Thickening a guitar tone is about accentuating its low mid section while trying to flatten the highs if needed.
Here are 10 tips on how to thicken your guitar tone
- Reduce the complexity of your amp rig
- Use filters via pitch controller
- Use a closed amp
- Double tracking
- Move the mic if you are recording
- Using delay to thicken
- Use thicker strings
- Adjust the gains
Ultimately, the tone of your playing comes from
- The skill of the player
- The guitar used
- The amp/cabinet set up
- Other accessories
Even with the right guitar and setup, a beginner player might not be able to draw out the beefy tone so the tip is actually to practice more.
On the other hand, an experienced player with a guitar that can’t reach those thicker zone can’t do the impossible, regardless of how good he is.
All the tips recommended here assumes you have the right skills and guitar. We will be focusing mostly on the set up and accessories used to create a more beefy guitar tone.
1. Reduce Amp Gig Complexity
The more signals you set through your am gig set up, the more work you need to do to make sure everything balances out. If you get one thing wrong, the end result might be a tone that is not what you are looking though.
Instead of adding more stuff, simplify your amp set up as much as possible. This makes it easier to identify what might be causing your guitar tone to sound ‘thin’ rather than ‘thick’.
2. Use filters via pitch controllers
This is how to use filters
- Add the 2 filters before your amp
- Connect them to your pitch controllers. One is to boost the notes to 320hz and the other at 2500hz
- Use digital delay of 1 mins time difference
- Finally, at the end of your setup chain, use a ratio of 2:1 on your studio comp.
3. Use a Closed Amp
Open backed amp usually is not as good when it comes to producing thick and rich tone.
A better alternative will be a closed backed amp that have been wired up for 8 ohm.
If you can only access open backed amp at the moment, make sure it is placed closed to a wall and on the floor. This helps to create similar effects as a closed back amp.
4. Double Tracking
Double tracking the guitar parts definitely helps to increase the thickness of your tone. If you are wondering why some bands have 2 guitarists, it is to make the guitar sound beefy and bigger. So, this trick is basically copying this technique.
You need to first record the guitar track either with 2 mics (borrow one from a friend) or by playing it twice. Doing the latter allows you more flexibility to create a different kind of dual tracks. For example, the first time can be played with a fatter guitar while the second can be for a brighter one.
Once these are done, you need to project them correctly. The right way is pan them mid left and then mid right. That will give you a thicker tone.
However this increase the set up complexity which goes against my tip #1.
I would suggest using this tip as a latter resort because you might not set it correctly and ends up having the tone sounds worse than before.
5. Move the Mic
If you want a thick tone for the recording, the position of your mic can made a difference.
For any speaker, the treble comes from the center of the cone while the thicker bass sound is from the edges. If you shift your mic to the edges, it will pick more of the thicker tones.
To record the tone you want, it is necessary to experiment with a few different positions with the mic. There is no magical formula so it is all trial and error. In fact, some have even tried recording with and without the mic cap!
6. Using Delay Pedal to Thicken Guitar Tone
This is a common trick used by guitarists to add thickness to their guitar sound.
There are 2 things you need to pay attention to, or rather experiment with.
One is the interval. The commonly recommended duration is between 50-300ms. During this time, you also need to keep the repeats low. Doing so will prevent your delays from making your audio sounding too harsh.
Another thing is the model of delay you are using. DM-2 is a good choice. Boss DD-3, EP Booster are also recommended choices that you can consider.
7. Use Thicker Strings
Thicker strings help to create thicker tones. I recommend using the pure nickel strings. Other types of strings tend to give off excessive harmonic overtones, when combined with an amp’s distortion effect, dull’s a guitar natural thickness.
When using the pure nickel strings, remember to that you need 11, instead of 9 gauge strings. Also tune them down to E flat. Finally, note that there are other types of nickel strings such as nickel wound steel that is not pure nickel. Be mindful when making any purchases.
8. Adjust the Gain
There is an optimal point where adding too much gain distorts the audio too much, to the point where the tone becomes affected. It is basically the law of diminishing returns where adding more gains just smoothen the sound out, rather than adding more “oomph”.
What you need to do is to lower the gain, one point at a time, to find the exact level that will make a difference in how thick your tone sounds.
There are different reasons why your guitar tone doesn’t sound as chunky, or beefy as you want. Assuming that you are capable of playing and you have a good guitar, most of the reasons can be addressed via your set up and the use of accessories.
However, if you are a beginner, I suggest working on your playing style first before trying to thicken your tone via the above tips.