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How to Edit Audio in Reaper

Monday September 18, 2023. 05:14 PM , from Audiotuts+
Reaper is a powerful, flexible and customisable audio application. You can use Reaper for music creation and production, podcasts, voice-over, sound design, audiobooks, live performance, mixing for video, mastering, and much more.
In our free Reaper course, you’ll learn the basics of Reaper with Dave Bode, and in this lesson Dave will talk you through how to edit audio in Reaper, where you'll learn some of the basic but essential editing tools. 




Before You Start Audio Editing in Reaper
If you want to follow along with this lesson just use the button below to download the three project files, and you can actually open up this project with all of this media included. If you look for the folder that says Just Wont_EDITING, inside there, there will be a project that says Just Wont_EDITING, and all of the audio files are in a little sub folder. If you open up the project, it should open all of the audio files, but if for whatever reason it doesn't, you can point Reaper to that folder, and you should be good to go.
Download Course Project Files
You probably don't have the MrTramp2 effect installed at this point, and Reaper may say it can’t find it. You can either dismiss that, or if you want to follow along and actually hear what's happening on this MrTramp2, download it and pop the.dll file (from the corresponding folder) in your effects folder. Next, jump into Reaper preferences, make sure that folder is added, and then re-scan it.
You may have to reload the project file to get that to show up and work properly, but that's all there is to it.
How to Edit Audio in Reaper
Selecting Media for Audio Editing in Reaper

You can move your items in the arrange view by just clicking and dragging them. You can even pull them to a new track if you want. You can move multiple items by selecting them in a number of different ways, including creating a rectangular marquee by right-clicking and dragging to select all these media items, using Shift+click to select media items, and that's going to select everything between kind of two points, or if you want select non-contiguous items, you can just use Ctrl and once you have your items selected, you can click and drag, and move those around.
Trim and Fade

You can trim your items very easily if you go to the end you can just click and drag to trim up of the end. If you go to the beginning, you can do the same thing to adjust the in-point of your media item.

If you move your mouse to the upper corner of your media item, you can apply a fade-in. If you right-click on your fade-in, there are several fade shapes that you can choose from. You can do the same thing at the end for a fade-out.
You can also trim and fade multiple items at once by selecting them in the ways you learned above. Trimming works regardless of where the media items end but fading does not, so if you want to fade-out multiple items at the same time for whatever reason, you need to make sure that they end at the same spot.
Splitting Clips for Audio Editing in Reaper

If you want to split any of your media items, you can select the media item, and put the Edit cursor right at the point where you want to split, and then press S on the keyboard. If you don't have any items selected and you set the cursor and you press S, it will split everything in the project that's underneath the Edit cursor.

When you have a split item, you can do all sorts of things with it. It can be copied and pasted, it can be cut with Ctrl+X on the keyboard. If I Ctrl+click and drag, I can duplicate it and then I can drag it out wherever I need it.
When you're moving items, if you hold Shift, you can move items and ignore snapping. Shift is a keyboard modifier that a lot of times will ignore snapping for the thing that you’re doing, which is handy to know.
Duplicating Items

You can hit Ctrl+D on the keyboard to duplicate your items. Duplicating looks a lot like copy and pasting, except that duplicating pastes the item right at the end of the item that you duplicated. Copying and pasting will paste it wherever the Edit cursor is.
When you duplicate by clicking and dragging, you might notice it stacks media items vertically. That's because in the Options menu Offset overlapping media items vertically, is selected, so you can uncheck that if you don’t want it. The same if you see an automatic cross-fade created, that’s because it’s enabled, so you can just disable that – it’s the crossed lines button at the top – and that will stop it from happening.
For the most part, I leave auto-crossfade on because that is my preference, but you may prefer to turn that off from time to time depending on what you are doing.

Speaking of cross fading, when you split an item, you'll see that there’s a fade-out and a fade-in created right on that split. In fact, there are a few of fade options that I want to show you.

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Fade Options

In Preferences, on the left you’ll find Project > Media Item Defaults. At the top of this section there are options to do with fades.
This first option is set by default: Create automatic fade-in and fade-out for new items and you can set the length. When this is checked, when you split an item, you’ll get a fade-in and a fade-out because Reaper treats a split item as a new item. Generally I think this is a decent thing to have on because if there's no fade between these sometimes you can get some strange clicking artefacts, depending on what kind of edit you’re doing.
Another option is Overlap and crossfade items when splitting which will add a crossfade when splitting, which can be very handy, depending on your edit. You should watch out for doing crossfades right on the beat if you are editing something like drums because it alters the waveform a little bit and it may affect the transient attack, which means the spiky bit at the beginning of the drum hit, and it may make that dull or mushy sounding.

There's not necessarily a right or wrong way to do this, it depends what you're editing. You can also adjust the timing of this crossfade. By default, both options are set to 10 milliseconds, and generally I like this to be a little bit faster for something like drums, maybe 2 or 5 milliseconds. This will make a very small crossfade which can help if you’re making really tight edits and you want to maintain a crossfade to make sure that there's no clicking sounds that happen, but you need to tighten those up significantly.
Another option that you may find handy, is do not set fade in/fade out for imported items. I like to leave this checked because when I'm importing items, I don't necessarily want Reaper to put a fade on those because I prefer to do that manually. I don't necessarily want Reaper to create an automatic fade in fade out for new items either.

If you don't like the default curve, you can choose another one and you can do the same for the crossfade shape too.
Healing Your Items
You can heal a split – in your right-click options - only if you haven’t moved your media items. If you have moved them, the best way to fix a split is to delete the split item and then drag the original back out to make it full length again.

As the length increases, it might loop. Looping is on by default on all of the types of media items in Reaper. Looping is fine in some situations and definitely useful but, I prefer not to have it on by default, and you can change that in preferences, in the same section as those fades and crossfades that we were just looking at.
There are options for loop source for imported items, loop source for new MIDI items, loop source for recorded items, and loop source for glued items. I prefer to uncheck all of those, and that way things won't loop.
Everything is still going to loop in this project because they're not new items, but if I was to create a new item, it wouldn’t loop by default. If I want to change all of the existing items in my project so that they don’t loop, I can select all of them and right click, choose item settings and then uncheck loop item source.
Time Selection
Another way that you can perform many of the edits that I just talked about, is using a time selection, and that gives you a few additional advantages. Let's say I wanted to do a copy of the drums from measure 21 to measure 23, and then paste them over to measure 27. I could split the drums, copy and then paste… easy. But, it's a couple of extra steps that you don't actually need to do, if you know how to use time selections.

You can create a time selection by clicking and dragging on the Ruler area or clicking and dragging in the Arrange area as long as you’re not over any item. If you click and drag over an item, you're going to move it.
Once my drums are selected, I can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl Shift + C to copy within the time selection, set the edit cursor where I want them, and paste. This has a couple of advantages, because now I can paste the contents, and if I clear my time selection by hitting escape on the keyboard, I will not split my item.
Splitting your item unnecessarily is generally not a great idea because if you have a cross fade option selected, that can slightly alter the attack of some of the drums or some of the other instruments. It's best to leave the audio intact whenever possible, so using time selection is a very handy thing to know.
There's a lot more that you can do with time selections, but I'm going to leave it there for now.
Volume Adjustments for Audio Editing in Reaper

Another thing that I do very frequently is adjust the volume of my media items. I can zoom into the bass guitar like you can see above, by holding Ctrl Alt and then right clicking and dragging and let's say that I wanted to increase the volume of a bass guitar note.

There's probably a dozen different ways that I could do it, but one way is I could just split the item and then put my mouse on the top of it, click and drag, and that will change the volume. If you hold Shift and you drag up, you can increase the item volume, which is also very handy.
Although you can do it this way, this is not my preferred way of doing it, because it is a little bit finicky. It's not always easy to get my mouse right on top of the media item to make this adjustment, especially if the tracks are a little bit shorter, it's very easy to overshoot.

Instead, what I like to do is hop into Preferences and search for knob, and that will take me to the page: Appearance > Media where there are lots of options including a check box for a volume knob.

If you tick and apply that there is now a volume knob above all the media items. It looks greyed out when there hasn't been a volume change by default and once you make a volume change it turns to a lighter colour. If you want to reset this back to the default, you can just double-click and reset it to zero.
There's yet another way to set the volume for media items - like I said, there's like a dozen ways to do everything in Reaper -and that’s in Item Properties.

By right-clicking on a media item and choosing Item Properties – or F2 on the keyboard – you’ll see a lot of options that you can adjust. When I recorded my track, I made small adjustment to the volume, I bumped it up a little bit. Changes that you make here won’t affect the volume knob, it’ll still be at 0 until you change it.
Now you’ve got a great grasp on how to edit audio in Reaper, and some of the important editing tools. Hopefully you’re now ready to jump in and start audio editing in Reaper. Coming up in a future lesson, I’ll show you how to edit audio in Reaper, with stretching – or you can watch the full course on YouTube and discover that right now.
About This Page
This page was written by Marie Gardiner from the transcript of a course by David Bode. Dave is an expert on video and audio production. Marie is a writer, author, and photographer. The page was edited by Gonzalo Angulo. Gonzalo is an editor, writer and illustrator.
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