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Layering Guitars Directly On Top Of Each Other
Old 18th October 2013
  #1
Gear Nut
 
mpapatonis's Avatar
 

Layering Guitars Directly On Top Of Each Other

As I'm sure many of us do, I double heavy guitar parts and hard pan them. Sometimes I'll layer guitars as well, by having the guitarist play the root notes or whole note chords. No issues with any of this.

I have a current client who is interested in layering the exact same parts on top of each other (possibly with slightly different tones). I never do this because I always end up with random (or excessive) phasing.

Has anyone done this? What techniques do you use? Thanks in advance.
Old 18th October 2013
  #2
As long as it's a different guitar and a different amp, layering the same parts shouldn't pose an issue. The key to doing this is to have a reason for it (i.e. you want a cleaner sound mixed with a dirty sound to achieve a tone that is impossible to achieve otherwise).

Just layering for the sake of layering because that's what the artist thinks should happen doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but in the interest of pleasing the client, let them do whatever they want during tracking and then take out the unnecessary parts during the mix process.

At the end of the day, if you present an amazing mix to the client, they won't even realize that a part of two wasn't included, especially if it's just a layered sound.
Old 18th October 2013
  #3
I've done this on occasion, and while it's a pain in the ass, it can sound HUGE. It tends to work best on bigger guitar parts with more space, as opposed to fast, tight stuff.

A couple of things to keep in mind:
- Stay on top of the tuning. If the takes are slightly out of tune (even from the player unwillingly bending the strings with his fret hand) you'll get more of the warble-y weirdness than you'll probably want.
- The performances need to be rhythmically TIGHT. Sloppy rhythm playing will just turn it into a mess.
- Using different tones isn't absolutely necessary, but it can help stave off phase issues. I usually use different tones (swapping out guitars and heads) but with the same mic setup, that way the mic distance stays consistent.
Old 18th October 2013
  #4
Gear Nut
 
mpapatonis's Avatar
 

Thanks for the input. I tried different guitars and heads, but still had phase issues. It's an aggressive prog rock thing with lots of fast licks so that makes the layering even more complicated.
Old 18th October 2013
  #5
You will not get phase if there recorded at different times. Phase will happen when you clone tracks (copy tracks).

You will never get phase when you record the same guitar parts at different times (different takes).

Cj
Old 18th October 2013
  #6
Moderator
 
Blast9's Avatar
Same amp, same speaker, different mics and radical EQ should help differentiate the layered parts playing exactly the same. Eg roll of top and bottom for one part, cut mids in the other. etc

Might want to try vocalign or something similar to line up the attack of the notes.

maybe try the secondary layers with a short rolled-off reverb tucked in there to sit it/them behind the main guitar
Old 18th October 2013
  #7
Registered User
You could always use autotune and audio quantize and/or gating to solve any major problems. You are effectively creating a chorus ensemble or dimension effect manually to get a little organic warmth, and I actually think that some very subtle detuning is essential. So i'm not suggesting autotuning all parts to A=440 equal temperament by default. A few cents variation can be good - too much and it becomes too fake (which might be good, but probably not).

A little formant shift can give subtle variations between takes too.

Phasing can be an issue, even with new takes. Cloned takes are always an issue, but you can mess with these. If you think in terms of an ensemble or dimension or pitch shift chorus effect you shouldn't go too wrong, and I wouldn't rule out using clones or a good dimension effect if you want this sort of sound but the player is too sloppy.
Old 18th October 2013
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
NAJ89's Avatar
 

I layer heavy gtrs all the time, sometimes with different amps/gtrs/mics, sometimes with the same chain.

If you record different takes with the same chain you need tight playing and you need to vary the EQ or processing on the different takes, but be careful not to create new problems by doing so. Trying notching out some high-mid or high-end on one of the guitars, really search around for an effective area. The thicker the layering, the more radical the EQ.

That said, its easier if you vary the chain when you're recording than it is to fix in the mix.

Also, layering a clean gtr with heavy gtrs can really add clarity to heavy tracks.

NAJ
Old 19th October 2013
  #9
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kittonian View Post
Just layering for the sake of layering because that's what the artist thinks should happen doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but in the interest of pleasing the client, let them do whatever they want during tracking and then take out the unnecessary parts during the mix process.
Layering for the sake of layering makes a whole lot of sense - if you are looking for a bigger, fatter sound with more depth. It all depends on what you are after and what the song calls for (and the genre as well), but even if you are not after that wall-to-wall sound, layering can still be useful. As for taking stuff out during the mix process... .. absolutely terrible idea if the guitar player has a decent pair of ears. Different story if he or she is a newb. Tell you what - if I went into a studio, and did 4 takes (2 l and 2 r), and the engineer mixed the track with only two (1 l and 1 r), he would be read the riot act and then some - because I would be able to tell that two tracks were missing by about :03 in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
I've done this on occasion, and while it's a pain in the ass, it can sound HUGE. It tends to work best on bigger guitar parts with more space, as opposed to fast, tight stuff.

A couple of things to keep in mind:
- Stay on top of the tuning. If the takes are slightly out of tune (even from the player unwillingly bending the strings with his fret hand) you'll get more of the warble-y weirdness than you'll probably want.
- The performances need to be rhythmically TIGHT. Sloppy rhythm playing will just turn it into a mess.
- Using different tones isn't absolutely necessary, but it can help stave off phase issues. I usually use different tones (swapping out guitars and heads) but with the same mic setup, that way the mic distance stays consistent.
+1 to all that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
You will never get phase when you record the same guitar parts at different times (different takes).
Absolutely false. While it is far from a common occurence, slight phasing can and will happen if the guitarist's timing is rock solid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blast9 View Post
Might want to try vocalign or something similar to line up the attack of the notes.
Eeeewwwww nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
You could always use autotune and audio quantize and/or gating to solve any major problems.
Eeeewwwww nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by NAJ89 View Post
If you record different takes with the same chain you need tight playing and you need to vary the EQ or processing on the different takes...
Need for tight playing - absolutely. Need for varing the EQ or processing - not necessarily. Many times this is a good idea, but it isn't something you need to do.

Cheers.
Old 19th October 2013
  #10
Registered User
So what do you do when it turns out the guy can't play tight to save his life?

Depends a lot if you want to sound modern or retro. There is nothing wrong with anything that gets you the results you want. Including tuning, time aligning, gating, heavy processing ...

It's 2013 and it takes a lot to wow people with generic guitar stuff these days ...
Old 19th October 2013
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Johnny Favorite's Avatar
 

Quote:
You will never get phase when you record the same guitar parts at different times (different takes).
I do.
Old 19th October 2013
  #12
Moderator
 
Blast9's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat
Eeeewwwww nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!
Well of course I agree... Let's hope the guy is able to precisely double (quadruple?) those fast intricate riffs/licks. If Steve Vai can do it... :-)

PS What Would Mutt Do?
Old 19th October 2013
  #13
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Jazz Noise's Avatar
It's just listening. If you like the tone and articulation of the first L and Rtakes, but want some beef then add a heavier tone. If it's too dull, the overdub should be brighter. If you want to pull the overall thing back or forward, use different mic placement on different tracks. Maybe having a centre guitar that's more scooped than the side ones to let the vocals true would help. Mixing tones with different qualities is really what makes double tracking worthwhile to me. You get a lot more depth for largely the same work (The actual double tracking being the hard part for most).
Old 19th October 2013
  #14
Lives for gear
I do it all the time. i'm not a fan of hard left and hard right double tracked parts generally.

I prefer layering 2 takes played through different setups because it makes the guitar fatter.

but it depends on the song. I was mixing a song last wekk where the main guitar was panned hard left with a double track of a different rig almost hard left. made guitar 1 sound fatter.

got to the chorus and it went gtr1 hard left followed by gtr2 hard right for contrast as guitars bounced left then right.

then the middle eight was guitar 1 part hard left and double track through different rig panned centre. - filled the overall space well being a guitar focussed mid 8 and gave it stereo width support.
Old 19th October 2013
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
thesolipsist's Avatar
 

Something else to consider when layering heavy tracks is to ease back on the gain, a bit less than if you were just single tracking
Old 19th October 2013
  #16
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
So what do you do when it turns out the guy can't play tight to save his life?
Old 19th October 2013
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Or let him do solos only. Sloppy solos can be some good fun when in the right context, but only occasionally.
Old 19th October 2013
  #18
Using identical rig Gtr and mics etc but switch pickups on the two different tracks can sound great. I prefer doing one track and reamping the DI with different amps or fx. You retain the feel of a take much better as layering tends to make it sound anonymous (eg Mutt Lange productions).
Old 19th October 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpapatonis View Post
As I'm sure many of us do, I double heavy guitar parts and hard pan them. Sometimes I'll layer guitars as well, by having the guitarist play the root notes or whole note chords. No issues with any of this.

I have a current client who is interested in layering the exact same parts on top of each other (possibly with slightly different tones). I never do this because I always end up with random (or excessive) phasing.

Has anyone done this? What techniques do you use? Thanks in advance.
It's fine as long as it is hard panned that can even give it some additional stereo width, the issues start when you start using the pan knobs. Just don't forget that they need to fit with the other sound sources on the same speaker...
Old 20th October 2013
  #20
Gear Nut
 
mpapatonis's Avatar
 

That's exactly what the client wants though. I have a double (two different takes) panned hard left and right, but he wants to layer over them with more identical parts panned hard as well. He says that he's read that some of his favorite recordings were done that way.

Again though, I've tried different guitars, different heads, different amounts of gain, etc. I still hear some phasing in spots. Perhaps he's TOO tight to the previous performances. Doesn't seem to thicken the tone. Sounds more like I added a random phaser.
Old 21st October 2013
  #21
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code green's Avatar
What he's read aside, any better results if you slightly offset one track on each side to not quite hard L/R?
Old 21st October 2013
  #22
Lives for gear
have you tired nudging one side 10-20ms? that can make a big difference
Old 21st October 2013
  #23
Ive gotten best results with a singular cab, I like my vintage orange and hiwatt, using 3 mics using all the same mic preamp brand, I used Aurora gtp8. Pick mics for all 3 freq ranges. I prefer a 57 or beta 57 for mid, aea r84 for full range and that great bottom, and a Charter Oak 900t with cardiod capsule, for the highend, all placed and moved until there is no phase issues between them. Then you can layer with multiple amp heads, and switch out guitars, as many layers as you wish, i like 4, as long as you DONT move the mics and use the same cab. This way there will be zero phase issues due to mic placement because they never move throughout all the layers. And like Cory said, tuning is paramount, and I cant stress enough.... the tighness of the performance is the most important thing, to the millisecond, tight. Also, when layering a lot of layers you have to tame down the gain, way less than youd like for a single performance, it adds up when you layer, if you start with too much youll end up with a mess. This is a technique I learned when I did a record with Joe Barressi back in 2001, and it works very well if your super anal retentive other mics and pres work well too, I was just mentioning what I typically use. You can even go further, and use amps that are voiced in the low, mid and high ranges in the layers. For instance, a Diezel Herbert for huge tight bottom, marshall ish amp for mid, and vht pitbull or bogner twinjet for highs. This is a much more complex endevour, but done right its truely huge.
-L

Sent from my SGH-T889
Old 21st October 2013
  #24
Ps. Nudging tracks is not a good idea, in my experience it just sounds loose, and causes phase issues. But there is no "wrong way" really, as long as you or your client is happy with it.

Sent from my SGH-T889
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