Death by Doubling

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 3.40.19 PM

This photo was originally a line of 137 amps, but I had to crop it to fit this small space.

Premier Guitar has just posted a new installment in my Recording Guitarist column. The topic: doubling riffs for fatter sounds. Using a single guitar part (and a great drum performance swiped from Dawn Richardson), I tried every doubling trick in the book. plus some ones that wise editors expunged from the book. We’re talking amps, mics, panning, processing, analog vs. digital—real OCD stuff.

Is it interesting enough to justify  listening to the same part doubled 20 different ways? Depends how big a geek you are!

For the less geeky, here’s a concise executive summary:

Q. How many doubles do you need for maximum fatness?

A: Between zero and a lot.

Q: How many is too many?

A: Fewer than the 21 tracks in my last over-the-top example.

That, plus some helpful information, just to keep things lively. :smirk:

12 comments to Death by Doubling

  • NotSoFast

    … got to wait until I have some quality time to dig into the entire doubling review. Thanks again! Far faster to consume it than produce it!

  • smgear


    Just to add a couple more varieties for those in an experimenting mood…

    – record an octave take and sink it deep into the background or in one of the wet effects doubles (a thick reverb for example)

    – retune between takes. If you give yourself a spread of +- 1-2 cents on the doubles, you can get a really beefy tone.

    – if it’s a full mix and things aren’t sitting right, keep the lead eq natural, but selectively eq the doubles – either before the reamp or after. Use the double’s to precisely round out the eq balance rather than compromising the lead with an after-the-fact EQ. It will sound much more natural.

    • joe

      All great ideas — thanks! In fact, some of the multi-amp setups I used are really just another way of getting to the same place you’d wind up using your EQ method. For that matter, so would doubling a part with a different guitar — a HUGE topic I didn’t even touch in this particular article. Also missing: changing the part on the double, as in the octave example you mention. Sigh — another day.

      The tuning tip is really wise, too — except that for me, the guitar always seems to drift at least that much without any conscious effort on my part. 😉

  • smgear

    side Q Joe, are you still using an avalon/apogee recording chain? Are you still digging it? I’ll be rebuilding my ‘studio’ setup in a couple months (I’ve been on the road for over a decade) and this time around I’d like to keep things as simple and transparent as possible. There’s a ton of great gear out there these days, but I don’t want to play the digital format/ i/o games. I’d rather just have a simple system that works and lets me focus on recording. I seem to recall you expressing similar thoughts when you got the apogee. How was your experience been with it?


    • joe

      Given what you said, you sound like an idea Apollo candidate. It’s clean, simple, sound great, and just WORKS. The only downside relative to, say, larger Avid or Apogee systems is the number of physical inputs. But if you’re mostly doing solo/overdub stuff, no problem.

      I used to feel I needed a larger system for tracking drums. But then this cool old studio literally a few doors down from me got revamped by some guy named JJ Weisler, and now I just go there when I need drums. Oh, lookit — there’s JJ, right here in this thread! 🙂

      • smgear

        cool. I dig the Apollo (except for lacking digital outs). I’ve been trying to ween myself off of drums for years anyways. 🙂

  • mwseniff

    I pretty much play slide all the time so YMMV but I have a different method. I double tracks using different scale length guitars like a strat or tele for 25.5″, SG or other 24 3/4″ scale, a Jaguar for 23″ scale, a mini guitar like my mini- May or small Stewart McDonald strat or even a Laguna mini with scales from 15″ up to 22″. The different scale lengths make a nice difference in tone as well as vibrato variations. I also use lap steels for doubling I have them with several different scale lengths from 22″ to 25.5″ the physics of the lap steel make a nice variation. I have had good results with panning as well as inverting some tracks, however I usually keep one track mostly centered and loudest as sort of an anchor. I have also used fx with some tracks 100% wet. Since I got the Speakerphone plug in I have been experimenting with just using a single guitar recording with other duplicate tracks that are processed by various Speakerphone fx 100% wet. Using the fx as doubling seems to work best with almost subliminal levels of the effected track. Finally another thing I have found is that having a really clean version of the track like a DI mixed in can focus the whole thing. A final caveat is that if you are doubling slide you need to really be aware of your intonation (unless you really want something wonky). I have a buddy that uses different mic placement as well as different mics for doubling which creates some nice textures. That being said the whole doubling thing can be kind of subtle and a lot of people never really catch it in the way intended, heck a lot of the time it isn’t even noticed as anything other than a good guitar tone.

  • I really love the sound of the panned spring reverb example… it adds “bigness”, but sounds much more open and distinctive than multiple overdubs. I hear a similar technique on a lot of 60s era recordings, where a plate or chamber reverb would be used on a main vocal, but kept low in the mix and panned to one side. I think it subtly gives the vocal a sense of depth and presence without being overbearing.

    Also, a handy thing you can do in Logic: instead of duplicating a track to do the offset trick, you can insert a plugin called “sample delay” (under the Delay menu) to offset the left and right channels by a few milliseconds.

  • Very informative session once again, thank you, Joe!
    Still waiting if they ever get to virtually simulate those mid-80’s half rack Boss micro devices before the times of Lexicon/Yamaha/Alesis real digital era.
    About 20-50 ms delay with a taste of modulation wet/dry panned into stereo image did magic in the mix when reel-to-reel fostex had run out of tracks.
    Yes, there sure was some noise and distortion involved, but in those ages demos were mixed onto Hi-Fi VHS and mixing got approved on Blaupunkt car C-cassette player, weren’t those the days?
    So much modeling to be done from those days.
    Crappiest reverb gadgets could well be caught onto impulses, but that modulation computing of early digital cheapo systems must require some rude algorithming, I’m afraid…

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