I was just talking to someone about recording songs this weekend, and I had the thought/query: does everyone/anyone still record full demos of songs, before recording final versions?
I do; I guess I'm more like the '70s (ha ha), where I demo a tune as fully realized as possible. For me, it lets the song "live" a little with a reference point, and then if anything happens between that and the "final" version, it's usually for the better.
I know; nerd-talk stuff, right?
I do the same thing! Once I come up with a basic tune, I sit down with GarageBand and crank out a version with MIDI bass'n'drums. Then I take it to the band so they can "learn" it. Each member adds his/her own flava and the songs take on whole new lives once they're in the hands of the band, but for me the "demo" model makes the best embryo.
And in fact we're in the process of doing some new tunes in my living room. Once they're ready for a "final" version we'll take 'em to the studio, but I can record most of the rhythm instruments here, for free, and e-mail the clips to our producer. In fact my ultimate goal is to record an entire album in my underwear*.
* How the album got in my underwear I'll never know.
Hey, Mister Dot - good question.
For my two most recent recordings, I first recorded "scratch tracks" into GarageBand... just me playing my guitar and singing to the GB click track. Then I built up the songs, track by track, starting with drums, then bass, then piano, accordion, shakers, claps, etc. Then I inserted solos, etc. Then I re-recorded the rhythm guitar parts and the lead vocals, also working out the harmonies, and just deleting the original scratch tracks.
Then, I sent those files to Dan McLoughlin at Garden Street Music for sweetening, mixing, etc. We also re-recorded the vocals at the studio, and Annie McLoughlin added some extra background vocal harmonies. Dan did an amazing job improving the quality of the recordings and making them all sound much more professional.
So... it wasn't like I first recorded a full demo and then re-recorded everything as the final song. I guess the first "scratch tracks" were the demo, but then that very same file was transformed, draft after draft, into the final song. The main motivation for doing this was because I couldn't afford to drop thousands of dollars into studio time, and it also forced me to make choices and be more disciplined as I was recording. I knew any missed rhythm or sour note was going to cost time (money) in the studio to fix.
I also have the added benefit of performing 6-10 shows per week on average, so I get to test these songs out in front of audiences many times before I commit them to "tape". It was the same playing with the Fuzzy Lemons... each member might bring in a quick "demo" of a song, but then we'd practice it and perform it many, many times before we recorded it. So the process of playing the songs live really helped when it came time to record them.
And, as you can see, I am fascinated by the recording process and will talk about it until the COWS COME HOME!!
Hope to see you in the 'boken this summer!
I used to spend a lot of time making demo's, but these days I'd rather work out the song with the band, to get their vibe on the song then record that with a digital 2 track and revise from there.
I might make a acoustic demo to give to the band so they can learn the basic structure before we rehearse, but when I do a recording session it's for the final version. Unless I decide to go back in and d re-recorded the song in a different way.
Part of the fun of being an engineer and having my studio in the house.
Good info ... GREAT responses! GarageBand is really quite the performer for processing ideas into somewhat workable arrangements, etc. I really love the program - I actually teach 7th graders on it, and sometimes the same purpose. We are actually recording an upcoming school band concert.
I have to mention (and Baze knows this!) that when I demo up tunes in GB, I actually RECORD LIVE DRUMS into it, too! Weird, right? Since drums are my main instrument, I tend to write "from the drums up," and dig putting in a lot of syncopation, etc. It's gotta be human for me, even at that level.
It's not the best sonically - the kit sometimes ends up sounding like it was recorded when being played underwater, in the studio next door - but it works!
I've only peeked at GarageBand for iPad, but it seems to be a bit different.
I'm not much of a drummer and we don't have space for our cat let alone a drum set. (Not to mention the fact that my neighbors would no doubt run us out of town... I'm already driving them crazy with the accordion.)
I'm obsessed with 3/4 time (just ask Dave) and GB doesn't offer a lot of drum loops in that signature, but I have found some nice loops from other companies available for purchase that I've used in recent recordings. They don't sound as good as drums in the studio at Garden Street Music, but they're better than most of the GB loops and have greater variety within each song... different verse patterns, different chorus patterns, multiple fills, etc.
You're fortunate to be able to record your own drumming at home! Definitely adds a human touch that loops cannot provide. I think for my next couple recordings I will invest in some studio time and ask one of my drummer friends to lay down some real beats. Definitely enhances the final product.
I’ll use my laptop and multi-track guitar and vocals for songwriting purposes. It’s great for working out ideas and arrangements prior to recording a final song. That is bout the limit though.
What works for me as far as the songwriting process goes is playing them for my kids.
If they start dancing around and singing the songs I know I'm onto something good.
If they walk away bored, I know I need to start over.
What am I going to do when they get older???
Our "demo" is usually just guitar and vocals recorded on a cell phone or whatever is handy at the time!
We usually spend time writing the album and doing demos like this before the real recording starts.
Once we've written everything we start laying down tracks in the studio (we have our own basic home studio).
I guess the method isn't that important...we do what works for us. It's the end result that counts.