Instruments? Check! Bandmates? Check! Great songs? umm...
At this point you should have a solid lineup for your band, possibly a band name but most importantly you should be writing your own music. You have? Great! Now pick your 3 best songs because it's time to record a demo! In actuality what you're doing is something called pre-production and this is how you’ll be able to tell if your songs are any good or if you’re really all tone deaf from rehearsing at full volume… by the way, don’t do that.
Just remember, Demo stands for Demonstration, so in this case you shouldn't be spending a fortune on recording nor should you waste your money on printing 1,000 cds.
This recording is simply to give you a clear idea of how your instruments blend with each other and find out if your songs are any good. This is pre-production for what will be a final product. So, whether or not you want to share these test recordings with the public is up to you but keep in mind that the internet is forever. I would think the last thing you want for your band is to be mis-represented as the band with a shitty demos. At the very least, you might want to wait until you've settled on a final arrangement before blasting it out to social media.
Pre-production is an invaluable tool for the DIY Garageband because it makes the band better as a whole. On the recording you’ll be able to hear every instrument and how it performs in the song, as well as where the mistakes are. This gives you an opportunity to review the song as a band then make improvements where needed. Very rarely will a song be written to completion on the first try so recording a demo is a great way to listen back on what you’ve created & find ways to improve on it. However, don’t get to caught up on trying to make the song “perfect” because more often than not a song will never be finished in the eyes of a musician. Just try to get the song to a point where you don’t hate it okay?
When you go into a recording studio to record a demo you typically want record each instrument separately to cut down on sounds bleeding together. You'll then balance the audio levels, equalize (EQ) the tones and BOOM, you've got a demo. If you're balling on a budget and all you've got is a smartphone, that might be okay if you're an acoustic act but heavy electric guitars could distort the sound. You can purchase a handheld recorder like the Zoom H4N Handy Portable Digital Recorder for under $200 and it will hold up a lot better than your smartphone in high noise environment.
Ideally you'll want to find someone with a computer, it could be a laptop or a desktop, it really doesn’t matter what brand. If you’ve got a PC you can typically find free/trial versions of recording software online like ProTools or Ableton. Likewise, if you have a Mac it comes preloaded with their native recording software, Garageband, which is basically a beginner version to Logic.
The next things you'll need to round up is a recording interface & a few mics. You should be able to find a complete set on Amazon at a reasonable price depending on the brand. I found this Presonus Audiobox Studio package for under $200. Whatever route you take you’ll need to scrounge up some money for the band fund. Trust me, it's going to worth it in the long run.
I know what you're thinking, "recording equipment, rehearsal studios, spending money?! We're broke musicians man, we don't have any money”
Please! I'm sure you find plenty of ways to fund your bad habits. Beer and cigarettes aren't free man but you somehow manage to pay for those don’t you? If you really want this band to work out, you'll find a way to raise the money. Being in a DIY Garageband means you've gotta be resilient. There are a lot of ways you can raise some extra cash beyond straight up asking your friends & family for some cash. You can get a part-time job, sell your junk on craigslist, have a car wash or you could have a bake sale (what you put in those brownies is up to you). But if you really want to get things going for your band, get out there and start playing shows!
Take what you’ve learned so far & just go for it. Follow your dreams! There’s no one way to start a band and every band has a different experience but the one thing we all gotta do at some point is just to jump in with both feet.
Keep writing music, keep improving & don’t stop working towards your dreams. When preparation meets opportunity, you've got a recipe for success. Rock on!
I'd love to hear from you! What kind of equipment do you use for pre-production? Do you demo your songs before the final product? Leave me a comment in the section below.
Talk to you soon! - Drew @diygarageband