I am sure you have probably found yourself sitting in front of your favorite VST synthesizer on numerous occasions, scrolling down thru presets and not finding the right sound that is big and wide enough. However, by using layering techniques, you can achieve the sound that is both impacting and balanced in your mix. In most of today’s favorite electronic music genres like House, Trance, Dubstep and D&B, the big and wide synth sound that you are hearing are mostly based on the saw-tooth waveform. This particular waveform is suitable for making sounds from bass to mid-range and all the way to high pitched synth leads and pad sounds. For this reason, I will use this waveform for the demonstration in the following tutorial.
Layered Synth Sounds Technique
It seems to me that a good technique is to divide copies of your synth across the frequency spectrum. This prevents phasing issues caused by overlapping frequencies, especially in the low-end. Let’s start by making 3 separate sounds: low, mid, and high. This will cover most of the frequency spectrum.
In MIDI language, the low-end of the spectrum is approximately C-2 to C1, the mid-range is C2 to C5, and the high-end is C5 to C8. Most VST synthesizers are set by default to this specification. Keep in mind, the “true” pitch triggered by these notes may vary depending on the plugin’s publisher and whether or not the patch is transposed +/- an octave.
This is your starting point – where you chose the right sound for a PHAT low-end. In most cases, waveforms like “sawtooth“ and “sine” will provide the best result. Record your desired sequence in your piano roll and, with a synth of your choice. After that, select a “bassy” sound that you like. In most cases, the sound will be monophonic and will contain just one simple oscillator. Enable a low pass filter to pass, roughly, 300 Hz and below.
~Low Range sound
Copy the sequence you played from the instance above and move it to another track. For this part of our layered synth, we will start with a saw-tooth oscillator. Later, we will add a few effects like bit crusher and distortion to get more grit in the mid-range. Drop the sequence down an octave and subtly offset the other just a few “cents” to introduce some “beating”. High-Pass filter the synth at roughly 300 Hz. This will occupy your low-mid and midranges.
~Mid Range sound
Finally, let’s copy the sequence once more from the channels above. However, in this case, we can add some more notes and form a chord. This high range synth will also consist of a couple of saw-tooth oscillators or one of the variations of it that we can find in Massive by Native Instruments. We will end it by adding some additional reverb and delay and cutting the low end.
~High Range sound
Lastly, after mixing all three layers properly, a good choice would be to group them by making a new group track within Lumit. On this track, we can add some additional EQ-ing or simply place a side chain or ducking effect plugin. This is because we need to glue the layered synth line with the rest of the previously made rhythm. Now that we have made a solid synth group let’s hear how it sounds solo and with rhythm as a full mix.
~Full Synth Group with Side Chain effect
Download the patch here.