowing what they were actually called: is it under next, left, start.. is it called delete or remove... etc.

- when adding a new VSTi it would create automation lanes for every single control when adjusting them.... until I found the "Toggle auto add envelopes when tweaking in write mode" command and switched the default off.

- the overwhelming number of ways in which you can customise Reaper... it is a strength but you can easily end-up going down endless rabbit holes trying "one more thing". But it incredibly powerful and satisfying when you managed to find your "ideal" solution (see example below).

- one thing that puzzled me for a while was trying to record CCs as automation lanes as opposed to CC MIDI data in the MIDI editor. I tried several setups but always ended-up with both. After a lot of searching I found someone had written a small MIDI plugin that stopped the CC data being recorded as part of the MIDI track, leaving me with nice automation lanes to record to or edit to my heart's content.

- the sheer number of extensions... it's easy to feel swamped!

Conclusions

So, is Reaper the be all and end all of DAWs? Of course not - each DAW has its strengths and ways of working which will suit different types of users.

In my case I found it a good fit for my evolving way of working. I love being to gradually customise it to my exact requirements... even if it can take time to find out how to do so.

I am looking forward to making Reaper my main writing tool.


[content edited for typos and clarity]
 
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robgb

I was young once
Good review. Reaper doesn't have to look basic or ugly, by the way. There are hundreds of themes available that might inspire you more.
 

DANIELE

Active Member
And there's more to come.

An advice for you, try sws extension, it adds A LOT to Reaper, really!!

I can't think of me using another DAW actually, when I start using Reaper I felt lost but when I understood it I felt so much freedom and accomplishment. I customized it so much... :)
 

kitekrazy

Senior Member
I've had a license ever since it came out. From a financial view it's the most affordable DAW out there. I think I will have to pay for an upgrade when Reaper 6 comes out. I can slap it on every machine I own. With the Cubase crossgrade I'm debating on whether to spend $155 on a DAW or spend more time in Reaper. I for one am a fan of bland GUIs. There are far more resources on learning it now.
 
OP
rudi

rudi

Member
And there's more to come.

An advice for you, try sws extension, it adds A LOT to Reaper, really!!

I can't think of me using another DAW actually, when I start using Reaper I felt lost but when I understood it I felt so much freedom and accomplishment. I customized it so much... :)
I have been dipping my toes into SWS... the theme I use recommended using it :)
Like you I felt lost when trying Reaper out, but now I love how light it is on resources, and how it can be customised to fit your own workflow!
 
OP
rudi

rudi

Member
I've had a license ever since it came out. From a financial view it's the most affordable DAW out there. I think I will have to pay for an upgrade when Reaper 6 comes out. I can slap it on every machine I own. With the Cubase crossgrade I'm debating on whether to spend $155 on a DAW or spend more time in Reaper. I for one am a fan of bland GUIs. There are far more resources on learning it now.
The personal license is indeed very, very affordable and generous in terms of versions. Although that is a very nice plus point, to me what makes Reaper attractive is how much you can personalise it, and make it fit your own way of working.
 

DANIELE

Active Member
I like to shape the software I use to my needs as much as possible and Reaper is excellent in this, I keep customizing it while I progress in my usage of it.

Every time an improvement of my workflow comes to my mind I know that I can do it with Reaper in some way.

Plus they keep fixing bugs and add new features during the license lifetime.
 

Bansaw

Sound Design
I know what you mean about the theme. The way the interface looks matters to me.
There are lots of good themes. My current fav which I am using is the Solaris_LCS_Grayv.2.5.
Really nice.
 

halfwalk

Member
The scripting community is amazing as well. Just the other day I made a request for a MIDI JSFX on the Reaper forum, and within 36 hours some generous user created it for me from scratch, and politely refused my offer monetary compensation, to boot. And this prolific enthusiasm seems to be pretty common within that subsection of their forum.

ReaPack can be overwhelming, but there are some scripts I consider essential (besides Reaticulate, obviously) such as Julian Sader's MIDI editor scripts that add lots of clever functionality to the piano roll editor.

The WT Imperial theme is lovely eye candy as well. Though tbh, after trying nearly every theme in the stash over the last ten years or so, I always come back to the (slightly tweaked) default theme. It's clean and gets out of the way.
 

Mornats

Senior Member
I think I'm the only person who prefers the look of Reaper over Cubase. I get why people think Reaper looks old, basic and dated but to me Cubase looks exactly the same! Anyway, that aside, Reaper is my main DAW and I love it.

I've toyed with moving to Cubase for its midi editing capabilities but I need to check out some of the scripts available for Reaper that add to its midi features. I'm actually stumped as to how to get them working right now but I just need to sit down and work it out.

Nice overview of Reaper by the way.
 

Bansaw

Sound Design
ReaPack can be overwhelming, but there are some scripts I consider essential (besides Reaticulate, obviously) such as Julian Sader's MIDI editor scripts that add lots of clever functionality to the piano roll editor.
@halfwalk I was interested in your comments of Piano Roll scripts but couldn't find it on the Reaper stash. Are they part of the SWS extension?
 

halfwalk

Member
@halfwalk I was interested in your comments of Piano Roll scripts but couldn't find it on the Reaper stash. Are they part of the SWS extension?
You need the ReaPack extension, which gives you access to various repositories of scripts and other resources. From there, you can install the scripts I was referencing (the first several posts of this thread contain instructions and demonstrations). Specifically, I use some of the "mouse editing" ones.

There are also some other scripts I enjoy like MIDI Ex Machina, some Kawa scripts ("select bottom/top note near" is handy, or similarly, "assign channel by chord tones" is useful for quickly splitting voices out after sketching with an ensemble patch if that's your jam), and Lokasenna's Theory Helper.
 

Fredeke

Active Member
Does anyone have a theme to recommend, that would not change the way I use Reaper but would look a little better than te default one, without clutter the screen ?

I like how in the default theme things are only as big as they need to be, but all that grey is a tad depressing in the long run.
 

MOMA

Member
I started out with Reaper about two years ago. I went from Cubase and I can tell you I was lost. This was a sea of alternatives and new functionalities I´ve never seen before. I would say it takes about a year of learning, rebuilding and refining before your into it. By now I have "built" my own DAW that works perfectly to my liking, knowing that when ever I run into some new problem or need a new command – there is always a way. Today I work with the excellent protools theme with a blond background to the tracks. I can colour every track and get icons and colour in the mixer, the way I like it to navigate. And the stretch, the midi, the multitrack editing – so many things that speed up your workflow. Yesterday I installed the latest updates. For free. 65 bucks in total. Insane really.

MOMA
 

Bansaw

Sound Design
Does anyone have a theme to recommend, that would not change the way I use Reaper but would look a little better than te default one, without clutter the screen ?
I really like the new Solaris_LCS_Grayv.2.5 theme. It is gray but classy & uncluttered, and you can autocolor the tracks based on how you name them, so it can be as subtly colorful as you like.
 
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