Chapter 6 of 33 from Armin van Buuren

Working With Pads and Leads

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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

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.

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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 building a DJ set. Your crowd is waiting.

Join Armin in his studio to learn how he layers sounds, produces tracks, and prepares for his live sets.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class, along with exclusive audio stems from Armin's projects.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Armin and his label will also give feedback on select student work.

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Armin van Buuren

Armin van Buuren Teaches Dance Music