Making Your Lead Stand Out,
Are your Leads not Standing Out? Or at least, not standing out the way you want them to?
You may find the blog post about creating catchier melodies interesting!
Making Thick, Prominent Leads,
Making those amazingly warm, catchy leads definitely takes some knowledge, and practice.
I’d say the first place to start, is with your knowledge. How does one create a catchy lead? In the beginning, you can just hit notes and come out with some catchy parts, but in the long run, this will make it hard to always bang out awesome melodies. Knowing your piano scales is pretty important.
Next, you have to look at what VST you are using. Yes, in my experience, some VSTs do sound higher quality than others. However, with the knowledge, you can still make a poor quality VST sound just as good. It all comes down to your mixing, and routing skills.
Finally, which this tutorial is going to be talking about, sub-group bussing for thick, prominent leads!
Catchy Leads — The steps,
This tutorial consists of the following steps:
- First, create your lead — or w/e sound you have made
- Duplicate, Triplicate, or x4 it! — This alone will get your lead sounding thicker and a bit more on top because it’s full of all kinds of different frequencies to help stand out over other sounds.
- Create your Sub-Bus / Group — Now you can EQ and compress to taste to keep the lead consistent. *EQ the sound while listening to the mix. Does it sound fine by itself? Good, maybe just boost some highs? Or cut highs on one of the synths, but leave the highs on one of the more enjoyable synths? I say this because when EQing an instrument individually, you can really change how the sound sounds, without even listening to it in the song!
- Take it to the Next Level — What I did near the end of the video isn’t a must, but can really help push it out front and center.
Creating Your Lead,
Creating a lead is definitely a skill set. A lead tends to be different than all other parts of the song, yet fits perfectly, and just like the name says, it leads the song. It contains the catchiest part of the song, and when played, usually brings a huge impact and climax to the track. Again, knowing your piano scales will help with this.
Fuller Sound — Duplicate Your Tracks,
Now, you don’t have to get different sounds. You can simply duplicate the track and EQ them differently, or, just duplicate and keep the second one a lower volume.
Also, instead of duplicating, you can simply route the instrument to another mixer track, and effect the routed track much differently than the original. You can route this as many times as you’d like, and then put them all into a bus channel.
For example, you like the original synth, but feel it’s just a bit thin. Inside FL Studio, simply click on the original mixer track, and then left click the arrow of empty mixer tracks where you’d like to route the synth to. This can be as many as you’d like! I’d say, maybe try two or three at first. From there, just route those into a sub-group for easy control.
Keep in mind, you can easily EQ the individual instruments as well. If you’d just like to have a thicker body, but not high-end, choose one out of the the three mixer channels you’ve now made, and just low-pass filter off the highs until it gives you the sound you’d like!
I do find something special happens when you duplicate a track and just lower the volume. It’s like it becomes thicker by itself. (Similar to parallel compression!).
Create a Sub Group,
As already mentioned lots throughout this post, sub groups will help in the thickening of your lead! Sub groups also allow for simple mixing. If I want my lead louder, I move up one mixer track, not 2, 3, or how ever many tracks you have routed to the sub-group!
I also do this to gently compress all the sounds in the sub-group at the same time. It makes the lead sound consistent, blended well, and allows for a louder synth! (Because of peak management. Check out the compression post).
Always A/B your compression and EQ. Is it helping? If not.. then take it off! (A/B means turn off the plugin to hear how it sounds with and without the plugin. Is it improving? Also, make sure to compare with even volume to have a fair match).
Carve Out Your Lead,
Carving out space with an EQ on sub-groups is a an advanced trick, but it really helps make things stand out. You can check out the similar tutorial regarding vocals.
In the video, the reason automated the EQ carve for the chorus is because that’s when the full chorus sub-group lead actually plays. So I created a separate EQ, and automated the mix-knob which brought in that special EQ at the chorus. The EQ looked like this:
The Mix Knob,
I prefer to use the mix knob for automation clips rather than the on/off button. It just allows for easier flexibility.
I would like to make a video on this to teach a bit more in-depth of how it works, how I use it, and why I feel it’s a lot more beneficial to use the mix knob, rather than to automate the on/off. But for the time being, for your automation clips, try both the on/off, and the mix knob. See what you feel works best for you!
Making Full, Catchy Leads — Final Thoughts,
And that’s some tricks to get a full sounding chorus, a full catchy-sounding lead, and it all comes thanks to sub-group. Just for your knowledge, a sub-buss and a sub-group are the same thing!
Sub-groups are definitely a skill you will want to learn if you don’t know much about it. Routing audio around your mixer is a very powerful tool, and is closely as important as the composition itself. Each person in the music industry has their own job, and each job has their own tricks. Seek out to find these little tricks, and you’re productions will sound more than professional ;).