Going into the studio can be expensive and time consuming, but ultimately if you want the best release you can get it’s absolutely the best option. After all, you get what you pay for.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t save tons of time and money by being properly prepared for your studio time.
How exactly can you do that, you ask? Simple: record good demos, so your songs are finished and all the parts to be recorded are known in advance – this will give you a massive time advantage when you get to the studio.
Listen now to hear from Vadim Kharaz of the DIY Recording Guys about recording your home demos so you are fully prepared to go into a studio!
What you’ll learn:
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#62: Why Gear Isn’t the Solution to All Your Problems
How the Star Wars Lightsaber sound was made
Welcome to Episode 75 of the Bandhive Podcast.
It is time for another episode of the band. I've podcast. My name is James Cross and I'm here with Matt Hoos of Alive in Barcelona. How are you doing today? Matt, I'm doing pretty awesome, James.
It's an absolute gorgeous day and we're about to have some gnarly Colorado mountain weather come in, but I think we're all prepared for it. So we see the light at the end of the tunnel. How's everything over there on the east side? I'm glad to hear that and things are good here. I've been enjoying the weather as well, gone for a walk of about a mile, I think the past four days in a row, which is like a record considering that april is usually still snowy in Vermont, but I'm also doing really, really well and very excited to have a special guest, Vadim Kharaz of DIY Recording Guys joining us today, how's it going with him?
It's going really well guys, I'm super excited to be here with you. That's great, Well thank you so much for taking the time out of your monday morning to join us. Indeed, it's monday april 12th, but we all know that this episode is coming out On May four. So let me just start by saying may the force be with you, I love it, will have to adjust some of my allegories to be space themed or something to try to do that on the fly here, how did you record the sounds on the death star bodine.
That's what I want to know. That's a great question. What you do. It takes a lot of aluminum foil and springs. Some old mattresses. When you said aluminum foil, I was first thinking you're going to say like, and then you make a little hat, put it on, yeah, on the microphone, you put the little hat on the microphone and can go from there actually. Yeah, I think some of the, some of the foley that they did on Star Wars was To that tune, wasn't it? It was like, I mean that was those movies were made in like the 70s.
I'm sure they had to do a lot of weird stuff for sound effects. They have actually always done fascinating things for sound effects. Remember the tanks in episode one was a beard trimmer on the bottom of a metal, a metal pot and they turned it on and went around in circles and it made this weird like yeah, reverberation noise. Yes. And I remember watching a documentary about that and I was like, every time that scene comes on, I'm like, that's that's a beard trimmer. You know, I was getting pumped.
Oh man, give me more. I want one more tidbit at least. What do you got? Yeah, I got one of the uh light sabers are a, I believe fluorescent tube, like the light bulb tube and a shotgun mic. And you're waving the shotgun mic past the tube so you pick up the hum of the fluorescent light as you're waving past it and that's how you get that nice whop sound, wow. Way safer than swinging the light bulb. I imagine in front of the mic, you know, that would be a disaster.
Isn't that happening? Like a paul Rudd's movie paul Rudd's, it's steve carell in the head with a fluorescent bulb. I think it does sound like something that would happen. The idea of breaking fluorescent bulbs as it gives me trauma. So, you know. Yeah, yeah. All the chemicals of mercury and all that stuff in there. No thanks. But yeah, I think it's really app that we're talking about these DIY Solutions that even, you know, major fully studios use just things like, you know, coconuts for horseshoes.
Like they DIY A lot of stuff and they deem is one of the co hosts of the DIY Recording Guys podcast. You've been running the podcast for just about a year and this episode on the band I've podcast is going to be all about how you can make a good home demo to be prepared to go into the studio, but before we jump into that void, um can you tell us just for those who don't know the podcast, what your shows about? Sure. Yeah. So DIY Recording Guys is definitely aptly named, I'm somebody who basically have been recording out of whatever bedroom I have spare in the house for 15 or 16 years or so, and it took me probably close to a decade to get a recording that I didn't cringe at when I heard it back to back with a commercial release.
And looking back on that, you know, there's clearly a path that I could have taken that would have gotten me to a better result faster. And so I felt kind of very well positioned probably five or six years ago to speak on this subject than to try and help people to understand really the basics, like from a fundamental level about audio and recording technology and how to get better recordings. And so at that time I got involved in a D I Y. Recording meet up in philadelphia and eventually ended up running the meet up, and we would just meet in various studios around Philly or even just at the library and um talk about production, I would bring a laptop in a little interface, we would record a song and then do a mixing contest or just talk about little tips and tricks, and that was great.
I did that for four or five years, but I realized that like my my reach was kind of limited with that format, It was through meet up dot com and it was, it was cool to meet people, but we kept getting new people on board and they kept wanting to start at the beginning. And so I found it hard to like build momentum and like build this community up in the way I wanted to. And right around that time I met my co host of the podcast Benjamin Hull and we thought like this would be a great podcast topic, it's an audio format, oftentimes without the visual distractions.
And we thought, you know, we can really do a long format, That's not so much like top 10 tips for recording vocals, although we do that, we love tips, obviously we all enjoy those kind of quick hit junk food type items, but we really wanted to kind of help people build a solid foundation through understanding some of these core concepts and then allow them to make better decisions on like, You know, gear is being marketed towards you or what do you really need? And having some of those core foundational things we thought would help people understand and make those decisions a little bit better.
So yeah, I've been doing it for about a year, were 64 episodes in and it's going great. That's awesome. Yeah. And I think one of the things I like that you touched on there is that you don't just talk about the gear, You talk about the fundamentals and that's what so many people miss in Youtube videos, tutorials, all that kind of stuff. Because they look at the fun videos and nerd out about, oh this piece of gear does this and that. It's like okay it does those things.
But do you know how to properly use those features like video? Is that a distress sir? I see behind you, I think. Oh yeah. Right. Do not look over here as I tell you that how much gear you don't need? It's a fatso, empirical labs fatso. Okay. I noticed the E. L. Labs knobs then I guess E. L. Labs and I think the L. Is for labs James anyway. It's great to have gear like that if you can afford it but it only helps if you actually know how to use it.
So when you talk about the basics of compression on your podcast, that's huge because a lot of people looking at youtube videos might not figure that out. They might look up how to compress a kick drum and then they copy the settings but they don't know what they're actually doing. So I think that's one of the key focuses of DIY Recording Guys is that you actually delve into the topics. So I'm really glad that you mentioned that in your little elevator pitch there. Yeah. And I think you know, I listened to the episode you guys recently did on gas cure acquisition syndrome and I think matt made a really good point there, that I thought was really nice punch line, which was something like, I don't remember exactly where something like make gear your hobby, like focus on the skills and then gear can be your hobby.
And this is like a key thing for me is that I don't want to tell people like you don't need any gear and like you should just be a stoic because gears fun. If you like recording and you're into this, then like gears cool and it can be really fun. So I feel like online people swing wildly between, you need to have this analog compressor to get the vocal sound you want versus like all you need is stock stuff in your dog. It's like, no, there's some middle ground here, we've got to build a foundation of knowledge and then gear can be really fun. Absolutely.
You know, I had a buddy who records up in Spokane Washington, phenomenal producer and he had Ryan Lewis and rifle more swing by his studio. And so he asked him, he said, hey, like, you know, can you show me a few tips and tricks? You know, he wanted that same, uh, same real quick as you called it, That quick hit junk food high, I love that, I'm gonna remember that. But he, you know, said, oh yeah, you know this is what I'm doing, this is my setup, this is how I run things.
And Ryan Lewis went through everything with him. He said, yeah man, everything you've got is perfect. Now all you need is this microphone and the microphone is like a $25,000 microphone. And I sat there thinking to myself, it's like if you're start to finish, if you're ritual, if the habit, the way that you sit down and track and record if that's beautiful and that's like done right from start to finish and you're only, you know, the only piece of the equation you're missing is The $25,000 microphone. It's like, okay, maybe I can take a step back and say like maybe you're a little bit too into the gear and it's a little bit more of a positive reinforcement.
But now I, I love that gear is important. I could sit there and nerd out on plug ins all day. Remember when whatchamacallit? What was it ominous fear? Remember when on this fear came out and honestly it was like a writer's playground. You know, I'm sitting here, I'm like holy cow, like I can check out this is like blue the whales talking to each other, You know what? It seems really cool, but in the grand scheme of things like, do I really need 100,000 different samples and you know, and I love that, but it definitely isn't a, you know, this, you must have atmosphere in order to make sure that your, your end product is perfect.
A lot of people, I think they really missed that. You know, you're allowed to make a demo with low quality stuff, you're allowed to still have a little bit of vision in your head, you know, you're allowed to say, oh yeah, this crappy demo, this will get better, that's okay, you're right and you absolutely can't, you can make great quality demo on very little stuff. What I found is I I have gone through phases, you guys mentioned this as well, like phases where I've been acquiring gear and selling gear and what I've found is that pushing the gear you have to its furthest point where I understand exactly how much I can get out of this guitar pedal that then allows you to make your next gear decision.
Whereas times when I've just bought a fancy thing and like as as great, I don't really know how to use it, then I'm like, you know, I never, I never understand how to drive my creative process from there. So I think there's a lot to be said for start with what you have and get the most out of it that you can, you will learn so much and then you will understand its limitations and be able to kind of drive your future investments or purchases investments as a generous term.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think almost all audio engineers have started out where you buy all the gear you can afford and then figure it out and then you're like, I don't need three quarters of this. Like that happens to a lot of people. I think maybe it doesn't happen to the ones who are true gear nerds and really have gas. If anyone wants to check out that episode, that body mentioned, by the way, it's number 62 Why gear isn't the solution to all your problems? So you can find that at band, I've got rocks slash 62 or find that episode title in your favorite podcast app by going to better dot band slash listen and going to episode 62.
Yeah, it's really difficult to see. Some artists get so frustrated with their home recordings thinking that, oh, I just need a $4000 mike and it's like, no, you just need practice and if you learn these things and study them and execute them, you will get better instead of perfecting one song over the course of a year. Make a song every month. And that 12th song at the end of the year is going to be way better than the one song that you spent 12 months on would have been.
So that's one of the reasons that we often advocate for artists not necessarily to do DIY Home recordings, which I mean if that's all an artist can afford by all means do that. But the main thing we advocate for is build your team around you and get a solid person to help with mixing and mastering. And before you ever set foot into a studio, have solid home demos. And I think that's one of the things that sets apart so many artists because if you're going to the studio without demos all of a sudden it's going to take you two or three times as long as you're figuring out parts, you're doing all these random things that you didn't prepare for your studio time and now that's coming back to bite you.
So that's why I think demos are important video. How about you? What makes the demo important to you? Yeah, that's that's well said James and it's a great point. I think my conclusion ultimately, maybe I'll talk about this in a bid was was the same as yours as far as like where is the sweet spot here for artists? But before we even get to that, because it differs for, from artist to artist, I just want to point out that you basically have three resources for anything you want to do.
You have money, you have time and you have a network. So which is to say like you can pay somebody to do something, you can invest a bunch of time and learn how to do it yourself or build it yourself or you have your network which is people you can lean on for advice or for services or whatever. So the stupid example I always use is if I want a flute solo in my song like I could buy a flute and I could spend 10,000 hours trying to master the flute and then I can record my solo.
That's ludicrous. Nobody would ever do that. I can pay somebody $50 to record a flute solo. Right? That's a no brainer. So this is where you get into is like how much time do you want to invest? How much money do you want to invest? This is gonna differ a little bit from person to person, but I do think if you're an artist, your music is your resume, it's your product and a lot of cases you want to have some control over it. And so I think there's a bare minimum threshold that every artist needs to cross with, respect to recording knowledge and I'll give you a couple of reasons you asked like why is it important?
Well, first of all, a basic understanding of multi tracking is a very powerful songwriting tool. So if I'm sitting with a guitar, I can come up with a riff and maybe like the world's most out of tune vocal melody, cool. If I have a looper pedal, maybe I can build on that. But if you can layer one part on to another part in garageband, to another part and then get a little bit of a beat going. I guarantee you, if you've never tried this, you will surprise yourself with the ideas you come up with.
It's just the way to supercharge your writing process and share ideas with your band mates. So that's one thing another thing is um do you guys listen to tune yards at all? No, can't say I've heard of them, Ok, wow, okay. There one of like one of my favorite recording artists over the past decade, and um Merrill Garbus is the vocalist and she was saying how for listeners, if you have listened to them, you know, it's like it's great songwriting but very unusual and unique production. And she was saying when she first started out, she was having a hard time working with engineers and producers because they weren't understanding her vision or she wasn't able to communicate it, or she was able to communicate it, but they were telling her it's wrong.
Like you would never put a vocal there in a mix or whatever, so she had to kind of learn how to do these things herself and her advice was To get something as close as you can to the sound that's in your head and then give it to somebody else for the remaining 10%. While I don't necessarily 100 agree with that approach. The basic principle is that it's your vision and you need to have some understanding of what you're doing in order to communicate that adequately, whether it's to your fans or to your producer or to your engineer or whatever.
So like, you know, recording and producing is is it's kind of like a language like if I'm describing coffee to you or something that tastes complex, I might say like it has hints of vanilla or black barrier or whatever like that. That's language, that's how we use language. If you're a musician and I tell you it's an a minor, I've told you a lot of information in a very short amount of time. Well, if I told you that this guitar sounds to mid range or too warm or too honky, those are all words that describe a sound.
And the more you can familiarize yourself with that language, the better and easier will be for you to communicate your vision, which is great. And finally, I will say like you can save money doing DIY Recording. Like for one thing, James you said, if you if you've done your pre production and you've really fleshed out your arrangements, you will spend less time in the studio, you will be more efficient. So you can absolutely save money with the D I. Y route as well. I really love the point about doubling during writing because I think that's something that so many artists to me, I can always tell an amateur recording apart from a professional recording, not so much by the mix, which obviously that it can be a very big difference in the mix, but at times I hear a great mix and there's just like single track guitar and I'm like it's missing.
This is absolutely amateur. They know how to make a decent mix, but it's amateur because there's only a left guitar and the right guitar, there's no doubling. You know, the lead comes in and the rhythm cuts out like that is one of the easiest ways, at least for me to tell the difference between a pro and an amateur. So I love that you brought that up, right? And so you have to have, like, gone through that, right? Like, to, to to get to that point, you have to have done it enough to know that, like, that's not, that doesn't sound quite right, right?
So that's, I assume that's how you came to that conclusion. I was lucky that the first recording I ever did, we actually did double track rhythms and then put the leads over them. But that was because we had some very cool people helping out and like, giving us feedback and stuff. And uh, yeah, so that was the first recording ever did. And it's still out there on the internet. I'm not going to tell people where to go listen to it. I never tell people were mine are either, but it's still out there.
So, yeah, I love those points that you made about what makes a demo important, you know, aside from the money that obviously uh is a big pain point for a lot of people is you don't have that much money to go into a studio, but just having the songwriting skills improved by it, that's really really helpful, I think. So how would you differentiate between a good demo and a bad demo? What makes a demo stand out to you as having everything that a home demo should have?
Yeah, that's a great question. So I guess there's some grey area here between what's a demo and what's home recording that can then be the stems or the roots of the finished product. And they can be one and the same. But like I'll give you an example, I'm actually working on a project right now in my studio with a guy who sent me just DI Track so just the DI Of the guitars and the base and submit E. That he wanted. So that's . 1 is he has clean well recorded tracks that you can do something with. 0.
2 is he sent me a rough mix. So he sent me just you know he re amped the tones, he did some stuff and that gives me an idea of what he thinks is important. And then . 3 as he gave me a reference, he said, Here's a commercial release that I really like the sound of. And so with those three components I can then take that and do something with it because I have good dry tones and that's that's an important part of home recording. Is taking the room out of the equation and trying to get good clean dry recordings to as I have his demo which tells me what he thinks is important.
And then three years I have a commercial reference that kind of tells me some of the technical things that I need to know, like how loud should the snare drum b and like, you know, what's the general aesthetic and feel of the song? So I would say those are three components to, to really look for and which is weird because like a reference track, you wouldn't necessarily think that's part of a good demo, but it can absolutely be part of a good demo for your production team of like, hey, I'm going for this Radiohead sound or whatever.
Those are really important tools in your communication tool box. I think that's great because those things are all things that I would have overlooked, which means probably most people would overlook them to give me yours. To me. I would have focused much more on just the demo itself, like the rough mix essentially. And what I would have said would have been clearly defined arrangement would be the most important thing to me. Doesn't matter if it's played well. As long as I can tell what the idea is, it doesn't matter if the vocals are perfect or not.
As long as I can tell where they're going. Just being able to hear the soul of the song and the direction it's going. But I I think what you added about having those clean, dry tones there, especially for the engineer. If you're sending out a demo to people to completely re record maybe the clean, dry tones don't matter as much. But if you're sending it to a mix, absolutely, you need those, those clean tones, The DI tones because otherwise it's just not going to end up sounding the way you expect it.
Because if you send an ampersand printed tone, it's not going to be what you expect in the end, unless you already have great tone. So that's basically my thoughts on what makes a good home demo recording. Yeah, James, I completely agree with you there. I think from a standpoint of if you're just shopping around a demo or you're just trying to communicate the sound of your band, having that arrangement be clear and the focal points be the focal points is definitely important. Matt. I'm curious to know what, what your experience with Alive in Barcelona has been as well for for demos.
How do you guys approach that process? Absolutely. You know, back in the day before we did demos, it was a giant topic of discussion for us. You know, we had a guitarist who was phenomenal but couldn't ever remember what he played, he would just write something absolutely incredible and he'd never be able to remember it. And so a lot of the time we would pull open reaper or something like that, some free service that we could just get our ideas on paper essentially. And once they were on paper, you know, then we could kind of go back and revisit and remember it being a very interesting time in our musical career, because before that day, we literally had never even, we've never written music by, you know, taking pieces and printing them and, you know, take this piece and printed it was, it felt a lot more modular and we all kind of felt out of our element, my guitarist and I, we always referred to the bells and the whistles, and that's always what we would talk about when it came to recording.
You can't forget the bells and whistles, you know, and you know, for those of you who are at a really small early on level, there's one thing that you don't realize in your audio recordings and it's you never realize what you don't have unless it's not there. And when you listen to this, like to a commercialized product and you hear, you know, it's just like I always use the pot by tool as an example, if you turn that track up really, really loud, you can hear his vocals come in before his vocals come in and there's like a reverse swell on it, and then eventually his vocals come in and, you know, most people will never even hear that.
And and for me, I imagine Maynard sitting there going, what do we do to make this better? This doesn't sound perfect enough yet. And meanwhile, probably 99% of the people that listen to that song will never even know that there's effects on there, that there's you know, there's phasing there, there's all sorts of production work that goes into literally that first half a second of a song. So for us, you know, like sitting down with demos, it was really all about like it wasn't even so much about format, format was a big part of the song if we didn't already have something kind of set in stone, but really it was about those bells and whistles, it was about those like oh I need this, you know, single ominous fear tone to be playing in the background of my entire song.
Then after working with high level producers, when they would say things like, oh yeah, like you can actually have that run over into the next song and then you can really tie your songs together, You know, it's like, oh wow, we have never thought of this concept before. And so for us it was just more about getting concrete ideas on paper that we could use as reference material. So that way, you know, you can never get better if you don't have a historical recording of where you're coming from.
And so for us actually getting better because of the recordings, I mean it was huge. The the difference in our songwriting abilities exploded, leap years, we advanced leap years because we were able to go back and reference individual points of the song. We started off playing a little more hardcore music and so there's a lot of really important accents and Syncopation that all need to be super, super tight. And you know, there were times we would write a song, we go into the studio and we realized that now the guitars aren't actually doing the same thing as the drums because we were playing it in a jam setting and everything is super loud, you know?
So for starters getting a demo was night and day literally the difference between trying to find something at night time and trying to find something at daytime. You had an exact reference point, You had any I mean I had a time stamp of when something goes wrong, you can say, hey why is there a dead note on this? Hey, your strings start to sound like they needed to be changed halfway through this song. You know, you actually have something that you can grow from and that was like the first really big thing with demos.
But I have really, really love what you said about the idea behind your art and and how you want your art to be portrayed. Because I have also had the same song recorded by multiple different producers. And that's something that doesn't happen until a little bit later on in your career. And that was always really weird for me too, because we recorded our demo that sounded one way. We went to a producer who actually lied to us about his resume and the product that we got from him had some really awesome things.
It really did. And then we ended up getting it re recorded again. And that second professional recording had a totally different sound but was still our song and still sounded totally awesome, but in a completely different way. And then a third and final time for the full length album. We recorded it again with a different producer and yet again had a different sound. Again, we liked it. But somewhere in between those three, like we never sat down as a band and said, oh man, it's really important for us to have these soaring guitar leads.
Like it's really important for us to make sure that the breakdowns hit super heavy. Like that was something that we never actually like really sat down with. I think in our minds we chose a producer that, you know, it's like, oh, this guy did either breather. Like the breakdown sound awesome. So therefore our breakdowns are gonna sound awesome. So I really like what you said about art and it's important for, you know, anyone who's listening to remember that your art is the representation of who you are as an individual and the person who is going to make sure that that art is perfect or that it sounds the way that it should be.
Is you the artist that, like you were saying that artist who she had producers telling her that what she was doing was just wrong. But people used to tell Jimi Hendrix that he was playing guitar wrong, upside down. For one thing, the thing is, there's there's no such thing as wrong art. There's a reason that there's a phrase, it's an art, not a science and that's because art is expressive and artist beautiful, as long as you're not just throwing out carbon copy garbage, then your expression needs to be at the forefront of what you're doing.
And so for us, demos helped us learn what it was, what we needed out of music production and that sounds like drastic and, you know, epic, but it really was, you know, we were not writing music on the caliber that we needed to in order to live a life of musicians. We couldn't have done it with our old band. Our songs were too long, our parts were too long, they weren't dynamic enough. So yeah, no, for us as a band, demos brought us to the next level.
They forced us to compete at the next level. And it was really because it forced us to sit down and listen to each individual note. You know, if one of us was playing something that didn't feel right, we could isolate that. We could identify it, we could troubleshoot it. Kind of like if you're having random mike problems or a USB port goes out, you can troubleshoot it. If you have enough minds collectively working together and identifying the problem and with a demo, when you have a hard copy, it also just makes things a lot better too because you have a hard copy you can send to people.
But the best thing about demos, for me as an artist specifically was actually having a point of reference that we could come back to and say this needs to change, this part needs to be rewritten. This part needs to be recorded. That's a great point that yeah, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. How you would work with an artist to restructure the demos that they send to you to rework it and flesh out their arrangement or find a better way for them to express their feelings through the song. Yeah.
Yeah, it's a it's a great topic. I think one thing that spiked out there was this idea of pre production when you're sitting in a room together as a band and you're all playing and it's loud and everybody just feels amazing, right? That's great. And that definitely there it can be the genesis of a lot of wonderful ideas. But once you get those down into multi tracks and you really put the microscope on things, you might find this happens all the time when I work with bands.
It's like, wait, why is the kick drum doing that? And then the bass guitar is doing something different. You're like, this would be a lot more powerful if the kid came in on the one like, trust me. So you can you can dig into some of those details once you have the multi track session and rework some of those things just by virtue of having a microscope on them and being able to mute and solo things and being able to focus, Like matt said, you have a time stamp.
Being able to go back and listen to something catches you for a second, You don't just keep playing through it, you go back and listen again, you're like, okay, stuff starts to come to the surface. So that's one thing, the other thing that you guys kind of touched on, which I also think is very valid is this idea of pushing a creative idea as far as you can push it and then letting somebody else put their, you're on it and push it even further. And this happens all the time.
Like, you know, I I started out as a songwriter recording my own songs and it's exhausting to do everything yourself. And so you guys are, you know, matt, you were mentioning the bells and whistles, right? So like, okay, I put in two bells and one whistle and like, I'm a sponge and I've been wrung out now creatively, I'm just drained now. I give that what I've done to somebody else and they add a couple more bells and whistles and you know, there's a reason why a lot of these commercial tracks that we all know Have like seven or 8 people on the credits.
It's because it takes that many ideas and different perspectives and different approaches to add the right amount of bells and whistles and actually, you know, my my podcast, co host, Ben also has a studio and we've, because we're friends and we worked together and we've learned to trust each other's ears. We will often send stuff to each other for mastering And it's amazing because it's not like he's better. I'm better nine times out of 10 what one of us sends to the other one comes back better because you get that slightly different perspective and that's slightly different adjustments.
So you can really get more out of your song by having a demo, taking it as far as you can, and then kind of letting other people put their spin and touch on it, fresh ears, they're absolutely integral. That's great. And I think that's a huge point to like if an artist records a demo, they can send it to a friend who's, you know, in the no, like a friend who's also in a band who's a good writer or is a good ranger and have that friend give them feedback before they send it off to their producer engineer to go through with a fine tooth comb.
So I already have those small improvements that other people in their circle can recommend. I'm learning so much more about why demos are useful and the topic of demos being useful is something we've been pushing for quite a while, so I'm so glad you're here chatting about this video. This is great for artists who want to do a demo, but have no idea where to start. What would you suggest there? What's the first stuff? Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, the wonderful thing about the time we live in is that it's never been more accessible for artists to make good sounding demos at home than it is today.
And that's for for a number of reasons, both the availability of resources and the availability and affordability of technology. But we'll start with saying that you need a computer And if you have a computer that you've bought within the last, I don't know, 5-7 years, it'll probably be good enough to get you started some of these um, programs that we're going to talk about maybe take a little bit more RAM. But if you have like four gigabytes of RAM, that's the bare minimum, I would say, you know, eight is better, but you'll be okay with a computer that you bought within the last 5 to 7 years.
The next thing you'll need is an interface. And what it interfaces. I like to describe it as like the Grand Central Station of your recording rig, which is to say that, you know, like all the trains that come in and out of new york city have to go through Grand Central Station. All the audio that comes into and out of your computer has to go through an interface. So the interface is a box. It's a way to package a couple of components together. One is it has preempts.
So preempts are what allow you to take a weak signal, like something off of an electric guitar or off of a microphone and boost it a little bit so that it's loud enough to then do something with. And in this case, what we're doing with it is we're converting it to a digital signal to ones and zeros because that's the language that our computer speaks. So the interface packages these couple of things together, you can plug in a microphone and you can get a digital signal coming out into your computer.
And the important thing to consider with an interface is how many channels you need or how many preempts you need, like the most affordable ones will usually have two inputs to outputs some. Now even have one input, I would say try to go for something with at least two inputs. So you can record stereo sources if you need to. But remember we're talking about multi track recording. So you can use those two inputs to layer as many things as you want on top of each other so that you got your computer, you'll need an interface.
The next thing you'll need is your instruments, which you hopefully already have and something like a microphone to capture acoustic sources. It's funny because we were talking about mike stands, you guys want to touch on that, But Mike stands is something I've learned not to be stingy on because a microphone is usually one of your most prized investments in the studio. And the mic stand is the only thing standing between that microphone and a six ft drop to the ground. So invest in a nice mic stand.
Once you have those things, your cables, obviously, uh you'll need, I would say two more things. One is the software that we're going to record into which is called a digital audio workstation or D A W There's a lot of free ones out there, or trial versions or student versions, like garageband is a great one to start working with. And then there's some other, you know, the higher tier ones you've probably heard of our like pro tools, Logic Q base. So you'll need some kind of program.
They're all pretty much the same functionally. Just pick one that you think you'll be comfortable with and try to learn it. And then finally, I'll say, if you're recording acoustic sources, you should have some way of killing the room noise. And this is where we get into like language of recording technology. What do I mean when I say kill the room? Well, it means to minimize the amount of room sound that's getting into your microphones. There's great D II ways to do this. You can record vocals in a closet, where you have a bunch of clothes hanging, you can use mike stands, I do this all the time.
You make a mic stand into a T and throw blankets over the top of it. Put pillows from the couch, kind of on your reflection points. So that's like bare sections of wall where sound will reflect off of your mouth or your instrument and reach the microphone. So removing the room is is kind of like the last bit I would say you need there to start making quality demos at home. I'm gonna do a shameless pitch. If you guys, let me please do, we have a free DIY Recording E book.
If you're completely new to this, I promise if you know how to use a computer, this will make the process more accessible to you. If you go to how to record your band dot com, you can download that pdf there. Alright, nice. Easy domain right there. How to record your band dot com. I dig it. I know. I couldn't believe that was available. So I snagged that quickly. Yeah, that's huge. So that covers the gear that artists need to record demos and that kind of stuff. It does add up in cost pretty quickly, but if it saves, you know, several $1000 of studio time, that's going to pay for itself the first time you go into the studio or if not the first time, at least by the second time.
So for the artists who have all the gear, I just have no idea what to do. Let's say that a rock band and obviously they have a stereo interface so they can't make up a full drum kit. What would the step by step process once they have a song that they want to do a demo for? How would they go about doing that? Just 30,000 ft view. What's the step by step you would suggest? Sure, well, once you have your basic gear and you kind of roughly understand how to set your dog up with your interface.
So you can arm tracks for recording, you can record your two tracks, you kind of have to plan your recording strategy a little bit. A great thing to do is to make ah man, I forget what it's called, cue sheets. I'm not cue sheets, but what's um matrix where you have each part in each part of the song? I know you're like the grid, but I don't know what it's called. Yeah, the grid, We'll just call it story boarding. That works. It's like story warning. But so you basically outline picture a picture of grid. Okay.
And each row in the grid is like an instrument, right? So bass kick, whatever. You have guitar vocals. And then each column is like the song section. So like intro verse, one chorus, whatever. And you just want to keep track roughly of what your song looks like. It's like a map of your song. This is going to be important because I can't tell you how many times I've finished the session, rolled up all my mic cables, put everything away and I'm like, oh my God, there was supposed to be an acoustic guitar in the intro.
Now we didn't get it. Now what do we do? Right, so keep organized, understand going into the day, like what you want to record, especially if you have multiple people, it will help you schedule things out then from, you know, tracking strategy, you want to decide if you're going to use a click track. Usually like to air on the side of a click track, depending on the genre. But typically you can get better tighter takes with less editing if you are recording to a click of course if you're playing, you know, freeform jazz then that's not gonna work for you.
That's cool. But it's common to start tracking drums first. So you can absolutely record a drum kit with a stereo interface. You can just use to overhead mics and record that kit and then you'll be able to do amazing things. You know, an engineer can do amazing things with just a pair of overheads recording a drum kit. So start with the drum kit if the drummer has good rhythm that should serve you well. And then record other instruments up from there. I usually like to actually recommend people do guitars before base because it's kind of counterintuitive, but it's important I think for the bass player to hear the nuances of the guitarist, not that bass players are are less important, but you can typically get a tighter sound that way.
And then usually you save vocals for last once everything is done, do your vocals and I mean, is that high level enough? You got, we can, I can talk about this for days James. So tell me where you want to go. No, I think that's great because a lot of artists might just go and say, okay, I'm going to do the vocals. And then when they try to go back and do the drums and the bass, they have trouble fitting in there. So that's exactly what I was going for.
Is just the do this, this, this and this. I also like doing guitars before base. I don't always do it before base. I'll see what the band is more comfortable with. But years ago, a band turned me onto that because they said, oh well I want to do my bass parts after the guitar. I'm like, okay, that's not how I usually do it, but we can make it work and it turned out really well. So that's definitely something that a lot of engineers don't do. But I think more engineers should at least be open to.
Its super counterintuitive. But it's just yeah, one note on there. Like, one of the reasons I think that's true is because it's harder for us to perceive notes on a bass guitar, like the low frequencies are a little bit tricky to perceive. So like if a bass player is doing some little nuanced trill thing that's half steps apart, it might be hard for the guitarist to hear that and follow it, but it'll sound off, it'll sound a little out of tune. So I think that's one big reason why.
Sorry man, I didn't mean to cut you off there. No, no, you're you're wonderful. That actually plays in very nicely to what I was about to say. And that uh one huge trick to all the bassists out there, don't get upset about this, but your rhythm guitarist should record your base. Whoever is tracking your rhythm parts on guitar should also be tracking your rhythm on base. And that was something that we learned a long time ago. And like you were saying a lot of you know, I started off as a bassist.
So so this is this hurts my heart to even have to say. But when you have somebody that's writing a rhythm section and they are staying really, you know, like even even if you don't have super complex rhythms, just the natural tightness. I mean even if a guitarist gets up their records, his rhythm parts and then immediately switches over to base and tracks those he's going to be well practiced. He has the rhythms muscle memory exactly imprinted literally in his fingertips. And so while going to the studio sometimes can be a little bit upsetting for bassists.
You have to remember that the end goal is your product sounding crisp, clean and tight. And I have literally had a guitarist have to redo all of the bassists parts before on recordings and you know, and it was it was heartbreaking but it was also necessary for the end product to be what it was supposed to be. That is rough. So the question that comes up for me there is what about if the guitarist is not necessarily as good of a bass player as the bass player and can't play the bass parts as they've been written.
So in that case let's take the red hot chili peppers for example. You know your guitarists are playing totally entirely different things you know and their style is really, really emulated in there playing. And so I think things like that are like if you have a bassist that is the literal backbone of your band then let the dude shine. You know, that's that's one of the two highs in the music industry. Like we always say aces in their places, you know who the Aces are, My first band ever.
Our guitarist, he was a gearhead. You know, we'll bring this around full circle. He was a gearhead. He was one of those people that he could sit there and you know turned his pickups on and play his, he'd play his pedals like a keyboard and get just crazy and he knew what they did. And then by the time that he and I had basically finished playing together, he was a purist where he was like, oh my goal is to take this strap, plug it into that, you know, Roland jazz chorus with this quarter inch and get the most beautiful perfect sound out of it.
So for him, he kind of had this like, he went from one way all the way to the other, but nobody ever would have been the person that says like, oh josh, you shouldn't play the guitar. It's like, yeah, right. I literally watched him play eruption upside down on a right handed guitar. He's a lefty When he was 15, you know, and I was just, there was never, ever, ever, it doesn't matter how good of a basis I ever became, I was never going to be the person who would track base if it came down to it.
And that's just, I mean, that's kind of a humility thing. You know, if, like, I'm not the best drummer in my band, so why would, why would I sit at the drum kit, I wouldn't, you know, if I'm not the best bassist in the band, if I'm not the best rhythm player, and sometimes you have to take a step back because you're sitting there saying, oh, you know, I've I'm paying thousands of dollars, like I deserve to to have my, you know, my voice heard on this album and, and they do, you know, and, and, and so that kind of ties right in with what we talk about being practiced and well rehearsed.
If you guys play super tight and your warm then great, let the basis do it. You shouldn't walk into a studio and say, well, her guitarist is just going to track all the rhythm and that's how it's going to be. But you know, if he sits down, he starts playing and your producer just kind of gives you this look like, hey man, we're gonna be spending an extra day tracking these parts that you literally just tracked and could probably knock out in 30 minutes. You know? And at what point do you have to say, monetary and time investment?
Your feelings? Mm Like it's a very, very hard thing to way because these are these are people you care about your band mates, they're your family and you don't want to hurt them. Which is why you as an individual, need to have personal accountability. You need to be well practiced, well rehearsed. And when people come into, you know, when it's time to work. Like you need to be practiced and ready to go. If you're not well then you're going to sacrifice some of those highs and on top of that you're gonna be sacrificing everybody's highs because the producer is going to be sitting there going like this, are we done with this yet?
And that's the last thing you want. You don't ever want a producer who's bored of your music. Every producer I've ever worked with loves tracking my drummer, he's classically trained, he marched drum corps for years. He literally spent summers playing for 12 hours in a hot field with a click playing over the P. A. Speakers. So just literally 10 hours a day playing to a click, getting sunburn and whenever he tracks his drum parts, I mean, it's like I asked the producer, I'm like, what's the fastest you've ever had a drummer?
Track stuff? And most of them are like about that fast and he's well rehearsed, he's well practiced, you know? So keep your aces in their places, you know, set emotions aside. Let the emotions come up when you're, when you're selling your album, you know, that's when the emotions should be ripe. That's when you should be like, oh yes, like here's my record. Do I care that some of my bandmates have, have sang some harmonies on on our album? Of course not, some of them have a better tonality for certain harmony parts.
That's not going to upset me if I'm not singing all of the vocals on my album, in my opinion, that seems really childish and immature. So for me, it's like, no dude, let's get as many of the greatest things that we can do as a collective, Let's print that to an album. And if that means that like I have to play a bass part, then that's what has to happen. If that means that you have to sing, then that's fine, then let's do that. Let's make the adult decision.
You know, you should, you should never be so emotionally attached to your business that you cannot make a hard decision about your business. And so like write music that you like, but don't limit your product because it's going to emotionally hurt you. That's like the cardinal mistake, in my opinion. Hand knowledge bombs left and right. I like talking with the Dean. He's easy to talk to agreed. Well, Vadim, as we uh, pivot to wrap things up. Is there any one of the knowledge bombs that you've shared today that you want to highlight is like the most important piece of information you could give to an artist who wants to start recording in her home demos.
Oh man, I'm gonna boil it all down into a sound bite. Huh? Yeah. Well, you know, I think again, I will highlight those those three resources, right? Time money and your network. And I like especially building on what Matt said there a lot is the thing I love about recorded music. The live show is beautiful in and of itself, but with a recorded piece, you really have the ability to fine tune every little thing that gets onto that recording. So you wanted to be the best it can be.
And that means doing what Matt said, which is putting aside your ego and letting the art kind of dr what is necessary. And I would encourage everybody to take a step back and think about how that ties into these three resources and what they want to invest time in. I think a lot of the time people are hesitant to record, I would encourage them to step back and investigate the source of that hesitancy. Is it because you're intimidated by the technology and because the Youtube videos you see are over your head and you don't understand what's going on.
If so, I promise you, if you know how to use a computer, you can record demos at home DIY Recording I's podcast is a great place to start if you're interested in learning more about that. But if your hesitancy is that you just you feel like an emotional drain when you think about recording, you're just not interested in it. I know musicians like that, they're fantastic musicians and songwriters, they just don't care about recording. Then maybe your balance of those three resources changes a little bit and now you're more into leveraging your network and paying people to get what you want more so than trying to force DIY DIY Isn't for everyone.
So I guess that would be my final, it's a long winded way of saying it, but I would say search your feelings ah there it is to make the fourth time and yes I knew it was there. So search your feelings, understand what's been holding you up from recording demos at home and then try to figure out how you're going to balance your three resources to get past that man. I think that is a perfect way to wrap things up. That's what all business comes down to, recognizing that it applies to demos.
That's perfect man. Well thank you so much for joining us, you already shouted out how to record your band dot com, the free e book. Are there any other resources aside from the DIY Recording Guys podcast, which is, you know, Spotify, Apple podcasts, all the major apps. Anything you want to share with the audience? Sure, yeah. I mean, I love I love what you guys are doing for for artists. I think it's such an important thing and you know, recognizing that people who are in the Bandhive community, you are serious about their craft and serious about making their bands work.
We wanted to offer something special. So if you go too long link but resources dot DIY Recording eyes dot com forward slash ban Hive. We have a quick demo recording checklist for you there. And yeah, I just keep doing what you're doing. I think it's it's really wonderful resource for the for the DIY band community and really appreciate it. Thank you so much for doing that means the world to us. Yeah. We really appreciate the kind words as well as you coming on the show.
Thanks for taking the time out of your morning. Thanks for having me. May the fourth be with you? Yes. May the force be with you. Mhm. Yeah. Mhm. Mhm. That does it for this episode of the Bandhive podcast. Thanks so much to you for tuning in. And of course, big thanks again to Vadim from DIY Recording Guys for coming on the show to share his thoughts on demoing your songs. We really hope that you learned a lot from Vadim. And just as a reminder, you can check out the DIY Recording Guys podcast in your favorite podcast app.
Pretty much wherever you listen to the Bandhive podcast, should also have DIY Recording Guys. So go check that out because it is a great podcast. I listened to it myself and I find it quite enjoyable. That being said, we do have a facebook community that we would love for you to join. You can find it by searching for Bandhive on facebook, or you can just go to Bandhive dot Rocks slash group to automatically be redirected in that community, you will find lots of like minded artists who are ready and willing to take their business seriously.
So if you have questions, ideas, anything you want to share or learn, please head on over to that group and use the resources available to you because I think it will be incredibly helpful for you. We'll be back next week with another new episode, Tuesday at six a.m. Eastern time. Until then have a great week, Stay safe. And of course, as always, keep rocking.
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