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3 simple differences between a Demo and a Record

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by mambo4, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    3 simple things that make the difference between a Demo and a Record

    My band has DIY'ed our first 2 EPs , and is DIYing our first full length,
    We have gone alot more deeply into the recording process than ever before
    and the experience has underscored these 3 simple differences that make a HUGE differnce in the result:

    1.) good mircophones
    2.) good preamps
    3.) a good room

    I have read it and heard it from egnineer types for years, but seeing it unfold first hand really drove the point home to me.

    Notice I said simple, not cheap :)
  2. cableguy


    Jun 4, 2009
    North Bend, WA
    I might add
    4) good mic placement
    5) good engineer
  3. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    I would venture to say that there are even more fundamental differences due to the very different functions of demos (which are made to display songs and songwriting, usually to a third party of limited size, such as a record or publishing company) and albums (which are made to sell the final musical product and hopefully long-lasting audio imagery to an audience).

    These fundamental differences would include:

    -Production and performance
    -"Strength" of songwriting (albums are usually done after a demo phase)


    -Audio quality (I mentioned this one last for a reason)
  4. Tom Schultz and his band Boston made a great recording in his basement.

    He took it to Epic Records.

    They loved it and told him he had a great "demo," inviting him to their studios to re-record it.

    Schultz countered that he and the band had not made a "demo," but a "recording worthy of distribution," and that they would not be re-recording it.

    The basement recording became the first Boston release and sold zillions of copies.

    A demo can be as rough or as polished as you can get it, depending on how you intend it to be used.
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I suppose the point I was getting at was regarding specifically audio quality
    (as opposed to musicianship/songwriting, or conceptually in the artist's mind, other non-recording tech things )

    I our case we did our best with what we had for our EPs but at the end of the day some mid level mics in a basement still resulted in and EP that "sounds like a demo".
    What we are getting now is worlds beyond those basement recordings and the primary reasons are the 3 things I mentioned.

    However a good engineer is an important point... you gotta have the ears to hear the difference those things make, and the yen to try all different kinds of things to see what gets you good results.
  6. BrBss


    Jul 9, 2010
    Albuquerque NM
    I would say good mic placement is a trait of a good engineer, and thus this is probably the MOST important factor. IME.
  7. For me, none of the responses have nailed how I differentiate the two.

    I've recorded demo's at work, which has an incredible live room, a neve/calrec hybrid desk, a studer a827 and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of outboard. And I've recorded records at home with my nice but fairly modest setup.

    A tutor I had years ago said that the difference between a demo and a record is simply how far in depth you go. For a demo a guitar sound/drum take, whatever, is what it is, you get it sounding good and record without worrying too much.

    For a record you do exactly the same thing, but focus very hard on 'is it PERFECT'. And if not, you backtrack until you have found the weak link, then fix it. So for me, the difference between a demo and a record is simply time spent on getting things perfect, nothing else.

    You can make a 'record' on cheap pre's and mics, or cut a demo on the best gear possible. This is a tried and tested fact!
  8. DeadPoet


    Jun 4, 2003
    +1 on the above.

    My importance chain:
    the song
    the arrangement
    the musicians and their gear
    the room (both live room as control room)
    the engineer
    mic placement
    mic choice
    the rest (with exotic instrument and AC cables and digital clocks making probably 1,2% of the total sound)

  9. m_bisson


    May 26, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Actually, a "demo" is merely meant to be a taste of what's to come, regardless of sound quality :) Noooooooobs!!!! of the English language!!!!!!
  10. plangentmusic

    plangentmusic Banned

    Jun 30, 2010
    I don't think it's quite that simple. (The Boston album being a good example).

    Sure, if you use crap equipment you'll have a crap recording but these days there's no excuse -- if you know what you're doing.

    I think the 3 things that make something most makes something sound like a demo are...

    Bad timing.

    Cymbals that are too loud. (A dead giveaway).

    Not understanding the voicing of instruments and their timbres.

    And oh yeah, a lack of volume. If a recording is weak, you can't expect people to just tune up the volume or adjust the EQ. Most industry people listen to everything with the same setting for the very reason of comparison.

    Here's a tune from my CD, all recorded on garage band. No mics. No room.
  11. what the pluck

    what the pluck

    Oct 13, 2010
    .... a good mix can make a BIG difference, assuming the source was recorded well. Someone who knows what they are doing in the mixing stage can make a budget recording shine. If there are mess ups in the playing a whole lot of editing may be required too.
  12. Also, a demo is also often not a 'demo of whats to come', as in its purpose is not to show someone else a rough version of the tracks. It's purpose can be for the band to get a handle on the recording process, and the material and work out what works and what doesn't, so come the day they go into a big expensive studio everyone is 100% clear of what needs to be recorded and what sound is needed etc. what worked and what didn't and all that.

    So in a sense, and modern audio 'demo' should often be called a 'trial run' as well. A whole different reason to do it, but it's still called a demo! Almost all big recordings are preceded by one or more demo's, many of which are only ever heard by the band and a few others in their close circle of industry peeps.
  13. The only real difference between a demo and a record is intention.
    Every demo is a recording(record) subject to the same potential or lack thereof.

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