In addition to live audio, REAPER also captures MIDI performances. In this video, Brian Block guides you through the process of enabling a MIDI device, configuring your tracks to read from a MIDI keyboard, recording a MIDI performance, and editing your work using the MIDI editor. He also demonstrates quantization and the various kinds of data that REAPER can read and edit from your MIDI device.
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- [Voiceover] In addition to live audio performances, Reaper will also handle MIDI performances. You can record, edit, and even write MIDI from scratch. I've opened up one of my personal projects just to show you a sample of what you can do with just MIDI data and a couple of virtual instruments. This is just a simple piece I wrote for a video game. If you've worked with MIDI in other audio software you should have a pretty easy time with Reaper. Most digital audio work stations handle MIDI similarly and Reaper is no exception. If you're not familiar with it already, MIDI instruments like keyboards don't actually produce any audio on their own.
What they produce instead is MIDI data. It contains information about what note was played, how hard it was played, how long it was held, and so on. That data is processed through an instrument in Reaper which produces the sound. The cool thing about MIDI is that, that sound can be whatever you want. Which means that you could be playing a piano at one moment and then switch on the fly to let's say, a electric banjo. You can also change your MIDI performance after the fact. You can correct timing and even change or rewrite individual notes.
I could talk more about the significance of MIDI but let's just dive right in and I'll show you how it works in Reaper. Let me just close this window, and I'm going to open up the project we've been working on by going to file, recent projects, and then finding the project. It's asking me if I wanna save this one, and I'll say no. I've connected a MIDI keyboard to my computer via USB cable, but before Reaper will take input form it I need to set it up in preferences. So I'll go to preferences, and then under the audio category MIDI devices.
My USB interface is showing up because it has some MIDI inputs, but I'm not going to use that right now. Here's my keyboard. As detected, Reaper gave it a name. I can right click on the name and go to configure input to give it an alias if I want. Let's call this Brian's keyboard. I also wanna make sure that enable input from this device is checked. Now Reaper will listen for MIDI data from my keyboard. I'll hit okay, and then apply, and then okay.
Okay now I need a track to record this MIDI with. Reaper will let me create a track specific to MIDI instruments if I go to track, insert virtual instrument on new track. Now I'm being prompted to select an instrument. Reaper comes with a very basic sampling of MIDI instruments, but it's enough to get you started or at least test out your keyboard. For this demo I'm gonna pick the resynth instrument. If you're working on a Mac that has Garage Band installed, you may see some other Apple plugins in this list as well as any other virtual instruments you have installed.
Reaper is pretty good about automatically detecting any sound banks or virtual instruments you already have. So I'll select my instrument and press okay. Now Reaper has automatically created a track for me. Let me just move this window out of the way so we can see, and it's also opened this FX window with the resynth instrument displayed. You also might notice that the track is automatically armed and monitoring is turned on. So if I play a little bit on the keyboard, you can hear it and see the MIDI data coming in on the meter.
All the prep work is done for me by creating the instrument track. I can still add instruments to existing tracks, but it's a lot easier to just let Reaper do it for you. Let's say you have a non instrument track and you want to add an instrument to it. Let me just close this FX window and I'll create a new track by hitting command T, and then I'll just disarm this track. So I have a blank track here and I'm playing the keyboard and nothing is happening. I have to add the instrument.
To do that, click on the FX button on the track. I can't really see all my plugins right now so I'll just stretch this over and make sure that my instruments are selected. Now go ahead and choose your instrument. I'll try resynth again, and then hit okay. Let me just drag this over so I can see. Now I've got the instrument queued up, but I'm still not hearing anything. I'll have to arm the track, and also make sure that the input is actually the MIDI input instead of the live audio input. So I'll arm it and then from the input list I'll select MIDI, find my instrument, and then select all channels.
Now if I play the keyboard, I can see the midi data coming in but I can't hear anything. Just like when you're recording live audio, we'll have to turn monitoring on to actually hear our performance. So I'll turn this on, and now I'll play a little bit. Okay, now I can hear it and it's all set up. As you can see, that's quite a bit more complicated than the first way, so I recommend using insert virtual instrument on a new track, but that's how you set up an instrument track from scratch.
I'll just go ahead and close this window. Now if you wanna follow along with me but you don't have a keyboard or drum pad to hook up to your computer, I've got you covered. Reaper has a virtual keyboard that you can actually map to the keys on your computer. So for this blank track, as the input I'll choose virtual MIDI keyboard on all channels. To see the keyboard, go to view, and virtual MIDI keyboard.
Okay so here's my keyboard and it's docked to the docker. If you want it to be free standing, you can right click and de select dock virtual MIDI keyboard and docker. So now it's a free standing window. I can play it by clicking the keys. I can resize it, and then I can put it back in the docker. If you look down here on the keys, you can see that the keys on the computer keyboard are actually mapped to the MIDI keyboard.
So I can just press the keys and play music. You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to change the octave. It's a little hard to get used to but it's nice in a pinch if you wanna write something simple while you're on the go. I'm gonna go ahead and delete this track and stick to my physical MIDI keyboard. Okay so let's go ahead and record along with the music. I'm gonna re enable recording for this track and I'm also gonna turn my metronome on just so I'm accurate.
It should still have a count in enabled for me but let's check to make sure by right clicking on the metronome, and there it is. I'm gonna make sure that my play head is at the start of where I wanna begin recording, and let's give this a shot. (lighthearted music) ♫ Somebody say SOS ♫ This is a miracle ♫ I'm moving up with the boom clap clap ♫ Can you hear me ♫ Can you hear me yodalehehu yodalehehu ♫ Come around come around ♫ Dance before the sound ♫ - And I'll choose to save this MIDI.
Let's go ahead and listen back. (lighthearted music) ♫ Somebody say SOS ♫ This is a miracle ♫ I'm moving up with the boom clap clap ♫ Can you hear me ♫ Can you hear me yodalehehu yodalehehu ♫ Come around come around ♫ - I found a mistake in there and I also feel like the sound could use a bit more bite.
So let's open up the FX browser and make some adjustments to the instrument. Click on the FX button, and here's our recent instrument. Now because I've already recorded the notes, I won't have to rerecord anything if I wanna change the sound. I could just do it on the fly. Let's press play. (lighthearted music) And I'll give it a bit more square mix. (lighthearted music) And maybe turn up the saw tooth a bit.
Give it a more distorted retro feel. Feel free to play around with the sliders and get really creative with how you shape the sound of your instrument. If you land on something you like, you can click the little plus to save your instrument as a preset. Click save preset, and we'll just give it a name, and we'll hit okay. Now if I were to make a new instrument in the future, and wanted it to sound just like this one, I could just select my preset from this drop down.
There it is, and I'll just close this window. So we've adjusted the sound of the instrument but I heard some other things about my performance that I want to change. To edit the MIDI performance, double click on the newly created media item to open up the MIDI editor. Here you can actually see all the notes that I played and how long I played them. There's a grid here divided into beats for easy reference. It even has a keyboard off to the side so you can see which notes you played, and you can click to hear them. One of the bigger issues that I noticed was my timing.
If you look at my notes you can see that some, if not all of them, come in just a little before or after the beats. I really don't wanna have to click and drag and move every note so it's right on the money, and I don't have to. I can use what's called quantization to easily correct timing errors. Quantization is the method of matching MIDI data up to timing parameters that you can set. The quantization tool is up here in the MIDI editor toolbar. It's the big red Q. By default, the tool will use the grid as a guideline to line up the timing of your performance.
You can actually change the resolution of your grid down here in the MIDI editor transport. So I can change the grid size to eighths notes, 16ths, whatever I want. In this case I never really got any faster than quarter notes so I'm gonna stick to that. As you can see, the notes snapped into place as I changed the grid resolution. Much better than before. You can also get really granular with the way quantization behaves. If I select manual instead of the grid, I can adjust things like which part of the note to adjust. Do I want to fix where the note begins and ends or just where it begins? Things like that.
I can choose whether I wanna quantize all the notes or just the ones I've selected. I can also adjust the sensitivity of the quantization. Sometimes a performance that's absolutely perfect can sound a little mechanical. Adjusting the strength allows for a little wiggle room. Therefore giving it a slightly more human element. You can see as I adjust this, the notes start to slowly slide back to their original position. You can select the granularity of the grid here as well. Whether it's straight time, triplets, dotted, or swing.
You can also restrict what directions the note can move. Maybe I'll allow them to shift left and right, but I won't allow them to change their length by shrinking or growing, and finally you can adjust the range that quantization will actually affect notes on the grid. I could change this so that quantization only affects notes that are between let's say 75 and 100% away from the grid lines. I'm gonna put that back down to zero. Clicking commit will save the notes in their new position, and then hit okay.
You don't always need to use quantization. You can of course just manually fix one or two notes by clicking and dragging them around. You can also adjust the length of notes by simply placing your cursor over the edges and dragging. You can create a new note by clicking and dragging in an empty space. You could actually create an entire MIDI performance by just clicking and dragging the notes. I'll go ahead and delete that one. I do remember hearing a mistake in terms of the notes that I played.
So I'm gonna listen for that and try to fix it. (lighthearted music) ♫ Somebody say SOS ♫ This is a miracle ♫ I'm moving up with the boom clap clap ♫ Can you hear me ♫ - There it is, that's the culprit. I'm just gonna move it so it's the right note. Let's turn the metronome off so we can start playing right away, and see if that fixed it. (lighthearted music) ♫ Somebody say SOS ♫ This is a miracle ♫ I'm moving up with the boom clap clap ♫ Can you hear me ♫ - Pretty good.
So far we've only looked at the notes and their timing. Down below we have another component of MIDI data called velocity. Velocity is how hard or soft you hit the notes. Green represents really soft and red is very hard. Everything in between is kind of a gradient from green to red. You can adjust the velocity of each note by simply dragging it up or down. You can see that I really didn't give it my all here. So I'd like to increase the velocity of all my notes. I can right click and drag to select all of my notes.
I could also hit command or control A to select them all. Now I can crank them all up at once. That's a little bit much, let's go down here, that's good. You can hear the difference now if I play it. ♫ Somebody say SOS ♫ This is a miracle ♫ - The notes are a bit more forceful. You can also adjust the velocity on the actual notes by dragging the little black line up and down.
Since I have them all selected, they all change. I can deselect them by clicking elsewhere if I want to adjust just one. The editor can actually display a ton of information about your MIDI performance. If you click the drop down menu here where it currently says velocity. You can see I have access to a very long list of potential data. For example, if I had used a pitch wheel on my keyboard, I could see that displayed as well. I don't actually see anything down here because I didn't use the pitch wheel but it would look very similarly to the velocity.
So we're all done editing our MIDI performance. Let's go ahead and close the MIDI editor and take a listen. I'll start right here. (lighthearted music) ♫ Somebody say SOS ♫ This is a miracle ♫ - Now you've set up your keyboard, recorded some MIDI, and edited your performance. Our song is really shaping up.
- Working with menus, windows, tracks, and templates
- Setting up inputs
- Recording audio and MIDI
- Importing media
- Making notes with markers
- Splitting and trimming
- Fading and crossfading
- Adding effects
- Using automation
- Mixing down and exporting a REAPER project