Less Is More
Avoid too much editing- don’t sterilize your guitar tracks by editing every imperfection out of them. Unexpected sounds, articulations, and accents that initially appear to be mistakes can add life and authenticity to a guitar part. Often those magic accidents are only obvious on playback, rather than during the recording take. If you find yourself spending a lot of time editing one particular thing, go back and record a few more takes.
Using an eBow (electronic bow) is a great way to create legato melodies and atmospheres. When playing a note with the eBow, think about the different textures you can get with your left-hand vibrato. The most popular ‘up and down’ vibrato sounds great as well as the more classical ‘side to side’ vibrato technique. On the subject of vibrato, think about tempo syncing your technique to certain values like 1/4 notes, 1/8 notes, 1/16ths or even triplets. Changing the rhythm and depth of your vibrato can really tie a soundscape together.
Layering & Reverb
When layering guitars, try to vary the reverb types, sizes and amount on each part to create distance and contrast between them. As well as big dreamy reverbs, experiment with shorter spring reverbs, especially on punchy staccato guitar parts. Think of silence between notes and chords as part of the composition, it’s in these gaps that you can really control or ‘play’ a reverb tail.
The eBow is great for monophonic guitar parts, but for chordal swells try using a volume pedal. It can be a tough technique but worth working on, especially when you start string bending in smaller chords, or playing with a slide. Try feeding the volume pedal into an outboard compressor or compression pedal with a smooth setting before the signal hits the amp or d.i.
Create rhythm and pulse in ambient guitar parts by using a tremolo effect on sparse progressions. An easy start is to tempo sync a tremolo plugin to a 1/4 or 1/8 note, and experiment with the depth. This way you can create great soundscapes with defined movement, without having to play parts that are too busy or harsh.
Production Tips provided by Rob Aitken