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Introduction to Sends

When using sends to their full potential, graduating to projects that use them from those that don't could be as much of a boost to your productivity as graduating from working entirely with single-track environments to multi-track mixing. The greater flexibility, power and economy of effort they provide does come at the price of potential confusion however, so this article describes how sends work, some basic cases where they would be useful and provides a step-by-step guide to setting up a basic send in Reaper.

Sends in Theory: Respect the Master

It can be easy to forget that the master track is the hub of any project. In most cases, when a project is complete, you only ever render out the contents of one track, the master track, which is the repeater to which, by default, all audio is *sent* so that you can hear it. When you solo a track, you're not isolating that track so only that track itself plays audio to you. Instead, you are making it so that only that track's audio reaches the master track, which plays whatever it receives to you in the normal way.

Think of each track like a railway track. Normally, it starts with whatever audio you feed it, winds through whatever effects you choose, one after the other, and eventually ends up at the terminous - the master track, along with all the other tracks. When you add sends to a track, you ad branch-lines to your railway network, meaning that there is more than one possible route audio can take. In all likelihood, these branch-lines will still terminate at the master, but they will have got there a different way, passing through different effects etc. This means that you could have two different versions of the same audio end up at the master or just the version that got shunted off via your sends.

When you create a track that is to receive audio from a send, it's very important to remember that the media on the track isn't copied over. The sending track simply broadcasts the audio to the receiving track, which listens and relays.

Creating a Send

Here is a step-by-step guide for creating a basic send in Reaper. In this example, we will be adding a reverb to a click track, which will be easy to replicate without a microphone etc.

Step 1: Create a track and call it click.

Step 2: Insert a click source by pressing alt i, then cursor down until you find click source. At default tempo, this will give you 6 bars of click track, which is basically the netronome sound made into an editable media item.

Step 3: Create a second track and call it effect.

Step 4: ensure you have selected track 1 and press i, which will bring up the routing dialogue.

Step 5: Tab until you reach "Add New Send", which is a combo box. Press cursor down once until you hear your target track's name and number, in this case, "2: effect".

n.b. This combo box behaves rather unusually. If you hover on it for too long having made a selection, it will automatically add the send so, in a project with more than one possible track to send to, make sure you don't hover on the wrong track. Also note that, by default, it is impossible to send a track's output to itself.

Step 6: Press enter. You're done! Your send has been created. To confirm this, solo track 2 and play your project. You should still here the click.

Step 7: Add whatever effect you desire to track 2. Omniverb, available from the VST archive accompanying this course, is recommended because, by default, it does not mix any of the dry signal in with the reverb.

 !!What's the point?

Although we have successfully created a send, it has little or no value. You could just as easily have added the reverb to the click track directly and configured its parameters as desired.

Economy of Effort

Sends often have much more value when there is more than one of them going to a particular track, as in this more practical example.

Say you're producing a cover of a Queen song complete with all its lush harmonies and you want all the different vocal parts to have the same reverb so it sounds as though all the singers are in the same place at the same time. You have three options:

  • Add the reverb to each vocal track individually.
  • Create a folder for all the vocal tracks and add the reverb to that.
  • Create an empty track, send all the vocal parts to that track and add the reverb to it.

We can quickly dismiss the idea of adding the reverb effect to each vocal track individually as, not only would it take longer, but it would also be harder on computer resources than either of the other two methods.

Folders are very useful and powerful. Although a detailed illustration of their function and implementation is beyond the scope of this article, they basically create a virtual buss or sub-mix, meaning that changing parameters of the folder track would change the parameters of all the tracks within it - pan, volume, effects etc. The disadvantage to this method is that, when using a folder, there is no way to vary the amount of reverb with which each vocal track is treated. Using sends, you can still control the proportions of processed and unprocessed signal for each track individually. This is called adjusting the wet/dry mix. this is ideal for our scenario, as adding more reverb to backing vocals can make them sit further back in the mix, which can help give the lead vocal its prominence.

In order to explore how to do this, we will return to our simpler example and take a closer look at the routing dialogue.

Highlight track one and press i, bringing up the routing dialogue once again.

The cursor appears in a volume edit field. By default, it is at +0.0 DB. changing the values in this edit field will alter the track volume and therefore adjust the level on the reverb on track 2 in proportion. the louder the sound, the louder its echo.

Pressing tab once takes you to the field where you can edit track pan. The consequences of editing this parameter on what you hear when soloing track 2 will vary. When using the default settings for omniverb and setting pan to either 100right using mono audio, the volume of the audio on the receiving track is halved because it is receiving one channel of audio not two.

Pressing tab again brings you to the width field, which, by default, is set at 100%. Adjusting this parameter to less than 100% will collapse the tracks stereo field. The consequences of editing this parameter on what you hear when soloing track 2 will vary depending on the audio you are sending. There will be no effect in this example as we are dealing with mono audio.

Pressing tab again takes you to the "Track Channels" combo box, which allows you to designate how many channels you want that particular track to have.

Pressing tab three times will take you through the three sliders that correspond to the edit boxes mentioned above - volume, pan and width.

Pressing tab three more times will take you to another volume edit field. This controls the volume of the audio that reaches the receiving track. It does not control the volume of the receiving track, neither does it control the volume of the sending track, but only the volume of the audio being broadcast. Adjusting this will allow you to alter the amount of wet, i.e. processed audio, in the wet dry mix.

Decreasing this value by six DB will halve the volume of the audio upon which the reverb can act. The echoes will therefore be half as loud, but the dry signal will remain unaffected. This will provide the illusion that we are closer to the audio source.

By contrast, increasing this value by six DB will double the volume of the echo, which may start to swamp the dry signal, making it sound further away.

How to adjust the dry signal without affecting the wet will be discussed in a future article.

Parallel Effects Processing

Effects in Reaper are added in series by default, that is to say one after the other in sequence. A dry signal goes through the first effect and then that processed signal goes through the second effect and so on down the line like a version of the telephone game, with the result diverging more and more from the source. What if you want multiple effects to be applied, but each one to follow the dry signal directly?

So far we have discussed applications of sends where one or more tracks are sent to one place. By sending one track to multiple places, we can achieve exactly that by applying a different effect to each receiving track. Returning to our click track example:

Using the steps discussed above, ensure that all volume and pan parameters are set to 0 and centre respectively, except the track volume for track 1, which should be set to -6 DB. You can do this from the routing dialogue or by selecting the track and pressing alt cursor down, or by using rea console.

Create two additional tracks and call the first Skutterbug and the second Auto-filter.

Select track 1 and press i to open the routing dialogue.

Tab to "add New Send" and press cursor down twice til you get to "2: Skutterbug".

Press tab in order for the selection to take. n.b. It is difficult to tell, without using NVDA's object nav or your screen reader equivalent that the selection has taken. If in doubt, select the track you just tried to designate as a receive and solo it, ensuring all other tracks are unsoloed. If you hear the click track, you were successful.

Assuming you haven't left the dialogue, press shift tab to get back to the "Add New Send" combo and press cursor down 3 times til you get to "4: Auto-filter".

Press enter, which will make the selection and exit the dialogue.

Add the arcdev Skutterbug effect to track 3 and the Classic Auto-filter effect to track 4. These are available from the free VST archive.

Play your project and you will hear that we have developped a more richly textured sound and that each effect exists independently of the others.

Since the dry click track isn't really adding anything to the sound and is doing little but raising the volume of the project, we can stop its output reaching the master track, so that only the processed versions will get there and be audible.

To do this simply access the routing dialogue and tab until you reach "Master [Slash} Parent Send", which is a checkbox. Uncheck this box by pressing NVDA numpad enter with NVDA and numpad slash when using the Jaws cursor with Jaws. You can confirm that track 1's audio isn't being sent directly to the master by soloing it. With all other tracks unsoloed, you should hear nothing.

You will note as you tab through this dialogue that there are delete buttons as well as pan and volume controls for each send that you have created, meaning that you can adjust where each version of the click source sits in the mix, both in terms of panning and volume.

To demonstrate the contrast, here is an audio file containing the first six bars of audio processed in the way described above and then processed without any sends, each effect being added in the following sequence - omniverb, Skutterbug and Classic Auto-filter.

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Page last modified on November 22, 2016, at 07:30 PM