Tutorial: Double-Tracking Rhythm Guitars



Have you ever wondered how the professionals manage to produce such impressive rhythm guitar recordings? In this tutorial I will teach you how to record these rich, full, and professional-sounding rhythm guitars by "Double-Tracking" and creating an auditory illusion ("Haas Effect") that we, as sound engineers, can use to trick the human brain into experiencing that sought-after width and thickness.


STEP 1:


Record your riff into an audio track.
As you can see, I record in Ableton, but this can be done in any recording program.


STEP 2:


Duplicate this track. Doing so allows you to copy over any EQ or other settings you may have already applied to your rhythm guitar.

STEP 3:
 
Delete the audio on the duplicated track. Why?
Because you should never double-track and/or apply the Haas Effect with an exact copy & pasted clone of your audio.
It will sound very strange, robotic, and metallic.

STEP 4: 


Record the riff again, this time on the duplicated track.
Get it as close to the original as you possibly can.

STEP 5:


Using the pan controls, pan one track all the way to the left and the other all the way to the right, like so:



As you can now see, track 1 is panned 50L and track 2 is panned 50R (making up the whole stereo spectrum of 100):




STEP 6:
 

Apply a track delay to one of the tracks. I chose the second track, although it doesn't matter which one you choose.
I typically set a track delay of -7.00ms.
I have found that this is the sweet spot for me.
If you set it much closer to zero there will be too little delay. Conversely, set it too high and the tracks will be too much out of sync.

STEP 7:

Listen to that sound! So thick and full; so much presence.
Well done, you have successfully double-tracked and applied the Haas Effect to your rhythm guitar recording.

The effect explained:

So, how does this all work?

We have two (near) identical riff takes.
One is playing through the left ear/channel.
The other through the right ear/channel.

But... one of the tracks is delayed by a miniscule -7.00ms.

This is where the auditory illusion and brain manipulation takes place!
Because one ear hears the riff a fraction of a second after the other ear, the brain interprets it as echoing off a distant surface,
meaning that the sound must be very wide and vast. Our brain has evolved to make assumptions like this, and so this is how we hack it.
It's through this auditory illusion that we create full, professional rhythm guitars. 

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Shoulder and Elbow Study Animations



The shoulder and elbow are responsible for a lot more than you may think when it comes to guitar technique. In lead guitar, it is essential that we learn and master control over these joints to put them to work immediately. If you aren't using shoulder and elbow mechanics yet - this may be the eye-opener you've been needing! Let's now explore, with animations (see bottom of page), precisely how these joints perform a variety of motions.

Arm String Tracking (animation #1)
 

"String Tracking" is the term used to describe how the picking hand moves from string to string. Both my sweep picking technique and scalar picking technique rely on the arm to achieve this. By pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow, observe how a slightly positive, piston-like, diagonal, push/pull path is sliced out across the strings, moving gradually up towards the neck pickup and back again. 

Wrist Yaw Picking (animation #2)
 

If you are familiar with my works, you'll already be aware that my pickstrokes are generated by the side-to-side yawing of the wrist, otherwise known anatomically as "wrist deviation". Observe the animation and notice how the motion comes entirely from the wrist.

Elbow Picking (BAD) (animation #3)
 

Sometimes it's worth including an example of how NOT to do something. Avoid locking the wrist joint and spasming at the elbow. Sure, the strength of the elbow is mighty, and at first it may seem like it's a great way to pick (because of the undeniable and instant speed one can achieve), but there are many reasons why this is a bad idea:

- Spasming at the elbow will eventually lead to injury.
- Moving the mass of the entire forearm + hand assembly about the elbow fulcrum takes a lot of energy.
- It only seems to work cleanly for neutral pickslanting and upward pickslanting.

Elbow Accents (animation #4) 


You don't have to rule elbow picking completely out of your picking technique, however. I, and many wrist pickers like me, use the elbow to assist with accenting. See the animation below where a loop of four pickstrokes is being played. The wrist is loose and yaws the whole time, but observe how the elbow lifts the forearm up on every other upstroke and then smacks down hard on that first note (ONE...two...three...four...):

- With a loose and yawing wrist, slam the forearm down using the elbow to accent the first pickstroke (ONE...).
- Wrist yaw pick the next two pickstokes. (two...three...)
- With a loose and yawing wrist, raise the forearm up using the elbow to perform the final stoke of four, in preparation for the hard downward forearm accent again (four...).

Repeat.

The sheer speed and tightness you can get with elbow accenting is phenomenal.

Wrist Yaw Picking 6S (animation #5)
 

This animation demonstrates how to combine wrist yaw picking and string tracking to traverse 6 strings. If done correctly, the hand will feel like it's picking just one string the whole time. In reality, the string is simply changing underneath the picking hand. In a downward pickslant:

- Wrist yaw pick the first 4 strokes (one...two...three...four)
- String track the distance of one string by pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow.
- Wrist yaw pick another 4 strokes (one...two...three...four)
- String track the distance of one string by pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow again.

and so on across the remaining strings.

Elbow Accents 6S (animation #6)
 

Finally, try combining the elbow accenting mechanic with string tracking across 6 strings. In a downward pickslant again:

- With a loose and yawing wrist, slam the forearm down using the elbow to accent the first pickstroke (ONE...).
- Wrist yaw pick the next two pickstrokes (two...three...)
- With a loose and yawing wrist, raise the forearm up using the elbow to perform the final stoke of four, in preparation for the hard downward forearm accent again (four...).
- String track the distance of one string.

Repeat across the strings.


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Essential Scale Sequences

What are scale sequences?

A sequence is a repeated and ordered pattern applied to the notes of a scale or arpeggio.

Imagine walking in a straight line for 8 steps. You could go ahead one step at a time like you normally would or you could decide to mix it up. For instance, you could step forward 3 times and step back once. You could step forward 4 times and step back twice. You could even leap forward a distance of 2 steps and then take a step back. All of these would be different ways in which you could walk ahead 8 steps. They are different patterns. They are different sequences.

Why learn them?

From the moment you learn a scale, it is your duty as a musician to convert it into music. Playing scales up and down the same way forever simply won’t cut it. And so the use of scale sequences is the answer. Sequences are an essential part of fretboard freedom and musical freedom. The more you master, the more interesting and creative sounds you can make with scales. Using sequences can change the way in which your guitar leadwork affects a track/song/jam. For instance, simply playing up through the notes of a scale produces a rather bland and straightforward result, represented below by a straight line. Whereas by applying something powerfully intervallic like the second example in this article: the "Pentatonic 4ths" sequence, you can produce a far more jagged and melodic sound to the ear, represented below by the jagged rising line.

How to use them

Play through the examples. Alternate pick everything. Apply them to different positions/scales/modes/keys. Familiarise yourself with the different sound of each sequence. Next time you jam, make sure to incorporate them into your leads. Perhaps between licks, melodies or scale runs you already know. Remember to mix it up: play examples as 16th notes (4 notes per beat) but also try them as 8th note triplets (3 notes per beat). Different notes of the sequence will land on different beats and can change the sound. You may be very pleased with what you discover! Pay very close attention to the fretting fingering instructions under some ambiguous tabs. Play examples exactly as specified to avoid unnecessary difficulty and confusion.

Example #1: "Linear Fours" in C Major

Here is the first of four examples. Instead of playing the C major 3-notes-per-string (3NPS) scale up and down, we apply a sequence called "Linear Fours". The pattern goes like this: Forward 4 notes, back 1 note. When you step back that one note, the sequence begins again. Give it a go!

Example #2: "Pentatonic 4ths" in A minor

Now we will try out a pentatonic idea. This one is trickier as it requires you to employ finger rolling to hit adjacent notes. In other words, you'll need to rock a small barre back and forth with a fretting finger to play notes which have the same fret number but a different string. Go really slowly to ensure a clean sound. And make sure you follow the fingering instructions under the tab.

Example #3: "Skipped 3rds" Diminished Arpeggio

This example shows that sequences aren't limited to scales - they can be applied to arpeggios as well. Starting on the D note on the low E string we play through the 4 notes of the diminished arpeggio (Root, Min3, b5 & 6 AKA bb7). But we don't play them in order. Instead we play the first note, then jump over the second to play the third (Hence "Skipped 3rds") and then we step back a note to play the second. And from that note we skip up a third, then step back one, and so on it goes. Once again, pay attention to the fingering instructions below the tab. Love this sound!

Example #4: "Root, 7th & 5th Triads" E Lydian

This is the most complex example by far, and sounds amazing! I'll try to explain this one as simply as possible. We are basically sequencing an E Lydian scale by building triads of root, 7th and 5th off every note of an EMaj7 chord. But don't get too caught up with the technical aspects of this if you don't want to, just follow the fingering instructions (Slowly!) and enjoy this beautiful sound.

Check out the video lesson!

 



 

 

 





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Alternate Picking Exercises

Alternate picking for the lead guitar is where the picking hand executes alternating pickstrokes to play passages of notes. This down, up, down, up pattern is kept constant no matter what pattern the fretting hand is fingering or how many strings may be involved. This technique, while very tricky to master, can lead to a powerful sound and blistering high speed playing.

But a high level of picking hand accuracy must be established and synchronisation must be developed so that the two hands work together perfectly in time.

Work on these five looping exercises and begin developing your alternate picking technique right now!

Exercise 1: "PHI (Picking Hand Isolation) skipped all strings"
This works purely on the picking hand accuracy. Mute the strings by gently resting your fretting hand fingers across the strings. Rest your picking hand near the bridge and begin picking through the skipped pattern. This may be tricky at first and you may accidently hit the wrong strings as you skip. Slowly work on it until it is clean and you no longer make mistakes.

 

Exercise 2: "Back n Forth 2-string combination"

This is an absolute favourite of mine. It contains ascending and descending groups of six with parts changing direction. So many useful movements are encountered in this exercise.

 

Exercise 3: "Nimble Fingers single string sync"

This goes back and forth on one string bouncing between finger pairs to really get your hands synchronised together. Remember to give this a go on other strings too, not just the one string shown here.

 

Exercise 4: "Fmaj7 fractured 4 finger arpeggio"

Take this one very slowly. It’s an absolute minefield of potential mistakes. But that’s good, because once you get comfortable with it… that means you have improved! This is all string crosses and skips. If you can develop skill with this then most other exercises will seem much easier by comparison.

 

Exercise 5: "F6 skipped arpeggio"

This outlines an F6 chord. Apart from sounding cool, this forces you to cross to a string, then back, then skip over a string. All one after another. And will further improve your accuracy and string crosses.

Check out the video to see and hear these exercises in action!

 

 

 

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