Comparing Demo & Finished Song #1 – ‘Emergency’.

Comparing Demo & Finished Song #1 – ‘Emergency’.
January 20, 2017 daveitferris
‘Demos’ are a musician’s best friend. I have been recording demos of pretty much every song i’ve ever written since about 2004 and i’ll do it forever. We musicians write so many little bits and pieces here and there that often seem inconsequential – but add these daily audio notes up and over time it becomes a vast archive of creativity just waiting to be used. I have thousands upon thousands of little demos like this – some may be a ten second riff played on an acoustic guitar, some might be a 20 second verse melody and some are full songs from top to bottom – it doesn’t matter – they’re all demos of potential ideas and i deem them all valuable for that potential alone.
I’ve been wanting to start a series to showcase the before/after of the recording process and thought now was the time to make a move on the idea since i have this website as a platform.
Unfortunately there are no vocals in the demo version of this song, however i have included an instrumental version of final version in case you want a completely direct comparison because i understand the vocals might throw some people off. I intend to do 20/30 of these demo/finished comparisons and most will have vocals, so don’t worry, i just wanted to start with this track as it’s to hand and i’ve always wanted to do a series of posts like this.

Original ‘Demo’ – 2007

This was recorded around mid-2007 and was known during this period as ‘Camden & You’. It was when i was trying to get a band off the ground called ‘Telephone Bruises’. It was recorded live in a room in our keyboardists house in Letterkenny where we were rehearsing at the time on a little portable boss 4-track recorder. To be honest, the recordings we made [of which this is one] were mainly commissioned just to help the band remember their parts in each track as we were running through a hefty majority of songs at the time and it was getting confusing – but we obviously wanted to be able to sit back and hear how we sounded, too.
Since my ears are way more used to the finished version of this song below, the first thing i notice is how much faster this demo version is. I had to slow it down quite a bit when recording the final version because the choruses and bridges sounded so rushed in terms of vocal melodies. The next thing that stands out is the lead guitar line that i changed quite a bit in the final version. I wrote this demo lead line too and it works well, i just feel the revised version cuts through better because of the higher tapped note usage. I really like the octaves that directly precede the start of the chorus in this version – in the final version i went for a basic build-up, i’m not sure why i decided against the three octave part here as it sounds great. The chorus guitar harmonics were always intended to mimic the lead vocal to give them some accentuation and that’s why this instrumental version still sounds great in the chorus – although it doesn’t feature that small break at the end of the first chorus that i gave it in the final version just to reset everything. Just before the second chorus is a double stop [instead of the single stop that precedes the first chorus] and i remember this was my writing style at the time; make sure there’s a subtle difference between every verse/chorus/bridge etc – i was terrified of just copying and pasting these parts for fear of us sounding boring. The bridge part of this song is a lot more rhythmic and bouncy than the final version and whilst i intended to mimic this, i just felt like because it was followed by another change of rhythm that it was best to stick to something more constant – i still really like this version though. When we reach the second part of the bridge, it starts with the high parts of the guitar riff whereas in the final version i incorporate both the low [chord] and high parts of the riff. The following section where the vocals kick in [‘with open eyes ..’] is really similar in both versions as it had to be to accommodate the vocal. One thing i’ve always liked about the bridge i wrote is that it lent itself to going higher for the final chorus incredibly naturally – so instead of dropping back down to D to repeat the chorus – this was bringing everything up three semitones to an F which adds more energy for this last push of the chorus – the guitar has no natural harmonics that could support this section though, which meant that we had to actually fret the notes which added more intensity to proceedings, too. This version ends with an outro in which i was just screaming my head off because we wanted to end really intensely – in the final version i felt like there was an opportunity for a bit more melody and went down that avenue instead – but again, i liked both ideas. Finally, i always felt like closing with a re-reminder of the bridge riff was a great idea as it just brings everything full circle – we initially went into that whole section again, but it just felt laboured – in the end i decided we should just give a one-revolution reminder of it and call it a day.
[Personnel on this Recording: Lee Curran on Drums / Shaun Murphy on Bass / Aaron McRory on Lead Guitar / Myself on Guitar / Mute on Keyboards].

Final Version(s) – 2014

This version was recorded in mid-2014 for the ‘365 Sparks‘ project [so seven whole years after the above version]. In that period, i had never played the song live, tried to re-record it or penciled it upon any album tracklisting; it just joined hundreds of unused works that gathered dust on an external hard drive that i barely switched on – this is the beauty of having demos. I’m the only musician on these recordings – having played all instruments myself.
You’ll notice that this song starts with a short introduction rather than the version above that would have simply started with vocals/guitar – this was a last minute change that i made because pressing play and going directly into the sharpness of this vocal just sounded too abrasive to my ears; there needed to be something preceding it to give the listener a taste of the energy that was to come. After this, another thing you’ll notice is the lead guitar line has changed quite a bit. Whilst i liked the lead line on the demo above,  i always felt it could have been better and this was the time to reinvent it. As mentioned above, i’m not sure why i didn’t mimic the three-octave part that precedes the first chorus in favour of a simple build up, oh well. The chorus follows the demo quite close, but i do change the lead guitar part after the two first lines to be something a bit different as i felt the harmonics sounded too repetitive when overused within this section – they needed to go away to be appreciated. There’s a quick simple nod to the introduction here and we go straight into verse two and chorus two which are essentially identical to the first revolution of the parts. The only other thing to add to what i wrote above is the changing of the lead guitar part in the final chorus. Again, i just felt like it was too repetitive and fancied a different style of playing in the first half when compared to the second half. I repeat this new change over the outro as the consistency of the playing gels the parts together and adds that level of familiarity despite it being a new part of the song. Finally, just like the demo version, there’s a very quick re-reminder of the bridge riff before the song is done.

So, as you have heard, the final version of this song that was recorded seven years later was not incredibly different from the demo. Had my old band not recorded a quick rough version of this song, its likely that this would have been just another song lost to time – and as i genuinely like the song, that would’ve been a shame. I’ve written hundreds upon hundreds of quick little riffs/ideas/verses&choruses that i convince myself i’ll remember … but never do – so even if you open your phone and record your music idea in the most basic fashion; i assure you it’s worth doing. I’m still revisiting folders on my hard drive and reusing a verse here and a riff there.
Even if i have a an idea that lasts 10 seconds, i’ll still make an audio note of it using my iPhone [rather than setting up recording gear to get the idea down]. Here’s a screenshot of a folder of these musical ideas once they’ve transferred from my phone.
Do you have any before/after music? Post links in the comments below!