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Layering Tracks, Pickups & Guitars
Old 7th December 2019
  #1
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Layering Tracks, Pickups & Guitars

Hello.
I am curious as to what people think the best combos of electric guitars to layer would be (without thinking about recording techniques such as filters, panning, etc).
My main guitar is a 90s Tele American Standard, all stock, through an 80s Fender Vibroverb. I mostly play clean to medium gain.
I’m not necessarily looking to achieve what would give me the thickest or most polished tone. Results could be quirky or “interesting” for lack of better term.
In everyone’s opinion would this be achieved through contrasting pickups on different guitars (eg a lipstick vs. humbucker, solid body vs. hollow body) or something else?
I am open to any input, whether it be suggesting two specific guitar models to overdub, two specific pickup models to contrast, etc.
Thank you for your help.
Old 7th December 2019
  #2
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Pindrive's Avatar
Really depends on your goals, soundwise. I've heard some pretty cool combos with junk Hollowbodies with cheap pickups. Amps & pedals can really make difference, as well. Les paul, Stratocaster, Rickenbacker etc. So man choices & flavors. What bass are you running? The deeper you dig, the more complicated the equation.
Old 7th December 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
Hello.
I am curious as to what people think the best combos of electric guitars to layer would be (without thinking about recording techniques such as filters, panning, etc).
My main guitar is a 90s Tele American Standard, all stock, through an 80s Fender Vibroverb. I mostly play clean to medium gain.
I’m not necessarily looking to achieve what would give me the thickest or most polished tone. Results could be quirky or “interesting” for lack of better term.
In everyone’s opinion would this be achieved through contrasting pickups on different guitars (eg a lipstick vs. humbucker, solid body vs. hollow body) or something else?
I am open to any input, whether it be suggesting two specific guitar models to overdub, two specific pickup models to contrast, etc.
Thank you for your help.
Interesting question. What is the musical context? The sparser the arrangement, the more you will be able to hear the differences between the instruments' tonal characteristics.
However once you begin to add modulation, reverb, delays etc you will begin to lose the subtle information about each guitar.

P.
Old 7th December 2019
  #4
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Thanks Pindrive. I’ve thought about the cheap guitar/pickup route as well. 60ish stuff perhaps?

I’m not a huge pedal guy. And use mostly virtual amps to record for convenience and to give myself more options tone-wise. I’m looking mostly to have a clean starting point, relying on the tonal qualities of the specific guitar.

For bass, I play a Fender PJ. I also have a Bass VI as well. I’m not sure if that’s what you are asking or not.
Old 7th December 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleGroOve View Post
Interesting question. What is the musical context? The sparser the arrangement, the more you will be able to hear the differences between the instruments' tonal characteristics.
However once you begin to add modulation, reverb, delays etc you will begin to lose the subtle information about each guitar.

P.
Thanks UncleGroOve. Solid point about arrangement. I hadn’t thought about that aspect.
I don’t really have a musical context, so to speak. In other words, there’s not a song I’m working on right now or anything. I’m looking for just general input. But my arrangements tend to be sonically dense or very sparse.
My favorite guitar sounds are usually direct through the board tones, a la the Beatles “Revolution” or the Red House Painter’s song, “Have You Forgotten.”
Old 7th December 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
Hello.
I am curious as to what people think the best combos of electric guitars to layer would be (without thinking about recording techniques such as filters, panning, etc).
My main guitar is a 90s Tele American Standard, all stock, through an 80s Fender Vibroverb. I mostly play clean to medium gain.
I’m not necessarily looking to achieve what would give me the thickest or most polished tone. Results could be quirky or “interesting” for lack of better term.
In everyone’s opinion would this be achieved through contrasting pickups on different guitars (eg a lipstick vs. humbucker, solid body vs. hollow body) or something else?
I am open to any input, whether it be suggesting two specific guitar models to overdub, two specific pickup models to contrast, etc.
Thank you for your help.
I think layering is highly overrated. Do it once, do it RIGHT.

Panned stereo doubles in the chorus, sure, otherwise, a lot of people make their records sound bad doubling down on things that don't need it.
Old 7th December 2019
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post
I think layering is highly overrated. Do it once, do it RIGHT.

Panned stereo doubles in the chorus, sure, otherwise, a lot of people make their records sound bad doubling down on things that don't need it.
I think the Timbre Wolf and the Rhythm Wolf are highly overrated, said no one ever.
Old 7th December 2019
  #8
Don't forget speakers. I have about 8 different ones and each voice differently. Sometimes for variety I'll swap amps and speakers but keep the same guitar.
Old 7th December 2019
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
Thanks UncleGroOve. Solid point about arrangement. I hadn’t thought about that aspect.
I don’t really have a musical context, so to speak. In other words, there’s not a song I’m working on right now or anything. I’m looking for just general input. But my arrangements tend to be sonically dense or very sparse.
My favorite guitar sounds are usually direct through the board tones, a la the Beatles “Revolution” or the Red House Painter’s song, “Have You Forgotten.”
We're already moving into "production" territory, so we might as well also consider
- hard panning right-left with different EQs on the 2 signals (e.g. a graphic EQ with alternate bands being pushed for each of the two tracks)
- Layering mic'd and direct sounds
- Crossover one signal and apply effects to one part of the signal spectrum (e.g. modulation just on the frequencies above 4K)

But again - as soon as the overall arrangement becomes too dense you will need to increase the tonal contrast between layers otherwise you won't be able to hear the layering effect.

At this point it would be interesting to hear something ;-)
Old 8th December 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Don't forget speakers. I have about 8 different ones and each voice differently. Sometimes for variety I'll swap amps and speakers but keep the same guitar.
What are your favorite amp/cabinet combos?
Old 8th December 2019
  #11
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Before you start looking at different guitars and amps, look at arrangement - open strings vs. capo can yield very different sounds. Don't play the same thing - play different parts that meld together and make something bigger. My $0.02.
Old 8th December 2019
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
What are your favorite amp/cabinet combos?
That's like picking a favorite child. All are enjoyed, all are useful. Your job is to find YOUR favorite combo?
Old 8th December 2019
  #13
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Pindrive's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
Thanks Pindrive. I’ve thought about the cheap guitar/pickup route as well. 60ish stuff perhaps?

I’m not a huge pedal guy. And use mostly virtual amps to record for convenience and to give myself more options tone-wise. I’m looking mostly to have a clean starting point, relying on the tonal qualities of the specific guitar.

For bass, I play a Fender PJ. I also have a Bass VI as well. I’m not sure if that’s what you are asking or not.
If you are playing a nice sounding classic rock, things are a lot different than if you are trying to get a death metal sound. Guitars, pickups, pedals, amps, speakers, rooms, are all big players in the end equation. I built guitars for a number of years. Flavors are everything. & mixing those flavors can be deeply personal. The two guitars I play the most are Super'tron equipped guitars. I can do a lot with pedals, They sound amazing & blend well with other guitars/pickups. Unfortunately, they are a Gretsch style pickup & are mostly found in Gretsch guitars & boutiques. But, if you ever get the chance, play these pickups through one of the earlier MXR Distortion+ pedals. A whole lot of magic happens.
Old 9th December 2019
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
Hello.
I am curious as to what people think the best combos of electric guitars to layer would be (without thinking about recording techniques such as filters, panning, etc).
My main guitar is a 90s Tele American Standard, all stock, through an 80s Fender Vibroverb. I mostly play clean to medium gain.
I’m not necessarily looking to achieve what would give me the thickest or most polished tone. Results could be quirky or “interesting” for lack of better term.
In everyone’s opinion would this be achieved through contrasting pickups on different guitars (eg a lipstick vs. humbucker, solid body vs. hollow body) or something else?
I am open to any input, whether it be suggesting two specific guitar models to overdub, two specific pickup models to contrast, etc.
Thank you for your help.
It all depends on what you're after - you could do 4 passes with the same guitar panned hard left and right, using different fingering positions for each one.

You could use two different guitars, chosen for the song and arrangement.

I would be a bit leery of using more than two, but your situation might be different.

You can also do tricks like recording one guitar part at half speed and playing back at full speed.

Or you might want to do one part on a Nashville tuned guitar.
Old 9th December 2019
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleGroOve View Post
We're already moving into "production" territory, so we might as well also consider
- hard panning right-left with different EQs on the 2 signals (e.g. a graphic EQ with alternate bands being pushed for each of the two tracks)
- Layering mic'd and direct sounds
- Crossover one signal and apply effects to one part of the signal spectrum (e.g. modulation just on the frequencies above 4K)

But again - as soon as the overall arrangement becomes too dense you will need to increase the tonal contrast between layers otherwise you won't be able to hear the layering effect.

At this point it would be interesting to hear something ;-)
And sometimes you may not WANT to hear the layering effect as such.
Old 10th December 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
And sometimes you may not WANT to hear the layering effect as such.
Of course John. It's like using spices... you wouldn't want to have bacon, garlic and chili on every dish you eat :-)
Old 10th December 2019
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nedorama View Post
Before you start looking at different guitars and amps, look at arrangement - open strings vs. capo can yield very different sounds. Don't play the same thing - play different parts that meld together and make something bigger. My $0.02.
+1 on the capo.
Old 10th December 2019
  #18
Depends on the song. Besides you’ll get bored doing the same thing all the time so mix it up. There’s no rules to making music, there’s just some parameters for the mix. Have at it.....we’ll there is the 3:1 rule and all lol
Old 10th December 2019
  #19
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I don’t think of any hard must haves, but when layering I find it helpful to have different tones and sometimes different parts...which can be achieved a lot of ways of course. Even with a single guitar, alternating pickups, rolling back volume/tone, changing picks, position, etc...all helpful. Different amps and or speakers and mics, pedals.. What’s very convenient about using an IR plugin or device like Two Notes is that of course it’s very fast to switch to a different cabinet/mic setup...I have a lot of presets I made that I go between. But even before digging into alternate guitars that makes for a lot of layering possibilities.
Old 10th December 2019
  #20
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nedorama View Post
Don't play the same thing
Yeah, my first question was gonna be Do You Mean "Layering" As In Doubling, Or "Layering" As In Creating A Multi-Guitar Arrangement?

And my semi-evasive answer to that question is, get a guitar -- any guitar -- and string it up for Nashville tuning. That's the special sauce for pop/rock guitar layers regardless of whether you mean Doubling or Arranging.
Old 11th December 2019
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
Yeah, my first question was gonna be Do You Mean "Layering" As In Doubling, Or "Layering" As In Creating A Multi-Guitar Arrangement?

And my semi-evasive answer to that question is, get a guitar -- any guitar -- and string it up for Nashville tuning. That's the special sauce for pop/rock guitar layers regardless of whether you mean Doubling or Arranging.
I used the Nashville tuning trick on a couple of songs and it sounds amazing. I've become a huge fan of using that doubling technique in the studio.

If you're looking at adding different sounding sonic layers and not so much adding an effected sound, I've had a lot of great results by double-tracking guitars using the same amp and pickup setup, but just changing cabinets for the other track.
Old 12th December 2019
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pindrive View Post
If you are playing a nice sounding classic rock, things are a lot different than if you are trying to get a death metal sound. Guitars, pickups, pedals, amps, speakers, rooms, are all big players in the end equation. I built guitars for a number of years. Flavors are everything. & mixing those flavors can be deeply personal. The two guitars I play the most are Super'tron equipped guitars. I can do a lot with pedals, They sound amazing & blend well with other guitars/pickups. Unfortunately, they are a Gretsch style pickup & are mostly found in Gretsch guitars & boutiques. But, if you ever get the chance, play these pickups through one of the earlier MXR Distortion+ pedals. A whole lot of magic happens.
Pindrive, I have played Gretsch guitars but don’t own any. Have you tried the TV Jones pickups? And if so, are you partial to the Super’trons and why. Thanks
Old 12th December 2019
  #23
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Thanks very much for everyone’s suggestions. I appreciate it. Most of these things techniques I’ve already done or know about. Perhaps the title of my post is misleading. I’m primarily interested in electric guitars ( or pickups) with the most unique or strangest tone. If anyone has any suggestions or favorites, I love to hear them.
Old 12th December 2019
  #24
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Pindrive's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
Pindrive, I have played Gretsch guitars but don’t own any. Have you tried the TV Jones pickups? And if so, are you partial to the Super’trons and why. Thanks
The Super'trons I have are all TV Jones made. I wasn't finding what I wanted from TV Jones Filtertron pickups when it was suggested by Tom that I try Super'Trons. If I want real edgy rock guitar tone, there is nothing better, to my taste. With the right overdrive, they really shine. The thing I really like about super is that it has a bar, instead of pole screws, that takes that filtertron sound blends the strings together & gives a better signal across. I am a big p-90 guy. Not so much into the gibson style humbucker. Humbuckers sound too wide(for lack of a better term), P90s often have drawbacks. Filtertrons were close but, TV Jones versions just had too much string separation for playing bar chords & heavy rock stye lead. They are great for Traditional Rockabilly but, even Setzer uses Super'trons in some of his more rocking' sounding guitar work. You can hear it, if you listen. So, for me, they give a sound that cuts the fog & gives a great edge for anything from RocknRoll to Punk, & even some heavier stuff, if needed. Of course you can go mellow with them too. I even have the coils split on one of my Bridge PU's. In single coil mode, it has like 2.4ohms.... doesn't sound bad but, I haven't found a good use for them split, yet....
Anyhow, by chance, I had brought a guitar to a friends house, for him to try out. He handed me this old Distortion+ pedal to plug it into. In a million years I didn't expect it to stop me in my tracks. The combo of a filtertron style pickup & those early 80's Distortion+ pedals is a magic combo. Other pedals sound great, as well. But, there is magic in that combo.
Old 12th December 2019
  #25
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrintheemaking View Post
I’m primarily interested in electric guitars ( or pickups) with the most unique or strangest tone.
Well, this might qualify: A number of years ago I had a mild epiphany when I took an archtop hollowbody f-hole guitar strung up with flatwounds -- iow, your archetypal "jazz guitar" that would ordinarily spend 100% of its life set to the neck pickup with the tone control slightly rolled off and played through an ultra-clean amp -- and set it to the bridge pickup, then plugged it into a cranked Vox AC30

Totally badass rock'n'roll tone...yet completely unlike any of the usual go-to rock'n'roll tones I'd ever cobbled together previously.

Layer that with your usual go-to Les Paul-into-a-Marshall-Plexi or Tele-into-a-Deluxe and prepare to have your world rocked.


Alternately: Get ahold of one of the old GR-series (pre 15-pin, circa 1985) Roland guitar synths and set it to hex fuzz only (i.e., no "synth" output). Use that to double your crunchy rhythm guitar track.
Old 12th December 2019
  #26
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Years ago I read an interview with Eliot Easton of the Cars where he discussed how he got his sound in the studio. I wish I remembered what magazine the article was in.

He mentioned playing in stereo using an Eventide H3000 or maybe it was an older model. He tracked the same part dirty using humbuckers and doing a couple of takes. Then he track the same part a couple of times with a Tele and trebly and clean. He'd blend to taste.

This promted me to put together a live rig based on his use of the Eventide and man did my live sound slay dragons. Fat - major tone. Granted, I was happy just playing through my vintage Deluxe Reverb which was a lot easier to haul to gifs but that rig of mine shure was the cheese. I played through a Real Tube PreAmp and a Mos Valve power amp into two 12" speaker enclosure. I could sound like a Deluxe or a stack of Marshalls. It was the best of both worlds. Only problem was I had no roadies.
Old 12th December 2019
  #27
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A lot "country music" guys say that nothing blends as well with an acoustic guitar than a clean Tele recorded through a nice tube amp.
Old 13th December 2019
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PdotDdot View Post
Years ago I read an interview with Eliot Easton of the Cars where he discussed how he got his sound in the studio. I wish I remembered what magazine the article was in.

He mentioned playing in stereo using an Eventide H3000 or maybe it was an older model. He tracked the same part dirty using humbuckers and doing a couple of takes. Then he track the same part a couple of times with a Tele and trebly and clean. He'd blend to taste.

This promted me to put together a live rig based on his use of the Eventide and man did my live sound slay dragons. Fat - major tone. Granted, I was happy just playing through my vintage Deluxe Reverb which was a lot easier to haul to gifs but that rig of mine shure was the cheese. I played through a Real Tube PreAmp and a Mos Valve power amp into two 12" speaker enclosure. I could sound like a Deluxe or a stack of Marshalls. It was the best of both worlds. Only problem was I had no roadies.
I think you bring up a great point, Pdot. Whenever I mix two sources that are similar, I find the results are more lackluster (to my ears). The magic seems to happen when I mix the same sort of instrument but with a dissimilar source...for example, a stereo track of analog strings with stereo samples of organic, “real strings.” The warmest and biggest acoustic sound I’ve gotten was mixing a quality Gibson acoustic with a $50 classical guitar from China. You didn’t really hear “oh there’s that p.o.s. classical.” It just sounded like a really dynamic and full acoustic guitar track.
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