Quick Tip: Layering Existing Sounds to Create New Ones

When I was at school I took classes in music synthesis. I learned what oscillators do, how to manipulate the envelope, LFO and on and on. If pressed to do so I could come up with custom and unique sounds, but I don’t enjoy it. I only do it if I have no other way to achieve what I’m looking for. So here’s what I do to quickly create unique sounds.

I’ve found that when I’m looking to create a new sound it’s because I can’t quite find that perfect sound with the right combination of elements – maybe I want some cool sizzle at the top, a smooth mid range and a really fat and aggressive low end, or maybe I want it to evolve and develop in a certain way. Whatever the case I have found that often I can achieve what I’m looking for by layering existing patches together and manipulating them with EQ and sometimes other plug-ins.

For example, to create what I just described I may find a sound that has a great sizzle in the high frequencies, so I’ll put a very aggressive hi-pass filter on it to chop off everything other than that sizzle. Then I’ll find a patch that’s a really smooth pad, and put a bell curve on it, chopping off the top and the bottom frequencies. I may even find two or three patches I like for various colors and get even more specific with the EQing so as they blend they become something new. And finally, I’ll find a great aggressive, fat low-end patch and put a low pass filter on it to chop of everything in the middle and high frequencies. I then mix all these sounds together and voila, new rich sound super-fast.

If I’m creating a pad, like the above example, I like my pads to have a sense of movement and development and texture, so I’ll automate the EQ to change over time so it changes the way they blend. I’ll do the same with panning, moving them around in different ways, which creates a sense of development and movement. Many sounds have plenty of controllers affecting their resonance and other parameters, so I can automate those to create even more texture and development. And finally, simply manipulating the volume of each layer, having different layers rise and dip either together or against each other can contribute to creating very rich and unique sounds. I find I can do this much faster and easier than programing a new sound from scratch.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, or add a comment.