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Electric Guitar for soundtrack music

Hiwatt Custom 50 -guitar amp

21 Apr Electric Guitar for soundtrack music

Gretsch Jet recordingElectric 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.


Guitar sounds:

Chorus –

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 –

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.