Think of the demo as a blueprint or a prototype for a masterpiece.

Mini recorder

Demo recordings were originally conceived to sell the song – not the recording artistry. In the old days a demo was quickly made by a songwriter or publisher to sell a song or an artist or record label.

If the song was good enough, the recording quality was irrelevant. Furthermore, the songwriter could focus on the song itself rather than the sound production.

The demo doesn’t have to sound as polished or professional as the master. As long as the vocal is understandable and the singer is singing pretty much in tune, these are the important features.

K.I.S.S. = keep it simple stupid!

Keep a demo simple but effective. Don’t use too many effects and don’t belabor the individual sounds.

Sometimes it happens that that “great sound” you got on the demo can’t be duplicated on the master no matter how much you try to copy all the original settings. That magic dust has just disappeared.

A demo is also the way in which a songwriter can experiment with different ideas until the “right way” is found. For example changing the song structure, switching verses with bridges, trying different keys, different speeds, different attitudes.

When finally a result is obtained that seems to be the perfect best, then – and only then, should the recording of the actual master begin.

Songwriters also need to get their ideas and notions down into a recorded format as soon as the inspiration strikes or it may be lost and gone forever. A simple on/off recording cassette recorder is by far the quickest way to do this.

You don’t need to go switching on equipment, plugging in mics and opening recording programs or the inspiration will dissolve into a sea mist and wisp away.

4-track recorder

Just make a rough-and-ready recording as soon as you possibly can – any way you can. Capturing that illusive moment is essential. Then take your time to work on it and perfect it later.

Songwriters have been known to telephone themselves and sing an idea into their own answering machines.

A master however, needs to be a complete recording of far higher quality – not only in performance and musicianship, but also in sound. It always takes much longer to produce and should have the production values that would be something the fans would want to buy.

Nowadays it’s actually possible to make recordings in your home-studio that equal or even surpass the quality of masters made in professional state-of-the-art studios.

However, if you are promoting yourself to a record label, you should definitely not submit anything less than your absolute best performance. This is where demos are not allowed. Remember this – you don’t get a second chance with most companies.

The industry now expects master-quality demos if you’re shopping for a record deal. (One complete lesson on this in the course).