One of the most sought-after sounds in electronic music is the larger-than-life synths that get us up on our feet and dancing.
But how do we get this sound? The key is in the layering!
So I can just layer in all my favorite synths and I’ve got the next dance floor hit right?
The key to creating these monster synths is not just in the layering sounds but in the processing of these layers, the processing of the entire sound, and the arranging of the synths.
Also see: Tips On Layering Your Synths
Here are 5 Tips for getting gigantic sounding synths:
1. Sculpt Your Reverbs
When used properly, reverbs give your sounds a sense of dimension in the mix. Here are a few ways to get the most out of your reverbs and ensure that your synths are sounding as big as they can possibly be:
- Keep your reverbs consistent: When layering synths, it’s easy to forget that many of your sounds already have reverbs on them which are of different types with different settings.
Depending on how many layers you have, this will lead to a muddy, washed-out sound that lacks definition. Try sticking to one reverb for your entire group of synths so you don’t muddy up your mix.
- Use pre-delay: Cranking up the pre-delay on your reverb will give your synth the appearance of width and height. Don’t be afraid to go past 80 ms on your pre-delays
- Clean It Up: Using sends for you synths is a great idea for gaining more control over your reverb which is needed to squeeze as much size out of your sounds as possible.
Place an EQ on your reverb send and high cut and low cut the signal. This will ensure that your reverb is not dominating the mix and will leave room for your big synth and the other elements of your track.
Also, feel free to get creative with the EQing on the send to add unique tonal interest to your sound.
2. Use Acoustic Instruments
For your synths to stand out in the mix, you need to include some layers that provide tonal interest and contrast to the other layers. The best layer to do this with is the high-end character layer, as it is easier for the human ear to pick up this detail in higher frequencies rather than the mid and low frequencies.
Acoustic Instruments are the perfect candidate for this character layer! Get creative with your instrument selection for this layer. Don’t be afraid to combine flutes, saxophones, or even a mandolin!
Adding this layer will also give your mixes their own unique flair and help add to your signature sound as an artist.
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3. Add variation
Getting your synths to sound huge is not just about layering and processing. It is about the articulation and expression of the synths. Electronic tracks rely on the use of FX to get this job done. Here is how you can add life to your synths:
- Use multi-fx units such as Sugar Bytes’s Effectrix or Looperator, Illformed’s Glitch 2, or iZotope’s Stutter Edit: Stacking these FX units or your own custom stack of FX and using them sporadically on your synths will give you plenty of added dynamics and interest.
- Resample: Resampling your gigantic synth to audio then chopping, pitching, and re-arranging it is a simple but effective technique that is sure to add variation.
- Resample out a 100% reverb copy: Once you bounce your big synth to audio with the reverb fully wet you can then rearrange the pieces to play along with your main synth. This will add a subtle but effective sense of depth to your mix.
4. Have mono and stereo Layers
It’s very easy for producers to get carried away with the stereo layers of your sound as they are by far the most interesting and fun to add.
Having only stereo layers will ultimately lead to your mix sounding flat.
There needs to be mono information in your synth for it to truly create the power that you want, especially if you are making music for the dance floor as all your stereo layers will have phase issues when converted to mono.
Besides having your sub in mono, good layers to include that are mono are a pluck layer and a base layer.
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5. Get Creative With Delays
Like reverbs, delay effects can add a great deal of depth and width to the overall mix. Here are few ways to add life and extra power to your synths:
- Un-sync your delays: Instead of synching your delay unit to your host bpm, turn it on milliseconds and make the delay time 5-10 milliseconds lower than your songs bpm.
- EQ: Just like with the reverb send you can put your delay on a send and EQ out unwanted frequencies and shape the overall tone of the delay for maximum impact.
- Automate: Automating the various parameters of your delay unit such as the mix, feedback, time, etc., and gelling the effect with the flow of your track is a useful tactic for adding a greater sense of depth and size.
The huge synth riffs that jump out of your speakers and take over the mix breathe incredible energy into your music and are still a very sought-after sound.
Applying these 5 tips to the already existing synths in your songs or applying them to your latest track will give you the confidence and motivation needed to write your next big song.
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