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To use a sample-based synthesizer like Iris 2 by Izotope or a free virtual instrument like Piano One by Soundmagic in Reaper, you need to use either a physical keyboard interface or a virtual keyboard. Setting up either a physical interface or a virtual keyboard is easy in Reaper, but both options have multiple steps. This step-by-step guide will show you how to set up each type.
How to Set Up a Physical MIDI Keyboard
This is how I set up my MIDIPLUS AKM320 MIDI keyboard for use with Izotope's Iris 2 in Reaper. The MIDIPLUS AKM320 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is an affordable plug-and-play USB controller.
First, plug in the keyboard and install drivers if necessary. Open Reaper, choose Options then Preferences (or click CTRL-P). In the left side menu, look under Audio for MIDI Devices.
If you don't see any devices listed, click the Reset all MIDI devices button in the lower right corner of the window. Your MIDI device will initially be disabled. Right-click to enable it. If you have multiple devices, you may want to give each one a name that makes sense to you. To do this, right-click and choose Configure input. Under Alias change the name of the device.
If necessary, on the main menu, choose Insert > Track to create a new recording.
Click the Arm Track button, then Inputs (see picture below). If you don't see Inputs, resize the track by pulling it down. Hover over the bottom of the track until the cursor changes to the resize option (with arrows on both ends). Enlarge the track until you see the Inputs (IN FX) option.
Click Input: MIDI, choose your MIDI Device, then choose All Channels. Next to the Arm Track button, there is a speaker icon. This is the Record Monitoring button. Hover over it to see if it is turned on. If it isn't, keep clicking it until it says on.
Click the FX button to choose your synthesizer plugin. I typed iris into the Filter because my plugin is called Iris 2. Select your plugin and click Add. Once you have done any necessary setup within the plugin, you can click the Record button and use your MIDI device to record music.
Using a MIDI Keyboard Controller in REAPER
How to Set Up a Virtual MIDI Keyboard
If you don't have a MIDI device, don't worry. You can use a virtual keyboard. The virtual keyboard in Reaper has keys that correspond to keys on a keyboard, so you can use your computer keyboard to play and record music.
In Reaper, choose Insert on the main menu. Scroll down and choose Virtual instrument on new track. This will create a track with some of the necessary settings to use the virtual keyboard.
Choose the virtual Instrument plugin you use. Mine is called Iris 2, so I typed iris into the Filter area to narrow the list of options. Choose your plugin and click the Add button.*
Click the Arm Track button, then Inputs (see picture below). If Inputs is not there, resize the track. Hover over the bottom of the track until the cursor changes to the resize option (with arrows on both ends). Enlarge the track by pulling it down until you see the Inputs options.
In Inputs, click Input: MIDI > Virtual MIDI keyboard > All Channels.
Next to the Arm Track button, there is a speaker icon; the Record Monitoring button. Hover over it to see if it is turned on. If it isn't, continue clicking it until it says on.
Choose View in the main menu and scroll down to Virtual MIDI Keyboard or click ALT-B. This will open the virtual keyboard.
* If the Virtual Instrument plugin doesn't open in Step 2, click FX to select your Virtual Instruments plugin. I typed iris into the Filter to narrow the list of options. Select your plugin.
Once you have done any necessary setup within your Virtual Instrument plugin, click the Record button. You can play music directly on the virtual keyboard or use your computer keyboard. Letters on the piano keys on the Virtual MIDI Keyboard indicate which computer keyboard buttons correspond to each note. After clicking Record, you may have to click the virtual keyboard to make sure it is selected. If the virtual keyboard isn't selected, your keyboard may open up a toolbar or a dialogue box in response to your key clicks.
Virtual MIDI Keyboard in REAPER
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2021 LT Wright