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Music Project Collaboration Process?


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I've been offered an opportunity to collaborate with a fellow student on some game music. This isn't something I've ever tried before, even with basic songwriting, and I was wondering what people's workflow would be for something like this? We'd both be using different DAWs for one thing, so we couldn't easily share the project back and forth or anything. I'm so used to working with and keeping midi tracks, but obviously I'd need to print audio to send it over, which feels like committing to ideas way sooner than I'm used to. It all feels quite alien and uncomfortable. I don't want to waste too much time tripping over each other at the start, so any pro tips to help get a running start would be much appreciated. 

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Not sure if I'd call myself a pro, but I've done quite a few collabs, and as a matter of fact work is in progress to wrap up another collab, with me using Logic Pro and my collab partner using Pro Tools.

As you said, you probably have to resign to sending audio back and forth, but that doesn't mean you have to commit to something right away. What we did for the aforementioned collab is up front get a rough sense of who would roughly do what. Essentially who would focus on arrangement, who would do mixing & production, who would take what parts (e.g. leads, drums, bass). 

It ended up with me doing the bulk of the arrangement work, after my collab partner started me off with a very bare bones MIDI piano part that I rearranged, restructured, expanded upon, etc. Typically I'd work on it for a bit and share a rough WIP render that we would discuss a bit about on what needed changing, and then I would work on it some more. After the arrangement was fleshed out enough, we both would soup up our parts (polishing up the midi, recorded performances, etc) and I sent over my finalised parts for my collab partner to mix.

The big reason why this works well is that we had good communication throughout the process and up front were able to divide the work without getting in each others way. That's also what I suggested.

Another approach I tried once is a bit Frankensteinian; I did a collab where I did have the DAW the other guy was using (Renoise), but I didn't feel like leaving Logic Pro and switch back to a tracker. So I simply loaded up his project in Renoise, rewired Renoise into Logic so I would have the audio of his parts in my own DAW, and simply wrote my own parts and did the full track mixing in Logic. A bit cumbersome, but it worked.

Hope it helps!

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For another perspective, whenever I collab, I just ask upfront which of us would host things in a primary DAW (if in fact we are comfortable in different DAWs), depending on who feels better about mixing and project organization. That person handles the MIDI and plugin work, and "commits" to less when it comes to set ideas. Also, I find that it would make it easier, at least for one of us, to have an idea of what the big picture of the project is, as it isn't scattered between two DAWs.

In terms of what happens in between, typically I openly recommend that we often send rendered WIPs each other's way for feedback before finally sending the newest version of the tracks (rather than sending it because of a lack of inspiration or something and having the other fix it). That way, we minimize fudge factors in mixing, or reworking a performance, etc. because someone found a error in the middle of working on the track that would be frustrating to fix. It also keeps the shared vision as clear as possible so that we can both see what we both want.

On the other hand, if we have two people in different DAWs writing something and sending WAVs to each other, eventually it could get confusing whose ideas are newer (say, if one of them decide to work ahead because they felt inspired), so that's why I prefer to have one person doing things on a primary DAW between the collaborators.

Furthermore, if it is done that first way (well-defined roles), ideas shouldn't feel as "set", even if you're bouncing WAVs to send to the other person; because one person can write in regular MIDI, and the other person is bouncing WAVs, that other person can tell pretty easily how new their ideas are (although admittedly they might feel they have less control), and can update what they have at any time as long as the primary mixer doesn't mind some slight adjustments based on the updates.


You do what works for you, but that's how I tend to do it.

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