Happy April Fools Day!!!

In honor of this silly holiday, I’ve put together a silly list for you. Print this up and post it in your studio. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here we go:

23 Guaranteed Ways to Make Horrible Recordings

  1. Always start with a mediocre song. The less thought that goes into the song the better. If you’re the songwriter, just throw some music and lyrics together as fast as you can. The key is to start recording as soon as possible.
  2. Don’t bother with pre-production or any form of planning. The arrangement will just magically happen for you. It’s best to just dive in and hope for the best.
  3. When you start recording, never take the time to listen to the instruments/vocals in person. Always throw a mic in front of them and listen on headphones. You’re better off not knowing what the source actually sounds like.
  4. Always use multiple mics when you can. If it sounds good on one mic, it will sound twice as good with two, three times as good with three, etc. etc.
  5. If you’re not happy with the sound you’re getting, don’t worry about it. You can always fix it in the mix. Just get something recorded.
  6. When choosing a microphone, just pick the one that looks the best in front of the singer/instrument. Trying out different microphones is a waste of time.
  7. To get that “studio quality” microphone sound, place the mic as close to the source as humanly possible. Trust me.
  8. If you’ve got some sort of outboard compression available, USE IT. Compression always makes recordings better. Just go for it.
  9. When recording, make your levels as hot as possible. The meter needs to be just a few pixels away from clipping.
  10. Acoustic treatment is a scam. Those acoustic treatment companies are just trying to rip you off. It makes NO difference on the sound of your recordings. Don’t buy it.
  11. Once everything is recorded, go straight to mixing. Editing is a scam. If anything is out of time, it is NEVER okay to edit it.
  12. When mixing, use at least 5 plug-ins on every track.
  13. Just like with recording, keep the levels of everything really loud…just shy of clipping. In fact, if you don’t have a lot of clip lights going off during your mix, you’re doing it wrong.
  14. When using EQ, find the frequencies you like and boost away. The more boosting you do, the better.
  15. If your mix is starting to sound muddy, boost the lows and the highs some more. That’ll fix it.
  16. Use LOTS of reverb. If you’re not sure if you’re using enough, turn it up a little more.
  17. You should have used a lot of compression during recording. Now that you’re mixing, compress every track, too. You can’t compress too much. That’s how you get your stuff to sound professional. Use at least 6 dB of gain-reduction on each track…that’s just a minimum.
  18. When you’re mixing, don’t really think about the song. Focusing on arrangement and the “feel” of the song really doesn’t matter. You should just turn up the faders and go.
  19. When you bounce your mix, be sure to throw a limiter on it right at the end. Your mix MUST be loud.
  20. Speaking of loud, be sure to master your own mixes. Mastering is simply putting a compressor and limiter on your master fader. Crush the mix, then limit it, so that the waveform of the recorded mix looks like a rectangle. That’s what the professionals do.
  21. Don’t take any criticism on your mixes. If the client doesn’t like the mix, he’s clearly not a professional like you. Tell him to leave you alone.
  22. Also, make it a habit to only listen to your mixes. Don’t bother listening to professional mixes. There’s nothing to learn there. The only difference between you and a professional mix engineer is luck. They got a big break, you didn’t. There’s no difference in talent whatsoever.
  23. If you’re ever unhappy with your mixes, buy more gear.

Do you have any to add? Which one was your favorite? Leave a comment below.

[Photo by baejaar]

49 Responses to “23 Guaranteed Ways to Make Horrible Recordings”

  1. Jay

    Rather than go into all the things I do wrong on this list ๐Ÿ™‚ , i made a recording without doing anything from this list..i got digital silence. ๐Ÿ™‚

    hey, noise free, right? also no compressor beathing and no phase cancellation. fan-tastic! and no
    guitar mistakes!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    This list is probably more important than the “do’s”.

  2. Xan

    Yeah, if you do all those things you’ll end up with fantastic sounding recordings…..in the Land Ov Stench! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Jordan

    Oh, there’s more.

    – IF you decide to tune your guitar or bass before recording always make sure to do so using only your ears, electronic tuners are for beginners and losers only. It works even better if you don’t compare it to anything else, every professional knows what an E string should sound like instinctively.

    – Since you have already tuned your instrument by ear without comparing it to anything else like a true professional would have done it. Don’t bother touching the saddles on the bridge of your guitar or bass before recording, only if you are going to make some cool pattern with them. I strongly suggest aligning them straight with each other. It’ll look awesome!!!

  4. Marcin M.

    Use lots of “distortion” plugin! The more distored it is, the more it sounds professional! ๐Ÿ™‚
    The best use maximal positive distortion! Then you have a professional brickwall!

  5. Joe Gilder

    Hi Noora! Thanks for commenting. The only reason to have the levels as hot as possible would be back when we were recording to analog tape, which had a LOT of noise. You had to record loudly to get over the noise.

    With digital systems today, it’s simply not an issue. A few things to check out:



  6. Christian Jones

    Accept that this is the first and last time you will ever record this. Getting it right first time is absolutely paramount,..for you to attain world domination. ( knowing this will help ). So make sure all the stars have aligned, and the cosmos is working exactly right for you at that moment……

  7. Kevincrilly

    Hi joe
    Great stuff.. no 6 very funny
    Just like to add when working on a mix in the first week try and do at least 10 hours a day continuous without a break…. you will only lose the flow of the song….if possible try and up it to 12 hours a day in the second week

  8. Mason

    I use logic pro 9. My master is at the right level but all my track levels are low on the fader/meter but it sounds fine out loud and record play back. Something wrong with my audio setup somewhere?

  9. Noah

    “Speaking of loud, be sure to master your own mixes.”

    are you saying we shouldn’t master or our mixes?
    I know it probably be better to get a new set of ears to do it, but is mastering your own stuff generally a bad idea?

  10. Noah

    “Speaking of loud, be sure to master your own mixes.”

    are you saying we shouldn’t master or our mixes?
    I know it probably be better to get a new set of ears to do it, but is mastering your own stuff generally a bad idea?

    • Joe Gilder

      I’m not saying it’s wrong. Not everyone has the resources to have their music mastered by someone else. But having another set of ears critically go through your mixes one last time is pretty invaluable.

    • Mixing-Jo

      yes, your ears are not ready to master. Mastering engineers have YEARS of experience and the finest equipment money can buy. You can mix your song so it’s not to be mastered, if you can’t afford to have it mastered there’s no shame in that. Just mix it and print. If you can live with never knowing the wonderful things the mastering engineer could have done to your 2 mix.

  11. Pmgsound

    Haha love #23 lol!

    I would add to to ask a vocalist to beat the crap out of their own volume to get maximum level! and turn their own vocals in their headphones really loud with reverb and delay so they can imagine they are singing in a stadium cuz it sounds so much better, haha!!

    • Fly2pr

      Hmm…Not sure about that one. I have actually mixed the last 3 projects using a pair of AKGs 702 headphones and the new Focusrite’s VRM Box and attained results far better and more consistent than using my Mackie MR8s. So, unless you have a perfectly treated room along with some serious high end monitors, then we can make mixing always with headphones a joke. I have always double checked my mixes playing back through different sources and bla,bla,bla… But seriously since I started using the above mentioned set-up, it has become less necessary since it keeps translating flawlessly;-)

  12. Bob Sorace

    It’s also a great idea to make the singer feel as uncomfortable as possible, tension always brings out the best in someone!

  13. Anonymous

    Start with a nice cassette recorder using the onboard microphone. You will get that nice warm analog sound. Forget compression it has a built automatic level control. You will have a nice sound amd a litle motor or squeak to add to your already awesome sound. Lyrics who needs lyrics. Just make up the words as you go. Then mix it down to another machine so all your levels are as loud as possible. Upload to sound cloud and your good to go. WOW….. you forgot to use compression. What a geek your hit song is down the drain. Start over with the above instructions and use compression this time. Great job Joe!! Next recording we want to hear on Studio One. Great program easy to use. My April fools comment.

    Wayne (AKA) wilbury69

  14. Jay Voth

    #25 You don’t need to tune your instrument every take. If it was in tune 30 seconds ago we can all safely assume that it is still in fact, in tune. Even in the event that it is not, we can put that autotune plug in on it. It actually sounds really good on bass.

  15. Anonymous

    hmm, not sure I get this. What’s new on that list ? I mean, you’ve already taught us all that!? ;O)

  16. Anonymous

    hmm, not sure I get this. What’s new on that list ? I mean, you’ve already taught us all that!? ;O)

  17. Travis Whitmore

    Dude, I’m still laughing – great list, hilarious. Can I add one?

    — always use EZ Drummer on all of your songs. A robotic, lifeless song will sound even better with a lifeless, emotionless drum track.

    ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Friday.

  18. Vivophonic

    Haha, great post. Although half way down I forgot it was how to make “horrible” mixes and began thinking, I’ll try that next time! ha. Deary me lol



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