Artist Tips

The Distinction Between Mixing In Mono Vs. Stereo [Part 2]

[Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a two-part series by Gary Gray. Catch up on Part 1 here!]

True Stereo

True Stereo signifies that a recording is recorded with two enter sources – akin to two microphones, with these microphone being routed to both 

a) A stereo observe (with mic 1 and mic 2 separated inside the stereo file), or 

b) Two separate mono tracks, panned arduous left and arduous proper. 

You may see the distinction between a stereo file containing a mono sign, and a recorded true stereo file, by noticing that the left and proper sides of a real stereo file look completely different. The left and proper facet of true stereo information look completely different as a result of the left and proper channels inside the stereo file have completely different data on them. When there’s completely different data on the left  and proper channel of a stereo file, the result’s a notion of area, width and depth. 

As an example, for those who document a grand piano with two microphones spaced far sufficient aside to select up completely different elements of the piano (akin to one mic on the decrease strings and one mic on the upper strings), and for those who route the cables of these microphones to 2 separate inputs in your interface, you’ll find yourself with a real stereo recording. When you determined to document these two microphones onto one stereo observe in your DAW, it will seem like this:

The file above SOUNDS LIKE STEREO. It sounds wider and extra spacious than a mono recording (one mic) due to the truth that two completely different microphones have been used to select up two completely different elements of a single supply of sound (one mic is selecting up principally the excessive strings whereas the opposite mic is selecting up principally the low strings of the piano). 

Every mic is targeted on one space of the piano, however can be selecting up a little bit of the sound that the opposite mic is targeted on. In different phrases, the low piano string mic picks up a little bit of the excessive piano strings, and vice versa. Due to the mic positions, the low piano string sound from the mic close to the low piano strings (left speaker) will arrive at our ear earlier than the low piano string sound from the mic close to the excessive piano strings (proper speaker). 

The alternative can be true: the excessive piano string sound from the mic close to the excessive piano strings (proper speaker) will arrive at our ear earlier than the excessive piano string sound from the mic close to the low piano strings (left speaker). 

Whereas positioned between two audio system, this distinction in arrival time to the left and proper ear creates the notion of width, depth and area that we understand. It’s these very slight delays (some lower than a millisecond) that the mind decodes as width, depth and area. This comes from a survival trait we possess, permitting us to pinpoint the situation of virtually any sound in any area with a view to keep away from tigers, bears, snakes — and extra modernly automobiles, trains and skate boarders.

Notice that in nature, probably the most harmful components man faces emit excessive frequency sounds. Our capacity to pinpoint the situation of a low frequency sound shouldn’t be so sharp. This relates again to why mixing the low finish in mono tends to maintain a mixture extra centered and fewer muddy, and why it’s not so important the place you place a subwoofer in a studio – whereas the location of a pair of studio screens is way more essential.

Getting again to recording in true stereo; for those who determine to document every microphone onto a separate mono observe, somewhat than onto one stereo observe as above, no drawback. In the course of the mixing stage, you merely must pan one observe arduous left and the opposite observe arduous proper — and the outcome will sound precisely just like the true stereo file above. Here’s what routing every mic to a mono observe in a real stereo configuration appears to be like like:

Discover one thing fascinating right here. We’re utilizing two MONO tracks to re-create a single stereo observe by doing the next:

  • Recording mic 1 to 1 mono observe.
  • Recording mic 2 to a different mono observe.
  • Exhausting Panning every observe left and proper.
  • One other Fable

    “All mono tracks in a mixture are to be left within the heart of the combination with no panning and don’t contribute to the width, area, or depth of the tune. Mono tracks are just for kicks, bass, vocals and stuff like that.”


    Any mono observe can be utilized for quite a lot of functions in a mixture. It will probably, like the instance above, be paired up with one other mono observe to create a digital stereo observe! A mono observe may be panned wherever within the combine – arduous left, arduous proper, and wherever in between. In reality, panning a mono observe, can typically create a way more outlined and centered image of the sound you might be panning – somewhat than making an attempt to pan a stereo file (extra on that beneath). 

    When you recorded the piano with one microphone, you’d be making a mono recording of that piano. It might be centered and centered, however missing in width, depth and area:

    Even for those who later bounce that single mono piano observe to a stereo file, as defined above, the piano would sound precisely the identical with no change. It might have a mono sound (centered, extra slim) somewhat than a large stereo sound, which you may get for those who recorded the piano with two microphones, or for those who used results plug-ins and utilized what is named pseudo-stereo. 

    Pseudo Stereo 

    Pseudo Stereo is what most of us generally create within the field in our dwelling studios. The phrase Pseudo comes from the Greek phrase pseudes, which means “false or mendacity.” Pseudo Stereo isn’t actually false stereo or stereo that’s mendacity, it merely signifies that it “Feels like true stereo however isn’t actually true stereo.” It hasn’t been created with two enter sources, akin to two microphones, or two ¼ inch cables coming from a stereo keyboard. In precise follow, Pseudo Stereo can typically sound wider, deeper and extra spacious than “True Stereo.”

    Pseudo Stereo Mixing

    Let’s take the mono lead vocal observe we spoke about earlier. 

    How can we take this sound which is certainly mono, and provides it stereo traits akin to area, depth and width? There are various issues we are able to do to control that mono lead vocal recording and make it sound like “True Stereo.”

    We are able to duplicate the lead vocal, pan the unique arduous left, pan the duplicated observe arduous proper, add a number of milliseconds of delay to one of many tracks and voila! You’ll hear stereo traits with that lead vocal.  Add or subtract milliseconds of delay and the depth, width, shade, tone and area will change proper earlier than your ears. 

    Right here we see the essential basic of stereo sound at play: two sound sources which can be completely different from each other in a roundabout way, routed to separate audio system. 

    We may additionally use send-return routing with a mono observe to create pseudo stereo results. That is like placing a Y becoming on the vocal observe, with the mono output going, as regular to the audio system, and one other going to a STEREO Aux or Results observe, on which we are able to place stereo plug-ins, akin to reverb and delay, and create STEREO EFFECTS from a MONO sound supply – giving that mono sound supply area, width and depth. 

    Binaural Recording 

    With Binaural Recording, typically known as 3D Binaural Recording, you might be principally capturing sound very very like a human would hear it – by way of two ears – on this case, two microphones performing as ears, affixed to somebody’s head or to a model head, or an object resembling a human head. 

    This system shouldn’t be used fairly often when mixing music, although I’m at the moment researching this system for numerous purposes, akin to acoustic guitars, choirs, drums, and so forth. 

    In case you are curious about sound design and/or foley work (sound results) for movie soundtracks, Binaural Recording is a vital instrument to know and use. 

    One latest innovator in bringing Binaural Recording know-how to the lots is an organization referred to as Hooke Audio, which has launched a set of headphones referred to as the Hooke Verse 3D Binaural Headphones. There are two microphones on the skin of the headphone audio system going through outwards. The results of recording with this set-up is past True Stereo, it actually seems like 3D True Stereo; and listening to the playback may be fairly astonishing. As an example, throughout playback, you may hear the scissors of a hairstylist transfer round your head and virtually really feel the scissors and comb touching your scalp! 

    Now that we all know the fundamentals of what mono and stereo information are and the way they are often utilized in a mixture, there’s a want to debate custom-made DAW parameters and options.

    Personalized DAW Parameters and Options

    Mixing mono and stereo information requires an intensive data of your explicit DAW. As an example, Ableton Dwell makes use of ONLY stereo information. When panning with Ableton Dwell (as much as Ableton Dwell 9), panning one thing to the left or proper doesn’t create the identical outcome as panning one thing to the left or proper in different DAWS. Panning successfully in Ableton Dwell 10 requires an intensive data of your guide. Equally, panning in Logic Professional doesn’t create the very same outcome as panning in Professional Instruments or Cubase or Studio One. Every has particular specs and choices relating to panning. 

    To say that the music trade and the music manufacturing software program trade lack requirements is an understatement. Nonetheless, all of those challenges are simply overcome by those that really examine their DAW guide and who follow and experiment and analysis. 

    You CAN arrange every DAW in order that all of them pan the identical means, however once more, it requires the self-discipline of finding out, follow, experimentation and analysis. 

    Right here’s one particular instance so you may see what I’m speaking about right here:

    When you take a stereo observe with a excessive frequency synth lead sound on the left facet and a decrease frequency synth lead sound on the appropriate facet and pan it to the left, you’d anticipate to listen to each the excessive and the low synth lead sounds panned to the left, right? Nicely, guess what? Some DAWs are configured in such a means the place panning a stereo observe to the left does the next:

  • It turns the left facet up in quantity.
  • It turns the appropriate facet down in quantity. 
  • The outcome? With our instance above, for those who panned the synth lead stereo observe to the left, you’d hear the left facet excessive frequency synth getting louder and shifting in direction of the left — however the appropriate facet low frequency synth on the appropriate facet would go down in quantity. When you panned that stereo observe all the way in which HARD LEFT – the excessive frequency synth could be heard in your left speaker however the low frequency synth would DISAPPEAR!

    Imagine it or not, till this data is known, many mixers who don’t totally know their DAWs don’t even understand that is occurring with their stereo information, and their mixes are struggling because of this. 

    There are easy methods to create precise true panning with stereo information in each DAW. Some DAWs are already arrange that means. The underside line? STUDY THE MANUAL!

    A Phrase About Stereo and Mono Plug-Ins

    Similar to panning, completely different DAWs deal with Stereo and Mono Plug-Ins in a different way. Once more, STUDY THE MANUAL! I can’t say that sufficient. Each certainly one of my college students who really research the guide rigorously – ensuring that they clear up the meanings of phrases they don’t perceive, after which ensuring they follow, follow, follow with their DAW – succeeds with flying colours! I need you to achieve success, so I strongly encourage you to review your guide completely and thoroughly, and follow what you study. 

    Examples of Stereo and Mono Plug-Ins and Your DAW 

    Some DAWs don’t convert a mono observe to stereo whenever you insert a stereo plug-in. Have a look at this instance beneath. Discover the orange arrow is pointing to the output meter of a stereo reverb plug-in inserted right into a mono lead vocal observe. The plug-in meter clearly reveals a special stage on the left as in comparison with the appropriate – a sure-fire signal that you’re coping with a stereo sign. Nonetheless, the grasp output, when this observe is solo’d (the blue arrow) reveals very clearly that the output of this observe continues to be mono (when the left and proper sides of a stereo meter are shifting precisely the identical – this reveals that the output sign is mono). Some artists, producers and engineers don’t know their DAWs properly sufficient to grasp that they could be robbing themselves of unimaginable width, depth, area and emotion from their mixes.  

    What Occurs If You Place A Mono Plug-In on a Stereo Monitor

    Mono Plug-Ins settle for data from one channel and output a sign solely to 1 channel. It occurs to be the left channel, as a result of the usual for all DAW software program packages is to designate the left channel as mono. This has been true for generations, going again to stereo {hardware} again within the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. 

    Subsequently, for those who place a mono plug-in on a stereo observe, don’t be stunned in case your combine abruptly goes a bit whacko. The plug-in impact will solely present up within the left channel. When you have a look at the orange arrow within the illustration beneath, this reveals that the plug-in is outputting a mono sign (each left and proper ranges within the plug-in are similar), nonetheless, for those who have a look at the stereo buss out meter with the vocal observe solo’d, (blue arrow) you will note that the sign may be very lopsided over to the left. On this case, the reverb is heard solely on the left facet of the vocal, and the appropriate facet is dry:

    A Particular Notice About Drum Mixes

    When you document a full drum set, or in case you are given information from a drum session, and even in case you are mixing EDM or Dance mixes with separate drum pattern information (kick, snare, claps, hi-hat, and so forth.), know that every of these information could also be mono or phantom mono stereo information when they’re dry (freed from any results). If the recording or pattern has results on it already, it’s going to in all probability be a stereo file. 

    I want to work with dry recorded tracks and dry samples each time potential. This permits me to have full management over my drum mixes. It’s very arduous, if not not possible, to take reverb out of a observe, or to un-compress a observe. It’s very straightforward so as to add some reverb to style, or to search out your sweet-spot compression setting – so long as you begin with dry information. 

    A Phrase About Phasing 

    When coping with any combine, there’s a probability that phasing issues will present up as you mix numerous sounds and results. You may practice your ear to hearken to phasing issues. I typically say, “Use your ear, not your gear as a precedence when mixing.” I again that up with revolutionary music manufacturing ear-training workout routines on The Profitable Residence Studio Masterclass. However you can begin coaching your ear to listen to phasing issues proper now by doing this straightforward process:

  • Take any snare observe from any recording you’ve gotten made prior to now.
  • Import it into a brand new empty session.
  • Duplicate it.
  • Flip Snap-To-Grid off in your DAW
  • Whereas listening to a loop of the snare solely, begin to slide the duplicated snare observe to the appropriate little by little. I’m speaking only a hair at a time. After shifting it barely, depart it alone for 30 seconds or so, and pay attention very intently to the sound of the snare. Then transfer it once more and pay attention for 30 seconds. Hold doing this. You’ll discover that the snare will lose its punch, its crack and its depth, its richness and its low finish. It should begin to sound weak and skinny and wimpy. It is a phasing drawback.
  • Whenever you slide the observe greater than 30 milliseconds to the appropriate, you’ll quickly begin to hear a definite delay. Nonetheless, previous to listening to the delay, you’ll expertise the snare going “out of part.” The tone will change, the area will change. 
  • NOTE: Not all “out of part” sounds are disagreeable. Some sound superior and are the idea of how sure results are created – akin to a Wha-Wha Pedal, or Chorusing, or Flanging. 

    Do that identical experiment with different devices and tracks. You will notice that some devices and sure ranges (excessive, mid and low frequencies) are affected greater than others. 

    Typically instances after I’m mixing drums, I’ll eliminate room mic tracks, overhead tracks, and “backside snare” tracks. The extra microphones utilized in a recording, the extra possibilities for out-of-phase issues exist. In reality, there are occasions when I’m preventing a drum combine to sound nice, when abruptly, by muting room tracks, overheads and “backside snare” tracks, the drum combine sounds superior. This isn’t a rule or a legislation, nevertheless it’s occurred sufficient instances for me to go on this morsel of knowledge. 

    When coping with mono and stereo tracks, mono and stereo plug-ins, and panning – you could encounter phasing issues. Study to establish them and proper them. It’s not arduous to do. Checking your mixes in mono is one nice method to accomplish it. Like the rest it takes follow. However you are able to do it! 

    Mid-Aspect Expertise

    Mid-Aspect recording, mixing and mastering is a separate animal all unto itself. It’s neither stereo, neither is it mono. It’s a form of hybrid of each, however not precisely. It’s a captivating topic. I’ll be overlaying this topic in an upcoming TuneCore article, so keep tuned!

    And eventually, let’s not lose sight of the music itself! As I remind myself, so I’ll remind you — it’s not a lot how we combine and grasp as it’s WHAT we combine and grasp. Try for creating emotionally shifting music with influence and soul! 

    We’re all striving to finish our mixes and have them maintain as much as trade requirements on the very least.

    I’ve give you a definition for a accomplished combine, and as you will note, it’s definitely not a technical definition:

    The Definition of a Accomplished Combine: “No emotional weak hyperlinks for the listener, from the very first observe to the final second of silence.”

    Good luck creating nice compositions and songs and finishing nice mixes!

    Gary Grey is the instructor behind the Profitable Residence Studio on-line course. He’s an award profitable composer, producer, and engineer, and has produced a number of initiatives for 20th Century Fox, Disney, Hollywood Information, A&E, EMI, CBS and lots of others in his dwelling studio.


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