Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

It is taking place everyday and every night, in backrooms and basements, garages and even kitchens - amateur musicians are using computers to make home recordings that sound like they come from a studio. Jeffery Pepper Rogers is one of these home studio devotees but he is going a step further. He is out- sourcing part of his creative process to professional musicians thousands of miles away. Here's his story.

microphones that plug into a box the size of a paperback novel, which plugs into my laptop.

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ROGERS: I set up in the basement-slash-playroom, where I won't be interrupted by my kids or my dog. I break out my guitar, and I fill a hard drive with my songs.

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She can take a good view of the destination…

a thousand dollars. And you can capture stunningly clear sound and edit every note on a subatomic level. That's heady stuff for a home recording musician.

kick in, but it will nearly impossible to record live drums in my basement.

Mr. PHIL ROBERTSON (E-studiodrummer.com): Hi, I'm Phil Robertson, e-studiodrummer.com. This is a typical track that I would get from a client. You can see…

professional drummer who offers custom-drummed tracks online for $125 a song. He's in Vancouver, and I'm in upstate New York. But for online recording, it doesn't matter if he's around the block or around the world.

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over North America and Europe. Online session work has allowed him to make a good living at a time when many commercial studios have been, in his words, wiped off the map.

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ROGERS: So Robert then agrees to do a drum part for my song. Here's how the process worked. I e-mail him my guitar and vocals saved as an MP3 file like what you hear on an iPod. We talked about what I'm looking for, a slow building drum part that leaves plenty of space. The next day, he e-mails back an MP3 with his drums plus bass and he pretty much nails it.

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ROGERS: I break into a huge grin when I hear the instrumental section.

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ROGERS: I do ask for a few changes - less ride cymbal here, more kick drum there and the next day's final tracks are ready to go. The CD-quality files are way too big for e-mail so he directs me to a site called YouSendIt where I download the drum tracks.

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ROGERS: And then I downloaded his bass track.

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ROGERS: You can book an online session for practically any instrument from efiddler to highspeedhorns.com. A few sites like SessionPlayers.com and eSession act as brokers for well-known studio musicians. So if you fantasize about having guitar hero, Robbin Ford, play on your record or maybe James Taylor sideman, Lee Sklar, on bass. This may no longer be a pipe dream. At SessionPlayers.com, rates around from $250 to around $1,000 a song. That's small change compared to what it would cost at one of these guys travel to a studio you're renting and where you are also paying an engineer and producer.

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ROGERS: That's Tim Kobza warming up on slide guitar. He's in Southern California in a home studio of Joey Finger from SessionPlayers.com. Kobza is overdubbing a slide part from my song and I'm actually monitoring the session in real time over the Web. We're set up so that we can also talk in instant message using the program, Skype. If I had a Web cam, we could see each other too.

Mr. JOEY FINGER (SessionPlayers.com): Hi, Jeff.

ROGERS: Yeah.

Mr. FINGER: Hey, it's Joey from SessionPlayers.com.

ROGERS: Hey, how's it going?

Mr. FINGER: Great. I think we're ready to start taking some tracks here.

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ROGERS: Online recording may sound like a disembodied process compared to a band collaborating in a studio. But the truth is most records are made one instrument at a time and often at multiple locations.

Mr. GEORGE PETERSEN (Studio Owner; Musician; Executive Editor, Mix Magazine): So there's a lot of a la carte going on in the recording studio business these days.

ROGERS: George Petersen is the executive editor of the recording industry magazine Mix, and he's a studio owner and musician too.

Mr. PETERSEN: Typically, it's not the guitar player in a room with a bunch of musicians and jamming with them. It's a musician who's a guitar player, who's got a pair of headphones on and, you know, sometimes what that person is staring at is, you know, an engineer and producer sitting through the glass of what we call the fishbowl, while they're in the recording room, and they say, OK, hit it, be creative.

ROGERS: One of the best things about recording at home is that you can be creative when you feel like it and experiment without fretting about a studio's hourly rate. The same is true for online SessionPlayers in their own home studio. Unless you're monitoring the session, they can work on your song at 3 a.m. after a gig or whenever they have down time in their schedule.

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ROGERS: Anyway, I've got the drums, bass and slide tracks on my laptop now and I'm ready to mix everything together. I could do this myself but I'd like to get a fresh perspective and I'd love to work with someone in the same room so I call William Nickelson(ph). He's a recording savvy musician and also happens to be a neighbor. I bring over my entire studio in a backpack and plug into his speakers and we spend a couple of hours fine tuning the songs.

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(Singing) He's such a big man and her mansion it's a small view of the sky, the horizon shrunk in black in black sunglasses…

ROGERS: It's amazing to hear my basement demo transformed like this and it was so simple to work with players thousands of miles away. As a musician, I'm torn. I hate to think of people bypassing local talent to outsource their tracks, yet, online work could help musicians make a living wherever they are. And anyway, when I cranked up my song, I forget that my band exists only on my laptop.

(Singing) On the plain in the parch of a dream…

I just think…

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(Singing) …going down.

…cool.

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(Singing) Going down, down, down, down. Going down.

For NPR News, this is Jeffrey Pepper Rogers.

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NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

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