A Guide To Cross-DAW Collaboration

Find out how Soundation makes it possible for you to collaborate with anyone – whatever DAW they use.

There’s no denying that the type of music you want to make – and some say your personality – usually dictates what digital audio workstation (DAW) is best for you. No matter what type of workflow you choose to commit to, the choice is yours and yours alone.

…which is all good until you need to collaborate.

Everyone knows that each DAW does its best to make it impossible for you to share projects outside of its platform. But working with others on the same project isn’t an impossible feat. Here’s our quick-start guide to connecting and collaborating with your collaborators online.

Making Use Of Stems and MIDI files

Because every DAW can load audio files, using audio stems when collaborating is the most common method. An audio stem is a full song-length audio file rendered from one or multiple channels including any processing. An audio stem preserves the original sound, representing an isolated layer of a mix. It can be inserted into any DAW, letting you create variations of the original mix.

Another type of file that’s common across all DAWs is MIDI, which contains notes. Having access to MIDI files is great if you like to work with instrument tracks and don’t mind using a different instrument from the one you used to create them.

Creating a Shared Workspace

A classic way to collaborate is file swapping. That involves your team having to export files from a DAW, open a mailbox or a shared cloud storage, upload the files, email everyone, check the mailbox, download the files and finally import them to a DAW. It can be a big long dragged out process.

But, with Soundation’s browser-based studio, it’s just a one-step process. Simply create a collaboration project on Soundation, drag the tracks from your DAW’s file manager and drop them in the browser. That’s it.

The workspace is a simple music production environment you’re already familiar with.

Ableton Live for Mac Tip

Right-click on a clip, choose “freeze track” and right-click again, and choose “flatten”. The audio clip can now be dragged directly from Ableton Live to Soundation.

FL Studio for Mac Tip

Right-click on a pattern, choose “render as audio clip” and change the tail to “wrap/cut remainder” for a loopable clip. Then open the audio version of the pattern to drag it directly from FL Studio to Soundation.

To manually import audio stems or MIDI files from a hard drive to a collaboration project on Soundation, right-click anywhere on the arrangement view and choose import audio or midi from the menu. All files will be stored instantly in the library.

Beyond File Sharing

One of the headaches of remote collaborating is having to make sure everyone has the most updated version of a project. While there are services claiming to let your team stay in sync, the truth is they are at the end of the day a media manager, similar to Dropbox. 

Soundation is not Dropbox for audio, although you can definitely use it like one. After all, having access to the same materials as your collaborators makes it easy to get things done.

In Soundation’s sound library, all audio stems, samples and recordings are neatly organized under a project they belong to. They are safely stored in the cloud and can be reached by anyone in your team.

Working in a DAW environment also enables you to use those sounds on other projects just by dragging and dropping them to a new collaboration project.

Collaborators Unite

Soundation is the only place where you’ll find your Reaper, Logic, Cubase, Bitwig, Reason, FL and Ableton friends in one place. While your workspace is private by default, you can invite anyone to your project and grow your collaboration.

All you need to do is send an invitation to their email address. All they need to do is sign up for an account on Soundation and accept your invitation.

Adding, Mixing, Arranging Together

Sure, you can get VST plugins that let your collaborators broadcast audio right into your project and capture it. But the problem with that solution is that once it’s transferred across the internet to your collaborator’s screen, you don’t see what they do to your work. Unless, of course, they export files from their DAW, open their mailbox or a shared cloud storage, upload the files…and the cycle repeats.

With Soundation, because your collaborators are in the same project as you, you can see all the changes in real-time as your teammates tweak your work and add their own parts.

Their avatars will tell you if your collaborators are online, while the color blocks on the channels, clips, and instruments will let you know what your collaborators are working on. In fact, you can see every action of your collaborators – down to their cursor.

Whether you want to work together in real-time or pass the project around and let everyone contribute on their own time, it’s completely up to you.

That said, one thing is certain: Working in the same workspace ensures that everyone is on the same page. Best of all, it allows a long-distance arrangement – the one thing that’s crucial in music collaboration but not possible with other options.

Time to Bounce

Happy with the direction the sketches are going? Then it’s time to export the tracks from the browser back to your DAW of choice.

Audio Export

Soundation lets you export audio in low-res MP3, high-res MP3 and WAV files. If you want to export an individual channel, simply solo that channel before exporting. Use the region loop to limit the length of the export.

MIDI Export

Exporting MIDI lets you take the song idea you sketch out together with other people and finish the production in your main DAW – using your favorite plugin and instrument.

Exported MIDI files contain the notes, tempo, time signature and note velocity- basically everything you see in a piano roll on Soundation. You’ll be able to use the MIDI files to get instruments on your main DAW to play the same things back- without any effects or automation on the instrument channels. 

To export MIDI, right-click on the MIDI clips you want to export and choose “Export MIDI files”. You can also consolidate all clips of a channel into one file by exporting a channel as MIDI.

Finding Talents

It’s true that there are many match-making websites for musicians out there. But once you’re ready to get to work, you’ll still need to export files from your DAW, open your mailbox or a shared cloud storage, upload the files… (And the cycle repeats itself, again.)

While Soundation is not yet a marketplace for musicians, you can always find like-minded artists to collaborate with in our community. With our Discord server, you can post a link to your WIP, so anyone can jump in and get producing right away.

The days are gone when FL was FL, Ableton was Ableton, and never the twain shall meet. Remote cross-platform collaboration is the future of music making, and Soundation is here to help you achieve your collab goals. Good luck with all your collaborations.