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Arts & Entertainment

Working With Pads and Leads

Armin van Buuren

Lesson time 10:35 min

Use these production tricks to get more presence in your leads and fill out your track with euphoric atmospheres—all without clogging up your mix.

Armin van Buuren
Teaches Dance Music
Learn how to make dance music from the platinum-selling producer voted No. 1 DJ in the world five times by DJ Magazine.


Well, specifically in trance music, I love to layer stuff. There's this function in Logic that if I want to add a lead sound and I want to make it big-- for example, let me just play a chord-- I know it was a bit of a silly chord, but just go there, quantize it. I don't like that. Clear that. Here. Go there, add a little swing to it. I can copy the track, including the media notation, and start fooling with the other track. So this is basically the exact same setting as this track-- yep-- which is going to bust 30. And then I'll start fooling around with this. So it's basically another layer that I'm adding. Maybe detune it a little bit. Maybe opening the release a little bit. I'm just adding a layer to a riff that I've just played, a very, very basic riff. And just by adding layers to each other, I can make this sound more wide and more interesting, maybe. Then I can copy the channel, copy the media information, and then, for example, have a Nexus plug-in, which is a different sounding, a rompler. Let me pull up a piano, search for a piano, P-N, any piano. Solo it for a bit. A bit reverb-y. A few off the low end. So I'm just fooling around at the moment. I'm just throwing, adding layers, f being creative. Again, there's no rules, so just feel free to throw weird plugins. I mean, who would put a distortion on a piano, right? It's non-conventional. Let's do it. Let's grab a random distortion. I love to do stuff like that, just be random, you know? Throw in-- this is one of my favorite distortion plug-ins, so I'm just going to distort this piano. Let me throw a reverb. You know what? I like that piano sound, but I feel it's a little bit far away. And that's usually because you're missing the transients, the attack of the piano. So I'll just copy the channel once again, so it's the exact same piano. But I'm switching off this and I'm making the notes a lot shorter. So this will be a very short piano. I just want the top end. Feel all the reverb. Kill everything that's not nice. And if I add it with the piano that I have, it will add the attack to the piano, which makes it more sound like a piano. So you hear of the attack of the piano better. So that's why my tracks have a ridiculous amount of tracks. It's just because I like to add layers to it. You have to be very aware that as soon as you start layering, you're also clogging up your mix. I mean, you're basically adding frequencies, and the more frequencies you add, the more full your mix becomes. So you have to be very aware that as soon as you start adding layers, that you use your EQ wisely. So that's why on this piano, for example, I've killed everything below 1000 hertz because I don't need that information. I only want the attack. So ask yourself why did I choose this sound, and which part of the sound is important to me...

About the Instructor

Every week, Armin van Buuren puts 41 million listeners into A State of Trance on his radio show. In his first-ever online class, the platinum-selling DJ breaks down his hits and builds a track from scratch to show you how he produces, performs, and promotes dance music. You’ll learn his technical process for using samples and plug-ins, mixing, recording vocals, and how to DJ a set. Your crowd is waiting.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Seeing how he worked in the studio was extremely helpful. It reminded me to do some things I stopped doing years ago. Seeing how he works in a state of flow without over analyzing things and just trying ideas until they bear fruit helped remove some walls I hadn’t noticed I’d built around my musical self.

I have developed an insight into the psychology of making music and that the priorities are not shaping a perfect brand or making perfectly sounding electronic music. Having fun and sharing your passion for music with an audience should be the biggest driver and motivator for any producer and DJ. This is clear to me now and I am confident in my ability to improve and what I love. Making music.

Five-star teaching. Just Beautiful. I learned a lot.

Amazing class i am ready to go out their and give it my best.


Joshua M.

0:26 He literally started playing the intro to Sandstorm by Darude. Armin trolling us.

A fellow student

This class is really great for people with some knowledge and understanding but for beginners, it's a no go.

Anton B.

As soon as I start layering sounds the peak level where all the sound are routed becomes red (clip). I can turn the volume of the whole track down, but then I lose all the loudness. How can I fix this?


Sometimes I forget about the Pads so I will definitely incorporate that into my Projects more often.

Brian H.

Very good lesson and Armin's very easy to follow. Here's the melody I came up with. Please let me know what you think. Thank you in advance.

Henry P.

I really like the layering technique. Automation get the job done, but AvB brings up a good point how it can be a lot more work when you can just layer on top of another track. I like it.

Vladislava S.

Where is my "Skip" button? This song is awful- I bet it made lots of revenue! On the positive note- it is a great way to explain complicated concept in simple terms. The newbie may not even realize what he or she just heard, but hopefully it will make sense with time. Actually- cleaning the tracks is a big issue. I think Windows platforms record more low end and plugins on Windows not as effective to clean it. I would like to hear what EQs work good in cleaning low end. I been using built in Sonar EQ. It has good graphic, but bass is still there- it does not clean it that well.

Laszlo M.

I'm not into trance but this is fantastic in terms of digestible information! The Deadmau5 class was a good in its own way, but it felt a little all over the place. This one seems, at lest so far, a lot more structured and thought out.

Phil M.

This lesson has a lot of good information. AVB brings it down to 2 really good pieces of advice 1) Feel free to be yourself when creating music and 2) Trial and Error

Marc T.

OMG, the compressor after reverb trick is SO cool! :O Also, it's interesting how you say you duplicate tracks and then just switch a plugin on/off instead of automating it on the same track. I used to automate everything to the point where I had 3-4 automations at the same time, on the same track, but your way seems so much quicker.