the adage, "A good song speaks for itself"?
That same philosophy can be applied to the making of
your demo. You've got a new tune, and maybe you can
even hear the band parts in your head. And over there
in the corner sit's your lonely little multi-tracker,
urging you to flush out every facet of this brilliant
new nugget. Especially if you're the visionary,
multi-instrumentalist type who can quickly conquer
guitars, bass, drums, and all the bells and whistles
on your own, a simplistic rendering with an acoustic
guitar and a boombox recorder just isn't going to do
unless you're planning on releasing your slaved-over
"rough take" (and most likely you're not),
you're then faced with the arduous task of recreating
those pearls of inspiration once you get into the
real studio, only this time, you'll have to hope that
your lead guitarist can cop the exact feel you pulled
out of your hat on your demo, or that your engineer
can get that same cool vocal sound through a
different stomp box. And so on.
demo to death. This is not such a radical idea, some
would prefer you not to demo at all. But, you say,
I've got this brand new Roland 1680 that lets me cut
256 virtual tracks with signal processing and tons of
hard-disk space! That's nice. But did the Beatles
need 256 V-tracks to record "Revolution"?
Actually, they made do with about 248 less, and that
was the final take. But maybe the next time you've
got a new tune you could try popping a cassette into
a boombox and playing the song on acoustic. Lay it
down on one run-through, warts and all, and then hit
stop and rewind the tape. That's it. If the song is
worth its weight, it'll hold itself together.
your band comes over, get out that cassette. Let your
bass player figure out an original part, ditto for
the drummer. Hold your tongue. Give your band members
the opportunity work out their own parts. Let them
help create the bed your tune will lie in.
result? By tapping into the creative energy of your
band instead of blueprinting the entire song in
advance, you might actually wind up with the same
kind of song detours and cool musical accidents that
you're used to getting on your one-man, full-fledged
demo. Your song will have a flow and a feel that's
natural to the players and healthier for the tune.
And this time you won't have to explain the parts to
everybody, because they've already been created for
you. After all, that's what having a "band"
is all about, isn't it?
almost everyone who records an album must record a
demo first. David Bowie is a notable exception
because in his case it doesn't matter, the record
companies still don't know what to make of his
new, unknown band want to record an album, they must
first make a demo of it, turn it over to the rec
company execs who'll listen to it and decide to
finance it or not. If they don't like a song, they'll
ask the band to replace it. If they refuse to do so,
they'll have to find themselves a new contract. It's
that simple, the rec companies run the show, not the
artists. Of course, the band won't spend a lot of
money on the demo, they'll just jam the songs
together. Once in the studio, it'll be the producer's
job to record this in a suitable manner.
a record company to sign you. As a solo artist and
not a band, your recordings must reflect your
songwriting style. The people listening to your demo
don't care whether you can sing well or not, they
know what can be done to a voice in the studio. And
they can force you to take singing lessons if it
pleases them. They also don't care whether you're a
good musician. They have long lists of session
musicians. There's too much reverb, the balance is
off, the mixing could be improved? You won't produce
your first album. Record companies won't trust you
want to hear are the songs. They want to find out if
they can make money off your writing style. Some
people submit demos that are nothing but an accoustic
guitar and voice in front of a tape recorder. Others
spend thousands on a recording that will have to be
redone anyway if they get signed. What you should
look at is producing something that will be halfway.
If you have friends who play other instruments and
you can convince to help you out for free, do so.