Have you ever finished writing your latest masterpiece but the sounds feel one dimensional? In this blog post, I will share with you 5 short tips on how to add a little spice to your sounds. The good news is that these tips require no specific software or synthesizer. So without further ado, tip 1 is on its way below.
1. Similar Sounding Synthesizer Patches
Okay, this one may sound very obvious, but it is surprising to forget this in the heat of composition. Layering two similar sounding patches together can really help thicken up the sound, however, caution is required.
If the patches sound too similar then it will end with a buildup of frequencies thus making the whole synth line sound perceptually louder. This may lead to problems when mixing. So you may want to go for something similar but with slightly different characteristics. You can then EQ out the unwanted frequencies.
So if the sound has a nice high-end sheen that you like, you may want to EQ out the bass end below between 40hz – 80hz.
2. Opposite Sounding Synth Patches
Just as we use similar sounding synth patches, how about using ones that do not share sound qualities in common. What do I mean by this?
As an example you have a nice blade runner synth lead going but it just lacks bite at the beginning, the attack stage of the sound. You could shorten the attack but this may destroy the vibe you are after. Why not find a more percussive sound and layer it.
You will get the percussive attack into the slow release of the main synth patch. This little trick can work in reverse as well. You may have a nice percussive sound but want a longer release stage with a tonal difference. Design or locate a patch that fits those characteristics then layer those two sounds together.
In the mixing stage, you can then easily EQ out the irrelevant frequencies so that the two patches are not competing for the same sound stage.
3. Layering Ambient Sounds
Yep, good old nature can provide some interesting twists to spice up your sounds. You may want some gentle running water or background city murmurings on your recording. Layer these up with your synth patch to provide a whole new soundscape.
You could mangle these ambient sounds a little more by putting them through a resonator or something like Soundtoys Crystallizer plugin.
4. Avoid Repetition
You can actually have too much of one sound if that is all the track you have composed uses. Try to mix things up a bit and swap out some synth sounds. It is, however, a good idea to keep at least one of the synth sounds common throughout the track. This helps make the track not sound too disjointed and provides a connection through the whole piece.
What I mean by this is if you have a percussive sound layered with your main synth lead, when you reach the chorus or move to the another section change it. You may want to find another similar sound and to make this sound really wide we move to the final tip.
5. Pan, Pan and Pan Some More
Now we have layered our synth patches to make something new, it is easy to add width and dimension by panning the sounds. How, you do this depends on the number of synth sounds you have layered.
One word of warning though, do not layer too many sounds together. I would suggest no more than two or three different synth patches. This will not take up too many frequencies and still allows the track to breathe.
If you have similar sounding patches layered you may consider panning them 30% left and the other 30% right. Where you have layered three sounds together you can get a nice soundscape by panning two sounds opposite each other but keeping the stronger sound out of the three dead centre.
I hope this little insight into how I go about creating layered sounds for my tracks is useful. If you have any questions or ideas of your own please feel free to leave them in the comments below. You can always drop me a message using the form on the contact page. You never know you could inspire another article, which could give you a discount in the shop.