How we create virtual performances

This edition of “Ask OP” is a response to some questions we’ve received about our recent video about creating virtual performances. It is a written summary of and supplement to the material covered in the video. 

THE ZOOM CALL

Our first step is a Zoom call in which we discuss what song to perform, if we want to make any changes to the arrangement, or in the case of our performance of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” to create the arrangement. Since we have not been able to rehearse or even visit with each other in person since before the pandemic, interacting via Zoom, rather than just on a conference call, makes the meeting feel more inspiring.

THE CHART AND THE PLAY-ALONG

Using either Finale or its offshoot PrintMusic, a lead sheet for the arrangement is created and shared via Google Drive. Anthony Fesmire then creates a play-along track with Logic Pro X, including MIDI drums and bass with a scratch guitar part. The track is then mixed down, both with and without bass and sent to David Lockeretz.

Virtual Performance blog post image 01

ADDING THE PARTS

David Lockeretz, using a PreSonus Audiobox USB 96 with Studio One software, imports the file and adds his bass track. After completing it, he sends just the bass track back to Anthony, who imports it back into Logic Pro X. The new track is then sent to David Oromaner, who adds his drums in the same manner, also with Logic Pro X. With a completed rhythm section track in place, Anthony adds his final guitar parts. 

Virtual Performance blog post image 02a

Importing the play-along and exporting the finished bass track. Note in the second image that the play-along is muted so only the bass is heard in the mix that is sent back. Note too how the date is part of the file name to help make sure that the most recent version of the track is being used.

MIXING AND MASTERING

After the rough mixes are finished and heard by all the band members, Anthony will do a final mix and then master the track. 

VIDEO

As we are recording the audio tracks, we also record video on our smartphones or computer cameras. David Lockeretz sometimes prefers to record the video and audio components separately: “This approach can take longer, but I like being able to focus on one thing at a time. By locking in the audio recording that I’m happy with and then filming myself playing along to it, I feel looser when I’m doing both steps. On a tune like ‘Northern California Highway Song’ where there’s a bass solo, however, this approach doesn’t work as well because it’s hard to replay something that’s improvised. If just a note or two is off, I can let it slide, but I don’t want it to be obvious.” 

After the videos are completed, Anthony puts them together with the audio track in Final Cut Pro.

Virtual Performance blog post image 03

CHALLENGES OF REMOTE RECORDING AND VIRTUAL PERFORMANCES

According to David Oromaner, “The biggest challenges are time and communication. When you’re doing something remotely, if you have an idea, instead of mentioning it face to face, you have to send an email and you’re waiting for the response. You’re waiting for someone to get back to you, which could take a day or two. But the end result is really inspiring in that we are all in different parts of the country and can still do this kind of work together.”

Lockeretz adds, “It does require a few extra steps; my parts tend to be more ambiguous at first, leaving the other players different options for what they can add on. After I hear what one of them did, I may end up changing my part. The convenience of digital recording is a blessing and a curse: it’s great to be able to record a part from my own home on my own schedule, but it’s tempting to keep editing and tweaking beyond the point of which the track actually sounds better.”

WILL OUTSIDE PEDESTRIAN CONTINUE TO RECORD REMOTELY AND PERFORM VIRTUALLY?

Lockeretz: “As a geographically spread-out band, yes. In 2020, we did a total of four virtual performances, complete with new audio and video, and we also did some short promos for Anthony’s new solo record, so we are getting used to the process, figuring out what works best for us. Of course, we are looking forward to playing and recording in person when circumstances permit, but if there’s been one good thing to come out of the pandemic for us it’s that we were inspired to explore this new way of creating music.”


Here is another article about creating a virtual performance.

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