3 Sound Layering Mistakes to Avoid

What are the basic principles of sound layering, stack your synths, double up your vocals and BOOM your one step closer to a professional sounding track?

If only life was that simple we’d all be rich right?

While sound layering is not difficult to understand, many have a very narrow-minded view and of what they can achieve when they put their big boy pants on and dive into using sound layering the right way.

The basics are easy, a chimpanzee could learn this in a minute or two, so you have no excuse.

Combine (or stack) two or more similar sounds together to attain a powerful and more wholesome sound.

John Lennon and Kurt Cobain were both known for layering their vocals because they absolutely hated their own voices, why? because combining sounds (especially in unison) creates depth and power, providing a more complicated, interesting sound for the listener.

While blending several components together can have its flaws, including frequency clashing and muddying up your mix, consistent practice can teach you how to avoid such mistakes and take your mixing skill set to new levels.

Here are just three of out of the hundreds of mistakes you should be avoiding to be successful with sound layering.


Less is more

less is more

I’ve seen people do it a thousand times, admit it you’ve been guilty of it just like I have.

Stacking 5 sounds on top of each other can be tempting, after all, the more the merrier, right? Not necessarily.

Let’s be real, If you want to be truly unique let’s admit that there are no rules!

Many will tell you they’re guidelines you should stick to but rules were made to be broken right?

So If stacking 5 sounds on top of one another creates a sound that fits, then do it!

The real lesson here is to double-check and then triple-check that each element is complimenting one another and contributing to the sound you’re trying to achieve.

Regularly mute your channels and ask yourself is this sound adding what I want it to the overall outcome, If sounds need to be taken out, then take them out!

If you’re a systems geek like me, having less going on can also be beneficial for your CPU and you’ll then reduce the chance of any system overloads. (That’s a headache you should always look to avoid)


Transient reduction

transient reduction

You’ve carefully stacked your sounds, everything is starting to come together and you can start to see yourself walking down a red carpet being chummy with your new Hollywood celebrity best friends, but hold on!

Transients are peaking, you start to get flustered and think sh*t what have I done?

It’s ok buddy you don’t have to take your rented tuxedo back to the shop just yet.

There are two solutions that can help with this kind of issue, use gain reduction from a transparent limiter plugin OR apply subtle tape saturation, a pinch of distortion or a transient shaper can all help reduce peaks.


Don’t jump into a marriage

sound layering

Just like you shouldn’t jump straight into a marriage before you know the person, You shouldn’t commit to a sound unless you know it’s right for the project, each element needs to play their part to make the partnership work.

Just like a girl needs to kiss a few frogs before she finds her prince, you need to experiment with sound layering and find what works.

If you have a rule book, throw it away, be daring and create something amazing, some of the best sh*t in the world, is actually the most f**ked up sh*t in the world (technically speaking).

One of the best tips I could ever give to anyone is to plan their time! Each session you have doesn’t have to be about creating your next big track, Use your time and plan out what you want to achieve, One day may be dedicated to layering sounds and the other day may be dedicated to synthesis, Get your workflow right, practice and success will follow.

George Matthews
George Matthews

With 17 Years music production experience, George Matthews is the CEO of Your Local Musician, he also makes music under the name Grimmm and releases Lo-fi music.

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