Good Practice for Successful OMC
Online Music Collaboration has a lot of scope that may well go well beyond what i am covering on this site. but from my own personal experience here are a few pointers for a good code of practice and some things to consider when you are going to embark on some OMC!
Compressed or Uncompressed Audio?
Uncompressed audio files are raw audio files for example WAV or AIF that suffer no loss and are large in size. Compressed files such as Mp3 are reduced in size (the smaller the size the lower the quality of audio) so can sometimes be preferable for transferring and uploading to reduce times. Another format which would be a popular choice for OMC are Lossless formats such as FLAC and Monkeys Audio which are compressed to make them smaller but then can be reconstructed from the compressed data to be made to sound as the original. This might be something to think about if you have a slow internet connection or are limited as to how much data you can send. You might want to send compressed files such as mp3 back and forth when you are building a track to speed transfer times and then send the source files later on when your close to finishing the track.
Use of MIDI
Midi stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a protocol that allows electronic instruments (with midi or USB outputs and inputs) to communicate with each other. MIDI does not send audio information but sends event information i.e. note on, note off or pitch etc.
When recording a part using your sequencers and software instruments you might record using an external keyboard. This would be connected via a MIDI cable. If you’re collaborating on a project and your remote partner has the same sequencer and software instruments you might want to consider sending midi parts back and forth. The song files will be very small in size and can be downloaded very quickly.
When embarking on an OMC session with a remote partner who is online at the same time, you will need an effective immediate means of communication between you. The quickest and most effective means is a voice/video link which is much quicker than typing. If that is not possible you can use methods such as Instant messaging or online chat rooms such as IRC chat rooms if there are a number of you. A lot of the OMC tools mentioned previously have their own things built in also. If there are a number of you on a session you might consider setting up a conference call in Skype or Google+ so you can all see each other and talk to each other with immediate effect.
Sending Files and File Placement
If for example you’re working with someone who uses a different sequencer from you, then you won’t be sending whole song files or folders. You’re more likely to be sending single audio parts i.e. a drum break or a guitar riff. It is important that the file you send is easy to place into the session at the other end so it is in the right place in the timeline. There are a number of ways you could do this. If for example you are both working in the first 16 bars of the track and you record a little guitar part between bars 7-8, then you might consider exporting the audio for bars 1-16 to send to your remote partner. Although you’re sending more data than you need to, you are ensuring that the file is coming in at the right place at the other end. It is generally better to send a part that has an easy to place start time and end time i.e. bars 10 – 15. The actual recorded audio might be from bars 10.5 to 13.5.
Common Plug In / Instrument Setup
If yourself and your remote collaborators are all using the same sequencer then it might be a good idea to all agree on a common set of plug ins and virtual instruments that you will use for your sessions. This way when exchanging songs you can be sure that you are all hearing the same thing. If one of the collaborators has a plug in or instrument no one else has then they could always export the instrument or audio with plug in FX added as an audio file so everyone else can hear. One of the ways to do this is use your sequencers freeze track function or export audio to create the part.
Because your sharing your music on the internet you may want to state at the outset of your project how the track / parts can be used by others who access the files. Creative Commons provide a set of Copywrite licenses and tools that you can use for your project to set out how or what people are free to do or not to do with the music. A lot of the above mentioned OMC services allow you to attach a creative commons licence to the session from the outset
Public or Private?
Some people who embark on OMC might have specific people they wish to work with in private projects. If your working with some of the OMC services sites mentioned on this site, there is the option to create private sessions that you can invite chosen partners to join and you can work in private.
File Naming and Folder Organisation
As you would with your own local projects, when working with OMC projects it is important to keep file naming and folder organisation tidy. As you are going to be working with one or more other people it might be a good idea to all agree a protocol for naming of the files you are going to be recording and sending. It can be helpful to try and include some of the following in the file name –
BPM / Song Name / Number of Bars / Key / Instrument / Description of Sound
Also an attempt to organise project folders sensibly would help if you are going to be getting involved in lots of projects.