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Lots of overdubbed guitars...

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by JohnTodd, Jan 27, 2015.

  1. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Hi! I have a problem.

    In my never-ending quest for new tones and textures, I have recently overdubbed my rhythm guitars 20 times.

    That's 20 takes of them playing in unison. I want an "orchestra" effect, and I don't mind doing the overdubs.

    Thing is, I can't hear them all. I hear what sounds like 4 or 5 guitars. The only difference is volume, of course.

    I tried putting a different chorus effect on each, but that sounded artificial.

    When a string section in an orchestra plays, you can hear the whole of the sound AND the individuals. But with my guitar overdubs, I can't. I seriously doubt my tuning and performance is so precise that I've locked them all in too tight to tell apart.

    What gives, and what can I do about it to get a "string section" sound from multiple guitars?


    PS Alas, an NDA prohibits me from posting samples of it. Sorry. :(
  2. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    I may be off base here, most I have ever done is 5 guitar parts. It seems to me that in your quest, using a match eq for one might help, separate them by small differences there. Pan usage and volume differentiate then. In addition, something I am finding very good is to stem out on the BUS separate pair (maybe more than one stem) to then return in. And this may seem obvious, have you monoed and listened to where they each reside in volume?.

    Ignore me if that was all obvious :).

  3. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    They are panned in stereo, not hard left/tight, but placed from left to right. Sort of "sprinkled".

    As for volume, they are all tracking the same. These overdubs were done by "rock n roll", meaning they were recorded as the DAW looped again and again. So it was 20 in a row.

    By match EQ, do you mean match them together with EQ, or give each one a slightly different EQ to help differentiate?
  4. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Hi John,
    Yes get a EQ graph for each, then change each ones curves a bit. Just an idea. Spinkling the 20 across from say 70% left to 70% right with fair separation would help then more too. Along with small volume / compression variations pehaps?.

  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    With an orchestra, every instruments have there own sound texture and are placed in a specific place in the room in relation to the others. When Grabbed with stereo mics it creates a palet of sounds that are coerent to each other.
    Creating this with a guitar is quite a challenge. if you had 20 guitars 20 amps, it would be somehow easier. but again not evident.
    Maybe you explore surround mixing ??

    As a personnal taste only, I'd like better to be hit with one baseball bat than 20 chinese sticks. Union not always make the force!
    but that's just me ;)
    bigtree likes this.
  6. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Hence my suggestion about EQ changes. Doable you think Marco?
  7. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I guess in an orchestra, no two instruments sound EXACTLY alike. Whereas with my guitars, it's all the same, only the human element changes things.

    I know what you mean about one great sounding track as opposed to 20 tracks, but this is an experiment with a defined goal in mind. I'm looking for a particular sound for a particular song. It's more artsy-fartsy than a sound engineering choice.

  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    what you are trying to do is not really possible with guitars alone unless you're Les Paul. in an orchestra, you have instruments of different timber in different octaves playing parts that counter each other. for example just in the string sections you have double bass's cellos, violas and violins. then you have woodwinds, brass, etc.

    the closest you could come is to have a uke, mandolin, tenor guitar guitar, bari guitar and bass all playing counterpoint parts. try at least two counterpoints plus a pad ... some things can be doubled or done in octaves. LINK
  9. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Ok, so, per what Kurt says, which I should of course have thought of too... after all I do that with string parts too.. yep, ultimately no true orchestra sound, just a blanket of guitars. The blonde will be over --------- >
    JohnTodd likes this.
  10. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    I had a further thought on this, not obviously going to get you counterpoints ( should I shut up now?), use a harmonizer, if you have a good external one, or a good plugin?. That will at least solve part of the equation, the rest well.. overdub your heart out with counterpoints :).
  11. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Have you ever heard MacCartney's Rockestra? Even with some very recognizable rock guitar players / guitar tones - the end result: a big wall of electric guitars, none especially discernible from the others. Mixed with 3 bass players, 3 drummers, 3 ½ keyboard players, numerous percussionists, horn section. With that many egos, and I'm sure, alcohol, etc., what could possibly go wrong?

    I'm not sure it's entirely doable, but using different guitars, amps, EQs, panning, delays, capos, alternate tunings can help add a hint of fresh flavor to guitar overdubs. (OR a big wall of electric guitars, none especially discernible from the others)

    Best of luck though!

    PS: Don't forget, many of those orchestral instruments are monophonic, so the direct comparison may not be entirely fair.
    pcrecord and Makzimia like this.
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    "Wings' drummer Steve Holly recalled the session in an interview, saying "it was daunting".

    quote of the week nominee.
  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    EQ would help but it will get you so far, but with a combinasion of surround placements and reverbs and amps and octavers and wah and ....
    I guess, in the end, since timing can't be perfect, it's gonna end up in a mess and mud.. :unsure:
  14. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I think I'm going to limit the tinkering to different amps, panning, and reverbs, since this part must be played in unison ('cause I wrote it that way.)

    But it's cool, since I use software amps, I'll just switch one out for another!

  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    which are all part of a common space timed to the reflections. All coherent, in line, presumably in phase. If you are emulating, I would be using on common reverb on a master bus, that's for certain.

    But, even though I like your guitars and performances John, a few tracks always sounds "smooth, richer, more aggressive than 20. I will always remove duplicated tracks when I can in a mix. The more dups you add, the smaller and smearier it gets. The more dup tracks you add, the more you remove the ability to hook harmonics to other spacial entities. Simply put, it just gets messy.
    pcrecord likes this.
  16. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    LOL! I knew you'd say that! :)

    Seriously, this is a special effect for one song. I know I love my quad-rhythm guitars because of the intense interactions they have with each other, but for this song I wanted something different.

    I am using a master bus reverb. It's a convo made by "that company".
  17. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    When you have an orchestra you have instrument families and they are playing hormonic parts. Also it is worth mentioning these are for the most part single note or maybe double stops parts. Same with horn sections.
    Just my thoughts on the matter.
    JohnTodd likes this.
  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Different amps. Different settings. Different guitars. Use a capo in different positions of the guitars. Its a rhythm track? Right? This is the Nashville thing. Use different tunings. Open on some...detuned and different chord structures on others. The capo is a great way to get different textures while playing the same part. Mix acoustics in doing the same part....This is how you get that effect you have described. After 10 takes it becomes a diminishing return.
    JohnTodd and Kurt Foster like this.
  19. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Texture, texture, texture. I like it!
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I agree with Dave. The reason you aren't able to discern between guitars is because you are using the same guitar, same amp, with you as the same player each time. Panning will only get you so far here - it might work nicely with 4 or 5, but past that, things are gonna start to mush together - as you've already observed.

    Different guitars, with different amps, using different mics and mic placements - and if possible, with different players - will get you closer.. but even in that case, I'm still not convinced that you'll ever hear 2o separate/defined guitars, though.



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