thanks for letting me ask a question here.

I am googling for hours and did not find anything on the following: Layering instruments one over the other creates an ensemble sound where you can still hear the individual instruments. What I was wondering is, in visual arts you can mix colours which make new colours but you cant see the building blocks. How does that work with audio?

What I want to do is: make a recording of me playing the Cello. Then I want to play with that sound, expand it, add harmonics, etc. to create a different sound. I dont want to use filters, i.e. remove or highlight frequencies, but add something. Like a cook adds ingredients to a good salsa. I would like to enrich the sound, make it fuller, give it a different "spin" or characteristic. I could add another instrument and put them together, but then I would hear two instruments.

I just want to hear one sound, from one "instrument". The basis of this sound should be a life recording. But lets start with a single note, progression of notes will be the next step.

Is that possible? I found about sound morphing and aligning the frequencies of all the harmonics. That might work, but I dont want to morph, rather "cook" a new sound.

Thanks, Camillo

6 Answers 6


Well timbre is reliant on a lot things including the harmonics of the sound, the cello (especially the low register) has a very rich spectrum, you can use an effect called a harmonic exciter to add harmonics to the sound whether this will actually change an instrumental sound like a cello much is doubtful because it is so harmonic already but its an option.

However, the cello sound is really from the short decay of harmonics at the start of the sound you can use an effect that is often referred to as 'blur' which will temporally blur the spectral aspects of sound, you could do this with one or more sounds and end up with a more complex but still 'whole' sound.

There is also a tool called Spectralayers Pro which has capabilities to do things with timbre that I didn't think were physically possible.


If you want to just play by yourself without investing in a big plugin check out "SPEAR"



Well to start: I could add another instrument and put them together, but then I would hear two instruments. Depends on the type of instrument (it's sound), how you play it, how you mix it.

I think you want something like FFT analysis>resynthesis. Have you looked at the plug ins of ircam / michael norris or perhaps cycling '74 maxmsp? These are the typical 'dsp' programs that allow you to change spectra and harmonics. Izotope iris is also interesting, but that's a sampler as flexible as the former.


In the studio, we use microphones as our means to color the sound. Mixed properly, the building blocks are just as transparent as red in a violet hue.

To receive sonic richness on a single instrument, we typically use multiple microphones when recording. When you layer multiple takes of the same performance you lose that sense of "ensemble" you would get from multiple individual recordings. You can also do this with microphone emulators, but it doesn't achieve the same clarity.

For the cello, you want to record three things, the attack, the resonance and the room reverb.

For the attack, you'll want to position a condenser instrument mic to point at the neck just above your bowing position. Aim the microphone away from the bow slightly to reduce the attack. You'll still get the nuances of the bow and some of the fingering against the board, and you'll get the brightness of miking closer to the strings.

For the resonance, a good bridge or ribbon mic will work. But I prefer to use a nice large-diaphragm vocal mic or even an SM-57. Move that microphone about 3 inches below the bridge, about halfway between the bridge and one of the f-holes. This captures the warmth of the body.

For the room, you'll want a matched stereo pair of mics in an X-Y configuration. NT-4s or a Zoom H4 gets good results. Set that mic about 3 to 5 feet away from the cello, with the microphone about six feet up, but directed toward the cello. This will capture the reflections and warmth of the room, which is wear a lot of stringed instruments get their sound. If your room is a little dead, you can add a little reverb when you mix. If its too live, record closer to the cello, or use blankets or other absorbant materials to deaden the room.

You'll want to take your time placing the microphones and finding the right balance for you. When mixing you'll want to use primarily the resonance mic, adding a little bit of the attack to improve clarity and just enough of the room mic to give the sound warmth and definition and a sense of rich stereo space. It takes some time to get the right blend until you get used to doing it instinctively.


http://anasynth.ircam.fr/home/english/software/audiosculpt (Recommended for your description)
The already mentioned SPEAR. (Free)
http://www.uisoftware.com/MetaSynth/index.php ("the audio photoshop")

Also, by your description, look up "sampler".


Try to find Rich harmonics with a weak fundamental like metalic Stuff! If Pitched correctly we Identity only One fundamental + a Lot of Obertones correlating to the fundamental => we hear One sound.

Also in Electronic Music like Big room electro house an dubstep layering is very Common. The snaredrums are often a combinationnof drum machines, Real snares, foley, Noise and sqashed reverb to get One thick and interesting sound.

Another interesting technique for Real Instruments is to Layer a Sinewave an octave underneath. If you Detune the sine, your will get some phasing going.

Pitching and/or reversing the Cello and timestretching it back to original lenght will give a nice Layer too.

... And so on gl!

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