If you’re fortunate enough to have written a song you think has a chance of getting cut or getting placed in a film or TV show, then you owe it to yourself to make sure your demo of the song is done professionally. The trick with professional recordings is that they’re not inexpensive and there’s often a decent amount of self-imposed pressure – otherwise know as stress – on the part of the songwriter. The suggestions below are designed to help songwriters in the studio enjoy themselves and get better results.
Given that there are only so many hours in the day, we don’t have time to become experts in everything. My assumption is that you’re working every day to become an expert songwriter. It’s also a safe assumption that there are others who work just as hard every day at becoming experts in their chosen musical fields including the recording studio. That’s what a producer does and hiring one can make all the difference. Giving yourself a break and relying on your producer to help you find musicians, singers and guide the session will result in not only a much more enjoyable session but also a great demo.
I’ve gone into this concept in depth in an earlier post, but the basic idea here is to trust that the studio musicians and singers who are experts at what they do will most likely know exactly what your song needs without your having to spell things out for them. I’m not recommending that you simply accept everything they do but I am suggesting that before you make too many requests you should let them do their thing. I’ve found that this approach almost always yields great results with a minimum amount of fuss and wasted time.
I’ve noticed that it can be intimidating for songwriters who aren’t studio musicians and singers themselves to ask for what they need in a session. While I’d still recommend allowing the session musicians and singers to try things their way first, I’d also highly recommend asking for what you need if you’re still not getting it or if you’ve got any questions at all. The very best way to do this would be by asking in advance when a good time would be to make requests of the players/singer so that the flow of the session stays smooth. Having a producer to help translate your requests into a language the musicians and singers understand can also be a huge help.
If you’ve got questions or comments about a particular vocal take, instrument part or the final mix, your best bet is to take detailed notes and refer to them at the appropriate time. I recommend to my studio clients that they bring a lyric sheet to the session so they can make notes as things occur to them and then refer to the specific spot in the song when the time comes. The more organized and methodical you can be, the easier it will be for the engineer/producer to address each concern quickly and efficiently. This will result in you getting exactly what you want in the minimum amount of time. This approach is not only satisfying but also economical.
Bringing one of your songs to life in the recording studio is – and should be – a genuine thrill. The more relaxed you are during the session the more likely you’ll be to enjoy yourself and, just as important, the greater the likelihood you’ll end up with a great-sounding demo of your song. It’s important to remember that everyone in the studio is there to help you get the best demo you can and wants nothing more than for you to be delighted with the end result. By aligning yourself with professionals and staying focused, that’s exactly what will happen.