More Mono Sounds!

Dont know if this has been discussed before but Ill put it up anyway, as it has been pretty important for me.

Recently I have been doing a bit of reading on mixing and this seemed to be the missing “Golden Tip” for me. I was constantly trying to get more space for instruments in my mixes with EQ and compression, (some of the most discussed techniques out there on the webs). I had known about centreing and monoing bass-drum and bass as good practice, which is generally what I did. However I always left synths, pianos, other drums and anything else in full stereo, tried to EQ away the mud, compress the drums more to get them tighter and still end up scratching my head why I couldn`t balance things better.

Along came this tip: Try to mix most things in mono to free up your mix, panning the mono sounds to relevant positions in the stereo field.

and a Eureka moment for me!

I am now a big fan of mixing my drums mostly mono, any supporting sounds i.e. pads, guitars etc.

There are exceptions of course and you have to make the decisions for what works and what will sound too flat and crap. For example a stereo piano as the main instrument needs to stay stereo for me. Other times a synth lead.

Anyway you get the idea, try to start mono and choose what is allowed to stay in its full stereo-glory, wisely! Renoise`s Stereo [s]expander /s is your friend :)

Edit: beware stereo fx as they can eat space aswell, you can mono-ise after though, trading off the effect a bit.

For pads, extreme stereo expansion also helps in some cases. Nice tip, though. Thanks.

thanks for the tip Ledger, will try this out next time i’m composing.

Yes Im sure this is desirable in some cases. Im guesssing mixed with other mono sounds though you may get more leeway for this.

Certainly worth a go IMO!

Nice tip. I’ve been into this for years now, and the narrowing tool is one of my most used. Sometimes just a little off pure mono is great, giving just the right amount of ‘body’ without cluttering the mix.

Mono reverbs I simply adore. I’m addicted to having multiple reverb setups in my songs, and nearly always I’ll use a mono one in there somewhere. Particularly nice on snares or bright percussive melodic lines.

And don’t forget: do a final mix session with the whole mix in mono. Perfect for getting those volumes just right.

Really wish I had known this one for years too! :)

Thanks for sharing MMD, I know you are pretty slick on the mixing and mastering so interesting to hear you chip in on this. Have you covered this area atall in any of your in-depth articles?

Great advice. I discovered the very same thing recently, probably thanks to the “new” phase meter. Stereo expander is invaluable. As I understand it, a song often has only one or so truly stereoed instruments - be it pads, strings, accoustic guitars or metal riffs. This provides contrast and helps create a spatial context in a different way than verbs/delays does.

Things to know before mixing successfully, as far as I know: source/recording, stereo arrangement, masking (eq), levels and dynamics.

Sorry no, not yet. I’ve had much time or mental space to get back to the in-depth stuff :confused: Maybe soon, I’m glad people appreciate the tips.

I’m still learning stuff too. I had a engineer friend come over last night and point out an obvious problem with a bassline in a mix that I just didn’t hear. Once he put some compression and make-up on it was simply perfect. We simply can’t catch it all by ourselves. So, so, so important get feedback from experienced listeners, non-musicians, or in my case from the client.

Digital mixing is hard work too compared to analogue. IF you get anything near to a decent sound please pat yourself on the back! ;)

Sounds like a pretty good summary to me!

No worries I was just curious, will be cool to see if/ when you come up with some more nice articles. I think it`s about time I had a look at the older ones again too.

Never fear, I am patting myself on the back for minor improvements also :)

Ordered for christmas from Amazon!

I guess this is a matter of ‘space’ in music. To understand space you need to have 4 dimensions (hehe, spacetime!). These could be:

  1. Pitch (= y)
  2. Pan (= x)
  3. Volume/intensity (= z)
  4. Duration/time (= t)

So if you’re going to fill up a vector with two or more things to create local density you’d want a really good sonic and musical reason to do so (emotional pitch clusters come to mind as a positive). And like Ledger says, making sounds mono can remove clutter on the x axis. So thinking about your music in terms of x/y/z/t it could help with not only the mixing but also the composition.

Nice little aid to decision making there!

The art of mixing by mr. Gibson hey?

David Gibson taught me everything I know about mixing and early 90s aesthetics.

Ha! What a period piece! I’ve never heard of David Gibson before, so thanks for sharing that. Interesting video! I like the playful creative vibe. I remember feeling that way about the potential to make my own music when I first found tracking in the 90s ;) In a way, some of us loose that wonderment. Too often we spend four hours making adjustments of 0.03dB.

Thanks for the link. LOL for videotape, tho. :w00t:

all the basics in a track should be mono to start with though no? stereo fx then added on top like cream on a bun. yum.

A stereo recorded drum kit (for example) sound far different than a mono recorded drum kit with each hit panned to correspond to the same position. Then there are the effects you get from the like of dummyhead microphones and more.

You can get more freedom starting with mono sounds. You can get a more natural (or different) sound by using carefully chosen stereo sounds. There is not really a right or wrong but some people may have a certain preference.

Don’t be afraid of flipping the stereo of a stereo sound if it is panned somewhat to one side and it would fit better in the mix on the other. Likely to give a better sound than trying to Pan it that way! Also no harm in trying to mono the sound (whether by mixing left and right or using only one of them) and then placing it yourself. All are valid techniques.

Although, on the whole, starting from mono sources may arguably give you the most freedom to work with.

Yeah, Lol it is, but the information is worth gold though ;)