9 Fast Routes Into Collaboration

If you’re tired of sitting in your bedroom or “synth cave” alone, here are nine ways to get out of the rut and share your creative energy with other musicians, producers, or DJs.

1. DJ with a partner
Instead of mixing all the tracks yourself, inviting a DJ friend to take care of deck B – or even C, D, and E, if you want to take it further – creates half the work and double the fun. You might even learn some new tricks and cool tracks. DJ Jazzy Jeff gives up tips on collaborative spinning right here:

2. Remix others’ tracks — and vice versa
Remixing is not always considered collaboration. But if you ask questions and work towards a common goal, it becomes less of a solo activity. As well as being more interesting and enjoyable, commenting on each other’s work can also be very instructive.

3. Start a band where everyone has a role
Who says a band can’t have four keyboard players, a finger drummer, an effects master and a conductor? Get creative, but make sure you distribute the roles; who plays bass, lead, drums, etc. Be strict with this at first – you can relax the borders later if everything goes smoothly.

For an intriguing example of musical distribution (and complexity) within a band format, drummer Tess Pretty of Tennyson is “fed” various sounds from her brother Luke’s rig to her 24 drumming pads, as she explains in this performative presentation. In other words, she doesn’t always know what sound she is triggering.

In addition, the iPad has inspired many bands utilizing the device as their only instruments. The University of South Florida’s iPad Quintet, Touch, formed shortly after the release of the first iPad. Here they are, showing off, some serious slide, tap and touch skills.

4. Dive deep into one instrument
Your chances of successful collaboration with fellow musicians or producers are higher if you’re really good on (at least) one instrument. We’re so used to play all parts simply because it’s possible – but is it more fun? Focusing on all the techniques and possibilities of one instrument, in particular, creates confidence, spurs creativity and inspires improvisation. Also, it’s a lot easier to fit into a collaboration.

Check out this fun video with Andrew Huang and Dotan jamming in the studio. Clearly, having their favorite instruments:

The iPad could become the most common go-to instrument for musical collaboration in the future. Kids in Denmark enjoy being part of The Electronic School Concert concept, where they not only learn about musical concepts, technology, and instruments on the iPad but also end up performing a concert.

5. Start online collaborations
There are plenty of great opportunities to work with others online, whether you want to hire a musician, find a vocalist, get input on your music, or collaborate on production. Besides inviting people via social media, try collaborative platforms like Bandhub, Blend, Splice, or the first real-time online collaborative DAW, Ohm Studio.

6. Go ‘multiplayer’ on  a DAW
It’s so simple you may not have thought of it, but it’s super-easy to share one computer and connect multiple MIDI controllers. Imagine the bassist on a hardware synth, fed into one channel being processed by another band member controlling effects on a MIDI controller. Besides a keyboard player connected via a MIDI keyboard, the “drummer” could be using a drum machine to lay down that gritty beat. It’s much easier to keep in sync, switch tracks and keep a consistent master output if you’re simply sharing the same DAW.

7. Share an instrument
Also not so obvious — besides four-handed piano playing — is the possibility of sharing one instrument. There have been various attempts at creating collaborative electronic instruments, some of which are covered earlier in this article. When you’re playing the same instrument, it creates a more connected social experience for the players.

8. Hit the stage
One of the best ways to be discovered by potential future collaborators is to get out there on the stage. When fellow musicians hear and see your potential, they may well take the initiative and get in touch about working with you. You never know what this can lead to down the road. Be open, visible and audible.
Lady Starlight and Surgeon started collaborating when playing live. In this video, we get a sneak peek into their distributed roles:

9. Make it up as you go along
If participants have preconceived ideas of the songs they want the others to play, the collaborative spirit can fall flat. So why not start by improvising together instead? You get to learn and explore each others’ musical languages and slowly start communicating on a more basic and fundamental level.

Kiasmos is the long and successful collaboration between Icelandic Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen from the Faroe Islands. Their process for creating material is described as Ólafur sitting by the piano improvising to the beats and loops from Janus’ computer. Their live performance at last year’s Airwaves festival clearly shows how they create their sound and evolving tracks:

Obviously, there are many ways to get into collaboration and find your music tribe. In the 21st century, the possibilities are virtually endless. Luckily, both PUSH TURN MOVE and PATCH & TWEAK touch on this subject!

Thanks for stopping by! Stick around for a conclusion on collaboration, our last entry in the series.