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I’ve been recording bass guitar and double bass remotely for nearly ten years and what I’ve noticed is that more and more people are using these kinds of services every year. It used to be that even pro musicians I work with were surprised about remote sessions but, now, many talented musicians across the world offer their services online. This article explains some of the key tips to doing it successfully as well as what clients are generally looking for.
Remote session services are incredibly useful for library, TV and film composers who need recordings quickly and within budget. Since they don’t need to hire a studio and deal with all the associated costs, they can get the musician to work whilst they continue to work against their deadlines. Amateur and hobby musicians are a huge market. They get to have world class performances on their projects in a way that would have been prohibitive a few years ago.
Clients generally look for a few things; communication and trust being very important. Being easily contactable at all times gives the client peace of mind. It sounds obvious but getting back to a client quickly is also vital. As you are obviously not physically with them, you need them to trust that you will be professional. Time keeping (in the non-playing sense!) is perhaps the easiest way to show that you are someone to be taken seriously. You are also part of an important musical collaboration and – being remote – need to be especially aware of what the client wants from you and when they want it by. I had a situation where a producer was presenting a song to a record company in the afternoon and needed a very last-minute bass line to add some life to a demo. I needed to record and send the bass line within an hour for him to be able to add it to his mix and being easily contactable allowed me to do that.
Offering a wide choice of gear to get a specific tone is important. I use what I think will be the best gear for the job but clients sometimes like having a choice. It goes without saying that the gear should be well maintained and ready to go. I find my 1978 Fender Precision Bass works for many jobs, but I own a range of bass instruments of one kind or another. That enables me to offer double bass, electric upright, fretless, 6 string, acoustic bass guitar or a particular vintage tone. The point is that, as a session player, you need to be able to play a lot of styles and sound authentic at the same time.
You need to be prepared to morph into different working situations to suit a project and be able to adapt to different personalities and ways of working. You can find yourself working with top professionals as well as hobby musicians. The latter can be the most inspiring to work with as they are extremely passionate about their projects. But they may not always be able to communicate what they want you to play as well as the pros can, and their backing tracks may not be as polished. You have to adapt to the different situations you are presented with. A film composer once sent me a 3000 bar Logic file with an accompanying PDF of the score; scary looking but extremely useful and therefore relatively straightforward. I’ve also received backing tracks that were played more or less completely free form, without a click and lacking in harmonic content. You have to get the job done regardless.
You never want to rush a session, but people want their audio files quickly, so they can get on with the production of their tracks. This is especially true of the TV, film and library composers I work with. Being able to record to a very high standard and get the files across in a short time period is essential. This is very convenient for clients in places like America and the Far East (I’m in London) as they can wake up with a new recording in their inbox to approve and suggest amendments.
Finally, treat it like a business. Whilst the process is undoubtedly creative and fun, as an online session player you are the engineer, player, fixer, coder, web designer, manager and sometimes producer. You are involved in every step from securing the work in the first place to getting paid, offering discounts, working on the SEO of the site, etc. You must be prepared to work at it, learn new skills you never thought you would need (or even knew existed!) and be passionate about giving it your very best each and every time you hit record.
Dan Hawkins has been recording bass guitar and double bass remotely (online) since 2010. He has played on over 1000 tracks for hundreds of clients all over the world. Online Bass Player is a quick, pain free and affordable way to get professionally recorded bass on your music. All kinds of people use the service and Dan’s bass has been heard on TV, films, jingles, EPs, albums and demos from enthusiastic home studio musicians to top industry professionals. For more info, head to www.onlinebassplayer.com.