Why Reaper?

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.”