A few days ago, I was asked by a friend in MySpace how I made the sounds for some of my tracks (http://www.myspace.com/raskolnikovsdream). The truth is that many new musicians are missing lots of information on how to make and use the proper sounds, to make the music they want to do.
What someone usually does, is to use ready-made sounds and play around with them a bit. Then, he might try and program some sounds of his own. However, what many people don’t understand, is that it is difficult to make the "perfect" sound with just one instrument. Instead, if you use many instruments and effects together, you will find a new world of endless possibilites you never thought existed.
A very nice technique, and one of my favorites, is called layering.
Layering is the art of usingtwo or more synthesizers together, to play the same thing. Every synth, has its limitations. Some synths can’t use more than 3 oscillators. Others, might only have two envelopes. And every synthesizer, usually revolves around only one kind of synthesis. With synthesizer layering you overcome all these difficulties, by adding together the various sounds.
Sylenth is an analog emulation, that lends itself very nicely to layering
Now, we will present some cases where you might want to use synth layering.
You write club music. You have a very good bass sound, but it’s lacking that precious sub-bass frequencies (16-60 hz) that will make the club bang and dance.
The solution: Layer a second synth, with a simple wave, (sine, square or saw), an octave lower, in order to play exactly these frequencies. Try not to overdone it, however, because these frequencies can cause the song to be too muddy, and will not play, properly (or not play at all) at cheap sound-systems, like the ones that most people posess at their homes.
You have a very nice bass sound. However, it lacks clarity and definition. You can’t make the sound more definable through EQ, without altering it and making clatter with other sounds.
The solution: Layer a sound over it, an octaver higher, to play the higher frequencies. A good choice is the sound to be of slightly dissonant waveforms, like saw and square waveforms, because these waveforms are quite distinctive. What you’ll notice, is that even if the layered high-synth is not very loud, it will increase the clarity of the bass. If the ear listens to a melody in a higher frequency, it will instictively notice somewhat better the lower frequencies.
You want to have this club banging and dancing
The sound plainly sucks . You seem to have programmed a sound that you like a lot, but for no apparent reason, the sound doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the song.
The solution: Sometimes, you can create a sound that has some distinct characteristics that you like, but its overall structure, doesn’t fit with the rest of the instruments. You can keep this sound, for its dinstict quality, and layer other synthesizers over it, to make it sound fuller. For example, if you want the sound to sound fatter and more analog, you can layer an analog synth emulation over it. If you think the sound lacks some depth, but if you add reverb, it becomes too muddy, you can add a different, but similar sound, and add as much reverb as you like on the new one.
So, as you saw with these examples, the possibilities are limitless. The only limit is your imagination. I will post in future articles specific examples and how I solved them in my own pieces. Until next time, keep experimenting with the various sounds and see what comes out of it!
Experiment on synthesizers, not animals