Recording a first demo CD is a big step in the direction of being a professional musician. It is not every day that an artist steps up and decides to present themselves professionally to the world, which in effect is what a demo CD really is. For an artist, a demo CD is very much like a resume, a portfolio of the highest quality, and a calling card. Getting it right is important, and presenting it well is equally as important.
Recording your first demo CD will take time and money, something that most musicians have precious little, and the steps taken in preparation will enable you to make the most of your time in the studio. When choosing your studio setting, you have two options. You can pay the higher costs (which typically results in higher quality) for the use of a pre-existing high name studio or you can find local garage talent. In many cases, local garage talent will be more patient, will be more willing to offer suggestions and help you through the process, and will charge you less. The quality of the demo will be acceptable, sometimes even very high, if you find the right garage talent. This requires asking around … a lot … and listening to some previously recorded demo CDs.
Technology has advanced far enough ahead and has become cost effective enough that many professionals can now build their own recording studios right in their own garage, sound proofed spare room, or somewhere on their property. So can amateurs. This is actually good for the industry and many musicians are even beginning to learn how to build their own recording studios to create their own demo CDs. However, having your own recording equipment and having all the qualities of a good recording studio are two very different animals. You can find affordable, high quality amateur/professional recording without breaking the bank that will be of admirable quality if you look hard enough.
Once you are sure of the direction you want to head and have either found your garage talent or have booked yourself with a professional high end sound studio, the key to your success lies in your talent as well as your preparation. No matter how cool you are, you’re going to be stoked and getting your foot in the door is going to feel very powerful to you. You must prepare so that your emotions don’t take you out of your element and ruin your time allotted.
Preparation means organization, it means knowing exactly what you’re going to do from the moment you step into the sound booth until the moment you step out. Ironically, it also means being a little bit flexible in case there’s an issue out of your control that might delay or offset your intentions. Preparation means, aside from the obvious of knowing the music so well you could record it backwards while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, having your equipment tuned, ready, in top working order and being emotionally ready to do what you do best.
If you are using live musicians, each of them needs to meet the same standard of organization that you are aiming to achieve. There is nothing more frustrating than having to wait on, cater to, and continuously replay for the benefit of one musician out of the bunch who can’t seem to get his or her goodies in gear. Have a little meeting the night before and go over a written checklist as well as a little “pep” talk to help the musicians around you live up to their potential. Hours will be spent on each individual recording, so you are going to want you and your crew well rested, and relaxed so everyone can do the one thing that will make a higher quality demo CD. Have some fun.
Every musician knows, and this applies to recording your first demo CD, that the instant a musician is wound up, nervous, and focused on everything but the music, something will sound off no matter how well they are able to cover their emotions. There is a fantastic quality that comes through when a musician is relaxed and enjoying him or herself in the process. This is vital to creating the best demo CD possible.
From start to finish, recording your first demo CD should be an experience that you learn from, enjoy, and of course, create the perfect CD for you and your goals. This can be done with preparation, practice, a little guidance from those who “know a great who can help you out,” and enough faith in yourself to have fun while performing.
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of musicianhome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.