Music is a comfort and REAPER is a pretty great DAW
10 Apr 2020
Since social distancing became a thing I, like many people, have been spending a lot of time at home. I've found that music has been a great way to keep my mind engaged and focused on the moment. It's been a source of comfort during an otherwise stressful time.
It's also been great to see various companies giving away content for free and offering discounts or extended trial licenses.
Ableton is regularly updating an Ideas and Offers for Making Music at Home blog post that, among other things (e.g., discounts on Live), has a link to a free download for their book Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers.
One of the more pleasant musical surprises for me has been discovering REAPER. I've been a Bitwig Studio user for many years, but a recent bug in the Mac version of 3.1.3 that prevents audio interfaces from working coupled with REAPER offering an extended trial license (good through the end of June) led me to give REAPER a try.
I've been pretty impressed with it so far. It packs a whole lot of functionality into a minimalistic, non-cluttered interface, is highly customizable (via themes and scripting), and has a terrific set of instructional videos by Kenny Gioia. It doesn't have much in the way of built-in instruments but with a couple of instrument plugins and/or a decent library of samples you'd be well on your way to making music with REAPER.
I've enjoyed REAPER so much over the past few weeks that I could see it becoming my main DAW. There's a lot I like about Bitwig but it's getting to the point that I find myself using a fraction of its ever-expanding sound design functionality. By comparison, since REAPER is a more basic DAW and doesn't provide the synthesis and sound design tools that Bitwig does my workflow with REAPER has been more focused and streamlined.
If you're looking for a full-featured DAW and don't need lots of built-in tools for electronic music production, REAPER is a great option, especially when you consider that a non-commercial license (also suitable for commercial use provided annual revenue is less than $20,000) is $60.
Thanks to the talented developers over at cockos inc. for creating REAPER and giving folks a way to make some music and be creative while practicing social distancing.