How to record a great band demo - on the cheap!

Aug 14, 2019


Back in the early 1990s a friend and I were out at the pub in Chorlton and we spotted Martin Hannett the famous Manchester producer. Martin had produced the likes of Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Durutti Column, Blondie, New Order, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Magazine to name but a few. As we were both in bands at the time we approached him to find out if there were any cheap studio down time going anywhere as we both needed to record demos. Martin’s response was to explain that you didn’t need expensive recording facilities to make a great demo. He went on to explain that most of the great sounding records we had heard that were made in the 50s and 60s were recorded live in one room in one take with either one or two microphones to record the performance. He said that the idea was that if the playing was good and well rehearsed, the gear sounded good and the room sounded good you could capture that great sound with a decent microphone or two. If anything was too loud in the recording it should be moved further from the microphones and if it was too quiet it should be moved closer to the mics.

We honestly thought at the time that he was fobbing us off but years later on remembering this advice I decided to give it a try with the covers band I was currently playing with. Rather than using microphones I had purchased a Zoom H2, a relatively inexpensive, small, handy digital recorder with built in stereo mics. The results were very good indeed and once I had processed the recordings in a mastering program, adding compression, multiband compression and a tiny bit of equalisation these recordings ended up sounding very professional indeed and many gigs were secured from sending these tracks out to bars and venues.

When sending demos to record companies it can work in your favour sending this kind of demo. The A&R listening to your demo will be able to hear your songs as you actually perform them and will also be able to imagine how it would sound with a full studio production and I guarantee that if you send them a fully studio produced demo it will not excite their imagination quite as much. A&R like to hear potential in a band so they can feel instrumental in making that band and shaping it into a product.

When you weigh it up, the studio time required to record and mix say 3 tracks would likely take a week. The equipment needed for Martin’s technique costs less than a week in the studio and can be used again and again.

There are many low cost recording solutions around now like for instance the Link Analog interfaces which will turn your android or iphone into a multitrack recording device and start from just £29.99 add a decent condenser mic or a pair or matched condenser mics for another £100-£200 and you are set to go and all for well less than half the price of a week in the studio.

 

Happy Demoing

 

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