FX on the Master Track in REAPER

Thought I’d share this Kenny Gioia tutorial to the folks in our Reaper community here. I’ve been stuck in today feeling mhew after my Covid booster yesterday and have not felt like playing. So instead I have been catching up on some Reaper tutorials and came across this one.

I rarely put anything on the Master Track but what Kenny show here, can really make you tracks pop. No doubt some of you out there do something similar but I would guess there will be more who will find this an eye opener or should that be ear opener. Did for me :sunglasses:


Ah I almost ALWAYS use the master track for some last stage comp and soft limiting. Need to check this video as soon as I have some uninterrupted quiet time ^^

Whoa, I didn’t recognize the face, but the moment the voice started I thought I was in a parallel universe. He doesn’t look like he sounds.

Thanks a lot Toby. I’ll bookmark this one. Finding the right video on the site is a challenge.

I set up my master when I set up the project. @DavidP wrote out a worksheet for me that’s been very helpful.

Hope you feel better real soon. :bat:

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Thanks for sharing, Toby. I’ve said it before and will say it again, Kenny’s videos are a priceless asset in the Reaper Community. I’ve never yet come up empty handed when wanting to learn how to do something in Reaper. Much like my guitars, I am nowhere near tapping out the potential of Reaper.

While the video demonstrates the use of EQ, compression, and limiting on the Master track using Reaper and it’s stock plug-ins, users of any other DAW could learn from it from a principles perspective, and just do the same in their own DAW with it’s plug-ins.

I do the same with a small twist.

The first thing I create in Reaper when starting a project is a track I call SONG. SONG is routed to the Master track. Then I create two more, INSTRUMENTS and VOCAL. For these two I turn off routing to the Master and route them to SONG. All my other source tracks then route to either INSTRUMENTS or VOCAL.

I then do what Kenny did on the SONG track, but place the Loudness meter on the Master. The main reason for this is it enables me to do A/B listening in the project to either a reference mix or different versions of my song. The reference mix is added to the project and routes to the Master. Now I can listen to that without having to turn my Fx that influence the sound on and off in the Master.

The INSTRUMENT and VOCAL tracks are useful to balance vocal level on the track. I can adjust only those two faders to achieve that while maintaining the overall sound of the instruments and vocals in the mix.

I’ll often take this another step and have a Track for DRUM, BASS, GUITARS, etc. Again simplifies that leveling process when there are multiple guitars in the mix. I can easily work on different levels of the mix that way.

The extent to which I use this depends on the arrangement of the song.

I don’t use Reaper I use Ableton instead and they have a lot of “mastering” plugins which you use on the master track to finish things off. In fact to be honest that’s what I use most of the time once I’m happy with my pans, levels etc on the other tracks (guitars, vocal, drums). The only other thing I might do is some additional effects on the drum track (they have some good plugins for that too) and on the vocals.


Thanks Maggie, I suspect another 24 hours feeling pants, then back to normal!
Whoa sums it up exactly, I think he changed his video intro style late last year, as I have seen a couple when I thought Kenny ? Noo ! As you say voice and visage don’t match.

Definitely worth a look. :sunglasses:

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Good share. I tend to do similar if I have more than 5 or 6 tracks. I don’t have a separate pre Master track like your song track but will group intruments/vox via type, especially where I have used a collection of strings and synths. I have a couple of go to templates for those types of projects, which saves setting the up from scratch each time.




As David says it all applies to any DAW. I guess if you are getting a DI input that matches what you want or are expecting to hear, there is not much of a need to fiddle at a track level, with lots of FX.



I think the most significant benefit in using the pre-Master tracks is that allows the Master to be free of sound-altering fx. So you can easily bounce back and forth between a current mix and a reference.

That said, I so struggle to find a reference track.

Ditto. Templates are another great time-saver.

I’m sure there loads more time-savers in Reaper that would increase my efficiency that I am unaware of.

I don’t spend enough time in Reaper, so also forget keyboard short-cuts and how to do things. Very frustrating when I know I’ve done something in the past and then can’t remember how and have to research to figure it out again.

LBro would be telling me to keep a notebook right about now with the go-to things written up to aid the memory :laughing:

Yes I can see that make sense, especially if you have multiple FX on the pre Master, master :sunglasses:

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I don’t know about Reaper but as I tend to have just one Master “Rack FX” I can just turn that off and on in Abelton with a single button so I can easily reference it with it on and off without the need for an additional track.

You can do the same in Reaper ie turn all the fx on or off on a track.

The challenge with all on or all off is that sometimes I put metering or other analytical plugins on, and it is helpful to have those working when doing A/B comparative listening.

Then the second issue is that I want the fx like EQ, compression, etc on for my song and off for the reference track. In Reaper I am able to toggle the track solo button on two tracks with a single click, which is great for comparative listening. This wouldn’t work as well if I also had to keep turning master fx on or off. I suppose one could built a single key stroke that did both actions but having the SONG track is a simple solution and works well for me, with no downside that is obvious to me.

Makes sense and I guess whatever works for you is the key thing. It’s minimal work really to bounce things to additional tracks, just a click to add a new track and then a drop down/knob to change the routing so it’s no big deal however you do it.

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