Demo Recording Tips and Techniques
- Recording Demos
- Why record demos?
- How to future-proof yourself (and obtain useable session files)
Whether you are a band or artist, recording a demo is the foundation of being able to do two things:
• Progress as an artist
• Successfully document your compositions
These two things allow you to create a catalogue of music and choose your strategy of recording and release.
So, what is a demo?
It is a representation of your music which has been recorded with some fidelity. Yes, an iPhone recording counts, but there are sonic qualities that are lacking when you compare it to a properly recorded track that a recording facility (like Arthur St Studios) that can provide you. The demo is then "rough" mixed, to give an impression of the musical or sonic landscape. An engineer will not spend hours labouring over a rough mix because at this stage, all you need to hear is a clear representation of the "raw" sound. However, if an engineer does a completely rubbish rough mix, then the band will think "were we that bad"? It is an art to getting the right sound for a rough mix.. and balancing time and effort to produce an acceptable result.
Why record demos?
Too many times, I think bands and artists spend money on a final recording when they are still at the demo phase. Yes, there is merit in just booking a studio and "seeing what happens". Sometimes you create magic, and sometimes the session grinds to a halt due to a lack of decisiveness. Either way, the justification of why demos are a smarter way to do it is written in the next heading below...
How to future-proof yourself (and obtain useable session files)
When you walk out of a successful demo session, you will get:
- Full multitrack WAV files of the recording you created
- Stereo WAV / MP3 mixes of the "rough mix"
Full multitrack means all of the individual channels in a session. If there were 10 microphones on the drumkit then you get the corresponding 10 WAV files (respectively). If there were 14 takes of a vocal then you will get all 14 takes as separate WAV files (and so on..) This means that if you liked the take on any of the recordings, you have the session files to take to a mix engineer and get a professional mix done! Again, I've recorded demos and:
a) The rough mix was "less than ideal" and
b) We never got the session files
So, even if we wanted to get a second opinion of the mix, we didn't have the files.... which is a bummer.. and totally dumb and unprepared.
See what is evolving here... It's about keeping your music in a way that future proofs yourself. That's why you hear about "master tapes" being stored. This is literally the reels and reels of tape that was used to record classic songs written by famous musicians. Imagine The Beatles, Elton John, Led Zeppelin etc... They would have recorded hours upon hours of tape... and you don't just keep the final version we hear on the radio. You keep EVERYTHING....
It's much easier to do these days with Hardrives and Cloud storage.
Either way, KEEP EVERYTHING (on an hdd). Even have multiple copies for all the band members.