PRODUCTION EXPO 2014: When two sounds occur at the same time, their frequency spectra will interact in some way (if their frequencies overlap). It can help to tune layers so their harmonics fit together and sound more like one whole sound.
You can try pitching by ear, or oscilloscope-style waveform analysers and frequency meters can help you keep an eye on how harmonics, transients and timings line up… but more about phase and timing later!
Hugo Tichborne is a sample-layering expert and drum designer extraordinaire. He's the genius behind sample pack label Goldbaby, a company that has earned tremendous respect from the world's top producers thanks to the mind-blowing quality and weight of his drum samples. Here he gives us some of his top tips and techniques for layering drums.
"[Layering] can be as simple as throwing two sounds together or as complex as multiple layers each with their own effects chain. Combining real and electronic cymbal sounds can give nice results, for example. Adding stereo textures in the form of vinyl noise or foley-style noises like footsteps in gravel, or rice being dropped on a plastic bag can give your drum a sense of space without using reverb.
"There are certainly tried and true methods, like boosting the bottom end of kicks with tuned subs or adding a transient layer to help them cut through a mix. You can crispen snares with a noisy top layer or add body and substance with another layer similar to the original. Also, simple low-pass and high-pass filters are very handy for making two sounds fit together. Lastly, an envelope will shape each layer. Of course you can do much, much more with things like distortion, EQ, compression – the possibilities are endless. However, there's no need to limit yourself with conventional wisdom. Mix things up, look for happy accidents, follow the path less travelled. I say it often: experimentation is the mother of invention."
For more videos like this check out Computer Music issue 199.