I’d like to share a recording technique that I read about when I started studio work and have used during many sessions over the years. We’ve talked about the overall concept of giving yourself a variety of choices for mixdown in several different posts. The idea is to track one guitar performance and end up with multiple tracks with different sound qualities. One way to do this with electric guitar is to have the guitar going to two separate amplifiers. The first step in this process is to use amps with different sound qualities. For the example in the photo we’re using a Peavey amp on one side and a Mesa on the other side. Both of these amps are tube amps. Another way to add variety would be to use a tube amp on one side and a solid state amp on the other side. You want to make sure the amps have some separation so there is not a lot of bleed through going to the microphones. Here we have the amps pointed in opposite directions with a sound deadening panel between them. For this recording the amps were not at high volume. If you needed to have one or both amps loud to get the overdrive effect you are looking for you could put the amps in separate rooms. Each amp’s sound will be captured by three microphones. In our example we are using two dynamic mics close to the amps and one condenser mic slightly farther away on each side. You could also apply different pedal effects to the amps or use the amps on board effects for variety.
In our example we split the guitar signal going to the amps with a stereo chorus effect to allow for a greater stereo field when panning tracks left and right. You could also use an A/B box or another type of signal splitter. Each mic will go to a separate track in the recording software as seen in the photo below. You now have six unique guitar sounds you can use throughout the song. You could do as many tracks as your system input and mic collection allows. If you really want to enhance the stereo possibilities for the guitar track you could record the track twice and hard pan the different guitar parts to the left and right channels in mixdown which would give you twelve tracks to work with. We frequently use this double tracking technique in our Messin’ With The Music songs since we are using acoustic guitars and don’t have effects on them to create the variety we have with the two amp setup. If you’re trying to create a stereo sound without making it sound like a different guitar part you have to be fairly accurate when playing the individual tracks. Each track will naturally have a slight difference. The odds of you playing every note with exactly the same timing and volume are pretty slim. The idea is to try to do each track as similarly as possible – the differences will appear naturally.
In the final photo below you can see how we used the diverse sounds throughout the song. We’ve edited the tracks, bringing in different mics during verses, choruses and breaks. You can now accent different parts of the song with unique sonic signatures while maintaining a consistent guitar performance.
If you have enough tracks on your mixing console you can enhance these changes further by cloning a track, sending them to different channels on the mixing board and using different settings of EQ, dynamics and effects on each track. This simple set up will provide you with multiple guitar sounds to make your track sonically interesting.