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How To Layer Heavy Guitars in a Rock Song with Bob Marlette

So, guitars. Usually, we kind of separate it into two — essentially, two different categories of guitars. We have our foundational heavy guitars that are going to be our big, sort of fat outside walls, and then we have our fairy dust guitars.

In this particular track, there’s not a lot of fairy dust guitars, because it’s done more with the keyboards on this particular song, but essentially, the principal is the same, and we’ll get into that in a little bit, so let’s just start with our guitars now, and sort of show you what the — what our guitars are going to do.

So in the chorus again, we’re working on primarily the chorus, because it’s the bigger — it’s the biggest aspect of the song, and we want to sort of set our sort of ceiling of the boundary. You know, I’m always ask — you know, why — how did you get that guitar tone, or why did you go for that particular guitar tone?

The hardest part sometimes is explaining to people, it’s — a lot of it’s just experience, and doing it enough — doing it enough times that you go, you know what? In this chorus, this just simply needs a big, fat, heavy tone that gets us our big peripheral outside fatness that supports the outside of the track. Remember, earlier, I talked about how I’ll bring the drum imaging — will generally never go more than like, 70 or 80 percent on the outside, so that leaves at 100 percent on each side, the heavy guitars, so there’s enough clarity for the shape of everything.

So in this instance, I always had the heavies hard right and hard left, because that’s their space that they occupy. So let me mute all of the drums here. So now, let’s look at our first guitar track.


So there’s your basic foundational guitar. One of the tricks that I do that I do on a lot of records is I add this other component that just gives me a lot more width and clarity. This component is…

[DanElectro guitar]

That is a DanElectro Baritone guitar, and what I’ll do is I’ll take the DanElectro, I’ll tune it to whatever the, you know, the — kind of the low note of the voicing of the chorus, like when you’re at, [imitates chords], is that’s probably going to be the most functional low note, which is — I don’t remember what key this song is, but that’ll be the low, because — [imitates melody]. Because that would be too low to have it tuned that deep, so what I do is I take that DanElectro, and I’ll add an octave, and kind of a fuzz to it to create its own unique stamp, so it has that kind of tone.

[DanElectro guitar]

That’s got a little bit of octave on it, and some fuzzy distortion. Here’s the other side of that.

[right DanElectro, fuzz]

Hear how fuzzy that is? The cool thing about that is when you blend it in with all of these more traditional, heavy guitar tones, it gives it a little bit more unique stamp, and it’s great because those two guitars, those — the way they add to the other stacks of guitars, they make that poke out really nice, so it just is super big and heavy on the outside, and then we have this other set of guitars.


Playing a slightly different, more energetic part. Stick them all together, and all of a sudden, you’ve got a massive, wide…

[wide guitars]


It just sounds mega wide and cool, and you combine that with these guys over here…


The synth bass…

[guitars with synth bass]

A lot of it also is in the production itself, making sure that it’s not too busy. That it has an ability to be simple enough, big enough to poke out without getting too messy, so it messes up the rest of the track.

So in terms of guitar EQ, that’s again such a personal, per case basis.


What I do a lot of times — here is the tone without any EQ.

[guitar, no EQ]

Here’s the funny thing about this. You listen to it without the EQ, and you go, “Wow, that actually maybe sounds a little bit better.”

The problem is though, the added frequency and width of that sometimes makes it messier in the track, so what I’ve done was…

[guitar, with EQ]

I’ve taken and had — if you can see — I filtered everything below 100Hz. Buh bye. I’ve tried to focus the curves of the EQ in a way that it really accentuates a certain aspect of the guitar so it can really speak clearly.

[guitar, with EQ]

See how much more low end there is and more body? But I need to get rid of that, because by the time you put five other tracks in there, you need some of that to go away so it has a little bit more clarity.



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