It’s incredible that with all the power of VST synths, it’s still pretty easy to sound like other artists. That flexibility should make it easier to find your unique voice, right?
It should. And it does. If you know what you’re doing.
Before you spend hours obsessing over the sound of synths, take some time to consider instruments with fewer “color” options. Drummers, for instance, have a much more limited palette, and have to create texture and character with their chops. That doesn’t stop them from carving out a specific voice.
Basically, don’t overlook the potential of a familiar sound to get the job done. If it comes down to the agony of staring at a screen, debating the merits of cutoff filter position or actually recording, I suggest cutting your losses and committing something to tape.
None of that should stop you from the amazing world of layered synths. DAWs and VSTs are perfect for achieving layered synths, but you’ll want to exercise a little caution. Why?
A major pitfall with synth layering is producing a muddy, lumpy sound, caused by too much sound energy being present at particular frequencies. A great way to combat this is to filter and EQ each part so they each have their own frequency space to work in.
Sage advice from the folks over at Mode Audio, who know a few things about digital production.
What they’re getting at is the idea that you can’t make a big, full sound with many big, full sounds. Go for smaller voices that add up to make the synth sound of your dreams. Just like an orchestra of 100 distorted electric guitars would sound terrible, big sounds layered together equals trouble.
A good start would be converting your stereo tracks to mono. Instantly, each voice will be half the size it was before. You’ll find them instantly easier to work with.
And then, don’t be afraid to buss them together and give em a little squeeze with a compressor. Just processing those signals together with a low ratio should give them a little cohesion as a single voice.
If you follow all these tips, you should end up with a synth sound the world has never heard before.