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Thread: music layering

  1. #1
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    music layering

    can anyone help guide me as to how i might be able to start layering my music (if thats the right term). i really enjoy the sounds the bands are able to create when this technique is used frequently, such as def leppard. the fact that both guitarists will be playing two different things at once yet it sounds so sweet really appeals to my songwriting. my theory is reasonably good, and i know this either has everything to do with, or something to do with improvisation. mind you, im not writing overly complicated stuff, its not jazz. i would like to learn how to do this so if there are any articles that can exclusively help me out, can anyone please let me know

    cheers
    ash

  2. #2
    Registered User CURT #3000's Avatar
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    Ash, I too like the sound of well thought out layering of guitars. There’s so many different ways to approach this, but here are a few common methods to get you started…

    It’s so easy to end up with a very muddy sound if you are not careful with your note choice (esp. with distortion). One thing I like to do is to imagine 3 guitar parts, for example, all being played on the same guitar. By this, I mean that each separate part should not interfere with the note register of the other parts. For example, your first guitar could be in the register of the first 3 frets of your bottom E & A strings; your second layer could make use of the first 3 frets of your D & G & your third layer could use any of the notes on your B & top E strings. Obviously, this is very simplified & it will be up to you how you have all your layers harmonising with each other.

    When it comes to the actual ‘harmony’ you are trying to convey, this is a good trick to get you started with the recording of layers … take a simple chord progression & instead of ‘playing’ the full chords, overdub each tone individually. i.e. For an Am triad, you could record the A on the 5th fret bottom E string - overdub the E (A string 7th fret) - overdub another A (D string 7th fret) - overdub the C (G string 5th fret) – overdub another E (B string 5th fret) & then overdub a third A (top E 5th fret). SIX overdubs - & NO MESS. This is very easy to do, & if you give each note a nice bit of vibrato, you’ll have yourself a nice little guitar orchestra that really ‘sings.’

    Another thing I like to do is use POLYTONAL chords when layering (Def Leppard do the same). Have a look at how chords are constructed & you’ll see patterns emerging all over the place. Some chords (known as polytonals) can be thought of as 2 smaller chords (triads or diads) added together. e.g. a Cm11 chord (C Eb G Bb D F) is a combination of a Cm triad (C Eb G) & a Bb Major triad (Bb D F). Most importantly, for rock music, many of these big chords sound terrible with distortion. A way of getting away from the monotony of Root-5th power chords is to use them together as polytonals; With a lot of distortion an Am7 chord, for example, would sound messy, right? If you look at it’s construction, A C E & G, you can clearly see that it is a combination of an “A power chord” (A & E) and a “C power chord” (C & G). What would normally sound messy on one guitar, sounds very harmonious with two guitars playing these ‘separates.’ Your ears have obviously picked up on D.L. doing this, now you know how to do the same. BEST OF LUCK.

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    thanks alot for the help. especially the last example of music layering, using polytonal chords. do you know of anywhere i would be able to read more about this process? once again thanks for the explaination, it was very straight froward and easy to understand

  4. #4
    Registered User CURT #3000's Avatar
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    Glad I could help, Ash. > One thing I must reiterate, when layering in harmony, is to keep each guitar part in it’s own register. When I mentioned Am7 being a polychord of A5 & C5, don’t just play the A5 (root: open A) & the C5 (root: A string 3rd fret). This probably would sound messy (esp. w/ overdrive or distortion), as the notes are a bit too close together. This would be more appropriate …

    GUITAR 1 (A5) + GUITAR 2 (C5) = Am7
    A & E C & G
    ----------------------------8------
    ----------------------------8-----
    ----------------------------5------
    -2--------------------------------
    -0--------------------------------
    -----------------------------------
    (Hope that came out OK) > If you want to read something that helped me with this subject many years ago, try & get yourself a copy of Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry. He also explains polytonal chords, as well as synonyms, chord substitution, voice leading, systematic thinking & much more. (I believe Steve Vai also found this book very helpful when he was studying). A lot of it will be difficult to grasp at first, but just be patient & it will slowly come to you. Once you understand this subject, you’ll really be able to ‘perk up the ears’ of the listener & really stand out from the crowd. GOOD LUCK!

  5. #5
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
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    Great post by CURT!

    This probably would sound messy (esp. w/ overdrive or distortion), as the notes are a bit too close together
    yea - that's right. You should always keep distance between layers. Plus it's better to keep the arrangement simple and be careful not to overload the multiple threads you're dealing with.

    Look how transparent this example (intro to the song by Jupiter (Russia) that I transcribed this night) looks and how melodically does it sound.

    Warm regards,
    Zatz.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Zatz; 09-30-2003 at 10:34 PM.

  6. #6
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
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    simple layering ptb

    Here's the ptb to the above ex.:
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    wow. that stuff really sounds great! ill try and get that book if i can, but is there an alternative that i might be able to find on the net? as far as keeping it fairly simple hey.... im no speed demon. i much prefer listening to something thats sounds easy on my ears than something that makes em bleed.

  8. #8
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
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    That is something that the guys in Dream Theater are really good that... they "split up" the chords. If they i.e. have an Em11, the bass might play the root, the guitar might play the root an octave higher, plus the fifth, and the keys might play the third and 11th etc.
    It´s an arrangement thing, and it works well.
    I once did a tune called "Letting Go", and in that one, there were a lot f synths playing huge chords and arps. When I recorded the rhythm guitar, I pretty much only played the roots and / or 5ths of the chords, cuz it would have been way too much if I would have played the full chords on the guitar...
    Eric

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    thanks eric. do you have any suggestions as to where i might be able to find some information to help me with this? i have been able to find ted greenes book on amazon, are there any must have books, or websites which would be able to give me some more in depth information on this topic? once again thanks for taking the time out to help me out

    cheers
    ash

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    I've been playing guitar for a while now and am interested in getting into songwriting.
    adem

  11. #11
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by henn9438 View Post
    I've been playing guitar for a while now and am interested in getting into songwriting.
    The following is a basic format you could use to write any song. Use as much of this as you need.

    Decide on a scale. Yes just one. I sing best in D if this is going to be my song I'd write it with D scale notes for the melody and chords from the key of D will give me the harmony. If you do not have any vocalist in mind C is easy - no sharps or flats. OK I want to write a Pop, Rock or Country song so Major scale and major chords will be a good starting point.

    • Decide on a chord progression. Yes one of the cookie cutter progressions will be fine to get started. You can flesh it out later. Since this is my song I'd use a I IV V7 I or D, G, A7, D progression.

    • Now the rest is chicken or egg. I chose lyrics, chords then melody. You may want to go melody then chords and leave lyrics for last. It's your song do it the way you want. The order you take does not matter all that much. However, you should touch on everything that follows. I'll give the lyrics first method.

    • Get the story into verse format. Four line verse is a good format. You will need three verses and a chorus. Chorus is the hook, what you want them singing tomorrow. Rhyme or not up to you. If you are writing an instrumental piece you of course will not have lyrics to anchor your verses, etc. The repeating head (tune) is your anchor now.

    • Place your cookie cutter progression over the lyric words. This is my first draft approach. Start the verse with the I chord - you are at rest to start so the I tonic chord makes since. To get some interest into the chord progression we need to get some tension into the progression so move to the IV chord near the ending of the first line. Continue with the IV into the second line and near the end of the second line bring in the V7 chord. This increases the tension and acts as a climax. Since we have reached climax quickly end the 2nd line with the I chord. You moved the first two lines from I (rest) to IV (tension) to V7 (climax) and then resolved back to the I chord and rest. Repeat this for the 3rd and 4th line. I like to get two V-I cadences into my four line verse. Might as well use that same format for the other verses and what the heck use it for the chorus - remember you are doing a first draft.

    Verse format -- one way -- first two lines bring up a thought then the 3rd and 4th line of the verse react to what was said in the first two lines and then bring that thought to a close so verse number two can bring up another thought.

    • Play that progression and move the chords around to where they match the lyric words. Move them a little one way or the other - your ear will tell you.

    • Now it's melody time. I go to the keyboard for this - at any rate - one melody note per lyric word syllable. Ma-ry and Lit-tle will take two melody notes each. One note per lyric word syllable is a great help when writing melody.

    • Which notes. The chord's pentatonic will give you three chord tones and two safe passing notes - more than enough to build a melody that will harmonize with the chords you are using. Yes your melody notes and your chord notes should share like notes - when they do you harmonize both the melody and the chord line. I find knowing the progression first then finding melody notes from within the chords lets me keep the chord progression's journey from rest, tension, climax, resolution and return to rest the verse should travel intact. Now I only have to find harmonizing notes for my melody from the active chord or it's pentatonic. Here is what I do. Recite a lyric phrase and see what pentatonic notes sound best over that phrase. If you need something out side the pentatonic, use it. Your ear will lead you to what is needed. Here is Mary Had A Little Lamb in C; notice it's one melody note per lyric word syllable:

    C.....................................Dm.......... .....C
    Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb.... Lit-tle lamb... lit-tle lamb.
    E...D...C...D.E..E...E..........D...D..D........E. .G...G

    • That will get you a lead sheet, treble clef, chords and lyrics. A bass clef would be nice or just leave it as a lead sheet and let the bassist compose the bass line - how the chord tones are played - as he/she feels best.

    Sit back open a bottle of your favorite beverage and start on fleshing out your first draft.

    That is just about all that is necessary to write a dirt simple song. Is there more? Of course.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 12-28-2013 at 03:08 AM.

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    I think it is easy to do it with goldwave or virtual DJ. But I have no idea about this one. Maybe I can help you after discussing this with my friends. They have been doing this layering thing for about a year now.












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