Configure Reaper for Voiceover and Audiobooks

Like most Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), by default, Reaper is configured to produce music. It can be configured for voiceover by following the steps outlined below:

File Management

Reaper creates many files during the course of a session. Let’s set it up so they save with sensible names and in logical locations.

Media Files Folder

reaper-9a-project-media-settingsOpen File > Project Settings and change to the Media Tab. Under “Path to save media files” enter whatever value you like. I entered “Audio Files”. Then, click “Save as default project settings”.

 

 

reaper-8-file-pathsReaPeaks and Unsaved Project Folders

Reaper creates .reapeaks files to keep struck of the waveforms that it has drawn to your screen. Their presence speeds up the Reaper interface, but these files are not necessary to your project. If they are needed and don’t exist, Reaper will simply regenerate them. So, grouping them all together is a good next step.

Open Preferences, and go to General > Paths. Check “Store all peak caches (.reapeaks) in alternate path” and fill in a value of your choosing. While you are on this screen, you might also want to define a “Default recording path” so audio that is not yet associated with a project has a place to live as well.

reaper-11-file-namingFile Names

Though you won’t often need to deal with the individual WAV files directly, it is a good idea to give them a naming convention that makes sense to you. Open Preferences and go to Audio > Recording. Click on “Wildcards” and build your own file naming convention. I went with a basic timestamp.

reaper-project-backupProject Templates and Backups

Though we aren’t up to saving templates yet, they happen to be on the same scree as backup management. So, open Preferences and click on Project. Note that you can have Reaper load a project template of your choosing when it isn’t loading any other projects. And, that you can tell Reaper to auto-save at the interval of your choosing and keep its previous project file as a backup. I have mine set to save every 5 minutes but only when not recording. If you’d like a more advanced backup configuration. Watch the video below.

Extensions

No Reaper installation is complete without adding the SWS/S&M Extension. This extension has so many features, that it would be nearly impossible for me to list them all here. So, trust me on this one. Download it. And, install it.

Reaper and Preview Layout and Workflow

I work from a single screen while in the booth. So, I like my DAW to take up as little screen real estate as possible. I usually get scripts in PDF format, and Apple’s built-in Preview application allows me to annotate PDFs to my heart’s content. (If I were on Windows, I would use the free FoxIt Reader for similar functionality.)

Reaper is configured to be a strip along the bottom of my screen and is showing all of the tools that I need while I record. Also, note that the punch-points can be easily tweaked after the fact (marked in yellow). This is a real editing time saver.

 Reaper - Trim RecordingsTape Mode

First, you will want to enable Tape Mode. Go to Options, find  the setting that says “New recordings that overlaps existing media” and set it to “Trims existing items behind new recording”. Next turn off “Trim contents behind media items when editing.” And, please leave Record mode set to “normal”. Reaper’s auto-punch selected items is not what us audiobook narrators mean when we talk about Punch & Roll.

Next, further down on the Options menu, you will find Layouts. Set Transport to Small, and set Track Panel to Vertical. These settings help minimize the amount of space Reaper

reaper-3-layouts-transport-small reaper-4-track-panel-vertical

reaper-5-options-pre-roll-settingsAlso on the Options menu, find the Metronome/pre-roll settings. Once you open these settings, disable the metronome, set Pre-roll to Pre-roll before recording, and adjust the number of measures (my personal preference is 3).

reaper-6-pre-roll-settings

reaper-7-view-transport-always-on-topOn the View menu, I have only 2 things enabled, Transport and Always on top. My goal is to get all of Reaper’s needed functionality while giving as much of my display as possible to showing the manuscript. I have learned the key commands to quickly hide/show anything else that I may need. Other people leverage the fact that Reaper also offers a tabbed interface option. But, the tabs take up space, and again, my goal is to simplify what I am seeing so its all about the audiobook.

 

reaper-10-dont-fade-between-takesBack on the Project preferences, open Media Item Defaults and Uncheck Create automatic Fade-in/fade-out for new items. Leaving this checked would blend your old bad takes with your new ones, which is not the effect we’re looking for.

 

 

reaper-12-external-editorsNext, go to the External Editors preference. Here, you get to choose 2 programs that you would like to be able to access by right-clicking on a take. I suggest that you include whatever your previous editor was (so soften your learning curve while you wrap your head around Reaper), and Izotope RX if you own it. Anything edited by an external editor becomes a new take in Reaper, which can be a lot faster than exporting/importing files between programs.

reaper-right-click-rulerMinutes/Seconds instead of Beats/Measures

Like most DAWs, Reaper thinks in Beats and Measures by default. But, we can change that. In the main reaper window, right click on the ruler at the top to reveal these settings. Here, please select Minutes:Seconds.

 

 

 

reaper-right-click-bottom-timerNow, right-click on the time displayed in the Transport Bar at the bottom of your Reaper window. Enabling the first two selections shown will keep the playhead in the center of the window. The third selection sets Record mode to Normal (not auto-punch). And the last, makes the Transport Bar use the same units as the ruler (above).

Start Recording!

So, now that all of that is done. Open a test project in Reaper, create and arm your track, and start playing around. Record a few minutes of audio and make a flub. Drop your playhead before the flub and hit record. You will see that the old take is layered under the new take. After dropping you playhead for a punch-in, try hitting the Z key (that will move the cursor to the next Zero-Crossing point (preventing clicks during edits).

Play with the transitions, tweak some more of the settings. Once you are satisfied, remember to save this project as a template (see above), so you can use it as a starting point for the future.

Do you use Reaper for Voiceover? Is there a setting that you find helpful? Please share it below.

A Cup of Coffee

A ridiculous amount of caffeine was consumed while researching all of this stuff.
Add some fuel if you would like to help keep me going!
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29 Replies to “Configure Reaper for Voiceover and Audiobooks”

  1. Thanks for some great tips Steven. I would add one idea for the “path to save media files” entry. I start by creating a new folder for each chapter. I then use that to save all media files, and I render the final mp3 to that same folder. That keeps everything together in one place.

    1. Good idea Fred! I tend to make a separate project per chapter and keep all of the chapters inside one folder. So, in the end, you and I have a similar result.

      1. Going on this theme, for the book, I set up sev main folders, one of which is called chapters. Under this, I start a new .RPP for each chapter. That automatically makes subfolders (one per chapter). However, I have a separate main folder called “wav” and reap the wav files there. Then it’s much easier to manage. The “wav” folder only has the results, not the 10,000 .wavs from takes and such. Much much easier to manage!

  2. Fantastic! I’m gonna glance through this more later. I’ve been using Reaper for a while but I’m sure there will be some nice little pearls inhere. Thanks Steven!

  3. So, with these settings, when I right-click an item and open RX3, do my declicking, etc., save and close, will the declicked version overlay the old like a punch-in, or open a new track for a new take?

    Incidentally, am I correct that the iZotope plug in included with Reaper are save-less demos until you purchase RX3? Any value to using those instead of the external editor?

    Thanks heaps, Steven.

    1. If you right-click, and choose RX3, you are making changes directly to the WAV file referenced in Reaper. Basically, you are telling RX3 to edit a file sitting inside Reaper’s project folder. Play back the same take afterward and it will be de-clicked. And, iZotope plugins are not included with Reaper. I happen to own both RX3 and Nectar already. If all you do in RX3 is globally run de-click, then you might want to try using it via an FX layer on the track instead. That way, it will de-click everything in real-time. You will probably find RX3 to be a bit processor intensive when used that way. If your computer slows down, go back to the external editor.

  4. I ask because my version of Reaper came with iZotope plug-ins labeled ‘demo,’ that, like the External RX3 demo, doesn’t save. And yes, is very processor heavy. I’ve purchased RX3, and am waiting on the download link, and will play with what works better, but I suspect using wedlock like a scalpel will work better than as a sledgehammer. Thanks again!

  5. Through Cockos’ website, normal channels. Maybe relatively recently? I don’t think it’s possible that installing the demo (now activated) dropped those plug ins into my Library.

    Follow up question, though: If i wanted to process a single item, split from the main .wav, and opened by ‘open item copies in izotope’ (‘open items’ opens up the whole .wav, not just the split section), do the processing, save and close…it shows up as a second take below the original. How do I set it so the second take is ‘destructive’ and automatically replaces the original?

    1. Opening the original, not a copy replaces the original. Opening a copy gives you a second take, but if you have all of the setting done as listed above, that take should appear on the same track as the original take, covering the original.

  6. Great article! I’ve been looking for a good DAW for narrating, without the pricetag of pro tools.
    Will these settings pre/post record though? Because sometimes my breaths or even words get cut off, when I dont time the sentence right with the preroll, so a couple of seconds of pre-recording is very helpful!

    1. You can adjust the pre-roll as explained in this post. If your words/breaths are getting cut off then you might not be choosing the best places to start your punch-in. Are you trying to punch into the middle of a sentence? Or in the middle of a piece of heated dialog? It is best to find a good, solid stop for a punch point, even if it means that you are recording a few more sentences to fix the mistake. The end result will be a smoother transition.

      1. I am recording at the end of phrases, but sometimes I change my mind about how long the paus should be and start speaking a little earlier. Or I might not time it well and start breathing a little earlier. I have seen even pros do this mistake sometimes. With pre-record, that’s no problem. Right now I’m using Studio One which has punch&roll with pre-record, just like in pro tools. But there are some things I don’t like with it. For instance, it doesn’t have Ripple mode that you have in reaper (or “shuffle mode” as it’s called in pro tools), so when you paste something on the track, it just pastes right over it. It’s very annoying!
        Do you not feel that you miss the pre/post-record when you are not using pro tools? Or perhaps you never needed to use it?

        1. In music, where the timing down to the millisecond is important, I see the need for the ProTools pre-record functionality. But, in voiceover work, I don’t, especially not in audiobooks. Audiobooks need to be conversational. They need to have space, not only for breaths, but also for emotional reactions of both the narrator and the listener.

          So, again, if you have a tight/tense section, you should probably punch in earlier and re-record the whole thing so it is seamless. Otherwise, you might want to back off a bit and allow space between the sentences.

          And, if your initial breaths are loud enough to be heard on your recording, this is a technique issue, not a technical one. I’ll put together some information on breathing and post an article in a week or so.

  7. Minor quibble: I’m follow the instructions and in the template section, you say: ” Note that you can have Reaper load a project emplane of your choosing when it isn’t loading any other projects.”

    I’m betting “emplane” should be “template”. Also, you use “basic.rpp” for your default template, but i can’t find that anywhere. Do you have to create a template before you can set it? If so, how? (This may be basic stuff, but I’m new to Reaper!)

    1. Thanks for catching the typo!
      Once you set up a project the way that you like, open the File menu, choose Project templates and then Save project as template…
      I named my default template basic 🙂

  8. Another tip: The latest version of Reaper (v5.16) wasn’t showing me a “vertical” option of track layout. So, I picked another and moved on. I finally decided to see if the optional still existed, and, lo!, it does. I had to go to Options->Themes and pick Default_4.0. Then I had to open a track, and then go to Track -> Set track layout -> track panel and choose vertical. Ta da!!

  9. Thank you!!! So gentle!
    Lots of nice tips.
    Izotope RX is my external editor, too.

    Using Reaper for Voiceover, I have this custom action I’d like to share. Maybe it was able as sws actions before I done the mine… I don’t know, I’ve never found it, but I feel I should share this one because it helps me a lot, just like this nice article of Steven.

    Action:

    (1) Item: Split items at time selection
    (2) Remove items/tracks/envelope points (depending on focus)
    (3) Time selection: Remove time selection

    Save this.
    Add some easy shortcut for this action. It is usefull…

    OR!!! put it in the main toolbar. Choose an icon.
    Press this new custom action icon with right click to activate the icon and, voila, you have a new way to destroy breaths or bad sounds with 2 clicks: select and click, select and click, select and click… bye bye breaths, burps, tscs, plics, plocs… toggle ripple and try it.
    (I don’t like to work with gates)

    I hope I could express myself in your language.

    Though I know 0,0012% of Reaper, I’d like to share some actions I love and I added shortcuts to:
    (I’d love if somebody told me of these before I found them)

    – Item: Trim items left of cursor
    – Item: Trim items right or cursor
    – Item: Toggle selection of item under mouse cursor
    – SWS/FNG: Move selected items to edit cursor
    – Item: Split itemunder mouse cursor
    – Item edit: Move position of item to edit cursor
    – Item edit: Move position of item under mouse to edit cursor
    – Options: Cycle ripple editing mode

    🙂

    PS: Please, share your beloved actions for REAPER and Voiceover.

    1. Hi Paulo, thanks for sharing. I recently got hired by Edge Studio to teach Reaper classes. I will post the dates shortly. In preparation for the class, I am in the process of putting together my custom actions among other things. They will be on the site to download once I am done.

  10. Hey Steven– very helpful, thanks! Any update on when you’re going to add your custom action list for Reaper to your site?

    Thanks!

  11. Hey Steven,
    I just came across this thread as I’m a narrator and trying to use Reaper for punch and roll with audiobooks. One issue I’ve come across is in trying to open the file in Audacity (external editor). I did the whole 10 minutes of audio (for an audition) using the pre-roll/punch and roll technique. When I selected all and tried opening in Audacity, only one section would open. It seemed that every time I used the punch and roll technique, it created a new section of the track and nothing I could do would highlight the entire thing, so I ended up with about 12 Audacity windows that I had to cut and paste. I’m sure I’m missing something obvious, but how would I highlight everything I’ve recorded and open in Audacity? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kate! Right-Click on the track (not the content) and choose Render/freeze tracks > Render tracks to mono stem tracks (and mute originals). This will render all of the pieces of audio into 1 contiguous take. It will put that version on a new track and mute the original one. If you use the External Editor functions on that newly rendered track, you will get all of the audio, and you will have preserved your original work as well.

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