The most commonly effective means of collaborating with other musicians is to record individual parts and share them online. Although it’s not live, it does allow you to rehearse with a specialised backing track, complete with any key changes, arrangement modification or other inflections that you might include when performing together. Recording independently also allows you to work when it suits you, allowing you to work around your own schedule more effectively.
You will need to know a few things to record independently. You’ll need to know the track fairly well, and you’ll need to know things like the key and the tempo to get an accurate click track. Generally, once one part has been recorded, it will get shared with the other members, as listening to a real track can be a great help when recording.
It can be daunting if you’ve never recorded before, but the good news is that the process is relatively straightforward, and there is plenty of quality advice out there. To begin, you’ll need a piece of software called a DAW. A DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, is a fancy name for software that enables you to record and manipulate audio. Audacity is possibly the simplest cross-platform DAW available, although it does have some limitations. On a Mac, you may well find Garageband already installed; on a Windows machine, there are a wealth of free DAWs available - my personal favourite is Cakewalk by Bandlab . Whatever you decide to go with, I’d recommend taking a look at some YouTube tutorials. There are loads of top quality content creators out there who offer basic introductions and deep dives on most DAWs out there.
Once you have something to record into, you’ll need something to record through. This will vary depending on your instrument and will usually take the place of an audio interface, like the new SSL 2+, which records your instrument and converts it to a signal that your DAW can recognise. Audio interfaces will normally have combo jacks for XLR and Jack, meaning guitarists and bassists can plug in directly with a jack cable. Another option for some will be a USB microphone, such as the new AKG Lyra, which connects directly to the USB port on your computer. These can be much easier to operate, but may limit how much can be done at once, where an audio interface can offer more inputs. For example, a vocalist may only require one microphone, but an acoustic guitar may sound better in stereo; a drummer could record with just one mic, but micing each drum will offer better separation.
It’s also a good idea to have something to listen back with. Whilst your everyday earphones or laptop speakers will do a job, they aren’t really going to offer suitable fidelity for listening to a full band mix. If you want to do this more regularly, you’re going to want a decent pair of speakers or headphones. There are a lot of options here once again; new tech from AKG brings wireless headphones with a whopping 5Hz to 40kHz audio range (that’s a bigger range than the human ear has!) to the table, in the form of the K371-BT headphones. If you’d prefer some studio monitors, you’re still left with an overwhelming amount of choice. Most of the big names trade sound quality for cumbersome size and equally cumbersome price tag, which just isn’t suitable for everyone. Fortunately, if you’re tight on space and don’t want to bust the bank, JBL’s 104-BT reference monitors offer crystal clear audio in a tiny package, with the added benefit of Bluetooth capability. No more wiring hassle!
This article isn’t intended to be an introduction to recording, and, again, there is a wealth of quality content available to help you with this for the first time. I would strongly recommend looking at articles and videos that help with recording your instrument, if you are unsure.
One final tip: don’t get too bogged down in absolute perfection. It’s easy to agonise over what effects you can use in your new recording software, or whether one particular note could have been pushed by a semiquaver. The bottom line is that it won’t matter. You want to be good, but studio quality perfection is not necessary here, and you can generally afford a little ruffage around the edges, in terms of production.