Enter Demo Days at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles, a chance to create simple, professional recordings of your songs, to learn about the recording process as it relates to your songs, and to prepare you for the decisions you will make about your songs. All in a quick and affordable setting.
We believe that a great song will translate in any production. And that before you invest money and time into creating a fully realized studio production, the real work should go into the writing, revising, and pre-production decisions about the song. A well-recorded version of the song allows you (and others) to evaluate it.
On DEMO DAYS downstairs at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles, we make Studio A of The Sound Boutique Studios available for our students at a reduced rate of $50/hr in hour-long blocks. Songwriters or singers work with a professional engineer to record high-fidelity guitar/vocal or piano/vocal or uke/vocal or track/vocal arrangements of your song or songs.
HOW DEMO DAYS WORK:
- Sign up for a 1-hour block of time (or more if you choose) at $50/hr (includes studio time, equipment, professional engineer, access to guitars or keyboards, all Pro Tools session files, and at least a rough mix of the song, with more options below)
- Anyone may book as many as two consecutive hour-long time blocks at a time. You may record no more than two songs per 1-hour block. Want more time? You will be added to a waiting list. If there are any available blocks as of 18 hours before the event, they will be awarded in order of that list. Need more time still? Let’s talk about what you are trying to accomplish and find a solution.
- Limited to guitar/vocal, piano/vocal, ukelele/vocal, track/vocal type of set-ups. Ensemble or band recordings require a minimum 4-hr block because of set-up/reset time, to be scheduled on a separate date and at a different rate.
- In an hour block, allow 15 minutes for the engineer to render a quick board mix of the song (“a rough mix”), print that mix, and transfer the mix and all of the session files to your USB flash drive or Mac-formatted external hard drive. OR, if you would like to allow more time for mixing and all the sonic enhancements that come with it, you can book additional hours for that work at a reduced rate. (See below)
- Any performance editing or enhancing through mixing requires extra paid time, to be arranged and agreed upon in advance between the songwriter and the engineer. To ensure a quality product and a positive experience, if this work is unattended it is billed at a reduced rate of $40/hr. As a basic sense of time spent in relation to quality of results, use this as a starting point for the conversation you will have with the engineer:
1-2 hours = YouTube Quality
3-4 hours = Demo Quality
5-6 hours = iTunes Quality
- What you walk out of the studio with...
1) a final mix or mixes of your song, whether the board mix from the single hour or the agreed upon approach to a more involved mix. All board mixes will be 16 bit 44.1khz (CD audio) .wav files. With additional mixing time you can specify 16 or 24 bit
2) the Pro Tools session files of your song in the event you want to record further, whether elsewhere, on your own, or at The Songwriting School.
3) the confidence that comes from being accountable for where you are as a creative person in this moment, and the wisdom that grows out of that accountability.
- You must be a student of The Songwriting School of Los Angeles to participate. A “student” is defined as someone currently enrolled in, registered for, or who has completed a 5-week or longer class at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles. Even if it has been a long time since that class, you are an important part of this creative community. This is another resource for you.
- Fine Print: because of the quality opportunity and generous rate, any cancellations for this special event must be made no later than one week before the event to avoid the full charge for the hours booked. Thank you for understanding and respecting the valuable time of all involved.
ADDITIONAL & OPTIONAL SERVICES DESIGNED TO ENHANCE DEMO DAYS
Before You Record...
Studio Orientation Sessions (Encouraged, Free)
Each month we will have optional and free Studio Orientation sessions to give you a chance to see the studio, understand how the process will work, and learn about how you might prepare. You can take a few minutes at this time to talk with the engineer about your specific needs, the style you are going for, or anything else that might help you arrive at a version you feel good about.
Review the pre-production checklist here.
Pre-Production Sessions to Workshop Your Song with Pro Songwriters (Optional, Paid)
An optional paid service that might pay off in a big way is to hire a songwriter or producer as a consultant to give you feedback on your song so that you can do further revisions and feel entirely confident in it by the time the red “record” lights goes on. Currently available for this service: Rob Seals, Keppie Coutts, Alan Roy Scott. When you have a confirmed Demo Days session booked, you are eligible to receive a reduced rate on a private, half-hour or hour-long session. $40/half-hour, $75/hour.
Vocal Coaching or Instruction with Michael Goodrich (Optional, Paid)
Michael Goodrich teaches private voice at The Songwriting School of Los Angeles Wednesday - Saturday and can be booked as available for private half-hour, hour, and longer sessions, or to accompany you in the studio for your recording. Our students are able to work with him through a special arrangement at a reduced rate of $150/hr or $80/half hour. He is one of LA’s most respected vocal coaches (clients ranging from Mike Myers to Dakota Fanning to David Hasselhoff); we are proud to be able to offer our community this resource.
After You Record...
Mixing, Sweetening, Polishing Your Song (Additional work optional, Paid)
Feel good about your performance and want a pro mix of it? Feel pretty good but wish you had more time to try to hit that high note? Don’t feel awesome about it? Have some bumps in the performance you want smoothed out? At the mix stage, EQ, compression, optional vocal pitch correction, timing improvement, and more enhancements can be explored, as you desire.
To ensure a quality product and a positive experience, if this work is unattended it is billed at a reduced rate of $40/hr. To give you a sense of how long it takes to get the results you desire, use this as a rough guide (per song):
- 1-2 hours = YouTube Quality
- 3-4 hours = Demo Quality
- 5-6 hours = Radio Quality
WHAT IF I WRITE SONGS BUT I DON’T PLAY OR SING?
We are constantly compiling a list of students of The Songwriting School who would be interested in playing or singing on your demo for the experience and to be able to use that recording as part of their reel to promote their talents and services. These are unpaid.
Want to hire a pro? We have a call list of outstanding session players for this sort of work, with prices varying. Please inquire.
YAY! I HAVE A DEMO OF MY SONG! NOW WHAT?
Feels good, right? You have a recording of professional audio quality that can be a valuable tool for you. Some potential uses for your song right now :
- use it to evaluate whether or not you will invest in a full production of the song
- you finally have a sample of your work--for your reel, your Sonicbids profile, your Soundcloud, for submitting to venues, to announce yourself as a songwriter to the world
- if you paid for mixing services, this will be broadcast-quality audio. If the song is strong and appropriate, it might even find placement on a television show as is (have you noticed how many acoustic songs make it on certain shows?).
More importantly, you have gained a valuable, creative, and educational experience in the studio and may have paid as little as $50 for it. Every time you have a song that feels ready for greater scrutiny, this might be a quick, easy, and fun way to capture and inventory that work and decide about the next steps. The more time you spend in the studio, the more comfortable you will get. And the better you can identify the areas of your musicianship that you want to explore.
WORKING WITH A PRODUCER
Perhaps you have contacts in the industry who either might want to work further with you or might want to introduce the producer you will work further with. If you would like to discuss working with some of the people The Songwriting School can refer you to, let us know. Each has different availability, terms, and fees, and you might ultimately negotiate those details independent of The School.
More on this process in the next installment!
Make sure you have an answer for each of these categories. Think of something you don't see mentioned? Ask us! And thank you for helping us make this as thorough and helpful a resource as possible, for you and everyone else who records.
- I am excited to go into a professional studio and record my song!
Tip: Yeah you are! You KNOW it!
- I have thought through every measure of the song and feel confident in the intro, how long between sections, and how I will end the song.
Tip: If I want some guidance on these decisions beyond what I am getting in my classes, I can book a Song Doctoring Session in conjunction with my Demo Days booking at a reduced rate. Here’s how.
- If I am the singer, this feels like the best key for me to sing the song. How can I explore various keys?
Tip #1: Guitar players might apply and move a capo. Pianists might experiment with the MIDI transpose function. When I settle on a key on the keyboard, I will be sure to learn the song in that new key if I want to make use of the magnificent Steinway grand piano in the recording.
Tip #2: Need help figuring out the best key for your voice on this song? Pre-production work with a Songwriting Consultant or a Vocal Coach can solve that mystery. Both services are available; please inquire.
- Consider whether you would like to play and sing live or if you would like to first record your instrumental part and then sing to it.
Tip: The first option has a more organic feel; the second allows you to concentrate on each task, the possibility to “punch in” or overdub certain challenging spots, and, if you desire, will allow for more editing of the performance in mixing.
- I know the tempo of my song in beats per minute (there’s an app for that...)--or I don’t know how to do that, but I know how fast or slow it ought to feel and I need the engineer to help me make a good decision about the actual tempo.
Tip: If you do not opt to play to a time-keeper of some sort (see below), the nerves in the studio are likely to make you want to play too fast. Think of the song’s tempo as a quality control issue. Try to get it to a tempo where it feels its best.
- I have decided whether I want to play to a click track (like a metronome, to keep time), or if I would rather just play the song as I feel it, without a time-keeper. Since I get to keep the Pro Tools session files after Demo Days, a benefit of playing to a click is that if I choose later to add drums or drum loops or other instruments, I could more easily apply them because my performance will be in time “on the grid.” But if I want a simple, easy, organic, “real” performance, I might choose not to use the click track.
Tip: Practice with a metronome or a drum machine and see how you do. Don’t be psyched out if you find it hard at first.
- If I am bringing an instrument to play, I have made sure that it holds tune across the chord changes in my song or I will have it professionally set up or intonated.
Tip: A good instrument that is set up well and in tune will make for a more positive recording experience--unless your sound involves a property of that instrument, its lo-fidelity, etc. Let us know if you need to borrow a guitar. The piano will be tuned.
- I am bringing a printed copy of my lyrics (even though I know them by heart) for myself and a second copy for the engineer.
Tip #1: On a lyrics sheet be sure to attach your name, the title, the © symbol, the year, and the phrase “All Rights Reserved” to that lyric. Now that a copy of your song is going to exist in the world, I want to make sure to protect that copyright--and be aware of the fact that any and every exposure to your music is an opportunity to promote your work.
Tip #2: If you would like to register these copyrights with The Library of Congress, here is the link.
- I have put energy into how I plan to sing these lines, and I feel prepared.
Tip: Vocal coach Michael Goodrich can work with you in advance of the session and is available at significantly reduced rates for The Songwriting School students for half-hour and hour-long private sessions.