For as long as I could remember, I though that in order to get full guitar sounds, I needed to record multiples takes of the same part. You know, a couple on the left and right and then one straight up the centre. Why only use a couple when you can have 4 or 5 right?
But the funny thing is that it isn’t about how many you use, it’s about how different they are.
Distinctive Sounds Are Massive
The easiest way to get a fuller and wider guitar sound is to record one guitar, twice and then pan one hard left and on hard right. But let’s go even further than that. To truly make those guitars sound wider, we need two completely different tones on the left and right side. We can then trick our ears into hearing a wide and massive guitar sound.
There isn’t only one way to get a guitar sound in a home studio. You could try using different guitars, unique mic placement on the amps, different pedals, different plugins etc. Whatever you can do that isn’t going to break your budget and is in your limits, you should do it. Whatever you have to do to get two different tones will make a huge difference to how wide and full your mixes sound.
Try Changing the Chords Around
I’d be the first to tell you that I am an average guitar player ad best but one thing I have learned is that by inverting the chords around it can really help with fullness and width in the mix. What do I mean? Here’s a really basic illustration: There isn’t only one way to play an A major on the guitar. So if your music involves you playing an A Chord, why not play a regular chord and then play the power chord to compliment it?
Another option is to use a capo and play the same chord but with a different finger patter. You could also go way up on the neck to play notes that are in an A chord to compliment your original chord. Your still playing an A chord for but since the tone is different it’s going to add a different color to the sonic landscape. The result is that you are going to hear different separation from the parts you played.
When In Doubt, Do Something Different
I hope that you are able to see the points that I am trying to make. The best kept secret to wide guitar tones is to have different colors and tones on the left and right side. It’s that simple and it will leave a huge impression on the person who is listening to the song.
But you can expand on this even further. You could do completely different guitar parts all together or use a completely different string based instrument. Why not a banjo? Minute differences in the left and right pan positions can make a big difference. So on the next session you have where you are recording guitars, why not try and do something different on the second take?
Once you pan them left and right, I’m positive you will be happy you did.
Sample Go a Long Way
A lot of times it not feasible to record guitars, because either you just aren’t capable or you don’t have the money to pay a session player. In these cases, it’s always good to have some quality VST plugins on standby or even some really great samples and loops.
I generally recommend Loopmaster Guitars for their samples as I feel they are very very high quality. Again a little tiny investment will go a LONG way. Don’t be afraid to spend money on your craft because when you do it usually pays you dividends in the long run.