Recording the same guitar part twice, and then combing them in the mix is known as “double tracking”. It is a simple technique which can be very effective, and is easy enough to try in a home studio – no matter how basic.
Why Double Track Guitars?
If you have a guitar part which needs more substance without making it any more complex, double tracking is an ideal technique. It can also help to pad out a mix that needs to stay simple, or help give a solo more character.
As with double tracking vocals, you are reliant on the musician being able to duplicate their performance very closely, so this technique may not work straight away for every guitarist. For less precise guitarists, expect to spend some time editing the two parts to match each other, but don’t get bogged down on making them identical because you will lose the effect if you edit too heavily.
Recording the first guitar part is the same as recording a guitar normally, just make sure you are happy with the complete performance before moving on, it will make the process much easier later on. Feed this original take back into the guitarist’s headphones when you record the second part so they have something to match to. You will probably find that you need to experiment with the relative levels of the two parts to make the musician comfortable. Some people prefer to have a lot of the current take in their headphones with just a small amount of the original as a reference, and others will prefer to focus more on the original take to duplicate it closely so will need to hear more of it.
If you can’t find this balance easily, something else you can try is to have the musician play with just one side of the headphones on and only send them the original part. They should be able to hear their own instrument live with the free ear, whether it’s acoustic or through an amp, which can help make them more comfortable.
Rhythm guitars sound great when double tracked, especially if they are acoustic. If the two parts are very tight with each other, you can mix them together in equal parts and pan them centrally This gives you a clean and tidy chorus effect, which sounds a bit like a chunky twelve-string guitar. If the two parts are not quite so tight, back off the level of one just to support and add colour to the lead part. Alternatively, you can pan the two parts away from each other for a very wide stereo image. In this arrangement, you will find that the differences between the two takes matter less and give a kind of stereo-shimmer which can be an interesting texture in the background of a mix.
Using the same recording technique, you can draw attention to a lead guitar part without making it too dominant. Essentially treat the guitar exactly the same as if you were double tracking vocals. This gives a very tight and professional sound to guitar solos, and with a good guitarist is extremely effective.