Archive | February, 2013

Studio Adventures: Recording A Demo

27 Feb

It wasn’t the first time for me to sing for a demo. And it wasn’t the first time for me to come into the studio unconvinced that the song was going to work.

The song had its merits, but it didn’t seem to be the kind of song I could deliver. As much as I’ve tried to be as versatile as possible, there are just certain genres that I’m not comfortable with, and the song started as that. How was I to give the song a heart and a soul with that roadblock to begin with?

Then I heard the arranged version… and it was beautiful. The arranger had managed to come up with all these catchy bits that the melody had stuck to my head after one listen. Even better, we went to the arranger’s house to record it. He didn’t have a big recording studio, but it was more than good enough.

The first thing they did was to set the key right. And I almost jumped for joy. Usually, the composers I’d agree to demo for would ask me if I’m okay with the song’s key, but all too often it’s set at a certain key that they actually prefer, which is oftentimes a little too low for my natural range. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised at how they didn’t only agree to change the key, they made me decide how low or high I wanted it. So the song ended up at the range I’m most comfortable with.

Next, lyrics. Now, the lyrics were my biggest problem. I didn’t exactly agree with the lyrics. Like if I’d write a love song for my special someone, those wouldn’t be the lyrics. But I also understood that the lyrics meant something personal to the composer, so I just tried to make the most out of what he wanted. (Fortunately, he agreed to let me edit some glaring grammar slips. I’m not a grammar nazi, but obvious tense misdemeanors bother me. Especially when they’re in the choruses that repeat a good number of times for the duration of the song.)

That left the part that was entirely in my control: the delivery.

Just because I’m not going to be the artist releasing the song doesn’t mean I have to sing it all flat and lifeless. That’s not how I work. So I did our theatre trick, internalizing the song, feeling it, letting the music tug my heartstrings. Sure, some of the lines didn’t make a lot of sense, but I got the point of the whole thing. She was still hopelessly in love with the man who broke her heart, and wanted him back.

That kind of scenario’s fairly easy. Who’s never been heartbroken, anyway?

We did a few takes. The arranger had his own inputs; he suggested changing some notes and on how to deliver some of the parts. He even layered in some instruments to give the material more “oomf,” and he gently argued with the composer on his original idea to have the last chorus come up with backing vocals, as he was convinced that the song was best done solo. Amazingly, it was the most control I’ve ever had on a song. They actually let me do what I wanted, and even kept most of what I decided to do. It was great.

So I have a copy of the song’s rough mix on a CD, and I’ve listened to it several times after leaving the studio. And that, too, is a first; I don’t really like listening to my finished demos, as I find my singing bad. If I ever play the CD, it’s only going to be one time, and for the benefit of my curious family and boyfriend. Not that I think my singing’s stellar or anything now, but it wasn’t too bad, and I’m proud at how it all came together with our collaborative efforts.

If the song ever gets picked up by some label for an artist’s album, I hope they’d let the singer have as much fun as I did, and not just copy off my style down to the last note. Not because she’d be a copycat or what-have-you, but I feel it’ll kind of defeat the purpose of doing a song in the first place. Don’t people always say to “take a song and make it your own”?