Join Brian Block for an in-depth discussion in this video Use automation for better control, part of Learn REAPER 5: The Basics.
- [Voiceover] At some point, while you're mixing, you may want a certain part of a track to be louder or softer than the rest of it. For example, bringing up the keyboards for the chorus or featuring a guitar solo. Of course, you can do this by cutting sections out and placing them on their own tracks, but Reaper's powerful automation tools make that unnecessary. With automation, you can create specific instructions for the behavior of your controls that Reaper will automatically perform every time you place your project. With volume, for example, you're basically creating a graph, or envelope, that Reaper will read to adjust the volume of certain parts of tracks automatically.
Let's take automation for a spin. I'll play around with the keyboard track here, and just go ahead and solo it, and also stretch it out to make it a little bit easier to see. To start the automation process, click on the button that looks like points on a graph. Right now it says trim, and that refers to the type of automation that is currently active. We'll talk more about those in a moment. Once you do that, you can see all the different controls on this track that you can automate. You can automate volume, pan, and so on. Let's select volume.
This one refers to the control of volume post effects. So if you're using effects on your track, the regular volume automation will automate volume after effects are applied. The controls that say pre-effects refer to the controls that you can automate before effects are applied. So let's just choose volume for now. Also, we're going to select the automation mode. There are several modes of automation. For this demonstration, let's choose write. In write mode, Reaper will record the adjustments that I make to the volume knob, or the fader and the mixer, while the track is playing.
I'll go ahead and close this window for now. As you can see, and automation lane was created in addition to the media track it corresponds to. This is attached to the track, so if I were to move the keys track around, the volume lane would follow. Let me show you how automation works in write mode. So I'll just make sure that my playhead is at the beginning, and I'm just gonna click play. (keyboard music) And I'll adjust the volume a little bit.
And we'll go back up. (keyboard music) Then I'll try again. (keyboard music) Now I'm just gonna hit stop. So as you can see, Reaper was creating these points in the volume lane connected to the way I was controlling the volume knob. Let's take a listen to the effect it had on the track. (keyboard music) What was happening there is that Reaper was overriding the change I had originally made.
That's because we're still in write mode. To play back what I recorded, I'll need to change the mode back to trim read. So I'll click on the automation button again and change the mode back to trim read. Close the window, and now let's try it. (keyboard music) So if I zoom in a little bit, you can see that there are all these little points that make up the automation envelope.
I can click anyone of these points to move them around and make adjustments to the envelope but as you can see this is a little hard to manage because Reaper has created so many points during the writing of the automation. To help with this, you can change the maximum number of points in the envelope. Right click anywhere along the line and select reduce number of points. Here we can select the maximum number of points. It's set to 217 by default.
As I drag the slider down and decrease the number of points, you can see the envelope changing to reflect that. Reaper just begins to estimate the curves using less and less points of reference. I'll just hit okay. You can get more precise control over your automation by doing it manually. Sometimes you might wanna just boost the volume in a certain place, but you don't wanna deal with 300 points along the way. We're in trim read mode right now, which is where we wanna be to manually add points.
If your automation button says something other than trim read, just click on the button and make sure you're in trim read mode. Close that window. Now by clicking and dragging one of the lines I can boost or reduce volume from this point forward. Or from this point backwards for example. To make a new point, right click on the line and select create new point. Or you can simply hold shift on your keyboard and click anywhere on the line to add a point.
If you're familiar with any kind of animation, you can think of these points like key frames. They signify where a change happens in the timeline. So if I just make one point over here and move it to increase the volume, I start to pull the previous section with me. See how there's kind of a fade here now. So I'll need to make another point right next to this first one. I'm gonna undo what I just did and make another point, so now I can move this second point here without changing anything that I've previously done.
Now I'll find where I want the volume to go back down and do the same thing. So make a point here, point here, and move my point back down. Let's listen to that. (keyboard music) So now I have a distinct section of the track that is boosted and I've only created four points.
I can always adjust this line here to adjust how much volume I'm giving it or taking away. Over time, if you're creating a lot of automation for many tracks, the project gets a bit cumbersome to navigate. So if you click in the settings for the volume lane, that's this little gear here, and select move to media lane, you can actually overlay the automation on top of the media on your track. I can still manipulate the envelope any way I want. It just happens to sit on top of the waveform, which decreases the amount of space my track takes up in the project.
It can also help when you're creating points so that you can follow the waveform. Let's take a look at some other automation modes. Click on the automation button again and this time choose pan. Panning will control the position of the track left or right in the stereo field. Right now, as you can see by the line, we're sitting right here in the middle. For our mode, let's select touch, and then close the window. With touch, kind of like write, Reaper will record the changes I make while the track is playing, but in this case, Reaper won't record anything unless I make a change, and the knob or slider will snap back to its original position when I let go.
Let me show you how this works. I'll just move my play head back to the beginning and press play. (keyboard music) Now I'll start to adjust the pan. (keyboard music) Going right. If I let go, it snaps back to its original position. Try going left. And it snaps back when I let go. You can see those dramatic drops in the envelope are where I let go of the pan knob.
Let's listen to that. If you're using stereo headphones or speakers, you can hear the difference that makes. It goes right and then snaps back to the center, and then it goes left. And snaps back to center again. Let's try one more mode. Go back to the automation menu, and we'll try latch, and close the window. You can see as we change the automation mode, Reaper gives us a color coded label over the automation button so we can easily see what mode we're in.
Latch is very similar to touch, in that it will only record when I start making changes, but the knob will stay in the position I leave it when I stop making changes, like this. I'll move my play head over here and hit play. (keyboard music) I'll go left this time. Now I'm letting go, and we'll go back to the right.
And you let go of the knob. So when I let go of the knob, it creates a plateau here in the envelope. So let's hear how that sounds. (keyboard music) So we're at my changes, and then I let go of the knob and it flattens out. And same with going to the right, I let go here and it latches and stays in that position.
We can continue to add lanes of automation to any of our tracks, and as many as we want. As they start to add up, we can move them to the media lane. Again, that's clicking on the settings, and then move to media lane. So now I've got both my volume and pan automation on top of my waveform. In addition to the individual tracks, we can also apply automation to the master track. I'll just go ahead and turn soloing off for the keyboard track. To see the master track, click view up in the menu bar and go to master track.
This will place the master output up at the top of the project. This is your last stop before the sound hits your speakers or headphones, so by making changes to this track, we are actually affecting the entire project. Let's say we wanted to make a fade in and fade out for the whole song. Click on the automation button for the master track. And then select volume. We're in trim read mode, which is fine, and let's just manually create a fade in. Close this window. And I've already got a point here to start with, so I'll just create one more point.
And then drag this first one down to create a fade in. And then let's go to the end of the song and create a little fade out. So I'm gonna use my little scroll handle here and go all the way to the end. Create one point. Create another. And then decrease the volume. I can move this point anywhere I want to make the fade out longer or shorter. So now I'll go back to the beginning of the song so that we can demo this, and I'm actually gonna turn off the automation for our keyboards so we can hear this a little more clearly.
So I click the automation button, click volume and pan to turn those off. Close the window. So let's hear what our song sounds like now. (slow music) So we've got a nice fade in there. And let's try the end. ♫ Calling for your voice on the radio ♫ Lalalalalalalala lalalalalala lalalalala ♫ Lalalalalalalala lalalalalala lalalalala ♫ Nice.
In addition to volume, pan, and things like that, you can also automate effects. If you look at a track that has effects on it, like let's say our VOX chorus track, and I click the automation button, I can see that there are numerous elements of the effect that I can automate as well. The wet level, dry level, width, delay, things like that. I'll close this window, and then I'll go back to the beginning of the song and turn automation back on for my keyboard. Volume, pan, close the window.
The button related to automation in the toolbar toggles your ability to lock the automation to the position of the media items it corresponds to. For example, I have it turned off, and if I try to move this media item, the automation does not move with it. If I turn on the automation button in the toolbar, and then try to move this media item, the automation stays with it, which is nice for when you've put a lot of work into the automation but then you realize you have to move something.
Those are the basics of automation. This can be really fun to experiment with because it allows for some pretty precise control over a ton of properties. See if you can create something really unique with Reaper 5's automation tools.
- 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