A very timely piece of software has become available for me to use on my album. It’s called Virtual Glass and it’s a plug-in you download from a web site/service called eSession.com.
The subscription-based eSession site handles all administrative aspects of auditioning, negotiating with, and recording with, a huge number of top professional musicians, all without leaving the comfort of your own home studio (or in my case, DIScomfort as it’s not finished yet!)
Virtual Glass is a plug-in for the high-end recording software we use such as ProTools, Logic and so on. On the surface it’s just an audiovisual chat client, similar to iChat, that lives in the recording environment. But it’s very nifty in that it enables me to do a recording session with, let’s say Kevin Armstrong, who lives in London which is several hours away from me. Kevin has his own studio and uses the same software as me. So we can connect, open the same song, and Kevin can overdub guitar parts. We can discuss them, agree on retakes and so on, while hearing each other in real time. His face and/or his studio appear in a video window on my screen, and we have a ‘talkback’ system. The experience is actually not very different from me being in the control room and Kevin out in a booth. I can hear a low-res version of his part, then once it’s done he just drops the new recording into a bin online, and I update it on my end in hi-res. The software can keep track of the time we spend and even issue an invoice based on a pre-agreed fee.
Then let’s say I really need someone to play a jaw’s harp. I do a search for that keyword in the eSession talent profiles, and find out that Tony Levin as well as being a killer bassist is an ace jaw’s harpist (?!) and right now he’s got a mid-tour day off and he’s sitting in a hotel room in Nashville, Tenessee. I approach him and fix the fee. We can work together using Virtual Glass in real time over ADSL, or he can just work on it in his own time and send me a few takes to peruse offline.
eSession was created by music industry professionals in conjunction with some hot software engineers. It’s a fabulous piece of kit, and a great tool in this era of home recording; though I bet they are facing the challenge all early adopters face, in that people may be slow to change their working methods, and they need eSession to catch on before they burn through all their investors’ millions! I’m going to try to help out by using the sofwtare extensively on my album, and helping them publicise it a bit. Later this week one of the founders Gina Fant-Saez will be in Japan doing public demos of the product, and I’m going to let her connect to me in the UK and we’ll work on an overdub for one of my new songs.
If you’re a musician you can register for a free account, though some of the features may be a bit limited unless you sign up for a paid subscription–but that is is very reasonable starting at under twenty bucks a month, considering that just the gas for one drive to someone else’s studio would cost you a lot more!