#5thAvenueBlogs | Layering Sounds [Blog]
Toronto, ON – Thick, fat kicks with cutting vocals and sharp snares; it’s what we all strive for in our own productions. What’s nice to know is getting that ‘studio sound’ in your production and recordings can be achieved a little bit easier if you employ layering (doubling or tripling) in your overall process. In this post, I’ll give a few tips regarding layering and various methods in how to use it.
To start this post, I really want to emphasize that there are no hard or fast rules to layering. What you’re trying to achieve is a good sound and if you find a technique that works for you, then you’re doing it right. These situations however are tried methods both from myself and from other engineers and should be used as a base for your works.
For vocal tracking, it’s a good idea to triple track. The trick in layering when recording is that your artist needs to perform as close to the original recording track as possible. Any note changes, delays or wavers will be noticeable. There is a plug-in called Vocalign that is extremely handy in aligning multiple tracks, however it should be stated (very strongly) that the better the recording is, the better the finished product will be. Triple layers, panned center will give your vocals a nice, polished, full sound.
Kick drums are another item that can be layered, and there are a few ways it can be done. If you’re live tracking a kick drum, you can double mic it with one mic inside the drum and one outside the drum. You will have to make sure the phase relationship between the two mics is intact or else you will be doing more harm than good.
If you are using samples kicks in your production, you can simply double the track and use a technique called parallel compression. Parallel compression is achieved by mixing the original kick drum signal with a heavily compressed copy of the original kick drum. The heavily compressed kick drum will have a smaller dynamic range and brings out the quieter details of the kick sample. When mixed with the original sample, it adds beef to the overall sound. Also, snare drums can use the same technique.
It’s very important to note a few things about parallel compression. First, the most important parameters on a compressor are the attack and release times. You have to make sure that your times are dialed in for the sample that you are using. Play around, make sure you’re catching the transient and releasing at the right time. The other item to note is delay compensation, which is needed when there is latency in playback. Newer versions of DAW’s are now coming with automatic delay compensation, but older versions do not have the option. If there is latency, you will experience comb filter problems and a lower quality sound so it is very important to make sure your DAW of choice has this feature.
As I wrote above, triple tracking vocals and parallel compressing kicks and snares is not the only way to do things, however it is a tried and tested method that most engineers will utilize. However, phase relationships and delay compensation are of the utmost importance and need to be heeded.