Lesson 6

Lesson aims

  • Understand the processes involved in bringing a demo to full release potential
  • Be able to identify the musical and technical personnel involved in the production of a released song
  • Acquire familiarity with the export options available via Songzap’s Export page
  • Consider the benefits of sharing individual elements of a captured demo with other musicians, engineers and a producer
  • Export all assets of a recorded song (full-resolution audio files, groove data, lyrics, notes and arrangement markers)

From demo to studio (…to release)

This final lesson of the programme presents an opportunity to celebrate your creativity, consolidate your learning but also address the opportunities that exist after a portfolio of recordings/demos has been created. An important door has been unlocked through this access to intuitive recording technology; and the ability to record and craft performances and songs provides a palette of lifelong assets for all musicians:

  • It enables you to continue improving your song creation, arrangement and pre/production craft;
  • it facilitates your songwriting through layering and recording experimentation;
  • it provides a range of percussive and rhythmical support tools to continue sharpening your timing precision and grooving ability;
  • it inspires collaboration;
  • it allows for reflection;
  • and, it also provides you with concrete outputs of your creativity that you can showcase and share with the world.

The next question is, what happens after a portfolio of demos has been crafted? What are the opportunities for further development, what workflows and collaborators are available, and where can this all lead? It could be useful at this point to research the credits that appear in the small print of previously released records/albums. You’ll discover that a large cohort of musicians, technical and even executive personnel have collaborated to bring a portfolio of songs from a state of demo recordings to fully releasable productions.

Some roles and job descriptions will appear time and time again, illustrating that particular technical processes, such as recording, mix and master engineering, for example, are essential in order to ensure a professional release. Some records may have been recorded solely by a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter, but others may feature a vast array of session musicians, large bands and even larger ensembles or orchestras. Others may be the outcome of collaboration between a beat-maker and an MC, or EDM productions constructed by DJs, yet still mixed and mastered by hired engineers.

There are many examples that can help illustrate the range of effort and processes involved in bringing a demo in front of an international audience in a professional format. But what is important here is to draw out some of the common denominators in this progression, and show that creating demos of crafted songs is effectively a calling card that can facilitate these further processes; at the same time preparing musicians for the studio and the professional collaborations that these entail.

The difference between demos and released songs

The previous research activity into album credits will have provided you with an understanding of what is possible and what can follow after your demo pre/production. Identifying the sonic and musical differences between demos and fully actualised releases will help make the comparison more concrete, and it would be valuable to find examples, next, of songs or albums that are available in both pre-production and officially released form (for example, historic or special compilations that include band demos or rehearsal recordings, as well as the mixed, mastered and officially released productions). The next list of questions can help guide a comparative analysis, drawing out said differences:

  • Can you find rough recordings/demos of songs that were also fully produced and released?

List out the sonic and musical differences you can identify:

  • added/less instrumentation?
  • guest artists?
  • revised structures?
  • better/expanded sound? (in terms of: clarity / size / impact / width / depth)
  • different/refined lyrics?
  • altered rhythms/grooves?

The studio workflow and personnel

Now that you’ve identified a number of elements that have brought improvements to the demo recordings discussed, think about how the listed personnel may have affected these:

  • a producer working on the structure and instrumentation with the band during rehearsals (e.g. Rick Rubin and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers)?
  • session players or band members with a unique playing style and instrumental sound?
  • a recording engineer in a tracking studio with classic audio equipment ideal for capturing a particular style of music?
  • a hired mixer with an identifiable or radio-ready sound?
  • a mastering engineer that can ensure translation on multiple playback systems and formats (radio, club, streaming, car, etc.), who can make sure the song is appropriately loud and impactful?

In a practical sense, how can we effectively prepare and share our demo recordings with other musicians, engineers and producers to facilitate the best possible route to their further development? In the next activity, we’ll export a song recorded and crafted in Songzap both as an .mp3, as well as in the form of its constituent assets that enable further development in a studio. We’ll also consider why these different types of assets (high-resolution individual audio tracks, groove MIDI maps, arrangement markers, notes and lyrics) are valuable, and what can be done with them using more advanced audio software and/or in a professional studio:

Export page: sharing a demo (mp3) vs. sharing a demo’s assets

Assets can include:

  • Beat/Bass/Pad MIDI (for triggering different sounds in a DAW)
  • Arrangement markers
  • Full resolution individual audio from all tracks (recorded, looped and groove instruments)
  • Lyrics and notes

All the above are essential for collaboration: e.g. for other players, for programming or replacing with new/extended sounds, for recording and mixing engineers (to keep or replace tracks, record with better mics, amps and preamps, in professional rooms), etc.