No matter what genre of EDM you’re making, you need to make your main elements big. Usually, beginners tend to add lots of elements to make their leads bigger.
But most of the time, the difference between weak elements and big ones is the management of your volume levels, the mixing of your track, and the kind of leads you add. In fact, most of the time, you won’t have to add a lot of elements to make your leads bigger.
Improve The Mixing Of Your Leads
In the end, you want to make one big unified lead. So, you have to make sure that your leads blend in each other correctly.
Balance The Leads’ Volume Levels
When you layer and stack leads together, you have to keep their volumes balanced. If you don’t balance your leads, they will fight and cancel each other out.
So what I recommend doing to fix this is picking the main and support layers, and making the main layer louder than the support layers. By doing this, you give your leads a frame that makes them sound unified.
Another thing I recommend doing is removing unnecessary frequencies. Try to find each layer’s main frequencies and remove all the other ones. By doing that, you make space for each lead to shine in, and you keep your tracks clean and tight.
For example, these are three leads from one of my tracks.
Give Your Leads Space
After all, your leads are only a part of your mix, so if your mix doesn’t have enough space left, your leads won’t be able to cut through.
To make space, you’ll need to cut all the unnecessary frequencies and remove any elements that are identical to another element. So if you have two leads that have the same main frequencies, replace one of them with another instrument.
Use Mid/Side Processing
Another thing you can do to make your leads bigger is splitting them into mid and side channels and processing them separately. This method is super useful when you try to get specific details right, and it often can do wonders with your leads.
Our brain gives special attention to white noise and high frequencies, so if you want your leads to be powerful, you need the sides to be sharp and wide. So, to make your leads’ sides powerful, remove the low-mids and boost the highs.
Big leads need to have a solid tight mono signal, that will keep things going. And to achieve that, you can remove the lows and add harmonics through saturation. These two things can boost your mids up a nudge.
Only Use Leads That Add Something
The most valuable thing you need to know about making bigger leads is layering. If you know how to layer right, you already know 90% of what you need to know about big leads.
So, How Can You Layer Leads Right?
The first thing you need to do is making sure that all of your leads are adding value. If they don’t, replace them with other ones.
A great trick you can use to determine whether a lead is essential or not is closing your eyes, pressing the mute button until you don’t know if it’s muted or not, and then pressing play, and pressing the mute button again. If you hear a change, that means that this lead is worth keeping, and if you don’t, it means you should replace it with another one.
Use One-Shot Lead Samples
First of all, it’s important to understand that there is nothing wrong with using samples.
You have to remember that in the end, your audience is not producers. Your audience judges your songs only by their creativity, by their sound, and by their melodic ideas, they don’t care if you use samples.
Samples can make a massive impact on your leads without much effort. By adding them to your leads, you add a whole new range of frequencies that can make your leads bigger in a matter of seconds.
Add Support Notes
Every melody has notes that are more significant than others. Those notes are the ones that get the most tension before them. I can call them “peak notes.”
Try to determine what are the peak notes in your melody and add support synths that play these notes. You can use synth one-shot samples / presets, or you can use percussions to add a bit of punchiness to the sound. I guarantee, if you use it correctly, your leads will sound significantly bigger.
Another thing I recommend trying is splitting your melody to call response parts and adding different kinds of synths on each of them. This way, you’ll make your leads bigger and much more interesting to listen to.
Add Special Effects
Sometimes, what makes leads huge is not the actual leads. Sometimes it’s the effects they have that make the difference.
The first effect I use to make my leads bigger is the pumping reverb effect. This effect is basically reverb with side-chain compression on it.
Adding side-chained reverb fills gaps and empty spaces in your mix, and makes your leads sound a lot bigger without much effort. To make this effect, you can use send-fx channels, or you can use plugins with internal ducking options, like Mutant Reverb of W.A Production.
To create pumping reverb with the Internal-Ducker option in Mutant Reverb, simply set a high threshold and a high ratio, and then adjust the mix knob until it’s perfect.
To use the send-channels method, you should first send your track to a send-fx channel. Then you should put reverb that’s a 100% wet, and then you should add a side-chain compressor and set the leads as its side-chain signal. I also set a pretty high ratio and a low threshold.
Another thing I like doing when I try to make my leads bigger is using reversed synths. When you layer reversed synths over your primary leads, it makes extra tension and suspense.
Obviously, you shouldn’t put them on every note. You should only put reversed synths over the notes before your peak notes. This way, you’ll make a lot of suspense to the peak notes, and you’ll make your leads sound a lot bigger.
Making your leads sound bigger is easy as long as you mix them right, make space for all of them, and use leads that add something.
And if you did all of these things and you really take your leads to the next level, use midside processing, add one-shot samples, and add special effects.
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