EM Editor's Note: Flying Solo

Current recording technology allows us to be totally self-contained in our studios. Properly equipped, we can record fully arranged songs, using real and/or virtual instruments—even a full virtual orchestra—without interacting with another human being. With enough musical and technical chops, we can produce, mix, and even master our music—all by ourselves.
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Current recording technology allows us to be totally self-contained in our studios. Properly equipped, we can record fully arranged songs, using real and/or virtual instruments—even a full virtual orchestra—without interacting with another human being. With enough musical and technical chops, we can produce, mix, and even master our music—all by ourselves.

The rise to prominence of electronica, and the technologically influenced nature of today''s pop, hip-hop, and R&B music, is due in large part to the ability of individuals to create music, at least in part, on their own. Deadmau5, the subject of this month''s cover story is a case in point. Even though I do a lot of solitary productions myself, I would argue that there is a d

ownside: We''re not collaborating as much as we used to. Working alone is a different process than working with other musicians. By combining the musical input of a group of people, or at least more than one person, you get different perspectives, fresh ideas, and a different outcome than what you''d get producing by yourself.

I''m not saying this is always preferable or practical; there are more logistical issues involved in working with others. You have to schedule things in advance, and there is always the possibility of personality conflicts (one of the biggest problems in band situations). Then there are disagreements on how loud to mix the vocals or that guitar solo, or whether to use an electric or acoustic piano patch, and so forth.

Still, if you''re one of those recording musicians who work solo all the time, you might find that occasionally bringing in another musician gives you a breath of fresh air, creatively. One great way to do this is through barter. These days, virtually every musician has some sort of studio, and so your colleagues and you can trade off being session players for each other. Don''t charge each other—unless you''re working on a project with a budget, then by all means a session fee should be paid—but do work out a payment deal in advance in case the project ends up getting licensed or making money in some other way.

Although it''s better to record together in the same studio, you can easily work remotely, if need be. Send reference tracks to each other (all starting at bar 1, beat 1) with instructions on what you want, and send finished files to each other via FTP. There are also online music-collaboration services that provide you with facilities to work together remotely, and even make it easy to find people to work with all over the world. Sites such as ejamming.com, digitalmusician.net,indabamusic.com, and esession.com are just a few examples.

My overall point: Mix it up. Don''t always work by yourself. You just might find some cool new directions for your productions by incorporating other players'' musical input.