One Hour - iPhone TimerIf you follow me on Twitter, then you may have noticed the other night that I gave myself a challenge. I had a song I hadn’t recorded yet, so I thought it would be fun to see how much I could get done in one hour.

Whenever I think about recording in my home studio, I tend to tell myself that I need to set aside at least two hours if I really want to accomplish anything of worth. As you can imagine, this is stupid.

I had a suspicion that this was stupid, hence the challenge. If I only have one hour to record, can I get anything done? Or would it be better that I just watch TV or surf the internet? After all, an hour isn’t very long.

So, in an attempt to prove myself wrong, I set the timer on my iPhone for one hour, hit start, and opened up Pro Tools.

When the alarm went off one hour later, I bounced the mix of what I had done. And? The result? I was rather surprised. With a little focus (and a little sweat…hey, I was a little stressed), I was able to put together a decent little song. Here it is. The song is called “So Close.”

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While You Listen…

Here’s the list of what I did over the course of the hour:

  • Opened new session in Pro Tools (via one of my session templates).
  • Inserted EZDrummer on an instrument track, and used tap tempo in the Transport Window to determine the tempo of the song.
  • Opened up the groove window in EZDrummer and found a simple groove. Copied and pasted this MIDI groove onto the track in Pro Tools and duplicated it until it was five or six minutes long.
  • Recorded a scratch vocal and guitar tracks (listening to the drum groove) – I used a pair condenser mics on acoustic guitar. (These were still set up from when I did my review of the stereo mic bar.) I sang through an AKG D5 dynamic microphone. (I used a dynamic with a supercardioid pickup pattern, so it wouldn’t pick up much guitar.)
  • After recording the scratch parts, I listened quickly in Pro Tools to make sure the arrangement was how I want it.
  • Moving forward, I muted the scratch guitar track and recorded acoustic guitar while listening to the drums and scratch vocal.
  • Then I recorded bass direct.
  • Then I went back to acoustic and recorded a higher part, with a capo on the 7th fret.
  • Then I recorded the lead vocal (singing into one of the condenser mics in the stereo mic bar.)
  • At this point, I had about 10-15 minutes left. I quickly threw up some EQ on everything, rolling off a lot of bottom end off the guitars and vocals, cutting some low-midrange from the drums and bass. I added a limiter to the bass to keep the levels somewhat consistent.
  • Then I added a compressor and limiter on the master bus and tweaked these a bit to “glue” things together.
  • Then the alarm went off.
  • At this point, I had routed all my tracks through the master aux and out to a stereo audio track. I hit record and mixed the song in real time, adjusting levels as needed. (This is rather obvious, especially at the beginning, when I needed to turn up the vocals.) Since I was mixing via record-to-disk rather than bounce-to-disk, I was able to make these adjustments during the final mixdown.

Obviously, it’s not the most exciting or polished recording in the world, but I think it gets the point across. You can accomplish quite a bit over the course of one hour. Try it sometime, maybe this weekend? I think you’ll find that with a little focus, you can get that album done a lot sooner than you expected.

29 Responses to “One-Hour Challenge”

  1. Karen G.

    This is just what I needed!!! I’m the same–why fire it all up if I don’t have at least 2 or 3 hours. I think because of that mentality, I also may not be using the 2-3 hours efficiently either. Anyway, thanks for letting us look into your process. I’m brand new and am figuring it out bit by bit–glad to know I’m not the only one wanting to shoot the thing at times. Very informative. Also, LOVE the lyrics to the song! All I can say is “That’s me. God, help.” k

  2. hillelKAPS

    I’m sure you get bothered with questions like this all the time, but here goes,

    I have EZdrummer but I havent really had the time to sit through all the grooves. Can I ask you which groove this was from what set? Theres a certain song of mine that would be perfect with this groove

  3. Ankur

    Says file not found. Weird. Am able to listen to your album tracks on your other website, so am pretty sure it’s not my connection.

  4. Patrick Noonan

    Just stumbled across this site while searching google for articles about bass management during mix down, and have now spent an hour or so looking through your articles. I was blown away when I came across this one that had an actual audio sample, there’s so many “home studio guide” type websites that are either too scared to put up something from their own studio or they do and it sounds terrible. The song itself is definitely simple, but awesome in it’s simplicity, like Who Says by John Mayer. The RECORDING itself is really clean and professional to my ears, the level was soft next to a commercial recording but obviously the loudness war is it’s own topic… In any case really great stuff here man, you’re voice sounds killer too, and without a condenser to boot. I’ll definitely be reading through the rest of your articles and following you on twitter, I’m thankful to have found this.

  5. Mike

    Ok, now do it in 15 minutes…LOL!
    I love to do those kinds of challanges with song writing.
    You’ve got a nice voice!! Thanks again for this site
    you’ve got alot of great info.


    • Joe Gilder

      Thank you, Mike. Ha ha. Do it in 15?!?! The hardest part of the challenge was the fact that I burned 4 minutes with every take I did. Just to record each of the parts, including the scratch tracks, took up 20 minutes!

  6. Ben O'Brien Smith

    Great job! It’s always fun to set up certain challenges for yourself in music, be it recording, or writing. You did some great work in one hour. I sure you benefitted greatly from being well rehearsed with the song. So often I record people who haven’t put in their fair share of prep time on the material and we either do far too many takes or I tell them to go back and practice a bit more.

    • Joe Gilder

      Absolutely. I’ve shot myself in the foot so many times be jumping into recording without knowing the song well enough.


    I’m impressed. Like you say it isn’t the most polished. But it is amazing what you can do in an hour if you set a goal. It usually takes me an hour to get started recording acoustic guitars. LOL.

  8. Martin Krause

    Very impressing!
    I think I couldn’t do THAT in an hour. Usually, just recording a guitar or bass track takes me about an hour. Now that I can see (or listen to) what is possible, I think I’m going to try to set me a limit , too, just as a test.

    Thank you!


    • Joe Gilder

      Thanks Martin. That’s exactly the point I’m trying to get across. Everyone’s milage may very, but if you give yourself a time limit, I think you’ll be very surprised by what you can accomplish.

  9. Dan

    Really nice work. I’m very impressed. It’d take me a year of fiddling plus learning how to sing to pull that off.

  10. George

    Bravo! Thanks for the details on how you mixed it … I think the mix sounds great, and like how the drums come in, followed by the bass, after you’ve established the guitar and vocals.



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