Recording Your Music
©2002-2017 by Bronson Herrmuth
(Authors note: If you want to record or have your songs recorded in Nashville, just contact me)
The main thing to remember before going into the studio to start a recording project is to sit back, take a deep breath, and decide what the main goal is that you are planning on achieving as the end result of your recording sessions. If your goal is to record as an artist and then to independently release the finished recordings as a product for sale to the public, that is one thing. If you are recording as an artist making a tape that you are going to use to attempt to secure a recording contract with a major or independent record company, then that is another. If you are recording your songs as songwriter demo's to try to place them with an established artist, in hopes that they would record them on their next project, that is yet another. No matter what your ultimate goal may be, that goal will determine and dictate how you should prepare to go into the studio and what you need to do when you actually get there. Recording in a quality studio can be very expensive and the better prepared you are, the more time you spend in pre-production and planning, can make or break the success of a recording project. The last thing you ever want to do is go into the recording studio without a definite clear cut plan. Let's take them one by one.
Recording as an Artist to release the finished product for sale:
This involves selecting and extensively rehearsing (pre-production), what you consider to be your best songs. Keep in mind that the difference between recording in a studio and playing your songs "live" is like the difference between night and day. It's totally different from playing to an audience or performing a show. Aside from the obvious fact that you lose all of the energy and excitement generated when performing to a crowd that most musicians thrive on, the actual arrangement of a song when you play it in onstage may need to change dramatically when recording that song for release. There are countless musicians and singers that are awesome on stage, but who totally fall apart in a recording studio, and vice versa. There are many reasons that there are studio musicians who specialize in playing on recording sessions, the main one being that they are really good at it. If you have limited studio experience or have never been in a studio it can be a real eye-opening experience when it comes time to record your music. The only thing you can do to get ready is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Know your songs like the back of your hand so you can do your songs "justice" when it comes time to go in and record. Recording is an art form in itself and like any other art form, the more you do it, the better you should become. Believe me, the record companies and the managers and the agents on Music Row won't care if you played on your record or if you wrote the songs if they don't like your finished product. Independently recording as an artist, recording songs you have composed and playing on those recordings yourself is time honored and perfectly okay of course. Common sense would say it is the whole point. But no one in the music business cares about that, they just want to hear a "hit". Don't do it thinking it is going to impress someone in the industry. Be honest with your own ability and talent. If having studio musicians will make your record better and you have access to them and the money to pay for them, hire them. If you are a band wanting to record your music just like you play it live then of course this wouldn't be an issue. Just make sure you are ready when they hit that record button because making a CD is making history, when it is going to be duplicated and sold. CD's live forever and you will be listening to it for years to come.
Authors Note: I invite you to listen free to my narration of a few chapters from my book:
Dedication & Acknowledgements - Dedication (2.1 MB) mp3
Chapter 3 - Rehearsing - Rehearsing (5.5 MB) mp3
Chapter 7 - Your Name - Your Name (8.6 MB) mp3
Recording as an Artist making a "pitch" tape.
Most artists feel that their music, a song they've written, is special. It is actually very healthy and necessary to believe in yourself and your songs if you want to be successful in the music business, otherwise all of the rejection would drive you crazy and run you out of the business pretty quickly. Believing in yourself and your music is the starting point. The big problem with that is, though you may be able to sing well and/or play your instrument well, that doesn't immediately make you a "hit" songwriter. The entire music business is centered and revolves around artists having a hit song. "It all begins with a song" is the law of the land in the industry. The point here is that if you want to score a recording contract with a record label, then the songs you record better be the greatest songs you have access to, whether you wrote them or not. Period. One of the most common responses I have heard made by a record company executive while passing (saying NO), is "I really like the voice but come back when you find some good songs". This is of course not what you are wanting to hear, especially if you wrote the songs this individual is referring to. No doubt liking a song is a matter of personal taste or preference, but if you personally don't think your songs are that good, don't record them just because you wrote them. If you have a great voice and are serious about your career, there are a lot of publishers (including me) that would love to play you their best songs in hopes that you would record them. All you need to do is approach them and let them know you are listening to songs for your next recording project.
Be very realistic and critical with your ability, talent and the songs you choose, if your main goal is to get a recording contract with your finished product. Use the best musicians you have access to, the best singers, and the best studios. Record the best songs you can find. Again, if you are a self-contained group and going to record your songs yourselves, that is awesome. Just don't go that route if you think that the simple fact you wrote the songs and played them yourself is going to impress anyone in the industry, because it won't. Record companies sign the artists that they feel will make them a lot of money. It is a business, plain and simple. This is the major difference from recording as an artist whos making a product for sale: the issue of your music being "commercial" in the eyes of the record company. You are basically going to be using this tape to go "fishing" for a recording contract, so keep that in the front of your mind at all times.
Recording A Song Demo.
A demo is a recording made to provide a "demonstration". This is usually referring to a songwriter demo recorded to show the potential of a song in hopes of enticing artists or bands to want to record that song on their next CD. Another common use for a songwriter demo is to approach music publishers in hopes of attracting their attention and gaining their support. Recording a good demo is an art in itself and definitely one of those things that the more you do it, the better you get at it. The starting point here is to make sure you have the best professional demo singer you can afford to get. If you don't know any, then approach the best singer you know and pay them to sing on your demo. Someone who works at a publishing house-a producer or A&R executive listening to potential songs for their artists-hears an incredible amount of music daily. It is not unusual for a major artist's listener to listen to thousands of songs to weed it down to just three or four to actually play for their artist. If the singer on your demo does not have a good voice they will shut off your music and go to another submission, you can bet on it. They will never hear your song. Do not sing it yourself unless you are a pro. This is not a place to try to save a few bucks on your recording project, the voice can make or break your demo no matter how good your music might be. Many of us who are professional singers don't even sing on our own demo's. Matching the right voice for the song can be the key to success.
The more you can do to make your demo sound professional, the better off you will be. When demoing a ballad, sometimes it is best to just record with a guitar/vocal or a piano/vocal, depending on the style of music. A great song played by a great guitar/piano player and sung by a great singer will work, and many times be more effective. Always remember you are wanting to "sell" your song here, not the musicians, singers or production. Less is better. Keep it simple and straight ahead and avoid long intro's, instrumentals, or having 10 instruments on your tracks, just because you can. You want the listener to be able to clearly hear the words and melody. Don't overdue it for the sake of "production" if you are not a producer. Obviously upbeat songs, dance music, pop and rock oftentimes require more instrumentation to properly represent the given song. Drums, bass, guitar and piano are considered the basic tracking instrumentation when recording full band demo's. The genre of the music you will be working on will dictate your instrumentation, but remember to always keep it as simple and high quality as possible.
If you have not had the chance to do much studio recording you will probably be much better off to hire pro's to help you, at least the first time or two as you learn. There are many production companies that specialize in helping songwriters demo their songs in many different price ranges, depending on your budget. Having an experienced producer involved can be well worth the money paid and increase your chances of success. Keep in mind that an established production company already has access to the right recording studio, the great demo singers, the best musicians and that they do this for a living. Unless your situation allows you to feel confident you can do it all yourself, I would advise working with experts. The recordings you will be making will live forever, they are history and they will be listened to countless times. I pitch songs on a regular basis that were written in the early 70's and demoed in the mid 80's. Music is timeless and a great song lives forever.
To make a recording that makes the listener want to turn it up, not turn it off: this is the ultimate goal whenever you are recording your music.