REAPER has very few Virtual Instruments. This can be considered a disadvantage of working with MIDI in REAPER, but I actually think of it as a great plus. Having few and simple virtual instruments has its own benefits: this makes the REAPER installer absurdly small, makes it possible to create portable installations, makes the license more affordable, and encourages you to find third-party virtual instruments that suit your needs properly, be it paid or free.
These are the virtual instruments that are bundled with REAPER, which on their own are very useful and lightweight.
All Virtual instruments will be grouped in the ‘Instruments’ tab on the FX Browser, except for the Instruments created using JSFX, I recommend creating a custom folder inside your FX browser for these.
ReaSamplOmatic is a very powerful sampler that allows you to load samples by dragging and dropping the files in the top area of the plug-in. It supports various sampling modes with the possibility to change the pitch of the sample. You can fully navigate the waveform display, even zooming and scrolling, which allows you to find those detailed spots even when you load a full song. And, includes a full ADSR envelope, looping, and even multi-layer sampling.
ReaSynth is a simple additive synthesizer. It includes a full ADSR envelope, various waveforms that can be overlapped into one another, portamento, and an extra sine wave that can be independently detuned.
You may confuse it as a modified version ReaSynth at first, but it is actually a simple drum synthesizer. ReaSynDr doesn’t have much of an interface, it just loads four sounds that can be triggered from any octave: Kick, Snare, Blip, and Tick.
The only button activates the multi-out option. You can activate it so that each element can be routed into its own external track.
JSFX are effects created using a programming language developed by the Cockos team. These effects are open source and can only be used inside REAPER. However, the community has created tons and tons of plugins out of these tools, including virtual instruments.
Aside from the built-in MIDI instruments, REAPER also supports multiple third-party effect and virtual instrument formats including VST, VST3, LVL, and CLAP. The virtual instruments created using either of these formats will appear with an ‘i’ beside the plug-in format (VSTi, VST3i, LVLi, CLAPi).
Here are some of the most used Virtual instruments in REAPER, including a few free ones.
Kontakt is the industry standard sampler that is used to load a wide variety of sample libraries, ranging from relatively simple to some of the most complex and detailed in the industry.
Some of the most renowned libraries are the Symphony series, studio drummer, GetGood Drums, Session Guitarist, Noire Piano, and the Output Analog series with Strings and Brass libraries. However, a good starting place is the Komplete Standard Suite.
Arturia has created some of the most functional and faithful recreations of dozens of the most iconic synths and keyboards, all in one place called Analog Lab V.
It includes Pianos, organs, and synth emulations like the Roland Juno-6, Mini Moog, Modular Moog, and E-Mu Emulator II. As well as some acoustic instruments.
Spitfire Audio created another sampler that is also very commonly used called LABS. It can load a series of free software instruments.
It has a minimalist interface with very simple controls and sliders, including an easily customizable knob. Bases, Guitars, Orchestras, Choirs, Brass, Strings, Woodwinds… you name it.
Vital is a quite complex wavetable synthesizer, similar to Serum. It allows you to warp the wavetables and shape the harmonics to create new sounds.
Vital has a very visually oriented workflow, you can see what’s happening with each parameter at all times, including multiple envelope generators, LFOs, filters, and a tab dedicated to extra FX like distortion, equalizers, chorus, flanger, etc.
Sitala is a quilt simple and free drum sampler. It has 16 assignable pads and six nobs per pad that allow you to adjust tone, shape, compression, tuning, volume, and pan.
It comes with a simple pre-loaded drum kit based on the classic Roland 808 sounds, but you can load samples from your explorer by dragging and dropping them directly into the wave display or any of the pads.
REAPER is a wonderful platform for you to discover new tools and virtual instruments. I like that Cockos doesn’t force you to pay for software with a bunch of added plug-ins that you may not use. Instead, you can bring the tools you’re used to using elsewhere, get new ones, or explore some of the most awesome free alternatives out there. I encourage you to not stay only with the recommendations of this list but make your own research instead. Happy recording!