My collaborator and friend Jason Miller took great interest in my home demo room in my wife and I’s house. He gets most of the demos I write or work on for a potential artist, and as my quality (read; give a shit meter) seemed to increase, Jason began encouraging me to buy a better vocal mic.
In my personal workflow, this is where all songs start. If I write the song, or co-write/arrange it with an artist who has hired me to produce the song, a demo is a crucial link in the chain that can not be overlooked. I don’t subscribe to the idea that the demo can become the actual record, mainly because most of the demos I cut are left rough and ragged for a reason. I try to avoid making them extremely elaborate (a piece of advice I gathered from Mr. Tom Petty). I personally prefer the demo to be used to unlock a few doors that might lead myself, the engineer, and the artist to the best path to finding the final record. But, to each his (or her) own.
His encouragement was in favor of the Shure SM7B. This is a famous (John Mayer, Bono, Michael Jackson), but oft overlooked workhorse. As singing styles have changed, the need for the proper mic to capture the vocal has changed as well. Our demo session for the mic included the use of a variety of different “budget” pre-amps, inasmuch as, the kind of pre amp the home demo studio probably uses. Jason also added a Cloudlifter to the chain to further explore options for home recording enthusiasts. His full dissection of our day can be read here;
I use the Avid Mbox at my home, simply for it’s ease of use and cooperation with my Mac. However, a detailed look at a variety of options on the market can be read and sifted through in Jason’s post for Recording Hacks.
If you want to make a great and solid record, start first with your demos. I can’t stress the need and benefit of this enough. A song may sound great to you as you are playing it. But, getting the initial idea down and being able to step away and come back to listen without the guitar in your hand, the keys under your fingers or a vocal performance on your mind can truly open your eyes to the power and potential of your composition.