You’ll hear the term “doubling” thrown around a lot in the studio. What does it mean and why do we do it? Keep reading to get the in’s and outs of doubling…
Doubling – what is it?
Doubling is the process of recording additional take(s) of a passage to create a second unique performance. It can then be used to combine with the original performance in interesting ways.
Doubling for Stereo Separation
One common use of doubling is to create a stereo version of a performance. In most modern music, the vocal is the primary element and appears in the center of the stereo image. Great effort is taken to move other instruments away from the center to allow the vocal to stand out. This is only possible if the instrument was originally recorded in stereo (for example, a drum kit) or if there are two unique performances that can be panned hard left and right.
For example, if we have an acoustic guitar and a vocalist, we’ll want two complete takes of the guitar track (original and double) to allow us to pan them left and right to keep them out of the center.
Another example would be backing vocals, we’d want the same: two unique takes to pan to the sides to keep the lead vocal front and center.
Doubling for Thickening
Another common use of doubling is to thicken a performance, particularly guitars and vocals. For example, we may want to add a vocal double in the chorus of a song, giving that section more impact. The doubled lead vocal will be in the center “behind” the main vocal. The slight variations in performance will thicken the lead vocal and add a slight chorus effect heard in many pop songs.
From Doubles to Quads
Another case where we use doubling is to thicken background vocals. In this case, we’ll actually want a “quad” vocal – an original and double for each side! Once you add in vocal harmonies, you can see that we may end up wanting a lot of takes to create the thick, highly produced sound that you hear on modern pop songs.