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Total Recall With Reaper

Cockos Reaper Tips & Techniques
Published January 2018
By Nick Storr

Reaper’s Track Templates facility allows you to store and recall far more than a list of insert plug-ins!

Introduced way back in 2007, Track Templates have long been a core Reaper feature and they remain a really useful way to quickly recall previously saved tracks along with all of their settings and configurations. But with Reaper’s bewildering array of esoteric features, I’ve found some of these older tricks can escape the attention of newer users — so this month we’ll take a fresh look at this facility.

At its core, the Track Templates feature allows you to save a track along with all of its effects, routing and configuration, so that you can instantiate a copy of it later. It’s a really handy way to save time recreating configurations and setups that you use regularly. Say you’re working on a song, and you’d like to use a synth sound that you used last week. Ordinarily you’d have to create a new track, set the input to your MIDI source, add the instrument plug-in and adjust the controls to the appropriate settings (as well as add and adjust any additional plug-ins you were using the alter the sound) and set the record-monitoring mode. That’s a significant number of steps, and a sure-fire way to stem your creative flow. If you had that track saved as a track template, though, you could add it to your project very quickly, with all of those settings and configurations ready to go.

The Basics

Saving a track as a Track Template.Saving a track as a Track Template.Let’s walk through the process — I’ll assume you’re up to speed on the Reaper basics, such as creating tracks, adding plug-ins and so on. First, create a new track and configure it to your liking. In the example, I’ve set the MIDI input to ‘All MIDI Inputs’, added a VSTi instance plus instances of ReaComp, ReaEQ and ReaDelay, and I’ve named the track ‘Electro Saw Delay’. Once you’re happy with your track, save it as a track template: right-click on the Track Panel and select ‘Save Tracks as Track Template’. Now, just choose a location for your template file (I’ve stuck with the default here), enter a filename in the ‘Save Track Template’ dialogue (we’ll just go with ‘Electro Saw Delay’ again), press Save, and you’re done!

To instantiate a new track based on your newly saved template, simply right-click in an empty area of the Track Control Panel, then move the cursor over ‘Insert Track from Template’. A dialogue with all of your saved templates will pop up, allowing you to insert them with one click. Alternately you can click on ‘Open Template’, which will bring up a file dialogue enabling you to navigate to a different folder to find your files.

The ‘Save Track Template’ file dialogue.The ‘Save Track Template’ file dialogue.OK, that’s Track Templates in a nutshell. Over time you can obviously build up a handy library of track styles that you like to use regularly. Pretty much any state contained within a track will be saved/retrieved using a template file, including track name, colour, level, pan, plug-ins, record-arm state, routing and so on. Even sends and receives can be saved, although only across groups of tracks — any sends or receives that link to tracks outside of the template will be discarded.

Multiple-track Templates

Speaking of template groups, let’s look at those. In addition to saving single tracks for later recall, Track Templates can also be used for groups of tracks, along with their routing and track-folder hierarchy. This enables you to save complex chains and combinations like multi-timbral synths with all of their input tracks, side-chain or parallel processing rigs and so on. It’s potentially a huge time-saver — Reaper’s routing is extremely flexible, but it can also be a little fiddly, so it’s great to be able to set up such groups once and instantiate them again and again wherever you need them.

For example, Reaper comes with a nice built-in vocoder effect called ReaVocode, but it takes a bit of setting up. You need to route the modulator source (usually an audio track like a voice) into channels 1+2 of the vocoder plug-in, and the carrier (often an instrumental track like a synth) to channels 3+4. I’ll typically do this across three tracks — one for the ReaVocode instance, one MIDI instrument track for the carrier, and an audio track for the modulator. I’ll describe setting this up as a template fairly quickly, but to follow along in more detail feel free to check out the video tutorial (shown above).

Create three new empty tracks in your project, and name them ‘Vocoder’, ‘Carrier’ and ‘Modulator’. Hit the FX button on the Vocoder track, add the ReaVocode VST, and close the FX window.

Now let’s move to our Modulator track. Set your input channel to wherever your audio source is coming in — in my case I have a mic plugged into channel 1 of my interface. Open up the routing window, un-check the Master Send box, and create a send to channels 1 and 2 of the Vocoder track. Close the routing window, switch on record monitoring and record arm the Modulator track.

Vocoder setup and routing. It’s not that complicated, but definitely nicer if you only have to set it up once!Vocoder setup and routing. It’s not that complicated, but definitely nicer if you only have to set it up once!Next we move to the Carrier track. Set the input channel to your MIDI controller keyboard (or ‘All MIDI Inputs’ if you prefer), then hit the FX button and add a synth effect — we’ll use ReaSynth for this example. Close the FX window, open up the routing window, and once again un-check the Master Send and create a new send to the Vocoder track, only this time send to channels 3 and 4. Finally, switch on record monitoring and record arm the Carrier track.

You should now have a functioning vocoder: play on your MIDI controller and speak into the mic to test it out. Setting this up took several steps, so once you’re done messing around playing ‘Mr Roboto’ or ‘Autobahn’, you’ll probably want to save your setup for easy recall. To do this, simply select all three tracks, then, as with our single-track example, right click in the track panel, select ‘Save Tracks as Track Template’, name your template and save. Just as before, you can instantiate the template — this time containing your entire group of tracks — in a different project, complete with all your routing intact! This is a pretty simple example, but it could just as easily be a whole multi-timbral orchestral section comprising a number of sample-based instruments and effects, complete with audio and MIDI routing...

Organisation Tricks

Subfolders in your Track Templates folder will be reflected in Reaper’s context menu, and can make it much easier to find things once you have a larger number of templates.Subfolders in your Track Templates folder will be reflected in Reaper’s context menu, and can make it much easier to find things once you have a larger number of templates.The default single-layer list of Track Templates works pretty well for small collections of templates, but over time you’ll probably build up a pretty extensive library, which requires some organisation. Luckily, there are a couple of ways we can tidy things up. The context-sensitive menu for adding a Track Template will happily reflect the folder structure in the Track Template folder, so you can add a good deal of structure to your template storage by simply creating folders (and subfolders if you like) in the explorer or finder. To open up the Track Templates folder, head to Reaper’s ‘Options’ menu, then select ‘Show REAPER resource path in explorer/finder…’. This will take you to a folder with a bunch of files and subfolders: find the folder named ‘TrackTemplates’ and your templates will all be stored inside, with ‘RTrackTemplate’ extensions. Simply create folders and sub-folders according to your organisational whim, and they’ll be updated in Reaper’s interface.

It’s also worth noting that you can search and insert template tracks from the media explorer. If you stick to some conventions when you’re naming your Track Templates, this can be a powerful way to drill down into your library and find specific types of track(s) much faster than by hunting manually. I like to use a few adjectives in my template names, so rather than ‘Electro Saw Delay’, I might go with something like ‘KEYS – synth – Electro Saw Delay – buzzy, abrasive, nasty, lead, annoying, cutting’. It’s not quite as powerful as a proper database-driven preset-management tool, but it can be a simple way to find things quickly when you have a lot to keep track of.

Hopefully that’s given you a taste of what you can achieve with this venerable old Reaper feature, but for a bit more detail, be sure to check out the accompanying video.

Published January 2018