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Experience at Recording a Demo

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by billjr, Oct 5, 2009.

  1. billjr


    Jul 25, 2006
    Darlington, SC
    This past weekend, our lead guitarist had a friend bring his equipment to our practice room to record a demo for us. Because they were good friends and played in a band together, we were not charged anything for it; I believe we got overcharged.

    When I got there Friday evening, he was setting up his equipment. He had a Behringer mixing board and a TASCAM recorder. Once he got the cables hooked up, he started getting each of us to play so he could set the gain levels. Then the real fun started.

    We began playing our first song, and it was tough, as I could not hear myself at all. Usually when we practice, I simply plug in direct to our mixer, and go straight through the PA with our singers, while the guitars go only through their amps. It's a very small garage, so not enough room for my stack, and no one told me to bring my small combo. Well, we played the first song several times to make sure we had it down before recording it, and then we did a recording with levels set so that we could actually hear ourselves. Just like he warned, the bass was way too loud on the recording, so I was OK with him setting the levels so that the recording was right, and I would just have to play "silent."

    So then we begin recording the first song, and he tells us that we should just go right into the next song, as he couldn't stop the recording once it started. I was like, ***? We can't record a song, listen to make sure it's OK, then practice the next one before we record? No way. We would have one long recorded track with five songs and all the between song banter. He would then break it down onto CD at his home. OK, wierd.

    So we go through the songs we wanted, and right after we finish the last song, we notice that someone kicked the power chord loose, shutting off the recorder, and as you can probably guess, losing everything we recorded. So...... after 3 1/2 hours....

    We start from the beginning, and go through our five songs, much better now that we've actually practiced them at least once so far. When he plays the results, everything sounds great except the one singer/guitarist who is not really a strong vocalist completely overwhelmed the recording. Even when he was singing backup, that was all you could hear. When he wasn't singing the rest of us sounded great together, but when he came in all you could hear was his voice. I can't believe the guy sat through all those songs with his headphones on and didn't adjust the gain on his mike. One of the problems was that the singer couldn't hear himself either, and like me, had no auditory feedback on how he sounded.

    Well, as we had been doing this for hours, we decided to go ahead and burn the disk. He put a CD in the recorder and 30 minutes later it was still blank. The guy said his burner must be dirty and that he would go home and clean it, burn the disk and get it to us.

    Man, what a crappy night. There's no way I would give a CD that sounds like what I heard to a bar owner. I think it would kill our chances of getting a gig. I think we still need to go into a local studio, where we could get a very decent demo for under $500. And maybe work with someone who actually read the manual on how to use the equipment.:rolleyes:
  2. Ya get what ya pay for - a recording done for nothing is usually worth every penny you paid, in my experience.

    I'd say find a decent local studio that does those 4 hour demo sessions for a set price (I assume you have similar in your area) but try to hear some of the stuff they've done first.

    Remember a lot of those guys have more enthusiasm than experience, and while they may have a "recording device" of some sort, what sets the men apart from the boys is the quality of their selection of mic's, DI's, and outboard gear. If their idea of a "professional recording vocal mic" is an SM58, it's a fair indication they're a wannabe.

    And yeah, I know, a bunch of famous LP's have been made using SM58's on vox - they're just not exactly the usual first choice.
  3. LaklandBass


    Jan 26, 2005
    Go rent or buy a decent pair of condenser mics. The samson C02's are like $130 for a matched pair at GC with a case. Then grab someones laptop and download Reaper for free trial. Set up the two mics in random spots in your space untill it sounds good. Then record live. Its super cheap and can sound far better than you might assume.
  4. billjr


    Jul 25, 2006
    Darlington, SC
    I will look into that, but I think our practice room will be a big challenge, as it is sooooo small. We tried it with some good condensors before, and it was just too much sound for a small space. It was really muddied.

    And of course every guitar amp is made with an inaccessible low volume limiter so that gui****s can't turn down below a certain minimal volume of like 2,000,000,000 decibles, at least you would think that listening to the volume differences after our guys say they just turned it down.
  5. bassbrock


    Feb 20, 2007
    Callahan, FL
    If you can afford it, buy a Zoom H2... it has four mics and you can all get in a circle around the unit with it on a mic stand in the middle. It really works and sounds great!
  6. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Get a computer audio interface. That would allow you to record everyone on a separate track and mix it properly. Hey, even a demo needs to sound at least halfway decent.
  7. stinger12345


    Jan 24, 2009
    Hayward, CA
    I've been doing homework on cheap ways to record a quick demo for the same purposes you are talking about. And for $150(ish) the Zoom H2 looks like the best quality for the cheapest price. I don't own one so I can't speak from experience but I have read LOTS of positive things about it and am yet to come across a bad review. Obviously, a studio demo is ideal, but as you said, it can end up costing a couple hundred just for a few songs. If you get the H2, not only is it cheaper in the short run, it will also be cheaper in the long run because you can use it to record whatever you will ever want. In fact, I'd say you'd be nearly crazy if you don't get an H2.
  8. Go to a local studio! Apart that you´ll have a much better recording, you´ll learn a lot of new things about recording and have new experience also.
  9. 6jase5

    6jase5 Mammogram is down but I'm working manually

    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego/LA
    If you want something now that sounds decent for the money, go to a studio and WATCH CAREFULLY. Then, work on building your own way to track everyone separately so that you have control. Have a goal to get a few decent (but not ridiculous) mic's one month, software the next, etc. If you go and spend $200 - $300 on one piece to record yourselves live, it probably would have been better put towards a studio as you are still going to need someone to mix / master to get a decent hand-out worthy version. I'm lucky enough to have friends with pro-tools and plenty of gadgets, but if you don't have the equipment or knowledge, better to use someone that does if you want good product now. In the long run, best to learn for yourself but it does take time.

    all bets are off if you are a punk band. Go to a yardsale, get a Realistic/Fisher plastic recorder with 1/8 jack mic, have at it. (I'm kidding)
  10. Cyber Soda

    Cyber Soda

    Sep 24, 2008
    I'm going to have to agree with that.
  11. I recommend Recording For Dummies. Or spending a little more time with the user manual.

  12. I guess having pro-fools, I mean pro-tools it`s like having the key to heaven
  13. 6jase5

    6jase5 Mammogram is down but I'm working manually

    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego/LA
    I like recording with Pro-Tools although it's certainly not perfect, then dumping to tape if it's not my budget.

    People often forget the importance of good mastering. It's the difference between "demo" and "holy crap that sounds good." Most "daily fee" studios will just put your finished mix into a software plug-in for mastering and then the compress the hell out of it so that it's loud (mistaken as better).

    I'd pay just as much for the mastering as the mix, otherwise you are buying a cake without frosting, and everyone likes frosting.
  14. nicfargo


    May 28, 2008
    Lincoln, NE
    If you want to do it cheap, go to a studio. If it's something you want to do a lot, and maybe record demos for other people...I'll tell you what I've got going on.

    Reaper is an amazing DAW. It's very inexpensive for how powerful it is ($50 IIRC). I just recently got into recording and my band and I just put some stuff down last night. I'm still mixing it, but the recording turned out really good. I have a profire 2626 as my audio interface ($600), but any smaller firewire device would have easily done what we did last night (didn't record drums, which could easily require 3-5 mics). I've got an AKG Perception 200 I got off Craigslist for $80. It was great for vocals and for acoustic. Then I used a M57 ($50) and DI for electric and blended them. I was really surprised how well everything sounded. I'm mixing everything through some Yamaha HS80M monitors ($600/pair). So all in all, I've got a little under $1400 rapped up into this and I don't even have phenomenal gear by any stretch. I also need to get a few more mics if I want to record drums (we're still hunting for a drummer...so I'll cross that bridge later).
  15. The question you need to answer for yourself is this. Are you recording just to get gigs or are you planning on recording material to share (i.e. sell)?
    The pressure to record for the purpose of getting standard gigs is low. Club owners are very familiar with sound quality issues; they are more interested in the performance and the material. There is of course an upper eschalon of gigs that require awesome demos for you to have a shot at getting the job (i.e. a headlining spot at SummerFest).

    If it's a one time shot, recording one demo to get gigs, record in a studio. You can record a demo inexpensively, get a satisfactory product and learn a little bit about the recording process as you do it.
    If you want to share the music, get a decent recording interface for your computer. There are many to choose from; I use the Line 6 UX2 and I use Quartz Audio from Digital Sound Planet as my software. I can record 64 tracks in my home studio. This is how I record my demos. With the UX2 I can record up to 2 mics simultaneously. For recording drums, I use a Presonus 8 channel interface and 8 mics. I have had a lot of compliments on the sound quality of my demos. You can go a long way recording yourself like this and it won't break the bank. Further, through experimentation with the equipment and recording things at your leisure, you will refine your compositions.
    We refined the Dickens out of our demos and when it was time to get professional grade recordings, we went to a professional studio, HOWEVER, my good friend, Ray Loukka of WISZDOMSTONE recorded WS' entire album "RISE" in his basement studio and it sounds great.

    Take it for what you will.

    Good luck,

  16. billjr


    Jul 25, 2006
    Darlington, SC
    Thanks for all the ideas. I think I might bounce around online tonight researching the equipment metioned, and go to the bookstore tomorrow, as I would like to learn more about this recording process. There might be a future need in this area, so getting the right plan and equipment over the next year might be a direction to go.

    Our Demo came back on CD, and of course sounded no different. We just fired our singer, and started a new one that has to get up to speed over the next few weeks, so I have a little time to learn and plan.

    Thanks a bunch!!

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