Download and install Reaper
FYI – Keyboard shortcuts, file structure, etc. references are from a Windows perspective. You Mac folks are smart and will figure out how to apply it to your system.
First things first, go get Reaper from their website.
Create a new project
By default, project files are saved to Documents\REAPER Media, so if you just start recording without specifying a location for the project, the audio files will be saved there.
I would definitely create a new project first, and create a project folder in the Documents\REAPER Media folder so all your files will be organized and in one place. You can do this easily when you create your new project.
Here’s what I would do.
After you open Reaper, go to File / New Project to create a new project.
Then, go to File / Save Project As to name and save your new project.
Take note of where you are saving this project. It will remember where you last saved a file to, so you don’t want to accidentally save a new project inside another project, in in some other strange place that you will have trouble finding.
When you go to save, the “Save Project” popup will have a checkbox at the bottom that says, “Create subdirectory for project”. Check this, so it will create a folder where all of your files will be stored. Your project file and project folder will be named the same.
Set up Audio Device
Next we need to route your sounds going into and out of Reaper. You need to make sure Reaper is using the right audio device. By defaul, it will probably have the standard Windows audio devices set, so if you are using an audio interface you need to tell Reaper to use it.
Go to Options / Preferences and then select “Device” in the left column menu.
Use the drop-down menus for “Audio System” and the “Input” and “Output” devices to choose the audio device you want to use. I don’t know a whole lot about this part of Reaper, but you should see your device in the drop down list. If it’s set to “Microsoft Sound Mapper” then it will use the stock audio device that came with your computer.
Next we will create a track see if audio is getting into Reaper.
Create an Audio Track
To create a track, you can use one of three methods:
Track / Insert New Track
Right-click and choose “Insert New Track”
If you name the track before you record to it, your files will have that name, and that could be helpful down the road.
Arm the track by clicking the red button at the top right of the track. Once the track is armed, if your audio device is set up properly and you have audio source going in to the device, you should see the volume meeters moving, confirming you are getting audio into Reaper.
If you are not seeing any meeters moving, there are quite a few things that could be going wrong. Check the device in prefernces again. Check that the mic/guitar/keyboard is actually plugged into your audio interface and if it has a volume control, make sure it’s turned up.
My audio device is a Delta 44 and it has a control panel that has settings for routing the audio in and out, and level settings for all, so if your device has something like that, check all the settings there.
If you’re getting into Reaper then we need to next route the audio going in and out of the track.
Most audio devices are at least stereo going in and out, so that’s left/right in and left/right out. You can choose to record a mono or stereo track, and you can decide which channel on your audio interface you want the input to come from, or output to go to.
For example, my Delta 44 has 4 ins and 4 outs, so I need to tell the track where the sound is coming from (Input 1) and where it’s going to (Output 1 and 2).