Everyone always asks how to get that big huge guitar sound. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to that.

There are a million factors at play, and lots of things I couldn’t possibly cover in a single article, but I’ll give you three tips today to help you move closer to that goal of getting that huge guitar sound.

1. Don’t start recording too quickly.

This is an easy trap to fall into, especially when you’re really excited about recording the next big hit rock record, but slow down, take a few minutes, even 15 minutes, to really dial in the right tone for the session.

A common mistake you’ll find in studios is that the guitarist will play with the exact same tone that he uses live. Very rarely does this work as well in the studio. For example, a Marshall amp cranked to 11 in a small 8×10 room probably won’t sound as good as he thinks it does.

Spend some time trying lower volumes, different settings on the amp so that you capture the tone that he wants to hear.

2. Double-track.

This is a given for most people, but perhaps you’ve never heard of this. When recording big electric guitar sounds, one of the big keys is to make sure you double-track guitars.

This simply means recording the part multiple times and then pan them to make it sound wide. You can do this by recording the exact same part twice, or perhaps you record the same part with a different guitar or a different amp to give it a slightly different sounds that helps make things sound bigger overall.

3. Use less distortion and more tracks.

One big pitfall that a lot of recordists will fall into is recording lots and lots of tracks of heavily distorted electric guitars. While a single distorted guitar can sound great, when you start blending those together, before long, it just sounds like a wall of white noise. It sounds thin; it sounds harsh, and it just doesn’t sound very good.

One of the best things you can do is turn the overdrive down, use a slightly cleaner tone, and you’ll find that when you combine all of those together, it sounds nice and lush and warm, rather than harsh and tinny.

So, those are three steps to getting a huge guitar sound.

Tell me, what do you do to get YOUR huge guitar sounds?

[Photo Credit]

  • Ad Murray

    A trick I use is literally duplicate the same guitar part, pan either left and right, but on one of the tracks add a mono delay of around 10-30ms too stop phasing issues, just gotta make sure the delay is at 100% wet so no direct signal. Nice quick strategy, does sound better with multiple takes though, but if you’re short on time it works well. Just thought I’d share!

    • Ad Murray

      Full pan left and right that it!***

    • Have to be careful with that. Can cause things to be VERY out of phase. I prefer to actually double the part. Record it twice.

  • Porkbeast

    Adding a clean guitar really works. Just toughens it all up. Cans sound good as a solo too riding on top of distorted guitars.

  • Steinbeck

    One trick I will do is use 2 or 3 different mics (even types) and place them in different spots. Some closer than others. Once recorded, I will pan and adjust the volumes of each separate track to mold the sound. It is very effective at creating a huge guitar sound when having to record at lower volumes.

    • One cool way to take that further is to use multiple mics but mix them down to one recorded audio track. That way you have to commit on the front end. ūüôā

  • Eric

    fuck double track. just bi-amp. one amp send low end to hi watt speaker cab with black label society speakers the other amp preferably (tube) sends a shit load of mids and hi end to a low watt cab with maybe some v30 speakers. put a half a sec delay with no repeats going to the v30 cab and it doubles your sound. this is how pros make live shows sound no different from the record. When putting a delay in one line you get a stereo effect than pans both speakers left and right. disengage the delay and you still have a fat sound but not as focused as having stereo. That is the difference between mono and stereo. Panning effect can also bee done with mics on stage that run into a mixer. Make sure to cut treble and mids on the solid state amp. That amp is supposed to cover nothing but your low end. It sounds MASSIVE! You sound massive but still not happy with your tone? Throw in an eq pedal. try it at the end if your effects chain and in the effects loop and see which one sounds best. Still not happy? By another eq and use one eq for each amp and blend 2 sound together. And if you low end sounds flabby. You might need subtle chorus to even out the tone and you’ll need to experiment to see which chorus pedal fits. Use your guitar tone knob. Roll it down to kill the harshness and your in DOOM death territory. Use a compressor to even out the vol level of all your clean effects. Is the tension in your guitar strings? Do you have the right gauge for your tuning. Good guitar pickups will get rid of harsh distortion too. Good luck.

    • Bi-amping is great. But I think there’s a place for both bi-amping and double-tracking.
      You’ll never get the same stereo width with bi-amping, because it’s the exact same performance. The delay will definitely help widen the sound, but what makes double-tracking so wide is that they are to different performances, so there are all those tiny timing differences between them that add up to a big ol’ wide sound.
      For live though, heck yeah a bi-amp setup sounds like MONEY. ūüôā

  • Blahblahblah

    As far as double solo-ing …I do it often,,,but i don’t try to do the same lead twice. I generally improvise them anyway and just edit the best parts into one grand solo ūüôā . ¬†I’m sure like…Randy Rhodes did some exact doubling and it will yield a bigger sound. But I wouldn’t pan the solos hard let-right. ¬†More like 11 and 2 o’clock. Solos/leads take the place of THE VOCAL during that part of the song. Panned closer ¬†to center would be best. Maybe just slightly echo One of the two takes and pan that a little harder and keep the other dry-ish. Experiment and good luck .

  • Mitko

    I got a question. I record rhythm guitar parts, double-track them and pan them. But will this work with lead guitar parts and does it sound good?

    • The answer: Try it and answer the question yourself. ūüôā

      Doubling parts is a great thing to try on anything, but you never know if it’ll work on that particular part until you just try it and listen.

  • Audiochocolatestudios

    For all you VSTers. I play guitar enough to appreciate the instrument and the tonal varieties that have helped¬†to carve out¬†specific genre’s of music (ie; metal, blues etc…). IF….. I use VST’s for guitar tones, I use Guitar Rig3. I have learned that the best studio guitar engineers are my clients themselves (NOTE: those that are the real deal that is). I absolutely love slicing out a piece of time for my clients to come into the studio and do nothing but set the guitar tones for a project. I’ll do this as the very first part of “Pre-Production” when I am ready to “Get To Know The Guys/Gals”. I remember the first time I¬†accidently did¬†this step and what I learned from it, pretty much made it a staple part of the¬†project process.¬†I was working with a blues band. These guys were the real deal. They use vintage amps live such as Bassman’s, 57 tweeds¬†etc… I was hired to engineer the drums &¬†track their drummer¬†for this project. We all worked well together and shortly after the drum basics were done, they approached me to handle the rest of the project. After careful consideration, I decided to accept their offer. Being a bit leary of how I was going to pull off what I knew was going to be crucial to the project (the guitar, harmonica tones), I shyed away from having to commit to any mic’d amp tones and having to retrack performances due to less than satisfactory tones. Basically didn’t want to look like an idiot later. I threw out the idea of using GR3 VST and then winced my eyes to endure the almost certain verbal abuse to come and surely it did. I explained the advantages of approaching the guitars this way to allow me the lattitude to change or tweak existing tones at final mix without sacraficing track performances. To say the least, they were leary about it, but because they were unsure of that this technology offered, they were curious enough to be open. So, I made a deal with them that I would set aside some time to show them how this VST worked, unbeknownst to them, I was going to actually use them to engineer for me. I told them to bring their amps just in case. I just watched¬†what amps they unloaded out of their vehichles and when the time came, I just loaded up the simulated amp closely matching an amp they brought with them in GR3 with matched cabinet. I had¬†one of the guitarist sit with me and¬†point out¬†where he runs the knobs on his amp live¬†and began a process of¬†simply mouse clicking my way to¬†setting up all the classic blues guitar amps tones for my studio (basic Tones). ¬†Only a guy who uses these amps and why they chose the amp knows to notch the bass control knob on a 57 fender tweed for instance. I learned this real quick. The sofware amps performed excellent, they were amazed at the technology and I was grateful to have the best guitar tone engineers in my studio. The project turned out great and they were more than¬†pleased with all the tones. ¬†
    It proved to be a good technique with last minute subtle changes to the amp tones that proved vital to the mix. Now, I incorporate this step into my preproduction as a regular routine if I am going to use VST’s on a project. It is¬†truly is amazing technology. I was also able to provide them with a¬†CDROM that had all their tones saved as documents. My hope was that they were going to use laptops live and run all the tones they have on their project. Ok, so that didn’t happen. Their not quite ready to run up to a laptop to get their guitar to¬†feedback on stage ūüôā

  • Audiochocolatestudios

    By the way, all the above mentioned techniques (ie; blending cleaner or just slightly gained tones, lowering volume levels, etc….) are all excellent techniques and one’s I use regularly. The Champ setup I shared, will provide the right tool for the job! I did alot of research prior to this modification and already new that vintage Champs (tweed types¬†etc…) as well as other small amps in the same class have been used on more classic recordings than anyone could imagine (ie; Zeplin, Clapton’s Layla etc…) I just took the same concept but went for a bigger tone with the 6L6 tube config.
    Am I passionate about it. Oh Yeah!
    Thanks for listening to me rant. Hope you like the comment.

  • Audiochocolatestudios

    I will share what I consider the best kept secret I have in my studio and the only one I know of that exists. Obviously gear selection is important, but versitility is of greater value to the botique or small studio owner. If I gave you the opportunity to choose any guitar amp you wanted for your studio, what would it be? For me, it’s simple, a 1965 Fender Champ. I would even go as far to say that even a CBS era Champ would be just fine (1967 for example). The only difference is that the 1965 (pre-CBS) has a removable front wall that the speaker mounts¬†to, therefore making it easier to modify.

     Next, what you do with this Gem will make all the difference.
    Here’s what I did to mine.
    1. I had the output transformer changed to a vintage RCA unit¬†to power 6L6 tubes instead of the stock 6v6’s. This of course requires many modifications to the circuit board to integrate the new tranformer and balance the circuitry. Also had all pots replaced, leaky gel caps replaced- vitually a complete overhaul.
    2. Invert the capacitor housing that hangs down just behind the original speaker.
    3. Change RCA speaker jack from the circuit board to a TRS or quarter jack and convert the output to handle an 8ohm load.
    4. Replace the front cab wall to accept a 10″ speaker. (I put a Jensen Special Design in).
    Note: The inverted capacitor pays off here. You can then center the “10 Speaker cleanly. You can still offset a 10″ with the orientation of the original cap housing, but it was easer to modify the cab with it out of the way.
    5. Get a hold of or design a single or 2X12 cabinet.¬† (I designed a 2X12 with Celestion¬†GT30’s, but I have used a borrowed 2×12 with¬†vintage Celestion Greenbacks).¬†

    Here’s what you got….. One heck of a versitile guitar amp that saves precious space, but more importantly an amp that takes very minimal¬†power to break up the¬†speaker for dirtier tones or a super clean round sounding amp.
    I¬†love using the single 10” with a telecaster with a touch of gain¬†from a¬†pedal box. Sweetest sounding telecaster tones¬†I have heard.
    Equally as sweet, is a Gibson with humbuckers or Strat with single coils running through the bottom 2X12 Cabinet.
    Given the option, I have never had a guitar player choose their amp over the Champ.

    *****Note: Although I designed the modifications (ie; output transformer- old vintage RCA, 6L6 power tube configuration and all the circuit modifications to wire the board correctly)¬†had thework ¬†done by an amp “botiquer”¬†that I knew does excellent work for many friends of mine). Cabinet alterations, and bottom 2×12 cabinet I carried out myself- which was fairly simple.

    Fender Champ (-it wasn’t working)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $¬†¬†¬† 0.00
    Amp Modifications                                                                $200.00
    10′ Jensen (took a partial payment for a project I tracked)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†$¬†¬†¬† 0.00
    2X12 Celestion GT30 Cabinet (buddy wanted a 2X12 Cab)
    (Split his 4X12 cabient into 2 seperate Cabinets).                    $  50.00
    ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† —————–
                                                                              Total Cost $250.00
    ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Sound……………PRICELESS!

  • Anthony

    I duplicate a single guitar track then nudge the copy over a bit so it is offset from the original. Then I pan them to opposite sides. This gives a pretty wide sound. Then duplicate both to thicken up the sound.

  • so im a guitarist at heart, BUT i have never understood, if you can make a mix sound huge without overdoing the guitars.. why not just do that.¬†
    my mixes sound pretty huge and i get complements for how they “seem to explode!” i dont dual track or anything, ( cause you cant do that live right.. so why put something on your record you cant pull off live?!) ¬†the thing i do DO is take the time to get the tone.. days sometimes… im lucky enough to have a few amps to choose from so i can get the best tone for that particular song (fender/vox/√∑13/etc..)
    im all about making the SONG sound huge not the guitar.. 

  • Anonymous

    For a sense of space and depth, I’ll often double track a guitar part, pan them left and right, and put a lowpass filter on one of them. This is to maintain stereo balance without it sounding like two separate guitar tracks. It’s sort of similar to cross-panning a track’s reverb aux, which I also do a lot.

  • Noah Copeland

    There is also the “Black Album” technique. James Hetfield recorded all the rhythm guitar and there are atleast three different guitar tracks on each song. One guitar hard left, one hard right, and one dead center. (each might be doubled). Listen to the breakdown in “Holier Than Thou” at about 3:17 or so. YOu get to hear each guitar track come in one by one, first the left, then the center, then the right and you hear it makes a huge sound! Go check it out its really cool.
    HOwever, this would take some good EQing so that the center wouldn’t get cluttered.¬† The guitars usually all play the same exact parts.

    Also, I like to do it AC/DC style. I’ll do one guitar hard right playing lead-type licks (Angus), then feed it into a reverb AUX track and pan the AUX track left. Then I’lll another guitar hard left doing thick open chords, pedal tone rhythm stuff (Malcolm) and feed in into another reverb AUX track and pan it right. This creates a big Mutt Lange-type bleed sound. Its a sort of artificial bleed and it works great (unless you tracking a live band and want real bleed). Give it a shot, its pretty cool.

  • I double track. I find it easier to track the part over two tracks than to re record it. Then I slightly pan them and add stereo separation.

  • I think there are a few ways to achieve this before recording even starts.¬†

    I’ve noticed that bands like Nickelback, Theory of a Deadman, and Three Days Grace get a big part of their huge guitar sound by subtracting guitars from various parts of the song. Bass/Drum Verses, full band drops, big stops can all lead to guitar parts durning choruses and bridges sounding a lot bigger. All of this works even better when you also follow the tips from this article.¬†

    Another way goes along with double tracking. Instead of tracking the exact same part though, track it with different variations. An example is instead of recording two guitars both recording an open G Major, record one with the open G, then capo the 3rd fret and record it again using the E Major fingering. 

  • doubling the guitar, and¬†some them on reverb tracks¬†¬†to the opposite in panning (in the fx channel i cut the highs with an eq)

  • I treat “BIG” guitar recordings much the way as I would do handclaps. Making sure the sound is good yet quite weak on it’s own, and then tracking it 4-16 times and then panning as wide as they need to be.
     
    Another point worth making is the importance the bass guitar plays in making a big wall of guitars really “BIG”. Most times when I solo my rhythm guitar bus after mixing the sound is really quite weak, especially compared to how they sound in the mix, and that’s because I write my guitar parts to work with the bass guitar to fill in the low end and sit nicely in the upper mids. I really think that process/mixing style (viewing the bass guitars and electric guitars as one larger sound) is essential for rock mixes with plenty of tracks of guitar.¬†

  • I’m a big fan of miking the two speakers on an amp with two different mics and then panning them left and right. It keeps it makes one guitar feel really big but since they are different mics each side has its own cahracter

    • Me also, it still works great when using mics with subtle differences. E.g. SM57 and an Audix i5

  • Joel B.

    Double track, pan, and EQ differently (one high, one low). Seems to work OK

    • Sam Montoya

      Double tracking is a good way to go to start off, but really depends on what you’re going for. If you want a full sound for the guitar, you may want to record not only by mic for that initial sound, but also DI so you can reamp through another amp/cab combo or use software emulation or even use hardware like a Eleven Rack.¬†

      Then you can take a mic sound, use a warm low distortion sound and have it panned 80% right and have the mic’d sound 80% left and then different variations of sounds that are panned to make a good recorded guitar sound. EQ is good after the fact as one mentioned before, but moreso to either cut holes for other instruments, maybe a filter to cut off the low end so the bass has room, just depends on the music and what you’re wanting to experience.¬†

      definethegreatsound.com