The Guitar Style Of Randy Rhoads
Triple-tracking: Perhaps the most recognizable, stand-out aspect of Randy's style is his use of triple-tracking in the studio: one take of the solo panned in the middle and then additional takes panned left and right. This is a great way to thicken up your solo tone and to create a sort of 'hyperactive chorus pedal' effect. If you're recording a composed solo for one of your own tracks, give it a try. But a word of advice: Randy didn't have the luxury of comparing waveforms on a computer monitor to make sure his various takes lined up with each other, and that's actually part of the charm. Although Randy was a master at nailing three killer takes of each solo, there are still slight, barely perceptible differences in each take - a very slightly differently-timed slide here, a harder pick attack on that note there. If Randy were able to edit out these differences in the way that we can now, his triple-tracked solos wouldn't have had quite the dimension and depth that they do. So if you're triple tracking at home or in the studio, allow yourself the luxury of ignoring the computer screen completely and using your ears instead.
Your Tone Is What You Hear When You're Playing: Now, this one could be a bit contentious: Randy's guitar sound was notoriously noisy when he wasn't playing, but his tone was incredible. In fact, his guitar rig was so noisy that his pedalboard was nicknamed 'the Chip Pan' by Ozzy because it made a noise that sounded like chips (french fries) sizzling in a pan. As producer/engineer Max Norman told Guitar World, "Well, we tried to gate it. You had to gate it to stay sane. Mostly we gated it on the return end of the signal chain, so it wouldn't chop the sound up. Gating is a pretty messy business. In the end, I basically had to ride the signal in and out manually using faders on the mixing console." Of course, noise gate technology has come a long way in the last 30-plus years, so it's a lot easier to keep a guitar rig like that under control these days. So don't be afraid to dial in a sound that has a little bit of extra filth and fizz when you're not playing, as long as you have an effective way to control it.
By the way, the Chip Pan featured a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah, an MXR Flanger, Ten Band Equalizer Stereo Chorus and Distortion+, a Roland FV-2 Volume Pedal, and one of two tape delays (a Roland RE-201 Space Echo or a KORG SE-500 Stage Echo) and one of two analog delays (MXR Analog Delay or Yamaha E-Series).
The Pickup Toggle Kill-Switch Trick: Randy was a fan of a trick that was particularly popular among guitarists of his era: turning the neck pickup volume control down on his Les Paul, and using the toggle switch to flip between the wide-open bridge pickup and silence (well, as silent as the Chip Pan would allow). You can of course perform this trick with any guitar that has separate volume controls for each pickup, including the Gibson Custom Randy Rhoads Les Paul Custom .
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