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  • Layering

    Does anyone have any tips on layering sounds? That's my primary weak spot right now. I tend to go for solitary sounds, and my pieces tend to sound a little thin because of it.

  • #2
    Ohhhhh I would have to say I'm definitely one of your go-to guys on this!!! Layering to me is all about tonal frequencies, note structure, and filling in harmonics. Sounds complicated, right? It's actually not.

    I start with one sound...say a pad that has a very subtle movement with alot of mids...and play a minor chord with it or draw out a 4 or 5 minute long drone. Done.

    Then I'll play that sound in the background while I bring up another instance of the same synth...this time looking for a layer to compliment the previous one...which to me "fills in harmonics." Try playing that same chord but with a different preset...notice how you hear a more complex sound because the two are playing in harmony with each other.

    Finally...look to fill out the sound spectrum with plenty of low, mid, and high end with all your layers. I haven't done any screen captures of my projects yet...but when I do you'll see how many layers I am talking about. On any of my tracks...you'll see 6, 7, or 8 layers of the same notes in the same key...piled on top of each other to give it that "richness" that I'm hoping comes across to the listener. ;)

    Hope that helps!!! Would love to hear what other people have to say about this topic.

    -S1gns
    Synphaera Records
    Space | Time | Matter

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    • #3
      Thanks, that helps.

      So I really need to experiment with adding various sounds together to see what works and what doesn't.

      8 channels of the same notes? Wow, that's pretty insane, but I love your sounds, so if that's what it takes... ;)

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      • #4
        I find that layering works well in other genres too. Stick a 'tron on top of a pad to thicken up the sound. The trick is finding the complementary sounds
        Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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        • #5
          I tend to do my layering at the sound design stage as opposed to the recording stage. As I mentioned in another thread, it is the sound itself which inspires me and guides how I put together a piece. Also, adding effects at the design stage can really transform the sound and provide new inspiration.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by seismic1 View Post
            The trick is finding the complementary sounds
            This man speaks the truth right there!!! That IS the trick...but how we perform that trick is one of the mysteries of songwriting. I couldn't explain it even if I tried...It comes from within! :D
            Synphaera Records
            Space | Time | Matter

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            • #7
              I remixed an ambient/electrohouse/pop track a few months ago. (Hard to believe that such things exist, I know). It was pretty flat until I started mixing up sound sources and layering different motifs on top of each other. So here you have a house track with some chillout pads and 'tron layers sitting on the top.

              Triple-purpose muzak

              http://soundcloud.com/whatsisname/stand-still-i-say


              I notice that Soundcloud is now https for us beta-peeps - fail - it's https for everyone since today
              Last edited by seismic1; 10-09-2013, 03:25 PM. Reason: factual detachment and fix the link
              Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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              • #8
                As well as layering different timbres, different voicings of the same chords can work well.
                facebook | last.fm | soundcloud

                A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians. - FZ

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by teezdalien View Post
                  As well as layering different timbres, different voicings of the same chords can work well.
                  Utilizing different voicings for chords can work very well. If you are using extended harmonies like a 9th chord or higher, if you spread the notes out and use chord inversions, you will gain much more clarity and openness than if you just stacked the notes. Also some muddiness can be fixed in this way, rather than messing with EQ and processors.

                  EQ tip for layering and mixing in general:
                  Rather than using your EQ to boost certain frequencies of an instrument to bring it out, try going into the other instruments and cut that same frequency to create more room for the previous instrument/sound. You will find that EQ'ing in this way will give you far better results.

                  Also, if you have multiple layers for a pad or drone, you can do something similar by designating each instrument to a certain frequency spectrum. For example if you have 5 layers for a drone or pad, cut the low end on 4 of them and the high end on the instrument you want to use as the "bass" then proceed through your other layers, one sound/instrument in low mids(cut low and highs), another in mids, another in high mids, highs etc.

                  I love layering and "hiding" sounds within other sounds lol. It's a lot of fun and a lot of times I will listen to a composition a few months later and pick out sounds and frequencies I haven't heard before. When I compose for strings, orchestral music, and most other instruments (digitally speaking), I tend to layer them 3 or 4 times each with different samples, software plugs and EQ/processing.

                  Hope this helps a little!
                  Last edited by Hilyard; 12-31-2012, 04:29 PM. Reason: typos!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hilyard View Post
                    Utilizing different voicings for chords can work very well. If you are using extended harmonies like a 9th chord or higher, if you spread the notes out and use chord inversions, you will gain much more clarity and openness than if you just stacked the notes. Also some muddiness can be fixed in this way, rather than messing with EQ and processors.

                    EQ tip for layering and mixing in general:
                    Rather than using your EQ to boost certain frequencies of an instrument to bring it out, try going into the other instruments and cut that same frequency to create more room for the previous instrument/sound. You will find that EQ'ing in this way will give you far better results.

                    Also, if you have multiple layers for a pad or drone, you can do something similar by designating each instrument to a certain frequency spectrum. For example if you have 5 layers for a drone or pad, cut the low end on 4 of them and the high end on the instrument you want to use as the "bass" then proceed through your other layers, one sound/instrument in low mids(cut low and highs), another in mids, another in high mids, highs etc.

                    I love layering and "hiding" sounds within other sounds lol. It's a lot of fun and a lot of times I will listen to a composition a few months later and pick out sounds and frequencies I haven't heard before. When I compose for strings, orchestral music, and most other instruments (digitally speaking), I tend to layer them 3 or 4 times each with different samples, software plugs and EQ/processing.

                    Hope this helps a little!
                    Thanks for elaborating on that Hilyard, some really good tips there
                    facebook | last.fm | soundcloud

                    A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians. - FZ

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Hilyard View Post
                      Utilizing different voicings for chords can work very well. If you are using extended harmonies like a 9th chord or higher, if you spread the notes out and use chord inversions, you will gain much more clarity and openness than if you just stacked the notes. Also some muddiness can be fixed in this way, rather than messing with EQ and processors.

                      EQ tip for layering and mixing in general:
                      Rather than using your EQ to boost certain frequencies of an instrument to bring it out, try going into the other instruments and cut that same frequency to create more room for the previous instrument/sound. You will find that EQ'ing in this way will give you far better results.

                      Also, if you have multiple layers for a pad or drone, you can do something similar by designating each instrument to a certain frequency spectrum. For example if you have 5 layers for a drone or pad, cut the low end on 4 of them and the high end on the instrument you want to use as the "bass" then proceed through your other layers, one sound/instrument in low mids(cut low and highs), another in mids, another in high mids, highs etc.

                      I love layering and "hiding" sounds within other sounds lol. It's a lot of fun and a lot of times I will listen to a composition a few months later and pick out sounds and frequencies I haven't heard before. When I compose for strings, orchestral music, and most other instruments (digitally speaking), I tend to layer them 3 or 4 times each with different samples, software plugs and EQ/processing.

                      Hope this helps a little!
                      Absolutely incredible post!!! Such good material in this. You are SO RIGHT about the chord inversions...chords, especially pads and soundscapes, need harmonic room to breathe. Inverting your root or mixing up a triad can do wonders for gaining clarity. Finally someone said it!!!! :tu:

                      +1 on subtractive EQ.

                      There's so much information packed into those 4 paragraphs they're worth 3 or 4 reads just to absorb the depth of all that info. You are awesome Hilyard!!! Way to take an existing topic and adding way more than your own 2 cents...WAAAY more. :biggrin:
                      Synphaera Records
                      Space | Time | Matter

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                      • #12
                        The simpler your initial building blocks the more you can add on later. Also, I don't limit myself to just one type of synth or even just software. Imo, layers can include everything from actual recordings to samples to softsynths to hardware. All of the above or none of the above. Whatever it takes to get you there. Well, imo.

                        Good thread, Dax!
                        My Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sequent7

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                        • #13
                          This IS a great post. I've learned a lot just reading it. I look forward to putting this knowledge into play. Thanks to all for sharing these great insights.

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                          • #14
                            I'm really going to have to read these posts several times to take it all in.

                            Most importantly, I'll have to remember the EQ cut trick. I'll admit that I've been boosting so far.

                            So much to learn and experiment with!

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                            • #15
                              This is interesting. I have never made an EQ boost in a mix. I always use cuts:dunno:I wonder if that is related to the sounds I work with (density, genre). I don't use very much compression either. These days I tend favour dynamic range over volume, which is why I'm remixing stuff to go on the album.
                              Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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