Layering Drums – Getting a Phatter Sound

I got a lot of responses from my article on drum processing. A lot of people here asking about Layering drums, so I have written this article on with more details.

To add a big sound to your drums or a larger than life sound a great technique to know is layering. By adding 2 or more layers to create your kick you can add more thump and so on.


To get a solid kick I like to have 2 or more samples. I find a good sub bass, can be an 808 or other, and have that eq’d for just the lo end. Then I find a good kick with an attack and have that on top. I like adding more than 2 so that I can obtain a sound that doesn’t come off as digitally created. By dialing in these samples you will then have a unique and powerful kick.


Most the time I do roughly the same thing with my snares. Start with a sound you like, like a clap, and layer it with a snare hit or rim shot. That will give it more punch. You can also layer it with natural sounds for more of an ESKMO sound.  I generally have 2-3 layers of sounds and then adjust their velocity, volume, over the course of the song to make it modulate and sound like it is changing. Also adding a good convolution reverb will go a long way.


You should use at least 2 per each sequence of hats, otherwise you get this empty/mono/solo kinda sound. Layer your hats! A slight bit of reverb and/or delay will go a long way as well. With hats you can layer fun sounds as well like glass breaking, a glitch sound, or other fun abnormal sounds for electronic music. Keep in mind the hats are in the high end and don’t go to much in the mids.

Some Basic Techniques for Layering

Here are some quick tips and tricks to keep in mind with layering:

  • Pitch up and down the same sample. For example take sample one and pitch it down, then take the same sample in another channel and pitch it up. Try this with already layered samples, by exporting your multi layered samples then reimporting.

  • Create Stereo Width – Simply pan the different samples across the sound stage. This gives a real feeling of width with minimal effort. Another route is to duplicate a sound and pan the two new versions hard left and right. Any difference in treatment to these sounds will now create a widened stereo image. A really simple way to create this widening effect without colouring the sound is to introduce a small amount of delay to one side. Even a few milliseconds can make a difference here.

  • EQing is a big key.Know where each sample is mainly taking up in frequencies and layer sounds that use up different frequency ranges and eq them together.


Once you do this to your drums it is important you do a final drum processing to make them all glued together. Check out the article on Drum Processing for more information.

For more tools on mixing with ableton live, quick masters, and more then check out the Mixdown Toolset Ableton Pack. Also check out more free articles on mixing and techniques 


By | 2017-06-28T20:05:09+00:00 June 6th, 2011|Sound Design Tech|2 Comments


  1. Robert January 25, 2013 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Another good way to develop good layered drum sounds is by duplicating your drum sound, then panning one of the duplicates to the left and the other to the right.

    I posted tutorial on my blog recently about layering using NI Maschine. If any of you guys are Maschine users, check out how I layer my drums on Maschine:

  2. Eric B. Cruz December 10, 2016 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your tutorial!!

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