MixCoach Podcast 068: Layering Effects in a Mix

Layering Effects in a Mix

Layering Effects in a Mix

Layering effects is the name of the game on the MixCoach Podcast this week. Enjoy!

Raw Transcript:

[Recording: This is the Mix Coach Podcast, Episode 68.]

John: On this episode of the podcast we’re going to talk about
layering effects as well as layering some of the like samples and that sort
of thing and definitely talking a little bit about how to mix as your own
type of engineer with your own set of sounds. Alright, Kev. This week we’re
talking about [inaudible, 00:33]

Kevin: You scared me.

John: That was really abrupt.

Kevin: You scared me.

John: I was like wondering if we were recording then I looked over,
‘We’re recording,’ so I just went right in. This week we’re going to talk
about effects layering. I know on Mix Coach Member we’ve had a lot of guys
that I’ve suggested doing, like either a delay into a reverb or like adding
a bigger reverb for the tail and then a smaller reverb for like kind of the
beginning, for the attack. That sort of thing. Sometimes that can get kind
of confusing for guys and sometimes it can be overused where they just kind
of use two reverbs that don’t really match. Their EQ doesn’t really sound
good together. That sort of thing so in your experience, you’ve had a
decent amount of experience with effects layering, kind of what’s the
appropriate kind of thing going with effects layering, whether it’s a
delay, a reverb, whatever?

Kevin: Well as far as effects layering, really the only layering that
I actually do is usually on the vocal and I’ll put a delay and a verb on
kind of, either the same return or I’ll kind of intermingle them. I think
there’s a tutorial video on exactly how I do this on, you have to look for
it on YouTube but basically what I’ll do is I’ll create a stereo effects
return or an [inaudible, 01:54] input and then I’ll put a delay first and
then I’ll make the delay be on like quarter notes or dotted eighth notes or
something in that range. Usually dotted eighth notes and then what I’ll do
is I’ll change the mixture of that to where it’s mostly dry but there’s a
little bit of delay on it so it’s almost like you would put a real vocal,
like the kind of delay you’d put on a real vocal. Then after that I’ll put
reverb on it.

I found that when I was using Dverb, quite a bit, which was not,
probably not the best but not bad by any stretch. If you wanted a long . .
.

John: It gets a bad rep for sure but . . .

Kevin: It does.

John: . . . I mean, to be honest with you it doesn’t sound terrible.

Kevin: [inaudible, 02:37] I use it all the time still but if you need
longer reverb times, if you need longer trail times instead of just, like
cranking the knob to six seconds what I’ll do is I’ll send it through in
chunks with the a delay. As far as layering, that’s usually the only
layering I did but however, when I went to Capitol Records last year and
mixed and when I met Steve, who’s now . . .

John: Steve [Genowek]

Kevin: Steve Genowek who’s now [inaudible, 03:05]

John: A Mix Coach Member [inaudible, 03:06] that sort of thing.

Kevin: He’s such a great asset to have there and he’s such a wealth of
knowledge but one of the things he showed me there was we use their
chambers there. They’ve got, I think six chambers and they all [inaudible,
03:17]

John: Designed by Les Paul.

Kevin: Les Paul. Actually I think they dug up the parking lot and they
actually put these chambers downstairs and they’re oddly shaped chambers
with [out take] voice of the theater, speakers in the middle so it’s a mono
send and then there’s two SM81s that are, I think they’re the Omni version
of this. I mean [inaudible, 03:40] I didn’t know there was one but anyways,
that’s what it is. Each chamber sounds different than the other chamber and
I found from Steve that whoever, you have to kind of call dibs on a certain
chamber that you want.

One of the things that Steve showed me, which was really cool was
that he layers reverbs or he layers the chambers. He would take, we might
take a, I don’t know, the EM2 250 and then layer it into the chamber and so
that’s really, and I really just did that under his tutelage and it was one
of those things where it’s like, ‘That sounds great. Let’s leave it right
there.’ [inaudible, 04:17] really ask, ‘What percentage of this chamber was
it to that?’ I never did do any of that.

As far as a general rule for me, I don’t do a lot of layering of
verbs. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for me having a template set up
to where I was printing a vocal stem at the same time I was printing a band
stem, I would probably use the same verb but I have to keep those discreet
but I usually use the same kind of verbs on each one. If I were just mixing
old school in front of the console I would probably have one or two verbs
and I would use those independently. I would use though, probably one verb
for the vocals and probably another verb for the band.

John: As far as that goes, like sometimes I’ve found that like the
band having the same verb as the vocals kind of helps the vocals sit in the
mix a little bit more. Then the drums can have kind of like if I was using
like a haul on something I could use like a plate on the drums, that sort
of thing where the drums kind of fit in their own because of the transient
nature. They fit in their own space and they will still blend with
everything but sometimes with the instruments, if I’m using two different
like crazy different effects on the vocals and then the instruments.
Sometimes the vocals will sit on top of rather than inside of the mix. That
sort of thing.

I’m kind of the same way where like a lot of times, like sometimes
I’ll use a delay that’s mostly a delay into a reverb and kind of mix that
in with a normal reverb. That sort of thing but other than that, like it’s
really few and far between wherever I layer too many effects. Most of the
time it is a combo of like a delay and a verb.

Kevin: We’ve been talking about things, like a few weeks ago we talked
about expanders and then we’re talking about layering and we both say, ‘We
don’t really do that that much.’ One of the things I think is a benefit to
this is like personally I would like to know because we talked about,
several weeks ago we talked about do the tricks get in the way of your
mix and sometimes I would like to know that that is a cool trick but
nobody ever uses it. I mean that’s one trick that one guy used on one
record and now everybody’s trying to use it too much, with not much
success.

On these sort of things I think it would be beneficial to find out
that nobody uses, layers reverb. Everybody sticks, when reverb [inaudible,
06:36] sound and maybe this one engineer has a sound where he uses ten
compressors or whatever and that works for him.

John: Seems like a lot of compressors there. I feel like the game
staging would be a little bit complicated between ten compressors, that
sort of thing.

Kevin: Even [inaudible, 06:51] compressor into the next and it sounds
like radio, I guess [inaudible, 06:55]

John: You just chained it all together. To be honest with you, like
it’s, whenever I say I don’t use it very often I say, ‘On this one I mean
more like one in every, like maybe one or two mixes off of an album.’ Maybe
like one or two out of ten songs I feel like it’s appropriate and a lot of
times whenever I do effects layering it’s on a song with like maybe a
sparse production to where, like it needs something to fill, kind of the
void or fill like a vibey song that needs to fill its space.

Kevin: To where the verb is an instrument.

John: Right. Where it is part of the texture of the song where it’s
like, ‘This is a delay going into a verb’ and then you slip that into in
addition to the regular verb. That sort of thing or sometimes, like even
that, if it’s like there’s a very sparse section of the song like at the
very intro or something where there’s like it’s just the vocal. Sometimes
I’ll layer an effect there but then take it out whenever the rest of the
band comes in because it just would get in the way and you would barely
hear it anyway.

Kevin: I’ll tell you one other layering, if we’re talking about if
we’ve ever used layering before. I have experimented with, again not very
successfully but I experimented with a pitch shift before the verb and what
I wanted to happen was the pitch to actually go up . . .

John: As it tailed off?

Kevin: . . . as it tailed off.

John: That’s cool.

Kevin: I think there’s probably verbs out there that do that but this
was kind of like a regenerating pitch shift with verb on it.

John: Gotcha.

Kevin: I did that once and I think it was for an effect and like I
said, I can’t even remember which song it was so it must not have been
landmarkish.

John: Must not have been like that successful [inaudible, 08:33] As
far as that goes, it’s like a lot of the stuff, like you said, it’s just,
it’s very specific to the song where you have an idea and something I
wanted to mention was if there’s kind of an unconventional thing that you
hear into a song and you want to try, don’t be afraid to try it because you
can always bypass it after. Set your amount of time, say ‘I’m going to try
this and chase this rabbit down the rabbit hole for ten, 15 minutes.’ After
ten, 15 minutes, if you’re not close or happy with it you can just bypass
it and move on. Didn’t waste too much time. Didn’t waste nothing like that
so no harm, no foul. That sort of situation.

A lot of times it affects layering, that’s what ends up happening
where it’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea. This is going to sound really
great.’ You get in there and it’s like, ‘Well, while it sounds good it may
not be the direction that the song was wanting to go in and it may not
actually add anything substantial to the song. Let’s just take it out so it
doesn’t muddy the mix.’

Kevin: We talked about this several weeks ago on the podcast that it’s
not really any one thing.

John: One thing.

Kevin: It’s a layer of a bunch of things and I wouldn’t be surprised
if you found that perfect sound, that perfect layering or whatever and then
you bypass one of the things that was in the layer and you couldn’t really
tell or your wife couldn’t tell if it was gone or who you were mixing for
couldn’t really tell [inaudible, 09:52] I wouldn’t be discouraged about
that because good mixing is lots of little things and not anything big.
It’s definitely worth spending time finding the right layering things in
but don’t be disappointed and don’t think that you haven’t made any
progress if it’s not a life changing, ‘Whoa. What did you just do to that?’
Because it’s usually not bad.

John: A lot of times it’s the little things, like you said and even
to an extent where like, whenever I’m doing any like programming or adding
to a song, multiple kicks, like if you’re using one kick for like a certain
sound and then you with, especially with like pop and hip hop, that sort of
thing, if you have a big beefy low end kick, then you have another one
that’s kind of like a punchy, attack kick, that sort of thing, layering
those guys together is kind of nice because you can choose to eliminate one
and just have that high kick, the punchy kick for one hit and then make a
really big impulse on like a down beat or something like that.

Kevin: You know what? I don’t know why I didn’t think about this but I
layered drums for quite a bit. I mean I used to, if there was a snare drum
that didn’t have quite enough sizzle and I couldn’t add anymore top into
it, a lot of times what I would do is I would take a sound replacer or
maybe the [inaudible]

John: Trigger or something like that.

Kevin: . . . trigger or something like that and I would trigger a
tambourine on top of it and that would give it the topping that it needed
that happened at the same time and that wasn’t really, and that was a small
layer.

John: Especially if you need something like a lift on a chorus or
something like that, a tambourine on a snare can sound, like can just
signify, ‘Here’s the chorus.’ That sort of thing where it just gets more
exciting in a section. For sure. Then layering, like you said, layering
like that, that’s a kind of a cool way that a mix engineer, kind of cool
trick that you shouldn’t be scared to do necessarily. If you hear something
like that where it’s like, ‘Let me add something to the snare or supplement
it somehow,’ don’t be scared to do that for sure because chances are it’ll
end up better than it was in the beginning.

Kevin: I used to be a little hesitant to add layers because I didn’t
want to add [flam], like if you layered a snare drum on top of another
snare drum, which is something I do quite a bit too. I’ll layer snare drums
on top of each other but it hasn’t always been as easy as it is now, I mean
I started using the Massey Dirt and it’s so accurate. Then lately, as of
late I’ve been using Steven Slate’s Trigger [inaudible, 12:19]

John: Trigger. That’s [inaudible, 12:20]

Kevin: It is so phase accurate that if your sample is out of phase
with the original then it will sound like it’s out of phase. It’s a lot
easier to sample things [inaudible, 12:31] We start talking about presets a
few episodes ago, another thing that I’ll do is I’ll have a great kick
sound that I can pull up and it’s a preset or I’ll have a great black
[inaudible, 12:42] singer or a piccolo singer that I want to layer in on
top of it or even, sometimes even just replace.

John: Definitely I think that’s a great thing for engineers to have
as well as and recently there’s been a couple of guys that I know have been
using their sample catalogs and there’s specific ones they’ve been using
them as kind of a calling card. That sort of thing where it’s like, ‘If you
want these sounds come to me as a, because I’m the one that has these
sounds because I recorded them,’ and that sort of thing.

I definitely think that’s a legitimate thing as well that you can use
layering wise is, ‘Hey, man. If you have this amazing snare sound and you
just sneak that in, that’s just a thing that in your mix that you layered
in there that can definitely be a calling card for you.

[Recording: Thanks for listening. This has been the Mix Coach
Podcast, the podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best
recording. For more tips, tutorials and even a free course be sure and
visit us at mixcoach.com.]

Question: Do you use any effects layering when you mix?