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Need to make a demo

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Spike1956, Aug 25, 2007.

  1. Spike1956

    Spike1956 Guest

    Hi all,

    Hopefully this is the right forum for this. I'm relatively new to this ~ 1 years experience with home recording of just guitar and vocals. This is done most direct in. Using firebox and Cubase LE. One of my guitar teachers has asked me to record his band for a demo CD. Most of the local bars want to hear a demo CD of about 5-10 songs before they will book anyone for a gig. Which really suks becuase this band is made up of very top notch musicians all very accomplished with great individual careers. I have a firepod coming and some 57's and a beta 52. They all have a variety of mic. They want to record 5-10 songs ... hopefully within about 5-6 hours.

    This is thier curent setup for playing small gigs.
    Guitar - plays through amp not miced (or is it spelled miked)
    Bass - plays through amp not miked
    Drums - no mics
    Harp - plays throug a harp mic with volume control
    Vocals - guitar player, harp player, drummer all miced through a powered PA with 2 mackie monitors. Not sure at this time how many inputs the PA has.

    They wonder if I could just put a couple of mics out in front of the PA/band and maybe a couple of overhead by the drums to make the demo. The bar owners that be will hearing the demo are not very friendly to deal with. But I don't think they would really know the difference between a good demo and a bad one. I believe they just want to get an idea of the type of music the bands play. this band plays a blues set a rock set and a mixed set of jazz and pop. They have all done studio recording but don't know much about the technical side of it.

    So what do you think? Should I try the simple route and just do one take and see how it sounds? OR should we go with the click track/ghost tracks and add one or 2 tracks at a time? Or any other ideas? This is obviously new to me and I realize I have to learn how to best set this up and I also realize to do this well I made need to spend a fair amount of time testing my setup. I've been reading alot about micing drums and amps and vocals here. I has helped alot. I not expecting a studio quality demo here but I don't want it to sound terrible either. We can always improve things and make more demos down the road.


  2. JWL

    JWL Active Member

    Feb 12, 2006
    Portland, Maine
    Home Page:
    Hi, yes you can record the whole band with stereo mics. This is old-school, it can sound good but it probably won't sound like modern records.

    Set the band up in a semicircle, arranged just as you want the stereo image to appear (ie, drums in center, vocalist in front of drums, guitar on one side, harp on the other... or whatever). Try to make it so each amp/instrument is approximately equally distant from the mics. Get a nice set of stereo mics up (I prefer a Mid-Side setup for this application). Record the band and listen back. Make volume adjustments on each amp based on what you hear, ie, if you can't hear the guitar, then turn the guitar amp up.

    Then, if you have any additional inputs, you can close mic individual instruments.

    If the musicians are good, and you spend time balancing things, you should be able to produce a clear recording where you can hear everything. Again, this probably won't sound like a modern record, but it can sound quite clear, esp if you are careful during the mix with EQ, compression, multiband compression, etc.

    Good luck!
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I'm with JWL on this, and I think perhaps the fact that it won't sound "Just like" modern recordings may work for you. Who knows? With a little luck, you may be able to pull off a nice, listenable demo that sounds like a REAL BAND PLAYING somewhere, and make it easier for your club-owners tiny minds to wrap around the concept. (Uh, duh...these guys might sound dis good in MY club!)

    Seriously, you don't really have time to go any other route, not this time around, anyway. You may have to teach them, for example, how to do overdubbing and the like, and it will take them more time than you have to get it all done properly. For starters, you'll need more isolation than you have, you'll need headphones and amps for all, and a good cue system from the control room. (Assuming you'll even have a control room?)

    Assuming these are good musicians who aren't looking to blow each other out of the room with volume, you may be able to get them to play nicely together in the first place, making your job a little easier. More than anything else, you want the club owners to hear the band as they are, not some dressed-up, deadly dull, sterile studio recording.

    Think of it this way: You're doing "live sound", and making a stereo recording of that.

    Hopefully the band already has a 12 or 16 or 24 input board. You can use this with your a stereo recorder in a pinch. It may not be world-class specs, but this is a live recording of a band for demos, right? If the PA is tied up doing actual PA sound for them, maybe use two aux sends for a stereo mix. Try to get them to turn as much stuff OFF that they don't need. (extra floor wedges, for example, or even the full PA itself. If it's just "For show", get them to turn it all down - or off - you don't need the extra spill of everything bleeding into other mics, etc. (All you REALLY need is a stereo room ambient mic in addition to the individual instrument mics.)

    Set up your mixer and recorder in a separate room if you can, and let the band warm up/practice while you set rough levels.

    You may want to work in graduated steps: You set up while they warm up, listening to what they sound like, then do some rough run throughs, and finally a couple of takes. Eventually, send everyone out for coffee or lunch, and have someone you can trust help you listen to the "quick & dirty" levels. Maybe even make a CDr that you can pop in your car, etc. You'll quickly find the trouble spots, and when the band returns, make some adjustments. (Careful not to burn your ears out early in the game on this kind of gig!)

    In general, you'll probably want to record it all dry, and add a little glossy reverb later, for the whole mix. (This isn't exactly kosher, but it'll be better than having too much reverb on in the first place!)

    Then have the band play the tunes again, with your adjustments in place. (As the band warms up and gets comfortable, things will continue to change, of course, hopefully for the better.) When the bulk of the session is done, take one more break, give things another quick listen, and then see if the band is up for a few more tunes "just for fun". (You'd be surprised what you get out of this kind of relaxed playing; sometimes the best takes of all.)

    Assuming you've got all the takes you need, take a day or evening off and come back to the mixes in your own space or mix room with your DAW. You won't be able to use everything they did, of coursre, but I'm guessing you have 5-10 usable tunes when all's said and done. (And I doubt most club owners are going to give you their full attention for more than 2 or 3 tunes of material, anyway.)

    Big three mistakes to watch out for: Make sure the vocals are always prominent, don't overdo the kick & bass guitar (but don't lose 'em, either), and remember that EVERYONE always wants "more me" in the mix. (You WILL learn diplomacy quickly on this kind of gig!)

    And oh yeah: roll tape/CDr the whole time the sessions' on - you never know what magic might happen accidently. Good luck and don't forget to have FUN. this is a priceless opportunity for you to polish your chops, and see if this is REALLY what you want to do for a career.
  4. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    All of the advice given is right on for this. The only difference I can see is not only will the club owners NOT listen to 5 to 10 songs worth of material, they wont listen to a WHOLE SONG.

    We do our demos by arranging medleys of very popular segments of the set-list, playing 20 to 30 seconds AT MOST of an easily recognizable section of each song, transitioning easily to the next and winding up with two or three medleys, each under 3 minutes total. Not only is it fun to arrange things like this, but it allows a large cross-representation of the band as an entity. By ALL MEANS do not attmpt a studio type recording. This is not the purpose of the sessions.

    In doing the arrangements, it helps to have a dry-erase board so keeping track and deciding which songs to medley is kept in mind. Having a firm decision on this will help this. Any club owner who is really a music fan will appreciate the musicianship of this and the ones who arent will appreciate the brevity and lack of commitment required on their part to listen.

    It takes us about 15 minutes of dinking around to produce a three minute segment.

    Since its DEMO, all artistic license is unimportant as far as throwing in obscurities and personal favorite passages.

    Remember, we're dealing with 'club owners'.........this puts a certain mindset at the forefront.
  5. Spike1956

    Spike1956 Guest

    Thanks All!

    I appreciate your time and advice on this. I discussed this with the bass player this weekend. He mentioned only doing a 20-30 secs of any song, so he has been through this before too. I'll let him know about the medley and see what they can come up with. He also like the idea of just tweaking the volumes to get a good mix out in front.

    So it looks like I'll try with 2 mics out in front and see what I get. I should have my firepod by then and I can add more if I need to, I'm using a firebox now.

    I'd did some testing this weekend by micing a bass and guitar simul through amps. The bass sounded terrible so we did a track with direct in and headphone which came out really good. i'm using cubase LE. miced the bass was difficult to get a good sound through to the DAW. I think we had the mic way to close to the amp.

    Anther problem occured when I was putting down a guitar ryhtym track (Autumn Leaves) and then added a solo over it. These were both done directly into the firebox. After I added the solo there was scratchiness in the playback unless I either set both channels to solo or armed the record. And When I exported the file to an mp3 it soundlike like it was inside a can, very echoy. As a newbie I don't know very much about compression or other options yet to apply them. Although I started reading the huge long thread the was initiated by JP22 some time ago. MAde for a good laugh.


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