• Michal Šinka

Your 2019 Guide to a Remote Recording Session

As a composer or songwriter, you most likely play an instrument or you sing. But what if you need to record an instrument in your song that you can't play yourself? Of course, you'll hire a session musician to do it for you. As explained in my previous post, you'll probably want to hire a remote session musician. In this post, I will walk you through the process of a remote recording session, so that you know what to expect and make sure you've done everything to have your tracks recorded successfully.

a remote recording session

Choosing the Musician

The most important thing is to choose the right musician (read: an instrumentalist or a vocalist). If you are part of the musicians community in your area, you may know somebody suitable just by word of mouth. If not, there are plenty of platforms online where you can browse through dozens of musicians offering remote recording sessions. I personally have good experience with SoundBetter but there are many more, such as Airgigs or even Fiverr. Look at the reviews of the musician and definitely listen to their portfolio. You want to know if they are experienced in the genre that you need!

First Contact

Once you've selected the session musician that you want, provide them with as much information about your project as possible in your very first message. It will help them make you the ideal quote and you will get your tracks at least one, more likely several emails faster. :-) Besides the obvious ones like your name and email, the information to include in your first message is the following:

  • mp3 of your song with a detailed description (genre, length, intended use)

  • character of the required recording - a lead instrument/vocals? accompaniment/background vocals? both?

  • style of playing and/or sound that you have in mind for the instrument/vocals to be recorded (e.g. crunch guitar sound with bluesy feel)

  • will any kind of compositional input be required by the musician or are the tracks fully through-composed? if the latter, will you provide sheet music or a lead sheet?

  • if applicable, do you require processed or raw tracks or both?

  • reference song, if you have one

  • is it work for hire?

  • required timeline

Based on this information, the session musician should definitely be able to make you a custom quote. If you write anything less than this, chances are they will have to get back to you for some additional info before you receive the quote. Whatever you do, do NOT just send them an mp3 and assume they will know what to do! There are tons of "right" ways to do it and they might choose one that you won't like.

Depending on the platform that you're using, you may have to pay the quoted price or a partial deposit at this stage.

Additional Info for the Recording

Before the start of the actual remote recording session, send the musician stems of instrument groups (ideally as WAV files) rather than just a stereo bounce. Musicians sometimes prefer to hear less rather than more in order to play with a better "pocket". Especially in a recording session, having the option to mute some instruments can therefore be priceless!

There is also a bit more information to provide the musician before they start recording:

  • do you want doubling of tracks for stereo effect? if so, which tracks?

  • what is your desired output format: WAV or AIFF? what sample rate and bit depth?

  • should something turn out to be unplayable or not idiomatic to the instrument, are they free to adapt it or should they contact you first?

Then you just wait till the magic happens during the actual remote recording session. :-)

Condenser mic in a recording studio

After the Recording

There are two common scenarios for what can happen once the recording is done (hopefully within the agreed upon time frame). 1) The session musician will send you the recorded stems for you to import in your project session and evaluate. This is common in situations when the musician has been paid up-front. 2) They will send you a stereo mix of your original track with the new recordings, likely via a streamable non-downloadable link (this is what RGT does). This is common in situations when you pay on delivery.

Either way, now is your time to evaluate the recordings and provide revision requests. Depending on the agreement between you and your session musician, there may be one or several rounds of free revisions. Revisions are the substitute for your live feedback that would take place during a traditional recording session, so you should pay attention to them. I will dedicate a future blog post just to revisions.

Once revision rounds are completed, the musician will send you final recordings as stems in your desired output format. Under scenario 2, you will first be required to pay the full quoted price (including additional revision rounds). Then you just import the stems in your project session and mix on!

Remote Recording Session Saves Time!

If up until now you have been hesitant about hiring a remote session musician, I hope this guide has helped you change your mind. Find a good player, provide them with all the information according to this guide, and you have nothing to worry about! Just relax and trust them that they will send you exactly the result that you want, if not better. And in the meantime, use the saved time to make more awesome music!

Oh, and in case your instrument of need is guitar of some sort and you don't feel like browsing for the right session guitarist yourself, just let us know! We will find them for you. ;-)

And what is your experience with remote recording? Let me know in the comments below.

#remoterecording #sessionmusician