In the office block I work in, I noticed a flyer on the bulletin board near the coffee machine advertising a local adult rock choir. People get together and sing gospel, soul and rock tunes. Fantastic! What a rush it must be to sing in one of those! That got me to thinking. Why don’t these people do remote sessions for musicians that need a gospel choir or backing vocals in their recorded music?
Here’s how I think it could work: Choirs like these could advertise themselves on a web site dedicated to offering virtual session musicians (that sounds like an opportunity for somebody to launch one), or something like http://www.joinmyband.co.uk/, or maybe they could advertise through their own web site or a site like SoundCloud or ReverbNation. Musicians that wanted a rock choir on a track they were making could listen to some MP3 demos of the sound the choir makes. If they like what they hear, they could send in an MP3 of their unfinished track (with some legal agreements that say “thou shalt not steal my music”, etc.) with perhaps even some guide vocals to indicate what the choir should sing, if not a lead sheet or some sheet music. The musician pays the choir via PayPal and the choir sets to work.
Then, using one of the many laptop recording tools available (perhaps the free Audacity programme would do), the choir could sing along with the track and record their vocals. The requirement would be that the choir invests in some nice stereo overhead microphones and an audio interface, as well as some headphones and headphone distribution amps, to set themselves up for virtual session singing. This investment could be recouped pretty quickly, within a few virtual sessions.
The choir then sends the finished WAV file back to the musician, along with a royalty free usage license. The musician cuts the WAV file of the choir vocals back into the master of their track and continues to mix. If there are slight pitch problems, Melodyne or the pitch correction tools that are bundled with Cubase 5 could rapidly sort that out (actually, so could judicious use of pitch bend in a sampler like Kontakt, like we used to do in the old days). If the choir is slightly off time, VocAlign Project will fix that in a jiffy (I know this tool well).
To me, this would be preferable to using a sample library, because those take quite a lot of time to phrase and to get the expression right. You need to fuss around with automation to get a sample library to sound convincing. A real rock choir already phrases intuitively to suit the music they were given and they can sing with passion! It’s a much better fit.
If that works, it would be possible for all sorts of specialist musicians to offer their services as virtual session musicians. At prices comparable to decent sample libraries, the results for the musician hiring them would be, in most cases, superior to a sample library. It would give the session players another new income stream. For rock choirs, that tend to be attached to local music schools of one sort or another, it could be a good way to bring much needed revenue into their educational programmes.
Just a thought.