Double Tracking Acoustic Guitar Tips to Get the Best Sound

Double tracking acoustic guitar has been a popular recording technique since double tracking was very pioneered by Buddy Holly in the 1950’s.

Double tracking offers a number of advantages of a single tracked acoustic guitar, so let’s cover some double tracking acoustic guitar tips to help you record and mix a better pair of acoustic guitar tracks.

double tracking acoustic guitar

What is Double Tracking Acoustic Guitar

Double tracking acoustic guitar is exactly what it sounds like – instead of tracking/recording one performance of the acoustic guitar for your song, you do it twice.

Why double track acoustic guitar?

Double tracking acoustic guitar instantly creates a pleasant width to that guitar when they’re panned wide in the mix opposite one another.

Simply copying and pasting that first recording and splitting the duplicate wide against the original doesn’t accomplish the same thing, it will just sound louder.

Recording a single take of your acoustic guitar with two microphones also won’t work, although the two tracks will sound slightly different in terms of tone.

To achieve the natural size in your acoustic guitars that you hear on commercial mixes, you need to have two unique recordings, meaning two unique waveforms.

Now let’s cover some double tracking acoustic guitar tips.

Double Tracking Acoustic Guitar Tips

Let’s get into some double tracking acoustic guitar tips now. Make sure you check out my tips for recording acoustic guitar as I offer a number of methods for getting the best recordings with both one or multiple microphones.

Speaking of which…

How to Mic an Acoustic Guitar

Whether you’re single tracking or double tracking, make sure you know the best spot and way to mic an acoustic guitar:

how to mic an acoustic guitar

The sweet spot is generally found by aiming a microphone 6-12 inches away from the 12th fret.

A small diaphragm condenser cardioid microphone typically works best (see condenser vs dynamic microphones).

Make sure you’re sitting when you record as this ensures less movement of the guitar relative to the microphone, as well.

Get the Two Recordings as Similar As Possible

This probably goes without saying, but you want to get the two recordings as similar as possible. This means playing along to the original as closely as possible.

Don’t worry about them being TOO similar; just the very fact that you have two unique recordings will be enough to get the benefits of double tracking acoustic guitar.

It’s all right if there’s one or two hiccups, but when a lot of parts are especially out of time, it takes the listener’s attention away from the mix as a whole.

I find that you get the best results when you practice the entire performance through multiple times so that you can be clear on the energy, rhythm, and playing style which best suits each section of the song.

You can record each of these practice runs as you do them in case you get a couple which are similar enough to work, but the main point is to not just go with the first two takes that you do.

Vary the Microphone Position for Each Recording

As you can see from the graphic above, where you place your microphone relative to the 12th fret affects the tone.

While it’s completely acceptable to record the double tracked acoustic guitar in the same position as you did the first take, you might try moving up or down to get a slightly different tone.

Go closer to the sound hole by a couple few frets to get more low end and bass. Go closer to the head by a fret or two to get a brighter tone.

This small change creates a bit more contrast which can help the two guitars sound a bit more dissimilar.

Use Two Microphones for Each Take

My go-to two microphone recording technique for acoustic guitar is the X/Y recording technique. Similar to the point I just made, we’re getting a little more bass and a little more treble on each microphone.

If you’re only doing one recording, you can still pan these wide to create some separation by virtue of the tones of the two tracks being dissimilar.

When use two microphones for each take when double tracking acoustic guitar, you get an even fuller sound. This leaves you with FOUR tracks of two unique performances. You can then pan them wide – you’ll have the bassier track from one take on the left alongside the more treble heavy track from the other take also on the left side, and vice versa on the right.

Save It For the Chorus

There are few evergreen music mixing tips, but one of the most important rules is to keep your listener engaged which is why I always preach the importance of mixing automation. In other words, keep your mix changing, automating things up or down, more or less, or even just holding some things back for the chorus.

Sometimes I like to transition from single tracked guitar to double tracking acoustic guitar when that chorus hits. This allows you to instantly create a sense of openness when you contrast what was a more constricted and mono leaning mix in the verse with the full width of the stereo field.

You can record the song straight through on one guitar, then pan it hard left or right for the chorus while recording in the second guitar just for those choruses.

Alternatively you can just have two dedicated tracks for the chorus of your guitar, this can sound less awkward than making that panning switch like I just described.

Either way, holding back the full stereo panned double can help that chorus sound a lot bigger.

Cannibalize a Single Take

This one’s for the lazy. If you don’t feel like recording a second take, create a duplicate of the first take and rearrange the repeating sections of the song in that take.

In other words, let’s say you have a song which follows a pretty familiar structure of intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc.

Without recording a second take, we can just copy and paste the first chorus of our guitar to the second chorus on a new track. I do this as a shortcut for double tracking vocals sometimes. Repeat the same thing for the verses and other sections where you can.

Those sections are still unique relative to the original track so it achieves the same effect. The main issue is getting the transitions to sound natural coming out of the comped/pasted parts.

Obviously this won’t work for every mix when a repetitive song structure isn’t there, and sometimes you can spend more time comping the “duplicate” track than just doing a fresh recording.

You might just use this for getting doubles on the chorus like I mentioned earlier since you generally always have multiple choruses to pull from and it creates that nice open contrast from verse to chorus.

Double Tracking Acoustic Guitar Isn’t Always Best

We’ll finish with the reminder that double tracking acoustic guitar isn’t always the way to go. Whether you record one or two unique acoustic guitar tracks should be dictated by the mix.

In a busier mix with a lot of instruments filling up the frequency and stereo spectrums, you may just want a single guitar panned where you’ve got room left or right.

For a more intimate or minimalist singer-songwriter type mix you might also just want the single guitar playing against the vocal.

I still might recommend the X/Y technique for a single take to give you the option of panning a single take wide, but the point is not all situations call for two unique recordings.

1 thought on “Double Tracking Acoustic Guitar Tips to Get the Best Sound”

  1. Pingback: Double Tracking Rhythm Guitars Tips to Make Them Sound HUGE - Music Guy Mixing

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