Get your demo ready for production with this helpful guide
At Fox Tracks Music, we’ve worked with countless songwriters to help them get their songs ready for production. Usually just a few small adjustments are needed before a demo is ready for the recording process. Here are some of the things we've learned along the way that help strengthen a demo and get it ready for recording.
A demo is a sketch of your song and should describe a basic idea of what you want your song to sound like when it is fully produced. This can be accomplished simply by recording yourself playing the song in its entirety, The function of a demo is just to describe the overall idea of your song so arrangement and recording can happen.
Some necessary elements of a demo include:
The Song's Form
The Song's Chords
The Song's Style
Let’s break each of these down individually.
1) The Form
Your song is a journey for your listeners. In order to make it a comfortable ride, you’ll have to make sure your demo has a smooth form or song structure. Each section of your song should be easy to recognize. These sections may include Intro, Verse, Pre-chorus, Chorus, Bridge, and Outro. Any listener should be able to tell when a new section has arrived, and even feel when a change is about to happen.
If two sections of your song sound too similar, see if there’s a way to break them up and define and solidify the sections in your song.
Tips for Form:
Change and emphasize your dynamics in a new section
Add an extra measure of just instruments as a transition
Add a pre-chorus to separate the verse and chorus
Add a break to signal that a change is about to happen
Change your vocal expression from section to section
Change your strumming pattern or rhythm in the verses
Modify the melody in a new section (up an octave, start in a different spot)
2) The Chords
Chances are your song has some chords. Before your song is ready to be recorded, it's important to double check your choices to make sure the chords in your song feel the way they should. If you're having trouble finding the right chord for a section of the melody, try starting with just a bass note and then experiment with different types of chords that use that specific note. You might find that the chord you're looking for isn't even in the key!
The most important thing to check for is any (unintentional) clashing between the chords and the melody. To do this, it's helpful to record yourself and listen back to notice any points where the melody and chords might conflict with each other. If you're feeling stuck on a section or a choice of chord, you can send us your demo for free feedback.
Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips for Chords
Strum or hold any conflicting chords and sing your melody notes one at a time. Hone in on the note that feels a little off.
Decide if you want the melody or chord to be modified. In most cases, it’s easier to modify the melody to match the notes in the chord.
If you want to modify the chord there are some simple solutions:
Find the note in the chord that is in conflict, and move it up or down one scale degree
Eliminate the note in the chord that is in conflict (you never need all the notes in a chord)
Change the quality of the chord. If it was a D major chord, see what happens if you make it a D major seven chord, or even a D minor chord! You might be surprised with how cool it sounds in the context of the song.
If there doesn’t seem to be a great way to fix the conflict, see if there’s a way to lean into it. See if you can sing the note with a heavy-handed expression and then slide out of it, or let it hang in its dissonance. (There are no wrong notes, only unintentional notes)
3) The Style and Sound
Your demo should reflect the style of your song in some way. This is where tempo and expression are super important. One thing that is important to mention here is that as a songwriter, you are not responsible for playing all the parts! Consider using loops or samples to get your idea across better. If your song is supposed to be carried by the drums, but you don’t play drums, try using a loop to build off. Think of this as your sketch to be painted. It’s also helpful to provide reference tracks along with your demo to give your producer an idea of the sound you’re going for. If you want your demo to have a cool lo-fi feel, provide a track that has the auditory aesthetic you’re going for. If you want some heavy hitting classic rock, find a tune where you love the guitar sound and send it over!
Tips for Style and Sound
Make sure to record your demo to a click track
Try using samples, mock-up recordings, or virtual instruments to lay out your ideas.
Include reference tracks to provide the producer with examples
We take pride in getting the right sound so we pay lots of attention to the musicians we work with for each song and specific recording techniques; if you want that vintage 60s sound, we’ll use specific mics and recording techniques to replicate it, and hire the drummer with the right (hair)style.
Demo Readiness Checklist
✓ My demo is recorded to a click track at a specific tempo
✓ My performance on the demo is clean enough to understand the song
✓ My recording is clean enough to hear all the parts
✓ It is easy to distinguish the different sections of the song
✓ I have reviewed melody and chord relationships and they all feel right
✓ My demo represents the style I am going for (I know what style I want)
✓ I have reference tracks to describe the sound I am going for
✓ My demo represents the final product as a sketch