Archive for the ‘Song Demos’ Category

How cool is the Nashville Number System?

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Not sure if I’ve ever talked about this here, but I just happened across this article about the Nashville Number System and wanted to point out how cool it is to watch session players use this. As the article points out:

So what’s so great about the Nashville Number System? Just realize that all of the musicians who play the guitar, keyboard and other parts you hear in the songs on all your CDs, use this system everyday when they record. When they do a session, there is no printed music. There are no sheets of paper with little black notes on lines on the page. No, they come into the studio, find a seat, take a pad of paper and a pencil and write themselves a number chart as the engineer plays a demo of the song they will record that day. What they are listening to in order to make their chart is a rough recording of the song. Many times it is only a guitar or piano and a singer. These musicians make up all the parts you eventually hear right there on the spot using their number chart as a guide.

(via How to Understand the Nashville Number System Part 1 |

It really is kind of a strange and humbling feeling to walk into the studio after spending sometimes countless hours on a song just to see it reduced to scribbled numbers on a single sheet of paper, and then played flawlessly.

What makes a song demo work in Nashville?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The Nashville Feed has a great entry today about the “science” of cutting a killer demo, but the write-up goes on to demonstrate that it’s really anything but science. Several anecdotes from hit songwriters and producers nail the dilemma: music professionals often claim to prefer a work tape, because they say they want to hear their own interpretations, but a good many of the so-called “golden ears” on Music Row don’t seem to be as objective as they might claim. From what we’ve observed (and I’m not just talking about our own pitching, but what we’ve been witness to in various pitch sessions), a slightly less commercial song wrapped up in a well-polished demo has a better chance of being noticed than a slightly more commercial song recorded at home with just a guitar and some less-than-stellar vocals.

Perhaps the best of both worlds might be to make a home recording, but use a great singer. That’s an approach we’ve thought about taking, but in the end, we always feel our songs are better represented by studio demos anyway.

Anyway, the entry goes on to include a bulleted list of “how to make your demos real contenders,” and based on Karsten’s and my experience, there’s some good wisdom there. For example:

Trust Your Musicians: “In Nashville the session musicians are the best in the world at getting demos done,” said Hambridge. “Songwriters are not usually producers, but good musicians spend so much time in the studio playing on all kinds of songs that they often know exactly what you’re going for. Listen to their ideas.”

That’s one thing I haven’t written about often enough here: how impressive the talent is in Nashville. The first time we took a demo into the studio, we were completely knocked out by how quickly the musicians picked up the melody and laid it down for the recording. The guys were milling around, chatting with each other while the scratch demo was playing on the studio speakers, apparently not paying any attention. Yet when they all sat down to play it through, they had it sounding nearly radio-ready on the first take.

Part of that, of course, is song structure. We intentionally write pop songs, and pop songs by definition have straightforward chord progressions, so it’s not like we typically give studio musicians much of a challenge. But the quality of musicianship is so high that they even replicate the turnarounds and licks without appearing to try.

There are more tips, and some good anecdotes at the Nashville Feed. Click on over there to read the rest.

And as a bonus, here’s some video from the “By Surprise” demo session we did back in ‘05:

No really, gravelly crap

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Just sang on a scratch demo we need to send off to an artist we’re writing for. Gawd, I hate doing that. My voice sounds like gravelly crap. Gravelly crap with a clothespin clipped onto my nose.

I was going to do it yesterday, but after a weekend full of drinking and hanging out in smoky places, there was no way I was getting more than a two-note range out of my voice.

Anyway, it’s done, and it gets the idea of the song across, so who cares about anything else, right?

Update on song demos

Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

I posted an update on the song demos as a comment reply to therealjae, and it occurred to me that it’s really a separate post, so here it is.

Song demos up on

Saturday, November 8th, 2003

I spent a good chunk of time this morning updating, and specifically linked several demos to the Songs page. Since I mentioned to some folks I saw a few weeks ago that I would be sure to send a link to some MP3s of our Nashville demos, I thought I’d go ahead and post it here.I only got three songs added (one was already there), so here’s what’s up there right now:

  • Get It Wrong, a pop-py tune we co-wrote with our friend Lair Morgan. The demo is sung by Dawn Martin.
  • Traces of You, a slow- to mid-tempo ballad. Demo sung by the lovely and incredibly talented Wendy Jans, who is also a wonderful songwriter.
  • You’ve Lost Me, a sorta raucous country-bluesy tune. Sung by Susan Clinton, who happens to manage Bayou Studio — where we recorded the demo.

And there’s also Mango Sun, which is a reggae tune we demo’ed in Chicago last year and pitched last August for a film placement. Nothing ever came of it, but some of our friends have told us stories of waiting more than 18 months to hear news on a pitch, being sure it was dead, and then getting a cut. So I guess ya never know.

Another demo done: Traces of You

Saturday, September 6th, 2003

K&K were back in the studio today recording a demo of “Traces of You.” K&K were excited to work with Wendy Jans for the vocals. Wendy recorded lush, exquisite vocals with superhuman speed and accuracy. The end result is much richer for it. Thanks, Wendy.

More demos: Get It Wrong & It Works

Monday, July 7th, 2003

Two more great demo experiences with “Get It Wrong” (sung by Dawn Martin) and “It Works” (sung by Kim Parent). They were both fabulous. Thank you, Dawn and Kim.

First Nashville demo!

Thursday, June 12th, 2003

K&K recorded their first demo in Nashville at Bayou Recording Studio. Susan Clinton recorded the vocals for “You’ve Lost Me” and did a wonderful job. Thanks, Susan.