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How to Set Up a MIDI Keyboard in Reaper

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Izotope's Iris 2 is a sample-based synthesizer with spectral editing

Izotope's Iris 2 is a sample-based synthesizer with spectral editing

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.

Step 1:

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.

In Reaper, go to Options, then Preferences and look for MIDI Devices under Audio

In Reaper, go to Options, then Preferences and look for MIDI Devices under Audio

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.

In Reaper, MIDI Devices is listed under Preferences > Audio

In Reaper, MIDI Devices is listed under Preferences > Audio

Step 2:

If necessary, on the main menu, choose Insert > Track to create a new recording.

Step 3:

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.

In Reaper, click the Arm Track button to see the Inputs option. Then select your MIDI device and click All Channels. My MIDI device is AKM320

In Reaper, click the Arm Track button to see the Inputs option. Then select your MIDI device and click All Channels. My MIDI device is AKM320

Step 4:

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.

In Reaper, click the FX button to choose a synthesizer plugin

In Reaper, click the FX button to choose a synthesizer plugin

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.

Step 1:

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.

To use the virtual keyboard in Reaper, click Insert and choose Virtual instrument on new track

To use the virtual keyboard in Reaper, click Insert and choose Virtual instrument on new track

Step 2:

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.*

After you select Virtual instrument on new track in Reaper, you will have to choose a virtual instruments plugin like the Iris 2 or Piano One by SoundMagic

After you select Virtual instrument on new track in Reaper, you will have to choose a virtual instruments plugin like the Iris 2 or Piano One by SoundMagic

Step 3:

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.

In Reaper, go to Inputs, click Input: MIDI > Virtual MIDI keyboard > All Channels to set up a Virtual MIDI Keyboard

In Reaper, go to Inputs, click Input: MIDI > Virtual MIDI keyboard > All Channels to set up a Virtual MIDI Keyboard

Step 4:

Choose View in the main menu and scroll down to Virtual MIDI Keyboard or click ALT-B. This will open the virtual keyboard.

Reaper's virtual keyboard can be used with virtual synths like Izotope's Iris 2 or Piano One by SoundMagic. Letters on the piano keys show you which computer keyboard buttons you need to play each note

Reaper's virtual keyboard can be used with virtual synths like Izotope's Iris 2 or Piano One by SoundMagic. Letters on the piano keys show you which computer keyboard buttons you need to play each note

* 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.

In Reaper, click FX and then choose a virtual instrument plugin

In Reaper, click FX and then choose a virtual instrument plugin

Step 5:

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

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