So You Want to Make a Record?
It's time to stop fooling around—you need a demo recording in order to further your career, get gigs, and spread your music to a wider audience. At some point it became clear to you that you can do this yourself, at home. For the cost of one professional-level demo, you can start building the studio of your dreams and record as many demos as you want. Now that you've learned some techniques for recording and honed your skills, it's time to work on the details of the process.
Organizational skills are critical to getting anything done—and not just on a demo. Too many groups decide to start a demo without thinking it out, and eight months later they still aren't done. You should have a clear plan of what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. Here is a list of things to consider:
What material will you include?
What purpose will the demo fulfill?
Are you well enough equipped to handle the project?
Are you well enough rehearsed?
These are just some of the things to think over. Consider this: If you were going into a pro studio at an hourly rate, you'd go in prepared and well rehearsed so you wouldn't waste your money. Don't treat yourself and your home studio any differently; strive to be as productive as you can be.
Being serious and productive in your home studio does not mean that you shouldn't have any fun. The pressure-free environment of recording at home is a major plus. Plus, you'll have some solid material for a bonus release of outtakes and b-sides!
Setting Up a Session
Plan your dates and session times in advance. Treat this just like anything else—have a goal for when you'd like to finish. A lot of this process depends on the size of your group, the complexity of your music, and what kind of studio you own. Bottom line: Approach the sessions just as you would in a pay studio. Too many times bands encounter the “we can do it next week” thinking and things keep getting put off later and later. Just because you aren't paying someone else per hour, don't let that change the efficiency and drive behind your own work.
Picking a Convenient Spot
Where will you record the demo? You might own the equipment, but your living conditions might not be suitable for live drums or loud guitars. Maybe you know someone who has a large basement you could use. Finding an adequate spot is key; the fewer compromises the better. If you're really in a pinch for space, you might be able to rent rehearsal spaces that are well soundproofed and that fit the bill. Sometimes opting to pay for a larger room in order to record the full band all at once may be a better option than playing one track at a time in your basement. Your demo will be your personal calling card and the key that will open many doors for you. Opt for the scenario that makes you sound better, even at a cost.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!
Entering the studio, no matter what level studio, should be the last step in a long process of preparation and rehearsals. There is nothing worse than wasting time because you have a loose idea of what you're doing. The studio is usually a place to capture a final product. The only exception to this is when you go into your home studio specifically to write music together and record it. Many bands work this way—most with the luxury of booking eight months in a studio and having the recording company foot the bill. The other exception is to try recording your rehearsals. You might get a good enough take during a rehearsal to make into a demo.