Drums In Reaper

I’ve been trying to make a little headway with Reaper. So far all I’ve done is produce a few songs of just me singing and playing my acoustic guitar. I want to start adding percussion and would like to ask about the various ways of doing this. I’ve seen that Kenny Gioai has a couple of videos of Sitala & MT Power Drum Kit, plugins. Would these be a good starting point? Not sure in the end what approach to take. At first look at the subject I’ve seen you can input beats using physical or electronic drum pads. Alternatively produce them on pc using mouse clicks in a grid.

I don’t use Reaper, but most DAWs have similar capabilities.

There’s a few ways to add drums to a track, and which works for you will depend on your workflow and personal preferences.

The very basic way is to get a drum virtual instrument, which could be as basic as a standard General MIDI synth, and record your own drum rhythms in using the MIDI grid to place notes either manually, or by recording and using a keyboard or drum pads to trigger the drum notes.

Another way is to use drum loops which are pre-canned audio or MIDI clips of drum patterns. These are normally either 1, 2, 4 or 8 full bars of drum patterns which you can drag to a track and copy and paste as many times as you need. The libraries which provide these usually have a good mixture of styles as well as different fills and phrases so you can differentiate between different sections in your song easily.

The MIDI versions tend to be better as they can easily adjust to different tempos, and you can select which MIDI instrument to use, so you can pick different drum sets.

Some DAWs may come with a bunch of drum loops. I know Mixbus and the latest versions of Ardour do, and I believe Garageband and Ableton do too. I don’t know about Reaper.

If you don’t have any drum loops, then you can get commercial packs from places like Groovemonkee or goldbaby products but you might want to try SampleSwap or Looperman for free ones.

A third way is to use a clip/cue launching capability in the DAW, if it has one. I don’t know if Reaper does. This is something that’s most famously part of the Ableton DAWs and is supported by some other DAWs like Bitwig, Mixbus, and Ardour. This uses pre-canned loops again, but, rather than pasting these into a track to build the drum parts, you can create the drum parts using a sort-of list which describes the patterns. It’s a bit difficult to describe this fully, so it’s easier to show it. Here’s a video showing it in Mixbus:

A fourth way to do drums is to use a plugin like MT Power Drums or EZDrummer which have their own internal drum composition engine which, on a basic level, does a similar thing to pasting a bunch of MIDI loops into a track, but they have more advanced and easier to use composition capabilities, once you get over the learning curve of using the plugin.

Personally, I tend to use a combination of clips/cues in Ardour with pre-canned drum sequences for quick results. Dragging loops into a track wouldn’t be too much more work. I’ve not really dabbled with MT Power Kit or similar, although it’s something I’m interested to try when I get the time.





I’ve been using EZDrummer with Reaper for a number of years but depending on your usage its not cheap. The available samples are quite extensive for building your own tracks but I tend to drop in Guitar Pro midi files where possible. A good thing is that it runs standalone, so you can just run it outside of a DAW for desktop percussion if you are just messing around aka improing !


Your overview of four ways of doing drums has been a useful starting point Keith. I’ve spent a couple of hours starting to look into them. So far I’ve not found a link between clips/cues and Reaper either way but I came across a forum post describing writing the drums in an editor such as muse score (?) or Guitar Pro, exporting MIDI and pasting to a Reaper track. Sound similar?

On the Reaper forum I’ve found several recommended packages including EZDrummer.
I’ll probably trial Sitala and MT PowerDrums first simply because they are free and Kenny Gioai has tutorials on them. What decided you on EZDrummer? Did you try any of the free plugins at all?

I have an electric piano with MIDI connections. I’ve had it around 30 years and bought it second hand. I wonder if it could be used as a controller? Would standards have changed over that period of time?
It all seems a bit strange talking about these methods without actually mentioning a pukka drum set! Although that would be out for me. No room for one.

Not at all. But that is another valid approach. I have, previously, used Hydrogen drum machine to build grooves and then bounced these into Ardour.

I used the term “bounced” here because what I did is not really the same as an export/import operation. But I could have done the export MIDI from Hydrogen and import into Ardour too.

It sounds like Reaper doesn’t have the clips/cues capability, bit that’s not a major blocker as there’s plenty of other approaches.

Yes, it can, as long as you have a MIDI interface. The beauty of MIDI is that the standards haven’t changed much since it was launched.

I kind of assumed that was out otherwise, if it was an option, you would have mentioned it up front.

A pukka drum kit assumes you can play drums.

An acoustic kit would require a fairly decent microphone setup to record.

An electronic kit can be used to record MIDI but, believe me, getting a decent recording this way can be hard and it’s not an approach I would recommend unless you are already a semi-decent drummer.



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I started with MT Power. I think it sounds good, at least nobody ever complained about the sound of drums on songs I shared (other than sometimes saying I mixed them a little to soft :rofl:).

It also comes with a wide range of presets, actually a better set of presets than EZ Drummer has when you first purchase it (needless to say, lots of further presets one can purchase).

I have no interest in trying to record percussion with a drum pad or midi controller. I prefer to listen to presets and come up with what works and sounds good, which includes fills. Drop those onto a track in Reaper and you are good to record over that.

Once you get the hang of that then you can get more clever and route from the MT Power’s internal mixer to individual tracks for the different drums so you can add more fx to say the kick and snare to fine tune the sound, but it took me ages, maybe years, before I discovered and made use of that feature. Initially the mixer in the plugin was good enough.

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A few of the old time recorders on the old forum were using it when I first started doing multi track projects. So I just followed the recommendations and was happy with the outcome.

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Having watched the Kenny Gioia tutorial on Sitala a couple of times last night I’m going to do the same with his tutorial on MT Power. He makes it look easy using Sitala with a grid editor but I’m pretty sure I won’t find it so!

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If it is anything like his usual videos, just take your time and do it step by step. Kenny is always thorough but sometimes you need baby steps to get the processes ingrained.
Have fun !

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He’s also very quick! At least he is for this tired ol’ brain!


I’ve added the MT Power Drumkit plug-in to reaper and messed around. First impression is that the grooves are very similar. Maybe I haven’t checked out enough of them. There are quite a lot. I do like the fact that having dropped a groove on a track you can open an editor grid and change it.

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