Getting Started With Handy Drums Plugins – REAPER

To get going quickly with Handy Drums plugins, first, make sure that you have installed the plugins you intend to use.

Before using the software, you must authorize it by entering the serial number (license key) you received with your purchase. Here is how to authorize Handy Drums. Alternatively, you can run our plugins in a FREE TRIAL mode.

Handy Drums Plugins: What they are and what they are not #

Handy Drums are virtual drum instruments. They can be used as plugins inside DAWs or as standalone apps. Think of Handy Drums primarily as sound modules that can be played live using a MIDI controller or by routing MIDI loops into them. They are the software equivalent of acoustic drums and percussion instruments and, as such, require a “performer” to play them (either a human being or MIDI loops).

We designed Handy Drums to be straightforward to use and to give you a beautiful, produced, finished drum sound right from the get-go.

They can also be used as standalone apps on Windows and MacOS computers. In that case, you can either play them live using MIDI controllers (eg. electronic drums) or by playing loops directly inside them using the built-in MIDI Loop Browser (Handy Drums v2.0+ only).

Handy Drums are not drum machines.

How To Load Handy Drums Plugins Inside Reaper #

In this tutorial, we will show you how to load Handy Drums inside Reaper’s arrange window.

  • Right-click in the empty area of tracks and select “Insert Virtual Instrument on new track.”
  • Navigate to your Handy Drums plugin of choice and click ADD.
  • Reaper will ask if you want to create additional multi-out tracks.
  • If you want a simple stereo track, select NO.
  • However, if you know you will use multi-channel mixing for your drums, it is easier to let Reaper create and connect them automatically now.

(We will cover adding these additional multi-channel tracks for more advanced mixing options later in the tutorial.)

The Handy Drums instrument plugin will load to a new track and open the graphic user interface (GUI). 

Playing a Drum Loop Through Handy Drums #

To play a drum groove through the Handy Drums plugins, you must either drop an existing MIDI drum performance onto an Instrument track with the Handy Drums instrument loaded or create/program a performance from scratch right on your Instrument track.

Audition MIDI Loops Before Importing Into DAW Project #

Beginning with Handy Drums v2.0, all plugins and standalone apps come with a built-in MIDI Loop Browser. This allows you to browse and audition any drum loops on your system and then import them via simple drag-n-drop.

It is shown here in Cubase but with identical functionalities in all DAWs.

In addition to previewing and importing MIDI loops, the functionality can also bookmark any folders or loops for quick access. It can also sync tempo and playback controls with your DAW and allows you to play MIDI files inside Handy Drums without the need for a DAW.

The dedicated document covers the MIDI Loop Browser in detail. Make sure to read it to fully take advantage of its capabilities.

Importing MIDI Loops Into Reaper Without Auditioning Them First #

To import an existing MIDI file into Reaper without auditioning it first:

  • Locate the MIDI file you want to import using your folder browser (or Finder if on Mac).
  • Drag the desired file onto the Handy Drums track in the arrange window.

Reaper will ask for some input to understand your midi file better.

For Handy Grooves midi loops, we recommend the following settings:

  • Leave all boxes unchecked in the first prompt, “Midi File Import.”
  • Leave the default “Multichannel item on single track” selected from the drop-down menu in the 2nd prompt.

Enabling Plugin Multiple Outputs Inside Reaper #

As mentioned before, it is easier to let Reaper do all the routing automatically when first loading a Handy Drums instrument into a newly created track. However, if you previously only created a single stereo track for Handy Drums, you can add more channels and route them manually.

To set up multiple plugin outputs in Reaper, do the following:

  • Inside Handy Drums, decide which stereo output you want each component to go to. For example, Kick 1+2, Snare 3+4, etc…

Make a mental note of which stereo pair you connected each component to.

  • Next, create several Mixer Tracks in the mixer (as many as you have sends) and rename them with meaningful names (ie, Kick, Snare, etc.)

It is time to connect the Handy Drums sends with your newly-created mixer channels.

  • Inside the mixer view, click the “Routing” button on your main Instrument track that contains Handy Drums.
  • Click “Add new send” several times (for as many drum components you previously routed inside Handy Drums GUI)
  • From the “source” drop-down, select “new channels on sending track” and then the stereo pair that contains Kick, for example (1+2).
  • Move to the next send, and select a stereo pair containing Snare (3+4) for the source.
  • Repeat the action for the remaining components.

This should have automatically routed the components to newly created tracks, but in case it did not or you need to change the routing manually, do the following:

  • On your first desired mixer track, click the “Routing” button. 
  • In the “Receives” section from the audio drop-down menu, check/select the relevant send source (for example, 1+2 for Kick)
  • Move to the next channel and check/select a source for Snare (3+4) in our example.
  • Repeat for any other channel you want to query.

Now that everything is working well, let us dive deeper into Handy Drums features and functionalities.