Making a Demo in Nashville - East_TN_Songwriters

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Making a Demo in Nashville

Notes About Songwriting

Making a Demo In Nashville
By Ira Braden, ETSSA Songwriter

Larry Beaird Studio had an agreement with some noted Nashville publishers that, for any song demoed in his studio during February, they would listen to it in its entirety during March. I decided to take advantage of this situation, since it’s so hard to get a publisher to listen to your music. I had three songs demoed in Larry’s studio in February. A brief description of the demo session procedure follows:

I sent the lyrics and a work tape (a song with the melody and lyrical interpretation) to the studio via internet. A date was scheduled for tracking; this consisted of charting each song for chords, and discussion of the intro, turnarounds, music runs, solo and ending. This took less than an hour for the three songs. A demo singer was selected to sing the songs; the work tapes were sent to him so he could tell them the key in which he would sing these songs.

The next step was for the musicians to play the songs in the key the demo singer had designated and as they were charted. The professional musicians played steel, electric guitar lead, piano, electric bass, drums, and acoustic guitar; and one person sang the scratch vocals. This proce
ss took about an hour or so to complete. The musicians listened to the work tape of each song, and discussed how they would play it. They played a practice take, then one for the recording. If a musician wanted to replay any portion of the song, he told the engineer which verse, line or bar
he needed to replay, and he re-did only this portion.

At a later date, the demo singer was scheduled to sing the songs for the actual recording. This step took a little longer, and it was the most personally interactive part of the whole process. It took almost four hours to get the vocals the way I thought they should be interpreted . It wasn’t that the demo singer was doing anything wrong, there were a lot of ways he could interpret the lyrics. Sometimes we would just work on a single word until we could get it the way that we all agreed it should be in the song. This consisted of where the emphases should be placed and how long the word should be held at that point.

They were truly professionals; most of the retakes were their suggestions. They would ask me to sing the melody of a single line, and then they would work miracles with it. They never got in a hurry at any point in the process. I believe they truly wanted the best results they could achieve with my songs and they wanted me to be happy with those results.

The engineer then mixed the music and vocals. The “meet the publisher” evening was scheduled; a male and a female from the publishing company listened to the songs. There were six songwriters in the room; three other songwriters participated via Skype: one from Australia, one from Dayton, Ohio, and one from New Brunswick, Ohio.

There were twelve songs presented that evening. The publishers listened to each song and then made comments about what they heard or didn’t hear in the song (a critique session). I recorded the comments they made about my songs. Here is a summation of their comments:

Song: Special Lady
Sarah Johnson:
I love it; I really love the steel guitar in it.

Ed Williams:
This is a bare-bones, well-written country song. It’s simple and that’s the hardest type of song to write. Even though they are different, and this is really
nitpicking, the chorus should be more distinguishable from the verse. Using the same line in the verse and the chorus works only in this format. You should change the noun in each repeated line of the verse. I really like what you have
done with this son

Sarah Johnson:

Harlan Howard used to write songs like this, I love it. This type of song is really hard to write but you have succeeded in bringing it together.

Song: Drinking With Her Memory
Sarah Johnson:

Good song, I love it. It’s a Merle Haggard drinking song. Every word is important and should have value in the song, and the word “that” should be left out in the first line of the second verse, it’s not needed.

Ed Williams:
The song is strong enough without the third verse. If I were going to do this song
I would go verse, chorus, turnaround, verse, chorus, solo, Chorus, Tag.

Sarah Johnson:

It’s a well written song and I really love it.

Ed Williams:
Probably should change that line, so it doesn’t bring the lady into the song, cause you’re sitting there drinking with her memory. Not every comment we make
about a sub-genre song applies to this type of song and vice versa. What you’ve done with this song, it works. Again, it is a well written song with a strong set
of lyrics that work.

Song: My Arms Can’t Hold Your Memory
Ed Williams:

What Sarah was just talking about with the Harlan Howard thing, this is it, they are basically verses with hooks and they are really well done, I don’t know what
else to say.

Sarah Johnson:
On a personal note, I believe with this type of song to make it even more dramatic you may want to write a bridge or modulate when you go to the fourth verse.

This pretty much sums up this Demo Session. I believe the experience was well worth the time and expense.

Ira Braden
ETSSA Songwriter

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