Saturday, May 9

Tips in Mixing Electric Guitars using "Double Tracking" Technique

One of the key elements in rock mix is thick and heavy guitar sound. One of the effective ways to accomplish this sound in the mixing process is through a technique called as "Double Tracking". In this post I will illustrate how to double track guitars in the mix with the objective of making it heavy and thick.

Bear in mind there a lot of ways to thicken the guitar sound. Double tracking is one of the easier ways. Alternatively you can do:
a. Compression on guitars to make it sound thick.
b. Applying effects such as maximizer to increase loudness.
c. Parallel compression.

If the guitar sounds thin and weak, it will tend to affect the commercial appeal of the song especially if it is being marketed as a pure rock or alternative music. It is highly essential to mix things right but…

The following are the important requirement before you can double track the guitar in the mix:

Guitar image source:

a. The recording of the guitar should be free of noise and normalize to the maximum volume.
b. If the guitar is recorded twice, it should also be clean and normalized. But it is not required to record it twice.
c. Record with the best distortion tone you need. Do not record it yet if you are not yet convinced of the distortion tone. Much better to experiment with a live band before starting to record the guitar. The overall purpose is to have a clean and final recording ready for mixing. Remember it is not advisable to fix the distortion tone in the mix; it makes the mixing process to be complicated.
d. Double check the tuning of the guitars, even slightly out of tune guitars can be problematic since if you double tracked it will tend to worsen the out of tune guitars.

It is also highly important particularly in the recent pop rock music trend to achieve not only thick guitar sound but it is also a wide guitar sound. This will achieve the “airy” sound of the distorted guitars.

So how do we start the mix?

1. Start with placing the 1st track in the Track one of the mixing session.
2. Place the other guitar track in the Track two of the mixing session. If you are recording only once, just copy and paste the wav file in the Track one to Track two.
3. Pan the Track one to -75 units (left). Depending on your recording software, this could be in %, for example if the maximum left pan setting is 100% so it will be 75/100 or 75%.
4. Pan the Track two to 75 units (right).
5. Now to get that wide thick sound, you can apply 5ms delay to one of the guitar (either left or right) (mix 100%)
6. To even make it heavier, do not anymore apply reverb on any of the tracks ( it is highly important that the reverb is from the room and amp based reverb that will be realized during the recording process). It is because if you start applying reverb on the guitar, it will tend to sound weak and far. Since you are mixing for rock, it is important to get the “in your face” guitar sound.
7. EQ it properly, do not cut too much bass in the distorted guitar, it will help add the heaviness sound.
8. Cut 1000Hz and 800 Hz on any guitar to make sound so clean and avoid the cracking sound.
9. Adjust the track one and track two volume and stop when it is loud enough for the guitar tracks to be heard, not dominating the vocals.
10. Cut 3000Hz with around -6dB and Q of 1.0 for both guitar tracks.
11. If your effects are arrange serially below are the sequence of effects that will be placed in each guitar:
a. Parametric Equalizer
b. Compressor
c. Reverb (optional) necessary only if the guitar tracks is too dry.
d. Delay (only on one track)

It is highly important to rely on your ears to do the settings. Do not believe in holy grail settings of compressor, EQ, they are there to serve as a guide and it is important to stick with the basic principles in double tracked mixing such as above.

DEMO: Listen to mix below applying the principles above:

Song Title: "At the highway"
Author/Publisher: Emerson Roble Maningo
Artist: Jeanine Maningo
Producer: Emerson Roble Maningo
Publisher page: