How to Use Virtual Keyboard in Reaper

Understanding the Virtual Keyboard Interface

Before diving into creating music with the virtual keyboard, it’s essential to understand its interface. The virtual keyboard can be accessed through the “View” menu in Reaper’s main toolbar. Once opened, you’ll see a graphical representation of a piano keyboard with keys ranging from A0 to C8.

Selecting the Virtual Keyboard Input

Reaper offers multiple ways to select the virtual keyboard as your input method. The most straightforward method is by clicking on the virtual keyboard icon in the toolbar, which will automatically set it as the default input device for MIDI notes. Alternatively, you can assign a custom shortcut for quicker access.

Entering MIDI Notes

With the virtual keyboard selected as the input method, you can start entering MIDI notes right away. Click on the virtual keys to trigger individual notes. To adjust the velocity (note intensity), click and drag your mouse upwards or downwards on the keys. This feature allows for dynamic and expressive performances directly from your computer.

Using the Virtual Keyboard Modes

Reaper’s virtual keyboard offers various modes to cater to different musical needs:

1. Keyboard Mode

The default mode is the “Keyboard Mode,” where the virtual keyboard behaves like a traditional piano keyboard. Each key corresponds to a specific note, making it ideal for melody and chord composition.

2. Drum Mode

Switch to “Drum Mode” to transform the virtual keyboard into a drum pad. In this mode, each key represents a different percussion sound, making it perfect for programming drum patterns.

3. CC Mode

The “CC Mode” (Continuous Controller Mode) enables you to use the virtual keyboard to send continuous controller data. This is useful for automating various parameters, such as modulation or panning.

Customizing the Virtual Keyboard

Reaper allows you to customize the virtual keyboard to suit your preferences. You can adjust the size, color, and layout of the keys. Additionally, you can enable or disable features like velocity sensitivity and aftertouch, depending on your MIDI controller setup.

Recording Virtual Keyboard Performances

To record your virtual keyboard performances, make sure to arm the appropriate track for recording. Click on the record button, and Reaper will start capturing your MIDI input from the virtual keyboard. You can also quantize your recordings for tighter timing or manually edit the MIDI data in the piano roll editor.

Integrating Virtual Instruments

Now that you know how to use the virtual keyboard, it’s time to take your music to the next level by integrating virtual instruments. Reaper supports VST and AU plugins, allowing you to load various virtual instruments such as pianos, synthesizers, and orchestral sounds.

Editing MIDI with the Piano Roll

The piano roll editor in Reaper is a powerful tool for fine-tuning your MIDI data. Double-click on a MIDI item to open the piano roll. Here, you can adjust note lengths, velocities, and even add expressive techniques such as pitch bends and vibrato.

Utilizing MIDI FX and Plugins

Reaper offers a wide range of MIDI FX and plugins to enhance your virtual keyboard performances. Experiment with arpeggiators, chord generators, and MIDI effects like delay and reverb to add depth and complexity to your music.

Saving and Managing Virtual Keyboard Presets

Creating presets for your virtual keyboard setups can save you time and effort in future projects. Save your preferred settings, including custom layouts, colors, and assigned shortcuts. Reaper allows you to manage and organize presets for easy access.

Tips for Efficient Virtual Keyboard Workflow

Here are some tips to optimize your workflow when using the virtual keyboard in Reaper:

  • Familiarize yourself with keyboard shortcuts to speed up navigation and editing tasks.
  • Use the virtual keyboard alongside other MIDI input devices for versatility.
  • Experiment with different scales and chord progressions to spark creativity.
  • Explore Reaper’s online community for virtual keyboard presets and templates.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I use the virtual keyboard if I don’t have a physical MIDI controller?

Absolutely! The virtual keyboard in Reaper serves as an excellent alternative for those who don’t have access to a physical MIDI controller. It provides an intuitive way to input MIDI notes directly from your computer.

Q: Is the virtual keyboard velocity-sensitive?

Yes, the virtual keyboard in Reaper is velocity-sensitive. You can control the intensity of each note by clicking and dragging your mouse upwards or downwards on the keys. This feature allows for expressive performances.

Q: Can I use the virtual keyboard to control external MIDI devices?

The virtual keyboard in Reaper is primarily designed for internal MIDI control. While it may be possible to use it to control external MIDI devices, it is recommended to use a dedicated MIDI controller for better performance and accuracy.

Q: How can I switch between different virtual keyboard modes?

To switch between different virtual keyboard modes (Keyboard Mode, Drum Mode, and CC Mode), simply click on the corresponding icons located on the virtual keyboard interface.

Q: Can I resize the virtual keyboard for better visibility?

Yes, you can resize the virtual keyboard in Reaper to your liking. Simply click and drag the edges of the virtual keyboard window to adjust its size.

Q: Is it possible to load multiple virtual instruments and play them simultaneously using the virtual keyboard?

Yes, you can load multiple virtual instruments in Reaper and play them simultaneously using the virtual keyboard. This allows you to create intricate compositions with various sounds.


In conclusion, the virtual keyboard in Reaper is a powerful tool that empowers musicians and producers to create music with ease. Its intuitive interface, customizable features, and various modes make it a versatile addition to your music production workflow. By following the guidelines in this article, you’ll be well-equipped to make the most of Reaper’s virtual keyboard and take your music to new heights.

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