Hello Bobby, tourism brightbox is here to tell you why your band should be recording your own demos, and how to do it.
But first of all, why go through all the trouble of recording your own demos, when you’re gon na have to re-record everything in the studio again.
Anyway, why go through the hassle?
I mean, you’re going to be recording the songs for real.
Why spend all this time doing all this pre-production?
Is it a waste of time?
Well, it’s not.
And I’m going to tell you why in this video and break down and explain to you just how important it is and how simple it can be to do, and how much time and money it will save you when you hit the real studio.
Even if you have your own home studio and do all of your own recordings, learning how to demo and getting into the habit of pre production is super important.
When you have a crystal clear pre production demo to refer to, you’ll spot problems and issues within your music way before you spend all the time setting up microphones, dialing in tones, and recording the songs for real. It’s definitely worth your effort.
Believe me now, even though we live in a time when recording equipment is super cheap, and you can get a two-channel interface for under $100.
There are still people that skip this step of recording pre-production demos.
And I’m here to tell you that it is a massive mistake, especially if you’re going to be paying money to hit the studio with a real producer where time equals money.
As someone who’s been recording bands for well over a decade, I can tell you with 100% certainty that one of the biggest problems I see is people not tracking pre-production demos.
on their own time when time was free and didn’t cost anything.
This lack of preparation always ends up resulting in extra time spent in the studio when these simple issues could have been ironed out if just simple pre-production demos were tracked within a rehearsal space or during the songwriting process.
Remember, the studio is primarily a place to capture performances, not work out problems within the songs that shouldn’t be taken care of in the first place.
It all comes down to this simple fact: the key to any great recording is strict attention to detail.
Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re recording in your own home studio or you’ll be recording in a professional studio with a pro level producer, ironing out all these details into pre production fees in the demoing phase will save you money and ultimately time in endless frustration.
Believe me, Now you might be thinking to yourself, well, I recorded my band’s rehearsals isn’t that good enough.
And I’m here to tell you that it’s not. You can rehearse seven days a week for hours at a time.
And if you’re not recording yourself and listening back to those recordings in a crystal clear manner, you’re going to miss details.
In other words, a crappy iPhone recording isn’t gon na cut it. You need to hear how your kick patterns are lining up with your bass guitar, and you need to make sure that both guitar parts aren’t conflicting with one another.
And the easiest way to do this is to record pre-production demos.
These details will often go unnoticed in a full band rehearsal, and again, a crappy iPhone recording is not going to get the job done.
So with all that being said, how do you record this pre production?
What do you need?
Is it difficult? I’m here to tell you that it’s extremely simple and will cost you next to nothing.
So with that being said, here’s the gear you’ll need. A laptop, any laptop, or any computer for that matter, that’s been manufactured within the last 10 years or even a little older. We’ll be more than up to the task of recording simple demos and audio interface.
Any two-channel audio interface on the market will do the trick.
Just make sure the interface contains at least two XLR inputs and at least a single quarter-inch input, which almost all computer speakers have.
If you have a set of small studio monitors, great.
If not, any set of computer speakers will work just fine as headphones.
Any set of close-back studio headphones or earbuds will work with two microphones but stand on cables.
Now, if your band contains a singer, you probably have a few microphones laying around. Any two microphones will work with recording software.
Now if you don’t already own a DA, I’d highly recommend Reaper. It’s only $60, very powerful and light on the CPU.
Now, for the purposes of this video, I’ll be helping my good friends in Toy Machine record a demo of their song. Last chance, we’ll be recording it at my studio fright box recording, but with none of the usual gear that I use, I put together a separate simple setup consisting of only the previously mentioned pieces of gear that almost any musician can own on the cheap.
Okay, so let’s set up all this gear.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is connect your audio interface to the computer with the provided USB cable.
Now connect your speakers to the outputs on the back of your audio interface.
Now connect your headphones to the headphone out on your interface.
Once your recording software has been installed, open it up, dig into the preferences and make sure that your interface is showing up and selected as your audio device.
Now if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this video, it’s the importance of temple mapping in advance.
In other words, temple mapping your songs before you hit the studio.
I’ve had countless experiences where bands did not temple map their music and we spent most of our drum tracking day tempo mapping our songs, which should have been done on the band’s own time.
The perfect way to suck the life out of a recording session.
Don’t leave your drummer waiting around on drum day. Drum day is meant for recording drums, not tempo mapping.
So, just in case you’re not familiar with what a tempo map is, A tempo map is a click track. Within your recording software that your entire song is built around, this will also include tempo changes that your song may or may not have.
Now, the reason why it’s so important to do this in advance and not wait until drum tracking day is that your songs may or may not have subtle tempo variations that you may not even realize. Again, you do not want to spend hours in the real studio and time equals money making your drummer wait around to find out that the tempo that you thought your song was really wasn’t. I see this happen all of the time.
If you’re in the type of band where you write the songs together in a room, more than likely there will be some tempo variation that you’re not even aware of.
So, tempo mapping in the demo phase is definitely worth it.
Luckily, the way that you go about it is extremely simple.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is create a new mono track in your da W and name it something like scratch guitar.
Plug your guitar into the first input on the interface and select input one as your input source on your new guitar track within your software.
Have your guitar player play as hard as they’re gon na play.
Adjust the input gain on your interface to where there’s no sign of clipping on your interface or within your software.
I never remember lowering your fader does not prevent clipping on the recording end, so make sure that your trim is set right at the source.
If the guitar parts you’re about to record require amp distortion, insert one of your daw stock amp simulator plugins onto the track. The guitar tone doesn’t have to be amazing, just decent enough for your drummer to follow along. Have your guitar player play the song at the approximate tempo of the intro.
Once you’ve determined the tempo, arm the track and record away. Do this for the rest of the song.
Now quick pro tip: insert clear markers for different sections of the song once your scratch guitar is fully mapped out.
Example: intro verse chorus verse two chorus two. These markers will come in handy later.
Now, once your tempo map and scratch guitar are all wrapped up, it’s time to move on to drums.
Demoing your drum tracks is an excellent idea for two primary reasons.
Number one, your drummer will quickly realize any issues going on within the tempo map that might not be right.
Again, you want to do this on your own time and not in the real studio.
And reason number two is that all of your drummer’s grooves and fills will be held under a microscope and you will be able to review and make sure that everything he’s playing is not only set in stone, but works within the context of the music.
Again, these are details that often go unnoticed in a live band rehearsal, and again, you’re not gon na be able to hear these details on a simple iPhone recording.
To record your drummer, create a stereo track in your software named the track drums. Select inputs one and two as your input sources for your new stereo track.
Connect your two microphones to the XLR inputs on your interface.
Position one microphone over the left side of your drum set and then position the second microphone over the right side of the drum set.
Now you don’t have to get too scientific about it.
We’re just looking to capture a stereo image of the entire kit.
Hand the headphones over to your drummer and have them play as hard as they’re going to play.
Adjust the input gain on your interface for both microphones and make sure that the level coming in is roughly the same on both inputs.
As per usual, avoid any clipping on the way to playing a portion of the scratch track and have your drummer play along.
More often than not, he or she will want the level of the click and guitar to be adjusted. Simply move the faders within your software to a level where your drummer is satisfied with the balance of the click and guitar track.
Arm your drum track and record away.
Your drummer can now fine tune his or her parts to perfectly fit the song with clarity.
Okay, now that you have a rock solid drum performance on your hands, it’s time to move on to bass.
Even if you plan on recording with a real Bass Amp in the studio, keep it simple in the demo phase. Plug straight into your interface and use an AMP sim. Focus on solidifying all of your bass players’ parts and make sure that they all lock in with your drummer.
Again, now that you have a clear drum track to work off of, you’ll be able to hear all the interplay between your bass parts and your drum parts, and now’s the time to focus on solidifying your bass parts.
Now, once you wrap up your base part, it’s time to move on to the next foundational element of any production rhythm guitar.
Now, the reason why recording your rhythm guitars in the demo phase is so important is that you’d be amazed at all of the subtle rhythmic inconsistencies between two different guitar players.
This is the time to iron out these inconsistencies so you have your parts completely locked in for when you record your songs for real. Even if you’re working with two great guitar players, they’ll often play riffs in a slightly different way.
And this is often not a good thing.
Once you iron out any kinks in the rhythm of the guitars, have your guitar players punch in any inconsistencies so they can reference the demo and learn how to play their parts when they hit the studio for real.
Now, if your band has two guitar players, have each guitar player record a single rhythm guitar track. If your band only has one guitarist, have him or she record their guitar part twice.
So one rhythm track on the left and another rhythm track on the right.
So, now that the basis of your song is recorded, it’s time to move on to the most important element of any production.
The lead vocal, so say your vocal mic up on a stand. If your singer is more comfortable holding the mic, that works as well. Remember, these are just demo vocals.
So hand your singer the headphones, arm your newly created vocal track and let your singer go to town.
This is the point at which your singer should be finalizing all of their melodies, vocal rhythms, and lyrics, again, in the demo, not in the real studio, even if you’re the recording engineer.
Back to Depo.
Once your lead vocals are locked in, you should have the meat and potatoes of your song fully realized.
Okay, so now that you have the meat and potatoes of your song recorded, you can experiment with some overdubs.
Now, just a word of caution, do not get carried away here. It’s easy to get carried away and record a bunch of layers that are just not necessary.
You want to make sure that these are elements that are important to the music. There’s no reason to layer 100 guitar tracks or 50 vocal tracks.
This is a time to work out vocal harmonies, maybe some background keyboard elements, things like that. Just have fun with it, but don’t get too carried away.
So, now that you’re happy with all of your songs, individual parts, it’s time to mix your song down and export it.
But you do not need to be a world-class mix engineer to mix a decent sounding demo at basic level, and panning is really all you need.
Now the benefit of recording your demo like this is that you have basic control over all of the individual elements within your song. Don’t worry about making it sound like a Polish radio ready production.
That’s not what this is about.
What this is about is having your band learn their music inside and out based off of this clearly recorded demo.
So again, just focus on basic level control and panning.
So, once you’re happy with all of the basic levels, export your mix as an mp3.
Now I just want to quickly mention three additional benefits to demoing your music.
Number one, like I previously mentioned, your tempo map is done. Take it from someone with experience. Not tempo mapping before you hit the studio can often result in nightmarish recording sessions.
Believe me, I’ve seen it happen time and time and time again. You want to avoid this.
So, by demoing your music in this fashion, your tempo mapping will be done over with.
So when you hit the actual studio, even if it’s your own studio, your drummer could just focus on recording his drum parts.
And playing with feelings. Benefit number two of recording demos like this is that you will probably come up with ideas that you wouldn’t come up with if you were just jamming in a live rehearsal.
This is because you’ll be able to hear all the fine details of your music in a crystal clear way.
So you might adjust some of your rhythm guitar parts, add a cool keyboard layer, and come up with a vocal harmony that you wouldn’t otherwise.
And again, coming up with these parts now in the demoing phase before you hit the actual studio will save you money and, ultimately, time.
And this leads me to the third additional benefit, which is my personal favorite. Some of these elements in your demo can exist within the final production.
In other words, if you have a certain background layer or vocal harmony that you really like in the demo, you can export these files and give them to your producer or engineer. The fact that your music was recorded to a tempo map and that there’s a solid temple reference means any of these files can be used in the final production. Just export any files you’d like to use in the real mix as a standard WAV file and your engineer will have no problem dropping them into the final production.
I do this a lot with background keyboards, sometimes guitar solos, maybe even gang vocals or vocal layers, things that just don’t have to be recorded a second time because the magic happened on the demo.
So keep this in mind and another way to save you money and, ultimately, time.
So, in conclusion, don’t shortchange yourself. Record demos for your band, even if you’re the recording engineer and you have your own home studio and you’re going to be doing all of the recording for the final production on your own.
Working out all these details in advance before you spend time setting up microphones and dialing in the real tones will make your life a million times easier and make the mixing, recording, and editing process a million times easier.
Believe me, if you are recording at a professional studio with a pro level engineer, doing all this pre production in advance will not only make their lives easier, but it will save you a ton of money because so much of the time that you would have spent working on these details when you hit the actual studio will be taken care of in advance.
Again, all you need is a two-channel interface, a handful of cheapo microphones, and an inexpensive daw like Reaper, and you could record full pre-pro demos on your own in your own time.
Now what I’ve done is I’ve packaged everything in this video into a simple PDF guide that you can download for absolutely free.
There’s a link below in this video’s description.
Download the guide and feel free to refer to it when it’s time to record your own pre-production demos.
This is something that I used to never do and I always ended up paying for it in the long run.
And it wasn’t till I started implementing it that I saw the real benefits of recording these demos.
So learn from my mistakes and record your own pre-production demos.
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And again, be sure to download the free guide that goes along with this video.
There’s a link below in this video’s description and feel free to refer to it when it’s time to record your own demos.