Recording guitars for a demo can be a tedious task. For a lot of us, we know these demo guitar tracks aren’t going anywhere near the final mix.
If you’re tracking guitars live for a demo session, you’re much more likely to set up a mic quickly – looking for a “good” tone, but not really dialing it in perfectly.
If you’re tracking guitars in-the-box for your demo, you’re probably going to take a similar approach – picking an amp sim and cab that sound “decent” without making many adjustments.
Both of these approaches are perfectly fine, especially if you’re capturing a DI that can be reamped later, but how do you save time and energy on making the demo so you can focus your efforts more on writing the song?
Only Track Rhythm Guitars Once
One of the most tedious aspects of recording, whether on a demo or a full session, is trying to match a performance when double-tracking.
The sonic characteristics of double-tracking is a much needed element in many genres, none more prevalent than rock and metal. The “wall of sound” that comes from wide, heavy guitars is enough to send chills down your spine. And when you lock in two performances perfectly? It can take a decent demo from good to great.
But if you’re recording a demo, it can take away from the writing energy if you're trying to match your rhythm guitars down to the millisecond. Not only is it time consuming, but if you’re not hitting the take just right early on, it’s easy to lose the creative flow in search of technical perfection.
Instead, you could focus your demo efforts on nailing just one rhythm guitar performance. Get a good take that paints the picture of what your rhythm guitars should sound like, and save the double-tracking for when it really matters later.
Don’t Sacrifice Width for Convenience
Tracking a single rhythm guitar doesn’t mean you need to give up that space in the mix that your double-track would fill. There’s a quick and easy fix to wide, full guitar tones, even in a demo-mix: faux double-tracking using a tape delay.
By picking a tape delay with a short delay time, you can hard-pan the delay to one side of your mix and pan the original guitar to the other side, creating a natural, slightly offset double of your guitar.
Why Tape Delay?
Tape delays impart a bit more character into your sound when it comes to handling your guitar’s signal. Most digital delays try to replicate the original sound with no variation – a sterile carbon copy.
Our goal isn’t a carbon copy. Instead, we want something very close to the original, but with it’s own characteristics, much like we’d hear when tracking two guitars. Tape delays like JST SOAR will give you access to wow, flutter & health controls that all contribute to harmonic distortions and variations from the original signal.
These variations don’t have to be distinguishable enough to pull you out of the mix, just enough to add some depth and differentiate the guitar you’re hearing in the left and right channels.
By reducing the time you spend tracking your demo’s rhythm guitars, you buy yourself time and creativity that’s all too often wasted trying to chase perfection way earlier in the recording process than you should have to.
This trick comes in handy after the demo process as well. In circumstances where you’ve either lost a second guitar track or the tracking engineer never provided one (it happens) you can fall back on a tape delay to help fill the space.
Your band will thank you for saving them from going through an additional round of tracking, and you’re sure to come out looking like a hero that’s fully capable of “fixing it in the mix” should the need arise.
Have Other Time Saving Tips?
If you’ve got techniques you’re using in the studio to save time that’s better spent on creating music, we bet there are hundreds of other producers and engineers that would love to be doing the same.
Share your approach with them over on the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum.