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Subbing Out Your Demo Work

By Lealean Peace

Alright, so now you've come up with a great hook, a workable song format, good contrast between the verses, choruses and bridge of your song, and the lyrics couldn't be any better. So now what do you do? Well, if you're approaching songwriting from a commercial perspective, you need to get it recorded and off to labels, publishers and such so that it can be cut by a major artist and you can start planning for that mansion you're going to build in Maui from the royalties that you're going to earn, right?

Of course! But first things first. How do you get it recorded? I've tried quite a few ways myself, and there are plusses and minuses with all of them. One of the most popular ways used by ASG members and other songwriters around the world is to sub-contract the demo work out to a full-service recording studio. This is actually the way that I have been doing it with most of the songs that I have written and recorded lately. Its been working out pretty well. Heres how I do it:

1) Provide the studio with a lyric sheet of your song. Type out your lyrics, usually a couple of copies. One is for the engineer and the other is for the musicians to use. Be sure to separate the song sections, (ie..verse, chorus, bridge) with a blank line. I've also seen where the chorus is written in caps while the other sections are written in lower case. The key being that each section should be presented as a different and distinct part of the song. They need that kind of stuff in the studio.

2) Provide the studio with a rough recording of the song. I've done this several ways. I've paid a studio to let me come in and record my vocals along with a piano or guitar, (ala ASG BareBones contest style). I've recorded my own guitar and vocals a track at a time into a 4-track mixer/recorder. I've used various software such as CakeWalk to record vocals and an instrument onto my PC, and from there out to a CD. And I've recorded the guitar and vocals by singing into a regular old jam box. The jam box thing has been working best for me. I actually bought one at a local variety store for about $15. It has a built in microphone and records fairly clear. You can hear the words, chord structures, single notes and dynamics of the song pretty well. I haven't had any problems providing this type of recording to a studio and still getting my point across on how the song should sound. Whatever you use, just be sure that it is a decent, clear recording.

3) Provide general instructions. I include a cover letter that provides basic, general instructions about the song. I tell them who I want as a vocalist, (or you might say that you want a good baritone vocalist for example). I tell them the special instrumentation that I am looking for on the song, (some songs just call for a flute, steel guitar, or something like that). Another example of a general instruction might include dynamics of the song, (ie..you want the chorus to sound really big and then relax dynamically to a soft delicate bridge. You can also show that with your recording and with a note on the lyric sheet. Thats coming up next).

4) Notes on the lyric sheet. Sometimes, I will put additional notes on the lyric sheets themselves to let the engineer and musicians know what I'm looking for. Some of my notes might include arrows pointing to a song section with a note like "Big harmonies here", "midtro like the intro here", and things like that.

5) Style of the song. If I want the song to be recorded similar to a specific style, I'll tell them that. For example, if I'm writing something that I want to market as a country/pop crossover, then I might tell them that I hear this song sounding along the lines of an N'Sync song, (while clearly my lyrics are more along the lines of a country song).

6) Contact Information. I put my name, address, phone number(s), and e-mail address all over the package that I provide to the studio. I also make sure that I include the appropriate copyright information on the lyric sheets and on the tape or CD label.

I don't want to give you the impression that you should wear the studio out with lots of special instructions and details. You should not do that. I am only giving you examples of things that I have done in the past with my songs, and I try to provide instructions sparingly. I recommend that you try to capture as much as you can with the original rough recording, and then let the studio do their thing.

Remember also, before you dive into getting your masterpiece demoed by a studio, check them out. Go to their website, ask them who their previous clients have been, request copies of what they have done before, ask others who have recorded there what they think about the products and services that they received and ask how long they have been doing this. Make sure that the studio is a good fit for you and your songs.

If this article helps you obtain that mansion in Maui, then I expect a weekend invitation, preferably in the fall of the year, to come out and visit you and play songs.

Best of luck in your songwriting!


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