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HSS Episode 053-Online Collaboration Best Practices

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Release Date: 08/12/2020

HSS Episode 056-Musicians and Depression show art HSS Episode 056-Musicians and Depression

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ANNOUNCEMENTS Live Mix of Mark George's song "Ghost Dance" as well as Marcel Walden's Mix break down of "Out of the Blue" Sign up for Membership of $9.99 a month and receive every tutorial I have made and any I will make in the future so long as you are still a member!     EAR TO THE GROUND   Whether for work, school or doctor's appointments, almost everyone has used Zoom. But for musicians who want to play together online during the pandemic, the popular conference call platform doesn't cut it. Musicians and scientists on opposite coasts have been trying to find...

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ANNOUNCEMENTS Both the September and the October edition of the HSS Song Contest is over, and the submissions for the contest just keep getting better! September Winner - Micheal Reynolds - Grey October Winner - Mark George - The Other Side of Sound If you'd like to get involved in the next song contest be sure to click the link in the show notes, or if you're watching on YouTube check the description of this video for any applicable links. The November Edition of the song contest is soon coming to a close and the deadline for this one is the 30th There will be a December Song...

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ANNOUNCEMENTS The August Edition of the HSS Song Contest is over with Mark George coming out on top as the winner. Although it was incredibly hard to choose a winner, Mark’s song,  “The Other Side of Sound” was picked due to its arrangement, it’s clarity and balance, as well as the interest it generated even as an instrumental piece. You can hear the song and listen to my comments on it here: ()   The September Edition of the HSS Song Contest is on!    Here are the guidelines for the contest. Original non-copyrighted work  No lewd lyrics or vulgarity ...

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ANNOUNCEMENTS The July Edition of the HSS Song Contest is over with Gary Brun coming out on top as the winner. Gary’s song was chosen by a panel of judges that I had arranged to be on the show for the livestream. () The August Edition of the HSS Song Contest is on! () -One file per submission -No copyrighted material -MP3 or WAV format  Wanna join the HSS Session Players? ()   EAR TO THE GROUND -THIS MONTHS 3 FREE PLUGINS HAS BEEN REPLACED BY ONLINE COLLABORATION TOOLS- 1. Flock With Flock, team members can exchange messages, share files, host video conferences, manage to-dos,...

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View the video version here: Warren Huart is on the show to take questions from the audience as well as just provide a ton of value (as usual).  Wanna learn from Warren? Join the Produce Like A Pro Academy here: If you join before August 1st, post your screenshot here to be entered into the drawing for the Audio-Technica headphones!  

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Watch the video version of this episode here: https://youtu.be/1-STwaPePTE ANNOUNCEMENTS Quarantine Song Challenge Ends Welcome back my fellow fader finaglers! Well, The Quarantined Song Challenge has officially come to a close and the results are in, Chris Sanders was voted as the winner and had a ton of support from the community over on the YouTube channel as well as in the live chat. With a towering amount of vote his submission "The Garden Song" won out over everyone else! Stick around to the end of the podcast, I'm going to play you the song that won! After the closing of the challenge...

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ANNOUNCMENTS Quarantine Song Challenge-  We have had several submissions for the Quarantine Song Challenge and there has been a ton of talent represented! Due to time availability and the decreasing number of submissions, I believe it's a good time to bring it to a close. So, the final day for entering the QSC will be this Friday, May 22nd. The voting will begin the following Monday on the live stream as we all listen one last time to all the submissions and vote on them together. (There will also be offline voting available for those that missed the stream, but it will all take place on...

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Watch the video version here:  

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ANNOUNCMENTS Quarantine Song Challenge- Are you a musician or instrumentalist that has currently found yourself indoors more than usual, and with extra time on your hands? Well, in order to break up the monotony and create a little fun, I am doing a "Quarantine Song Challenge".   Details: Starting Friday April 10th, I am giving all who would be willing, a challenge. The mission should you choose to accept it, is this: Create a song within a 2 week time-frame. That would put you handing in your final submission on Friday April 24th. This should be a version of your best rough...

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ANNOUNCMENTS Recent live stream success - HSS Live-Artist Spotlights 006   EAR TO THE GROUND 1 New music is no longer a thing, thanks to a pair of lawyers who created an algorithm to write every single  that can possibly exist. Rather than claiming all music as their personal property, however, the duo have released their entire catalog of tunes into the public domain, in the hope that this will bring an end to copyright lawsuits.   Lawyer, musician, and programmer Damien Riehl came up with the idea after realizing that all singer-songwriters are essentially...

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-One file per submission

-No copyrighted material

-MP3 or WAV format 




1. Flock

With Flock, team members can exchange messages, share files, host video conferences, manage to-dos, and set up calendar events all from one easy-to-use app. Flock integrates with popular business tools such as Google Calendar, Google Drive, Asana, MailChimp, and Twitter, making it easier for team members to stay on top of things without juggling a dozen different apps. 

Flock’s free plan gives your team:

  • Unlimited team members and one-to-one messages
  • 10 public channels for group conversations
  • Unlimited 1:1 video calls
  • 5GB storage for file sharing and 10K message history for quick search
  • Built-in productivity apps such as shared notes, polls, and reminders 
  • Unlimited integrations for third-party services, such as Asana, Jira, or Google Drive

Need more room? Flock PRO unlocks enhanced admin controls, group video conferencing, unlimited channels, guest accounts, more file storage, and access to priority support. At just $4.50 per user per month, we think it’s a steal, but our free plan is pretty generous and well, free. It’s your call.

I like the sound of this one so much that I am going to try and integrate this immediately to see how it works! Wanna test it with me? (https://hsscollab.flock.com?i=1k8l2322e813eli1)

2. Slack

If you’ve heard of team chat, you’ve probably heard of them. IM, channels, video calls, integrations and bots for hundreds of third-party tools; Slack has it all. But the free plan limits you to 10 service integrations, so choose wisely.

Slack’s free plan

  • Unlimited users, messages, and channels
  • Unlimited one-to-one voice and video calls 
  • 5GB storage for file sharing and 10K message history
  • Up to 10 apps or service integrations

For video conferencing (up to 15 participants) and guest accounts, you’ll need to upgrade to a Standard plan that costs $6.67 per user per month. There’s also a Plus plan that adds more features at $12.50 a user per month. 

3. Microsoft Teams

Initially an exclusive for businesses with Office 365 subscriptions, Microsoft Teams has since launched a free plan for small businesses. We love its innovative features such as inline translation for messages and the ability to record meetings with automatic transcriptions. Also a plus, its deep integrations with OneDrive and Office 365 services.

Microsoft Team’s free plan

  • Up to 300 users
  • Unlimited messages, channels, and search
  • Unlimited audio and video meetings with up to 250 participants
  • 10GB of team file storage + 2GB per user
  • 140+ apps and service integrations

For advanced collaboration features such as meeting recordings and automatic transcriptions, you’ll need to pony up for an Office 365 subscription.  Office 365 Business Essentials costs $5 a user per month and the full-featured Office 365 Business Premium will set you back $12.50 a user per month.



1. Check File Formats

Producers: Be clear about what format you work with — bit rate, bit depth and file type.

Musicians: If you don’t know what the producer needs, don’t be afraid to ask! They’ll probably appreciate that you did. If you aren’t sure how to calibrate those sorts of parameters in your DAW of choice, the producer will probably be able to guide you. (Hint, it usually just involves a couple of clicks in your DAW’s “preferences” menu.)

2. Deliver Same-Length Consolidated Tracks

Producers: When you send off files to your remote collaborators, the easiest thing to do is usually to provide a mix of the song with a couple of bars of silence at the top. If you want to go above and beyond, you can include a 2-bar count in.

Musicians: When you prepare your takes to send off, it’s usually easiest to make sure they’re the same length as the mix you were tracking to. If there was silence at the top, leave that in your tracks. The producer should be able to import your tracks into the beginning of their session and start working with them right away. Preparing tracks in this way works more or less like printing stems. Cakewalk has this option and it’s really easy!

Please, whatever you do, don’t send anybody a bunch of short files that have to be lined up manually.

3. Label Tracks Properly

If someone hires you to play on their song and you send them back a bunch of files with names like “Audio02.0003,” I promise you they will never hire you again (especially if you also ignored my previous point). Give tracks names that illustrate what they are: “dark synth pad,” “bridge flute melody,” “backup vox 1a,” etc.

Labeling tracks clearly is especially important when sharing instruments recorded with multiple mics, like a drum kit. Don’t assume that a producer will be able to hear that “Drum 5” is a floor tom and “Drum 7” is an overhead. Give those tracks and files names that make it clear exactly what you’re handing over.

4. Provide BPM, Charts, References & Mock-Ups

This point goes out to producers specifically: the best way to get great takes from remote session players is to set them up to succeed. Find out what supplemental materials and information will help them the most and give it to them.

Clearly labeling BPMs is a good first step, and if you’re sending a temp mix for players to track to, including BPM somewhere in the file name is a good move. Some players may prefer having the song broken into multiple stems so they can build their own monitor mix. If so, ask them how they’d like those stems broken down. If you’ve made a mock-up of the part they’re recording, they’ll likely appreciate having that on a separate track that they can mute while recording.

Many players will also appreciate getting some sort of written notation. Even if a full-on score isn’t necessary, chord charts and notes on the structure of a song can be very helpful. Remember, every minute a session player spends trying to understand what you’re asking from them is a minute they’re not spending recording their parts. Make their lives easy and they’ll repay the favor by giving you takes that you love.

5. Set Clear Expectations

When I have someone record tracks for me remotely, I usually trust them to apply whatever processing they think helps make their instrument sound good. Some producers may prefer to get tracks bone dry. Some producers may want that screaming guitar solo you just recorded to come with a clean DI take to have as a backup.

The point here is that everyone works differently, and it’s never safe to assume that a collaborator will automatically know what you need from them. If it’s unclear what a collaborator expects from you, there’s no shame in checking in with them. Remember, it’s much harder to get what you want if you never really ask for it!

6. Provide Alternate Takes

This point goes out to musicians recording parts remotely: If a producer is giving you free reign to “do your thing” on their track, they’ll probably appreciate having a few different versions to work with. A standard way of approaching this is to provide “mild, medium and spicy” takes that range from being more sparse to more adventurous and busy. The producer may have more specific ideas in mind though — a take with a swung feel, a take in a higher octave — so get clear on what they’d like to have from you.

Keep in mind — providing lots of alternate takes doesn’t get you off the hook of having to deliver files that can be organized easily. Be prepared to label the different takes in ways that make clear what they are, or to provide notes when you share files.

7. Record at a Healthy Level

In the days when all recordings happened on analog tape, a producer’s MO was usually to capture signal as hot as possible without clipping, so that it would sit above the noise floor introduced by all that analog gear. That hot signal would also benefit from some natural compression introduced by hitting the tape hard, and sweet saturation from almost everything in the chain.

In the average home recording setup, though, we’re more likely to run into a different set of issues. Most home studios now don’t include any kind of tape setup, and the noise floor introduced by a buzzing refrigerator in the other room or a busy city street outside your window is only going to get louder as preamp gain goes up. And while vintage consoles often really shine when driven to the edge of the red, the preamps on a mid-shelf audio interface are more likely to introduce brittle, shrill distortion when cranked.

I usually ask long-distance collaborators to record tracks with peaks around -12 dBFS. Signal at that level is loud enough to sit above most noise floor introduced by recording gear, but far enough from the ceiling that no distortion will be introduced by the preamp being used.

8. Leave in Some Noise

There’s some pretty sophisticated noise reduction software available these days, and chances are your producer has access to some of it. It can be tempting to want to clean up noise in dead spaces of a song, either by manually deleting spaces between phrases or using a gate.

I do appreciate it when collaborators do some of that cleanup for me. In order to get the most out of noise reduction plugins like iZotope’s RX suite, though, it’s much easier to have a section of pure noise that the software’s algorithms can “learn” in order to more fully remove it. As always, the safest move is to check in about what the producer prefers!

For those of us who have only used our home setups to record demos, it can be daunting to have to record tracks that will go on someone’s record. For producers who are used to sitting in a room with an artist while they record takes, it can be difficult to get what they’re looking for without being able to give feedback in real-time.

Fortunately, it’s only getting easier to clear these sorts of hurdles, even if we all have to make some adjustments. Hopefully, now you’ve got a sense of some big ways you can make long-distance collaborations go more smoothly.

What other sorts of problems have you encountered with recording remotely? And what kind of creative solutions have you come up with? Let me know in the comments!

Alright, that wraps up today's episode of the HSS Podcast. If you’ve found it helpful drop a comment and let me know. Feel free to share this with anyone that you think it may help as well, and remember if you’re watching this on the YouTube channel to Subscribe to the Channel and hit that beautiful little bell icon that alerts you when there is new content dropping or a Live Stream is about to go down.


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