21 Apr Electric Guitar for soundtrack music
Electric guitar is perhaps not the first instrument that springs to mind when you think of recording soundtrack music. However I find it can be a very useful tool in creating ambient music and textures (guitar is my main instrument so I am probably biased).
Below are a bunch of examples of how using effects on electric guitar can create unusual and mood enhancing sounds for soundtracks.
My guitar of choice today is the Gretsch Jet solid body, a lovely sounding instrument that is a joy to play.
I’m playing through a Hiwatt Custom 50 amp (pictured above). One of the best guitar amps money can buy. Mic’d with a Shure SM57 and a Rode NTV in stereo.
My effects board consists of a lot of handy tools for live and studio applications.
A lush chorus modulation sound is provided by the Strymon Mobius, a top of the line modulation unit. Chorus adds another layer of sound to the guitar and provides a slight waver.
Volume Swell –
Swelling the volume in gives the guitar a wailing, ethereal sound. Almost like a dolphin’s call at times. It is great to re-create string sounds and pads. I have added some overdrive to give more harmonics (Fulltone Fulldrive 2), as well as a bit of tape delay (TC Electronic Flashback), to help the sound travel.
Slapback Delay –
Slapback delay creates a nice thick sound which emphasises the twang in the guitar. It would suit a Western style film or similar. I’ve also added some spring delay (Boss DD-3).
Modulating Reverb –
Reverb is a great effect for adding ambience. Here I have the Boss DD-3 on modulation setting. It provides a ghostly haunting, floating effect that expands out from the guitar notes.
Phaser Guitar –
Phaser is a great effect to alter the timbre of a guitar. It is a time based modulation effect that creates a changing ‘phasing’ layer to the sound. Here I have combined it with some overdrive (Lovepedal COT 50), Octave generator (Foxrox Octron) and a tiny splash of delay. The result is a dark, growly sound, suitable for dramatic soundtrack textures.
Clean Guitar –
A nice, clean electric guitar sound can be a great way to produce nice melodic pieces of music. A tiny bit of reverb and delay helps fatten the sound and the natural chime of the guitar comes out.
Tremolo is a fluctuation of volume that creates a certain effect (provided by the Strymon Mobius). Commonly associated with Western American culture, it is very useful for creating mildly dramatic moods.
Vibrato – (my daughter said “that’s a sad song” when she heard me recording this piece)
Vibrato is a pitch based modulation sound (Strymon Mobius). It cycles the pitch of the signal slightly up and down over top of the original signal. Here it gives a spooky, ghostly sound.
Often when I add electric guitar in soundtracks the effects and delivery can mean that the client doesn’t even realise it’s a guitar. I find it a useful and versatile tool for creating ambient sound beds as well as usual more musical based song and melody platforms.