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Referring back to demo's - good or bad?
Old 25th May 2003
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
Referring back to demo's - good or bad?

On similar lines to the 'Break between sessions' thread, I'd like to know if you guys think its a good idea for an artist to bring in good quality demos to a session for reference.

I have a feeling that the brain tends to get a taste for what its already heard - so when somebody has lived with a good quality demo of a song they will always seem to prefer that performance.

I'm working with a vocalist who is doing this a lot lately - he seems to prefer his takes recorded in his boxy bedroom on a cheap setup even though we get a much better sound at my place... I haven't listened to the demos much so to me the better quality recorded takes sound better to me....

Its not even a performance thing he's picking out - he just says abstract things like 'it flows better' or its got a better feel' blah, blah... I think its the 'brain has gotten used to the demo' syndrome.

So what's the solution? He wants to use the demo tracked vocals despite the inferior technical sound... but my argument is people won't have heard the demo so they won't care - like me.

I do understand that sometimes you just get a great vibe off a demo and its hard/impossible to recreate (Dwele admits to some of this on his great new album for Virgin - you can hear the chair creaking on one of the tracks cos he couldn't play the rhodes part in the studio as good as he did at home on the demo).

So demos - good to reference to or not??

Burt
Old 25th May 2003
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Your artist sounds like me a year ago. I used to be a real bitch about it- everything had to be spontaneous, I was super caught up in being caught up with the moment so to speak. I've learned to chill out a lot. I think a lot of it has to do with settling in with a demo, as you suspect. That said, there is some **** in some of my original demos that just freaks me out every time I hear it and makes me really proud that *I* did that, and I haven't always been able to recreate those moments. So instead of trying to relive those moments, or even use crappy versions of them, I try to go for something totally new and absolutely redo the song while maintaining the underlying vibe of the original.
Old 25th May 2003
  #3
Lives for gear
 
littledog's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Reminds me of a project I was involved in a few years ago... remakes of some R&B classics for a female vocalist. (Admittedly, not a pro.)

The Producer had created rough concept arrangements (all sequenced) on one of those Roland VS thingies so that the singer could practice the stuff. Then he came to my studio and using some of the top session players in the area, evrything was retracked with real instruments/players.

The tracks were slammin', but wouldn't you guess... the vocalist preferred the sequenced originals because that was what she was "used to" practicing to!!!
Old 25th May 2003
  #4
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
funny, a few weeks ago i was trying to track a guitar solo for this one song that had been done previously on a demo i did for the band. he was having a hard time nailing what he had come up with and i kept saying no to every take because none of it "Felt" right. he got frustrated because he couldnt come up with anything that i liked. i liked what was on the demo. i played the track off the demo, he went in and nailed it first take.
Old 25th May 2003
  #5
Founder
 
Jules's Avatar
I did some great demos for a band that got signed to Island. One year later I was lifting a few of the demo lead vocals and laying them on the newly recorded versions..

this was justified to me as producer because the demo vocals had something far better than some of the the new ones we tried.

One of the reasons I got into Pro Tools was for this precice 'Frankenstein' ability.
Old 26th May 2003
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Screws's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Ask a mutual musician friend that both of you trust to listen and offer his unbiased opinion of which is the better track. Someone with ears and a similar feel for the sound you're going for should end the debate.

S. Cruz
Cruzified Music
Florida
Old 26th May 2003
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Ted Nightshade's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Aj say: "funny, a few weeks ago i was trying to track a guitar solo for this one song that had been done previously on a demo i did for the band. he was having a hard time nailing what he had come up with and i kept saying no to every take because none of it "Felt" right. he got frustrated because he couldnt come up with anything that i liked. i liked what was on the demo. i played the track off the demo, he went in and nailed it first take."

There have been times we really would have benefitted from taking a listen to the "almost" versions we really liked immediately before attempting a "remake". When you're working off reel to reel it's not always convenient, but to hear just what you did that you were really digging...

Hopefully there will be something new to get to know and love about the "remake"... it's not always the case! But going in with an understanding of how we learn to love the familiar has got to help.
Old 26th May 2003
  #8
Lives for gear
 
davemc's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Yes sometimes Vocalists can record a great take at home as some have problems singing under the pump. At home you can do it whenever you feel like it...Or they might have been just lucky.
A lot of the time you will end up keeping scratch vocals or lead breaks as they are better... Although of course you redo them a lot of times before just using the first and best.
I have taken tracks from there home setup and fitted them into the track.. The question is not sound its soul..
But if the sound is really crap, get them as Jules said to listen and mimic.
Old 27th May 2003
  #9
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Re: Referring back to demo's - good or bad?

Quote:
Originally posted by Burt
Its not even a performance thing he's picking out - he just says abstract things like 'it flows better' or its got a better feel' blah, blah... I think its the 'brain has gotten used to the demo' syndrome.
That certainly sounds like a 'performance related' set of observations to me. FWIW, the "sound" of something can always be worked around... the 'performance' can't... so either the singer with whom you're working has to deal with his performance demons... or you're going to have to figure out a way to lift the performance off the demo and make it sound good / in context with the latest version of the song.

Best of luck.
Old 29th May 2003
  #10
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Damn, Fletcher beat me to it. Feel and flow are performance related. Given enough time you can come up with something that matches or beats the demo. That's part of why some albums take 6+ months to make. I'd rather have a great performance with subpar sound but YMMV.
Old 3rd June 2003
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
Thx

Many thx for everyones input...

I do realise 'feel' & 'flow' are indeed very important elements in a vocal performance, but there was nothing really more specific that the singer could point out to me which made him prefer the demo take. The phrasing, timing - nothing ... I'm sure it was simply
that he was so used to the demo recording that his brain had gotten used to it....

thankfully after a few hours constructing a 'perfect' take from the 10 or so great ones we got, and adding a solid amount of 1176 compression he now much prefers the new one, phew.

but after the advice given above I will take into consideration the fact that sometimes the performance really captured on demo can be a moment of magic and I'll definitely keep demos around for reference if the 'real' takes ain't happenin' - otherwise I think they should be kept locked away!

Burt
Old 5th June 2003
  #12
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
At Motown it was normal for an artist to hear the song for the very first time 15 minutes before they did their final lead vocal. Likewise our musicians frequently spent maybe five minutes deciding what they were going to do before cutting the song. On the other hand, after performing for a year or so most of our artists could do a better vocal but there was definitely a period in between where the spontaneous early takes were better.

I went away with the impression that the extremes work better than anything in between. Either a LOT of experience with a song or almost none has always seemed to get the best result.
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