Guitar Layering

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Your favorite rockstar
Member Since: Feb 03, 2003

This weekend I bought a DVD... Metallica, the making of Metallica (the black album). Very cool to watch. They discussed several of their singles from that CD and the process that went into them.

Anyway, I was amazed at how much guitar tracking they did. Hetfield said that a lot of times, both he and Hammett would record rhythm parts 3 times... left, right, and "filler" (his word). Then they went thru and often had little lead-esque licks and riffs that were tucked in, barely audible in the tracks (in fact, most of them I didn't even know they were there until I went back and listened to the songs after watching the DVD). They said it was all these techniques that helped them achieve the "wall of sound" that they get from the guitars on that album.

I'm definitely going to start experimenting with these ideas. My band has two guitar players, and I usually either used one of us for left, one for right (panned about 40% or so), or I would have one of us double track the guitar, and use the other one for the center track (depending on how are parts were played).

I got results with this that I was happy with. I got a good stereo sound with decent amounts of power, and I never really had trouble getting the vocals to come out with that setup.

But it was never a wall of sound.

I was wondering if many of you used the multiple takes and extra tracking, and if so if you had any creative tips.

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Since: Jan 18, 2003

Mar 01, 2004 01:20 pm

hey let's keep going with this thread. this is a great topic of discussion that a lot of us need help with.

first of all, can i ask what dvd this was? and how much time did they devote to discussing the guitar sound? do you know about how they panned those guitars? it sounds like youre saying they used four guitars in all. the right/left and the lead stuff, but also an extra rhythm track called 'filler'--what's that mean?

i'm assuming that hammet and hetfield panned thier particular sound to one side, leaving the other side for the other guy to double the rhythm using his own rig? or are you saying both guys are in each channel, with two distinct sounds layered in both the right and the left side?

i noticed exactly what you're talking about (with the lead lines) in the alice in chains song 'would?' (which is one of my favorite rock songs of all time). if you listen closely during the chorus, there's a lead line thats buried in the chords. i didn't hear it for a long time. then one day, in headphones, i heard something extra and said 'what the chroist is that?'

Since: Jan 08, 2004

Mar 01, 2004 01:42 pm

It's called "a year in the life of" and it's a two dvd set I believe. If it's the same one I have one is in the studio and the other is live.

When trying to layer guitars and get a "wall" of sound try miking different amps with different mics. Try to get a low end guitar, a mid guitar and mid to high end guitar in there. It's all about trying to cover some freq but it also helps when you have Bob Rock as a producer as well. I've recorded a lot of distorted guitars is my day and it's an art to say the least. Try recording the guitars in a small sound absorbing room...Have fun with this I know I have. Also on Master of Puppets James used 8 guitars on each L and R side, that's 16 guitars in total just for rhythm!!!!

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Mar 01, 2004 01:43 pm

I've seen that "A year in the life of Metallica" was filmed during the tour they did with G&R...who, as I recall hetfield had nothing good to say about, and G&R made none too many friends that tour...that was a pretty cool video.

Your favorite rockstar
Since: Feb 03, 2003

Mar 01, 2004 04:04 pm

No, that's not the same DVD, although now I need to go out and find that one!

This one is called Metallica: The Making Of Metallica. I just saw it at Wal-Mart for the first time on Friday, and I look thru their music DVDs quite often.

Basically it's them talking about the recording process as a whole. The main DVD goes thru several (I'm thinking 5 or 6) of the "big" songs from that album, and they talk about all kinds of aspects of each song, from writing, to demoing, to the actual recording. Every song is different in what they talk about, but it's a lot of cool info. On most of the songs it shows them sitting at a soundboard with Bob Rock, and they'll listen to the mix, or better yet, sometimes they listen to partial mixes (no drums, no bass, or something like that). They were talking about one song... I'm thinking it's Whereever I May Roam... they had the main board (I'm assuming 16 tracks?), and FIVE OR SIX slaves hooked up. That's a lot of tracks for one 4 piece band. One slave was dedicated only to solo work.

They didn't talk enough about the panning, but from what I gathered, on a lot of the takes Hetfield would do a left and a right, then Hammett would do a left and a right, then they had their "filler" tracks, which I guessed was more of a full guitar, less chugging rhythm and such, just to fill the gaps. They talked about how they really wanted the black album to have a 3D sound to it, so they wanted just as much sound to sit in the back as there was up front.

I used to do all my tracking and mixing on my digital recorder, which means I was limited to 16 tracks. I bought some stuff that helps me transfer tracks between my recorder and my computer way easier, so I'm going to start doing all my mixing, and perhaps even a little tracking where it's convenient, on my computer. Basically that means I'm finding myself with theoretically unlimited tracks (of course I'm limited by RAM and HD space, still). I want to really stretch my legs a little and start diving into the world of guitar layering and fuller, more 3D sound. I'm REALLY excited to start experimenting.

Freeleance Producer/Engineer/Gtr
Since: Aug 11, 2002

Mar 01, 2004 04:31 pm

well for the album i'm currently tracking (my band) i have 6 tracks being recorded each performance... a direct (for reamping), and 4 mics on 2 cabs (2 at-4040 mics, ev-pl6, and e609) and one room mic for hugeness (NT2).. i use a mesaboogie triple rect head slaving a mesa 50/50 playing out of marshall and boogie cabs. the distortion tone is massive with me doubling each take.

for cleans, which i'm currently tracking. i have a fender twinreverb combo with an NT2 and SM81 on the combo and an at-4040 for a room mic. i'm also recording a direct signal too. of course for good measure i'm doubling these too :)

and as for my 2nd guitarist... probably a similar setup. after we sum up the tracks we'll probably mix me on oneside and him on the other, as far as our first performances, then add the doubled performance to the opposite sides (maybe not as extreme) a few db lower. of course leads will be a just a little off center to provide room for vox.

Since: Jan 18, 2003

Mar 01, 2004 06:06 pm

jazz, how much was this dvd? i might want to pick it up.

Since: Jul 02, 2003

Mar 01, 2004 06:26 pm

I had about 10 tracks of guitar on Are You Gonna Be Around. 2 tracks of clean guitar, 3 tracks of distorted guitar, 2 tracks of the distorted riff that plays thru the song, and I doubled the lead take, plus dupped one. It's not really a heavy wall type sound even with all those tracks though cause I gave the clean guitars more presence than the distorted, but it sounded pretty beefy when I made test mix for the heck of it and gave the distorted guitars the main focus. It didn't really fit the song though like that. :)

I'm like a track junkie right now, the most I ever had to work with before was 8, so I'm making up for lost time LOL.


Since: Jan 08, 2004

Mar 01, 2004 06:44 pm

Never heard of that DVD, sounds cool I'll have to pick it up now!!

Your favorite rockstar
Since: Feb 03, 2003

Mar 02, 2004 09:13 am

I picked up the DVD at Wal-Mart for $15. Well worth it.

Last night I got the cables I needed to move my recorder tracks to my PC, so I played with it for several hours. Doing some quick, not well thought out additions to a few songs I already had "finished", I was working with about 22 tracks or so on a song that previously used 15, and I made it sound much bigger, much more full. If I really put some thought and effort into it, I think that I could do a lot of cool stuff when it comes to layering.

I have one track in there that you can barely here, but at certain inflections of the rhythm of the main instruments, it shows up slightly in one channel.... I LOVE that kind of stuff.

Since: Jan 08, 2004

Mar 02, 2004 10:03 am

I think the best form of educating yourself is exactly what you are doing keep it up and post the tune you are working on so we can take a listen.

Your favorite rockstar
Since: Feb 03, 2003

Mar 02, 2004 10:12 am

Alright, I'll do that. I want to work on it a little more, but I'll post a before and after when I'm done.

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Mar 03, 2004 09:25 pm

The last heavy band that was in here I used 4 mics per cabinnet. The combination was, SM57, CAD E-100, Oktava MK-319, and an older Beyer dynamic that just has this gritty sound when close miccing a guitar cab. The 57 is place as per normal pointing toward center about an inch from the outside of the cone. The Beyer works best if it is directly over the middle of the speaker but instead of pointing in at the cone it points straight down, dont know why but this works best with this particular mic. The CAD is about 18 inches out and pretty much center between the top two speaker's. And the Oktava was set about 12 inches out just below the center of the bottom speaker.

Now doing something like this can take over an hour or more to set up to avoid Phase problems. So if you attempt a set up like this, make sure and take your time to get it right or you'll just end up with mud for gutar tracks.

Oh and the other important factor, they all must go to seperate tracks because trying to get it right through the mixxer and then just going to one track will just give you mush.

Pop into my profile/music and listen to a:drive for an example of using several mics on one amp to get a decent sound. There is breif explenation of how I got that sound in the description.

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