Home Recording

How well-recorded do my demos need to be?

Great question. We get it all the time. The answer is actually very simple. For song pitches, the recording can be much less "produced" than it should be for artist pitches. Some people believe that a song pitch demo should leave some room for imagination - let the artist or A&R person develop some emotional ownership of the song by imagining a tambourine part or a vocal harmony. For band or artist pitches, you may want to flesh out more tracks that show the artist's whole vision. Remember though, A&R people are far more interested in the song's potential, and the artist's appeal than they are about the quality of the recording. Nearly every act signed to a major label will be recording their entire album over again with a pro engineer and producer. The demo is only a demo!

Home recorded 8-track demos are often sufficient for Film & TV placements. For examples read our article Is Your Sound Quality Good Enough For Film & TV Placements.

Should I record in a professional or home studio?

For song pitches, you can almost always get what you need from a home studio. Frankly, the same is true for artist and band demos, but you will need more expertise behind the console if you are doing a fairly developed demo.

You would really be surprised to hear how many great 4-track and 8-track demos come in to TAXI that were recorded in "home" studios. The equipment is so good today, that if you've got the engineering skills, you can literally record a top quality album at home. The converse is also true. If you place somebody who is pretty clueless behind a million-dollar Neve console with a killer array of microphones and outboard gear, the result they get will sound like it was done in a low-end home studio. Like so many other things in life, it's not the equipment; it's the skill level of the person using it.

Should I use a producer?

If it's possible to find somebody with a great reputation who really knows how to produce, the answer is yes. A highly skilled, objective ear almost always makes for a much better product.

On the other hand, there are a lot of unscrupulous people who claim to be producers, but don't really know what they are doing. Research your choice carefully. Try one song together before you commit to doing more work.

Should I sing my own demo?

If it is an artist pitch, absolutely. If it's a song pitch, try a professional demo singer if you can afford one. An exception to this rule of thumb is when the writer (meaning you) has a great voice, or just the right kind of voice for the song. I've heard demos sung by people who had gravel in their throats, and couldn't nail a note to save their lives, but somehow their voice worked. Maybe it was because they conveyed the meaning of the song better than a stranger could. But please don't take this idea as an excuse to put a lackluster, crummy, or inappropriate vocal track on your demo.

One last tip: For a song pitch, many industry pros try to match the gender, ethnicity (when appropriate), and key of the person they are pitching to. It makes sense. Why would you want a white, Country sounding, male vocalist singing in the key of F, id you were pitching a song to a female R&B singer who sings most of her songs in A or B? It's not a racial or sexist thing - it's just a way to make it more apparent to the artist that the song would be a "natural" for them to cut.


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