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Recording vs. Live: Doubling Sounds


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This may have been asked before (I don't remember), but I ask this question of you, Joe B. Forumite: what is your philosophy on doubling sounds when you are recording vs. live? For example:


  • What if you're in a band with only one guitar, but want to record a cool dual guitar part (doubling, rhythym and solo, or anything else you can think of) that you couldn't replicate live?
  • What if you only have one singer, and you want to do layered vocals or harmonies...do you record it and skip it live?
  • What if someone else in the band does the other vocals live, but the lead singer is a better singer--do you let the singer do all the parts when recording?

Not being in a band that records (or a band at all), I am just curious what you do and why...

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I read about this really cool trick that Brian May used to get that great dual-guitar tone of his. He used a Y cable; one end of the cable went straight into an AC-30, the other end went into a delay and then into another AC-30. The delay would be set to a few milli-seconds, and then he'd have this really thick sounding double guitar lead sound. I've always wanted to try that.


a.k.a. "El Guapo" ;)


...Better fuzz through science...



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According to the instruction manual on my Boss GT-6B (I'm a bass player first, but it works for guitar), setting chorus to a depth of 0 should provide a doubling effect. However, it doesn't really sound like doubling to me. It provides an effect...but not doubling as far as I'm concerned.


I guess it would be cool to split the signal, then run with (or without) a delay to two different amps with two different settings. It seems to me that even slightly different settings would help the doubling effect.

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I tend to think of recording as a separate art form from playing live, although I think the two should be at least remotely related. :D I'm in a 3 piece band so I'm the only guitarist, and I like being able to do extra guitar parts when recording that I can't do live. Our drummer often layers percussion tracks on top of the drum tracks. I sometimes double guitar parts or record using two mics, one close up to the amp and one more distant, and pan them to get a really big sound. Or I'll add an acoustic guitar track underneath everything.


There are a lot of tricks for sounding like a doubled guitar, from using two mics and panning them to using two different amps to using a short delay. They can all be cool in their own way, but if what you really want is a doubled sound then just double the part. :D


Vocals are fun to play with too, doing lots of harmonies that you can't necessarily do live, and doubling them, etc.


Of course, if you do TOO much extra stuff, it becomes harder to play the song live. Sometimes you have to come up with a separate arrangement for the live version, which actually can be just as cool. People who are used to hearing the live version will be surprised by how much cool stuff is on the recorded version, and vice versa. It's a challenge to make them each compelling in different ways.

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Originally posted by bluestrat:

I read about this really cool trick that Brian May used to get that great dual-guitar tone of his.

He actually did that twice. When I saw them he had three stacks of three AC-30s. One stack was direct, another stack delayed slightly and the third stack delayed slightly more than the second. Sounded huge!


As far as the question, we do whatever needs to be done recording, and live you sometimes have to come up with an entirely different arrangement. Having just done a duo lately, we've got a bunch of full band originals with tons of backup vox songs arranged down to one acoustic guitar and two vocals.

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I just use the harmonizer on my GS30. Not as pretty sounding, but it's fun and useful.


I just love the harmonized parts that Morbid Angel's Trey Azagthoth plays through an Eventide processor. He only doubles in the studio to put in an extra rhythm guitar, not to make it thicker (as if it's needed, their "JCM 900 meets Rat with a little reverb" tones is thick and juicy enough on its own).


As far as I know anyhow...

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Like Lee and DC said...

I think recording is different from playing out.


When I play live, I might jump off of a drum riser during a song and "squonk" a note by accident.. nobody notices, though, because it's part of the show. If I did that on a recording, it'd drive me (and the band) nuts because that "squonk" would be present every single time we heard the song.


Recording = the permanent record.

Live performance = living in the moment.


Get it?


When recording, I do everything I can to make the song sound right. This might mean doubling (or tripling) guitar parts (or vocals)... or using effects.


Basically, I'll do whatever it takes to make the song come to full realization because the recording is what people will be able to hear long after the actual notes I play in front of them have faded away.


If I can't play everything I've recorded in a live setting, I don't think it really matters... nothing I ever add to a recording is ever absolutely vital to the music's integrity.


And Brian May RuLeZ!



"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Originally posted by Lee Flier:

Vocals are fun to play with too, doing lots of harmonies that you can't necessarily do live, and doubling them, etc.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" ring any bells? Never done truly "live" as far as I know (always used recorded operatic parts).


Musical recordings are like paintings to me . . . you do what your muse says to do (so what if a "real" sky is not that color). I'll routinely add guitar parts or vocals if it's called for. The live performance is another interpretation (but similar).


"Fame is like death: We will never know what it looks like until we've reached the other side. Then it will be impossible to describe and no one will believe you if you try."

- Sloane Crosley, Village Voice

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