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Tips for Producing Big Guitar Sounds

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So I wanted to talk about guitar production techniques. This is a little trick that I learned from mister Dave Jerden and his old engineer, who unfortunately died a few years ago, mister Bryan Carlstrom. We made a lot of records together. Brian and David actually made one of my albums when I was in a band, which was a lot of fun, and then I carried on doing production stuff with Dave Jerden and quite a long time with Bryan Carlstrom as well. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot of stuff.

This is a trick that they would do to build a big guitar sound. It’s quite fun, you can just use one amp, a guitar, a bass, and a wah pedal.

Let me show you something here that you’re going to find fun and give yourself a really big, meaty guitar sound.

So we’ve got my Yamaha Revstar here, which is a guitar I use pretty much every day. Yeah, not pretty much, I use it every day for recording, and I’ve got a song here with a simple four chord sequence, and all we’ve got is a bass line and some drums, and we’re going to build some heavy rhythms together over the top of it.

So let’s get started.

Okay, so what I’ve got here is a four chord sequence. This B Minor, D, A, and E. That’s it. Simple as that. It’s kind of a grungy… You know, it’s not a…

[chuggy guitar]

Just a loose, rhythmic part. I’m just going to play it once, then double it on the other side with the same sound. We’ll start with that.

This is my Marshall JMP.


It’s actually not that much distortion, believe it or not, because if I play… I can play…

[cleaner guitar]

If I play softly… Then you… It’s all about…

It’s kind of a slightly over the top crunch. Crunch plus. How about that? Alright, so let’s do it.

[recording guitar]

Cool. So there’s one. We’ll take that, we’ll pan it to the right 100%. Everybody knows this trick. You know, one panned left, one panned right, so so far, so good. We’ll pan this new one we’re going to do to the left.

[recording second guitar]

So all I want to do is reinforce that sound. That’s a good sound. I mean, in many situations, that’s all I do. Especially if I’m just doing like, a classic rock, and I’m not trying to do something as angry as I want to do here. In this original song, I actually used a Big Muff pedal and went full distortion, and then overlaid loads of kind of like, you know, parts like that.

But we’re going to take a different version. So what’s the trick? This is the Dave Jerden trick.

So firstly, I’m going to stay with the same amp, but I’ve added a wah pedal. You might say, “Why need wah pedal? Are you going to wah a bass?” Well, you’re going to hear.

Okay, so what I have here is just a good old bog standard bass. This bass actually is a jazz bass, obviously, for those of you who can see, but it’s a jazz bass. It’s not an expensive bass. I’ve had it for quite awhile, and Dave’s trick is this. Basically what he does is he will play the same part on a D string.

Now you might say, “Well, what’s so significant about that?” Well, first of all, it’s a lot heavier. A lot heavier string, super solid.


So it can be — you know, and then… So I’ll play that part against it.

Okay, so so far, so good. I can put this bass through the same channel. Why am I using a wah pedal? What’s this reason? Wah pedal engaged.

[bass with wah]

With it off.

[bass, no wah]


Engaged. What the wah pedal does is it just narrows the frequency boost. So I can make it super mid-rangey.

[bass, adjusting wah]

That’s ugly. On it’s own, it’s super ugly. Let’s put it in the track.


It’s awesome. It just makes those guitars big and fat. I haven’t changed anything. I haven’t changed the amp, I haven’t changed the miking, it’s all the exact same thing. I just plugged in a cheap-ish jazz bass with Mexican pickups in it, it’s got a bad ass bridge on it, and now I can just pan that over to one side and do another one.

Now, it’s all on the D string, because it sort of emulates, yes, you guessed it, those of you that know all of the tricks with rock guitar, a baritone. Not everybody has a dedicated baritone guitar, so this emulates that sound really, really great and easy to use.

So let’s try it out. Let’s double it.


Simple, cool, easy to do trick. Same amp that you’ve got.

Now, actually, CryBaby, there’s a CryBaby pedal called — I think it was called a Q-Zone, which allows you to instead of using your foot to do this and find the place, you could actually move it on a rotary control. I don’t know if they still make it, but it was great. It was Jim Dunlop, I believe it was called a Q-Zone.

It does exactly the same thing. You find that frequency, that nasal, disgusting, kind of like, rip your head off kind of frequency, and of course you can go lower, but it’s very focused. This is the great thing about it, and you can tune it to any frequency that you want, and it’s so much more fun than doing it with EQ like in a mix.

You can build the guitars to be what you want. So let’s have a quick listen.

So I can pull these down a little bit if you’d like. Just — this is just the basses.


With the guitars.

[bass and guitars]

That’s awesome. So that’s now 5.2dB below the main rhythms. It’s almost invisible, but it’s making those guitars sound really massive, and really frankly, offensive.

So what I’m going to do here is I’m going to group these all together. Let’s call these the bass fuzz. It’s not a fuzz, but I’ll call it bass fuzz for the sake of it, and I’ll bring it in and out so you can hear it. So this is with them off completely.

[guitars, no bass]

In. It just adds a little extra solidity to it, and it gives you a great way of adding tone. I’m playing exactly the same rhythm with my right hand on the bass.

Again, it’s all on the D string. Now, it can work if you want to play it all over the neck, however, you go to the low E on a bass, first of all, I’ve got a bass guitar already doing that, which I can drop in, so why would I need to do that first of all, but secondly, I’m trying to focus it so staying on one string keeps it really in one EQ point. One solid piece of mid-range to kind of reinforce it.

Let’s drop it into the track.


Out. Back in. So it’s great.

So a great way to give your guitars — now, go back and listen to Alice in Chains. Listen to all of the stuff that Dave did on those two big albums. Think about Man in a Box. [mimics guitars] And that’s that trick.

He did, like — he had small amps, he had big amps, and he had that mid-range stuff using the D-string on a bass, and he blended them all together to get those massive guitar sounds.

So it’s a great trick. Thank you Dave for showing me that one. If you don’t have a baritone guitar, just pick up your bass.

If you have a baritone guitar, to be honest, it’s still a bit of a different tone anyway, because a D string just has that — it’s just strung a little bit tougher. A little bit, you know, a little bit more tense, and gives you a really solid tone. Very hard to push it sharp by playing too hard when it’s that tight.

So really enjoy that technique. If you have any other ideas for doing heavy guitars, or unique guitar sounds, please leave them below. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing, and I’ll speak to you all again very soon.


Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

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