How to Produce Guitar (Part 3)

If you’ve been keeping up with the series, you already know what you should be listening for before you even press the record button. You should also be an expert on drums… and today, you’ll be a pro at producing guitars.

Growing up as a guitar player, I’ve always paid attention to the chords, the leads, and every lick in between. But playing guitar and actually listening to the guitar are two completely different concepts. Even the greatest guitar players can use a little guidance when it comes to tracking on an album. A few simple pointers can make an insane difference.

Think of the Listener

Not every guitarist wants to hear it, but they are not the center of the universe. They may have more finesse than Slash, and more licks than Clapton, but are they using them correctly? If you’ve got a guitar player that is soloing throughout the entire song… you’ve got a problem. For the most part, when the vocalist is singing, they should be the focal point. The song needs to breathe. The listener needs time to digest and process all of the emotions in the music. It can cause a real headache if there are too many things happening at once. So please, for the sake of the listeners, keep your guitar players in check.

Listen to the Drums

You should really break things down by instrument. Listen to how each one plays off of one another. Are the drums building? If so, the guitar should follow. Do the drums hit a stop on 3 and the guitar stops on the & of 3? Well, that’s going to sound sloppy on a record. Everyone should be on the same page. Stop together. Build together. Match one another dynamically. This will make for a tighter and more coherent sounding record.

Building the Song

You always want to keep things moving on a record. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it… At live shows, you can keep an audience engaged. We need to find a way to keep them just as focused when they’re solely listening. So how do we do this? Easy, build the song. On double verses, consider adding a lead at the midway point. You could always add extra beats to the strumming pattern as the song progresses, and you can even play more complex chords as the song goes on. There are plenty of ways to move the song, and remember to try pushing forwards. Keep the feel of the song, and build the emotion.

Subliminal Padding

A great way to lift a chorus is with a little thing called subliminal padding. One of my favorite bands that do an incredible job of this is Coheed and Cambria. Why do their chorus’s hit so much harder than the rest of the song? What’s their secret? It doesn’t even sound like the lead is doing anything special! Well, that’s the beauty of it. The guitar isn’t doing anything special. Doubling the rhythm guitars and playing simple octaves that follow those chords is an amazing way to build a chorus subliminally. The audience will feel the song get bigger and they aren’t sure why. This is a great technique to throw into your production portfolio.

Beware the Wall of Sound

Sometimes too many guitars can actually be a bad thing. You’ve heard the term wall of sound, and sometimes it works. But if you allow the guitarists to run the session, 99% of the time they’ll throw as many guitar parts in as humanly possible… It’s in their nature! Your job is to keep things in order. You won’t be able to mix 8 guitar leads at the same time, there just isn’t enough sonic room. So keep things simple… it’ll save you in the long run.

Next time you’re recording guitars, keep some of these points in mind. You’ll be surprised at how much these simple tricks can help. Are there any tricks that you use when tracking guitars? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below, I look forward to talking more! Peace and rock on.

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