Using Reaper for Punch and Roll

Recently the question was asked in the very informative Twisted Wave user group on Facebook how to use the Reaper software program ( for producing punch-and-roll audio files. If you’re not familiar with punch-and-roll, it’s essentially a method often used in long-form reads (corporate narration or audiobooks) that lets the narrator set the cursor just prior to a mistake, listen to a playback for one or two seconds, and then pick up the narration at the point where the mistake occurred.

Voiceover technical guru George Whittam introduced me to Reaper about three years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since for audiobook work. What I like about Reaper is the ability to have the audio prior to the punch-in driven through my studio speakers. The program cuts off the feed to the speakers at the instant it hits the cursor position I’ve selected, and switches on the mic. I have the “pre-roll,” the time period that Reaper backs up from the cursor point, set to two seconds, but you can choose longer or shorter amounts of time. Once you’ve worked with it some, you can produce some pretty clean audio files, although you need to practice some so you’re not clipping off breaths or the beginning/end of words.

Rather than describe all of the settings necessary for punch-and-roll in Reaper, I’ve copied a number of screen shots from my Reaper setup. (You can click on the screen-shots for larger images.) I hope this helps.

preferences_select IOStarting with the basics, you need to open a new project in Reaper, and then choose Preferences to make sure Reaper “sees” the piece of equipment you want to use for your recording (your DAW). Here I’ve chosen to use the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.




Project_settings1The default project usually comes up with a new track already added, but if for some reason there’s no track, just choose Track from the top menu and Insert New Track. Then set any project options in the File > Project Settings Windows





Project_settings2(Project Settings and Media tabs)







Set inputsIn the track window, you should see a little red signal bouncing around, indicating that you’ve got a feed from your mic. If you don’t see the red signal, click the drop-down button in the window that says Input and make sure you’re set to the correct Input (the Scarlett 2i2 has two possible inputs, as shown in the window.







Options ScreenFor setting up the punch-and-roll, this is probably the most confusing window setting; it’s under the Options navigation choice. There are several settings to make. Record mode should be normal. Ignore the references for “auto-punch.” Choose the “New recording…” dropdown item as shown in the screen shot, and choose “Trims existing items behind new recording (tape mode). Also choose the “Show all takes,” “Item Grouping Enabled” and “Automatically scroll view during playback” as shown.



Metronome SettingThere’s one more item for punch-and-roll, also on the Options tab. Choose Metronome/pre-roll > Metronome/pre-roll settings. Uncheck the metronome if it’s checked. Go to the bottom of the window, and choose “Pre-roll before recording.”








Render1To start your recording, look at your track block and make sure the little red button in the upper left-hand corner is lit. That means the track is “armed.” Start your recording with the red button in the Transport item (View >Transport if it isn’t showing at the bottom of the track window.  When you’re done with your recording, your audio file is actually a collection of audio files. You want to “Render” the file to a single .wav file. Go to File > Render.





Render2In the “Render” window, choose the location where you want the file to be written, the type of file, etc. Then click “Render 1 file” at the bottom of the window.







Those are the basics for creating a punch-and-roll file with Reaper. There’s a lot more that you can do with this program, but keep in mind that it was written for musicians, not voice actors. The program comes with a complete technical manual if you want to delve into things, as well as a pretty good quick-start guide. If you’re interested in trying Reaper to set up punch-and-roll, they offer a free 60-day evaluation, and the cost is a reasonable $60 (if you will make less than $20,000.00 while using the program). ;>)

About Gary MacFadden

Gary MacFadden is a voiceover professional specializing in audiobooks, eLearning, and narration. He became the editor of the print and online versions of the VoiceOver Insider in 2011, putting his journalism and business management experience to good use. For 25 years he was the spokesperson and Executive Director for the Adventure Cycling Association, America's largest recreational cycling organization with more than 40,000 members. When he's not in the vocal booth, Gary enjoys piloting his classic Cessna Skylark around the northwestern states.


  1. Dear Gary,

    I am a voice artist who is looking for SIMPLE punch-and-roll for a Macintosh. Can you recommend one for beginners that has punch-and-roll? Reaper is too complex for me.


  2. Veleka, I private messaged you about this. There’s a relatively new piece of software out that will work on the Mac (or Windows) that has punch and roll built in. It’s called OcenAudio. It’s worth trying out, because it’s FREE. — Gary

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