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A Note from the President:

Avoiding a Demo Dud

by Joel Shaffer, Owner of Ultra-Sonix Records

So you and your band finally decided to record your originals that your friends swear will get you signed.  Not sure you know where to start?  Here are a few tips that will help you avoid creating a demo dud and will keep you on the right track in the studio.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice.  It is essential that you come into the studio with your songs flawless.  The better your band know the parts, especially on an individual basis, the more money you will save in the studio.  I would recommend your band members practicing individually on a clicker or a metronome to prepare for recording in the studio since they will be recording to a clicker track.

  2. Don't  Cut Corners.  It may be tempting to record your demo on your brother's friend's uncle's 4-track because you don't want to fork out the $50.00 to $80.00 per hour for a good studio and an engineer.  You'll end up wasting your time.  Don't accept anything less than perfection on your recording.  I have heard more demo CD's with songs that have sloppy cutoffs, vocal intonation problems, and crappy mixdowns.  Do it right or don't do it at all; otherwise your recording will receive about 20 seconds of playtime before it is thrown into the trash.

  3. Hire a reputable sound engineer.  Since it is the engineer who records, mixes and masters your CD, he will either make or brake you, depending on the breadth of his experience and expertise.  Talk to both local music studio heads in your area and local recording artists whom they would recommend.  Ask them pointed questions about the quality of the engineer's work as well as his personality.  Will he cut corners or is his work thorough?  Were his clients satisfied or unhappy with the finished product?  Is he flexible or rigid?  Is the atmosphere he creates intense or  more laid back?  Does he have good communication skills or is he difficult to understand?  A good engineer must personify more than just good studio recording and mixing skills.  His demeanor should create an environment that perfectly suits their client.  Also, investigate his work portfolio of CDs.  From his previous works you can judge the extent of his ability and make a reasonable decision. 

  4. Add Creative "Ear-Candy".  Ear-Candy can be summed up as all the little things that give life to your CD.  It's what causes me to play a song over and over again.  Ear-Candy may be a particular guitar effect in one measure of the song.  Maybe it is a background cello part with a counter melody.  It could even be a pause in the song between your verse and chorus.  However, good Ear-Candy can only go as far as the extent of your creativity in song arrangement.  So experiment with all of your guitar effects!  Utilize instruments and keyboard sounds that are different that the norm!  Change the time signature for a measure and make dynamic contrasts in a song!  I guarantee your music will stand above the countless wanna-be "flavor-of-the-month" rock bands that litter the modern music scene.

  5. Make sure your CD is mastered for radio play.  This is a tricky one...  Much of modern rock music has been mastered at outrageously high levels.  However, the radio station gatekeepers seem to love it that way.  If the mastering levels are boosted way high, they often deem it good enough for a spot in their rotation.  However, by jacking up the levels, many bands lose their dynamic quality on their CDs, which can make them sound bland.  The trick is for your engineer to be good enough to know how to raise the mastering levels high enough for radio play, without losing its dynamic edge.

I probably could add other suggestions, but artists need to live and learn, experiencing the highs and lows of the recording process.  Hopefully, your music will turn heads and get the attention of the music industry...because much of today's Christian music scene is filled with artistic mediocrity.

Questions, Comments, or Suggestions?

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