I shared the other day 7 Tips for Finishing Your Album.

Today I’d like to shift gears a bit and share with you 7 things that I would do differently, if I had it all to do over again.

As you may know, my latest album Out of Indiana is available over at joegildermusic.com. Next week it will be officially released on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Before I jump into the 7 items below, let me state that while my album is far from perfect, I’m very proud of it, and I’m excited about the next one.

Alright, here they are. 7 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently on my Album:

1. Recorded better acoustic guitars

The entire album is centered around acoustic guitar. I’m pretty happy with the acoustic guitar tone on the record, but it took a LOT of EQ-wrangling to get it to where I wanted it. On a few songs I had to simply let the acoustic guitar be “good enough.”

What did I do wrong? I recorded the guitars with the microphones too close to the instrument. My thought process was:

  • The closer the mics, the less likely they’ll pick up room noise.
  • The closer the mics, the more low end they’ll pick up, and I can always EQ out the excess low end.

I proceeded to record all of the songs this way. And while everything sounded fine in my tracking headphones, I realized when I started mixing the songs that there was WAY too much bottom end in the guitars. I was able to salvage them, for the most part.

Lesson learned: Backing the mics away to around 12-inches from the guitar yields a MUCH more natural result, and they doesn’t really pick up any more noise than the close mics did.

2. Mixed all the songs on the same system

I moved THREE times over the course of making this album. 2 apartments, 2 houses. I started mixing the record in apartment #2, and I finished mixing in house #2.

As you can imagine, those very different acoustic environments produced different issues/problems in the mixing process, resulting in some inconsistencies across the different mixes, particularly in the low end.

On top of that, after mixing the first three songs, I upgraded my headphones to the Sennheiser HD-650’s, which are AWESOME, but they sound very different from my other headphones (HD-280’s). I used them a lot when mixing, but I didn’t have them for the first three songs, so that affected how I mixed the final seven songs.

3. Involved more musicians/singers

I sang everything on the record, which was a lot of fun (especially when it comes to the huge background vocal tracks), but it would’ve been nice to have a few female singers sing harmonies on some of the songs.

I played most of the instruments on the record, except for bass (all songs), lap steel (“How to Fish”), and the guitar solo on “Treading Water.” It would have been a lot of fun to recruit more musicians and have a greater variety of instruments on the record.

4. Finished sooner

It took me way too long to finish this thing…probably two years. I would have loved to produce at least two albums during that time, and it would have been doable. However, like I’ve said before, I’m thrilled to have finished this one, and I already have my sights set on the next one, which won’t take two years to finish…this time.

5. Recorded real drums

All the drum parts on Out of Indiana are from EZDrummer. I programmed the parts myself. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s amazing how good it can sound. (I actually had a drummer friend of mine ask me who played drums on the record, because he loved ’em so much.)

That said, nothing can replace a real drummer. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I didn’t have the facilities, connections, or the money to pull off a real drummer on this album, and it was fun to showcase EZDrummer, but I’ll likely be pulling the trigger on a real drummer for the next one.

6. Recorded real piano

The final song on the record is a piano ballad. It’s a pretty song, and it features the piano sounds of Mini-Grand, the virtual piano that comes with Pro Tools 8.

I’m blown away by how good Mini-Grand sounds, but I would have loved to use a real piano. Maybe I’ll buy a piano for the next record. 🙂 We’ll see.

7. Recorded in an isolated room/booth

The bane of every home studio owner’s existence is noise. You sometimes simply can’t escape it. Homes are noisy. They’re not sound-proof, and computers/hard drives tend to make a lot of noise.

This last point is more of a wish than anything. I really don’t have a place to install a vocal booth, and I’m not really set up to add another room to my studio setup, so we’ll chalk this one up as a pipe dream.

However, if you have serious noise issues, you should think about experimenting with different ways to record your instruments in some sort of isolation. If nothing else, use packing blankets to create a faux booth in the corner of your studio. You’d be surprised how well it can work.

Well, that’s it. Thoughts? Anything you would add?

If you want to hear/buy the album, go here: www.JoeGilderMusic.com.

If you want to mix the whole album yourself, go here: www.MixWithUs.com.

[Photo by koalazymonkey]

  • Vocal booth and room constraints aren’t as much of a problem as people think …. you can build a 4x4x7 portable booth for less than $300 that will rival the sound of a professional studio.. the most expensive part is the wall padding

    • You also need to be handy…and I’m not. 🙂

  • I’m your drummer for sure

  • Silvano

    About part 7. Recorded in an isolated room/booth

    U can improve thing buying a SE Electronics Studio Filter
    A lot of homerecording peeps are using the budget version ( SE Electronics project studio filter) & Here in Europe i heard that a lot of pro studio’s are using the orginal version with sounds awesome!
    That said it wont replace accoustic treatment or a soundproof cabine BUT i t will improve things a whole lot.

    http://www.zzounds.com/item–SEEPSRF
    ( This is the small budget version based on the original)
    Its not as good as the first one but it will really help you out & it will help you even more if you got some accoustic treatment.

  • Ray

    Congrats on the CD release, Joe! Best wishes for lots of sales.

    Just wondering…did you master the CD yourself or did you have someone else do it?

    • No, I DEFINITELY had someone else master it. I wouldn’t think of mastering it myself.

  • Robert

    Regarding the drums on your record:

    I highly recommend Superior Drummer 2 over EZDrummer, as EZDrummer does sound very basic and thin. I started out with EZDrummer and wasn’t aware of the quality difference and was very impressed when i purchased the upgrade.

    • I actually own Superior Drummer, but prefer EZDrummer. 🙂

  • JOE,
    Your album sounds great and I, [ or others ] could not tell the difference between this and some other studio done albums.
    My advice from the student to the teacher is to do your best and let things happen as they will. Whatever it is you lack or are searching for, in time will reveal itself, if you have patience.As you always say that ” nothing is perfect”, at least not in this world; so search yourself and see if you are trying to catch that elusive butterfly, maybe without noticing?
    Take Care,
    Always,
    TOMMY…

  • rick

    One thing this also proves…

    It’s more about the aptitude and skills of the user than the tools. The recordings I have heard sound great.

    Of course, the better tools you have, it should (in theory) allow for better results. But simply having a nice DeWalt drill doesn’t mean I know how to build something nice. I should know… I have a nice DeWalt drill and I can’t build jack squat.

    I know I have plenty of gear that should be able to make nice sounding recordings. I know there are enough shortcomings with my setup that it wouldn’t really be possible to make a major label sounding release. But I also have a realistic expectation of what I’m after… learning to get better.

    But for me, that’s more so an afterthought and a “natural consequence” of working more on my songs. At this stage of life for me, I’m really interested in just writing and making basic arrangements to give the listener the idea of what I’m after. During that pursuit, I believe the overall sonics I produce will just naturally improve while I work more at it. And Joe’s sites and videos have been ridiculously helpful in that.

    I’m not looking to be a professional artist, go on tour, market myself, etc. I just want to share my music with whoever will listen 🙂

  • Jamboni

    The fun in any journey is not getting there but the road you walked and the experiences encountered along the way. I truly believe that had you done this in the studio, you would have walked a shorter road with far less memories (whether good or bad). I love the album and the fact that it was recorded in a studio probably very similar to my own, provides me hope that maybe one day I can achieve the same.

  • Ricky

    Let me first say that some (me) might argue that all of these issues actually add character to the album.

    The real point I think is that you never intended to produce a product that would compete with the “Major Releases” we see by the very top recording artists. Correct?

    I was watching an interview with a top selling producer the other day on You Tube. He was asked if one can truly record a commercial, salable product in a project studio? His answer was, “when recording, anytime you need to use a microphone, go to a top rated studio”. Anything going direct can be done at the project studio.

    That said, it has been my experience that what ultimately will sell well is what is promoted well. I have heard some albums on the radio that sound like crap! But they still are selling millions of downloads. I have also heard recordings that were stellar and crystalline, that jumped out of the speakers and slapped me in the face and because of poor promotion do not sell at all.

    Even mixing a recording done at a top studio will cause engineers headaches and EQ wrangling. If there were one issue with the acoustic guitars on “Out Of Indiana” for me, it would be the choice of microphone more than the placement. Don’t beat yourself up too much Joe. You produced a great product. The songwriting is terrific and the execution is terrific. It’s a moment in time, documented for all of us to use as a guidepost toward richer and greater moments…

    • Oh, I’m not beating myself up at all. I’m insanely proud of the album. Just thought it would be educational to share some things I would do differently.

  • Cush

    I would like to point out that real drums are a lot more challenging to mix, as I’m sure you know. I use Ultrabeat (Logic’s standard) when I’m arranging just so I can get a feel for where the song is heading pace and dynamics wise and its always relatively painless to get them to sit like I want. However, when the actual drums are recorded, there’s a whole mess of issues that arise. You can’t replace a live drummer, you are absolutely right about that.

  • Lukas

    The most important thing is that you actually finished the album and to my picky ears it sounds very good. There will always be things that might’ve been done differently, but I wouldn’t be too worried about that. Even Pearl Jam remixed their Ten album, because apparently they were never happy with the way it sounded (even though it sold something like 10 million copies…)
    To me, this list only proves, how great sounding record one can make without relying on high-dollar facilities or top of the notch gear.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    like rick I’m a piano player and although I would love a lush grand piano in shiny piano-black…

    …sorry where was I? my keyboards sound very well using midi plugins, better than the sounds in the in the keyboard, especially ones such as Pianoteq (which I must get the full version someday) and The grand.

    your acoustic guitars sounded amazing, I’m trying/failing loads to get the same type of tone. I just can’t but this may be due to the acoustic guitars I record aren’t really that good to begin with.

  • You keep answering all the questions I wanted to ask you Joe.

    P.S.
    “I already have my sites set on the next one”
    I think you mean sights

    • DOH. Sites…I’ve been on the internet too long… 🙂

  • rick

    As a piano player, I would still use a keyboard (possibly with a plug in like Ivory) due to space and money. I don’t even think I have space in my house for a decent upright, much less a grand or baby grand. I guess you could rent out studio time at a place with a nice piano like a Yamaha C7, but plug ins sound really nice these days, as do a lot of digital pianos. I love the Yamaha stuff (CP series, Motif, S90, etc). It might not sound “as nice” as a properly mic’ed piano in a properly treated space, but for me the results would actually turn out much nicer.

    Congrats on finishing the record bro!

  • Bob Sorace

    For my home studio I use the walk in closet as an iso booth for vocals and recording acoustic guitar, it could use some treatment but works for the most part. The only problem with it is, it shares a wall with my 14 year old daughters room. So I have to tell her to keep her music down while I record and then she has to listen to take after take of my bad singing.

    • Rob

      Lol