Recording an EP: demo tracks

The first step in recording an EP is to write the songs – or at least a first version of the songs. For me, it was really about selecting the songs I wanted to record from a collection that I had gathered over the years. All the songs were complete or at least part-written at the start of the process. The five songs I chose for the EP are called Politic Blues, In The Night, The Flood, Chasing Butterflies and Complications. Some of the songs were written very recently (Chasing Butterflies) and others I wrote the earliest versions of in my teens (Complications).

Wait, there are different versions of a song? Yes. Some songs come together quickly and easily, perhaps over a single day or even a few hours. Others you might go back to over a number of years, changing things here and there until you feel you have something that really works. For example, I re-wrote the chorus for Complications several years after the verse and ending were written. I usually end up tweaking the lyrics a bit on most songs – especially during the recording process when you really have to commit to a final version.

Having written/chosen the songs, the next step is to record some demo tracks. Wikipedia says: Musicians often use demos as quick sketches to share with bandmates ..or simply for personal reference during the songwriting process. For me, it was about sharing the basic ideas with bandmates and deciding on some initial song structures that we could refer back to. In the next post, I’ll talk about how we went about shaping these sketched ideas into more complete songs.

The demo tracks were recorded on a Zoom R16 digital multi-track. The R16 is a great option as a portable and self-contained recording device, and will even run on batteries if needed. For each demo, I would first set up a click track by recording my digital metronome, so that I had a basic pulse to help keep everything in time. Then I would record one or two guitar parts over the top, followed by the vocals, using whatever microphone I had available at the time. The whole process was pretty rough-and-ready and I could have a demo done within about an hour or so on a good day. The last part was to take the SD card out of the R16 and transfer the recordings to my Mac computer, where I would mix it using GarageBand (more on the mixing process in later posts).

The R16 made this process very portable/flexible. The demo of Politic Blues, above, was recorded during some time off at my family home in Brighton. I hope you enjoy the sneak preview.. šŸ™‚

Demo versions of the songs were recorded on a digital multi-track.

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