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How do you usually layer them? I would do the following:

  • different sound for each layer trying to use something that would occupy different frequencies in the spectrum to not over-charge the high-end
  • different octaves / melody pattern for each layer - usually 3 layers with 3 different octaves
  • a bit of stereo widening on the top layer (highest octave)
  • on the group channel: compression, eq

I've read few times that is common practice to keep the main layer mono or close to mono, do you agree?

Thanks!

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Layering of sounds is a very common technique in sound design and mixing used to drive additional complexity and interest in sound. All the methods you describe are common practise, although there is no particular standard - you just do what works. Use your ears and tweak each layer with compression, eq, stereo widening as necessary.

Additionally, it is common practise to work with bass or low frequency tracks in mono. Spatial information in sound is contained within the higher spectral components where as it is much more difficult to localise lower frequency sounds - for instance below 120Hz. Just remember though that "bass" sounds may not just contain low frequency components - there may well be higher frequency components layered in to the bass to add harmonic interest.

Separating out spectral content between layers makes it much easier to manage and to mix.

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What has already been said pretty much covers any guidelines for mixing any tracks regardless of whether they are synth or not.... I am a big fan of compression to gain separation and layering sound so one particular sound doesn't get tooo loud and then disappear into obscurity.....Some people say that too much compression kills dynamics but i would say that obviously if there is so much compression that the sound no longer resembles the original recording then there is probably too much compression but having said that as soon as someone quotes a rule of thumb to use you immediately will have a thousand people that break the rule regularly to great effect (pardon the pun) so what I would say is....Mixing is like painting....Some will love it....Some will hate it... Some will admit they cannot tell the difference....So do what works for you ....There are no hard and fast rules as breaking them is just another effect...

If it sounds good ....Go with it.....just be gentle....effects are supposed to enhance not overthrow.....So generally if an effect is so much that an untrained ear can tell its there then its probably overpowering the initial recording. Having said that .....Sometimes that's a good thing....

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