There’s only one type of track in Reaper: any track can handle MIDI or audio clips, or video, or even all at once! A standard track can be configured as an effects send, a subgroup, or even a VCA master. It can handle multichannel audio, or complex sidechaining setups, or parallel processing chains.
You can route anything to almost anywhere in Reaper. Clicking the routing button for a track shows a list of current sends and receives, and allows you to create more. But it’s often easier to just drag the routing button from the source track to the destination, then configure it via the popup. The default post-fade setup is ideal for effects sends.
Reaper’s approach to subgroups is great: simply drag a selection of tracks onto a blank track to create a folder, which is also a subgroup. Folders can be nested, so top and bottom rack tom mics could be combined in a ‘rack tom’ folder, inside a global ‘toms’ folder, which is in turn contained within a ‘drum kit’ folder.
Mid/side setups can be converted into stereo with no need for any plugins: drag both Mid and Side tracks into a Stereo folder track. Then untick Master Send in the routing window for the side track, and add two sends to the stereo track: one to channel 1, and the other to channel 2 with the polarity inverted.
If you like to work with VCA-style fader behaviour, select all the tracks you wish to control, then right-click and choose Track Grouping. Pick a group you haven’t used yet at the top, and optionally name it. Then tick VCA Slave below. Now create a new track, open the grouping options for that track, pick the same group, and tick VCA Master.
Track grouping can be used for a lot of other purposes. Try selecting all your drum kit input tracks, and ticking both Record Arm Master and Record Arm Slave. Now arming any one of your drum kit tracks will arm them all, so you won’t ever realise you forgot to record the ride channel halfway through a take!
If you’re partway through a take and you notice that a track is not armed when it should be, don’t panic: simply arm the track in question, and it will pick up recording from that point along with all the others. With a bit of luck, the band will never know!
Solo In Front is an awesome feature, which you can enable from the options menu: now soloing a track just turns down the rest of the mix instead of muting it completely. This is great for editing, when you need to hear subtle details, but still need some context to hear if the part is in tune or in time.
…you can take this further by opening the Actions list and searching Solo In Front Dim. This parameter sets the amount of attenuation applied to tracks that aren’t soloed, and it can be linked to a MIDI controller, so you can assign a hardware knob to ride the mix up and down behind your soloed tracks, like on a large format console.
Actions are key to Reaper’s enormous power and flexibility, and you’ll need to get comfortable with them if you want to become a true power user…
1 The Actions list, available from the
Actions menu, lists every function Reaper is capable of, and its search function is indispensable! Actions can be assigned to hot-keys, MIDI controllers, or combined into complex Custom Actions which can then be used just like the normal Actions.
2 From the Options menu, choose
Customise menus/toolbars, then click the dropdown at the top to choose any menus, context menu or toolbar, and customise the content. You can delete, rename or add functions from the Actions list.
3 Your customised toolbars can be embedded in the arrange page, in the MIDI editor, docked in a tabbed docker, or can float freely in their own window. Spending a little time customising Reaper to suit your own workflow can pay dividends in speed and efficiency.
Use MIDI to control how much a non-soloed track is dimmed when using Reaper’s Solo In Front feature
In Reaper, subgroups and folders are the same thing
Encode or decode mid/side just with channel routing