Congratulations! You’ve gotten through the most important part of the songwriting process… actually finishing the song!
Maybe you’re all excited because you think it’s a smash and you can’t wait to demo it and pitch it to the universe. So right away you start calling the studio, or the players, or recording parts yourself, all due to the thrill (and it is a thrill) of having completed a song.
BUT WAIT! Before you start all of that, have you gone through the process of being READY to demo/record your hard-worked-for tune?
I have learned so many times (the hard way) that it probably isn’t the best approach to “wing it” or not really think about these very important things when it comes time to committing your song to wav forms. It can be a disappointing waste of time and money and I just want to save you that, if I can.
SO, here are 10 things to check off your list BEFORE you record your new song:
1. The arrangement.
Is the chorus where you want it… will there be a turn around… how about the bridge length… how about the ending? Will there be backing vocals? Is everything where you want it to be? Will you start with a verse or maybe a chorus? Is there a breakdown anywhere in the song? These are all crucial decisions which if they are made beforehand will probably result in a more smooth recording.
2. The key.
Is this the best key for the musicians? And more importantly, the singer? Most of the time, singers have a “sweet spot” in their voice; that is, where they sing most expressively and freely and just sing their best. Sometimes, if the key is too low, there’s a lack of energy. Or if it’s too high, there’s a tendency to squeeze. All of which might sound unpleasant. It’s best to find the right key BEFORE you start, or you might find yourself having to find another singer… or re-doing the parts in a whole different key.
3. The tempo.
Sometimes, in the moment of writing a song, the tempo can feel just right, but when you play it back, it sounds too slow. Or maybe it’s just the opposite and laying it back a few ticks makes the song “feel” better. Experiment with the tempo by playing to a click on your free iPhone app or computer. If you are doing all midi tracks, tempo isn’t an issue, but when you lay down audio it can be problematic to have to stretch everything. It’s always better to get it right on the front end , rather than having to fix something on the back.
4. The lyric.
Is it what you want to say and have you spent enough time on it? Sometimes great lines can be thought of during the writing process, but re-writing is how to finesse an already strong idea. Are there words that can make the song more exciting? Especially verbs. Is there a better way to say “she walked out the door”? Maybe she “darted” out, or “shimmied” out, or “sauntered” out. These can all describe very different ways of leaving. This is the opportunity to make the lyric more exciting.
5. The genre.
What genre are you writing? Is it a jazz song, an Americana song, Singer-Songwriter song, or blues rock? Or maybe it’s a hybrid of two or three different styles? These days anything goes and hybrids are popular, but whatever you’re trying to achieve, it’s always better to know where you’re going first than meander down a dark road. Sure, wander, but maybe wander BEFORE you have to pay musicians. The more clear you are about your direction once you get into the studio, the easier it will be for the hired guns to give you what you want. And the more enjoyable the tracking experience.
These are only 5 of the 10 things you should check before you demo your song. Check back next week for 5 more!