Get The Demo Done Right – Part 2: Before You Enter The Studio

Posted on September 13, 2010

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We have discussed in previous articles that professional means doing it for a profession – making a living for what you do. As a result, you have chosen a professional studio to record your demo. In this article, we will review some considerations before you enter the studio.

You’ve decided how much you can spend and you need to get the most out of the allotted time you have to do your recording. Before the record button is pressed, make sure the song is complete! I know this sounds silly, but there are many musicians, some guitarists I know come to mind, who enter the studio and make up the solo on the fly. They know what they want, but haven’t nailed it down to a science. I’ve also seen some vocalists who have the chorus ready and most of the verse, but during the third verse, they didn’t quite tackle the complete wording and it became a few hours of writing that cost time in the studio. Is the song finished before you go in? Did you decide that once the drums were triggered, the bass was going to syncopate with the drums? Is the bassist aware that you decided on this drum fill?

Little things like that reveal sloppy performances later. It is going to be frustrating with the producer telling you during the recording process that you have to write a new bass line for that bridge, even though you have been playing it the other way for 5 months. The shock of rushing to record something that fits your comfort zone on the fly can really fuck things up! Have it as ready as possible – or finished completely and well practiced before you walk in the studio door.

Here’s a thought. Have a rough version of the completed song on CD from a good rehearsal recording. Use this if necessary to show the producer what you intended to record that day.  He can’t read your mind, so show him. This is what we want to capture; he’ll appreciate you giving him that option while he tries to get the best sound for you.

Some other things you can bring, alongside your equipment, effects and amp head is a printed-paper list of what you want to accomplish. Jot down some chord charts; write out the parts of the song in a list if you have to just to keep on track. Sure, you can wing it, but no one has an excuse to mess up when it’s right in front of them. Every little thing is going to help make this go smoothly.

If you find you are recording with session guys, they too need to know what they are getting in to. Offering a detailed list of song parts and even a rough tracked demo of it for last minute review is going to make them feel the comfort zone too. I know when I do studio work, the more I get from the guys is going to go a long way with me. Patching in segment by segment as I hear it for the first time is more than frustrating, it’s just plain annoying. Sometimes it’s the only way to get it done, but it’s best to know how deep the water is before you jump in, that way no one gets hurt.

If you’ve got it all straight, then all there is for the rest of the trip in the door is your talent! Everyone has his or her parts in order, and the song is tight, right? Go in there and balance those levels, sit on that stool and record the ass off that song! You picked the right studio; the right producer and you know your work, what can go wrong?

We’ll find out in the mix, as that is the next article in this series.

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