The subtle art of how to properly layer sounds in EDM can seem like a confusing and daunting task, when in fact it’s fairly easy. You just need to understand the basics to start combining some fantastic sounds and create huge layers. Today, I’m going to take you through a step-by-step process of very basic layering to point you in the right direction.
Let’s first start by taking a listen to each layer.
Each of these layers have characteristics that stand out from each other. Listening to them individually isn’t so appealing…
However, let’s layer them all together and see what we get…
Now we have something! Add some reverb, maybe a slight ping pong delay along with a widener and we’ve got a HUGE lead for our track.
Sure listening helps, but let me go into a little bit more detail about why these sounds work so well together.
Here’s our first layer. This is the body of our layer and holds all of the low/low-mid frequencies. Notice that this is a more round sound than the next couple of layers
This is the second layer. This one is built entirely out of square waves. It has a sub made from a saw waveform which helps the mid range come out a bit more.
Finally, we have our 3rd layer. This is the bright, plucky, spark that comes from the top end of all 3 layers. Saw waveforms areI generally the best when it comes to the top layer.
Notice how each sound is created from entirely different waveforms. This helps the leads blend together to form a perfect unison.
If we were to throw 3 saw leads together, you’re going to have a jumbled mess of sounds all competing with each other. You’ll have massive phase issues all coming from subtractive synthesis. In this case, that is not what we’re going for.
The last part we are going to look at is how to EQ these sounds to help blend them in a bit more.
Layer 1 EQ
Layer 2 EQ
Layer 3 EQ
In layer 1 we’re rolling off some of the high end. We do this to let both layer 1 and layer 2 sit more comfortably with each other. We want to clean up some of the space so there’s less competition.
In layer 2, we’re cutting out all of the low end and rolling off some of the mids/low-mids. We want layer 2 to still hold some of the weight from the mid range, because this sound is most prominent in those regions.
Layer 3, we cut out all of the low end and really roll of most of the mids/high-mids. We want this lead almost entirely free of the first layer, and then we want it to clear out some of the space for layer 2 to breathe.
There’s one more important tip that I’m leaving out. This is something that will make your layers truly stick out more than anyone else.
Slightly pan your leads left and right. Do this with ease and subtlety.
What I did was leave layer 1 centered because this is the base of my entire layer. Layer 2 is panned to the left by 35. Layer 3 is panned the right 21. I chose these numbers because it’s what sounds most even, you’ll need to fine tune them to get the layer exactly where you want them to be.
This may also require turning a lead up or down to get them even. Try this with all of your layering and I guarantee you’ll start to have some really nice big blended leads!
With these leads chosen by specific kinds of waveforms, panning and EQing to give them their own space, these layers will come together to blend in perfect unison.
Remember, don’t EQ the hell out of these sounds. We want them to fight with each other just a little bit to help them better blend together.
If we EQ them too much, then we defeat the purpose of creating one big layer by completely separating the leads. Remember, this is all about how to PROPERLY layer sounds in EDM.
Let’s check out what this entire layer sounds like with some FX and panning thrown on it!
Now that’s what I’m talking about! Have fun with this process and play around with all of these techniques, soon you’ll be a pro at how to properly layer sounds in EDM
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