Creating a track in Reaper including drum sequences, loops, and some text-to-speech from free websites
This is a step-by-step tutorial task designed to achieve several learning outcomes:
- Help you become familiar with some of the processes behind creating a track using a drum step sequencer, pre-existing loops in a loop library, and text that you can generate online.
Step 1 – Download Reaper
Download Reaper from this website
Step 2 – Install Reaper
If you do have admin privileges on your computer you should be able to blitz through the install using the default options.
If you do not have administrator privileges and you are on Windows, you should choose the option to do a mobile install and just place it in the default folder C:\REAPER\
Step 3 – Generate a computer speech catch-phrase
Go to http://www.fromtexttospeech.com/ and generate some speech to use in your track. You might choose something motivational like in Daft Punk – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger or perhaps something funny.
Step 4 – Setup a folder on your computer for Audio Loops etc that you’ll use on future projects too
Copy the Text to Speech file you just made into that folder as we will import it into our project in Step 8.
Step 5 – Download some loops
If you’re at Cardijn College you can access some of the loops I’ve saved on the X Drive…
Other options for loops:
ProducerGrind.com mentions 8 free sample packs that can get you started.
Let’s download the Kill da Devil pack and unzip it to your loops folder.
Step 6 – Make a few drum sequences
Using Patternsketch.com make a few drum sequences to use in your project.
Step 6.1 Choose a beat from one of the example presets and Export Audio as a wav file (Watch the video below for more info)
Step 6.2 Modify the second bar of your beat to use as a variation with some kind of fill every 8 bars.
It’s very common for drummers to do a fill to herald the approach of a new section in the music so we’ll create this variation and save it with a similar filename to the main beat. (just add “fill” on the end of the filename).
Step 6.3 Create a second beat sequence
Choose another preset that contrasts your first beat, but has enough difference to make your track interesting when moving from verse to chorus sections. Export as a wav file again with a descriptive filename different from your other beats.
Step 6.4 Modify your second beat sequence to make a fill variation and save that as a wav file
You may consider exporting only the second bar of the fill loop rather than a two bar loop if your fill only lasts for a bar. You might choose to make a two bar fill by adding some variations into both bars of the loop, but here is a video outlining how to export only a selection of the two bar loop rather than the whole 2 bars.
Step 7 Let’s get started in Reaper
A summary of the video tutorial follows (skip down if you followed all the steps along with the video)
First time you run Reaper you’ll have to allow it to choose your audio driver – it should hopefully choose the right one so just say OK unless you know differently.
7.1 Save the empty file to your My Documents folder or another folder of your choice
- Choose the folder where you want Reaper files saved, such as a sub-folder for a school music subject or wherever you keep your creations.
- Select the check-box to create a sub-directory for this project – it’s much easier to keep things organised this way.
- Select the check-box to copy all the source audio to the project folder. This way you won’t accidentally lose access to all the great loops you select for this project from your loop library.
7.2 Create markers: Insert > Marker (prompt for name), use Shift + M
- Bar 1 – Intro
- Bar 9 – Verse
- Bar 17 – Chorus
- Bar 25 – Verse
- Bar 33 – Chorus
- Bar 41 – Chorus (repeat)
- Bar 49 – Outro
- Bar 57 – end
This gives you the form or layout of your first song. You might like to study song forms from some of your favourite artists to give you ideas for your next creation, but for this one lest’s just roll with a standard verse – chorus structure with an Intro and Outro and a repeated chorus near the end.
7.3 Show the Media Explorer: View > Media Explorer (Ctrl+Alt+X)
You can switch back and forth between the Media Explorer and Mixer using the tabs below.
7.4 Use the Media Explorer to import your loops.
- Import your 1st Drum sequence from step 6 to a new track at the start of the piece (did you make sure Tempo match is turned on?!!)
- Import the fill variation of your 1st Drum sequence onto the same track at bar 7 (if it’s 2 bars long) or bar 8 (if one bar long)
- Import your 2nd Drum sequence from step 6 to another new track at the Chorus marker (bar 17)
- Import the fill variation of your 2nd Drum sequence onto the same track (1 or 2 bars before the end of that chorus)
7.5 Extend and copy and paste the loops to fill up each 8 bar section of the piece
- Hold the cursor the right of your first drum sequence loop then drag that edge to the right so it will repeat itself and fill up the 6 or 7 bars before where you placed the fill variation.
- Repeat the process for your second drum sequence to fill up the rest of the chorus prior to the fill at the end of that chorus.
- Using the right mouse button draw a box around the intro drum loops (the whole first 8 bars)
- Hold control and you will see the cursor change to include a + plus sign.
- Drag the 8 bars worth of drums and place them starting at the verse at bar 9 on Track one.
- Ctrl drag those 8 bars again to the second verse and again for the Outro
- Using the right mouse button draw a box around your chorus drum loops in Track 2 then with the Control key down drag (copy) these drums to the second chorus and again to the repeat chorus section.
7.6 Experiment with changing the tempo of your track
The default tempo is 120 beats per minute (bpm). Since you selected the “Tempo match on” feature when you imported your loops you might notice that it says something like [Rate 0.773] to let you know that Reaper has adjusted that clips speed to match your project tempo. Try reducing or raising the tempo by 10 or 20 bpm. You might like to experiment with this again after choosing some loops in the next step for your main melodic and harmonic content.
7.7 Browse loops in the Kill Da Devil pack you downloaded and saved in Step 5.
Choose some contrasting loops for:
- Intro & Outro sections
In my example I used the following:
- Intro & Outro sections – Bernard Lubat – A Pas De Velours 1
- Verse – Janko Nilovic-Reverie A Saint-Germain-Des-Pres
- Chorus – Battle Scars 1
7.8 Consider fade ins or fade outs and the start and finish of the track or anywhere else you feel like it
- I decided that my sequenced drums would have a long fade in lasting the first 6 bars at the start of the tune
- I decided to have my Outro sequenced drums finish a bar earlier than the 8 bar section which allowed the other loop to finish the piece by itself (with a 4 bar fadeout)
- I also put a couple of other small fades in and out.
7.9 Try different tempos again as you did in step 7.6 and decide upon your final tempo
Step 8 Import your speech from Step 3
Use the Media Explorer in Reaper to navigate to the folder where you saved your Text-to-Speech wav file and import it into your chorus.
You might want to consider splitting apart the sentence by highlighting the clip, placing the playhead at the point at which you want to split and press “S” on your keyboard.
You might want to disable the Gridlines which act like magnets on your clips to allow you to fine-tune the placement of the different words of your speech. Use the shortcut Alt + G or click on the Gridlines button to disable them, but remember to toggle it back on later once you’re satisfied with the fine-tuning if you want to drag things around or copy things and have them line up properly.
Perhaps you’d like to speed up or slow down a section of one of the words. Hold down the Alt key and drag the right edge of one of your clips to extend it and make it take longer – essentially you’re slowing it down. Of course you could do the opposite by holding Alt and dragging the right edge to the left to make the clip faster.
Step 9 Render your finished track as an MP3 file
- Click File > Render (Ctrl+Alt+R)
- Check that the source is still set as the Master Mix, bounds Entire Project
- Change the output format to MP3 (encoder by LAME project)
- Click Render 1 file and then have a listen to the MP3 you just created
The End… ?
You might consider this task done or you might want to improve upon what you’ve made… or start from the beginning and do something different.
Extra steps you might like to consider
Adding some effects to your Master track and/or each individual track might improve your mix. Some examples
- Compression – Add the ReaComp effect to your Master Mix and try a preset such as “stock – Master Bus Glue”, select limit output under the output faders on the right of that plugin’s UI and hit play to see if the plugin is having any effect with it’s current settings. Using compression is a whole other lesson in itself so you might like to seek out some videos such as this excellent tutorial on Mastering your song in Reaper.
- EQ – check the video above for descriptions on how to use EQ in the mastering stage (2:56) and you can apply the techniques learned here on individual tracks to do things such as add a bit more bass to your drum loop or perhaps remove some muddiness in one of your loops taken from an old recording.
- Panning – You may like to adjust the panning of individual tracks within your project for the whole length of the project or you might consider automating the panning, perhaps slowly left to right, or quicker with a ping pong effect (Stay tuned for another video on this or ask your teacher for some tips).
- Add some extra percussion loops that might fit over the top of parts of the song
- Add some extra risers or reverse cymbal crashes prior to a section change such as a big “drop” in the song
- Record some live vocals or instrumental parts using a USB microphone
- Record using a midi keyboard utilising a soft synth such as ReaSynth to add a synth lead line or perhaps some pads
Ideas for your next track
Why don’t you try repeating the process again, changing a few things as you go. Perhaps instead of the text-to-speech vocals you might decide to write your own rap or sing some melodic vocals. If you’re not a great lyricist maybe it could be fun to rap or sing a nursery rhyme along with your track.