At first glance, longtime Keyboard contributor Mark Vail’s book The Synthesizer (markvail.com) is a majestic history of electronic music gear. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find ideas to improve your sound and playing. One of my favorites is layering. Mark’s examples include doubling sampled melodies with analog monosynths to “glue” the notes together; cascading attack times to make pads evolve; and pairing the unique treble bite of Yamaha FM with the tube-like warmth of a Roland JP-8080. Due to the way frequencies interact, layering affects more than just volume: It shapes the timbre, as well. If you set each layer to respond differently to your mod wheel, you can add even more majesty.