What Is a Remote Session Guitarist and Why You Need One
A remote session guitarist (also called online session guitarist) is a studio musician and engineer in one person who makes the life of a music composer easier by recording their guitar tracks in their own studio without the need of the composer's physical presence.
Recording Then and Now
Music technology has evolved greatly in the past two decades. I remember capturing my first music attempts using my parents' boom box and a blank cassette. Then VHS cameras became available (even my first YouTube videos were recorded with one of those - hope you enjoy that fantastic lighting :-) ). However, the sound quality was still way lower than what I can record today just using my iPhone.
Back then, if you wanted to record a song in good quality, you had to book a recording studio and an engineer. Most likely, you also needed session musicians, so you had to find, hire and coordinate those as well. Expensive, not very flexible, and, depending on where you lived, maybe not even possible at all. Today, a more flexible way to record music in top quality is available.
In a remote recording session, a session musician records your song in his own studio and then sends the finished tracks back to you. You don't even have to be there! You just send your song to your session player, add a description of what you need, maybe a reference song, and you're good to go. It's that simple.
What's In It For Me
You may be a songwriter, a media or film composer, or a producer. There is a good chance you need to record guitars for your tracks from time to time, since guitars are really hard to convincingly emulate using virtual instruments. A remote session guitarist might therefore be a great choice for you.
The flexibility of sending the track to a session guitarist and have it back with real guitars in it within a short time span is huge. An electric session guitarist can literally record your tracks in a CD quality in his bedroom studio overnight without ever disturbing her neighbors. Can't get much more flexible than that.
In addition, you don't have to book a studio or engineer, which means considerable savings. Even if you had to pay for some extra revision rounds, it will still be much cheaper than an actual studio. That being said, you should always strive for as detailed a description of your desired outcome as possible, so as to minimize the possibility of additional revision rounds.
And lastly, by finding a remote session guitarist, you may get access to better musicians than you otherwise would. This is especially true if you live in a small town or a rural area where the concentration of top musicians per square meter isn't that high like in LA or Nashville.
But... Isn't It All Risky?
I get it. You don't get to meet the person that is dealing with your song, which may seem scary. Can you trust them that they will actually improve your song?
There are a lot of guitarists online who record remotely. You have to do your research. Do they have a solid portfolio? Are they experienced in the genre you need? Does their website look up-to-date? If you're in doubt, call them. Talk to them about your vision, your idea for the song. Get to know them and let them get to know you. It can only make your song better.
Sometimes, a guitarist may have a great-sounding portfolio but is just lacking experience in the particular genre that you need. To be sure, ask them for a short sample of them tracking your song first. You will hear if you like it or not and all the guesswork will be removed. Plus, you should always have the option of at least one revision round included in the agreed upon price.
Firstly, depending on the project and your personality, you may find your not being present at the session a disadvantage. There are services such as Sessionwire that could overcome this problem, however, not all remote session musicians are technically able to work this way. In that case, you may find yourself better off booking an actual recording studio.
Secondly, you need to spend time choosing the right player. There are online platforms showing profiles of hundreds of remote session guitarists to choose from. Some are great at metal, others are really good fingerstyle players. Some excel at multiple styles. Some don't excel at all. You may not have the time to research them all. In this case, a service such as Remote Guitar Tracking will come very handy, since it finds the right guitarists for you.
Recording in an actual recording studio is a special experience. However, if you need to only record guitar tracks rather than an entire band, a remote session is the way to go. It's cheaper, more flexible, and if you don't live in an urban area with a high concentration of pro musicians, you may even be able to access better guitarists than those available to you in-person. There is a natural fear inherent in having somebody record your song, your musical baby, while you are not there. You can reduce or completely eliminate this fear by asking for a sample of their work on your track in advance.
I hope this article helped you get to know more about what remote session musicians do and why they may be beneficial for you as a composer or producer. If so, please consider sharing this post with your friends and leaving a comment below.