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January 25, 2010

Sequencer Virginity Lost

I'm definitely liking this whole sequencing thing.

Over the weekend I had a proper play around with Reaper. I'll admit that it took a bit of juggling of settings before I actually managed to record anything directly, as opposed to recording in a separate package then importing the media. To begin with I was recording the output master (ie everything except what I was playing). Much head-scratching led me to directly selecting the recording input from the Windows Volume Control, external to Reaper itself. As far as I can tell, this is the only way to do it. The 80MB pdf manual (yes, I did RTFM) was of little help!

What I really liked was the ability to dial in your bpm then record chunks of rhythm, chop it up into multi-bar loops with snap on and then just shuffle them around, copy/paste etc. Each clip was automatically assigned a steep ramp up/down in volume at each end for seamless blending.

Obviously, the ability to EQ, pan etc individual tracks was great, too. A major step forward from where I had to mix down every step before progressing to the next.

Oh, and the biggest shortcoming in my earlier demo recordings was the distinct lack of bass! Lately I've been looking to my band's bass player to supply me with clips, but obviously that has to be at his convenience, so they may or may not appear in a timely manner. Enter Reaper's pitch-shift FX plug-in! Record bass line on guitar, drop one octave on that track and with a bit of EQ fiddling, Bob's your uncle... a bass line! Okay, so it's not perfect, but what I did was to take one of the lines that our bass-player had already sent, shifted one octave up, then tried to emulate that tone on my guitar. That way, when I shifted down it sounded about right. Ta-dah!

My one bug-bear with Reaper so far is latency. I'm sure I can tweak the settings to improve things and, frankly, whilst recording guitar via a mic'ed amp it's not really necessary for me to monitor the input. But, what I was finding was that a newly recorded track was out of sync with everything else in the project and hence had to be manually adjusted. A small price to pay!

What else... I need to investigate multiple takes, punch-ins etc. Oh, that and the rest of the FX that come with the package.

After a very brief play I managed to make a quite serviceable version of "Diving Duck Blues" (another Taj Mahal cut). I'm thinking I might take that one along to the band's next meet (tomorrow)!

I'm still not an expert with the ol' sequencer, but I'll admit the flexibility of the thing has won me over. Everything was so easy, just the way it should be. I now can't imagine going back to recording my old way!


agatzebluz said...

Hi Ken

Obviously, if you are experiencing latency problems, it is because you don't have a dedicated music soundcard.

If you are working with the pc soundcard you should have also a lot of hum, no ?

Try ASIO4ALL, you will have the ability to record easier. It creates an ASIO driver, that will be much easier to set up input and outputs in Reaper.

Kenski said...

Ah, that's what I ended up doing! I'd never heard of ASIO but saw a Youtube where someone mentioned it whilst setting up Reaper. The sound card is just 'whatever' came with the PC. It's not great (the one in my 10 year old laptop is better but it can't run 'modern' software!!!) I don't get much hum as I'm mic'ing my amp (I guess!)