Sunday, April 17, 2016

Quad Tracking Guitars (a guide for dummies)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we will talk about an interesting topic concerning guitar recording: quad tracking.

Quad tracking is a technique in which you layer four guitar takes doing the exact same thing in order to increase the wall of sound; this is particularly useful in genres in which the guitar player doesn't need to do particularly articulated riffs, like nu metal or metalcore, and in which the impact is the most important aspect.

There are situations in which this technique is not suggested, such as the bands in which the riffing is particularly fast and precise (therefore the result, unless the guitarists are exceptionally good, can be unpleasantly "hazy"), or when the sound is too crowded, for example when there's an orchestra, or many backing vocals part; this is a technique purely conceived for guitar oriented music in which the musicians wants to maximize the impact.

How to do it: there are many different solutions to try if we want to quad track a guitar part.
First off we need to record the part in four different takes, otherwise just taking one single take and copying it four times would only result in an increase of its volume, and we would lose the layering effect that creates the wall of sound.

Then we would need to spatially place the takes using the PAN knob:  we could put the external guitars pretty wide, for example 90% left and 90% right, and the other 2 closer, for example 50% left and 50% right, but there is no fixed rule: someone prefers to keep the internal ones a bit farther away (like 80%), someone else prefers to keep them a bit closer to the center (like 25%), it really depends on how crowded is the centre of your mix.

Now it's time to listen to the four tracks playing together: are we satisfied of the result? Or maybe now the guitar wall of sound is too predominant in the mix?
If the latter we must obviously lower the volume until it's perfectly balanced, but we can also try to equalize our guitars differently, in a creative way: we could for example try to retain some of the low end in the tracks closer to the center and try to focus the more external tracks on the mids and highs: this could bring the mix to a less dense guitar parts, mantaining the layering effect typical of the quad tracking.

Another technique to make the sound fuller is to use an amp (or amp simulator) for the most external tracks and a different one for the internal ones.

Do you have other interesting quad tracking tips? Let us know in the comment section!

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