When you are watching a product demo on YouTube or another media source, you don’t always know how things are being recorded. Are you listening to quad tracked guitars? Is there processing? What’s on the buss? Demos should never involve a lot of processing but as we all know, heavy processing is becoming more and more common.
Here is my basic layout for every demo and tone playthrough I do for our YouTube, Soundcloud and other outlets. If you hear small unwanted frequencies or if the mixes sound a little bit raw, that’s the idea. We try and show you what things actually sound like.
SECTION A – TONE PLAYTHROUGHS
If you don’t see the word DEMO in the title of the song or video you are checking out, it’s probably a tone playthrough. Here’s how I do them.
STEP #1 – TEMPLATE
For these, I have a very simple template. I run Superior Drummer 3 on one track rather than routing out to several. I do this to save time since the idea here is stripped down and quick. I will use the internal SD3 mixer and effects. For demo needs, this way sounds great without a lot of effort.
Next I have two tracks for rhythm, one track for lead, another for bass, a blank track I can use for overdubs, horns, keys or delete if unnecessary. After that, I usually have one buss for guitar and another for blending some compression into the drum track. Last, I may add a room reverb buss for a variety of tracks but only for certain genres and the effect is used sparingly if at all.
STEP #2 – TRACKING/EDITING
When tracking playthroughs, I try not to waste time trying to be perfect, I can live with the odd noise from picks, hand movement on the strings and other things that during a real tracking session, I would absolutely redo. No one’s playing is perfect and sometimes hearing how a plugin reacts to certain annoyances isn’t a bad thing.
After tracking or after mixing, I edit as minimally as possible just to get rid of noise and junk in parts that should be silent. I use a gates but if it’s an easy fix, Ill just edit instead. Simple trimming and a max of 10 mins is spent on editing or snipping.
STEP #3 – PROCESSING
As I mentioned earlier, this stuff should never involve a lot of processing. Demos and playthroughs should be as close to the true sound of the product as possible when they are representing a product. On guitar tracks I use an EQ after the cab and then a limiter after the EQ. The EQ is never more than a simple high pass/low pass set up with a few db cut around 1K give or take 100hz. I don’t get crazy with the limiter, just enough to keep everything in it’s lane, nothing more. For really low tunings, I will sometimes add a multi-band compressor between the cab and EQ but only rarely. For bass, it’s the same situation but I add a compressor out front of the amp sim.
The buss track never involves more than a single plugin. Sometimes a little saturation, maybe compression or just something to add a little warmth or fullness to the mix. This is always dialed in sparingly and more so just used to fill things out a little more since we are only using two guitar tracks. A demo should never involve quad tracked guitars in my opinion but everyone has their style.
Sometimes for lower gain genres, I will run a room reverb on a buss and send a variety of instruments to it to give it the feel of a band jamming in a studio. This tends to fill out the mix nicely and add a lot of warmth to things when used properly and also, as usual; sparingly. I find this is an easy, effective and really fast way to bring more life to the right mix but I wouldn’t advise it for anything heavier than hard rock as it tends to make a bit of a mess with really heavy or fast stuff.
STEP #4 – MIXING
When I am mixing, I like to ensure there’s always headroom in every track. If you don’t know what I mean by headroom, please do look it up because it is a common rookie mistake to think that turning your tracks up is what gets you a loud mix. Leave headroom and turn everything up in the mastering. I am not going to give too much advice on mixing because I am just not qualified and there’s 100,000 people on YouTube that can help you better than me wasting your time.
I know my routine well enough to not have to spend a lot of time mixing. I spend literally just enough time to get things to a point that I know I would appreciate as a consumer. I won’t overthink or overwork a demo mix, I just like to get it to where I am content. I have to feel I am providing the consumer with a useful reference to a product’s quality, otherwise, what’s the point of the demo?
STEP #5 – MASTERING
I almost always use Brainworx Masterdesk on my final mix but I really only use it to beef up the volume properly. I always have my mastering software running on the master while I mix so I can save time. Some people swear by doing it this way and others disagree with it so you decide how you want to work and what’s easiest for you.
Once I have my mastered final mix, I listen to it no more or less than 5 times on my studio set up then 5-6 more times on other devices while making some general notes if there’s anything that glaringly needs to be fixed.
SECTION B – RAW DEMOS
STEP #1 – SIMPLICITY
These involve very little time by design and so I will keep this to one step. Again, I have a template for this and this one is even more simplified. I throw Superior Drummer on a track and throw a few simple beats and fills together with pre-made midi. Only unedited factory SD3 presets are used.
Next, I toss in two tracks of rhythm panned hard right and left, one track of lead if necessary, a bass track and that’s literally it, nothing more. I track things trying for a clean performance without being too fussy. I always write the bass to accent the guitar parts rather than competing for attention in the mix.
I use almost no processing and when I do, it’s only processing from inside my DAW. I use Reaper so it’s ReaQ, Reacomp etc. No fab Filter or anything pricey. On Guitars it’s a very simple HP/LP EQ and on bass all I use is a little compression before the amp and a simple HP/LP EQ in post.
No 3rd party impulses are used in raw demos unless the amp sim does not have it’s own dedicated cabinet section. When a 3rd party loader and impulses are required I use the STL/Ignite Nadir 2.0 and FREE impulses from Seacow Cabs. No paid 3rd party impulses are used.
You can always be sure that when you watch one of our videos or listen to one of our demo tracks, you are getting just the basics of how the plugins, impulses and pedals sound. If you think in your mind “I could make that sound better with X or Y”, you are probably right but at least you won’t get the plugin and go “why does this thing sound like crap, what am I doing wrong?” because you don’t have the $600 in processing plugins being used in the demo you watched.
We never want to be responsible for someone wasting their time or their hard earned cash and if you ever feel misled by one of our demos, please do not hesitate to contact us via email or social media because we want to help you get to where you thought you’d be when you trusted our word on a product.
I try to have fun with the video part of it, I just prefer rocking out a little and having a good time rather than sitting completely motionless and expressionless for the duration of the video. Metal isn’t serious business and neither is YouTube so I like to lighten up and enjoy the process.