Would you like to learn the secrets and techniques of layering in music, so that you can make your music more powerful, rich and deep?
There are so many ways you can use the incredible power of layering in music, and in this course you will learn it all. The secrets of layering in sound design, in music composition, and in music production.
Your Journey to Master Layering in Music
Hello, my name is Mike, and I am a music composer. Just. Like. You. And I will take you on an adventure in music. This will be your journey to master layering in music.
In this course you will:
- Learn the Guidelines & Secrets of Layering
- Master the Styles & Colors of Layering
- Get Practical Live Examples of Layering
Are you ready to start your journey now? Then take action! Let’s begin your amazing adventure in the power of layering in music, right now!
Master Layering in Music Production
You are now going to learn the top guidelines, techniques and professional secrets for layering within music production: which means synthesizers, sampling, sound design and music production effects. We are going to explore the styles, guidelines and techniques for layering within your music productions and sound design, such as:
- Waveform Layering
- Sample Layering
- Instrument Stacking
- Unison/Chorus FX
- Harmony Stacking
- Harmonics Generator
- Automatic Double Tracking
- Parallel Processing
Get ready to learn the great power of layering in music production.
1 – Waveform Layering
One of the most used form of layering in music production, is when you use more than one waveform or oscillator in a synthesizer. Apart from sub basses and other simple sounds, using more than one waveform is very common. In any synthesizer you use, you basically have several oscillators or waveform generators that you can mix together to various degrees. You may detune them slightly to create a richer sound, and even pitch them in different octaves for a much bigger and fuller sound. For example, you may use a softer and warmer waveform like a sine wave or triangle for the lowest layer, and add richer more complex waveforms like square waves and saw waves an octave above.
2 – Sample Layering
Layering with samples is very often used for percussion sounds and sound effects. For example, layering several foot stomps or claps to create a wide and big group sound. Another common example is to layer different but similar types of sounds to create a new color, like a clap and a snare sample. Another way of layering samples is to layer completely different sounds to create one full sound that covers different parts of the frequency range and where each sample serves a different purpose. For example, layering samples to create a kick drum sound. You may start with a deep sound like an 808 sub kick. Then add another sample as the body layer, which might be a 909 kick sample. And finally something to add a click/high-punch attack for clarity. Which may be hi-hat, a clap, or any higher range short percussive sample. You can use sample layering to create any type of sound, from sounds effects, to
3 – Instrument Stacking
You can layer sounds by stacking them in groups either inside your software instrument player (like Kontakt, UVI or Omnisphere). For example, adding both a string library and a brass library inside, and then route the input/output so that you can play both on one single track in your DAW. Another way, in case your DAW supports it, is to use a group track that you can play several instruments on from a group that acts as a folder of tracks layered together. In Logic Pro which I use, you do this by creating a “track stack”. This way you can use any types of instruments you want to layer, from different synthesizers and sample libraries, and play them all in a stack. It is an extremely powerful form of layering in music production. Even if your DAW does not support it, you can simply create a group, and then record all tracks at the same time by manually setting record enable on them all, or by copy/pasting the same part to all tracks.
4 – Unison/Chorus FX
There are also several types of music production effects that basically work like “layering” sounds. The two most common effects are: Unison and Chorus. Unison is a common effect in synthesizers that basically creates variations of the waveform with slightly different tuning and stereo spacing, which makes the sound sound bigger and wider. Often you can adjust the detune shifting and stereo spread, and sometimes you can even set how many voices are stacked in the unison mode. There are also different types of chorus effects, that as you can hear from the name will add kind of a “choir effect” on your sound. Adding tiny variations as well as stereo separation which will make your sound wider plus include evolving modulation. You will hear this effect more clearly on a sound in mono, or with minimal stereo effect on it as the starting point. There is also an effect called “ensemble” that is similar to the “chorus effect”. But all in all, these types of effects take an input sound, and creates layers of it with various modulation and differences in tuning, stereo field etc.
5 – Harmony Stacking
In your synthesizer you have the ability to choose how you pitch or transpose each waveform layer, or sometimes you can even add a “harmony stack” effect, for your final sound. This makes it possible to not only stack in unison and octaves, but in other intervals. One great example is to set the harmonic stack to root + 7 + octave, and you will basically have a power chord for any note you play on your keyboard. You can also create a harmony stack by layering different tracks in a group in your DAW and then transpose each track differently so that the MIDI recordings you have in each part will have a different harmony.
6 – Harmonics Generator
You can also use an effect that adds an artificially created harmonic as a layer on your sound. A harmonics generator is not like an EQ. It actually creates new harmonic information as a layer on top of your original sound. Most often you want to add more depth in the low-end register, so you want to use a sub harmonic generator effect. This can be great for adding a sub bass layer for your low strings, or for adding more deep boom to your kick drums. There are also harmonic generators for the high range frequencies, called harmonic exciters. This is great for adding shimmer, air and sizzle to any sounds you want more high end information in.
7 – Automatic Doubling
Doubling is the technique mainly used for vocals and guitars in music production, where you record several takes of the same phrase. Then you simply stack them as layers, as many as you want. However, the downside is that you have to do multiple recordings, with multiple takes, and then spend hours editing the lines so that everything matches up in perfect sync. To avoid this there are plugins that try to mimic this doubling technique, and they are called “automatic double tracking effects”. Real double tracking is always best, but this way you can achieve a more powerful sound way faster, and you can still use it in combination with using several real takes for harmonies and more real doubles. In the end you will have multiple layers of your vocals or any instrument you use the automatic double tracking effect on, that all make up the overall sound.
8 – Parallel Processing
This may not feel like layering, but any time you use parallel processing on your sounds, you are basically mixing the dry (unaffected) signal with the processed signal. So basically you start with one sound, and then add parallel processing to break the sound up into two layers that you mix together in different degrees. So, any effects where you have a dry/wet or “mix” knob, is parallel processing of the original sound. Some of the most common effects to mix in with parallel processing is: Compression, Delay and Reverb. When you use parallel processing on for example a compressor, or even a distortion effect, you can push the effect way more, since you will mix it in with your unprocessed original sound.
Master Layering in Music Composition
You are now going to learn the top guidelines, techniques and professional secrets for layering within music composition. Meaning the actual instruments and performances inside your composition. Not layering with sound design or by using music production effects. Master layering in the story of your music, your complete arrangement. We are going to explore the styles, guidelines and techniques for layering within your music compositions, such as:
- Layering with Percussion
- Layering with Rhythm
- Layering with Unison
- Layering with Octaves
- Layering with Harmony
- Layering with Ensembles
Get ready to learn the great power of layering in music composition.
1 – Layering with Percussion
There are so many ways to use layering with percussion in music composition. Especially since you are not restricted by harmony if you use non-pitched percussion instruments like drums, cymbals etc. This means you can layer as many percussion instruments as you want for specific hits in your music, to create powerful accents, or simply to emphasize the main groove. The more you layer, and the louder the hits are, the more powerful that specific beat will be in your rhythm. That is layering percussion with percussion. You can also use layering to enhance certain moments in your music in relation to your harmonic and melodic parts. For example, cymbal crashes for important transition points, snare hits for important rhythmic notes, or perhaps muted cymbals to add power to short staccato accents. You can also use tuned percussion to enhance melodic notes, like a glockenspiel on top of a string melody. And even use percussion to mark the rhythm of a riff, or even fast chord changes. Like having the toms double a riff, or a ride cymbal marking a chord rhythm. Layering with percussion is probably the most powerful form of rhythmic layering in music composition. But remember that you should not overuse it, as the percussion, rhythmic parts, harmonies and melodies should interplay with each other. Not constantly play in synchronization. Use the power of percussive layering with care, and with attention to not only the beats you layer in the grid, but also which instruments.
2 – Layering with Rhythm
Layering in music composition is very correlated to the rhythm of your music. Meaning the rhythm of your percussion parts, your rhythmic and driving parts, your chord rhythm and harmonic changes, and the rhythms of your riffs, melodies and themes. When layering in your composition, you most often layer in rhythmic sync. And to enhance, focus or accent certain beats in any part of your music composition, percussion is the main tool. But you can layer any instrument that plays a rhythmic part, with any other part of your music. For example, let’s say your main melody plays a 4 note phrase. Then you can enhance those 4 notes by playing a rhythmic phrase on any other instrument, and accent those 4 notes. It can be your bassline, it can be a piano playing chords, or perhaps 4 marcatos on low brass played in octaves.
3 – Layering with Unison
Whenever you want to make a part of your music more powerful and focused, layering the part with another instrument playing in unison is a great option. This also opens up a very creative layering technique to shape the color of any part. For example, having your leading melody played on a violin + an oboe, or perhaps a piano + a glockenspiel. You can of course use way more than 2 instruments playing in unison in your arrangement if you want to.
4 – Layering with Octaves
Any part that you want to be more in focus, sound stronger, and have great clarity, layering it in octaves is a great technique. The more parts you have playing in your composition, the more important it is to use octave layering on your most important parts. Most often these are the bass and the leading melody. Which is why in orchestral music, the basses and cellos most often play in octaves in the low end. And for example the violins 1 and violins 2 play in octaves for your leading melody in the high end. Sometimes you may even use layering in 3 octaves, especially for powerful accents or cadences.
5 – Layering with Harmony
Harmony and chord progressions can be played as long block chords. But most often some harmonic parts will play some kind of rhythm. It can be a strumming guitar, a comping piano, a staccato strings rhythm, or a choir singing a rhythmic part in harmony. This means that any of these harmonic parts can be used to enhance or accent any other part in your music. For example, the strongest melodic notes in your phrase, a very focused riff, or a short motif. Another way to use harmonic layering, is to stack a harmony on specific beats in your overall rhythm. For example, if you have a short string part playing a two note harmony rhythmic phrase. Then if you choose specific notes inside that phrase, and add another harmony to it, you are essentially accenting the beat in the rhythm without even playing louder dynamics. However in most cases you want to boost the dynamics on those accents as well. But the harmonic layering by itself will create a stronger beat on those specific points where you choose to add harmonic layering.
You have now completed this full course on how to use the power of layering in music production, sound design and music composition. Now it’s time for you to use your skills and knowledge in practice. Create a composition from scratch, and use the power of layering to enhance any aspect inside it you want to emphasize. Main transition points, chord changes, the main rhythmic groove, melodic notes, riffs, motifs etc.