Double Tracking Lead Guitar Parts

When recording guitars for modern music, it’s extremely commonplace to do at least a bit of double tracking. Doubling rhythm guitar parts add depth and character to a song. The technique creates width and size for your mixes and panning them hard left and right (with a bit of occasional spatial widening) really drives home how massive a track can sound.

And you’ll see this happen time and time again – especially in modern rock and metal mixes where the more guitar parts, the better. Quad-tracked and layered rhythm parts expand on the basic stereo approach and it seems like new techniques for bigger, badder sounds are popping up all the time.

But where engineers often don’t think of double tracking is with lead guitars where there’s plenty of ground left to cover. That’s where we’re going to focus our attention today.

Why Double Track Leads?

In some ways, double tracking a lead guitar part isn’t all that different from doubling a rhythm part. By playing the exact same thing a second time and stacking the two performances on top of each other, we’re able to create a thicker, fuller sound than any one track could.

The key to the double tracked performance is keeping the two tight with each other – they need to lock in, or it becomes obvious that they’re two separate performances. 

To accomplish this, many engineers will track again and again, working to get two performances as tightly aligned as possible. From there, it’s a matter of stretching and aligning the audio further until the timing is as perfect as they can get it. 

While the performances will be locked in, the harmonics won’t. There are natural variations each time you play something ranging from how hard the string is plucked to the tuning and magnetic pull of the pickups. All these micro-variances create the sweet harmonic saturation we love when we hear two nearly identical tracks play back at the same time, and they’re exactly what you need in a great doubled lead. 

Breaking from the Norm

While double tracking should be two guitars playing in unison, there are some great tricks of the trade that involve breaking that standard in favor of more complex songwriting. Tracking single note parts in unison is a great foundation, as you can hear in this example from Avery Green:

Around the 4:40 mark in the video, Avery leverages a heavily compressed, double tracked lead part to add a different texture to his track before tearing into a blazing solo. The contrast between the width and simplicity of the double tracked part and the bite/aggression of the solo really create a pivotal moment within the song.

Some bands will even take this approach a step further, which is where dueling solos come into play. The great part of having doubled lead parts is that you can trade off between them when they’re not doubling without making your mix feel like something has popped up out of nowhere.

Whether you choose to play a melody part on one track and a harmony on the other or swap between them is up to you but setting yourself up with the double is a great starting point.

Tonal Variance 

As an additional note when it comes to double tracking leads, it’s also worth noting that leads benefit from many of the same adjustments that make for a great rhythm double track. Most notably, things like different guitars, amps, or settings can really change the character even when you’re playing the same thing. Having a darker tone and a lighter tone can create just a bit of separation and fill more of the frequency spectrum making the tracks sound larger than they are. 

Even something as simple as changing the pickup selection on your guitar is enough to create a bit of variety to choose from as you build up your guitar mix.

Finding the Right Tone 

Whether you’re recording your session’s first guitar track or its hundredth, finding the right tone is going to be paramount to your long-term goals for the song. Recording the wrong tone during tracking can really create an uphill battle when you go to mix.

If you’re struggling to get your tones right on the first try, Toneforge Bootcamp might be the perfect solution for you. In this course, we teach a proven Tonestep system for identifying the right tones for your song then matching them on the fly. Whether you’re referencing another song or starting from scratch and finding it difficult to articulate the sound you’re after, the bootcamp has over 30 videos totaling more than 6 hours of content to help get you the sound you want. 

Check it out here!