To say that Drum n Bass uses layers is a gross understatement. Maybe even the biggest understatement of the year! For years and years in my quest to make the sound that i dearly loved i had no idea about this little secret. Okay, it wasn’t the best kept secret in the whole world but for me at the time (roughly 6 years ago) it was. I struggled and was constantly wondering why my bass just didn’t have that bite or thickness that Dillinja or Dom n Roland had or why my drums lacked that drive and all round explosiveness found in a Konflict or Stakka & Skynet tune! Then i discovered that little word six letter word “LAYERS”.
I jumped around for joy for a minute and did cartwheels and spun and kicked and got all excited but then, reality hit me! Whack! What or how do i use layers? You see my wife (then girlfriend at the time) had mentioned to me that layers where crucial for DnB (she knew more than me about production but that’s for another blog) and then Misha from Black Sun Empire told me whilst he was passing through Sydney for a gig as well.
Well like most excited young players i scurried off to the dungeon to get on some beats to see if this new found knowledge could improve my hapless tunes. NOT! What it did do for me was get me even more confused! How many layers? What should i be layering? Do i just layer everything? How do i even layer something up? All these questions swimmed around my head whilst the most dreadful Drum n Bass known for man drowned in the background of my studio! I had opened up the proverbial Pandora’s Box!
Now the journey really begins because without the hard graft of getting in there and finding out how something works is half the fun (kind of!). Sometimes you have to put the blood sweat and tears into something to something back out of it. Karma they call it or the law of averages or something. Anyways, here’s some tips for you players like yourself about the art of layering.
1. Layering is all about complementing what is already there. If you have a drum break that has nice hi-hats but woeful kick and snare. Layer it with a break that does. All you then need to do is Hipass filter the break with the crap kick and snare so it doesn’t interfere with the kick and snare you want to use.
2. Bass is the same. If you have a smashing midline tearing reese but it lacks a solid sub. Find a nice juicy sub and layer it in there. Compress and eq to taste and bounce and you”ll have a tasty bass sample you can use in later tunes.
3. Pads are no difference. Maybe you like the warmth of a particular pad sound but it needs more highs or movement? Layer that shit up with something that does! Problem sold!
4. Remember to make sure to check the relative pitches when layering pitched sounds.
5. When working with single drum hit layers try to use pitch, envelopes, shapers, filters and eq to get the sounds to gel. Its not easy but it’ll get easier over time.
These are just a few tips on layering with DnB in mind. In the future i’ll run you through some more indepth tutorials on how to layer certain elements.
Hope that helped in some way.