You should see your demo as being every bit as important as your final product.
These days, demos really need to be well-written and well-recorded. The evolution from rough to polished happened hand-in-hand with the evolution of technology. Nowadays, it’s possible to make a very fine recording in the comfort of your own home, as you likely know.
If you don’t know how to do a professional-sounding recording, there’s lots of info online that can guide you.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle (plus a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”) is written by Gary Ewer, designed to straighten out your technique and get you writing better songs.
But what exactly are you looking for in a professional demo? Good demos don’t just refer to the quality of the recording itself, but the quality of the songwriting as well. Here are 7 characteristics of a great demo:
- The recording quality is very high. Even freeware, like LMMS or Sound eXchange (SoX), can get you where you need to be with this.
- The song has a great hook. Songs that really make a connection to listeners are ones that have that short, catchy, rhythmic idea, usually found in the chorus, and lots of fun to sing.
- It makes good use of repetition. Hooks are a demonstration of this, but even beyond the hook, you’ll find that the best songs use either exact or approximate repetition as a main important structural feature. Exact repetition is self-explanatory, but what about “approximate” reputation? The Beatle’s “Fool On the Hill” is a great example of a short idea that keeps getting repeated in an approximate kind of way.
- The lyrics are well-structured, and interesting to listen to. Remember that most lyrics will move from descriptive (verse) to emotive (chorus).
- It has a great chorus melody. Verse melodies can wander up and down as they attempt to help the lyric describe the scenario of the song. But chorus melodies need to be tight and repetitious, often with a climactic high point, and definitely fun to sing.
- It has an engaging energy build. Songs typically gain energy and momentum as they move along. So use everything you’ve got — volume, number of instruments, background vocals, increasing rhythmic activity — to help build song energy.
- The song’s been really well-performed. If the performance is weak and unmusical, it doesn’t matter how good your song is. Listeners will be distracted by wrong notes, weak sense of rhythm, or boring instrumentation.
In the final analysis, you should treat your song demo as if it’s the final product. Take great care, get lots of advice, and listen to the end product with as much objectivity as you can muster. Once your song is in the hands (ears) of industry personnel, you don’t get a second chance with it.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)