Adding An Effect To Just Part Of An Audio Track In Reaper

Updated On
Ken Theriot
adding and effect to only a part of audio in Reaper
Adding an effect to just a section of audio

Have you ever been working on mixing audio tracks in a digital audio workstation (DAW) program (such as Reaper, Pro Tools, Sonar, Ableton Live, Logic Pro, etc.), and wanted to apply an effect to only one small section of a track? There don't seem to be any obvious ways to do it, since effect plugins are almost always applied to the entire track. Well though it isn't obvious, there is a quick and easy way to do it in Reaper. Here's how.

What's In A Track?

First it might be handy to review what a track actually is. Basically, it's just a container that we see on the screen of a DAW, usually stretching horizontally across the screen. See Figure 1.

Empty track in Reaper
Empty track in Reaper

When you record (or insert) some audio, it goes into a track - you can see the "blobs" (the non-technical term for how audio wave forms are visualized:-P) in the track as you record them. When you stop recording, you have created an "audio item" in a track. See figure 2.

Reaper track with audio item in it
Figure 2 - Track with audio item in it

You can add more audio items into the same track, either by recording more audio or inserting a previously recorded audio file. You can also slice up a single audio item. There are several reasons someone might want to do this, but let's say you have recorded a voice onto a track and want to apply an effect - say, reverb, for example - to JUST one word or phrase of that audio.

Usually, when you want to add an effect in Reaper, you click the "FX button on the track control panel (the area on the left of the track with all the buttons and knobs), and select your plugin. The assumption is that you'd want to apply that effect to the entire track. But that doesn't help us here, does it? We only want that one phrase to have the reverb on it (this could be any effect though, like EQ or compression, etc.).

Split That Audio

Split audio in Reaper
Figure 3

Reaper allows you to apply effects ONLY to an audio item in a track, even if you don't have an effect selected in the track control panel. So in our example, you'd need to make your phrase its own item by "splitting" it. To do this, highlight the phrase and then right-mouse click anywhere on the audio item. This displays a drop-down menu of all sorts of things you can do to your audio item. We are looking for "Split items at time selection." See Figure 3.

The keyboard shortcut for this action is "Shift+S." It places a split at the edges of your selection. So be sure those edges start just before your phrase and end just after it.

Put Effect Only On Your New Item

So now that you've created a new audio item for the phrase you want to put reverb on, right mouse-click on your phrase to launch that drop-down menu again. This time, choose "Item Properties," which brings up the Media Item Properties box. See Figure 4.

Reaper Take FX
Figure 4 - Take FX

You want the button at the bottom that says "Take FX." The term "take" is another word for "item" - as in "take 1, take 2," etc. Anyway, clicking that button allows you to choose a plugin the same way as the "FX" button on the track control panel. But it will only apply that plugin effect to your item - exactly what we wanted. Cool, huh?

It takes a lot longer to explain that to actually do. It's really easy and can be very useful for a number of things. Maybe you want to use EQ or compression to fix some audio problem in only a couple of places on a track. You can also use this technique to turn the volume down quickly on just a piece of audio by dragging the top of the item down.


So if you were wondering how you could apply an effect to just one small part of a track without affecting the rest of the audio on that track, now you know how to do that in Reaper.

10 comments on “Adding An Effect To Just Part Of An Audio Track In Reaper”

  1. Thanks for your tutorial, but, I´ve experimented issues when spliting audio,..a serious "click" noise that persists still when glued and healed items, and crossfading is not an option when, lets say, I´m working in a guitar lead part trying to add a feedback effect to the last note or a long delay 🙁

  2. Leonardo,

    That CAN happen. Yes. But you can avoid the click with the fades on an item. Also, that is why you should never glue a clipped item if you don't need to. You slice out a section and THEN you can adjust the fade until things are seamless.

  3. ThankYou Ken. Ive been needing to know that Answer & solution. I know that I can do it in MagixMM2016 DAW & it always comes put sounding great, but I didnt yet know how to do it in Reaper. You Sir have taught me a nifty & Invaluable; "trick of the Trade". Cheers, God Bless & Happy Recording.

  4. This worked perfect. no problems whatsoever. thanks mate! cheers. - Another technique is to clip the portion of the track you want to add effects to and cut and paste it down to a new track, but your method is far better and easier and looks better in the DAW.

  5. But can I set an item to ignore the track FX? Havent found an answer to that yet. Or maybe I have...

  6. No Graham. If I didn't want a part of my track to be affected by a track effect, I'd just move that section to another track - probably right below the one with the rest of that audio.

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