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Making a Demo Tape
Written by Dick Hodgin --  m80@nando.net

 
Question: How can I go about making a demo tape without spending a fortune?
 
 
          If you don't have a CD out, then this it the easiest way of
giving someone an idea of what your band is like. It's not easy or cheap
to make a GREAT  demo tape, but, a suitable demo tape can  be made easily
and cheaply.  Here are a few suggestions:
 
         1. The cheapest way to make a demo tape is to make a recording
of your practice with whatever means you  can get a hold of.  If that
means on a jam box and that's the best you can do, then do it. Set the
jam box far enough away from the band so that it won't distort the tape
too much.  Experiment with different positions.  Try setting the recorder
in another room. You'll be surprised at the difference.  Also try to get
the vocals on there fairly hot (unless you're one of those bands that
don't care about the vocals). If you can borrow (or rent) a 4-track or
better and spend some real time making a tape at home, it's gonna sound
better. The better your tape, the better your chances of impressing
someone. (to a point! A shitty band with a good sounding tape is still
going to have problems getting booked.)
 
        2.  A step up would be a live recording at a gig. A good console
and some better mics at a night club are probably going to be better than
whatever you have for  recording at home. VERY LIMITED! You'll have to
live with how well you played that night.  If you can do a multi-track
recording of a live  show, you' ll have more control over the final
quality. At least you can mix the levels of the instruments and maybe
putz around with some effects and/or compression and stuff. You can even
do some over-dubs  if you want to.
 
          3. A step up from that would be to go to your local studio and
pay for a demo, or try to get a studio to give you a "SPEC" deal. ( A
"SPEC" deal is where the studio fronts you the time and then you pay for
it IF  and WHEN  you get a recording deal).  Be very careful about these
kinds of arrangements. Make sure everyone in the band, as well as
everyone at the studio knows all the details of the agreement. You'll
probably want to get something down in writing about who, what, where,
how much, and of course, when.
 
        4. A "LIVE TO 2 TRACK" tape.  Most studios have some sort of demo
package for bands that would include, say, set-up time, recording hours,
engineer, tape and copies to do a "live two-track" tape.  This means you
go into the studio,  set up your gear just like you play live, and the
engineer records you as you play your songs. NO re-mixing!  (Cheap! Maybe
$100 -$300)
 
         5. One more step up from that gets you into doing rhythm tracks
with vocal and lead over dubs, then a mix-down session. (more expensive-
maybe from $500 -$1000)
 
         6. From there you go to getting a producer and doing a "finished
project" that you could shop to record companies and/or put out yourself
for sale. (Could be real expensive - over $1000) The main thing is, don't
sit around on your ass 'cause you don't have the cash to make a CD
quality demo. Just do anything that you can to get started. The
experience of demo recording will also make your NEXT tape sound better.
You've got to start somewhere.
 
        THERE's ONLY ON THING TO REMEMBER!!!
                 You get what you pay for!!
 
 
After you get your demo tape done, make sure you have a way of getting
good copies. Maybe one person in the band has a real good tape deck and
you can get hold of another one and just make a bunch of copies.( You can
buy bulk blank CRO2 tapes from FORTRESS AUDIO  919-376-9601-Ask for PAT)
If you can afford it, get the studio to make your copies, they'll sound
better, but it can be expensive.
 
        Another way is to get a master mix on HI-FI VHS and make cassette
copies from there. Those will sound better than cassette to cassette
dubs. You can get a little cheap 3-band stereo eq from RADIO SHACK to put
the finishing overall sound on your dubs. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR DUB BEFORE
SENDING IT OUT.  It's embarrassing when you go to all that trouble, and
then you send out a defective tape. Put a cool cover card (J-CARD) in
there and make sure your phone number is ON THE TAPE ITSELF, as well as
the cover.
 
        If you've got some money, you may elect to put your demo out
yourself for sale. You can call companies like American Sound & Video in
Atlanta (404-633-4577-talk to STAN),  and they'll put your whole tape
package together for you, complete with printed J-cards and shrink wrap.
Their high-speed dupes sound good. This looks professional and you can
make some of your money back. It also makes other bands jealous.
 
        Don't forget, if you have any questions, taunts, good
ideas....
------------>  m80@nando.net