Double Tracking Rhythm Guitars Tips to Make Them Sound HUGE

Just like double tracking acoustic guitars, double tracking rhythm guitars is a great way to add some natural size and width to the supporting pieces which are the rhythm guitars. Here are some tips for double tracking rhythm guitars.

What is Double Tracking Rhythm Guitars

To double track something in your mix is to record the same exact part twice.

Outside of double tracking vocals, double tracking rhythm guitars is one of the most popular uses of double tracking because of the added size and presence this creates for the guitars in the mix.

With that second recorded track of the same part, you can pan the two against each other at opposite ends of the stereo field, typically hard left and hard right.

Note that you don’t get the same effect from simply duplicating a single recorded guitar part and panning it opposite the original. You only get the benefit when it’s a unique waveform which you only get from recording the same part fresh.

Double Tracking Rhythm Guitars Tips

While simply recording the same part twice and panning one left and one right will work, let’s dig deeper with these double tracking rhythm guitars tips.

double tracking rhythm guitars

Get the Two Tracks As Similar as Possible

This first point may be easier said than done, but the closer you can get the double tracked guitar to the original, the more natural it will sound in the context of the mix. If one part is slightly out of sync between the two guitars, it will draw your listener’s attention to it and away from the song.

The best way to get the two tracks as similar as possible is to simply play the entire song through multiple times. You can record each take on a new track, but don’t expect to have the best pairing until the second and third tracks at the earliest.

In my experience, the more times you run it, the more familiar you’ll be with the rhythm, pacing, energy, strumming pattern, etc. that you want for each section.

Recording it twice and saying that’s good enough is the easy way out, but like anything with mixing, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.

Vary Your Guitar Settings

While there’s nothing wrong with leaving the settings exactly the same between the initial and double tracked rhythm guitars, I like to vary the tone slightly between them to create a bit more contrast.

An easy way to do this is to switch your pickup setting (when applicable) or tone knob slightly between takes.

I’ll typically record one track with the bridge pickup for that brighter sound, then for the double track I’ll go to the in-between blended setting where it mixes in some of the neck pickup for a bit more body.

If your guitar is a single pickup, adjust the tone knob slightly for a brighter or warmer sound for the double.

Either way, if you’re recording straight in and plan on using amp modeling later on, this gives you a different tone going in at the source.

Vary Your Amp Settings

This is an extension of the same idea but at a different point in the chain. Assuming you’re not recording DI, varying up your EQ settings on your amplifier allows you to create a slightly different tone going in for that double, as well.

Here it doesn’t matter if you have a second pickup on the guitar; you can leave it the same for the double and simply add a bit more warmth or top end on the amplifier itself.

I wouldn’t vary any settings drastically, typically just one or two numbers on one setting in either direction would be enough to create a little bit of contrast.

You can do the same thing to the gain, varying that slightly. Again, less is more; you don’t want to get to the point where one track sounds appreciably cleaner or heavier than the other.

Vary The Note(s)

This is another point of preference, but sometimes I like to vary one note on certain chords to create a bit of extra contrast, as well.

I’m talking subtle things, like on an open G chord leaving the “B” string open on one take and fretted to the “D” note on the double.

As long as the rhythm, timing, energy, and everything else are in sync between the two, this slight difference can sound interesting and again create that little extra point of contrast between the parts, as well.

Comp a Second Take From One Take

I like to say this one is for the lazy mixers out there, or certainly the lazier musicians, as it’s a method to simulate a second track without recording one.

Comping in mixing terms generally refers to constructing the best take from a variety of takes.

We can also comp together the illusion of a freshly recorded second track by cannibalizing a single tracked rhythm guitar.

In this instance, we’d simply duplicate our single tracked rhythm guitar and rearrange the parts. For instance, we’d swap the guitar during the first and second choruses so that, when played against the original track, our duplicate would be unique at those parts.

This won’t work if you’ve got parts of the song which don’t repeat, and you need to ensure that the transitions between each part are smooth. Still, in the right circumstances this can be a low effort way to “fake” double tracked rhythm guitars in your mix.

This is especially useful if the tracks you have are all you have to work with.

While it can take a little extra time, it’s always a good idea to double track your rhythm guitars.

Even if you don’t end up using it in the end, this gives you the option down the line so you have that extra size from your rhythm guitars if you feel you need it.

Additionally, you don’t need to use the second guitar throughout the entire mix. You can bring it in for key moments when you need a little more out of your mix like holding those dual guitars panned wide on the chorus.

Once you’ve got your double tracked guitars, check out my guide on how to mix electric guitar for a complete rundown on how to process these tracks to ensure they’re sitting just right in your mix.

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