As a budding songwriter, you may be asking yourself a lot of questions. “How do I get my songs heard?” “How do I get gigs?” “How can I protect my songs?” These are all great questions, and we’ve addressed some of them at the FLCSA meetings. One question you should not be asking yourself is, “Should I record my songs?”

Whether you are a band or solo artist who performs your own songs, or a songwriter wanting to promote your songs to other artists who will perform them for you, you need to record your songs.

Perhaps some better questions would be…“How do I record my songs?” “Where should I record my songs?” “How much will it cost?”

Excellent questions!

Let’s start with the first one. How you record your songs depends on why you are recording them. If you are a songwriter wanting to pitch your songs to artists or record companies, you want to record a demo. A demo is a professional quality recording of a song, usually with just piano or guitar and the lead vocal. (Although in recent years the trend is changing to fuller demos [drums, bass, etc.]. These will cost more, so if budget is an issue, keep it simple.)

Where should you record your demo? Again, the answer depends on several factors, budget being one of them. If you go to a local recording studio, you can expect to pay $25 – $75 an hour to record your tracks (tracking). Rates vary for mixing and mastering with some studios charging by the hour and others by the song. Of course price should not be your only consideration. You want to look at the quality of the studio, the equipment and resources available, and the expertise of the recording engineer. Most of this information can be found at the recording studio’s website along with samples of their recording projects, so you can ‘listen for yourself’.

If you are a solo artist or a band who performs your own songs, you will want to record your songs in a way that reflects your live performance. That could mean lots of time in the recording studio laying down tracks for each instrument and the vocals. Most recording studios will allow you to book blocks of times for recording multiple songs. This would be essential if you were to travel to Nashville, for example, to make your recording. With hard work and preparation, in a few days, with a few thousand dollars, a band or artist can produce a professional recording (CD or EP) which they can sell at their concerts or online, and pitch to radio stations in hopes of airplay. A professional quality recording is still the best way to build a following and enable others to listen to your music when they are not at your concert.

If you are strictly a songwriter and do not intend to play or sing on your demo, you can use recording studios anywhere in the world (and you don’t need a travel budget to do it). I had a professional demo recorded of one of my songs at a studio in Nashville. I emailed them a lyric sheet, a lead sheet (which they did not use) and a rough recording of me performing my song (mp3). They produced a professional demo (keyboard and voice) for just under $200.

If you really want to ‘do it yourself’ you can. Technology has improved to such an extent that home recording studios can produce the same high quality recordings as major recording studios. Expect to invest at least a few thousand dollars for a computer (Mac is best), software (like ProTools), mics and other equipment to get started. Having your own studio gives you the flexibility of time to record when you want to for as long as you want to without the meter running. It also requires you to have a high level of musical proficiency and technical expertise so you can perform your own songs and be your own recording engineer.

But just because a home studio has the capacity to produce great sound, does not mean everyone can produce top quality recordings at home, anymore than giving everyone canvas and a paint brush will enable them to produce Rembrandts. My advice, “Know yourself”. If you enjoy being involved in the whole process and have the time and capacity to devote to the engineering aspects of music production, go for it. This can be a great choice for bands who may have some members who focus on songwriting and others who prefer the more technical aspects of recording. If you find it frustrating, especially if you are a solo artist and feel it’s taking time away from your songwriting, you will probably be better off working with a recording engineer. And remember, collaboration is a good thing, not just in songwriting, but in all aspects of the music process.

Of course, there is at least one option to record your songs FREE! To learn more, come to the next Florida Christian Songwriters meeting.