How to Use Google Drive to Record With Musicians Across The Internet

This article explains how to use Google Drive (cloud computing baby) to coordinate and organize recordings (musical collaboration) with other musician across the Internet.

Remote Collaboration For Musicians

Do you have an interest in collaborating with other musicians? I talk to a lot of artist who want to do just that. This tutorial explains the collaboration process and provides instructions on how to effectively accomplish this with Google Drive.

What Do I Mean By Collaboration (The Collaboration Process)

By collaboration, I mean recording a song and collaborating across the internet with musicians anywhere in the world. It allows an artist/songwriter (me) to create a final recorded project using the musical and creative input of musicians anywhere in the world – no geographic limitations. Each musician can record their parts in their home studio or a studio in their current city.

The process works something like this.

  1. An artist records a master track for a song – in my case, the rhythm guitar and vocals – into a master project;
  2. The artist renders and then uploads and shares the track with one or more collaborators (other musicians);
  3. Those musicians download the master track and use it as the base track (the map) in their recording software (DAW);
  4. They record their track or tracks;
  5. They export (render) any tracks they record – without the master track’s audio – as individual .WAV files. There are other formats, but a non-compressed format like .WAV or .AIFF is best;
  6. They upload their tracks to a space provided by the original artist;
  7. The original artist downloads their tracks and imports them into the master project;
  8. The original artist then mixes and edits the master project as desired;

There are some cool online collaboration tools and websites. For instance, has a nice interface to allow you to create public or private collaborations and a community of musicians you can invite to participate in your project.

However, you can also collaborate with musicians using nothing more than your recording software and Google Drive. I’ll explain how below.

What is Google Drive?

First, I have to say, Google is often extremely bad at being amazing! By this I mean, they have amazing tools for collaborating online but are awful at publicizing them. Few who use their Gmail or search engine services realize what’s available to them.

Their Google Drive and shared applications (Sheets, Docs, Slides, Forms, Pictures) are incredible. Less full-featured than MS Office and other desktop alternatives but with enough features that my daughter went through college using only Google docs, sheets, and presentations for all her assignments.

And they’re FREE! More importantly, they are available as a shared & truly collaborative environment.

This means, I can share a file (or a folder with several files) with others and we can open and work on the same document SIMULTANEOUSLY. I can watch their cursor move in the document and watch as they type into the document – in real-time (as it happens)!

…ya think I emphasized this enough?

Catch that!!! That’s the dream of collaborative computing and Google’s been doing it for years.

If you have a Gmail account, you have access to this NOW! Start using it. If you don’t have a Gmail account, stop reading. Open a new tab. Visit Create a Gmail account.

Once created, there is an icon in the upper right of Google (or Gmail) of a square made up of 9 small squares. Click on this and you’ll see some of the applications you have available to you. Click on “Drive” and voila, you are brought to your “Drive” space.

You do NOT have to download the drive application to use drive, but it works pretty well, too.

The Google Drive Interface

In your root folder (shared drive space) you can create files (documents, sheets, presentations {slides}, forms, and pictures). You can also upload regular files created in software on your computer, including music files! Hey now, this gets good!!!

But rather than create and store files in the root folder of your Drive space, it is better to organize it. You do this by creating folders. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS!

Sharing Files On Google Drive

Google Drive allows you to share files with others.You can share files with the following permissions:

  • Read Only: no changes can be made. The person can read, view, or download a file.
  • Comment Only: the same as read only but they can leave comments about the file but still not edit the contents.
  • Edit: the person you share with can edit the contents of the document.

You can share files individually or you can share them at the folder level. When possible, sharing at the folder level is MUCH easier to manage. Rather than requiring you to set permissions for each file, you can set permissions at the folder level and those permissions apply to every file you create. If you copy a file into that folder, the folder permissions will automatically apply to that file.

Also, you can create folders beneath that folder. The same permissions will apply to that folder. You can then override the permissions on individual sub-folders as needed.

Folder Structure for Collaboration

Here is what I do. I create a folder structure that looks something like this.

DRIVE (private to me)
–>MUSIC (private to me)
——>RECORDINGS (private to me)
————>[SONG TITLE] (shared read only with other musicians)
——————->[SONG TITLE]  – SHARED w/?? (ie:drums) (shared edit with ??/initials)
——————->[SONG TITLE]  – SHARED w/?? (ie: keys & vocals)
——————->[SONG TITLE]  – SHARED w/?? (lead guitar)

Folder Structure Explained

The MUSIC folder is NOT shared. I have private access to this. In my case, my manager also has access to the MUSIC FOLDER. There are other sub-folders under MUSIC. Such as, PROMOTION and LYRICS, etc.

The RECORDINGS folder is also not shared with other musicians. As soon as I have a project, a song, to work on, I create a folder for that project.

The [SONG TITLE] Folder

[SONG TITLE] would be the name of the song or a reasonable portion of the song title – just so that it is understood.

I create this folder and share it with musicians I will be collaborating with. I share it with “read only” permissions. I don’t want my collaborators to have the ability to delete or alter information in that folder, but I do want them to be able to read any notes, so I put in there and download the basic (master) track for their recording project.

In the root folder of a specific song, I create a document titled, “[Song Title] Recording Notes”. In that file, I include information about recording the song. Beats per minute (BPM), chord structure, arrangement notes, and anything else I want collaborators to know.

I upload my master track – usually a recording where I include an 8-count lead-in beat and then acoustic guitar and vocals. This basic track is what collaborators will download and bring into their DAW (Reaper, Pro Tools, Garageband, etc.) of choice.

They’ll record their track(s) and then export their tracks – minus my master track audio, but maintaining the initial 8-count lead-in (or at least silence at the start that matches the time/length) to make it easier for me to synchronize their track(s) in my project.

Collaborator Upload Folders

Depending upon how ambitious I am or how much I want to control and isolate information, I will either create a folder for each collaborator (as shown above) or a single upload folder for everyone.

At the specific upload folder(s) I will go into the sharing settings and change the sharing to “edit” permissions, so my collaborators can make the changes necessary.… which basically means they can upload their tracks.

Naming Files

I try to teach collaborators to use a logical naming convention when they upload their files. It makes organizing information easier.

For instance:

Using my song, “Lonely Mile Man” – I might create my basic track as:

I’ll then ask collaborators to name their tracks specific to their name or their instrument(s).

For instance:

LMM-gtrlead-001.wav (first lead guitar track)
LMM-gtrlead-002.wav (second lead guitar track)
LMM-keys-001.wav (first keyboard track)
LMM-voxback-001.wav (first backing vocal track)

Bringing It All Together

As collaborators upload their tracks, I download them and bring them into my project in my recording software. If they’ve maintained the same time signature (BPM) and 8-count intro or the same space at the start of the track that I included on my basic track, everything should line up perfectly.

Below is a visual representation of how this all works.

click the image to view a larger version

Wait! Can’t I Do This in Dropbox?

You can, sort of… Google Drive is, in my opinion, far superior to Dropbox due to the folder organization and the ability to create live and shared documents with my collaborators. I write more about it here.

Google Drive versus Dropbox


Google Drive provides an amazing platform for collaboration. I do similar collaboration and structure for my business clients and I’ve written about that extensively. In fact, I cover a similar structure for collecting and organizing social media images, video, and other content that I use for my consulting clients.

If you found this helpful, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. And consider sharing the information. Also, if you have any questions, want me to cover another topic, or have a technology you use in some innovative way, let me know here as well.

Have fun collaborating!

Posted in Blog, music, Music Business, Songwriting, Tools and Tips and tagged , , , , , .

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