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How to record your first home studio demo Print E-mail

Thursday, 19 July 2012 00:00

Written by Marty Alan McGill

Home studio demos have come to be simple affairs with the emergence of digital recording. Anyone with decent musical capabilities and a quiet space can make a presentable home demo.  

You should know by now what you want to achieve, is this to be a full blown demo or a simple guitar/vocal? I will cover the full demo, because once you understand this, the other is a piece of cake.

Start by laying your drum tracks, this is the foundation of the song. I usually recommend against drum machines, but they're fine for this application. Don't overdo the drums, you are making a demo, not recording 'Inna Godda Da Vida'. A good solid rhythm with minimal rolls and fill-ins is what you need.

Next comes the bass, this should start setting the feel, or groove of the tune. Nothing flashy here either, just good in-time playing on a good in-tune bass. You will need to compress the bass, or play it through an amplifier, and mic it into the recorder.

Rhythm guitar and/or piano come next, these definitely need to be in tune, played well and in time. After you have these three tracks, do a quick work-mix before adding any vocals or lead instruments. This will give you something to sing or play to.

The vocal is the most important part of a demo, unless you are trying to showcase a whole band. If this is the case, you probably should be in a real studio in the first place. Record your vocal(s) without any effects, these will be added at mixdown. Add any backup or harmony vocal(s) and do a quick mix on these to make it all sort of fit together.

Be conservative with your lead instruments, no blazing solos. Simple, tasteful fill-ins is all that's necessary for a demo. After you're satisfied that you have done the best you can do it's time to mix. Keep the vocal out front in the mix, this is what you should be highlighting, don't lose it in a sea of instrumentation. Add a little reverb to the vocal, maybe some chorus and/or delay.

When you are satisfied with the mix, burn it onto a CD, then play this on several different machines, your car stereo, home stereo, boom boxes, etc. If you don't like what you hear, then go back to the mix and tweak it until it sounds like you expect it to. Don't settle for less than what you are capable of.


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