Recording your song demos can - and should - be a terrific experience. Hearing a world class singer and studio musicians bring your song to life is one of the great joys of being a songwriter. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind both before and during the demo process to make the most of your experience.
1. Do your homework
One thing that I’d highly recommend is doing as much work as possible prior to getting to the studio so you can be fully present during the actual session. One of the first things you can do in advance would be to finish your song. I understand. I’m a songwriter, too, and sometimes you get so excited about a song that you want it demoed right away. You figure you’ll just put the finishing touches on it in the studio. The reality is that this is an expensive way to write. Songwriting is tricky enough without paying a studio’s hourly rate for the privilege. Having a good clean rough recording is also imperative because not only is this how the demo singer will learn your song, it will also be what the session musicians will reference in the studio. Don’t assume you’ll be relaxed enough to sing and play your song on the spot. Studios can be a bit intimidating. Better to make the rough recording and get it the way you like it before you get to the studio so you’ll have something solid to refer to if there are questions.
2. Bring lyric sheets for everyone
Lyric sheets are for much more than just keeping a record of your written words. They are indispensable at demo sessions. Make sure you bring multiple copies of your printed lyric sheet with every word written out - not “repeat chorus” for example - to the session. The vocalist, of course, will use it to refer to while singing but the engineer will use it to keep up with where they are in the song during recording and fixing selected spots. Finally, you should use your copy to take notes. And speaking of taking notes…
3. Take notes first, talk later
In order for your session to run smoothly, it’s more often than not much better to hold your comments until either you’re asked to weigh in or there’s a natural pause in the proceedings. That being said, don’t assume you’ll remember everything you’d like to check and fix later. Taking notes as the vocalist goes through the song is a great way to maintain a session’s momentum instead of stopping and starting the vocalist every time you want to check something out. This will go a long way towards helping the singer warm up into the song, get the feel and not get frustrated - or tired - along the way. There will always be time to fix/correct and when that time comes, you’ll be able to refer to your notes and methodically address each question or concern.
While a demo session might only last a few hours, your finished demo should last for years and years. Do yourself a favor and give your songs the best opportunity to succeed by prepping appropriately and being organized and methodical during your studio session.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, music producer and educator with recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Through his studios, Cliff provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual, live access to Nashville’s best session musicians and demo singers for their songwriting demos. To find out more go to http://www.CliffGoldmacher.com/studio. You can download Cliff’s FREE tip sheet “A Dozen Quick Fixes To Instantly Improve Your Songs” by going to https://se295.infusionsoft.com/app/form/homepage-songwriting-tip-sheet.