Learn how to mix from mono sources

9th Jan 2013 | 14:47

Starting a mix with mono-only sources gives you a great opportunity to arrange the stereo panorama with immense clarity and precision

Plug-ins work hard to impress us these days with chains of wide, stereo effects in line, keeping them active in our speakers long after our fingers have left our keyboards.

There's no doubting that many of these sounds, in isolation, sound incredible, but more than a couple of these in your mix and you'll soon run into trouble. As so much detail in them is pushed hard left and right, if you stack multiple sound sources which adopt this approach, you'll actually dilute the 'power' of your mix's width with too many elements hiding out at the sides. Removing effects and bouncing sounds like these down in mono gives you a much better starting point. For the following steps, where necessary, we've created mono versions of sounds that were originally playing back in stereo. For a greater understanding on how this is done, read the 'Mono Happy' box on the next page. In the meantime, here's how a creative mix can unfold from such a narrow starting point.

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1. With all of our tracks in mono, we leave everything panned centrally and listen to the core elements of our mix, bringing up a rough balanceon the faders. The mix sounds incredibly narrow with all elements overlaid and tripping over themselves in the centre.

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2. We start by muting everything apart from the drums. In dance music, it's common to find most things panned centrally but things don't haveto be like that. We widen the mix a touch, keeping the kick in the middle but moving the snare to -10, the clap to +10 and the hats to -15.

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3. The bass needs width too but we can't pan this without losing energy. So we set up an auxiliary and insert a mid-wide panned stereo delay(10 o'clock and 2 o'clock). The delays are 3/16ths (Left) and 1/8th (Right), with short feedback and a High-Pass filter scooping out low frequencies.

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4. We increase the sense of stereo width with the two percussion sounds. These provide groove and drive the beat forward with top-end energybut as the two parts have such overlapping treble frequencies, we can treat them equally, panning the shaker to -50 and the tambourine to +50.

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5.We add the arp but to keep it out of the centre, we use Logic's Tremolo plug-in with a square wave to ensure it jumps from left to right ratherthan passes through the middle. We narrow the stereo width to 70% and add a little of the bass' auxiliary Delay.

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6. We want the body of the lead sound to be placed centrally but it sounds weak without stereo 'interest'. We set up a long, dark Plate stereo reverb on Aux 2 and a new single tap delay on Aux 3, to which we add Tremolo. These provide the width we need.

Don't forget to listen to the audio examples to hear the techniques in action!

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