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  • Writer's pictureMatt Wong

3 Essentials for a Successful Remote Recording Experience

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

3 Essentials for a Successful Remote Recording Experience

By Matt Wong

I first found out about remote recording three years ago. I was still in college, and from studying the music from the golden age of recording, I began to learn about the studio musician profession, and the musicians who contributed to those amazing records. They are my heroes. At the same time, I was learning about the evolution, and realities of recording, and I became fascinated by the fact that today, we are able to open up a file from someone in a different country and make music with them. Since then, I have recorded for artists and producers worldwide in six countries, playing on demos, lots of short 15 and 30 second library tracks, and a few polished songs. I certainly do not earn the bulk of my income from recording, but I have done enough where I have developed, through much trial and error, an efficient work flow that ensures a productive, and enjoyable session for both my clients and myself.

Session guitarist Matt Wong working on a remote recording session

In the age of Covid-19, most, if not all performing musicians are out of work, and many of us are taking advantage of remote recording and teaching work. When I started writing this, I had just finished prepping stems to send to an artist in the UK that I had overdubbed parts on two songs for, and earlier in the week, I was tracking the guitar parts for the theme to a sketch comedy pilot that my friend Dean Scarlett composed. In the spirit of building community, I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts on making remote sessions work, and hopefully help those who are jumping into this stream of income in these uncertain times. This is 3 essentials for a successful remote recording experience.

1. Reliable Gear

When I say reliable gear, I do not mean lots of, or expensive gear. Aside from your instrument, and computer, you really just need a mic, a cable and stand for the mic, an audio interface, a digital audio workstation (DAW), and headphones. Regardless of what gear you do have however, you need to have it in order. This means no buzzing, or pops in your signal. For guitarists, that means also checking your pedals, cables, and the tubes in your amp, as well as making sure your instruments are set up and tune up properly. In addition, you want to know whatever gear you choose to use inside out. When you are being creative, the flow of your session has a big impact on your playing and ideas, and you want to spend your time making music and not troubleshooting gear. This is especially important when the client is participating on the session in real time via video call, and you need to work fast to maintain that client's confidence in you.

2. Clear Communication

On some sessions, clients may observe and contribute to the session via FaceTime or Skype. This is good, because you want them to take responsibility for their parts. On other sessions, they are not present, and are placing a great deal of trust in you to make magic happen. This is also good, because you get to work at your own pace, and experiment a bit more. However, when this is the case, it is crucial that you maintain crystal clear communication with the client. Important things to discuss beforehand range from the due date for your overdubs, to the bit depth and sample rate of the track, to the tempo of the song. The amount of direction varies from client to client, but check if they already have any ideas in mind. Maybe they are hearing a particular sound or tone for one of the song sections. Ask for references to other songs or artists. This will eliminate potential headaches further down the line for both you and the client, and will keep the need for revisions minimal.

3. Flexibility

Musicians are in the service industry, and should always standby for change. Do not get attached to your parts. If a client asks if you can try something different, the answer should always be "sure can" or "you got it." It might be discouraging at first, especially if you spend a lot of time and effort in crafting what you thought was the perfect part, but in the end, it is not your song, and not your call. On the bright side, if you come up with a part that inspires you, and you play it with conviction, the client will dig it too more often than not (that's been what I've experienced).

I hope you enjoyed this post, and found some value in it. While remote recording is not new, the circumstances that musicians find themselves in currently are uncharted, and this is an excellent way to stay creative, and tap into a new income stream. If I can be of any help to you, please feel free to leave a comment, drop me an email, or DM me on Instagram (@mattwongguitar). Stay safe and healthy!

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