“For me, interesting music has a lot of counterpoint,” he said, “so I’ve always been very adamant that the other musicians don’t play what I’m playing. Particularly in a trio setting, having three different parts interlocking makes for a much bigger, and more interesting sound.”
Bingo! Duh! News flash!
Summers wasn’t necessarily discussing recording, but his comment definitely offers the promise of a solution for anyone disappointed in the, ahem, less-than-mammoth stature of their recorded works in general, and their guitar tracks in particular. Too often, we shrink the impact of our mixes by piling on overdubs, effects, and textures. The temptation of the “more is better” approach can be great, but if “more” means more things doing relatively the same things, or more elements enhancing similar frequency ranges, then all the layers you’re adding may just be creating something more worse.
In these instances, the guiding premise of Mr. Summers’ strategy is brilliantly simple: Do not record anything that apes, mimics, clones, or mirrors a part that already exists in your mix. By devising different, rather than similar and supportive elements, you just might churn out guitar tracks that sound as big as all Montana.
Obviously, this theorem doesn’t work for all styles — ’70s-style punk comes to mind — but, purely as an experiment that might lead you to new discoveries about arrangement, engineering, and production, let’s approach Andy’s mandate in three easy steps.