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Barry’s Guide to Recording Guitars – Electronic Doubling!

If you read the tech-tip on keyboard recording, we talked about doubling techniques for creating a wide, full sound. You may recall that we also mentioned that they could also be applied to guitar.

Doubling a guitar part is a very common technique. Doubling can cover up some possible glitches in the performance and can give the guitar a very wide, larger-than-life sound. Pan the double apart from the original instrument, and you’ll usually get a multidimensional wall of guitars that can sonically carry much of the arrangement. Doubling works well in rock tunes where the guitar must sound very huge and impressive. In fact, doubled hard-panned left and right guitars has become a staple of metal and hard rock recording.

Doubling Techniques
Doubling can be accomplished in two ways; Electronic doubling involves patching the instrument through some type of effect such as a short delay or pitch shifting device, then combining that with the original instrument. A live double simply involves playing the part twice onto different tracks or recording two players (playing the identical part) onto one or two tracks. Both techniques sound great. Experiment! Let the music help you decide.

Electronic Double Settings
To set up an electronic double, use a delay time between 0ms and about 35ms. Short doubles, below about 7ms, don’t give a very broad-sounding double, but they can produce interesting and full sounds and are definitely worth trying. When doubling, use prime numbers for delay times. You’ll hear better results (less comb filtering) when your song is played in mono. (A prime number can only be divided by one and itself, e.g., 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29 and so on). Pan the original guitar to one side and the delay to the other. In my experience, I’ve found that delays of 23 to 27ms work best (especially on voice), but that’s not to say that these are the only settings to use. Different settings may work better in the context of your music. You can also add a little modulation to create a light chorusing effect. Doubling can also be accomplished with a pitch changing effect such as a Harmonizer or similar device. The trick is to raise or lower the pitch by a small amount (10 cents or so) and mix it with the original. This combined with a little delay adds another dimension to the result.

Mix Issues
Always check a double in mono to make sure the part sounds good in both stereo and mono. Slight changes in delay time can make the part disappear or cut through strong in mono. Find the delay time that works well in stereo and mono. Again, prime numbers work best when summing to mono. If you’ve panned the original full left and the delay full right, the sounds are very impressive in a stereo mix, but these hard-panned tracks often disappear when the mix is played in mono. Try repositioning the pan adjustments so they are only partially left and partially right.

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