Doubling Vs Stacking Guitar Tracks
Todd Simpson
Oct 12 2020, 11:37 PM
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Recently, in another thread, the practice of “Doubling” guitar tracks came up. It’s a time honored technique. One simply records a guitar track. Then records the same guitar track again and then pans the two tracks a bit. The result is often a much BIGGER guitar sound than can be attained using a single track.

In addition to “Doubling” guitar tracks. One can also “Stack” guitar tracks. This is done typically by using a DI or REAMP box to send a guitar signal to an amp, (set up with a mic for recording) while at the same time sending a dry signal to the daw to be recorded.
(Typical Reamp/DI Box Setup)

Attached Image


In this way, one has an “AMPED” tone and a “DIRECT” tone. The direct tone can then be passed through whatever guitar plugin one happens to want to use. In the stacking example, the two performances are identical and when stacked on top of one another, one must use EQ and FX to make the two identical tracks sound different.

Stacking is a bit easier than doubling since one gets two tracks out of one recording pass. However, using identical performances is now without it’s drawbacks. Given that both performances in a stack are identical, this method is prone to a lot of signal cancellation. E.G. Identical frequencies can cancel each other out and result in silence/phasing/various audio artifacts. To get around this, one typically has to either invert the mic phase for one of the stacked tracks, or nudge one of the stacked tracks out of alignment. (E.G. nudge it forward or backward on the timeline). This too is not without it’s drawbacks. As soon as you misalign two identical performances you create another set of cancellation issues and fundamentally change the sound of both tracks.

This method is often used in quick demos as it’s just quicker to record something once and then nudge it, than it is to record it twice. The stacking method can be used with LEAD sections and or RYTHM sections. It’s a quick way to give a lead section a unique tone to help it stand out in a mix. Not to mention, not every lead player is able to “Double” lead passages. Some lead players really struggle to play an identical version of a lead guitar section. I personally LOVE to double lead passages as it creates a very unique sound. It makes the lead really stand out in a mix. I doubled the lead passage on this GMC collab. You can hear the slight variation in the lead. It’s what makes it sound “bigger”.



Of course, one can try to combine DOUBLING and STACKING. For each time one records a take, the DI box will allow the AMPED version and the DI version to be recorded. So for each pass, there are two available tracks. This allows for the most flexibility. You may decide you only like the amped tracks, you may only like the DI tracks passed through your fave guitar plugin. The amp track may have too much noise, the DI track may be too quiet, etc. If you have a DI and AMPED pass recorded for each take, you have more flexibility when it comes time for mixdown.

So, in conclusion, it’s a good idea to try to grab an amped and di version of each good take, if at all possible. It gives you the most options during the mixing phase of production. If you don’t have a DI box, you can always skip stacking and just record a pass through an amp, and then record a pass direct to through your audio interface. As for which one works best, it really comes down to which one works best for you. Some people either don’t have an amp they want to record, or don’t use guitar plugins, etc. So it does come down to player, as do most things smile.gif


This article suggested by BEN was very helpful
https://www.musicradar.com/how-to/how-to-us...ecording-guitar

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This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Oct 12 2020, 11:38 PM
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Caelumamittendum
Oct 13 2020, 06:45 AM
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I wouldn't think there would be phase issues if you use the same performance for a left DI-track and a left amp-track? Sure, if you use it for left AND right you would have phasing issues, but what I've been talking about is using one take (which includes DI and amp) for left and one for right. I linked some videos in the other thread.

Sure you can use two of the same tracks left and right and nudge them for a "cheat" double tracking.

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Mertay
Oct 13 2020, 08:42 AM
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Back in my studio days (a million years ago smile.gif ) I used stacking A LOT! we had a super crappy amp I never used but had a bunch of mic.s and I preferred to make the most out of them.

After the artists amp arrived, I placed up to 4 many 5 mic.s on varying distance/placements having a rough idea then make a quick adjustment to tighten their sounds. We also had a DI signal but I'll get to that in a bit.

So if sm57 was channel 1, I slowly raised and channel 2 (could be any mic.) while listening the other tracks or even solo trying to find the biggest and balanced sound by blending. Most of the time I didn't use more than 2 mic.s but the options were always helpful. Idea is you get an organic and balanced sound with minimal to no eq process. We didn't have a re-amp box but even if we had probably would use it very rare.

Used nudging if I heard phase issue's, but we must note since one signal is lower than the other its not as critical problem as one might expect. Our room was pretty dead so that too also may have helped...

So that would be my main guitar tone, the DI was always for plug-in use. This was back when amp plug-ins sound horrid smile.gif but even the best studio's used them cause after the organic tone they're just supplements.

As for doubling, I often wasn't happy of faking it. If you use eq, one side easily gets brighter than the other giving the listener fatigue (specially these days as everyone use headphones this is important). This can be managed on the mastering process but won't be pretty... Maybe if I was forced I'd try a doubler plug-in (these stuff are usually intended for vocal use) first but to be honest I have no idea if or how good it would work.

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This post has been edited by Mertay: Oct 13 2020, 08:43 AM


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Todd Simpson
Oct 14 2020, 02:43 AM
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As I say, your mileage may vary. The best way to see if it works for you is just to try it out smile.gif Share the results in this thread is possible. Some folks stack, some double , some use both!! It just depends. If you stack 2 tracks, without nudging, regardless of pan, it typically causes cancellation issues of some kind. if you nudge it can cause phasing. Then again, like mertay says, if you just use a little but of one of the stacked tracks, it's usually fine. Say the stacked top track has better bass, so adding a bit of it in can thicken the track it's stacked to. A lot depends on what is being played, fx being used, etc. A lot of variables at play.

QUOTE (Caelumamittendum @ Oct 13 2020, 01:45 AM) *
I wouldn't think there would be phase issues if you use the same performance for a left DI-track and a left amp-track? Sure, if you use it for left AND right you would have phasing issues, but what I've been talking about is using one take (which includes DI and amp) for left and one for right. I linked some videos in the other thread.

Sure you can use two of the same tracks left and right and nudge them for a "cheat" double tracking.



My experience was similar. If I used just a pinch of a stacked track, it was usually ok, but if I brought it up even close to the same level as the track below it, things got wonky. Still, if one uses minimal distortion it can reduce the effects to a great deal. A lot of variables are in play anytime one stacks or doubles. Even more variables at play when one stacks and doubles. Sometimes the nudge trick works. Some times it sounds terrible. I had the best luck with doubling and when using as little distortion as I could get away with. Just enough to add "chunk/crunch" to the rythm. Any more gain and issues started to get worse on stacking. Even on doubling, with too much distortion, the tracks actually sounded smaller. So for best results, I'd say double if possible and use as little distortion as the track will allow. At least that's what I've run across smile.gif


QUOTE (Mertay @ Oct 13 2020, 03:42 AM) *
Back in my studio days (a million years ago smile.gif ) I used stacking A LOT! we had a super crappy amp I never used but had a bunch of mic.s and I preferred to make the most out of them.

After the artists amp arrived, I placed up to 4 many 5 mic.s on varying distance/placements having a rough idea then make a quick adjustment to tighten their sounds. We also had a DI signal but I'll get to that in a bit.

So if sm57 was channel 1, I slowly raised and channel 2 (could be any mic.) while listening the other tracks or even solo trying to find the biggest and balanced sound by blending. Most of the time I didn't use more than 2 mic.s but the options were always helpful. Idea is you get an organic and balanced sound with minimal to no eq process. We didn't have a re-amp box but even if we had probably would use it very rare.

Used nudging if I heard phase issue's, but we must note since one signal is lower than the other its not as critical problem as one might expect. Our room was pretty dead so that too also may have helped...

So that would be my main guitar tone, the DI was always for plug-in use. This was back when amp plug-ins sound horrid smile.gif but even the best studio's used them cause after the organic tone they're just supplements.

As for doubling, I often wasn't happy of faking it. If you use eq, one side easily gets brighter than the other giving the listener fatigue (specially these days as everyone use headphones this is important). This can be managed on the mastering process but won't be pretty... Maybe if I was forced I'd try a doubler plug-in (these stuff are usually intended for vocal use) first but to be honest I have no idea if or how good it would work.

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