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How to 'oomph up' your guitar sound by combining it with other instruments

Sometimes the sound of the electric guitar doesn't quite cut it. But there are ways you can make the guitar sound like more than it is. Much more...

Sometimes the sound of the electric guitar doesn't quite cut it. But there are ways you can make the guitar sound like more than it is. Much more...

Synthesizers and samplers can provide a pretty convincing imitation of almost every instrument there is, even an entire orchestra. But the one instrument they really struggle with is the guitar, electric and acoustic. (But they can do a good bass!)

It's all down to the way the instrument is played. You just can't get the same effect from a keyboard.

But sometimes when you listen to a well-produced recording you might admire the guitar sound. But maybe there is a little more to it than you realize at first...

Concentrating on electric guitars here, the first step is to use a great player with a good instrument, amplifier and cabinet. Without that combination, you will struggle.

But then there is the art of miking the cabinet. Placing one mic in front of the cab isn't rocket science. But if you add an ambience mic about a meter away, and then mix it in carefully, you will be amazed at the improvement. You can time-align it for an additional step towards perfection.

But it doesn't stop there. You can pan the close mic to the left and the ambience mic to the right. Yes of course, this is all wrong. But try it - it doesn't hurt to break the rules a little now and then.

But the killer technique is to mix in other sounds with the guitar. Maybe not all the time but just when something special is needed.

For the ultimate power chord, try mixing in a low piano note, timed exactly right (and at the right pitch of course!). It doesn't seem too promising in mere words, but the combination works really well when you hear it.

Another trick for a chugging rhythm guitar is to mix in a Hammond-style organ sound, preferably with a little bit of grittiness, as you would get from the traditional Leslie cabinet that is commonly used with the Hammond.

Suddenly you have a guitar sound with real 'oomph'.

In fact, this 'combining' technique can work for all sorts of sounds. Rather than calling up yet another preset on your keyboard, why not experiment with different combinations of instruments? Actually, if you listen to orchestral music, you'll find the old classical guys have been doing it for centuries.

By David Mellor Friday March 19, 2010