Doubling Guitar Riffs for a fatter and wider sound – Comparing different ways

Here is a video I made to demonstrate the use and the different sound effect of different ‘doubling techniques’. Doubling is nothing too fancy or secret but a common studio recording technique. Still it might be interesting not only for beginners as each of the different approaches leads to different results which are compared in ths video.

To judge the stereo effect it is best to listen to the sounds with headphones!

The guitar sound I dialed in is a bit similar to the Dire Straits classic Money for Nothing. On this song all three of these doubling techniques were actually used I think. The intro was doubled with about 15 ms delay. Note that this delay can be achieved with a delay effect, or with two microphones, one close to the amp and the other some meters away (15 ms delay equals about 5 meters distance). I guess Mark used a delay as with a 2nd microphone at such a distance the sound of that signal will be a bit different due to the higher amount of room sound. Later in the song a second guitar comes in, both being panned to the different stereo channels.

The guitar I am playing here is an Erlewine Automatic from 1983. It is similar to the one that Mark Knopfler played on e.g. Industrial Disease, however this is a cheaper edition that Erlewine had produced to his specifications in Japan. Most of these have only one pot, no tone pot like this one has.

The trick for this sound was rolling back the tone pot completely. Something a reliable source once told me Mark also did for Money for Nothing, the Wah to boost midrange was something he did later I think.

The Hot Cake distortion effect sounds really nice for this sound. Mark uses it as well, however there is no reliable information when he used it for which tracks.

Neck Pickup Sound with the VFS-1 – Jam over Backing Track

In my last two videos I got some nice guitar sounds out of the integrated amp simulation and effects of my Soundcraft UI24R mixing desk. I was playing the MK61 pickups in the bridge & middle position of my Strat. This week I tried the same with the neck pickup. This is a VFS-1 pickup.

I also worked much more with my ‘virtual studio’ (Steinberg Cubase together with the Soundcraft mixer) lately where I made a setup with various VST instruments that can easily be used to create backing tracks of different styles and chords within a very short time. I put in some chords and sounds of a groove that fits to the guitar sound I had in mind.

I was jamming along for several minutes and filmed a few takes. For the finished video I wanted to cut it down to 2 minutes or so but I could not decide which parts to ‘throw away’ so I left it as it was.

All the gear, all effects and all settings are shown as screenshots in the video in case you wonder how this guitar sound was created. Just like in the last videos, the key was to use a rather bright setup and to roll back both the volume and tone pots to make the sound softer and less harsh.

News – Cover Intro and Solo

This week again I recorded some guitar sounds over a backing track produced for this purpose. After Once Upon a Time in the West in my last video, this time it is the next song on the same album: News.

The guitar sound on the whole Communiqué album is very special to me because it was this one – together with the first album – that turned me to Dire Straits when I was thirteen, and made me start playing guitar.

I could never get really close to this sound in previous attempts but meanwhile I am getting better I think, so I am quite happy with the result. I did not use gear as close as possible to the original stuff that Mark used on the album, in fact I did not use an amp at all, no Morley volume pedal, no fancy other devices but only a digital amp emulation and effects of my digital Soundcraft UI24R mixing desk.

I dialed in a rather trebly sound, and I did two things to make it softer: I turned down the volume pot to 8 to reduce some of the harshness of a normal Fender Strat pickup (the effect is similar to what Mark’s Morley volume pedal did to the sound), and I rolled back the tone pot. For the fingerpicking guitar  to ‘7’, and to ‘3’ for the solo. The tone cap in my guitar is a bit smaller than in vintage Strats, I think it is 0.033 uF instead of the 0.1 uF (I admit I need to check to be certain as I am pulling stuff in and out too often…).

I had the 5-way switch to the 1&2 position. The guitar is one of my two part-o-casters, with two MK61 pickups and a VFS-1 pickup in the neck position. The effects and settings were similar to the ones I described in the post for my previous video.

I recorded the backing track in Cubase. Both the drums and the bass were programmed to feed VST instruments, and I recorded three guitar tracks, the picking part, the lead, and the ‘chick’-sound rhythm guitar on the right stereo channel (this guitar is my self-built bubinga body dream machine Strat).

Comparing three clean guitar sounds – Once Upon a Time in the West – Solo cover

For my latest Youtube video I recorded three different lead guitars over a self-produced backing track with the chords and groove of the Dire Straits classic Once Upon a Time in the West.

The three guitars – a ‘normal’ Strat, a Schecter Dream Machine replica, and a Suhr – are similar to what Mark Knopfler played in the 70ies, 80ies, and in the 90ies. I tried to create a sound similar to his, not trying to replicate 1:1 a particular recording but the typical sound from these periods.

The Guitars

The red one is a real ‘part-o-caster’. The neck is Fender, a Japanese body from the 70ies, and the other hardware mostly from a vintage 80ies Squier. I replaced the zinc tremolo block with a steel block, and I put two MK61 pickups plus a VFS-1 pickup into it.

The second guitar is one I built myself. The mahogani body and birds-eye maple neck are shaped with templates from a Schecter Van Nuys era Dream Machine Strat. The hardware is a brass Dream Machine tremolo, and a loaded ‘Alchemy’ pickguard with Seymour Duncan SSL1 pickups. It is not finished yet but in an ‘experimental’ status. This is why it appears so rough, it is not even fully sanded. Something hopefully coming soon…

The Suhr is one with the EMG pickups (85, SA, SA). It has a neck made of maple like Knopfler’s Pensa Suhr MK1. It does not have bindings but the ‘scraped binding’ on the body which looks similar.

Amp and Effects

I did not use a real amp for this video. Instead I directly plugged the guitars into a Soundcraft UI24R didgital mixing desk, and I used the Digitech amp simulation and all effects from this device. For clean sounds this is much easier than messing around with microphones on an amp.

I used EQ, compression, reverb, and delay on all three guitars. Check out the screenshots that show the setting of these.

 AmpEQCompressionSend FX


Blues on Mahogani Telecaster with Walk of Life pickups

Last month I made a video of a mahogani body Strat. Mahogani is a standard wood for Gibsons but not very popular for Stratocasters. Nevertheless, Mark Knopfler’s metallic red Schecter Strat is said to feature a mahogani body, and possibly his red ‘Walk of Life’ Schecter Telecaster as well.

I also built a Telecaster with a mahogani body some time ago – unlike the Strat this Tele was not built entirely by me but was assembled from existing parts, besides the mahogani body (manufacturer unknown) it has an original Schecter neck from the 80ies, plus my ‘Walk of Life’ brass bridge and pickups, and a brass pickguard.

The track I use to jam to in this video is called ‘Bleeker Street Blues’ by Chris Haugen. It is available in the Youtube audio library of ‘free’ music to be used in Youtube videos.


The song is in the key of C sharp, and with the F sharp chord there are only two chords. I have a capo at the 4th fret. I am playing some Knopfler-style chord stuff, some licks and short solo phrases.

Other Gear

Just like on my other latest videos, I used the amps and effects of my Soundcraft UI24R digital mixing desk. The amp emulation is the ‘Blackface Fender Twin Reverb’ with the matching 2×12 speakers emulation. Effects are EQ, reverb, delay and some compression. Fender black or silver face amps have a dip in the 500 Hz range. I reduced this frequency range for this reason which makes it sound much more like a Fender for my ears. The setting is rather trebly but I rolled down the tone pot on the guitar for a warmer sound. In many situations I like this better than the tone pot fully up with less treble from the amp.

Digitech amp emulation from the Soundcraft UI24R


EQ settings

I switched to the middle position of the 3-way switch, so bridge and neck pickups. Both are in the tapped position (push/pull pots are pulled, the pickups have an alternative fatter sound when you push in the pots, see more on tapped pickups here). The volume pot is set to about 80-90%.

Crowther Hotcake pedal

There is a slight distortion. Here I used an analog device, a Hotcake distortion pedal. See the pictures for the settings of the amp, EQ and on the Hotcake.



Sound check of a Mahogani body Strat with the Alchemy Pickguard

Here you can watch me trying out another guitar I am building at the moment: with a  Mahogani body, a dotless birdseye maple neck, brass tremolo, and the Alchemy loaded pickguard it should be obvious that this was inspired by Knopfler’s red Dream Machine Schecter Strat.

The guitar is still in a rough state so ‘unfinished’ does not only mean no red finish yet but also a lot of other final work missing, like sanding, more leveling and polishing on the frets, and so on. I simply like to assemble a body and a neck of my projects at an early stage to see what it will sound like. If I do not like the sound the body might go to another neck or get different hardware to find another combination that works better. In fact the neck has been on another mahogani body before but that combo did not convince me. This one however seems to be nice.

Like on my last two videos I simply plugged the guitar into my Soundcraft ui24R mixing desk and used the guitar amp emulation and effects from it. The amp module is the Twin Reverb with the matching 2 x 12 speaker emulation. Effects are some more EQ, reverb, delay, and a compressor. The sound setting is rather trebly. The slightly piercing sound comes from the 500k pots on the pickguard I guess, like on those old Schecter pickguards. I think I’ll go for the softer sound of 250k pots instead next time. There is no reason to exchange the pots as all you need to do is adding a little resistor somewhere in the circuit to achieve exactly that. More on this later…

Knopfler-style licks on Dream Machine Strat

One of the things I was a bit busy with over the last years is guitar building. The guitar in the following video was inspired by the vintage Schecter Dream Machines that Mark Knopfler started to play in the early 80ies. I also built some models closer to the particular ones that Mark had – like the stolen 1st sunburst, the 2nd sunburst to replace the first, or the red one – but this one has different kind of woods than Mark’s models. The body is a flamed one-piece Bubinga body, and the neck of Pao Ferro. Schecter made a lot of Pao Ferro necks in the Van Nuys era. They also offered Bubinga for the body for some time but these are rather rare compared to the other exotic woods they had.

The guitar is extremely heavy. With ca. 6.3 kg It is by far the heaviest Strat I think I ever played! Well, a lot of vintage Schecters are rather heavy, especially the ones with brass pickguards and tropical woods. This was part of their sound philosophy: a heavy guitar has more sustain.

Bubinga is often used for bass guitars, and it is said to sound sleightly brittle and sometimes ‘analytical’ or even a bit sterile. I was not sure what to expect from a Bubinga Strat but I must say that I was very pleased with the sound results. It indeed has a lot of sustain but it sounds warm and clear.

It is equipped with a Making Movies brass pickguard and a Dream Machine brass tremolo.


In the video I am jamming over a self-programmed backing track loop reminiscent of the Tunnel of Love intro as it was played on some tours a long time ago by the band. I tried to switch between all kind of pickup combinations to demonstrate some of the possibilities. Remember, those tapped pickups have two sounds: vintage-like when the mini switch is down, and fat when the switch is up. The three mini switches with 3 positions each result in 27 combinations, one is all pickups off so you have 26 different sounds.

I played directly into a Soundcraft ui24 digital mixing desk, and I used  the software amp and all effects from this device. The amp was the emulation of a Fender Blackface Twin with the 2×12 speakers.

There are no effects except the Lexicon reverb and a basic delay from the ui24.

Blues Improvisation on Ibanez Les Paul with MK58 pickups

In the following video you can watch me jamming to a blues backing track.

The guitar is a 1974 Ibanez 2351 Les Paul copy, all stock with exception of two MK58 pickups. It is not a close copy of a Les Paul but a model with a bolt-on neck, and the top is not solid maple but a bent piece of thin wood. Nevertheless, it has a nice warm sound.

I played directly into a Soundcraft ui24 digital mixing desk, and I used  the software amp and all effects from this device. The amp was the emulation of a Fender Blackface Twin with the 2×12 speakers.

There are no effects except the Lexicon reverb and a basic delay from the ui24.


Repairing an Electro Voice EVM12L speaker – rattling dust cap

The Electro Voice EVM12L is a legendary vintage guitar speaker, favoured not only by Mark Knopfler who uses this speaker in various 4 x 12 speaker cabinets. I have these in a 4 x 12 cab as well, and I like the sound of these very much.

The last time I played with this cab there was an unpleasant surprise: one of the speakers produced a strange noise as soon as I turned up the amp to a medium volume. It sounded like a scratchy voice coil, something that unfortunately happens on vintage speakers and often requires a re-cone job.

I opened the cab to examine the speaker. When carefully moving the cone a bit with my hand however everything seems fine, no hint of any scratchiness that is associated with a defective coil. I need a while until I discovered the cause of the problem. I will describe how I managed to repair the speaker, hoping this blog post can help others who might have a similar problem.

The problem was that the dust cap that is glued to the speaker cone and covers the center of the speaker became loose, the glue seam had broken over a distance of about 1.5″. This was almost invisible. In fact a speaker produces surprisingly loud noises as soon as something is not 100% firm but vibrates or rattles, like the two paper edges here.

Almost invisible: broken glue seam

I used some drops of bottled hide glue to fix it again, pushing the glue with a toothpick into the gap. Hide glue is great for a lot of materials besides wood, it is durable, and requires only a thin film. I let it dry over night and tried the speaker again the next day: problem solved, no noise, even at high volume.

Glued with hide glue

Chris Rea – how he gets his signature sound

Chris Rea is an artist that has surely more than a few things in common with Mark Knopfler – playing a red Fender Stratocaster is one of them. Chris plays a lot of slide guitar, so his Strat is normally tuned to open E, and his sound is different for this reason but often his clean Strat sounds are still similar to some early Dire Straits stuff.

I found this video on youtube, originally it was included on a VHS video tape with the Fender Chris Rea signature Stratocaster that was available in the late 90ies.

Chris explains how he gets his signature sound on his fiesta red 1963 Strat, which he calls ‘Pinky’. He demonstrates e.g. the effect of a compressor pedal on a clean sound (at about 5:15), an effect that is helpful for Knopfler sounds as well (just listen to e.g. ‘In the Gallery’ or ‘Lady Writer’).

Also notice that his tremolo is blocked with a piece of wood (at 1:55). This was not the case on Mark’s Strat I think, as he occasionally presses down his tremolo on stage (e.g. in the outro of ‘News’), but it seems that Mark also had no floating tremolo but had it decked (using five tremolo strings so that the bridge is pressed down on the body).

There is another detail that I found interesting: at about 17:10 Chris demonstrates how he removes some harshness of a Strat by rolling the volume pot down to about ‘8’. I recommend to try this for the Knopfler sound, too. Rolling back the pot a bit reduces the strength of the so-called resonance peak of he pickup (more on this in this blog post), resulting in a sweeter, less harsh sound. You can then turn up the treble control of your amp a bit tomake the sound brighter again, this really sounds different from fully turned up with less treble on the amp, worth trying out. The effect is a bit similar to using that old Morley volume pedal that Mark had in the 70ies as this also reduces the pickup resonance peak.