Recommendations on remote music recordings of individual session players for the modern musician.
Updated: Sep 26, 2022
Dear reader, perhaps you are a fellow composer, a musician, a producer or something along those lines. If you have ever though about hiring remotely a band or different instrument players for a music project you are working on or will work on in the future. I am positive that you will find the following information and recommendations useful.
For this article purposes this is what I mean by:
Remote recording: Music is recorded (usually in a Home Studio) by the musician employed himself. Composer/Producer is not present in any way at the recording place. They will wait for the musician to send them the files when recorded.
Hybrid recording: Music players are recorded remotely (Usually in a studio or home studio in another country) using an audio transfer system like Audiomovers or VST connect, (Similar to a zoom meeting). Composer/Producer is remotely connected and can see and hear what is happening live in another place.
In person recording: All music players are recorded in the same physical space (Usually a Music Studio) and at the same recording session. Composer/Producer is physically present with the studio musicians.
First, I would like to point out that having even one real human player recorded (in person, remote or hybrid) enhances sound of the music you composed and/or are working on. There is something that live players do that is yet to be seen replicated properly on an instrument library software, humans tend to sound better to our ears when compared to samples. That being said, you would like to have a good player and there are also other things one should take into account when hiring remote musicians like the actual place of the recording, I will tell you why is important.
Acoustic space blueprint
The sound of the room where the music is recorded is crucial, each physical space has its own sonic characteristics and properties, a closet sounds different than a bathroom just as a living room sounds different than a cathedral or a music studio.
Usually if the room is not acoustically designed or acoustically treated, the recordings on that physical space will be affected in an "unpleasant" or not so desirable way, after all there is a reason why professional music tend to be recorded in music studios (all kinds of) and not in a laundry room.
Certain production practices can help you get a more desirable recording, specially when any acoustic instrument (like Violin, Viola, Cello, Flute, Sax, etc.) is being recorded. Allow me to share with you some of the practices I follow myself when I hire professional musicians to record themselves remotely to then send me the audios:
Audio Repairing and Spectral Editing
As I mentioned the place where the recording will be held it is important, and if the person we are hiring do not own a home properly treated music studio we could try to approximate to make it sound like if it was, but we will need some tools in order to achieve that. Personally, I would suggest to get an audio repair software like Izotope's RX or Steinberg's SpectraLayers in addition to your current DAW software tools (EQ, Filters, channel strips, etc.), or even advanced third party transient and tonal modifier plug-ins like Eventide's Split EQ might also come in handy.
Tools like the ones mentioned above can help you fix unwanted reverb of a particular place, clean up spectral noise and de-escalate harsh sounds without making them sound too unnatural, these tools basically give you more potential control over the raw audio recordings. This is useful as it should make mixing more manageable and allow us to add our own reverb or process effects in our audio chain to as many instruments/tracks as we want with a more convincing result.
For example, it can make our instrument tracks sound more like if the individual recorded instruments were in the same physical/acoustic space, even if they were not. This practice can enhance the cohesiveness and quality of your music track.
If possible , research and ask about the gear that will be used for your recordings
If possible always ask what is the recording system that the session players will use, what interface, microphones and gear they have available for the recordings that they are going to send you later, knowing this information can make you take different decisions regarding the actual tracking (recording) as you might suggest or ask them to use "this microphone option over the other" to achieve a certain sound. Maybe you like the sonic qualities of one microphone they have and you know of, or maybe some players might have a similar or even the same microphone than other players have, which again, could potentially make the recordings sound more cohesive, which in that case should make tracks easier to mix. Basically the more you know about the production process the more potential control you have to achieving your musical creative goals.
Pros and Cons of going the remote recording compared to in person or hybrid recordings
More potential player options as it can be virtually anyone in the world with access to internet and a recording system
It usually need more audio editing or clean up to maximize the recordings
Difficult passages become more "doable" as players tend to have more time for the recording and can even edit themselves if necessary
Communication with players is limited as you are not face to face and might even have a different time zone
It tends to be more budget friendly as you might end up saving many studio hours or even the studio rental at all
If the players are not together when doing the recording, they can not match or adjust precisely to each other
If you are new to spectral and audio repair, there is a learning curve you need to pass if you want to make the most out of your recordings
Thank you for reading, I hope this was useful, if you have any doubts please comment and I'll respond. Sincerely, OCK.