4 Tips for Self-Recording a Quality Demo

As an aspiring musician, you have to budget your money carefully. A quality demo is equally as important because it’s sent off to record labels and shared with potential new fans. Not everyone has the money to buy studio time, but with these four tips, you can record your own quality demo.

1. Find recording software that suits your needs.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of recording a demo, the first thing to think about is what recording software you’ll need. There are many different options out there, and as a musician, you need to think about what your music requires. Many live musicians can get away with a program such as Audacity, whereas a DJ may want to look into ProTools or FL Studios.

Once you’ve decided upon a software, take the time to learn the different settings, options, and effects that it offers. Remember that the point of self-recording is to save money, so don’t feel the need to buy any premium add-ons if you’re not going to use them.

2. Record only your best material.

Once the songwriting bug bites, it can be difficult to shift attention to other areas. However, when recording a demo, songwriting must be kept to a minimum. If you have two to three songs that have had positive feedback from live performances, record those.

Don’t feel compelled to write new material for the demo, and don’t feel compelled to record everything you’ve written just because you have the capability to. Fans and labels alike would rather hear a few well-crafted songs than every riff you’ve written.

Decide on what sounds the best and record it. This will keep the time you spend putting the demo together at a minimum, giving you more time to practice, write, and play shows.

3. Keep the volume turned down.

Your garage isn’t a professional studio. You most likely do not have soundproofing foam or sound dampeners. If everything is turned up to full blast, then the noise will become jumbled together, making it difficult to discern one instrument from another.

When you keep the volume turned down, the overall sound quality will be much crisper on the recording. The low volume will also help you hear small mistakes more easily, empowering you to fix them quickly.

4. Focus on the music.

It can be tempting to continually fuss with the software settings and to try to get the perfect mic set up. If you find yourself doing this, ask yourself one question: are you trying to impress people with how well you can mic a drum set, or with how well you can play music? The answer should always be the latter.

Demos by nature are meant to showcase potential, not how well you can mix a song by yourself. Focus on your sound and your music. If you have your software settings at a point where it can pick up your sound with minimal background noise or volume peaks, you’re already well ahead of the competition.

Self-recording a demo is a great way for musicians who are just starting out to save money. If you choose to self-record, remember to research and choose a recording software that has the minimum requirements for what you need, only record your best material, keep the recording volume low, and focus on the music, not the setup.

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Anthony Mauro is a San Francisco State graduate who splits his time between the Bay Area and San Diego. He spends his free time thinking long hair is cool, playing video games for an online audience, and writing short stories, comic books, and novels.

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