Mixing & Layering Sample Pack Content
In this blog we will show you how to make the most out of combining different loops from sample packs through mixing and layering.
So you've just bought a great sounding sample pack, or found a bunch of loops on Splice that you think will work really well together. You load them into your DAW, and before you know it you've got an 8 bar loop that's messy, muddy and has no progression to become the killer track you'd hoped.
Let's look at some techniques to get around this!
1. Layering loops together and EQ masking
It's often not enough to simply stack loops that are in the same key or tempo together and hope they work. Always start with a main sound (a lead line or chord progression) and keep that front and centre throughout! Any other loops then need sit around or under it, avoiding clashing ideas and frequencies.
EQ and side-chain really comes into play here. Plugins like 'Wavesfactory - Trackspacer' allow you to side-chain two signals together, avoiding the masking of frequencies! This also really helps with 'mud' in your mix. Similarly, two instanced of 'Fabfilter Pro-Q3' will show you were masking frequencies are occurring, so you can notch out anything that clashes!
If you want to avoid using plugins though, a simple rule of thumb is that 6db worth of level equates to half the perceived volume, so knock one loops back -6db and tweak from there! Most (if not all) DAW compressors will have a side-chain setting too.
'Example 01' has everything at the same volume, whereas 'Example 02' chooses one loop to be the focus and using the other loops to support it.
2. Add compression and create space
Once your sounds are nicely levelled together and any clashing frequencies fixed, it's a good idea to create some space. Send one of your loops to a reverb, add some chorus, panning or delay to help separate it from the other sounds. Additionally, adding some compression to one or two loops can help push them to the front, creating more depth across your sounds!
3. The 8 bar problem
A super common issue we always find is how to get out of the 8 bar cycle! You've got your loops sitting nicely; everything has it's place and is grooving well. But now what? Hours spent listening to the 8 bar track you've made with no idea where to go next!
It's all about structure. Often times here at Touch Loops, we've realise we thought we were writing the start of a great track, when actually we've written the main hook! Duplicate your arrangement 4 times, go back to the start and begin taking elements out. Maybe filter out parts and slowly bring them in? Wash out one idea in reverb and slowly bring it to the front? Take the beat out all together? Reverse it? Pitch it up or down and octave?
When in doubt always remember: It can never hurt to take the bass and kick out for a bit to give the ears a break, and everything sounds better after a 10 min break to get a drink or take a walk!
'Example 4' expands on our arrangement and structures it out to more slowly introduce sounds.
4. Keep it simple
Sample packs can be pretty big (which is great, more bang for our buck!) and Splice has an eye-watering amount of content available at this point. But a great track doesn't have to have all your best ideas and favourite loops in in one go.
One good idea can carry a track throughout. Too many ideas can be confusing and water down something amazing. Remember, can you hum the main melody? If not, maybe there's too much going on. Instead of adding more loops, try playing around with one loop more (more on that in our 'getting more from sample packs' blog)
5. Beware key labelling
A simple one, but just because two loops from different packs or on Splice say they're both in 'F min', doesn't necessarily mean they are or that they will work. The loops could start on different notes or pull in different tonal directions that cause them to clash or not quite gel properly. Ears over tagging every time!
The sounds in this blog were taken from the following Touch Loops packs: