Modern rock music has seen its fair share of accusations of sounding too formulaic. Just like with pop and other successful genres, structure and simplicity is important to creating a hit, but it’s easy to sound dull and generic when following it. It’s up to you to find new ways to keep things interesting and hold your listener’s attention without straying too far from the core of your song.
Today, I want to look at how guitar production can accomplish just that. With guitars, you’re able to create textures paralleled by few other instruments. What’s more, you can use them in nearly any genre without sounding out of place – something many producers struggle with when trying to add synths to hard rock songs.
When done right, guitars can serve many different purposes in your music. It’s all about the production choices you make when writing, arranging, and mixing those parts!
Drastically Changing Your Sound
As much flexibility as they might have, guitar amps focus on doing one thing for your guitar: they make it louder.
Yes, each amp sounds a bit different based on its circuitry. Some are better clean platforms while others are intentionally high-gain to saturate and overdrive a bit easier, but there’s so much more to your tone than the guitar and the amp. You need effects if you’re going to get a truly unique texture for your song.
Effects can be anything from distortions to phasers to time-based effects, but they all work to change your sound. Getting into them and experimenting with different ones is not only fun, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to keep your sound from getting stale.
Even in the heaviest mixes, a shimmering, chorusing guitar part can fit in adding subtle ambience to a song. Buzzy, fuzzed-out riffs add a stark contrast to clean tones and even wah, which is essentially just an EQ sweep, can make your listener’s ears perk up with interest.
The weirder a sound you can achieve, the better it’ll be for your overall production.
Use Stacks To Create Movement
A song is all about push and pull. It’s about creating rising actions that build to a crescendo and then burst at the seams. Effects alone aren’t going to get you there and lyrics aren’t either. Songs demand dynamics.
For a subtle boost of dynamics in a rock song, consider using guitar stacks to your advantage. Many producers and engineers will quad track guitars for an especially massive mix, but they’re not all using them effectively.
The next time you go to layer guitars in your song, try doing a double in the verses and quad tracking in the chorus. What you should find is that simply following this basic technique will give you that sort of pushing and pulling motion between the two, even though the entire song might be loud and aggressive.
People don’t realize how much harmonic density drives dynamics and that’s a good thing for those who do. It means you can work to subtly create movement in your songs without the end result being jarring or disjointed.
Just look at how effective these techniques are for producers like Pablo Barco Perez:
As you can tell, he’s doing a little bit of everything to create motion and complexity in his guitar mix. Borrow inspiration from other genres, use techniques popularized by other players or producers, or come up with something all your own!
Start Dialing In Better Tones
Ultimately, nothing flashy needs to be done if you’re properly arranging your guitar parts and getting tight, professional tones. Sometimes, all you need to do is work on your critical listening skills to match your tone to the tones you hear in your favorite songs.
Our Toneforge Bootcamp course is the perfect way to start down that path – giving you hours of content designed to help you identify good tone, match it in your DAW, then mix it in a way that works with your song.