From Armin van Buuren's MasterClass

Working With Pads and Leads

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.

Topics include: Layer Your Way to Huge Leads • Keep Your Mix Clean • Keep Leads and Vocals Out of Each Other's Way • Pads Are Crucial (Even When You Don't Notice Them) • Get Creative With Your Plug-Ins


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.

Topics include: Layer Your Way to Huge Leads • Keep Your Mix Clean • Keep Leads and Vocals Out of Each Other's Way • Pads Are Crucial (Even When You Don't Notice Them) • Get Creative With Your Plug-Ins

Armin van Buuren

Teaches Dance Music

Learn More


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-- [SYNTHESIZER] I know it was a bit of a silly chord, but just go there, quantize it. [SYNTHESIZER] I don't like that. Clear that. Here. [SYNTHESIZER] 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. [SYNTHESIZER] 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. [SYNTHESIZER] 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. [SYNTHESIZER] 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. [SYNTHESIZER] 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. [SYNTHESIZER] 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...

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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.

This has been very fun and good structure. I has not helped yet because I have seen everything in 3 days, but it will. I hope I reach Armin´s lvl some day. Best tip from him, not give up. Keep going!

This was gold. I always loved, followed and adored Armin since I don't know 2005 and he is such a legend just by how he is. Humble, classy, down to earth phenomenon. Thanks for this Masterclass, best one so far! And that he showed how Benno is essential in his productions just makes him even higher in my eyes now. Please continue with what you do Armin

This was really great , Armin's style was open and informative. I wonder after watching him if the DJ trance set supports women? He referred many times to men and Im wondering if there's fair representation and support for female DJ's?

It was more of a lesson on EDM producer mentality rather than artistic or musical technicalities. Well done, Masterclass Team & Armin - but, I stand behind my previous comments and for the future I'd really like to see an initial masterclass like this be continued with a more in-depth second series. Cheers!


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.

Jer G.

I like the layering tip. I've collected several plugins over the years, but I like the idea of using them creatively on each layer....kind of splitting the instrument up into it's ADSR parts (or high-mid-low articulations). =)

Crystal G.

So cool! I like so much this MC and my idol Armin!!!!! Hope we will meet soon!!!!!

Dj S.

would have loved to see him show more vs say more. would have especially liked to see how he did the pitch down effect of that basic saw wave in logic.

David K.

He is an excellent teacher. He teaches to the level that majority of us would be familiar with, and if not he will explain. This entire series has felt like I was able spend a day hanging out and playing music. He is not talking down at you. After lesson 1, I opened up my DAW and Serum can be purchased by renting to own, downloaded the free Zebra2 and I have a lot of plugins from cinematic/strings libraries. Something that I never thought about in non-orchestral music is to consider the "Frequency Bandwidth" and how this can muddy up the sound. Using EQ or thinking about sitting over a filter to open up a "space" is something I have never considered it. Just this advice transcends all music creation. Ultimately, I judge a Masterclass as what would this experience be worth face to face in a long practical lecture or lab. In this measure, I would say that this lesson would be well worth the $80 and easily make my music much clearer and purposeful.