As guitar players, we have all recorded sweet solos and groovy riffs that sound amazing – just to have the mixing engineer/producers scrap them in the final mix!
Well sometimes they are just not “guitar-friendly” guys, but it’s most of the time a matter of layering guitar parts properly – it takes a bit of time to take that burden on as guitar players, but layering guitar parts properly will eventually make your (and clients) songs sound better and save you time with overdubs and revisions.
In this article I want to share only my approach to doing it, it’s not a blueprint of how to do it not it means that my way Is better than yours. I will also share a list of guitar players I think are masters of layering guitar tracks.
Composing layered guitar parts
For the sake of adding some structure to this article, I will divide guitar layering into 2 different but very connected Areas – Composing in the musical aspect and composing in the sonic aspects.
In the words of Tim Pierce, one of the greatest session guitarists of all time
” A song is a spectrum of frequencies – the job of a session player Is to fill that spectrums.”
In the sonic spectrum think of it as in this example.
Recording Pop Guitar
If you are playing guitar on an electronic or modern pop song – the low mid frequencies are usually filled with synths and synth bass and the Low is usually full of more modern sound too.
That leaves you with your small space in the higher minds and also high frequencies – so this is why you hear those clean twangy clean guitar fills are sometimes (hopefully) a proper rhythm clean guitar that doesn’t have lows or low minds to it.
Recording Rock Guitar
If for example, you are in a more rock situation you can divide the song sonically in a drive rhythm guitar double tracked that has those minds and for example and octave guitar fill in the chorus that is playing along with the power chords – but does not have the low end and minds of the rhythm guitars.
Of course, an engineer will later EQ the tracks but it’s highly likely they will be scrapped if not recorded properly.
Speaking on the composing side of the guitar layering process stick (or not) with this rule of thumb I personally use:
“Do what serve the song and serve musical ideas – not just lick and riffs!”
Add up guitar tracks until you know you found the right ones and then keep listening and try to remove them one by one until you think you have got the meaning
Using Different Guitar Tones on one song
What we learned from The Edge of U2 during this last 30+ years is that your tone can dictate you’re playing! Jimi page once called him a sonic Innovator for his contribution to all modern age guitars.
Some of my personal advice would be:
- Set up a tone you can control by raising and lowering the gain on the volume knob or pedal and start layering with that. I believe that adds some consistency to the track at first – then you can unleash doom on earth with your pedalboard if you want!
- Start with a delay time that matches the bpm of the song, then drift off it to create depth or just more musicality
- Another tip I would give is to layer guitar tracks with pickup configuration when layering different guitar tracks – especially clean tones and arpeggios.
- Don’t make delay feedback very loud during your solo cause it might affect the way you play
- Use reverb to give space to the tracks and to get inspired, not to cover mistakes, also use the same reverb type or just a few ones.
- Try to cut the low end of the reverb and delay to not make the tracks muddy
- Compress only when you need to, not to even up all playing
- Try to remove the low out of drive guitars when layering so that you can imagine how the track will be mixed in the final version during your recording session
These are only a few. There are a ton of other stuff you can use and probably way better sites where you can learn from.
How to pan guitar tracks, create width and space?
Remember that different genres are more guitar-centered, so probably there is much more guitar panning being done in metal or prig than in modem pop.
- Try Hard Panning rhythm guitars on heavier tunes, just make sure it’s 2 different takes
- Try using the same tone but playing a bit differently or playing the same with a tiny difference in the tone
- Start from 100% panned that go closer to the center until the tracks don’t feel “weird anymore”
- Sometimes you can add some slight delay at a different tempo or some reverb to create the effect panning does, but I still would go with panning
- If your fills are playing along with the vocal, try panning theme bit to the side
Is Double Tracking Guitars Necessary?
“don’t think of double-tracking as a way “it should” be done, because it’s not the only way – see it as a creative choice rather than a necessity to create a big guitar tone. Double tracking can easily help you make a guitar sound huge, but it can just as well turn into a mess if the performance is not solid, or if there are other issues (such as inconsistent tuning between takes)”
Personally, I prefer to double-track rock rhythm guitars & rhythm acoustic guitars for more options during mixing – regarding other types of tracks like solos and fills – it’s mostly an artistic choice.
The Masters of Layering Guitar Parts
1- Lindsey Buckingham
Just check out how well arranged and mixed are the guitars on the Fleetwood Mac the Chains. Lindsey Buckingham is one of the most underrated guitarists in history in my opinion.
2- David Gilmour
Well, what can I say? It’s no surprise that David Gilmour is one of the best minds when it comes to layering guitar tracks. Attaching here is a not very much-known song from their album the division bell written by Richer Wright.
The way the guitar fills enters the song is a textbook lesson on how to do it!
3- Tom Bukovac – Your Old Uncle Larry or Little Tommy from Cleveland
Well, you might not know him – but he is one of the top Nashville studio players now sharing his wisdom and Infinite coolness with a love for rolling rocks in his Homeskoolin YouTube Series. You can find his work in thousands of records
My Last Words
To sum it up hear and read the more you can then mess stuff up until you figure out the right way!
And if you won’t need some guitar tracks recorded and layered for your track CONTACT ME and we will get it done!
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