Layering is a quick and simple way to make your leads (and pretty much anything) sound huge and diverse. Basically, layering is a technique where you use two or more different sounds or instruments together to play the same melody or chord. Layering is much used in single drum sounds as well. Anything can be actually layered and if you add in a little bit of panning, eq, reverb and delay, you can make things sound really strong and full.
In this tutorial I will show you how you can use TAL-NoiseMaker (it’s a freeware VST synth), layering, routing and couple of FL Studio effects to achieve that wide and huge stereo lead sound you can hear on those professional EDM tracks, mostly in trance.
Let’s get started.
There’s actually two ways to layer and control your layered instruments: with MIDI out plugin and/or via Layer channels. I will show you both methods, but first I’m going to concentrate on the MIDI out plugin so load it first. It’s one of the native FL Studio plugins and does not make or contain any sound on its own. It just acts as a MIDI controller, sending standard MIDI messages (like note data) to other plugins or external hardware.
When you are using two or three units of VST synths playing the exact same notes and melody, it’s easier and faster to control their note data all at once using one MIDI out plugin than copying & pasting & editing the same melody for each synth separately.
Also, you can play all the layered instruments together live via the MIDI out plugin by using your MIDI keyboard or the typing keyboard to piano keyboard -function in FL Studio – much like you would play just one instrument only you are using a layer of several instruments.
However, if you wan’t to play the melody on different octaves for each instrument, then it might be better idea to compose all the melodies separately for each instrument unit.
Okay. Open the MIDI out plugin. Leave the port number to 0. The port number defines into which port of the VST plugin MIDI out plugin sends the MIDI data.
Next, open up the first unit of TAL-NoiseMaker, click on the Wrapping settings (little icon on the upper left corner of the plugin window) and under the MIDI section, set the Input port number to 0 (Matching with the MIDI out plugin port number). This is to make the plugin accept MIDI data from the MIDI out plugin.
Now, exit from the TAL-NoiseMaker Wrapping settings and choose a preset titled “LD We Felt Digital TUC”. Open the Channel settings and assign this first unit of TAL-NoiseMaker to an empty mixer track.
Open the mixer and set the mixer track settings of the first unit of TAL-NoiseMaker like this: volume level to 0.0dB, panning to center. Add Fruity Parametric EQ 2 to the fx slot and use low shelf filter to boost the low and a little:
Next, add an empty pattern to the Playlist view, open the Piano Roll view of the MIDI out plugin and create a lead run like shown below:
This is how it sounds so far:
Ok. Add another unit of TAL-NoiseMaker. Again, open up the Wrapping settings and set the MIDI input port to 0. Load a preset called “KB Big Synth FN”. Also, via the Channel settings, assign this second unit of TAL-NoiseMaker to an empty mixer track as well.
Here are the mixer track settings for the second unit of TAL-NoiseMaker: volume level -2.8dB, panning 64% left.
This is how it sounds now:
Next, add a third unit of TAL-NoiseMaker. And again, open up the Wrapping settings and set the MIDI input port to 0. Load a preset “LD Breadbin Burble AS”. Assign this unit of TAL-NoiseMaker to an empty mixer track, and set the mixer track settings as follows: volum level -2.8dB, panning 56% right. Add Fruity Parametriq EQ 2 into the fx slot and use high pass filter to roll off the low frequencies from 145Hz and below:
This is how it sounds so far:
Now, route all the mixer tracks to one empty mixer track. What the routing does is that it sends the audio output of the routed track to a specified mixer track and from there to master mixer track. This is particularly useful feature when you start to mix in other instruments as you can control the volume level of all the three layered instruments at once. Also, you can add compression, eq, reverb and other effects to the routing track and it will affect to all the instruments at once. Putting gentle compression or reverb to the routing track, for example, is a great way to “tie” all the layered sounds together.
Remember though, that you can still control the volume levels of all the individual mixer tracks, add fx etc. even if they are routed.
Alright. The routing is done as follows: in the mixer view, click on one of the mixer tracks where the TAL-NoiseMaker unit is assigned to. Hoover the mouse over an empty mixer track and right click the little arrow icon that is about a halfway of the volume slider bar and choose “Route to this track only” from the pop-up menu.
Do the same for all the TAL-NoiseMaker mixer tracks. Route them all to the same empty mixer track.
Now click on the mixer track you routed the other mixer tracks and set it as follows: volume level to 0.0dB, panning to center, stereo separation (that little knob below the pan controller, used for widening the stereo image) to 17% separated (turn it left):
Also, add Fruity Delay 2 to the fx slot. This will add ethereal atmosphere to the layered sound and as we are using Ping Pong delay and hard panning it also helps to widen the stereo image. Set the fx mix level to 42% and use the following settings:
Next, add Fruity Reeverb 2 to the second fx slot. This is here to add sense of space, to make things sound even more huge. Set the mix level to 32% and use the following settings:
And last but not least, add Soundgoodizer to the third fx slot for beefing up things a little. Use the following settings:
Okay, we are all set and this is how the whole lead melody with layering and effects sounds:
That’s pretty much it.
Now to the alternative layering method (this is actually easier to set up).
Instead of using MIDI out plugin for controlling all the VST instruments at once, you can replace it with a Layer channel. Basically Layer channel does the same what MIDI out plugin: it passes note data from its Piano roll and controller input to any number of other channels which are called child channels. So in this example, you can set all the three units of TAL-NoiseMakers to be as child channels for the Layer channel. After that, all the notes played on a Layer Channel are passed to all children channels of that Channel. And if you activate the Layer channel, you can play all your children channel instruments at once with your MIDI keyboard or by using your typing keyboard – just like you would do with the MIDI out plugin.
Here’s how you set the Layer channel and children channels. So instead of loading MIDI out plugin, add a Layer channel:
Load the TAL-NoiseMakers:
Set the TAL-NoiseMakers as “children” for the Layer channel:
Open the Piano roll view of the Layer channel:
And start adding notes:
(Credits to TheSpanningTree for bringing up this Layer channel tip!)
So what we just did here we:
- Layered three different instruments together by using three units of TAL-NoiseMakers
- Controlled the notes of all the instruments at once by using MIDI out plugin or Layer channel
- Panned the sound of two different instruments to left and right for creating a nice, wide stereo image
- Routed the audio output of all three TAL-NoiseMakers to one mixer track for easier control over the volume level, “tied” the sounds together and widened the stereo image even more with delay and reverb effects.
Finally, here’s the FL Studio project files of this tutorial for you to experiment with (TAL-NoiseMaker is required). I’m sharing project files for both layering methods: one with the MIDI out plugin and one with Layer channels.