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SAVING TIME & MONEY: “THE WELL-MADE DEMO”

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    ALL WORDS BY DAN MIRALDI

    When making his famous sculpture of David, do you think Michelangelo just grabbed a pick, a giant block of marble and started chipping away?  Hell no!  He made sketches so he would have a map of where he was going.  Recording can be expensive.  More often than not, things will take longer than you initially anticipated – especially if it is your first time recording at a music studio.  Demos are maps and sketches so you don’t waste you and your band’s time and money.  If you do your homework and make a solid demo, you will be much more focused in the studio.

    These days more and more people have access to programs like Garageband or similar basic recording software.  Especially if you are recording alone, the ability to make your demo using some type of multi-track feature enables you to focus and develop individual parts more thoroughly.  If you do not have Garageband, investing in something such as an old school four-track tape player is worthwhile.

    When you are making a demo, you are not on the clock.  You are free to experiment without eating away at the precious capital you just acquired from your most recent Kickstarter campaign.  Demos can be sloppy.  The mixing does not have to be perfect.  Do not be self-conscious.  These are just outlines for the studio audio recordings.  Most likely, no one beside you, your band and your producer/engineer will hear them (unless your record becomes a huge success and your label needs material for the bonus disc of the 10-year anniversary deluxe reissue of your album . . . but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

    When demoing, pay attention to tempo.  If you can record drums for your demo – great, but if you can’t, don’t worry.  Garageband has plenty of percussion loops and drum samples for simulating the rhythmic feel of your song.  Take time and play to a variety of loops, you may discover that the song sounds better at a different tempo and/or time signature than what you had previously envisioned.  If you don’t have drum samples or percussion loops, just play to a metronome.  There are a number of free metronome apps available.  Playing to a metronome is also good practice for your studio session, since you will most likely be playing to a click track.  It will make everything tighter.

    Demos are also helpful when it comes to vocal production, especially with harmonies.  As a singer, I often have a number of different harmony concepts in my head.  It can be stressful in a studio trying to remember all of the different vocal ideas.  It is helpful having a recording to reference.  When making your demo, experiment with harmonies.  You can then figure out which ones best suite the song and, probably more importantly, figure out which ones do not.  This saves everyone’s time.  If you are a guitarist or keyboard player, the same concept with vocal ideas is true when mapping out keyboard and guitar parts.  Go nuts when making the demo.  You can then filter your ideas to find the best stuff for your definitive studio version.

    In the end, a well-made demo enables you to communicate better with your producer, recording engineer and anyone else involved in the session.  The producers and engineers that I have worked with throughout my career always have appreciated having the demos in advance.  It gives everyone involved a point of reference and allows for arrangement and production ideas to be expanded and articulated more clearly.  Taking the time to make demos before entering the studio will save you time, money and ultimately lead to a more productive recording session and, with a little luck, a better product for your listeners.

    © 2014 DM Experience This Music LLC

     

     

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