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“This Is Who I Am” Song Demo, Initial Concept

I’ll be running a demo session for the class for a song titled “This is Who I Am.” In order to give you a sense of what the pre-production process looks like, I’ll be making a series of posts that dive into the process.

First up, about the project. This is a session for a specific song placement in a reality TV show. The pitch asks for a heavy pop/rock song with strong female vocal lead. Content needs to be about personal strength, identity, it can even be a little edge or abrasive.

The songwriting and production will be moving in parallel on this, so I’ll try to cover both in these posts.

I like the idea of strength and abrasiveness, so in the songwriting process I’m going to focus on the title hook “This is Who I Am,” sung from a 1st person voice of a girl breaking up a guy who is who intimidated by her own sense of self. He wants someone simple and pretty and just a little dumber than him, she’s none of those things. The chorus so far is:

This is who I am,
This is who I am,
I don’t have to try and make you understand
If you want to stay,
Or if you want to go,
Either way, you should know
Nothing’s gonna change who I am
Won’t change who I am.

Booking the Band

I dont’ have a song or an arrangement, but I have a general idea of the sound I want to get, so I went ahead and booked the band for a primary tracking session on Wednesday, January 29th. The session will setup at 7:30pm, and will track from 8:15 to 10:15 pm. I’m hoping to get all primary rhythm and some guitar overdubs done in that time.

Drums – Bryan Taylor
Guitars – Corey Witt
Bass – Brandon Shaw
Keyboards – Ryan Skiles

Without having a chart or demo for them to listen to, I didn’t have much for them to work from. Instead, I told them to listen to some tracks from Rage Against the Machine, Halestorm, and Linkin Park to get a sense of the tones and feel that we would be working toward. I’ll confirm specific gear choices later, as well as sending out the demo and chart when it’s finished.

Chorus Demo, Booking a Vocalist

The chorus is far enough along that it’s time to starting thinking about a vocalist and a key. I want to make sure that whoever sings for the session is able to deliver a strong power tone through the chorus. I booked Ashley Morgan, an APU alumn and professional session singer, to come sing for a February 6th vocal session. In order to find out what key worked for her, I emailed her 3 mp3 files of the chorus, in 3 different keys, to see which one felt the most confortable to her. Below is the demo in E, the other two keys were F# and G.

This is Who I AM – Chorus Demo

First Rough Demo, File Naming System

The basic framework of the song is starting to come together, as least enough to bounce out a demo. Everything is still in flux, and I haven’t heard back from the vocalist yet about the key, so that may change things.


Let me take a minute to talk about my file-naming system. This kind of production means moving a lot of data around, and often sending multiple version of different files back and forth. It can get easy to lose track of what’s what. I use a 4-part naming system to help keep things straight.

  1. Song Name, usually abbreviated. In this case, “This is Who I AM” becomes TIWIA
  2. File type, as in rough demo, tracking mix, final mix, master, etc.
  3. 6-number date designation. January 26, 2013 becomes 012613. This let’s me quickly and easily see what date I generated the file, so that I know which is the latest.
  4. A revision letter, as in A, B, C. I will sometimes send multiple revision of a file on the same date, so a revision letter helps me keep track of which is which. If a client and I are exchanging notes on a mix, and I’ve sent them 3 version already that same date, it helps to make sure we are both working on the same revision.

I use this system for everything, including session names, audio files, PDF charts, and client notes. Because of the detail in the name, I can glance at a project folder that’s 2 years old, and still know how everything fits together.

You don’t have to use this system, but you do need to have some way of keeping track of what’s what.

Rhythm Session Chart and Demo

Finished up the chart and demo for the rhythm tracking session. The demo is intentionally a little sparse. I want to make sure I leave room for some overdub ideas to emerge during the session, and I know that I’ll do some programming between the tracking and the vocal session.

Rhythm Chart


I’ve changed the title on the song to “I Know Who I Am” to better fit the chorus hook.