When mixing, you may sometimes come to wall where you just want to make a track sound better. Even after reverb, EQ and compression, you can find that a track will still sound flat. One of the more commonly used ways to battle this is by layering.
What is Layering?
Layering is basically copying and pasting a part from your mix into multiple tracks. Then, by tweaking each layer to accent a different aspect of that part you can accomplish having a fuller and more richly textured sound that you had with the part being in just one track.
While some artists swear by the mantra less is more, others–like Hans Zimmer–are known to layer everything they do, holding that even the seemingly imperceptible tracks add to a bigger sound.
Top producer Steven Slate recommends layering vocals into three layers, with each having it’s own timbre. When combined and automated through your mix, it can make the vocals “pop.”
The key with layering is to have each layer bring out an extra element to your track, playing off of the other tracks and adding to a richer overall sound.
Another technique used with layering is to have to two identical tracks slightly out of phase with each other. The discrepancy of just a few milliseconds adds a perceived fullness to the part.
If you work with a lot of samples, it’s really easy to design a new sound by copying and pasting the midi notes from one track into a new patch. Film score producers love this technique for quickly adding more texture and color to a track. It’s also easy to transpose notes down an octave for an expanded sound, or just double the notes with a different sample for an added color.
One of the perks of working with a digital audio workstation (DAW) is that you have virtually unlimited tracks. This allows for lots of layers and virtually unlimited possibilities in getting the sound you want in your mix. And you can always delete the unwanted layers while having preserved the original track. It’s a great way to experiment and find a new sound by combining elements from pre-existing ones and to add richness and texture to your mix and master.