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Getting Started

  1. What is Reaper?
  2. What are Tracks?
  3. What are Items?
  4. What are Regions?
  5. What are Actions?
  6. What is a KeyMap?
  7. How Do I Install A KeyMap (or ReaperAccess Plug-IN) On The Mac?
  8. How Do I Install A KeyMap On Windows?
  9. How Do I Add HotKeys to an Action?
  10. How Do I Build A Custom Action?
  11. What Are Extensions?
  12. What Is ReaConsole?
  13. New to Keyboard Navigation?


Rapid Environment for Audio Production Engineering and Recording, or Reaper as its more commonly known, is a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation. A DAW allows you to record, edit, import and manipulate audio in an almost endless array of ways. One of the most widely used parts of A DAW is the multi track recorder. This allows you to have a track for each type of instrument or voice in the recording or production, and to edit each instrument or voice individually. For example, if you are working on a karaoke piece, you can have your instrumental on one track and record your voice onto another while the instrumental plays back. Once you are done with recording the vocals you can add effects to it without altering or adding to the sound of the backing track. Alternatively if you have a band all the guitars, bass, keyboards, and even each part of the drum kit, (kick, snare, hi hats, etc) can all be recorded to their own individual track; and edited, effected and otherwise manipulated independent of the other instruments or parts.

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Tracks are the containers or lanes that hold all the audio in a project. Think of tracks as each being a single instance of iTunes or WinAmp playing a separate audio file each. One instance is playing back the drums so you can hear it while you record your guitar part with the other. A couple instances then can play back the guitars and drums so you can record the vocals on a separate one. This is indeed where the very essence of the term Multi-Track Recording stems from. Reaper or a DAW in general allows you to record and playback as many tracks at once as you have inputs into the computer for. These days you are limited only by your computers processing power.

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Items are the pieces or clips of audio that the track holds. Each time you press record and then stop you have created a new item on that track. Each time you split audio you just turned that one item into two items.

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Region is a range of audio as defined by you. This covers the entire project and isn’t necessarily limited to or specific to any track or item. For example you can set a marker at the start of the first verse and the end of the first verse select it and mark it as a region. then say if you want to reuse it in the third verse you can copy and paste the region where the third verse begins. Also useful for electronica or other genres where the same parts will make reappearances throughout the production.

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Action is the word reaper gives to anything performed within the program that can be undone with a click of the Edit menu > Undo or CMD+Z. Copy, Cut, Paste, Set Start Point/End Point, Muting, Soloing, Recording etc are all examples of actions. All actions can be found in the actions list, and can have keyboard shortcuts or HotKeys assigned to them. To view the actions list use Actions menu > View actions list, or simply press the hot key assigned to viewing the actions list which is “?” (question mark) by default, or F4 for ReaAccess Users.

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Keymap file is a document that holds reaper actions and binds them to controllers. These controllers can be hot keys via the keyboard, mouse button clicks (usually with modifiers) and midi controllers. The one provided on this site contains plenty of keyboard hot keys assigned to common reaper actions so you can make use of reaper with out removing your hands from the keyboard. Also included are some custom actions to speed up common task by combining multiple steps into a single action assigned to a single hot key.

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Installing The Keymap or the ReaperAccess Plug-In On the mac

KeyMaps will need to be placed in ~/library/Application Support/Reaper/Keymaps. After downloading either the KeyboardNinja KeyMap, or the ReaperAccess Plug-In, unzip it and select the keyboardninja.ReaperKeyMap or the ra_keyboardninja.ReaperKeyMap and copy it in finder. Then press cmd+shift+G to enter the go to dialog. Type in the path ~/library/application support/reaper/KeyMaps and press return. Once in that folder you may paste the keymap file.
If using the ReaperAccess Plug in,you will also need to paste the reaper_access file in ~/library/application support/reaper/UserPlugins using the same procedure. Once the files are pasted into the appropriate location, launch reaper and open the actions list dialog. Navigate over to the import/export button and click on it. It should bring up a drop down menu, navigate down to import and click on it. This should bring up the standard open file dialogue box, and by default it should be pointing to the folder where you pasted the keymap. Once you find the KeyMap file double click it or press return to close the dialog and import it. Upon doing this you should be returned to the actions list dialog box with the keymap imported.

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Installing The KeyMap On Windows

Download the KeyMap file. Once the file is downloaded and unzipped, launch reaper and open the actions list dialog. (F4) Navigate over to the import/export button and click on it. It should bring up a drop down menu, navigate down to import and click on it. This should bring up the standard open file dialogue box, point it to the folder where you unzipped the download of the keymap. Once you find the keymap file double click it or press return to close the dialog and import it. Upon pressing return you should be returned to the actions list dialog box with the keymap imported.

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Creating Hot Keys

To add your own hot key to this keymap or the default reaper keymap or any other keymap for that matter:
  1. Open Reaper then open the actions list dialog with its HotKey”?” on mac or F4 for ReaAccess.
  2. Use the filter edit field to narrow the list of actions by what you are searching for.
    e.g. type “Select All Items on Selected Tracks In Current Time Selection” into the filter edit field to see only that action, or “Solo Track” to see only actions relating to soloing a track.
  3. Navigate over to the area listing all the actions and move through the list via Up/Down arrows to find the action you want to add a HotKey to.
  4. Once on the action and its selected, navigate to the add button and activate it.
  5. Move to the field that says add key or move controller. Once in that field press the HotKey combination for example, ALT+A and then move over to and activate OK.
    Alternatively you can press a button on your midi controller or move a knob/slider to assign that button/knob to control that action.
  6. You should now be returned to the actions list dialog box. In the area with all the actions listed you should see your HotKey or midi cc# to the left of the action.
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Creating Custom actions

If there are series of reaper actions you perform sequentially often enough, why not create one hot key to do all those steps for you in one go? Here’s how:
  1. Open the Actions list dialog by pressing its hot key “?”
  2. Navigate over to the new button by where it says custom action and activate it.
  3. Use the filter edit field to narrow down the action’s list to the actions you are interested in.
    In this dialog you will see there is two actions list area side by side. The first one to the left shows the actions list. The second one to the right will show the actions added to your custom action or “macro” as its built.
  4. Navigate to the first actions list area, and find the action you want and double click it.
  5. it will appear in the table on the right. Repeat steps two through 4 to add more items to the list. The area on the right will show items in the order they were added.
  6. Once you have all the action you want in your custom action, you can navigate over to the consolidate undo points and show in actions list check boxes.
    1. Check consolidate undo points if you would like all actions in this custom action undone if you were to press Undo. If you do not check this box only the last action in the list will be undone.
    2. Check show in actions menu if you want the custom action to show up in the regular actions list. This is handy as it makes it easy to add a HotKey to your custom action or edit/delete it should you choose to.
  7. Once appropriate selections are made, you can navigate to the ok button and Activate it. Now you have a custom action with the name you provided.
    If you checked the show in actions list box, you can use the steps for adding a HotKey to an action for assigning a hot key to your custom action. Custom actions show up with the word custom in front of them so you can use the word “custom” as a filter to see all the custom actions in the current KeyMap.
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Reaper is a highly Customizable DAW, and as such many have made extensions to, well, extend the functionality of reaper. These include adding new actions to the action list, and or making custom actions of their own as well. The Extension referred to as part of this Site are the SWS Extensions, and more specifically ReaConsole.

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ReaConsole Is a part of the SWS Extensions, that adds an old school console to Reaper. Now As this is a DAW you may be thinking Console meaning a mixer, but in this case it’s actually is referring to the Command Line Prompt. Pressing C in Reaper will open a Command line window where you can type in a command to quickly, select tracks, Change Volume, Pan, Arm, Flip Phase or etc. to a track or any Number of tracks at once. The HotKey List has Some Basic ReaConsole Commands, but its highly recommended reading the ReaConsole section of the SWS Extensions manual.

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A Note on Keyboard Navigation

In dialogs like the actions list, tab would usually move you forward between buttons and fields, and SHIFT+TAB moves you backwards. On the mac, CMD+TAB will cycle between all open applications, and CMD+` will cycle you through all open windows within an application. So for example if in Reaper you have an FX browser window open and the actions list in addition to the main Reaper window, you can cycle between all these windows using CMD+`. On windows ALT+Tab will cycle you through all open windows period. You don’t have an option just to cycle through windows within a certain app.

If you are a VoiceOver user on the mac, VO+Left/Right Arrows can be use for most of the instructions that say navigate or move to in these guides. VO+Space or Return can be used to Activate a button. Also you may need to interact with certain elements at times like the actions list area that list all the actions.

For Windows users or non screen reader users on Win/Mac, the “TAB” key is probably your best bet for use when the guides say to move to or navigate to. Also on Windows F6 can be used as well. Windows screen reader users will also be fimiliar enough to try the down arrow when all else fails.

The Keyboard Ninja shortcuts and HotKeys are given in the mac variant. If you are a PC user use this conversion chart.

  • CMD = CTRL
  • OPT = ALT
  • CTRL = WIN (the key between CTRL & ALT bearing the start menu logo)

I hope to have a fully converted version of the Keyboard Ninja HotKey available soon. As it stands importing the Mac KeyMap into a Windows Version of Reaper yields Mixed Results.

In Reaper escape will close any floating windows or unselect selections. For example if you are done with a FX Browser window a simple press of the escape key will close it. If you have Items selected and in focus a simple press of the escape key will unselect.

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