Make the best out of your band's demo, part 2

In my previous post I went through how we did the basic tracks (rhythm guitars, bass, drums and keyboards) on the demos of STUD's upcoming 3rd album. In this post I will go forward and discuss the rest of the demo phase.

We always do songs one at a time. The plan was to make the basic tracks and sometimes even the guitar solos on one Pro Tools session, and mix them down to a stereo track. Until this stage everything was done at my house. Next steps required the equipment to be carried to our rehearsal room for the vocal tracks. For this it was essential to have portable gear that was easy to carry back and forth.

For the vocals I used a second Pro Tools session. The stereo track of the basic tracks was imported to this session and the vocals were recorded on top of that. This way there was no noticeable latency when recording, since all the tracks were audio tracks with minimum plugins used. In my previous post Getting the basic equipment for your recording project I went through the mic and preamp used for the vocals. As for the plugins, I just used a basic compressor, reverb and delay that come with Pro Tools.

After the vocals were recorded I usually did some editing on the vocal tracks and sometimes added some new guitar or keyboard parts, and overall tried to make the demo sound good. Finally this second Pro Tools session was mixed down. To be honest, I spent quite a lot of time to make the demo sound good. So, whenever I had the mixed demo available, it was important to listen to it from various sources like the car stereos (especially the car stereos!!), IPhone with different earphones and whatever other sources me or the guys in the band had available.

As said, making a demo of your song is an essential phase towards the final recording of the songs. So, time spent on the demo is valuable for the overall success of your recording. Here's some key learnings and things you might want to consider with your own demos:
  • Make a decision weather you want to use your demos to offer them already to record labels (if you're searching for one) or will you rather use the final songs as we're doing.
  • If you want to send the demos to record labels, you might want to concentrate on your best couple of songs, and spend more time on them than on the other ones in the demo phase.
  • To leave enough excitement for the actual recording you're doing after the demos, don't pull all the tricks at the demo phase, but leave enough room for creativity for the rest of the project. Otherwise the end of your project might feel like just repeating what you've already done.
  • While making the demos one at a time, you're constantly learning and possibly finding new ways to make your songs sound better. Take what you've learned and go back to the songs that you already made, and see if you can use your new tricks on them. This way you're getting more unified sound to the whole project.
  • Record the tracks you might consider using on the final recording carefully and with the proper levels. Especially some of the vocal parts may turn out to have such a good vibe to them that there would be no point in redoing them.
  • GET YOUR TEMPOS RIGHT at the demo phase and lock them for the rest of the project.
This is a very high level explanation of the demo phase we had on our new album and partly on our previous albums as well. Hope you can find some usefull tips here for your own projects. In future posts I will cover more detailed information of recording each instrument. Stay tuned for more from BLOGSTUDDER.

-Mika

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