Live Streaming Guide for Guitarists and Musicians

By Jason Stallworth

May 24, 2020


Whether you’re a solo guitarist, singer, or play in a full band, you can live stream and play along with your own music with the methods I’m about to show you in this post.

There are three challenges for artists and musicians who want to live stream:

  1. Not knowing what gear to use for streaming
  2. Now knowing how to properly set up your backing tracks to play along with in your live stream
  3. Making your love stream sound ‘lively’ and organic

This post is going to provide you with simple solutions to overcome all of these challenges.

**Below are the quick links to all of the live streaming and studio gear that I personally use…

Live Streaming and Studio Gear Jason Uses:

Camera – I use my iPhone 11 (prior to that I used my iPhone 7)
Many YouTubers swear by is the Canon M-50 and I’m considering getting one soon.

Tripod: – Targus TG-5060TR

Cellphone Tripod Mount – I recently started using the Ulanzi Cellphone Holder (U Rig Pro)this device is pretty awesome!

External Mic – I’m actually using a cheap lapel mic like the PowerDeWise Omnidirectional Lapel Mic – the one I’m using doesn’t have the name brand on it, but I believe this may be it

Recording Software – What I’ve been using since 2010 is Presonus Studio One Pro

Studio MonitorsKRK Rokits (I have the older model G5’s)

Vocal Mic – For live streams and speaking, I use the Shure SM7B micthis mic s a versatile workhouse and a ‘must-have’ for every studio

VIDEO: Live Streaming for Guitarists, Singers, and Musicians

Live Streaming Gear for Musicians

First, let’s talk about live streaming gear. This can be the most frustrating part.

It’s not because there aren’t any solutions. It’s because there are too many solutions.

If you’re like me, that can be overwhelming. And what happens when there are too many options, we often say ‘screw this’ and just walk away altogether. In fact, many put off live streaming for this reason alone.

Fear not! I’m going to give you the easiest way to set up your live stream and show you exactly how to capture a clear and awesome sound.

There are 4 simple points I’m going to go over in the ‘gear’ section below. And the good news is you probably already have most of what you need.

  • The type of camera you need for live streaming
  • Best tripod and mount for your camera or phone
  • Best mic for your live stream
  • My secret to capturing the best sound quality for your live stream

Camera

Unless you already have a pro camera, I recommend just using your iPhone or Smartphone. In the video above, I’m using my iPhone 11. Before that, I used an iPhone 7 for several years (from 2015 to 2020!).

As far as video, your phone is going to do just fine. If you don’t already own a camera, there’s really no reason to go out and buy one. Just use your iPhone or smartphone.

If you want to go with a separate camera, many YouTubers and folks that live stream on a regular basis use the Canon M-50.

Tripod and Mount

Tripod for live streaming

You’ll want a sturdy tripod and I also suggest getting one with a level. This is going to make your live stream process so much smoother and it will ensure your audience gets the best video experience.

In the video, I’m using the Targus TG-5060TR. I own other tripods but this is the one I use 90% of the time.

**If you’re using your cell phone for video, I strongly suggest that you get a different (better) mount.

The problem with the cellphone mounts that come with most tripods is that the little rubber piece that the phone sits on will come unglued, over time, and your phone will slip right out.

I’ve actually had this happen in the middle of a video, and once during a live stream. It sucks, and it makes you look unprofessional and unprepared.

So what I use is the Ulanzi Cellphone Holder (U Rig Pro).

This locks your phone in place so that there’s no chance of it slipping out. It also has the capability of holding your mic and lighting, and it’s cheap. So it’s kind of a no-brainer to get one of these.

Mic for Live Streaming

Lapel mic

No matter how amazing your video quality is, if your audio sucks, your live stream is going to suck.

That being said, I do not recommend using your phone or camera’s internal mic. That may work for close-up talking, but it’s not going to cut it for music.

Like with video, there are many options for capturing audio. Some cheap, some expensive. But you’re going to be blown away at what I use (and the ultra-simple method I use) for my live stream audio.

I just use a cheap lapel mic, like the PowerDeWise Omnidirectional Lapel Mic.

And I’m going to show you exactly how to set this up below…

How to Capture the Best Audio for Live Stream Virtual Music Shows

So, how are you going to capture an awesome audio performance with just a little lapel mic? You’ll be blown away at how simple this is.

Here’s what I do…

  1. Clip the lapel mic on a small stand – I just use a small amp-mic stand
  2. Set that stand about 2 feet away from your studio monitor, making sure the lapel mic is pointing towards that speaker
  3. Connect the other end of the lapel mic to your phone or camera
Lapel mic live stream setup

Seriously, that’s it. Now, if you’re using another type of mic, like a directional mic, then you may want to place the mic a little further back, like 4-6 feet away. Just make sure that the mic is pointed towards the main sound source (your monitor/speaker).

**If you’re using your iPhone as a camera, you’ll most likely need an iPhone Headphone Jack Adapter.
This may also be the case for non-Apple smartphones, so make sure you check to see what type of adapter is needed.

**The reason this works so well and is so simple is that everything is going to be coming out of that speaker; both your live sound, whether it be vocals, guitar, or both, and the backing tracks you’re playing along with.

We’re going to get into that next…

How to Set Up Your Live and Backing Tracks for Streaming

Presonus Studio One - tracks for live streaming

Here’s where everything gets extremely interesting. You have to create the backing tracks in a way that your performance will sound organic, not like you’re just playing or singing along with backing tracks (this isn’t going to be like Milli Vanilli!).

But I don’t want you to overthink this part of the process. I’m going to simplify each step…

Songs You Will Perform (Stream) Live

The first step may sound obvious, but you have to choose the songs you plan to perform live, streaming. This could be just one song, or five, or maybe you want to do a live stream of your entire album.

Either way, here’s what you do:

  • Make a list of the songs you’re going to stream live, just like you would for a live concert
  • Note which parts of each song you’re going to perform live

You can write this down, or open up an Excel or Apple Numbers spreadsheet and document this.
*I prefer you do the latter so that it’s saved and you can go back later and use it as a template.

Here’s an example:

SongsParts to Perform Live
1. Dragon’s Flamevocals, rhythm guitar
2. Anthem of Brutalitylead guitar
3. Masterpeacevocals, rhythm guitar
4. Facing the Guillotinelead guitar

How to Create Your Backing Tracks

Now that you have your song list, go into your studio and open that first song on your list.

Remember, you also wrote down which parts of the song you’re going to do live. So you don’t necessarily want to hear those parts in the song while you’re doing them live.

Here’s what you do…

  • Mute the tracks that you plan to do live
    (ex: if you’re doing vocals live, mute those vocal tracks, or if you’re playing the guitar solos live, mute those guitar solo tracks)
  • Once those tracks are muted, render the song down to an MP3 file
  • Repeat this process for each song you want to perform in your live stream

The purpose of doing this is so that you can play and/or sing the live parts without playing/singing along with the recorded part.

This is what’s going to make your live stream sound more ‘lively’ and more organic. It’s going to be a true live performance as if you were playing with a full band.

*If you are not at this level yet and do not have any songs to play along, fix that by watching my video below on how to create backing tracks:

Creating Your Virtual Live Concert

Now that you have the songs rendered without the tracks that you’re going to be performing live, it’s time to create your ‘virtual live concert!’

Here are the steps to do this…

  • Create a new session (song) in your studio DAW
  • Add one track
  • Drag the MP3 file for your first song into this track
  • If you have more songs, drag those into that same track in the order you want to do them live
    *You may want to give 10 seconds or so in between songs so that you can stop to engage with your audience

You’re now set up to play along with your re-created songs that do not have the tracks that you’re going to perform live.

The next step is to create the tracks for you to play/sing live along with your newly created backing tracks.

  • Add a track for your guitar
  • Insert the plugins you want for that track
    *I recommend using plugins for this purpose; if you were to try this with a live amp, that amp is going to more than likely overpower everything else – you could also use a device such as the Helix, HD500x, Kemper, etc., and run that into your interface for your guitar track
  • Press the ‘record’ button on that track so that you can hear the output
  • Repeat this process for the vocals if you are singing live as well
  • Repeat this for any other type of guitar track you will be doing live

Guitarists…

*You’ll want a separate guitar track if you’re doing rhythms for one song and leads for another as you may want a different sound and more volume for your leads
.

The challenge here would be switching back and forth between rhythm and leads if you’re using plugins.

– If you’re using an external device with a foot controller, you can easily just have the one guitar track for all guitar parts as you’ll change your sounds with your footswitch.

Now you have the first track, which is the song you re-created and you also have the track(s) you’re going to use to capture your live performance.

Talking and engaging with your audience between songs:

It’s not a bad idea to talk to your audience, engage, or answer questions between songs (or between every 2nd or 3rd song).

If you’re only playing guitar or an instrument and not singing, I suggest setting up a mic and a track for your live stream for this purpose.

The reason for this is because your mic connected to your camera is picking up what’s coming from your monitor (remember, it’s about 2 feet away from your speaker). So if you talk, that mic isn’t going to pick up your voice well.

If you’re singing, that problem is already solved…

Vocal mic > studio/track > monitor output > mic that’s connected to your camera/phone

However, make sure that you’re not using a ton of reverb and delay on your vocal tracks if this is the case. Otherwise, when you talk between songs, those effects will be pronounced and it may be difficult for your audience to understand you.

**These are mistakes I’ve made that I’m sharing with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes!

What To Do Before You Go Live

Live stream Jason Stallworth metal musician

This next step should be obvious, but it’s also easy to overlook since you only have a few tracks (full song and guitar, and vocal track if you’re singing).

Test your audio and mix before going live. Do not skip this part!

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Have everything set up as if you were getting ready to live stream
  • Record a minute or so of your song, or a few parts of different songs
  • Listen to the playback and also have someone else listen
  • Make sure that the live track(s) are not drowning out the track with your modified songs, and vice versa
  • Fix any mixing issues (this should be just a simple shift in the volume of those tracks)
  • Also, make sure that the overall sound isn’t too loud for the mic picking up the sound source; it’s common to want to crank the music up loud for live streams, so it’s imperative that you test this to make sure the sound isn’t clipping or distorting
  • On the flip side, make sure your mix is loud enough and being picked up by your mic

Doing this ahead of time is going to help you give your audience the best live stream performance and experience. You may also see more ‘tips’ in your tip jar!

*Make sure you press the ‘record’ button on the track(s) you’re using for the live performance. This way you ensure the sound of those tracks is coming out (with the music from the backing track, it can be easy to not notice this).

Tip to Save Time and Frustration

This is huge yet extremely simple. And it will save you a butt-load of time and frustration in the future.

Once you get your levels and mix right, save that session in your DAW as a template.

Most DAWs allow you to save a session (song) as a template. I use Presonus Studio One Pro, and it has this feature so I’m assuming most other DAWs do as well.

By doing this, you’ll be able to kick off your next live stream in no-time.

Even if you do a different set list for your next live stream, you’ll already have the template and will just need to replace the songs in that first track with the songs from your new set list. But you should be able to keep all of your track levels the same.

Again, this will save you a ton of time and frustration! And if you’re not sure if your DAW has this feature, look it up; Google it or go to the forums. I’d be willing to bet that it does.

Start Your Live Stream Virtual Concert!

At this point, you’re all set and ready to kick-off your live stream, playing virtually in front of your fans. It’s an awesome feeling!

Of course, there’s other (and more expensive) gear you can get specific to musicians live streaming and virtual shows. But like I said earlier, that can be overwhelming and my goal with this post was to help you simplify the process.

If you find yourself stuck trying to choose the right gear and get your virtual show off the ground, or if you’re simply on a budget, this is an easy process for you to follow. And chances are, you already have most of the equipment to do this. So start here.

I hope you found value in this post! If so, please share this link with other guitarists and musicians.

Keep it Metal,

Jason

Jason Stallworth

About the author

Hard rock and heavy metal recording artist, songwriter, and musician.

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