Layering (stacking) Guitar Parts

frank1985

Member
When discussing guitar layering, a common method often suggested is panning guitars opposite each other, either hard-panned, or 50-50. You seldom hear about guitar parts stacked directly on top of each other to alter their character. I'm thinking of trying this out for my next session. Does anyone else use this method? I imagine the key is to make the parts as distinct as possible to avoid phase issues....but i'm thinking maybe phase could be utilised for all kinds of trippy chorus fx? Please share your tips, as well as any examples of where it's been used effectively in commercial mixes.
 
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Farview

Well-known member
When stacking tones like that, you would normally start with one tone, then stack a tone that has a characteristics that are missing from the original tone.

For example, if you have a sound with a lot of sustain but doesn't have a lot of articulation, you would layer it with a sound that does. Or if you have a scooped smooth sound, you could layer it with a crunchy sound with a bunch of mids.

I know that this type of layering was used on Metallica's Black Album.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
You really don't want the 'phasey' sound, which can happen if the 2 parts have the same sound, the difference being how the guitars are strummed, because its uncontrolled. You also need to worry about building up mud and noise.
As Jay says, use 2 different sounds.
I recently used 2 lead tracks to reinforce some fills - the trick is to play the parts identically (but with different sounds or registers).
 

frank1985

Member
Yeah that makes sense!

I've since come accross another album that make use of this method to the extreme - Loveless by My Bloody Valentine - the whole album is in mono, so obviously everything's crammed together, and while not very 'hifi' it still sounds awesome.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
When discussing guitar layering, a common method often suggested is panning guitars opposite each other, either hard-panned, or 50-50. You seldom hear about guitar parts stacked directly on top of each other to alter their character
Something I do from time to time if I quad track is to have the guitars on each side not stacked directly on top of each other, but fractionally apart or a few notches apart.
It sounds OK to me.
 

JamEZmusic

Active member
Doubling up on lead guitars is extremely common, center panned, same tones even. It adds a nice thickness during chorus's etc. Singers do this on countless songs too, same idea.

I record 2 rhythm guitars and hard pan (don't we all) when summed to mono I have not once, ever, ever, ever heard a phase issue, and sometimes I will edit the takes together to grid with absolute perfect timing.

I've never quad tracked, I will try it out for sure. But triple guitars is worthwhile sometimes, you get your center channel so you don't lose volume on your track when listening on mono device, with the sacrifice of losing your hole in the center for your more focused lead.

Almost everytime, double tracking guitars is enough for me, if I want more of the same I get a reverb send from the left guitar and pan it right, and then do the same for the other guitar.

If I want to make an ear candy/stereo track, I will record 4 or 5 different variations of the same track, full L+R and perhaps a center, but mess it up with crazy effects so it almost makes no sense to listen to, just go nuts with it, add some stereo widening and subliminally throw it in under your track. It's a really great production trick.
 

RRuskin

Rick Ruskin
1st track: in tune (let's call that "center.)
2nd layer: a few cents flat from center either by vso or just retuning.
3rd layer: a few cents sharp from center by the same amount via whatever method used above.
If you want it really thick, double each of the above parts, pan & mix to taste.
 

JamEZmusic

Active member
1st track: in tune (let's call that "center.)
2nd layer: a few cents flat from center either by vso or just retuning.
3rd layer: a few cents sharp from center by the same amount via whatever method used above.
If you want it really thick, double each of the above parts, pan & mix to taste.
Yeah, to add to it.

Lead vocal, or guitar Center track. Create a send to 10 aux's to start with (just use a single send, you'll want to feed 100% of the signal to all anyway)

1. Pitch Down 3cents Hard Left
2. Pitch Up 3cents Hard right
3. Pitch Down 6cents Hard Right
4. Pitch Up 6cents Hard Left
5. Repeat ^ following same pattern but 9cents
6. Repeat ^
7. Repeat again but 12cents
8. Repeat
9. Octave down, low pass 400hz Centered, High pass wherever is needed
10. Morphoder Whisper track waves plugin Centered
11. Distorted Slapback Delay Start around 90ms Centered

You may want to create 4 more for your 1/8th 1/4 delays, and a room/plate verb. I work this way, I personally can't be doing with single main verbs that all of my tracks are being fed into, too much headache for me, my mac can handle creating them as and when I need them so....

If you have a stereo detuning plugin that can do the same detuning job as above then you can save yourself those 8 detuned tracks and instead use 1 stereo. eg: Waves Doubler

These types of things are done on typical pop records you hear. See it all the time. Some do similar with flex pitching and messing with formants but principal remains the same.

Technically the vocal has been layered 10-15 times by now, and that is if you are not adding parrallel compression etc, I do mine via insert on main track using mv2.

I'll note that tricks like these are done to guitar etc too. I asked Warren Huart this specific question and he told me that he did a lot of the thickening mentioned above to a lot of the Aerosmith records on those guitar solos.
 
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frank1985

Member
^^ Nice....i'm definitely giving this a go. Great tips guys, especially the "ear candy" trick. @JamEZmusic So you're basically retracking the same track multiple times (a solo for example), panning the layers around the main track, processing them to all f***, compressing perhaps, then burying it under the main track (solo)? I take it you're just using filters, manglers etc?
 
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Farview

Well-known member
No, what JamEZmusic is talking about is only recording one performance and doing all that processing to copies of that one performance. If you performed it that many times, you wouldn't need all the processing. That processing is mimicking multiple takes.
 

JamEZmusic

Active member
That's it!

If you have that 1 single mono vocal track, you are essentially changing each take just a little with all of the above processing, and spreading it to the extreme left+right. To fully understand just watch the quick video by warren huart - (Vocal Thickening Trick) be aware that you can do this to anything. lead guitar etc.

You blend those tracks in very low down in the mix, it's to enhance, not detract. A rough guide -21dbfs seems to be where I land assuming your vocal fader is left at 0dbfs (Actually that doesn't matter), and since you are creating a send from that channel the differences between is normally around -21dbs. The effects above with detuning gives the thicker vocal, and spreads it out from mono giving illusion of bigger and more focused. (Stereo = closer) The octave down and up with whisper track extends the spectrum up and down a little more for percieved clarity, you're not supposed to be hearing these effects, they are VERY subtle. The slapback distorted delay adds aggression, it's not always appropiate. Slapback gives illusion you're playing harder than you are and the sound is bouncing back from the room, the distorted part makes it a little less intelligble but adds more harmonics and compresses it. Some use slapbacks to create fake drum rooms with a reverb space, the slapback is for early reflections. But don't worry about that until you watch a video of someone using it because there is other little things that are tweaked (MixBusTV did a video on creating a fake drumroom using slapback)

The above effects all build density, it gives you the upfront sound without needing to turn it up in the mix. But don't expect miracles, your transients/compression/verbs/EQ play a far more important role on your core track. Striking the perfect balance is a real tough gig, I am never happy once I compare mine to the pros but I still give it my all, my efforts sound good to a casual listener, but when doing the straight A/B then I juuuuuust miss the mark, everytime! haha.

That (Ear candy) trick, again. I stole from Warren, I forget where I took it from but he's done a recording guitar series of electric guitar, about 3 or 4 videos. It's in one of them! All are worth a watch. it's not for a main key track, instead background stuff that just enhances the stereo mix. For this I do record several takes, I don't duplicate. 3 takes of random noodling in key messed up with effects does the trick. Try it! But it's background non-essential stuff.

Edit - The ear candy stuff is based off of variations from the rhythm, not the melody. You can record an arp/chords octave up/single string 1/8th note patterns for example. Base it from the songs rhythms chords. Don't overthink it, mess it up. It's just some additional stereo niceness. It really does do wonders and makes a song feel professional when used right. It can make a the second half of a double chorus completely badass and not boring just by using that trick alone

Edit2: yea, I use filters all over the place. Sometimes I even low pass a bass guitar @400hz (The 350hz area will need pulling out until the bass guitar turns into something felt)to just rob the (guitar) out of the sound and keep the lows to extend the rythm guitar. I wouldn't do this on metal/pop, nor would I if the bass guitar is playing anything other than root notes of the chord but it gives a pleasing low end. Again, it's subtle. But you don't always have to hear something to feel a little extra added power.
 
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