Record Guitars That Pop (One Song One Month Challenge 3/8)

| Audio Example, One Song One Month Challenge 2016, Tips, Video

When it comes to recording guitars and bass, a little intentionality with tone and performance choices can go a long way to making your mix sound wider and more powerful – all during the recording phase.

Today marks week 2 of the One Song One Month Challenge – recording week and at this point I already have my song’s map and foundation built out.

Now I’m ready to start recording guitar and bass parts that will virtually mix themselves.

What If I Don’t Record Guitars?

If guitar (or bass) is not your instrument of choice, fear not – the principles in this video still apply.

Whether it’s piano, synth, strings, organs, or glockenspiel, the key to recording great tracks is to think through how they will each sit in the mix. Be intentional about your tones.

As with the guitars – put different sounding instruments or tones on the far edges of your song. This will always give you a wider sounding mix, even before you begin the mix process.

Also, keep your bottom end instruments (bass, synth, etc) strategically locked with the kick drum for added clarity, impact, and punch.

The whole point of recording is to pretend that there is no mix phase. This is where you are actually making the music – so only put in what helps, and be strategic about how you record what you put in the song.

How Are You Doing So Far?

So I want to know – how are you doing with your One Song One Month Challenge?

As of today – how far are you along in the process? And what is one thing that has surprised you the most about this challenge so far?

Let me know below in the comments!


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86 Responses to “Record Guitars That Pop (One Song One Month Challenge 3/8)”

  1. Brian

    My favorite bass tone “hack” is such a no brainer but people so frequently forget it: NEW STRINGS! 🙂

    Also, I know you rotate monitors from time to time, but I’m happy to see you rocking the KRK’s. I have a set of Rockit 5’s and love them.

    This series is so cool! Your tips are spot on and super helpful, thanks Graham!

    • Jeff

      I had a friend in a band in my how town and he allwasy has gets a killer recording. And I ask him how do you get your recordings to sound so fat he told me to do just what you are doing .Like use different amp settings one clean one dirty on each track .But I never thought about to use a different guitar & amp for each track so cool I love to learn some thing new to put it to use
      Thank you Graham

  2. Bryan Vanderhill

    Got lyrics, got melody, got drum loops all mapped out. Ready to add some guitars, bass, etc. this week. What has surprised me is how I get bombarded with ideas and inspirations when I just put in a little time in the studio. Making that time on a regular basis is my goal this year.

  3. RobertLouis

    So far so good here Graham, song is written and mapped out. Just need to polish the intruments and figure out whether I’m writing a bridge or just letting it be a musical break, then just gotta find an interesting way to get back into the chorus.

  4. Kurt

    Recorded live drums and bass parts over the weekend. Hoping to get some keys and guitar done during this week.

  5. sam n

    great vid! I have most of my song together now and most the lyrics written…what is your thought on recording the guitar directly into the daw instead of thru a mic/amp? would that allow for a cleaner recording that virtual amps could work with more effectively?

    • Comby

      I believe mic+real amp= more meat on the bone as they say. I have recorded alot of great scratch tracks with virtual amp/mic programs, but when I A/B its always the real amp/mic. Its more organic sounding.. More dynamic. But that’s only my opinion 🙂

  6. Eric Corriveau

    Hi Graham,

    I just watched your third video (record guitars that pops). Great one by the way. I aslo use Eleven Rack on most of my recording and I was curious to find out about which tone you use on your first rhythm guitar (starts at 6:00). Such a great tone.

    Thanks for the info and for everything else.


  7. Tom Black

    Great stuff Graham. I like the life in the recording because you don’t focus on perfection. This leaves (or adds) the “humaness” in the recording. i.e. guitar tracks with a little string buzz, different tonal qualities on the bass track from pluck intensity. I am not a fan of robotic, stiff, over rehearsed songs. Thank you RECORDING REVOLUTION.

  8. Jeff

    This has been awesome Graham. My wife and I are doing this together. We have the song all written out and are getting with someone who can play acoustic today to record a scratch track. next week we will be recording. I hope to have it done by the end of the month.

  9. Miftahus

    great info and presentation . I’ve been working on the hook and it’s pretty damn hard btw but really looking forward to the result

  10. michael jensen

    Great stuff Graham. While I already knew this, I hadn’t taken the time to truly doubley rythm guitar. I had my rythm left and lead right, which sounds good right now, but I’ll record another rythm track and pan it right (with a different amp on my eleven rack. JCM 800 maybe?) while carving out an EQ curve to keep my leads on the right cutting through. very good advice as always.

  11. Marc Korte

    Great Stuff! I am using EZ drummer as well, and so far the guitar parts, bass and drums are finished. The toughest challenge so far (for me) has been getting the different guitars to stand out mixing in mono. It’s getting there though!

    I am really surprised how this challenge has gotten the creative juices flowing, and that setting a deadline really helps to push us to make music. Thanks!

  12. Travis

    Another great video. As of today I’m getting ready to record the main acoustic guitar part. The most surprising thing so far is that the project continues to move forward. It’s been a constant battle of distractions the last week.

  13. Jeremy Harper

    I really wanted to put this to the test. I’m a truck driver and time is truly short. I had one day this month before I took off on the road and surprisingly I’m further along than I thought I would be. Wrote the song. Mapped it out. Layed the foundation. Got stuck on the bridge before I could finish. I see how much time you have Graham and I have to say I’m a little jealous. I may or may not finish this challenge but I will say you can finish a lot more when you focus your time on getting it done than waiting and playing around until it takes forever to make a choice.

  14. Charles

    I got things mapped out also. Arrangment is done so this week I will be working on the guitars also.
    It’d be interesting to do the same with acoustic guitars.
    Thanks Graham

  15. Keenen Blockson

    AS of Now I am still in the writing/arranging process of my song. I started writing songs in a new way, where I will write the chorus section first, with melody, lyrics, and building the instruments around that idea. After I have a fairly big sounding chorus, then I’ll work outward to writing the verse part of the instruments, the intro, then more lyrics for those parts. I am surprised at how much closer I am to a finished product using this work flow. The one song one month challenge gave me a great place to start trying this out. I should have my full arrangement mapped out by the end of the week. Once I do, I’m going to put on my new guitar and bass strings and record the final versions to improve the tone.

  16. Andrei

    I’m kinda ahead with the 8 phases , already finished the music, need to focus on lyrics now..but it’s going well so far… :))

  17. Jimmy smith

    Hi Graham,
    I am enjoying being part of this excercise.
    I have the song written with both words and music. I also have the bass guitar and drum guide tracks down as well as a scratch vocal. From here it’s refining all of the instrument parts and trying to get the most quality recordings that I can in my DAW.

    The thing that I find most interesting about this exercise is the time restraint. Specifically that I have to make decisions and live with them and then move on because I don’t have a lot of time to refine things and experiment with 20 different guitar tones. Basically it’s about committing and moving on to get the project done in a timely fashion. We have several more steps to go before the digital release on sound cloud.

    Thanks again for doing this and I look forward to following you through every step of the process to see where we end up when it’s finished.


  18. Cranky

    I strongly disagree with this hard-panning approach because, when the mix is heard in mono, the guitars will be pushed right back, and even lost in the mix. To maintain reasonable mono compatibility panning should not exceed -6db, and only minor non-essential instrumentation should be hard-panned.

    • Milton Messenger

      If you pan hard Lt and Rt but then subtract or add a few percentage degrees from these pan values, this will keep each part from being lost in a mono mix. I usually use LT = 90deg RT = 87deg. Try it. it works. I’ve noticed by keeping your pans ‘not reciprocal’, e.g. LT 90 deg and RT 90 deg will give you better separation. Example: LT 90 Rt 88, Lt 45 RT 48, etc.

  19. Anja Sokoll

    Hi Graham,
    thank you very much for your helpful videos!
    Me and my band “Moshi-Moshi-Box” have written the song and built out the song map. Now we are trying to record the guitar and bassline.
    The most surprising thing (like an aha effect) to us is the fact that we could start to write a song just with a little part of a song (the hook). That helps a lot to write songs!

  20. Justin LeGrand

    I’m totally inspired. Once presented with your call to write 1 song in one month, i did it in only 2 days. Never, have I written a song so quickly. I can’t wait to submit it. I’m even on to a second. even odder yet! Thank you Graham for all that you do!

  21. Ryan Van Slooten

    Working on learning the drum part so I can record it myself, but got it mapped out with a scratch guitar. Also working on finishing up lyrics. I’m liking the pace though, nice to get used to keeping focus on a project!

  22. Joshua Hall


    I started a song on 1/6/16. It began with lyrics and a piano riff. I put the complete piano part into the DAW yesterday morning and began sculpting the drum beats to go with it. Put the bass down and recorded 3 guitar tracks (2 melodic harmony, and one rhythm). Now that I am hands free – I make a rough mix to sing with in my car on my way to work (40 minute commute). This is where I learn to sing it and by the time I am ready to record it, it’s memorized. Right on track, since I was already done with this month’s song for my own monthly releases, this new one may end up being a BONUS!!

    What has surprised me?? How cool something can sound when it finally takes form, especially if you have taken the time to really clean it up and make it tight.


  23. Milton Messenger

    Thanks for the great tips. I record only ‘one’ guitar part, then double it to another track, and pan each hard Lt and Rt respectively. I use amp simulation plugins so don’t need to record the Lt and Rt ‘separately’. Never thought of using 2 different mic/amps on each side though. Great tip. It works, is subtle, but accumulative. Thanks again for your videos and what you do.

  24. Chris

    So far in the challenge I have the chord progression written, some ideas for the melody, and a pretty solid idea of the beat that I want at certain parts. Thanks for extending the challenge, I wouldn’t be writing a song right now if you hadn’t encouraged me.

  25. Quintt

    couldn’t wait to get home from work to see if lesson 3 was posted. Huge thanks from the UK. Song is mapped, will be bassing it this eve and re-recording guitars over next 2 nights

  26. Nigel

    A Great Light has passed ….. I have actually shed a tear or two today, and kinda rethinking the whole song in view of what Mr Bowie meant to me. And still does.

  27. Andrew

    I’m actually really suprised that I got my mix to sound as good as it does right now. I guess I’ve doubted my abilities, but I’m now hearing it all come together and I couldn’t be more happy!

  28. George Mixton

    Hey, Graham! That was a great and helpful video.

    By the way a naive question – what headphones are you using in this video?

  29. Rob

    Progress? I’ve been working on some vocal ideas today. I might finally have what I was looking for, particularly how to transition from verse to chorus.

    A couple questions (also asked on the blog from a couple days ago, but I was late to that party, apparently):

    – I’m assuming the entire song, including all songwriting and arranging, needs to be “birthed” within January. Right? (I’m having some instrumental ideas, but not feeling inspired in the melody/lyric department at the moment.)

    – Do we need to do anything other than be on your email list?

    – How/where/when do we submit our finished projects? (I’m being optimistic that I’ll have a complete song by month-end.)


  30. Roy Gerstenberg

    I have allot of amp model plugins being I am a Logic X user, and I have the Waves GTR bundle. But I still like using my tube amps, and then layer in some clean amp models. And I am writing an Instrumental for this month, is that ok.

  31. Matthew Thompson

    Same principle would apply for acoustics or because of the sonic qualities a bit different?


    • Geoff Kabzinski

      Hi Matthew, I mainly use acoustics and find it works the same way but I will either use a different mic for recording left as I use for right or sometimes I with pick/strum closer to the neck on one (more treble) and closer to the bridge on the other (bass) to give your tonal differences.

  32. Chris Fezzler

    I have two rounds of editing done on my lyrics. I have my hook done. Drums done (EZ Drummer). I have the song mapped out. I have Intro guitar and scratch guitar tracks done and bridge. First cut was over 4 minutes. Too long. As a beginner I’m trying to keep songs under 3 minutes. So editing. I’ll do bass tonight and guitar if I have time.

    If bass is following the kick, could one copy the kick midi info and then use a bass VSTi and add some humanization to Quantize to get started?

  33. Brian Akins

    Song is all mapped out and I will be starting the bass guitar tracking sometime today. Feels good to follow along with this and feel like I am on track and getting things accomplished. Thanks again Graham!

  34. Smurf

    Hook just finished, mainly because I don’t sing & getting a good musical medley is always a challenge.

    Also, Reaper is having fits on my new system, so I decided to try out PT 12… fun!

  35. Nigel

    Absolutely no comments about the passing of David? That’s very surprising to me (a Brit) …. especially as my iLok chose this day, of all days, to die ….. no recording till I get it all back

  36. Max

    Think I’m about 40 % through. What has surprised me a little is how good I feel when I actually get to work and get stuff done. Sometimes you just don’t feel like it but you’re not doing anything special either. I know I have to do it eventually so I just get to work and it feels great 🙂 Right now I’m struggling with a “calm” part, took me all day but and I tried different things but I think I got the core of it now 🙂

  37. Brian

    Hey Graham

    Sounds good so far! I dig the chord choices. I’ll admit, I’ve never really separated tones when doubling guitars unless there were two guitarists in the band. Maybe I’ll give it a whirl.

    As far as my song goes, I have a demo version of all of my guitar parts layered and recorded, and have the whole song mapped out. My lyrics and melodies are pretty much done, although I’ll probably tweak a few things here and there and add some vocal harmonies later on. Working on drums tonight.

    Thanks again for the tips!

  38. Timothy Mendoza

    Great stuff as always. My drummer isn’t available until the 18th, so it’s all “Pre production” until then. It will be crunch time the last part of the month. it will be interesting to see how the pressures of time effect the final product.

  39. Shawn

    Liking the challenge and I am working 4 days a week now to carve out a little more than 2 hours night to record. I think I will have this song done this month.

  40. Jay Schaefer

    Whew! This is a little faster than I’m use to, but the song is coming along. Got the parts all demo’d out and recorded drums – singer is tomorrow! Then I can work out my final parts.

    Was just thinking that it would be fun to hear what others accomplish out of this exercise. Would love to hear the other songs. Anyway we could post them to a blog or common area at the end to share with each other?


    I have a “hook”; still developing other pieces.

    Interesting to see how quickly others work. Not sure if I should be envious, or appalled. 😀

  42. Chris George

    So far I’m freakin surprised how I was able to write a song with a catchy hook & then map it out so it’s something that you wanna hear again & again in a weeks time. And just believing that I could do it after setting the goal to go finish it one step at a time. I’ve been learning from the recording revolution ever since your first one song challenge back in 2009 or 2010 I believe it was….ever since I finished a song then I was pumped & then life just got busy & it was hard to fit writing/recording & trying to grow to finish songs on a consistent basis. So when this one song challenge came around I just knew it was time to get up & move & go finish a song this month! I’m hoping this will help me in the end to still set goals all year to finish songs & eventually a full album someday! Thanks for bringing the one song one month challenge back in action!!!! Peace, Chris.

    P.S. I am videoing some of one song one month challenge all month as well & posting some on my Facebook page. Emerald Escape.

  43. Phillip

    Thanks Graham for your help. So far song and its order is in place. Plan to record in the coming days the piano parts.

    This advice really helps me get structure to the process. Especially as I love the creative process and developing a new song. Sadly I am not so disciplined at finishing! This course and your other training is helping me do that.

    Thanks again


  44. John C

    Sounding good Graham!
    Good to see more people feel there is a real reason to having different guitars around for recording.

    Wait till the wives counter that the same shoe in various colors has unique timbres as well.

    I’m okay with this as long as the logic goes both ways 🙂

  45. KonDa

    I’m doing that one song per month thing like one and a half years now :). All others you can do it. JUST DO IT! x’D

  46. Teresa

    Hi Graham,

    Really great challenge!! Turns out I got so excited by it that I’m laying down the foundations to all of my songs (something I have been meaning to do for a long time). I also finished two new songs thanks to the push I got from this challenge.
    As always great tips on all the videos in this series, but I still think that the most important part is the mental hack your videos offer. There is no excuse not to make great music in the home studio!!
    Once again thank you

  47. Yves Apsy

    That’s great, Graham!
    But… So far I’m stuck with the idea in my head… Got some excuses to do not start it yet: working hard and moving to another city. Hope next month (are you going to do it again, right?) I could get along with everybody in the process.

    Thanks for this and everything else you’ve been doing!
    It’s really great!

  48. Shannon

    Hey Graham! Quick question…do you use the same method when recording acoustic guitar? Excellent work and great tips! Thanks

  49. David Buck

    Nice video today!
    I REALLY could get a grip on the tone differences with the Vox and Fender models. Can’t wait to try something like that on my own track.
    Looking forward to the vocal instructions next up…
    Keep ’em coming, baby!

  50. Jim

    Wow late to the party, Another great tip, Ive been stacking guitars takes but with the same tone ! ugh, then using different eq but Ive got a ton if tones I can choose this is a great aha!

  51. KD

    Hi Everyone,
    Hi Graham,

    I’m also most there, recording Piano n Keys I Believe it will come out nice.


  52. Liquid Solids

    Haven’t been able to participate in the challenge, but really enjoying the videos and comments. Don’t forget another really easy way to change guitar tones if you only have one guitar – use a different pickup! Best of luck to everybody on your new songs!

  53. Dave

    Things are going great. At the point where we are getting ready to record vocals this weekend. This should come out real nice. I like to start with the hook also so it was nice to see that in your last video.

  54. Geoff Kabzinski

    I’m stuck on lyrics, I know I’m racing ahead a bit however my hook on keys centres on the rhythm of the lyrics so I need to roll up the sleeves and caress (heavily massage nae thump) what I’ve got so far so it sits better rhythmically. Can’t wait to see your vid on fox Graham.

  55. Todd

    Hi Graham! Thanks for all of your info. Always great stuff.

    Question… other than the differences in the dynamics of each guitar part that you played individually… is there any reason you wouldn’t simply have saved time and model the first guitar part with a different amp setting in your Eleven Rack? Don’t get me wrong… I allways think doing the same part in two different takes is great for dynamics, but is this the only reason that you did this?


  56. Mike Sabatella

    I’m a little behind, have the song written and mapped out in Reaper with scratch tracks. Ready to start recording. But hey, this challenge has still helped me get through the songwriting process faster than ever.

    I have the same question as others about the bass in your video. Was it direct? Amp sim? If yes which one?

    Thanks for the great inspiration!

  57. Chris Willson

    Thanks for the tip on matching the baseline to the kick. Working on trying to get this right. I may change from real bass to a midi bass if I continue to have issues getting the timing right.

  58. paul

    That’s about the worst bass guitar sound you could get, Graham. If you are going to teach people, you shouldn’t be teaching them to settle for that sound. That is not helping them to make decent recordings.

  59. R34l1st

    This chalange is realy helping me with how to mix because I got the lyrics and skills but I don’t got the good equipment.
    But on the other side I’m getting my mixer tomorrow so my Mixes are gonna be alot better!

  60. Christopher

    Honestly I’m lagging behind where I wanted to be by now. I didn’t start at the beginning of the month and I spent a lot of time just working out the arrangement on paper- since I sight read a lot I wanted to notate everything. However, by notating the arrangement it has allowed me to plan for the arrangement in my DAW. So now I’m ready to start building the arrangement in Logic. This will be a piano centric song, so at least I now have the chorus,melody, and rhythm mostly worked out.

  61. Terry

    Well, it’s crunch time for me, but I’m gonna get this done. Music tracks laid down to my liking, now to lay down BGV’s and Lead vocals. Then it’s time to mix. It’s now 10;02pm EST. Time to get busy!

    Thanks again for issuing the challenge. It’s pushed me to make time to record my music and make it just as much a priority like everything else.

  62. Josh Boyer

    Learning that good arrangement is helping my song sound more like a “real” song. Still have lots to learn, but really enjoying the process of learn – apply – learn – apply. Thanks TRR!

  63. Paul

    Do you still recomend two different guitar tones if the band has only one guitar player?



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Map Out Your Song’s Foundation (One Song One Month Challenge 2/8)

If the most important part of songwriting is having a killer hook, then the second most important part is crafting...