recording FOR BEGINNERS
a Simple technique to add interest and width to your tracks

By Jeremy Drakeford

Let's say we're recording a basic acoustic song. The arrangement is as follows:

  1. Lead Vocal
  2. Harmony Vocal
  3. Acoustic Guitar

It's a simple arrangement (and let's say you want to keep it that way) but when you listen back it just sounds bland. 
How can you create interest and width with just 3 instruments?
A simple approach is Double Tracking. 

Double Tracking is essentially recording the same part twice. Yes, you'll need to do two good takes!
Note: Copying the same take to the double channel will not work.

We are not changing the structure of the song or playing anything differently.
The trick is to get both takes in sync with each other (or as close as possible).
Being a few milliseconds out is fine (in fact, that is what will help to create the beautiful widening effect)

You'll be panning one take hard left and the other one hard right. 
Hard Panning means turning the pan knob to the most extreme setting (100%) one way or the other.

When implemented correctly, it will almost sound like there is only one instrument/voice instead of two, but you'll have a very pleasing stereo effect.

This is how to do it..
Firstly, update your track count to accommodate for the new channels:

  1. Lead Vocal
  2. Harmony Vocal (L)
  3. Harmony Vocal (R)
  4. Acoustic Guitar (L)
  5. Acoustic Guitar (R)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Record two good takes and make sure they're fairly in sync with one another. 
If you do it correctly, your two waveforms should look similar to each other (as seen below). 

Pan them hard left/right and have a listen. 
The result should be very pleasing to the ears and neither side should sound like it's sticking out at any point.

Below is an audio example of a single tracked acoustic guitar:

And here is the same acoustic guitar part (panned left) with a double added to the right:

If you're recording doubled backing vocals then try to start and finish your words at the same time in both takes. 
If one side holds the note for substantially longer then the subtlety of the effect will be compromised and it may sound messy. 
This can always be fixed by chopping the tail off the longer note and applying a Fade Out. 

Anyway, that's basically it!

P.s. When it comes to processing, in most cases you'll probably want to apply the same effects (and settings) to both doubles.
You could also send both doubles to one Stereo Bus channel and apply the effects there.

Good luck and happy recording!
- Jeremy

Email me your mixes, questions or feedback: jeremy@spectrumsound.com.au