Demo Song Recording Masterclass

Do you need to record a demo song? Virtually every songwriter will need to record a demo song at some stage in their career, and often this is the first moment where a musician is faced with the dilemma of paying a music producer to help, or to take a leap of faith and learn to make a demo song themselves.

In many respects, it’s not worth paying a music producer to record the first demo of a song you’ve just written, because the demo song is not made for commercial release or sharing with the world. The demo song is usually a stepping-stone to finalising your song ideas and getting a version that you can listen back to, reflect on, share with bandmates or give to a producer who you might want to work with. Eventually your demo song will hopefully become a more professional release that might end up on Spotify, Apple Music, radio, TV, as a digital download or CD/vinyl release, or played back in a club or venue. If you’re a music student you might need a demo song to submit for an assessment of your songwriting or performance skills, or for some other kind of school or college work.

Demo Song Recording with Songzap

So a self-recorded demo song helps you get your ideas finalised and saves you money – so that when you finally do go to a professional studio, you know exactly what you want to record and the end result you’re aiming for. It’s true that recording at home used to be quite expensive too, requiring a computer, audio interface, microphone, cables and some hi-tech recording software; but thankfully Songzap removes most of that cost too – all you need is an iPhone or iPad, a set of wired headphones and a version of Songzap downloaded from the App Store.

In this video, Songzap co-creator Rob Toulson gives a 45 minute masterclass on how to record a demo song with Songzap. You’re in good hands, Rob is a musician, songwriter, music producer and teacher all rolled into one, so he can guide you clearly through each step of the demo song process. Rob has written songs, released a number of albums, recorded at Abbey Rd Studios and toured the world as a musician; as a music producer he has worked in many great studios and recorded, mixed and mastered albums for some fantastic artists including Ethan Ash, Miranda Sex Garden, Wilfy Williams, Daisy and the Dark and Mediaeval Baebes. As a teacher, before he left academia to develop Songzap, Rob was Professor of Commercial Music at University of Westminster in London, where he taught thousands of university students about music and music production. He’s written books, published articles and led teams of researchers on all aspects of music, so he’s well placed to help you learn about recording a demo song – let’s dive in!

It’s best to just watch the masterclass above or at the following link, where everything is discussed and demonstrated. Here’s an overview of the key points covered in the video. Enjoy!

Watch the demo song masterclasss here

Why record a demo song? 

00:00 (minutes:seconds) – We start by asking why record a demo song? Then giving an outline of the recording and production process and the equipment needed to record.

Setup for recording

02:26 – We create a new song and a basic arrangement with verse, pre-chorus and chorus sections. Then set a simple drum beat to record over and adjust the time signature and tempo (bpm) as required, as well as choosing the drum preset kit to give the right vibe for the song.

Loop recording guitar

05:22 – First we record the chords for the song sections (verse, pre-chorus and chorus). With loop record it’s possible to play a chord progression a few times and select the best version to use in  the demo song. We then revisit the song arrangement and duplicate the verse and chorus sections to start creating the full structure of the song. After that, we can also record lead guitar overdub loops to each song section and adjust the mix, adding a little reverb and EQ  to get a good overall playback sound.

Autozap – AI musical accompaniment

19:30 – We can now use Songzap’s AI features (Autozap) to add more intricate drums, bass and keys to the song. A goos question is why? Why use AI to create some of the music? The answers are in the video, but essentially Autozap allows us to quickly hear what our simple acoustic guitar song might sound like as a full band production. 

The Autozap results are just a starting point, we can now tweak the drum beat, change the bass sound and experiment with different keys/pad layers. In this example we also chose to change one of the chords that Autozap generated, forcing the bass to play an F# note during the pre-chorus. 

Recording vocals

30:00 – Songzap’s linear recording feature is great for recording overdubs, especially vocals. So it’s possible to sing through the whole song laying down a vocal take for the demo. In fact, we chose to record the vocals three times, allowing a multitrack layering effect in the final result – a little reverb and panning helps make a nice folky effect which suits the song well.

Exporting the demo song

38:43 – The demo song is done! All we need to do now is export it either for sharing or for working on further in a DAW. We show how to send an MP3/M4A by Airdrop, email or WhatsApp, and also how to export all the song files as uncompressed wav  audio and as midi data for the drums, bass and keys. The multitrack song files are imported into Logic Pro on a Mac computer to show how the demo song can be taken forwards towards a studio quality production that can be mixed, mastered and released.

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