Layering guitars

October 6, 2015

Here’s another work in progress sample from the song ‘Summer Comes After’. It does feature some heavy guitar riffs and I’ve struggled a little to make them sound “full” enough. Take a listen:

What I did to get this effect was using 4 guitar tracks, 2 panned left and 2 panned right. The closer to the center you pan the guitars the more your riff will sound like it has some kind of “chorus” effect and the small differences in each recording will be more audible. Moving them far apart to the left/right makes the riff sound more spacious, like it’s filling the metaphorical room where the listener is. Right now I have 2 of them panned almost 100% to the left/right and the other 2 approximately 70%.

I want to layer some other instruments here too, so you can hear a little mellotron, bass guitar and a bassy synth. Mixing this much stuff and all these guitars is hard and I still want to tweak this a lot and find a better tone, but as you can see it’s a good way to get a thicker and heavier sound.

If you want to try it’s important to record all of the guitars as different takes as you won’t get the same effect just duplicating the audio. When recording the multiple tracks you can take the chance to play small variations of the parts or experimenting with different pickup positions. I recorded 2 slight variations of this riff, some in the bridge and some in the neck pickup.

One of the secrets is not having a massive amount of overdrive/distortion on your guitar which is the quickest way of drowning yourself in noise and making your mix sound muffled. When you’re playing around and jamming as the only guitar player you’ll always be tempted to boost your gain and overdrive, but when layering you’ll see that it’s not needed and 2 or more less overdriven tracks will sound better. That’s why I recommend you record all your guitar signals dry and process them in realtime with Guitarix (or you favorite guitar effects processor) as a plugin or connected as an external application into your tracks. I’d also recommend connecting all the layers to a bus so you’re able to apply something like compressor or reverb after the tracks if you want.

Layering is fun and I probably won’t stop at four guitars, but that’s what I could make sound good for now. On the way to becoming a layering master like Devin Townsend :)

Layering guitars - October 6, 2015 - Ownlife