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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Harvey Gerst tells you how to quickly record a demo

Legendary pro audio guru dispenses advice

Dear Harvey:

My band can get our first gig but we need a seven song demo by tomorrow. We've only got three hours to get it done between now and when it's due. Do you got any advice you can give us?

The Anonymous Newbie

The biggest problem you'll have will be down the road in a month or two, when you listen to this again. It'll sound exactly like you've "recorded seven songs in three hours."

But, hey, go for it -- it may just get you the gig. Some advice:

1. Do the easiest songs first. That way, if you run out of time, you'll have the bulk of the songs recorded.

2. Keep the solos simple, or eliminate them if possible. Good solos are time consuming, especially if the lead guitar player hasn't planned out the solo, note for note.

3. Don't waste time listening to playbacks after each song. Either you're all happy with it while you were playing it, or it needs to be redone. If the engineer or the band didn't catch the mistake, chances are nobody else will either.

4. Go for the groove, not technical perfection. A little slop is acceptable, if the feeling is there.

5. It's just a demo, not a national release. Don't get anal about it. Every band has at least one anal member that wants everything to be perfect -- shut him up! You've only got three hours to get this done. Accept that it ain't gonna be perfect. Live with that fact.

6. Have fun. If that comes across on the recording, you're in! If you're up tight during the session, that'll come across too. If the engineer is pretty experienced, and you've explained the situation carefully, trust his judgement to move the session along.

7. If you can talk the engineer into it, try to take a long break between the tracking session and the mixdown to rest your ears.

8. During mixdown, listen to everybody's part but your own. You're too close to it, so you'll hear everything you didn't like, or you'll get anal about your levels. Let the band decide your levels, and you help the band decide on their levels. Nobody should have final say about their own part. If nobody can agree, let the engineer decide.

9. After listening to all 7 songs, decide which is the weakest song, and leave that one off the CD.

10. Finally, when you hand out copies of the CD, don't apologize or explain. It is what it is. If you have to apologize or explain why it sounds bad or weird, you shouldn't even be handing it out.

With Regards,

Harvey Gerst, Indian Trail Recording Studio

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