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Why Reaper?

Introduction

[This material is now being maintained, and
regularly updated at https://whyreaper.com/]

When I was the instructor for electronic music composition at the University of San Diego, I began to use Reaper: and loved it. (Reaper, a DAW by Cockos, is an acronym for Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording.) Very few students had ever opened Reaper before my class. Now at the University of Central Missouri this is changing as the application enters the culture of our program. Our Music Technology degree teaches courses that rely heavily on Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton Live, and Max, which are the choice of tools for many professionals in the music industry, and tools I preferentially use on a daily basis. However, since joining the faculty here in 2016, I continue to use Reaper in Electronic Music Composition, a course focusing on the creative practice as well as the history of experimental work in electronic music (art, jazz, pop, and more).

Upon assigning the use of Reaper for the course, the first question is most always: “Why!? I really love [Live, Pro Tools, Logic, FL Studio,____fill in the blank].” I made a list of reasons for inclusion in my syllabus. After I posted it to a thread on Facebook, it was then expanded by a friend…and more friends…and more. I realized the list had now also has become an argument for the use of Reaper in education, personal creative practice, and in general, so thought I would share it. 10-18 by my friend Peter McCulloch, the rest from myself and different friends.

Why Use Reaper?

  1. It is cross platform.
  2. No extra paid upgrade to get surround sound variants.
  3. Since it fully functions in demo mode, it is accessible to students of any income level.
  4. Since it is affordable (in addition to fully functioning in demo mode) it can be installed on a student’s personal computer(s) allowing them to work outside the studio, well as in the studio.
  5. It levels the playing field in the classroom for all the above reasons.
  6. It encourages students to think creatively by forcing them to think differently than other DAWS. There is strength in knowing how to achieve one’s goals quickly [rote memory] in a familiar working environment, but there is also value in learning concepts that are transferable. A university environment can be different than a vocational school, in that it can be a time to explore available options and solidify conceptual knowledge. In addition: learning new things and new ways of working has other unexpected benefits that include improving memory, increased verbal skills, and increased language skills.
  7. It encourages students to think system and application agnostically for DAWs.
  8. It is used more and more in professional environments, including Mike Senior, the author of the text we happen to use in our Pro Tools course. (I have also seen it in many recording sessions and am curious if there is other data on this beyond popularity votes on music tech websites.)
  9. Its powerful scripting features are used commercially in the gaming world, in particular, Guitar Hero.
  10. It has in-channel matrix mixing for flexible effects routing. An example in the user guide shows how to mult a signal into three parallel signals, and then apply pitchshifting and compression to two of the copies without ever leaving the channel. You can also easily split the signal into NBands.
  11. Create your own signal processing plugins in Reaper using the JS ones as examples.
  12. No track types, you can mix MIDI and audio on the same tracks. This produces new creative possibilities. For example, ReaGate can output a MIDI note when it opens. Instead of the usual sidechain and subtone methods, you can use the generated MIDI note to trigger a synth, getting all the envelope triggering/filters/LFO syncing et cetera.
  13. You can assign effects to an individual clip, perfect for electro acoustic music.
  14. Tone sweep generation plus deconvolution allows you to capture impulse responses easily.
  15. The application loads really fast and has a small footprint.
  16. Displays waveforms and/or sonograms for tracks.
  17. Batch processing.
  18. Has the craziest origin story of any DAW. [Beginning with http://cockos.com/jesusonic/ and https://www.wired.com/2006/10/justin-frankel-rocks-on/]
  19. The way it handles FX chains is a time saver.
  20. It sounds good.
  21. Nice video handling with basic editing features.
  22. Support for OSC.
  23. Built-in Ninjam support for networked performances.
  24. Accessibility support through OSARA. https://osara.reaperaccessibility.com/
  25. Easy track comping.
  26. Many, many export options.
  27. Many great video tutorials, strong community support in the forum and on social media platforms.
  28. Parameter modulation from audio sources!
  29. Regular updates and bug fixes, really regular.
  30. The “More Cowbell” plugin will help you, “Don’t fear the Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording.”

Added, March 14, 2020

Just to note, shortly after writing the initial post Reaper became my main DAW owing to the above and more. I still use Pro Tools et al as I need the for certain sessions and other reasons, but when I can, my first choice is Reaper.

There are many reasons to add, so I’m going to get started below:

  1. It is skinnable. The ability to change appearance is great, you can make it look like other DAWs, or unique, or like old school mixers: Do you have a large monitor? Check out Imperial from White Tie. There are dark/minimal themes and more. Students enjoy this, as they can find a style that appeals to their own aesthetics, or customize the original.
  2. You don’t like skins, and you don’t like the look of the default theme? Adjust the default theme! Options–>Themes–>Theme Adjuster.
  3. You can customize it to work like you want to work, and take those customizations with you: Custom Actions? Menu–>Actions–> Import/Export. Custom Preferences? Preferences–>General–> Import/Export
  4. You can download, create, share your own configuration files to get mouse behaviors similar to DAWs you have become accustomed to, for example: https://www.protoolstoreaper.com/mouse-modifiers
  5. The .rpp file, is a text file, so can be opened and read/edited in your favorite text editor. (Be careful of changes…you can break things.)
  6. ReaTune! Built in tuner AND also pitch correction, similar to AutoTune
  7. Folder tracks AND aux routing is a dream.
  8. I mentioned tutorials above, but specifically: Kenny Gioia videos!
  9. Adding free plugins make it a great, out of the box, production environment, and a great place to learn and explore. Here are a few of my choices, all are free:
    1. Native Instruments Free collection. Includes sample players, synths, plugins and more
    2. Brainworx Clean Sweep. A fantastic Hi-pass/Lo-Pass
    3. MT Power DrumKit
    4. SampleTank 4cs. Decent selection of orchestral instruments and more
    5. A more complete list I use with students is available at https://jeffkaiser.com/student-resources/

Comments 2

  1. Thanks so much for this Jeff. I’m teaching a short DAW unit in my Intro to Music Tech class at CSU Bakersfield and we are moving online with the virus stuff – so I am scrambling to get a cross-platform remedy up ASAP. This is perfect and I hadn’t really explored Reaper before. Within ten minutes of download I had recorded a few tracks, am quantizing, and starting to look at FX….

    Pretty great resource.

    Thanks…

  2. Post
    Author

    You are welcome, Jim! Reaper is a great DAW. I’m about to add, that you can download (and export/share your own) configuration files to make the mouse behave more like one would expect coming from other DAWs. And the way it handles/saves FX chains and presets is great. They have led the path with other DAWS (Pro Tools etc) taking/stealing their ideas for quite a while. Look at some of the post-NAMM subreddits 🙂

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